This month, the most famous fighter pilot movie of all time — Top Gun — gets its long-awaited sequel. On May 27, the world will be introduced to Top Gun: Maverick, starring Tom Cruise in a reprise of his role as fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell.
While you may not ever have the chance to actually sit in the cockpit of a high-performance airplane, you can approximate the exhilaration by playing flight simulator games — an experience that gets even more realistic and compelling when you connect your gaming console to a surround sound system with a high-quality AV receiver and speakers or sound bar.
Here are some of the best flight simulator games to enjoy in surround sound.
One of the most popular game series in modern history, GTA offers players the chance to drive lots of different cars in lots of different situations … and, in this fifth installment, fly commercial airline planes too. It’s your choice, however, as to whether you want to fly them safely or into mountains; whether you want to land them gently on airport tarmacs or crash land on city streets. With a surround sound system and a good subwoofer, you’ll actually feel what it’s like to graze a bridge before having to eject and land in the harbor below. (Keep your ears out for sirens going off in the distance in all directions — or the next plane following closely behind!) Preview it here.
This realistic war game relies largely on flying, giving you a sense of what it’s like to go into battle as a nation in global warfare. Meaning: bold explosions, deathly vehicle crashes and fiery jet engines whizzing past your ears! You can opt to represent the United States, Germany or the U.S.S.R. as you maneuver your choice of bomber jets or propeller planes … but you need to remain alert at all times, as shooting accuracy and vehicle maneuverability are paramount. In other words, don’t let yourself get surprised by an enemy hot on your tail because the audio is too low! Preview it here.
Sound is as important as your flying ability when it comes to this game; in fact, within moments of launching Ace Combat 7, you’ll wonder if you’ve been teleported to an alternate reality. From the left, directions are barked at you regarding your next mission; from the right, radars are beeping frantically. Missiles fly overhead as black clouds of crashing explosions appear from every direction — you can almost hear the heat coming from the engine of your virtual airplane. Preview it here.
Less a game and more a training program, this title is as realistic as it gets. It features crystal-clear graphics, incredibly detailed cockpit layouts and vivid scenery that accurately depicts the real world. Click each switch to get the engine revving while on the tarmac, or make the necessary adjustments as you cruise at altitude. You also learn the ins and outs of real-life bustling airports; for example, you can fly a commercial airliner out of a virtual LAX and deal with the airport’s “traffic.” With a surround sound system, you can immerse yourself in everything from the roar of wind by your window to the delicate cockpit click-clacks. There are a ton of settings, too, including the option to fly bigger, louder military planes. Preview it here.
A first-person simulation game set 50 years after human extinction in a post-apocalyptic Paris, France, this inventive title allows you to feel what it’s like to be an eagle (not a plane!), flying through the sky, over buildings, adjusting to the shifting winds and dodging errant leaves. You have to defeat rival squawking animals in order to find the perfect place for your nest and keep your species alive … but to do so, you must stay vigilant and listen for every rustle of a feather in the breeze. Eagle Flight sounds great in standard stereo, but if you plug in a virtual reality headset like the Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest or PlayStation VR, you can experience every moment in stunning surround sound. Preview it here.
This globe-trotting title allows players to test their piloting skills against challenges of night flying, real-time atmospheric changes and thunderous weather conditions. Enjoy flying anywhere in the world as you maneuver different types of planes and flight models while soaring over vivid landscapes, and do your best to navigate every tree, skyscraper and mountain in your path. The detailed visuals and powerful surround sound elements give you a level of accuracy and realism that makes you want to pack your bags and take a trip. Preview it here.