The Best Joysticks in 2021
If you’re a fan of flight sims you probably play them with a joystick. But which one is the best joystick on the market? Well, that’s pretty hard to say. There’s a lot of different designs and not all users prefer the same setup.
Some like simple joysticks that don’t include separate throttle. Others must use HOTAS setups. Some people prefer joystick and keyboard setup. For them, the simpler the flight stick is the better. We also have users who prefer a flight stick and a mouse setup. They need a stick with a bunch of buttons.
We included both high-end HOTAS and flight sticks (don’t mix those with fight sticks) without a separate throttle control. They come in multiple price categories and you will be able to find the best flight sim joystick for you no matter your budget. Let’s begin.
Thrustmaster T16000M FCS HOTAS
Excellent HOTAS Joystick With Ambidextrous Design
- Ambidextrous Joystick Design
- 16 Action Buttons
- 4 Independent Axes Including Z-Axis Rotation
The Thrustmaster T16000M is a relatively affordable HOTAS joystick that is perfect for left-handed users. It has an ambidextrous flight stick design. Aside from its leftie-friendly design, this joystick offers lots for the money. 16 programmable action buttons, Z-axis rotation, 8-way POV hat, along with lots of buttons, sliders, and other controls present on the throttle.
The build quality is below the Logitech model but so is the price. This is a perfect joystick for those who want a full HOTAS setup but don’t want to pay a fortune for it. It looks a bit tacky with those orange details and it could be sturdier but other than that this is one of the best joysticks for PC that won’t break the bank.
- A Bunch Of Programmable Controls
- Throttle Features Lots Of Buttons For Complex Flight Sims
- Relatively Affordable
- Design Is A Bit Tacky
- Build Quality Could Have Been Better
Logitech G X56 H.O.T.A.S. RGB Throttle and Stick
The Best HOTAS Joystick
- 31 Programmable Buttons
- RGB Backlighting
- Unlockable Throttle For Separate Engine Control
- 189 Programmable Controls
The Logitech G X56 is a superb HOTAS joystick. It features a ton of programmable buttons and excellent throttle control.
You can unlock the throttle and use it to separately control the left and right engine. The throttle hosts a ton of switches and the setup has 31 programmable buttons in total. Since you can switch between profiles, the total number of programable controls is almost 200.
The build quality is pretty good but not excellent. First of all, while there are plenty of metal parts the throttle and flight stick aren’t entirely made of metal. Also, the whole setup is a bit too light. But the setup feels rugged and should last for a long time.
- Incredible Amount Of Buttons And Switches
- Throttle Control Is Superb
- Feels Rugged
- Adjustable Stick Tension
- Excellent Design
- Flight Stick And Throttle Aren’t Entirely Made Of Metal
- A Bit Too Light
- Can Be Confusing For Inexperienced Users
Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog Flight Stick PC
Durable PC Flight Stick
- Entirely Made Of Metal
- 19 Action Buttons
- Replica Of The A-10C Thunderbolt II Flight Stick
The Thrustmaster Warthog Flight Stick is the best flight stick you can buy, period. It has impeccable build quality, it is the exact replica of the A-10C Thunderbolt II flight stick, and it looks amazing. The flight stick is entirely made of metal so you can be sure it will last for a long, long time. It also has excellent precision and a ton of buttons.
You have 19 action buttons on the stick, but that’s not all. There’s also one 8-way POV hat, 2 additional HATs, a dual trigger made of metal, 2 push buttons, and 2 Pinkie push buttons. This is excellent for hardcore fans but the complexity of this flight stick design might scare away beginners.
Another small downside is the lack of Z-axis rotation but that’s due to following the original Thunderbolt flight stick design. Pair this stick with a quality throttle and yaw pedal (there’s a bundle containing this stick and a dual throttle) and you’ve got yourself a perfect HOTAS system.
- Hefty And Rugged
- Outstanding Build Quality
- Plethora Of Programmable Controls
- Very Precise
- Too Complex For Beginners
- Doesn’t Include Z-Axis Rotation
CH Products 200-571 Fighterstick USB
High-End Flight Stick That Won’t Break The Bank
- 24 Programmable Buttons
- Design Based On F-16 Flight Handle
- 132 Programmable Functions
If you need a quality joystick but spending hundreds of dollars on the Warthog is too much, check out the CH Products 200-571 Fighterstick. The brand isn’t known to a wider audience because CH Products’ portfolio includes mostly professional equipment for the most hardcore flight sims.
This flight stick doesn’t look like much and its design isn’t really breathtaking or attractive. But features and control-wise this joystick is excellent. It is extremely precise and includes 24 buttons. With different profiles, the number of programmable controls reaches 132.
The design is based on the F-16 flight handle, with the body and the stick made of Kevlar-reinforced plastic, which will last for years. The joystick doesn’t include Z-axis rotation but the precision is superb.
- Excellent Control
- Ton Of Buttons
- Excellent Build Quality
- Unimpressive Design
- No Z-Axis Rotation
Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick for Windows
The Best Budget Flight Stick
- Rapid Fire Trigger
- 12 Action Buttons
- Throttle Control Included
The Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick is a perfect starting point for all sim pilots. This flight stick features sturdy design, more than enough programable buttons, excellent stick, and an 8-way hat. The design is a bit immature and color choice is not great but don’t let that fool you. This is an excellent budget stick.
The base is very wide, providing excellent stability. The button placement is excellent and there’s also Z-axis rotation for easy rudder control. The rapid-fire trigger is perfect for dogfighting sims and there’s also throttle control placed at the base. Overall, this is an excellent entry flight stick, perfect for games with plenty of dogfight such as War Thunder.
- Sturdy Design
- Excellent Stability
- Perfect For Beginners
- Z-Axis Rotation
- Not For Experienced Flight Sim Fans
Virpil VPC Constellation ALPHA-L
The Best High-End Flight Stick For Space Sims
- Designed Specifically For Flight Sims
- Throttle Control Included
- RGB Light Strip
If you’re one of the people who can spend a whole weekend traversing the Milky Way in Elite: Dangerous and you want to upgrade the flying experience another notch or two, check out the Virpil VPC Constellation ALPHA-L. This is a pretty expensive joystick but if you plan on using it extensively, it’s definitely worth considering.
The build quality is superb, ergonomics impeccable, and the stick feels extra premium in hands. It comes with a slew of buttons, triggers, levers, joysticks, and hat switches. On the flip side, it also comes with an RGB strip on the top of the stick, which can be turned off but even when turned off its finicky plastic design sticks like a sore thumb on the otherwise high-end plastic and metal body.
Do note that you also have to get a base for this stick, with each base costing a pretty penny. Overall, this is a perfect flight stick for space sim fans who want the best of the best. Aviation sims can work pretty well with this model but since it’s specifically designed for space sims, it cannot offer the same level of quality as high-end sticks made for aviation sims.
- Impeccable Build Quality
- Amazing Ergonomics
- Works Great With Aviation Sims
- Offers A Ton Of Customizable Controls
- Available In Right-Hand And Left-Hand Versions
- Requires A Base That’s Sold Separately
The Best Mid-Range All-Purpose Flight Stick
- Dual-Action Trigger
- Seven Programmable Buttons
- 3 Hat Switches
The Gladiator NXT is a mid-range flight stick that’s perfect for flight sim fans who don’t want to use two-hand control schemes or simply don’t have the space for installing one. It comes with a dual-action trigger, three hat switches, four buttons, and a base that includes a throttle wheel and other additional buttons.
The stick also comes with programmable RGB LEDs that can be turned off. As for the design well, the flight stick itself looks rather good but the base is a bit chunky since it hosts many controls. On the contrary, the build quality is excellent. It’s also worth noting that the stick includes modular accessories enabling certain controls to be swapped or replaced.
- All-In-One Solution That Incorporates Flight Stick And Throttle Control
- Solid Price
- Excellent Build Quality
- Wide Selection Of Controls
- Base Is Quite Chunky
How To Choose The Best Joystick
Choosing the best joystick for your needs may look intimidating. It’s definitely more complex than picking a controller for PC, or a racing wheel. After all, the market is filled with various models that come with a wide variety of different features. Next, your favorite games might prefer different joysticks. The best joystick for Star Citizen or Elite Dangerous doesn’t have to be the best for War Thunder.
Further, if you’re a newbie to the world of flight sims it’s probably better to get a simple yet trustworthy model that doesn’t cost a fortune before spending hundreds of dollars on more advanced models. Models that cost as much as a high-end gaming CPU or graphics card.
Also, some gamers prefer to use a flight stick and mouse or keyboard instead of the traditional HOTAS (Hands on Throttle and Stick) setup. Let’s discuss important features to look for when shopping for the best flight stick for your needs.
Set Your Budget
This is the first thing you should do. Decide the maximum amount of money you want to spend on a flight stick because some of the models cost a small fortune. And once after you set your budget it will be easier to pick the best joystick for your needs.
Check some budget and high-end models to get in the know about average prices and then you can place the upper limit on your budget. But, as every time, it’s wise to not set the budget in stone. Leave some leeway (10, 20 percent) in case you find a really cool joystick that’s just above your budget.
Decide Whether You Need A HOTAS Setup Or Not
HOTAS (Hands on Throttle and Stick) setup is the most popular setup in many flight sims. This allows users precise control of the throttle and the vehicle at the same time. But not all games demand a separate throttle control. In some cases, you can use your stick alongside a mouse or keyboard. There’s also a setup that uses two flight sticks.
If you’re new to the world of flight sims, you could get a joystick with a throttle control that’s built in the base of the flight stick. That way you will be able to control the throttle without paying extra for separate throttle or without adding more complexity to the control scheme.
Detached throttle increases not only control precision, but it also increases immersiveness and adds a natural feel to the flight controls. Also, a separate throttle allows for more buttons and switches to be added to the setup, which is important for some games. For instance, Elite Dangerous has a ton of controls and prefers joysticks with lots of buttons and switches.
If you decide that you need a HOTAS setup, make sure the throttle has a long travel distance, allowing more granular control of the acceleration and power delivery. Also, the throttle should have a certain level of resistance so you don’t increase or decrease throttle on accident.
Decide How Many Buttons You Need
As we already said, some flight sims are relatively simple while others include a ton of different controls. The best joystick for Flight Simulator won’t be the best joystick for Freelancer or Rebel Galaxy: Outlaw. The first is a complex simulation that prefers HOTAS setups with lots of buttons and switches while the latter two titles are relatively simple games that can be enjoyed with budget flight sticks.
If you love complex flight sims and only occasionally dabble in arcade space shooters or flight games getting a HOTAS joystick with a ton of buttons and switches is much preferred. On the other hand, if you like arcade flight games you will probably want a simple yet quality joystick with just a handful of buttons. But even then, there’s a lower limit on buttons you should aim for. A hat switch and about 10 buttons should be enough for most arcade games.
Some Joysticks Allow Z-Axis Rotation
Most joysticks allow users to control two axes, X and Y. This allows for pitch and roll control (up, down, left, and right). But some flight sticks come with Z-Axis control. By twisting the stalk of the stick left and right you can control yaw.
Now, hardcore flight sim fans prefer dedicated foot pedals to control the rudders. But, if you need a yaw control but you don’t want to increase complexity by adding a foot pedal or just want to save some money, it’s better to get a flight stick with Z-Axis rotation feature.
If You’re Left-Handed Or Enjoy Advanced Sims Look For Ambidextrous Joysticks
Left-handed people can make a huge mistake by getting a joystick that doesn’t have an ambidextrous design. Most joysticks are designed with right-hand users on mind. If you want to control the flight stick with your left hand look for ambidextrous flight stick models.
Also, most HOTAS joysticks are built for right-handed users. That means the flight stick is controlled by the right hand and throttle is controlled with the left hand. If you’re left-handed you should look for an ambidextrous design, or learn how to use a HOTAS setup made for right-handed users.
Some Joysticks Can Be Used With Consoles And PC
Most flight sticks are made to work with PC only since most flight sims are made exclusively for PC. But if you want to play flight games on PC as well as on consoles (titles such as Ace Combat or Elite Dangerous) make sure that the joystick you want to buy is compatible with the PS4 and/or Xbox One.
Try The Joystick Before Buying It If Possible
Finally, if you have a chance to try the joystick you want before making a purchase, that would be great. The best way to find out whether a specific joystick is right for you is by trying it in-game.
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