The Ultimate VR Flight Simulator Guide 2023

The Ultimate VR Flight Simulator Guide 2023

Published: 16-05-2023
Updated: 25-05-2023

VR flight simulators is the VR game genre tailor-made for virtual reality. It transports you into the hectic cockpit littered with knobs, levers, and buttons while you gaze out into the clouded horizon for a meditative moment or plot your next loop during combat. Thus, this article will highlight the best VR flying games in 2023 and the best VR headsets for flight sims and simulators.

The Best Overall VR Flight Simulator: Microsoft Flight Simulator Premium Deluxe

It is no surprise that the undisputed champion of immersive flight simulators is Microsoft Flight Simulator Premium Deluxe. If you have a premium headset like Varjo Aero or even the Oculus Quest 2, this flight sim can become your go-to VR game for the foreseeable future.

The level of detail that MS Flight Sim presents is mind-blowing. For example, the developers achieved a photorealistic representation of our entire planet using photogrammetry from satellite images, airplane pictures, and more. It is impressive and can be checked out here. The result is a flight simulator that makes you save on travel tickets as the play sessions you will have with MS Flight Simulator Premium Deluxe Edition is engrossing and fun.

I particularly love the care put into the details in replicating over thirty airports with photogrammetry and LiDAR scanning. While toggling real-time weather and air traffic is the cherry on top. It has been getting 10/10s from many other outlets and is a virtual reality flying game I would recommend to anyone, flight sim fans or not. Finally, we recommend going for the 40th Anniversary Edition as this package features:

  • Airbus A310 airliner
  • 2 helicopters and 14 heliports
  • 2 gliders and 15 glider ports
  • 7 historical planes
  • 4 commercial airports
  • 24 missions

Best Space VR Flight Simulator: Elite Dangerous

In some ways, Elite Dangerous is more complicated and realistically immersive than the ‘succinctly titled’ Microsoft Flight Sim Premium Deluxe Edition. In fact, Elite Dangerous is nicknamed the NASA testing game, as the steep learning curve and frequent trips to the game’s Wiki required is a common stopgap for the average VR gamer. Though once climbed, blimey, are you in for some captivating space scenery, colorful nebulas, asteroid mining, and laser-based dog fights. Elite Dangerous by itself is captivatingly beautiful, but nothing compares to exploring the universe in immersive virtual reality with true-to-life vistas and lonely expanses of the great empty void.

Best VR Flight Simulator RPG: No Man’s Sky

If you are less inclined to spend 2+ hours learning to recede your landing wheels in Elite Dangerous, No Man’s Sky is, in other ways, a better VR game. Despite a bumpy reception at launch, this procedurally-generated, infinite RPG/base-building/multiplayer/exploration/automation space game is a Jack-of-all-trades and master-of-most. It has a gorgeous shell-shaded art style taking you back in immersive virtual reality, which incidentally, after the Fractal update, also doesn’t require a gaming master race PC to run. Speaking of which, the 25 entirely free and sizable content updates make No Man’s Sky defy the gaming industry and should be supported. Here is a list of all the No Man’s Sky updates.

All the No Man’s Sky Updates

DLC title

Release Date

Content

Foundation

November 2016

Base Building

Pathfinder

March 2017

Vehicles

Atlas Rises

August 2017

Jump portals and new procedural missions

NEXT

July 2018

Multiplayer, character creation, and large space freighters

The Abyss

October 2018

Underwater bases and submarines

Visions

November 2018

Expanded planet variations

Beyond

August 2019

VR support and a space hub

Synthesis

November 2019

Upgrade and salvage ships

Living Ship

February 2020

Random space encounters

Exo Mech

April 2020

A new playable and large mech

Crossplay

June 2020

Crossplay support for improved multiplayer experience

Desolation

July 2020

A horror update adding derelict freighters to explore

Origins

September 2020

New biomes and hazards with Dune-style giant sandworms

Halloween 2020

October 2020

Expansion of the desolate freighters from the Desolation update

Next Generation

October 2020

32 player online support

Companions

February 2021

Capture, taming, and breed pets

Expeditions

March 2021

Timed events for unique rewards

Prisms

June 2021

Improved graphics

Frontiers

September 2021

Adding the opportunity to oversee planets settlements

Sentinel

February 2022

Improved combat mechanics

Outlaws

April 2022

Adding outlaws and pirates (ships and stations) with new missions and friendly squadron NPCs

Endurance

July 2022

Larger active freighters with customization and base mechanics

Waypoint

October 2022

Quality-of-life improvements and a relaxed game mode

Fractal

February 2023

Improved VR experience and numerous minor updates

Interceptor

April 2023

Expanding Sentinels and corrupted planets to explore

Best VR Combat Flight Simulator: DCS World

Touted as the Microsoft Flight Simulator but for military aircraft rather than civilian and commercial planes. DCS World features the same mind-blowing graphics as you break the sound barrier across the sky in your F-16C Viper. In fact, the level of detail on these military planes feels like it should be hidden from national security, and yet, DCS World exists and VR gamers are better for it. In particular, it is also worth pointing out that WW2 hobbyists should be overjoyed with DCS, as the developer continues to release new updates for the game – the latest is of Normandy: see the featured trailer.

The runner-up: VTOL VR

Due to its slightly less crisp graphics and less content to support hours-upon-hours of VR flight, VTOL VR was built with virtual reality in mind and thus delivering the best overall VR flying experience. For example, with VR headsets where controllers have finger and gesture controls – like Valve Index – you can press buttons by pointing your finger. It might sound insignificant, but it adds to the overall immersion. 

Best Arcade VR Flight Game: Ultrawings 2

One of the two VR flight simulators which have been developed with virtual reality in mind, Ultrawings 2 offers you to steer your aircraft performing impressive air acrobatics with full hand tracking enabled. And while Ultrawings 2 does feature a relaxing flying mode, its main focus is the popping of balloons and dogfighting combat. As a bonus, you can also try your skills at flying a helicopter. Finally, we recommend Ultrawings 2 with standalone VR headsets like Oculus Quest 2 and Pico 4.

Best WW2 VR Flying Game: Warplanes: Battles over Pacific

While some of the VR flight sims on this list feature World War 2 missions, modes, and themes, Warplanes: Battles over Pacific focuses on WW2. Again, this VR flying game is ideal for standalone devices like Pico 4 and Quest 2 for its focus on fun gameplay rather than realistic weather and physics simulations. Not only that, Warplanes: BoP also focuses on a stellar single-player experience fueled by competent AI opponents who keep you on your toes. Although an area I wish they have added more is on the plane selection, as there are only ten planes available. In short, Warplanes offers a great VR flying and combat experience set in the early 1940s. 

The runner-up: IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad

Another World War 2 VR flight sim worth mentioning is IL-2 Sturmovik. If you seek an enthusiastic and advanced VR flight simulator that will test any civilian veteran knowledge of WW2 war planes IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad is for you. For example, you will battle with realistically simulated aerodynamics, weapons, engine behavior, and weather dynamics.

Best Free VR Simulator: War Thunder

While the fidelity of VR flying and combat is not the cream of the crop, War Thunder delivers a commendable VR flying game experience considering its free price tag. It is an online battle game incorporating ground and air combat, seeing you fight other players in the air and on land. One notable feature of War Thunder is its lengthy upgrade trees, keeping the game fresh and adding many VR flight hours. Yet, I am not the biggest fan of the Pay-To-Win mechanics implemented in these upgrades.

What Is The Best VR Headset For Flight Simulators?

Varjo Aero

For the overall best visual delivery related to price, we recommend the Varjo Aero tethered VR headset. Particularly, the 2880 x 2720 pixels per eye and 90 Hz refresh rate make it ideal for VR flight simulators.

Varjo VR3

Alternatively, if money is no issue, you cannot beat the resolution revolution that the Varjo VR3 headset offers. Namely, Varjo’s unique display technology mirroring how the human eye sees means the visual experience is akin to looking out your window.

Valve Index

For a traditional VR headset tailored to gamers, you can’t go wrong with the popular Valve Index, manufactured by the same folks behind Steam. While the Index limits your freedom by being connected to a PC, it is an overall great headset for VR gaming.

Pico 4

Upon release, the Pico 4 became our go-to, all-in-one VR headset tipping off the Oculus Quest 2 first-place podium. Thus, the Pico 4 offers the most powerful feature set for the most affordable price and is ideal for most VR flight sims.

PSVR 2

While it comes with significant drawbacks you must accept that you can read more about it in our thorough review. The recently released PlayStation VR2 offers the most powerful plug-and-play VR experience.