As a travel blogger, I’ve always been on the hunt for experiences that can bring the thrill of exploration to my doorstep.
It’s not always possible to travel, but you can always dream. And when I discovered Microsoft Flight Simulator, it was like a dream come true.
Let’s not bury the lede: in this video game, you can fly over your own house!
This incredibly immersive and visually stunning game is based on real life maps that include buildings, topography, current weather and more. You can go on virtual journeys around the globe without ever leaving home.
Bottom line: Flight Simulator (2020) is the best Microsoft Flight Simulator of all time due to its unmatched detail and realism, huge selection of aircraft, live weather, and more. This game is the perfect escape for travel lovers who want to keep exploring the world, even when they’re stuck at home.
Fly Around the REAL WORLD
What sets Microsoft Flight Simulator apart from other games is its breathtakingly realistic graphics and accurate world simulation.
Using satellite imagery, photogrammetry (the science of extracting 3D data from images), and real-time weather data, the game offers a full-scale Earth.
You can literally fly around the world for as long as you want.
Take a plane from your local airport and land on your work building. Or ride the jet stream from New York to Shanghai if you feel like sitting in from of your computer for 15 hours. The only limit is your imagination.
Here’s some places I’ve flown recently that you could consider:
- Flew a 747 over my own childhood home and school
- Landed a helicopter on the White House helicopter pad
- Landed a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier (as part of the included Top Gun: Maverick activities module)
- Used a Cesna 172 to take off from Lukla airport in Nepal (widely known as one of the most dangerous airports)
- Did an emergency landing on the beach of Los Angeles
- Recreated the famous “Miracle on the Hudson” water landing that you might know from the Tom Hanks movie Sully.
The bottom line is that the attention to detail, especially the buildings and geography, really makes every session feel like a genuine adventure.
It brings up real feelings of nostalgia flying over some of my favorite spots I’ve visited, and gives me a way to explore upcoming trip locations before I actually fly there myself.
Choose from an Array of Aircraft
As a travel enthusiast, the allure of aviation has always been a source of fascination for me.
Luckily Microsoft Flight Simulator provides an extensive selection of aircraft to play with, ranging from single-engine prop planes like CubCrafters to colossal commercial wide body airliners like the Boeing 747.
The intricate cockpit designs and realistic flight physics create a sense of control and mastery over these amazing machines.
Each aircraft is distinct, just like in real life, and understanding their unique features fosters a deeper appreciation for aviation and the training pilots go through.
There are built in training modules that help explain how different functions work, so you can get up to speed even if you have no experience with flying or video games.
The screen capture above is for the internal cockpit view of a 747 — the second largest commercial airplane in use. You can see that it’s hyper-realistic, down to the placement of nearly every switch, lever, and flight control.
You can engage autopilot, speed match, air braking, communicate with air traffic control, and anything else a real pilot could do.
Do you think you could execute a perfect emergency landing if both your engines went out?
Experience Boundless Exploration
As I mentioned previously, with MSFS, there are literally no limits to where you can go.
I gave some examples above, but I want to be clear that you can go literally EVERYWHERE.
This includes Antarctica. Any city on earth. Any little town or stretch of desert. The possibilities are endless.
It’s a really cool way to explore the surrounding area of an upcoming trip before you go, especially if you’re a pre-planner like me.
And for the 16% of American’s who have never left their home state, this game provides a way to dip your toes into the larger world, and perhaps inspire more real life exploration.
Immerse Yourself in Live Weather and Real-Time Air Traffic
Another standout feature of Microsoft Flight Simulator is its integration of live weather and real-time air traffic.
By incorporating real-world meteorological data, the game accurately simulates weather conditions, allowing you to tackle everything from serene, cloudless skies to turbulent thunderstorms or blizzards that blind you.
You’ll gain a real appreciation for the level of knowledge pilots need to have about smoothly flying the plane, handling emergency situations, navigating with limited visual sight, and communicating with other aircraft and controllers.
Which brings us to our next point:
Learn and Grow as a Virtual Pilot
Microsoft Flight Simulator offers more than just entertainment—it’s also an exceptional educational tool.
By playing, you’ll develop a comprehensive understanding of flight mechanics, aviation navigation, air traffic control, and flight procedures.
Of course, this can’t replace actual flight training. But on the plus side, it would normally take you decades and hundreds of thousands of dollars to pilot a 747 in real life. But in flight sim you can start today and learn as you go!
This game has definitely deepened my love for travel and broadened my knowledge of the world, and has made my real flying experiences more fun, as I appreciate the flight more.
It’s also worth mentioning that there’s a supportive community of fellow virtual pilots who share tips and answer questions on Reddit and other dedicated Flight Sim forums.
Players range from casual players like me, to those who have recreated huge airliner cockpits in their homes for the most realistic experience, and everything in between.
How to Play Microsoft Flight Simulator
I personally play MS Flight Simulator 2020 on my Xbox Series X, after just recently upgrading from an older Xbox One.
The game is also available for download on Xbox Series S and PC computers, and available via Cloud Gaming on Xbox One (though cloud gaming doesn’t currently support accessories like the HOTAS joysticks).
If you have a Playstation console, you could consider other similar games like Ace Combat 7 (fighter jet focus) since MSFS is currently only limited to Microsoft products.
If you only have a Mac (Apple) computer, you could consider the flight simulator XPlane. I haven’t played myself, but have heard it mentioned.
Step Into the Cockpit with Accessories
One way to kick your Microsoft Flight Simulator experience into afterburner mode is to grab a flight control unit like the one pictured above.
Whenever I watch the famous flight sim YouTubers share their videos, most are using a joystick and throttle control unit like this.
The unit above is what I have personally and it has built in rudder functionality that allows you to control the rudders (yaw) by twisting the joystick, which is handy if you don’t feel like buying separate foot pedals.
It also has a variety of triggers and weapons systems selectors which comes in handy if you want to play other fighting/flying games like Ace Combat.
At the end of the day, there’s really no limit to how intense you can get when designing your flight sim tech stack.
Some people spend tens of thousands of dollars building hyper-realistic cockpits with huge immersive screens and real airplane seats. And some people just use their mouse and keyboard or Xbox controller. I promise you’ll have fun no matter what.
If you want to read about my personal experience using the above mentioned flight stick with MSFS, you can read my full review of the Thrustmaster TFlight Hotas.
Cleared For Takeoff
Microsoft Flight Simulator is more than just a game—it’s an open door to a universe of endless exploration and discovery. Its realism, attention to detail, and captivating gameplay make it a must-try for travel lovers.
Whether you’re soaring over the Swiss Alps or navigating the busy skies of New York City, every flight unveils new experiences and broadens your horizons.
So, grab your virtual passport and embark on the journey of a lifetime with the best Microsoft Flight Simulator ever released.
You never know when virtual inspiration will lead to real life wanderlust. So if you don’t already have one, grab your copy of MSFS and I’ll see you in the skies!