Flight simulators and aircraft combat games serve a solid niche for those of us that like to take to the skies when we're not doing other things with our computers. Here's a roundup of the top ones you can download today, with prices from free to reasonable and the focus from arcade-style action to ultra-realistic flight sim. They're not only great games, they're some of the best Mac games you can find.
X-Plane is without peer on the Mac. Calling X-Plane a game isn't just wrong, but it's insulting: X-Plane is the definitive flight simulator for the platform. Intricately detailed, it's also incredibly scalable - X-Plane runs on mobile, oz77n home Macs and PCs, and also operates as a detailed professional-grade aviation simulator.
More than 30 aircraft are available in the default installation: You can fly everything from a single-engine Cessna 172 — the most popular airplane in the world — to a B-2 bomber. The app models fixed and rotary wing aircraft both, along with tons of atmospheric conditions that affect flight. It even simulates what'd be like to fly the Space Shuttle. More than 1,400 additional aircraft models can be downloaded online. And you can fly almost anywhere: Land at more than 33,000 airports worldwide, touch down on an aircraft carrier and more.
A free demo is available, so don't let the price tag scare you off. Given the incredible level of detail and the huge ecosystem that supports X-Plane, it's well worth the money if you take your flight simulation seriously.
- $59.99 - Download now
An open source flight simulator, FlightGear is a bit more do-it-yourself than some of the other apps in this list, but it's still remarkable and definitely worth checking out. You download the central app, airplane models and scenery separately. Hundreds of aircraft models are available for download.
FlightGear's rough open source edges show, but if you're a developer or a code tinkerer, there's fun to be had here. And for everyone else, plenty of fun airplanes to fly and scenery to explore.
- Free - Download now
Total Sims' WarBirds flight combat game has going since 1995. Take to the skies behind the yoke of dozens of legendary World War II-era aircraft. Single player mode consists of 20 training modules, 12 instant missions, and five different Free Flight modes. What's more, you can play offline for free, for as long as you want.
But the real meat of this game is in online play, which does incur a monthly fee to continue to play. You go on raids with squadrons of other real-world players as you reenact many famous battles of World War II. Total Sims is a bit funky with their Mac support; their FAQs reference Apple's GameSprocket technology, which went out the door when Classic Mac OS gave way to OS X more than a decade ago. But it goes to show just how long WarBirds has been on the platform, too.
- $13.95 (monthly, free offline play) - Download now
Falcon 4.0: Allied Force
Graphic Simulations has been making flight sims for the Macintosh since the early 1990s. Falcon 4.0: Allied Force is the latest iteration of its classic F-16 Falcon flight simulator, taking you to the Balkans and the Korean peninsula for realistic combat missions.
Arm your aircraft with realistic weapons and ordnance, then fly missions deep into hostile territory with a dynamic campaign engine that changes things every time you play.
- $9.99 - Download now
Sky Gamblers: Storm Raiders
Atypical Games' entry is an absolute must if you want to dogfight World War II style. The game features terrific graphics and easy to understand gameplay. There are single-player missions here but where the game really shines is in multiplayer dogfighting combat, which has been the series' strength. A variety of different online game modes test your skill, like Capture The Flag and Last Man Standing.
Sky Gamblers supports iCloud and Game Center - any progress you make in game can be saved to the cloud. It also supports a joystick or gamepad, which is a must for any flight sim, as far as I'm concerned. $5 gets you plenty of game play, but there are in app purchases that let you unlock new customization features and new airplane models.
- $4.99 - Download now
F/18 Carrier Landing II Pro
It's obviously a port of a game that originated on iOS, but it's lots of fun regardless. Take off and land from aircraft carriers and airstrips in some of the most legendary combat aircraft flying: the F-A/18 Super Hornet, F-14 Super Tomcat, F-16 Fighting Falcon and MiG-29K are all represented, along with the Harrier, F35B Lightning II and more.
RORTOS calls itself maker of the most advanced flight sims for mobile, and they're pretty snazzy on the Mac too. More than thirty missions along with a half-dozen training missions and free flight so you can buzz around on your own with no agenda.
- $5.99 - Download now
Heads up, virtual pilots — what'd I leave out?
This is my list of favorites right now, but I'm sure I've left some off that you love too. Feel free to let me know in the comments!