The 5 Best Flying Games of All Time

Some people dream about playing in the NFL. Others dream about driving a race car or flying an airplane. It’s easy to dream about an exhilarating career that requires heaps of talent and practice, but it takes a special kind of person to actually do it.

Thankfully for the rest of us, we have video games that let us live out these dreams without putting in all that hard work. Below, we take a look at the five most lauded flying games of all time.

As for our methodology, we surveyed all of the flying games listed on Metacritic that received exceptional praise all around. For each game, we created a composite score that includes both critic and user ratings (e.g. a game with a 95 critic score and 9.3 user score would receive a 94 composite score). This should gives us the clearest picture of how well the games were received overall between the time of release and now.

5. Flight Simulator 2002

Composite Metacritic Score: 86.5

In the early 2000s, Microsoft didn’t do a whole lot of hands-on game development. One series the company was known for, however, was Flight Simulator, a nearly annual set of games that didn’t mess around when it came to delivering a true-to-life flying experience.

Delivering a realistic rendition of Earth, populated with over 20,000 airports and navigable from a dozen different kinds of aircraft, Flight Simulator 2002 offered players the most impressive flying sim ever made to that point. Throw in realistic skylines for all the major cities and graphics that dropped jaws in their day, and you’ve got a flying game for the ages.

4. Falcon 4.0: Allied Force

Composite Metacritic Score: 87.5

Originally released in a lackluster package in 1998, Falcon 4.0 took seven more years to fully come into its own. The Allied Force version of the game launched in 2005, and it solved every problem introduced in the original game, creating one of the best air combat sims ever made.

Falcon 4.0 puts players in a one-to-one digital version of the cockpit of an F-16 Fighting Falcon, one of the most impressive pieces of aircraft technology ever conceived. Whether you’re doing mile-high maneuvers during a dogfight or dropping payloads on military targets, this game is as close as most of us will get to participating in realistic air combat. For all of our sakes, that’s probably a good thing.

3. Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader

Composite Metacritic Score: 89

To watch a Star Wars movie is — more or less — to wish you could pilot one of the awesome space fighters that play such a central role in the films. That wish is your reality in Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. This GameCube game may have launched in 2001, but it still holds up all these years later.

In it, you go through the entire original Star Wars trilogy, taking part in battles on and above all of the famous fictional planets, from Hoth to the Death Star. The controls are tight, the graphics are great, and the gameplay will keep you coming back for more. If you haven’t played this game yet, you should try to get your hands on it. There’s a reason it’s many people’s favorite Star Wars video game of all time.

2. IL-2 Sturmovik

Composite Metacritic Score: 89

Even though it doesn’t have the most memorable title of the games on this list, don’t let that stop you from playing this all-time classic of the air combat genre. The graphics may not impress as much as they did when it first launched, but the gameplay is as solid as ever.

You play as a pilot in World War II, in control of every knob and switch found in the cockpits of 31 true-to-life airplanes. You can choose your country of origin and hop online to fight in matches with up to 100 players. The series has continued to this day, but this is the game that kicked off the whole thing. It’s rightly remembered as one of the very best games in the genre.

1. FreeSpace 2

Composite Metacritic Score: 90

Space shooters don’t get much better than this even now. So when FreeSpace 2 launched in 1999, it was a revelation, a game that was destined to become a classic. You play as a space pilot who goes to war against a mysterious alien race. While you’re at it, you also have to put down a rebellion. But from the solid controls to the incredible zero-G physics, FreeSpace 2 delivered on every level a space shooter can deliver on.

The game is still available, and thanks to the developer making the game engine open source, it has been continually improved upon. Give this game a shot if you’re even mildly interested in space shooters.

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