THC’s Top 50 Combat Sims

Put down those Billhooks, Stanley knives, and Jeremy hammers, readers! This is the 21st Century for Pete’s sake. There are better ways to settle “What’s the best [insert game genre here] ever made?” disagreements than mano a mano melees. Cornerite-sourced ‘Top 50’ articles for example.

Remember how, last year, we proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Combat Mission was the finest wargame series 3vAr? Well, I think it’s high time we established once-and-for-all which combat simulation out-brilliances all others.

As the voting system seemed to work pretty well last time, I see no reason to alter it. To participate all you need to do is post a comment listing your five favourite combat sims in order of preference. This act will cast the fifteen votes that are at your disposal (Your top choice will get five votes, your second choice four votes, third choice three votes, and so on). It might take me a day or three to process your comment, but rest assured your ballot paper will eventually get counted.

If you’d like to explain or illuminate your choices with a pithy sentence or two, that would be most helpful (screenshots submitted via tim at tallyhocorner dot com would be very welcome too). As there are sure to be numerous titles on the list that I’ve never played, I’d much prefer to use a quote from a true fan than rely on something desiccated, vague, or silly that I’ve cooked up myself.

In order to keep the list to a manageable size…

  • My definition of combat sim is fairly pedantic (see below).
  • I’ve clustered games into series and families where possible. Please don’t cast separate votes for, say, Silent Hunter 3 and Silent Hunter 4. A single vote for ‘Silent Hunter’ will cover your deep affection for the series. Clarify your votes with footnotes, by all means.
  • I’d to re-emphasise that you should cast your votes for the five mil sims that have brought you the most pleasure over the years and not use them to limelight novel/interesting curios. I’m not out to fashion a list of every combat sim, just the cream of the crop.

If you don’t see a favourite in the table, that doesn’t mean you can’t vote for it. I’ve added 25 potential chart-toppers to get the ball-turret rolling, but expect the list to, at the very least, double in size in the weeks to come.

To be eligible for tabulation a sim must…

  • Have combat at its core.
  • Be historical or reality-based (Sorry MechWarrior, Crimson Skies, Carrier Command etc).
  • Offer first-person views.
  • Fit more naturally in the ‘combat sim’ genre than any other.*

* As one man’s hi-fi military FPS is another man’s soldier sim, I’ve decided I won’t exclude a title just because it’s not vehicle-focused.

Games can be sorted alphabetically and by popularity. While the table seems to display fine on a standard PC monitor, you may have problems viewing it on a phone or tablet. Sorry about that.

GAME

VOTES


Aces of the Deep

"No headstone marks the resting place of Joachim Gratz and his comrades. A slick of diesel oil indicated the spot for an hour or two, but was quickly dispersed by restless currents and churning destroyer screws. That's how life goes in one of the finest wet warfare sims ever made: one minute you're on top of the world - an infamous ace of the deep - the next you're gone, erased by an ocean as vast as it is merciless." (Tim)


10

Aces of the Pacific & Aces Over Europe

(AotP) "Many a college 'study hour' was spent learning flap settings, perfecting carrier landings, and sipping a beer after a successful mission. Much like its predecessor Red Baron, the campaign/career mode was gripping and a great way to take a time machine to the past." (OldZenGamer)


(AotP) "The most fun I’ve ever had with a flight sim, a fantastic feeling of having an impact on the war." (Hydrogene)

21

Arma

"It’s janky, glitchy, more prone to kill you by ladder than frag grenade, but it has given me the most intense and memorable experiences I’ve ever had in my decades of gaming... I get to roleplay as a grunt infantryman under questionably “based” leadership with 100 other grognards. I get to laser/call in CAS from other players in warthogs to shock and awe all of the hearts and minds in Takistan. I also got to creep around queefy zombies and socially manipulate myself into the protected gates of other players while my buddies waited, scoped up, in the hills." (TimePointFive)


"90% of my time was spent in the scenario builder, cobbling together companies and flinging them at each other." (TV-PressPass)


"Brings the memories flooding back." (Major General J. Trajanov) 

19

B-17 Flying Fortress: The Mighty 8th

“Done badly, a WW2 heavy bomber sim could be an excruciatingly tedious affair. Fortunately, Wayward understood this and chose to flesh out the flying with plenty of absorbing crew management decisions and auxiliary tasks... You flit from yoke wrestling to bomb aiming, from crew shuffling to Browning brandishing, from chart scrutinising to fire extinguishing. It's even possible to switch cockpits and pilot your silvery chaperones for a spell.” (Tim)

0

B-17: Flying Fortress

"For reasons I can’t begin to fathom, during the last three decades no-one has looked at MicroProse’s ground-breaking approach – the gripping in-sortie crew management, the tour-mimicking unscripted campaign – and thought “Let’s translate this to the Far East, or use it to tackle the RAF’s night bombing campaign”. “Maybe this format would work with Gothas… Zeppelins… B-52s!”" (Tim)

7

Battle of Britain II: Wings of Victory

“BoB2 is a sim that dishes out glory with a teaspoon, and fear, excitement, and failure with a ladle...

If you return from a sortie with one Heinkel, Stuka, or Bf 109 under your belt you feel genuinely elated and, probably, utterly exhausted. Thanks to peerless AI code (massaged post-release by a band of official modders) every dogfight is different. And thanks to a campaign approach similar to Falcon 4.0's, every victory makes Goering that little bit angrier.” (Tim)


"The sheer scale of the dogfights, no other attempt to recreate the Battle of Britain has come close, the radio chatter is well put together, and the cherry on the top is the strategy layer of the dynamic campaign." (Electricfox)

7

Birds of Steel

(This entry also covers Wings of Prey and Birds of Prey)


(Birds of Steel) "Made by the future creators of War Thunder, this console-only flight sim for the ps3/360 had a FANTASTIC mission generating dynamic campaign and a greatly tweakable flight model. " (TimePointFive)

1

Brothers in Arms

"Not for Earned in Blood the cinematic setpiece or the periodic theatre switch. By keeping faith in rather drab Norman countryside - a steady stream of fields, farmyards, cobbled streets and back gardens - and resisting the urge to dot landscapes with Tiger tanks, armoured trains and other rarities, Gearbox achieve a documentary feel almost unique in the genre." (Tim)


"Never has a game so effectively taught me the four F’s of infantry combat." (TV-PressPass)

7

Chuck Yeager's Air Combat

"Many combat flight sims let us choose a warbird. Very few also allow us to choose a war." (Tim)

1

Cold Waters

"The GUI might be lightweight compared with Dangerous Waters' but the physics, sonar and environmental modelling are strong enough to bear direct comparison. Subs prowl waters stratified by vari-strength thermoclines and these layers have a profound effect on sound transmission." (Tim)


"Once you learn that you are kind of the king of the seas it doesn’t offer a lot a challenge, but 40 hours of fun is plenty for me." (mr.skwid)

6

DCS World

"The game we all imagined we were playing as we were squinting at 320×200 sims in the 80s... Only in DCS can you use real flight manuals as truly useful guides in-game. Every switch, every obscure radar mode, every rivet is lovingly modeled. On a powerful PC, it’s as close to photorealistic as anything on the market. VR is fluid and beautiful. It is highly moddable with an astoundingly rich database of user-generated missions and other content, including a dynamic campaign generator." (CaptainKoloth)


"There’s a lot of problems with DCS and it frustrates me at times but it has some of the finest simulated virtual aeroplanes around with amazing systems depth. Just a shame the development seems so unfocused." (Pollux)

25

Day of Infamy

"Large, intricate maps littered with pleasing period detritus encourage both long-range firefights and sharpshooting, and close-range SMG savagery and pistol duels. The lack of crosshairs makes tossing grenades through windows a tad tricky, but, along with mechanisms like leaning, and an optional absence of team identifiers, mean DoI stands higher on the realism ladder than DoD." (Tim)

3

EF2000

"Blew my mind when you could go to external view, look in through the canopy, and see your working MFDs." (CaptainBinky)


"Good times with friends marvelling at being able to briefly see through our wings after a too-low bombing run." (SminkyBazzA)

9

Enemy Engaged

"An approachable whirlybird sim with a dynamic campaign engine to die for. Thanks to community-made updates, the roster of flyables now includes the world's prettiest/daintiest gunship and the most menacing." (Tim)


"Still the best heli sim out there." (DrJester)

1

European Air War

"The first time I dived into a B-24 bomber stream with tracers flying all over the place is still the most intense moment I had in any flight sim." (Khare)


"Designed by Tsuyoshi 'Strike Fighters' Kawahito, this MicroProse classic hit Steam earlier this month." (Tim)  

11

F-117A/F-19 Stealth Fighter

"I played more F-19, but the gameplay is oh so similar. Fly inside the envelope of the aircraft and you’re invisible while having near-perfect information on everything going on around. Yes, way too much information, but then again it was accessible. Secret missions to pull off while avoiding detection – the concept would definitely still work today." (frostpfote)

8

F-15 Strike Eagle III

"This 1992 Mudhen sim was demanding in every sense of the word." (Tim)

1

F29 Retaliator

"Ok, this is a nostalgia thing but I spent many happy hours in aerial combat in a copy of this that I acquired when I bought my computer second hand. I can’t in honesty recommend it to anybody but it qualifies for my personal list." (cederic)

3

Falcon 4.0

“The consummate combat flight sim. It has it all - the impressive realism, the avionic detail, the seriously dynamic campaigns, the scaleability, the de-brief tools, the indefatigable modding community...” (Tim)


"Benchmark Sims are doing a great job keeping this classic game up to date and alive even if the terrain does look a bit ass." (Pollux)


"For two decades I have played it. And I still see myself doing so for years to come!" (DrJester)

37

Fleet Defender

"You really felt that you were only a small cog in a bigger war machine. Previous titles (even F-15 Strike Eagle 3) had you flying basically as a one-man-army... In F-14 there were plenty of friendly, neutral or even civilian flights present... Even if DCS Tomcat is a dream for button pushers and rivet counters, Fleet Defender as a whole package is still superior IMHO." (damson)

2

Ghost Recon

"I return every so often for the thrilling firefights, the tactical freedom, and the melodrama-free narrative." (Tim)


"The well scripted scenarios and believable narrative really elevated the original series. It’s a shame to see what monkey business the modern iterations are up to." (TV-PressPass)

7

Gunship and Gunship 2000

(Gunship 2000) "Best flight sim on Amiga platform, period. PC version got Island and Ice Expansion. Flight model was questionable, but the aspect of commanding a flight was novel at the time and was very addictive." (damson)


(Gunship 2000) "It was the first game I played where I had a group of friendly AI named after people I knew in real life that I was trying to keep alive." (Jer Stryker)

13

Hell Let Loose

"After trying Post Scriptum and bouncing off despite it probably being the better game, HLL hits that sweet spot that RO nailed. Setting up an MG42 in the perfect flanking position for enfilade fire and halting an enemy push in seconds will never get old." (Chezzers)

2

Hidden & Dangerous

“Lovingly crafted and astonishingly varied, more often than not levels invite and reward tactical experimentation. Generally, you’re roaming naturalistic villages and airfields, factories and forts, schlosses and sub pens… large rambling locales pleasingly free of the sort of clumsy barriers employed as player funnellers in other FPSs.” (Tim)


"I’ve played the first H&D campaign co-op with my Dad and brother multiple times, and it’s fantastic fun. Tense and calling for careful planning and good execution, with the occasional moment of chaos that ends in tragedy or ‘I can’t believe we pulled through that.’ Such a shame that the second game did away with the proper co-op campaign (it had individual co-op missions which were fun, but you lost all the inventory management and persistent characters between missions)." (Wilson)

22

Hind

"The sorties I came to enjoy most were the ones where I was asked to ferry fresh troops out to the front or medevac back the wounded. In fact I enjoyed these outings so much I spent days hex-editing the mission files to create new ones. It was a mad Sisyphean task. I'd change a likely-looking number then fly the file (assuming it ran) to see exactly what I'd altered. Lunatic, but the sort of thing you do when you're head-over-heels in love." (Tim)

1

IL-2 Sturmovik (1st Generation)

"Getting a kill while managing the engine, having limited rounds, etc. gives me a huge dopamine hit because of all of the work involved. I still play IL-2: 1946 and CLoD today, in large part due to the great modding teams that are still improving them. The B.A.T. mod is incredible." (skeletor)


"Number 1, by a mile... the game that got me into sims." (mr.skwid)


"Probably the first flight sim that really gave me the impression of being inside a flying plane, thanks to an amazing flight model, great graphics and amazing sounds." (Hydrogene)

64

IL-2 Sturmovik: Great Battles

"This justifies my VR headset. Breezy, beautiful, and endlessly fun with the Pat Wilson mission mods. Great physics and visuals can only take you so far, so I’m a sucker for all of the scripted missions you can find/buy - of which there are a ton." (TimePointFive)


(Flying Circus) "The developers keep pushing it forward and it becomes more sophisticated and, dare I say it, beautiful almost by the month. I’m lucky enough to have a VR headset and it is a stupendous feeling in those open cockpits. Even without VR, getting into a massed dogfight at 12000ft in the cumuli is an experience not to be missed." (Father Ted)


"Whilst lacking the breadth of its predecessor, this game makes up for it with depth. Amazing flight models and damage modelling for each of the warbirds give veracity to every dogfight, and it can be a stunner when it wants to especially with the new cloud effects. Skimming treetops in VR with canopy open = perfection." (Chezzers)


"The best online experience of any modern title." (DrJester)

28

Jane's F-15

"The spiritual successor to F-15 Strike Eagle 3 from Microprose. Two interesting campaigns... Plenty of diverse and interesting hand-crafted missions... Wide array of A/G weapons to employ. I'll never forget sitting in WSO seat, watching on one MPCD FLIR image of target area and on the other live feed from GBU-15 transmitted through AN/AXQ-14 Data Link Pod." (damson)

3

Jane's F/A-18

"No other game at the time combined luscious 3D, extremely accurate avionics and flight model, and a despearate struggle against the Russian bear in the North Sea. In my opinion the graphics, while no competition for DCS, still hold up well enough today to be playable." (CaptainKoloth)

4

Jane's Fighters Anthology

"Included US Navy Fighters, Marine Fighters, Advanced Tactical Fighters, NATO Fighters, USNF’97 (Vietnam). Hundreds of aircraft and missions to fly. Easy to grasp, simplified flight model (its roots found in Chuck Yeager’s Air Combat) but the overall feel is grounded in reality. Pinnacle of 90s survey flight sim. Even if there is no dynamic campaign the sheer number of missions will give you plenty of fun time." (damson)

8

Jane's Longbow



"The first of the study flight sims from the Origin Skunkworks team. The Gold version combined the base game and Flashpoint Korea expansion which introduced many new features, such as CP/G position with full-screen view from TADS. Very atmospheric, and had this classic Microprose vibe which wasn’t odd since Andy Hollis was the producer." (damson)


"In the late Nineties I was too busy flying Digital Integration's heli sims to bother with Jane's. Looking back, my brand loyalty seems somewhat foolish. The Longbows were loved for good reason." (Tim)

10

Jane's USAF and IAF

"I consider these to be a series; they were made by the same developer under the Jane’s brand (Pixel Multimedia) and have identical gameplay and mechanics. These two games were the perfect balance between arcade and realism in a flight sim; it was pick-up-and-playable, with a wide variety of aircraft and campaigns available in both, but still light years beyond the likes of Ace Combat with regard to realism (radars and all their modes, reasonably realistic flight mechanics, SEAD, EW, etc. all simulated). It’s astounding to me that no such game has arisen since." (CaptainKoloth)

3

Luftwaffe Commander

"The first flight sim to feature Spanish Civil War action?" (Tim)

6

M1 Tank Platoon

"The first real tank simulation and a dire troublemaker when it came to my spare time." (Amiral Crapaud)


"Finally disposed of the 5-1/4″ floppy disks last year. Actually choked me up a little." (KSBearski)

4

M1 Tank Platoon II

"The time I've spent with M1TP2 this week has helped me understand why so many reviewers were willing to overlook the disappointing state of the release build. Busy missions, obliging/varied targets, extravagant pyrotechnics, surprising atmosphere, simple basics and somewhat flattering depictions of the titular MBT conspire to create a sim that's approachable, ego-kind and action-packed." (Tim)

7

MiG Alley

"Because A2A lost interest in modernising Rowan's back-catalogue after Battle of Britain 2, sadly this Korean War gem never received the refurb it richly deserved." (Tim)

4

Operation Flashpoint

"Whether it's the bare-chested fury of a large-scale combined arms battle, or the owl-hoot-punctuated panic of a nocturnal patrol contact, Operation Flashpoint handles it brilliantly... However many times you play a mission, there's always a new avenue left to try, a new vehicle or weapon to scavenge." (Tim)


"The second mission of the campaign is one of my strongest memories in gaming, when you discover you are facing mechanised soviet troops, and your little M16 is useless against the coming BMPs." (Hydrogene)


"I had so much fun with this, mostly messing around in the map editor. Mods were an eye opener as well. I remember back when we still had very poor internet, downloading a 5MB (!) fire engine mod meant leaving the download running overnight." (Wilson)

24

Panzer Elite Special Edition

“Getting the various third-party adjuncts working together flawlessly can be a bit of a struggle but persevere and weeks... months of unusually tense and atmospheric horizon scanning, hill cresting, and hull puncturing await.” (Tim)

5

Rainbow Six (1st Generation)

(Rogue Spear: Urban Operations) "The best expansion I’ve ever played — tactical sim or otherwise." (Raphael Liberatore, CGW, 2000)

8

Red Baron II

"Red Baron 3D is a classic game in its own right. The team did a great job carrying on the legacy of Red Baron, and Red Baron 3D is worthy of the name. Much of the team from the original worked on Red Baron II and Red Baron 3D." (Damon Slye)

4

Red Baron

“It's amazing - 30 years on, Dynamix's WWI wonder still has the power to surprise and stir. It still provides enough, "Got you, my slippery friend," "Crikey, that was a near thing," and, "Me, a Captain?!" moments to keep even a fussy flier like myself absorbed for hours on end.” (Tim)


"I think that many developers today could learn from the career mode. It was exciting in between missions. I would eagerly await medal ceremonies, challenges from aces, new planes, etc. These small details added a lot to the experience." (skeletor)

35

Red Orchestra

"After years of playing Counter Strike as a teenager, this was the series that made me realise that sims were for me. The perfect balance of realism and accessibility, pixel hunting helmets with the PTRD on Berezina or bouncing Panzergranate 39 shells off the T-34’s sloped armour on Arad, this game had it all." (Chezzers)


"It says plenty about RO's authenticity that you often find yourself using historical tactics not out of a desire to roleplay, but because it's the natural/sensible thing to do." (Tim)


"To this day one of the best moments I’ve had in gaming is nailing a stressful mid-range shot with my Mosin Nagant saving a team mate. Any game that can make an overall insignificant shot feel that special deserves top marks." (HaraldC)


"Things really got going when the Darkest Hour mod came out, transferring the action to the West. It is superseded now of course by Hell Let Loose in terms of graphics and sophistication, but I feel less compelled to get into HLL because the sophistication means it is less pick-up-and-play." (Father Ted)

16

Rise of Flight

"This pulled me inexorably away from IL-2 1946.... Taking up a Pup from Bruay and striking out across No Man’s Land into skies which may or may not contain Albatri recalled my early reading of No Parachute like no other game until IL-2: Flying Circus." (Father Ted) 

11

SWAT 4

"I was hooked by the idea of arresting criminals rather than simply shooting them. Spent a lot of hours trying to figure the best strategy. Usually, everything went wrong at first contact. Pathfinding issues made things harder, especially in the second half of the game." (a_monk)

8

Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe

"The impressively equipped SWOTL is a Flying Fortress sim with player-accessible gunner and bombardier positions. It's an invitation to tear about in Mustangs, Thunderbolts, Bf 109s, Fw 190s, Me 262s, Komets and Go 229s. Above all though, it's a game in which every bomb-blast and crashing plane shockwaves the future." (Tim)


"This was my B-17 sim. I would spend most of the non-combat time looking out the side view at that magnificent wing with its two massive engines. Later in the mission they would usually be failing, on fire, and/or full of holes." (Jer Stryker)

8

Silent Hunter

"Uboat and Wolfpack are edging in on the scene, but the gold standard for uboat combat is still Silent Hunter III with the GWX mod." (Electricfox)


"Silent Hunter 3 with the GWX 3 Greywolves mod... so many memorable moments... unbelievably immersive. I can’t decide what was the most memorable moment during my last campaign, laying on the bottom of Reykjavik Harbor repairing damage from depth charges, bow shooting a Brit DD trying to end my career, penetrating a convoy and causing major mayhem, realizing at the last moment I was going to ram a merchantman at periscope depth, ordering hard left rudder and scraping the barnacles off the side of the ship and diving to get under her or penetrating the Irish Sea only to get sunk by three British escorts I could not evade, outrun or outgun." (KSBearski)

45

Silent Service

(SS1) "The feeling when you know the destroyers had you pinned. Or escaping within an inch of disaster and returning to port. Drama! See the Crash Dive series for a near modern equivalent." (OldZenGamer)


(SS2) "Sure, Silent Hunter had better graphics, was a better sim, had more iterations in the series. But Silent Service created the genre and got all of the basics absolutely spot on. Dynamic campaign in 8 bit pixel graphics, ship identification, aggressive destroyers, a tense gamble going for an aircraft carrier.. Everybody else is just imitating and refining games cast from the same mold." (cederic)


(SS2) "Because that was what my dad played most & was the most immersive thing there was when I was 6 years old and hiding under the table during depth charge attacks." (Amiral Crapaud)

(link)

15

Sonalysts sub sims

(Dangerous Waters) "Still the go to for modern submarine simulation, and comes with multi-station multiplayer which can be a lot of fun." (Electricfox)


(Dangerous Waters) "The Falcon 4.0 of contemporary sub sims." (Tim)

14

Steel Beasts Pro Personal Edition

"One of the joys of singleplayer SBPPE is the control freedom. You can spend an entire scrap controlling things from low-flying helo height à la Combat Mission. You can play using nothing but the map view, or, if you prefer, you can restrict yourself to one vehicle, or a single station in a particular vehicle. Personally I like to flit about, using all the facilities available." (Tim)

(link)

5

Steel Fury

“The only WW2 tank sim I know of that can dig-in next to Panzer Elite without looking deeply inadequate.” (Tim)

0

Stormovik: SU-25 Soviet Attack Fighter

"This was the TIE Fighter of flight sims. It made it fun to be the “bad” guy, and had some great scripted (if outlandish) single-player missions." (Jer Stryker)

1

Strike Fighters

(SF2) "For me it was the perfect balance of accessibility and authenticity with a nice range of aircraft and a decent dynamic campaign. Played the original, Vietnam, Europe and Israel maps." (CaptainBinky)


"The mid-2000s answer to all the high-end study sims that I never had time for. No switches to toggle or buttons to push, but the sense that you were in a real air war in the 1950s-1970s and lots of fun action. The mods made it even better." (Hell-fish)

5

TFX

"I was only allowed to play it after completing “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”. The tanker pilot drawling over the radio “All major credit cards accepted” is stuck in my head for some reason." (SminkyBazzA)


"The credit card line has stuck in my head too. As have the clouds. The first time I’d really felt like flying in a computer game, so magnificent they were for the time." (spacedyemeerkat)

4

Team Apache

"The real strength of Team Apache comes in its excellent sense of command. It is as much a team simulation as an aircraft simulation. You are required to build and manage pilot/WSO teams, matching personalities and skills to create a well-honed force. These men grow and change. Sometimes you need to "have a talk" with them to boost morale, and the game even makes you choose between a "hardass" and "soft touch" approach." (Chet Thomas, Gamespot)

2

Tornado

"No other sim since has done flying and fighting nap-of-earth so convincingly. Hide below radar and attack a target with a few seconds apart from the rest of the wing, all from different directions. The mission-planner was fantastic, detail of the 3D graphics was great at the time and the Tornado was modeled very convincingly." (frostpfote)

4

UBOAT

"Silent Hunter meets Nantucket meets Bomber Crew. A remarkably solid and well-equipped unscripted sub sim with a refreshing interest in the human factor." (Tim)


"UBOAT can be played as a ‘chart table and periscope’ sub sim and does that as well as anything else out there but it goes so much further, modelling the entire submarine, its equipment, its crew and the running of an under water boat. The dynamic campaign is currently perhaps a bit too easy but that doesn’t make sinking a carrier any less stressful... Of all my top five, this is the only one I’m still playing." (cederic)

1

War Thunder

"Surprised this is allowed, but I suppose a plausible ballistics models goes a long way. A great game when you rocket out of spawn with your Italian portee and start putting shells through the front plates of unsuspecting Tigers and Shermans. And an incredible frustrating one when you're one of the holed Tigers, knowing that’s a few thousand silver down the drain." (mr.skwid)

7

Wings Over Flanders Fields

“Buy WOFF and you're getting that incredibly rare thing, a sim that realises that most of us value campaign colour and plausible AI every bit as much as we value faithful flight models.” (Tim)

4

World of Tanks

"Dad loved it, so we all played it with him – I had the most fun being his personal artillery service while he zipped around the front lines." (SminkyBazzA)

2

48 Comments

  1. 1. IL-2 Sturmovik (1st Generation)
    2. IL-2 Sturmovik: Great Battles
    3. Panzer Elite Special Edition
    4. Aces of the Deep
    5. Silent Hunter

    [votes tabulated]

  2. 1. Falcon 4.0 (Allied Force/BMS, etc)
    2. DCS World
    3. Gunship 2000
    4. B17 Flying Fortress (1st one FWIW)
    5. F15 Strike Eagle III

    Notes:
    *This was a hard choice!
    *I am shocked that so few of these are from this century.
    *Though with the above in mind, DCS is like 10 different sims in one.

    [votes tabulated]

  3. Geez, what a hard deal hours before the weekend!

    1. Red Baron (your fault for putting it up there so early on in the article!)
    2. IL-2 Sturmovik (1st Generation) for its influence on the genre
    3. M1 Tank Platoon as the first real tank simulation and a dire troublemaker when it came to my spare time
    4. European Air War for the love story I lived through
    5. Silent Service 2, because that was what my dad played most & was the most immersive thing there was when I was 6 years old and hiding under the table during depth charge attacks

    [votes tabulated]

  4. 1. Arma
    2. M1 Tank Platoon II (just found it on Steam, too!)
    3. Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe (my first sim)
    4. Silent Hunter series
    5. War Thunder (hard to admit)

    [votes tabulated]

    • I want to change my vote. 3rd Wire’s Strike Fighter series should be in here. I’ll drop War Thunder. I had countless hours in Strike Fighhers because it was the mid-2000s anti-sim answer to all the high-end study sims that I never had time for. No switches to toggle or buttons to push, but the sense that you were in a real (if fictitional) air war in the 1950s-1970s and lots of fun action. The mods made it even better, effectively letting you play the air sim/game that you wanted to play.

      [votes adjusted]

  5. 1. DCS

    DCS gets an undeserved quantity of flak from the online community. Sure, humanity has yet to see it run for more than an hour with a crash to desktop. Yes, it’s not at all uncommon to see AI wingmen suddenly possessed by the spirit of a kamikaze pilot and plow straight into you or any convenient obstacle near the runway. Absolutely, it will eat up every byte of your 32 GB RAM PC and still run like you’re on a 286. But, ultimately, such criticism of DCS is intellectually dishonest.

    DCS is the game we all imagined we were playing as we were squinting at 320×200 sims in the 80s and convincing ourselves it was the future. Only in DCS can you use the real flight manuals as a truly useful guide in-game, or vice versa. Every switch, every obscure radar mode, every rivet is lovingly modeled. On a powerful PC, it’s as close to photorealistic as anything on the market. VR is fluid and beautiful. It is highly moddable with an astoundingly rich database of user-generated missions and other content, including a dynamic campaign generator. And its trump card over the likes of BMS is that it just doesn’t do this for one aircraft- it does it for nearly every major American and Russian postwar fighter, with more being added all the time (plus helicopters, plus civilian aircraft), and even more available via mods. Find me another game where I can race over the treetops at Mach 2 in my F-14 in the rain, at night, in virtual reality, trying desperately to avoid that SA-6 as I attempt to reach my target airfield and obliterate it with GBU-12s, sputtering back to the carrier on my last 300 lb of fuel as my HUD winks out due to my engine fire. It is my contention that anyone who does not consider DCS to be the definitive postwar combat aviation sim either hasn’t played it, or is wrong.

    2. Jane’s F/A-18

    Somehow no other decent F/A-18E simulator has popped up since this landmark (worked on by some of the key personnel who would later go on to create DCS). No other game at the time combined luscious 3D, extremely accurate avionics and flight model, and a despearate struggle against the Russian bear in the North Sea. In my opinion the graphics, while no competition for DCS, still hold up well enough today to be playable.

    3. Jane’s USAF/IAF

    I consider these to be a series; they were made by the same developer under the Jane’s brand (Pixel Multimedia) and have identical gameplay and mechanics. These two games were the perfect balance between arcade and realism in a flight sim; it was pick-up-and-playable, with a wide variety of aircraft and campaigns available in both, but still light years beyond the likes of Ace Combat with regard to realism (radars and all their modes, reasonably realistic flight mechanics, SEAD, EW, etc. all simulated). It’s astounding to me that no such game has arisen since.

    A couple of assorted thoughts (NOT nominations/games I’m voting on):

    I played a heck of a lot of Super Battletank on the Super Nintendo growing up. I thought of it as a great tank simulator. I had so much fun with it. As an adult, replaying it, I can say – don’t play it. It’s terrible. But I still have fond memories of it. TFX (the predecessor to EF2000 and F-22 TAW) is is similar – as I try to replay it now, I find it poorly documented and plagued by some really questionable game mechanics, but it sure was impressive in 1993.

    Air Strike Patrol for SNES, while not meeting the criteria for this list (isometric), DOES actually hold up quite well, and I’d recommend for a fun bout of Desert Storm A-10/F-15 tank plinking and MiG shredding.

    I don’t know why there isn’t more SAM Simulator. In fact, the whole area of SAM operation is basically unsimulated with the exception of that one lonely (though excellent) program. This seems to me like a huge gaping hole in sim-dom.

    I would put Jane’s 688 on here, but I’ve never had time to properly get into it, and Dangerous Waters is for all intents and purposes Jane’s 688 3 (with Sub Command being #2), so it’s probably covered by that entry.

    Somebody is surely going to nominate Jane’s USNF. I fall into the same boat of never having had enough time to really fully experience it, so I will leave that to another Cornerite.

    While not meeting the criteria for this list, Star Trek: Klingon Academy is this for space/sci-fi sims. It’s a fantastic combination of deep systems simulation with many tactical options, combat that I’d describe as naval at long range while fighter-like at short range, and graced by the talents of David Warner and the late Christopher Plummer. Try it out if you’re into such things.

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  6. Wow..some hard choices…and in this post I will completely date myself as old. don’t get me wrong, I still play many a modern current generation sim, but where would we be without these brave 5.

    1. Aces of the Pacific -1992 Dynamix/Sierra – Such a great game. yes this dates me, but many a college “Study hour” were spent learning flap settings, perfecting carrier landings, and sipping a beer after a successful mission. Much like it’s predecessor Red Baron, the campaign/career mode was gripping and a great way to take a time machine to the past.
    2. Il2 Sturmovik (1st Gen) so good. and the game continues to grow with mods aplenty to try. has a strong online community, but being a solo player I find the game offers so many great things and just keeps giving. those damage models and the dedication to precision make it a game not for the faint of heart. but it is really, really good.
    3. Red Baron 1990 – This game broke the mold. A flight sim that took a beast of a machine to run. but the graphics, and the full immersion. Another Dynamix/Sierra masterpiece. only sits below the other 2 because of the twitchiness of the application, and the many bugs it had to sort post launch. many a 3.5 disk was dedicated to patches for this one. working gauges and full 3d. not to mention the ability to scan the sky from your cockpit.
    4. Silent Service 1985 – A Sid Meier classic in the golden age of Microprose. still would hold up today if you can forgive the graphics. The drama, the thought to planning you had to give really turned me on to a part of WW2 I had never really examined before I played it as a young lad. The feeling when you know the destroyers had you pinned. or escaping within an inch of disaster and returning to port. Drama! see the Crashdive series for a near modern equivalent.
    5. Gunship 1986 (commodore 64) – yeah, it was almost Battlezone advanced in look, but an amazing game. great planning and effort for missions, and learning Whirlybird flight/combat versus planes was a real squash for my brain. but such a cool game with challenges aplenty. I think it also let you do Vietnam campaigns with the apache if I am remembering correctly.

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  7. As with some of the other commenters, my childhood experiences take precedence over more recent outings.

    1. Aces over Europe
    (this may be part of a wider series, but I was 9 at the time)

    2. TFX
    (it came on eight floppy disks, and I was only allowed to play it after completing “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”. Also the tanker pilot drawling over the radio “All major credit cards accepted” is stuck in my head for some reason)

    3. Hidden & Dangerous
    (the second installment especially for long-play multiplayer fun times at uni)

    4. World of Tanks
    (Dad loved it, so we all played it with him – I had the most fun being his personal artillery service while he zipped around the front lines)

    5. Eurofighter 2000
    (good times with friends marvelling at being able to briefly see through our wings after a too-low bombing run)

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    • Yes, the credit card line has stuck in my head, too. As have the clouds. The first time I’d really felt like flying in a computer game, so magnificent they were for the time.

  8. NON-ANSWERS

    1) F-117A Stealth Fighter
    Stunningly realistic, but I can’t talk about it.

    2) Chocks Away
    The Archimedes version of all the WWI flight sims that came out in 1990. PvP in the school computer lab was a revelation. Probably too arcade-y for inclusion or not-on-PC.

    3) Far Cry
    Stunningly realistic, but I can’t talk about it.

    4) Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix
    Passable simulation of mercenary work.

    5) Hitman: Codename 47
    Now we’re just getting silly.

  9. 1) DCS – Going with earlier replies that this is what we dreamed about throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Falcon 3.0’s Electronic Battlefield Series comes to mind with 3 add-ons. How many does DCS have? In what fidelity? Eagle Dynamics ran with old concepts (you can also call them dreams) and stuck with it throughout many more years – all the while working on and improving the same codebase.
    2) Tornado – no other sim since has done flying and fighting nap-of-earth so convincingly. Hide below radar and attack a target with a few seconds apart from the rest of the wing, all from different directions. The mission-planner was fantastic, detail of the 3D graphics was great at the time and the Tornado was modeled very convincingly.
    3) F-117A/F-19 Stealth Fighter – I played more F-19, but the gameplay is oh so similar. Fly inside the envelope of the aircraft and you’re invisible while having near-perfect information on everything going on around. Yes, way too much information, but then again it was accessible. Secret missions to pull off while avoiding detection – the concept would definitely still work today.
    4) Il2 (original) – what a revelation that game was in the day. It felt better and more convincing than any other prop-plane-sim. These planes are shown as shaking, vibrating, smoke-puffing beasts of which flight dynamics one should be fearful.
    5) Dangerous Waters – *ping*

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  10. Number 1, by a mile, IL-2 (first gen), the game that got me into sims. Loading into the cockpit of a 109 and being shocked there were no crosshairs when you switched to an outside view, after playing arcady flight games. And who could forget thee quick mission builder, setting up bomber intercepts, flying escort, and one of my favorites, a single ace in a late war jet vs me and twelve other novices.

    2, Silent Hunter, specifically 3. After IL2 I thought Ubisoft was the king of sims and bought this from the PC game section of walmart. Eye balling a torb shot on manual and, of course, missing. Then going to YT and finding a video explaining the cheaty map tools trick. What good times.

    3, Warthunder. Surprised this is allowed, but I suppose a plausible ballistics models go’s a long way. A great game when you rocket out of spawn with your Italian portee and start putting shells through front plates of unsuspecting tigers and Shermans. And an incredible frustrating one when you one of the tigers with a round through the front plate, knowing that’s a few thousand silver down the drain.

    4, Falcon 4.0, is it the best dynamic campaign? Who’s to say (me I do).

    5, Cold Waters. From best to maybe the simplest dynamic campaign. I do think the game suffers after two full play throughs. Once you learn that you are kind of the king of the seas it doesn’t offer a lot a challenge, but 40 hours of fun is plenty for me.

    Honorable mentions go to Strike fighters 2 and Wings Over Flanders Fields. Both great games but I haven’t spend enough time with them.

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  11. Relatively easy to pick out my fave five – much harder to rank them- but here goes…

    1. IL2 Original
    As a prop-head I eagerly sought this out on release, only to be disappointed by its performance on my PC and the less-than engaging (to my mind) theatre. I went back to BoB II. Fast forward 10 years and I came (via the Darkest Hour community – see below) to IL2 46’s multiplayer scene. I nervously introduced myself to a virtual squadron and was inducted into the immersive world of online dogfighting. I racked up countless hours in all sorts of types, gradually learning the ropes, aided by some wonderful chaps.

    Sure the sim was showing its age by then in terms of graphics and sophistication, but it just worked. Also, out of, say, 10 regular squad members, we had a current commercial pilot and three ex civil and military pilots, so it must have had some verisimilitude.

    2. Red Orchestra
    This game killed single player for me. Having seen “real” people running around, taking cover, being stupid, being clever, and working together, I cannot go back to bots and scripts. A variety of maps, combined arms, and a (maybe not so realistic) game mechanic which generated a sense of tension and achievement.

    Things really got going when the Darkest Hour mod came out, transferring the action to the West and allowing more familiar actions to be played out. It is superseded now of course by Hell Let Loose in terms of graphics and sophistication, but I feel less compelled to get into HLL because the sophistication means it is less pick-up-and-play.

    3. Rise of Flight
    This pulled me inexorably away from IL2 46. A gorgeous, painterly scenery, planes that had definitive character, and, again, a community of like-minded souls saw me spend less and less time with pixelly old IL2 and more over the Western Front. Taking up a Pup from Bruay and striking out across No Man’s Land into skies which may or may not contain Albatri recalled my early reading of No Parachute like no other game until…

    4. IL2 Great Battles – Flying Circus
    It’s more of an iteration on the above than a revolution, but it is now practically the only game I play. The developers keep pushing it forward and it becomes more sophisticated and, dare I say it, beautiful almost by the month. I’m lucky enough to have a VR headset and it is a stupendous feeling in those open cockpits. Even without VR, getting into a massed dogfight at 12000ft in the cumuli is an experience not to be missed.

    5.Chuck Yeager’s Air Combat
    Not on the list I know, but it came with my Packard Bell 486SX and I played the hell out of it.

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  12. IL-2 Sturmovik (1st Generation)
    My first flight sim was the original Red Baron and I didn’t play any others until the IL-2 Sturmovik games came out. The jump from an old DOS game from 1990 to IL-2 was huge. I was pretty young when I played Red Baron, so I would just turn off all of the realism settings. Playing Il-2 on near full realism had a huge learning curve, but it was certainly worth it. First of all, learning about engine management has taught me a lot about WWII planes and encouraged me to learn more. Also, getting a kill while managing the engine, having limited rounds, etc. gives me a huge dopamine hit because of all of the work involved. I still play IL-1946 and CLoD today, in large part due to the great modding teams that are still improving these old games today. The B.A.T. mod is incredible and has more content than I play in the rest of my life.

    Rise Of Flight
    This was my second WWI flight sim after Red Baron. The flight models seem great to a layman and the planes are a joy to fly, as they are so simple. I’m not a fan of their business model and it doesn’t have a good dynamic campaign built-in, so it comes in second to IL-2. I haven’t gotten WOFF working well, so I can’t compare it to ROF yet.

    688(I) Hunter/Killer and other Sonalysts submarine games
    I bought the Sonalysts games and Silent Hunter III on a whim. Despite being more interested in WWII than the cold war, I played 688(I) first. I still haven’t gotten around to SHIII because I got hooked on 688(I). It’s a blast analyzing the sonar data to identify the enemy. Again, this has been a great learning experience. The way submariners use sonar to identify other ships and submarines is ingenious. For example, it’s pretty obvious that sonar will give you the direction of a contact, but how do you figure out how far away it is? If you know the acoustic signature of another vessel, you can work out its speed and, over time, you can work out its trajectory to figure out where it is probably located. On top of that, I’ve learned a bit of oceanography, as things like thermoclines are major factors.

    Red Baron
    I don’t think many new players would enjoy this after playing some of the newer flight sims with better graphics and flight models, but I have a lot of nostalgia for the original Red Baron. The devs included a lot of great features that were incredible as a kid. First of all, they included a wide-variety of mission types, from zeppelin hunting to dogfights against an ace. I think that many developers today could learn from the career mode. In Red Baron, it was exciting in between missions. After a mission I would eagerly await for a medal ceremony, challenge from an ace, new plane, etc. These small details add a lot to the experince.

    Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon (2001)
    Not sure if this counts, but I haven’t played as many combat sims as most people here, so I’ll include the first Tom Clancy Ghost Recon game. While I doubt that any FPS is that realistic, they really attempted to bring in more realistic combat and tactics in this game. No recharging health pack or recharging health here, and you won’t be taking on everyone as a single soldier either.

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  13. Red Baron was my first proper real flight sim and I absolutely loved it. I still play it on occasion despite all the modern offerings and I think it is still a great game with a great campaign campaign mode. Those 90s flight sims had real character and ambiance and it’s sadly in modern sims.

    DCS World. There’s a lot of problems with DCS and it frustrates me at times but it has some of the finest simulated virtual aeroplanes around with amazing systems depth. Just a shame the development seems so unfocused.

    Falcon 4.0 and BMS which has the best campaign of them all. Benchmark Sims are doing a great job keeping this classic game up to date and alive even if the terrain does look a bit ass.

    Silent Hunter series just so this list isn’t completely full of flight sims! Played the hell out of 2 3 and 4 over the years with a ton of various mods. I just wish there was a Royal Navy sub sim out there. Ah well. Great games full of atmosphere, nothing quite like trying to evade some angry destroyers or the panic building up as you take more and more damage.

    Fleet Defender: The F-14 Tomcat Simulation because I loved Top Gun as a kid and then I got to fly one! Quite detailed for the time and I was pretty bad at it but it did inspire a life-long love of simulated naval aviation in me. It’s mostly nostalgia for me now though as I can’t really get on with those low res textures today. Funny how those earlier more ‘primitive’ flat shaded untextured polygons in games like Red Baron actually hold up better these days.

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    • I would add that those old 90s flight sims really felt like a labour of love. I miss the old 200 page manuals that were part history book. Nowadays, devs often don’t even bother with a manual. I understand that flight sims are a niche genre, but the modern approach of making you pay a ton of money to get every plane feels like it’s more about money.

  14. This is a tough list to make but these I spend most time. I look for SP sims having dynamic environments and believable challenging AI .

    1. Falcon 4
    2. Wings Over Flanders Fields
    3. Silent Hunter series
    4. Battle of Britain II: Wings of Victory . (with BDG patch v2.13 which unfortunately is only fully playable on Win 7. )
    5. IL-2 Sturmovik 1st Generation (1946)

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  15. 1. IL2 Sturmovick (1st generation)
    2. Silent Hunter
    3. Luftwaffe Commander
    4. Panzer Elite special edition
    5. Hidden & Dangerous

    Other titles that I believe may be added to the list: i’Panzer 44, Panzer Commander, Gunship 2000, LHX, Across the Rhine, AH-64 Longbow, Wings Over Vietnam, Destroyer Command, Enigma Rising Tide, Navy Field, Naval Action, Age of Sails 2

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  16. That’s a tough one indeed, but here goes:

    1. Jane’s Fighters Anthology – compilation of the whole series, including US Navy Fighters, Marine Fighters, Advanced Tactical Fighters, NATO Fighters, USNF’97 (Vietnam). Hundreds of aircraft and missions to fly. Easy to grasp, simpliefied flight model (its roots found in Chuck Yeager’s Air Combat) but the overall feel is grounded in reality. Pinnacle of 90s Survey Flight Sim. Even if there is no dynamic campaign the sheer number of missions will give you plenty of fun time.

    2. Jane’s Longbow (Gold version) – the first of the study flight sims that came from Origin Skunkworks team. The Gold version combined the base game and Flashpoint Korea expansion which introduced many new features, such as CP/G position with full-screen view from TADS. Very atmospheric, had this classic Microprose vibe which wasn’t odd since Andy Hollis manned the producer position on this one.

    3. Jane’s F-15 – yes, another Jane’s title… spiritual successor to F-15 Strike Eagle 3 from Microprose (again Andy Hollis was behind the helm). Complete package – 2 interesting campaigns – one historical – Desert Storm and one hypothetical – conflict with Iran. Plenty of diverse and interesting hand-crafted missions that would be impossible to task by dynamic campaign engine, even as sophisticated as the one found in Falcon 4.0. Wide array of A/G weapons to employ – I never forget sitting in WSO seat, watching on one MPCD FLIR image of target area and on the other live feed from GBU-15 transmitted through AN/AXQ-14 Data Link Pod.

    4. Gunship 2000 – best flight sim on Amiga platform, period. PC version got Island and Ice Expansion. Flight model was questionable, but the aspect of commanding a flight was novel at the time and was very addictive.

    5. F-14 Fleet Defender – first fixed-(well swing)-wing flight sim from Microprose where you really felt that you were only a small cog in a bigger war machine. Previous titles (even F-15 Strike Eagle 3) had you flying basically as a one-man-army. No other friendly flights would take active participation in the conflict – there were some friendly aircraft doing touch-and-goes on friendly runways, and a tanker acting as a start/end point for some missions but that was about it. In F-14 there were plenty of friendly, neutral or even civilian flights present. You could even call in Ready5 when the s*** hit the fan hard. Your wingman was precious asset and you had plenty of ways to control him. Your chosen squadron had pilots/RIOs with real names, after several missions you probably had your favorite wingman, who sadly could perish. Even if DCS Tomcat is a dream for button pushers and rivet counters, F-14 Fleet Defender as a whole package is still superior IMHO (don’t hate).

    There are plenty of other great flight sims that would probably got on my top 5 list if you have asked me some other time. Which ones, you ask? Well honorable mentions would go to DID’s F-22 ADF/TAW, EF2000, DI’s Tornado, Apache Longbow, Hind, Dynamix’ Red Baron, Aces of the Pacific, Microprose F-19/F-117, Harrier Jump Jet, European Air War, Domarks AV-8B Harrier Assault, Innerloop’s Joint Strike Fighter, Thirdwire’s Strike Fighters Series, Origin’s Strike Commander, Pacific Strike, Wings of Glory, Mission Studio’s Jet Fighter series, and probably few others that I can’t remember right now.

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  17. 1. IL-2 1st generation – Very first mission, strafing Panzers, get bounced, running flat out at treetop level over a forest, then over a river on the deck, then over a slight rise in the steppe, and Holy Toledo, a German airfield with an M-109 scrambling. Already running right down the center of airstrip behind the ME-109 as fast as my IL-2 could run, pickled my cannon on that sucker just as he was lifting off, then right over the rise at the other end of the field and stayed on the deck flat out all the way home. Easiest kill I got on a Me-109 EVER.

    2. Mig Alley- One of the best flight sims ever, of any era. Nothing like a furball along the Yalu with a clutch of Mig 15’s on ya’. Very rewarding, sadly in need of a remake! I do miss Rowan.

    3. Aces of Deep- If you hang around off the north Irish coast long enough you might be lucky enough to see the Queen Mary coming in from the US running at full tilt heading for the North Channel into the Irish Sea. And if you’re good you might sink her like I did.

    4. Silent Hunter 3 with the GWX 3 Greywolves mod….so many memorable moments with this mod, unbelievably immersive. I can’t decide what was the most memorable moment during my last campaign, laying on the bottom of Reykjavik Harbor repairing damage from depth charges, bow shooting a Brit DD trying to end my career, penetrating a convoy and causing major mayhem, realizing at the last moment I was going to ram a merchantman at periscope depth, ordering hard left rudder and scraping the barnacles off the side of the ship and diving to get under her or penetrating the Irish Sea only to get sunk by three British escorts I could not evade, outrun or outgun. You know it’s a great mod for a sim when on your first mission you get air raided leaving the sub pen in Germany.

    5. M1 Tank Platoon- Played this for months, but could not get enough. Finally disposed of the games disks, you know, the 5-1/4″ floppy disks, last year. Actually choked me up a little…

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  18. 1. Battle of Britain II: Wings of Victory.
    The sheer scale of the dogfights, no other attempt to recreate the Battle of Britain has come close, the radio chatter is well put together, and the cherry on the top is the strategy layer of the dynamic campaign.
    2. Falcon 4
    One of the best dynamic campaigns out there, clickable cockpits (always a plus) good radio chatter bringing the scale of the war you’re involved in to you, and with BMS the graphics have continued to hold up well.
    3. Silent Hunter
    Uboat and Wolfpack are edging in on the scene, but the gold standard for uboat combat is still Silent Hunter III with the GWX mod.
    4. Dangerous Waters
    Still the go to for modern submarine simulation, and comes with multi-station multiplayer which can be a lot of fun.
    5. IL-2 1946
    The sheer scope of 1946 is only expanded by the addition of many mods, allowing you to dogfight from the Spanish civil war to Korea. Add in semi-dynamic campaign generator mods (DCG) and it’s a classic that still holds weight today.

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  19. I’m not much of a simmer so my list will be short.

    1. Red Orchestra
    I rarely play multiplayer, but this game I wanted to try because of the realism and boy was it special, and hard. To this day one of the best moments I’ve had in gaming is nailing a stressful mid-range shot with my Mosin Nagant saving a team mate. Any game that can make an overall insignificant shot feel that special deserves top marks.

    2. Aces over Europe
    I couldn’t tell you it this one’s better or worse than ‘Pacific or Red Baron, but it’s the one I played and teenaged me had a lot of fun with it.

    3. Brothers in Arms
    No other game has so effectively driven home in me the concept of pinning and flanking.

    Honorable mention:
    X. Aces of the Deep
    I still have warm feelings towards my many review-driven daydreams about this game. Sadly I never bought it, and when I abandonware’d it many years later I concluded it could never live up to my imaginary memories.

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  20. 1 – Silent Service 2 (didn’t play 1)

    Sure, Silent Hunter had better graphics, was a better sim, had more iterations in the series. But Silent Service created the genre and got all of the basics absolutely spot on. Dynamic campaign in 8 bit pixel graphics, ship identification, aggressive destroyers, a tense gamble going for an aircraft carrier.. Everybody else is just imitating and refining games cast from the same mold.

    2 – Red Baron

    Another ancient classic, another dynamic campaign, a novice friendly flight model, cutting edge graphics (for its era) and excellent fun. Who knew shooting a static balloon that wasn’t shooting back could be so dangerous!

    3 – F29 Retaliator

    Ok, this is a nostalgia thing but I spent many happy hours in aerial combat in a copy of this that I acquired when I bought my computer second hand. I can’t in honesty recommend it to anybody but it qualifies for my personal list.

    4 – IL-2 Sturmovich (the original)

    This did everything previous WW2 flight sims had offered, and added more. Much much more. The graphics were compelling, the flight model could be tuned to suit your skill level, the missions varied and taking full advantage of the title aircraft’s multi-role capabilities, and even the base release gave you plenty of aircraft to try. When a game grabs me this much I usually buy into the whole franchise but.. well, the pricing on the sequel is frankly farcical.

    5 – UBOAT

    Forget Silent Hunter, a passable stand-in while we waited for a true successor to Silent Service 2. That successor hasn’t even reached its release version yet and has already surpassed its older WW2 brethren. UBOAT can be played as a ‘chart table and periscope’ sub sim and does that as well as anything else out there but it goes so much further, modelling the entire submarine, its equipment, its crew and the running of an under water boat. The dynamic campaign is currently perhaps a bit too easy but that doesn’t make sinking a carrier any less stressful, trying to sneak into range without attracting the attention of escorts, desperately evading their frenzied hunt after your torpedoes enter the water, whether you hit or miss.

    Of all my top five, this is the only one I’m still playing.

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  21. My votes …
    1) Falcon 4.0
    2) Red Baron 2
    3) Silent Service II
    4) Team Apache
    5) Operation Flashpoint – Cold War Crisis 1985

    I haven’t had time to game proper sims lately, though … so I’m kinda retro.

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  22. 1. Operation Flashpoint. The second mission of the campaign, Flashpoint is one of my strongest memories in gaming, when you discover you are facing mecanised soviet troops, and your little M16 is useless against the coming BMPs. After trying to rush the enemy, and getting killed by a single bullet, I quickly realised Operation Flashpoint wasn’t a game like the FPS I’d played before! Fantastic.

    2. Aces of the Pacific. The most fun I’ve ever had with a flight sim, a fantastic feeling of having an impact on the war.

    3. Hidden and Dangerous. I loved managing a squad, and taling care of the soldiers, which I got quickly attached to, and didn’t want to lose. The second one was probably the best of the two.

    4. IL-2 Sturmovik (1st generation). Probably the first flight sim that really gave me the impression of being inside a flying plane, thanks to an amazing flight model, great graphics and amazing sounds (for the time, it was in 2001 after all…)

    5. Silent Hunter. The third game was a fantastic discovery. So many memories of convoy attacks that went wrong after a good start, and the fear of depth charges sent by relentless destroyers.

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  23. Hmmm, not sure how you can feature Ghost Recon but not Rainbow 6, but how and ever…
    Assuming Tom Clancy’s finest cannot make the cut, my votes are as follows:

    1) B17: Flying Fortress
    2) European Air War
    3) Silent Hunter III
    4) Operation Flashpoint (my favourite game ever made, bugs and all)
    5) Hidden & Dangerous

    Special Mention:
    Il2 Sturmovik 1946
    B17 The Mighty 8th
    Silent Service II
    Fighters Anthology
    Brothers in Arms
    F19
    SWotL

    • Before I process your votes, can I just check that your choices are a) in order of preference (I only ask because you’ve put Operation Flashpoint – your “favourite game” – at position 4), and b) whether you’d like to replace one of your choices with a Rainbow 6 title (Your nominees don’t need to be in the table at present).

      Order is important because the game at the top of your list will get 5 votes, while the one at the bottom only gets 1 ( 2nd = 4 votes, 3rd = 3 votes, 4th = 2 votes).

      • Ah cool. The order of my vote is thus:

        1. Operation Flashpoint
        2. European Air War
        3. Silent Hunter III
        4. Rainbow Six
        5. B17 Flying Fortress

        [votes tabulated]

  24. 1) Red Baron

    My first flight-sim, great sense of immersion for the time. Followed it up with Aces of the Pacific. Other WWI sims I enjoyed in later years were Rowan’s Flying Corps (a bit buggy, if I recall) and Third Wire’s First Eagles.

    2) Strike Fighters II

    For me it was the perfect balance of accessibility and authenticity with a nice range of aircraft and a decent dynamic campaign. Played the original, Vietnam, Europe and Israel maps.

    3) Falcon 4

    Only ever played the original, not the BMS version. I always remember the sense of achievement at completing a mission.

    4) EF2000

    Blew my mind when you could go to external view, look in through the canopy, and see your working MFDs.

    5) Hidden & Dangerous

    Only ever played the first game (and it’s add-on). I had played the demo missions dozens of times before I got the full game.

    Honourable Mentions

    Jet Fighter II
    Su-27 Flanker
    A-10 Cuba

    [votes tabulated]

  25. 1) Arma
    Arma 2 (and sometimes 3) mean more to me than they rightly should. It’s janky, glitchy, more prone to kill you by ladder than frag grenade, but it has given me the most intense and memorable experiences I’ve ever had in my decades of gaming. The malleable and ephemeral modding scene (DayZ was a moment, not a mod) has evolved and adapted to my tastes more than any other game. I get to HARDCORE ROLEPLAY as a grunt infantryman under questionably “based” leadership with 100 other grognards. I get to laser/call in CAS from other players in warthogs to shock and awe all of the hearts and minds in Takistan. I also got to creep around queefy zombies and socially manipulate myself into the protected gates of other players while my buddies waited, scoped up, in the hills.

    2) Il-2: Great Battles
    This justifies my VR headset. Breezy, beautiful, and endlessly fun with the Pat Wilson mission mods. Great physics and visuals can only take you so far, so I’m a sucker for all of the scripted missions you can find/buy — of which there are a ton. — This was a tough one, because I think I love Rise of Flight more, but with 777 at the helm I see this as RoF 2.

    3)Hidden & Dangerous
    Nostalgia maybe, but H&D2 has some intense unpredictability and my favorite squad controls of any squad shooter. It’s REALLY hard to play this game like Metal Gear Solid 2+ and stick people up and take their uniforms to sneak through levels, but it absolutely can be done. Also getting in the drivable jeep in the bootcamp/tutorial area will always be a Holy Crumpets moment for me.

    4)DCS WORLD
    I feel like I could get in a MIL-2 or Huey and actually fly it IRL.

    5) Birds of Steel
    …So this is a console-only flight sim for the ps3/360…made by the future creators of War Thunder…but it had a FANTASTIC mission generating dynamic campaign and a greatly tweakable flight model. I bought a flight stick for it that I still use for space games. It’s important and one of my favorites because it kept me relatively fed while I was saving up to build my very first proper gaming PC.

    [votes tabulated]

  26. This list serves as a depressing example of both how old I am and how many quality sims I missed during my life due to either a)not having sufficient time/hardware or b)not being able to buy every sim that came out. I never played Aces of the Pacific or got very far in European Air War or Jane’s F-15, and I can tell that I missed out from the comments here. The newer stuff is quality, but I have not gotten “good” enough yet to have the kind of fun like I had with the games below.

    1)F-19/F-117 Stealth Fighter
    Played it every day after school. When I had to write a story in class, it was usually about me being a stealth fighter pilot.

    2)Red Baron
    The best career mode I ever played. You had to really struggle with those early-war planes, but you knew the Sopwith Snipe was waiting for you towards the end. I would often attempt to get hospitalized just to get through the war faster. That’s probably how more than one real pilot did it too.

    3)Gunship 2000
    Another one I played every day after school. It was the first game I played where I had a group of friendly AI named after people I knew in real life that I was trying to keep alive.

    4)Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe
    This was my B-17 sim. I would spend most of the non-combat time looking out the side view at that magnificent wing with its two massive engines. Later in the mission they would usually be failing, on fire, and/or full of holes.

    5)SU-25 Stormovik
    This was the TIE Fighter of flight sims. It made it fun to be the “bad” guy, and had some great scripted (if outlandish) single-player missions.

    [votes tabulated]

  27. 1) Red Orchestra
    After years of playing Counter Strike as a teenager, this was the series that made me realise that sims were for me. The perfect balance of realism and accessibility, pixel hunting helmets with the PTRD on Berezina or bouncing Panzergranate 39 shells off the T-34’s sloped armour on Arad, this game had it all.

    2) IL2 Sturmovik (1st Gen)
    The sheer scope of the final game with mods was simply astonishing. The mission builder was a thing of beauty, you could create huge battles on their amazing engine completely aviation free and just watch the emergent carnage unfold.

    3) Silent Hunter
    Silent Hunter III with GWX specifically. So incredibly immersive, the main menu theme (Craig Armstrong – Escape) will forever bring back the urge to crash dive to the shouts of ALARM.

    4) Hell Let Loose
    After trying Post Scriptum and bouncing off despite it probably being the better game, HLL hits that sweet spot that RO nailed. Setting up an MG42 in the perfect flanking position for enfilade fire and halting an enemy push in seconds will never get old.

    5) IL2 Great Battles
    Whilst lacking the breadth of its predecessor, this game makes up for it with depth. Amazing flight models and damage modelling for each of the warbirds give veracity to every dogfight, and it can be a stunner when it wants to especially with the new cloud effects. Skimming treetops in VR with canopy open, perfection.

    [votes tabulated]

  28. It was hard to come up with a list, since I didn’t play most of those games.

    Anyway, here is my top 5:
    1. Silent Hunter: Only played the first one. As a fan of “The Hunt for Red October”, it was my way of toying with submarines. Spent a lot of hours chasing Japanese fleet, sometimes to sent it to the bottom of the sea, most of the time in vain.
    2. Operation Flashpoint: Played a lot with the demo, where you could become invincible if you jump from the helicopter before it was shot down by the enemy. Years later, I played the full game. Brutal, but rewarding if you could survive the mission.
    3. SWAT 4: discovered the series with a friend, I was hook by the idea of arresting criminals rather than simply shoot them. Spent a lot of hours trying to figure the best strategy. Usually, everything went wrong with the first contact. Also the pathfinding issue for you and your teammates made things harder, especially in the second half of the game.
    4. Day of infamy: Buy it on a whim. Not well known and not supported anymore by the developer. Still, had some fun on it.
    5. 688(I)/ Sonalysts sub sims: Never actually played it, only in my head. All because of “The Hunt for Red October”.

    I also would like to make some honourable mention:
    – Novalogic F22 Lightning II
    – Novalogic Delta force series
    – Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
    – Ghost Recon
    – Hidden & Dangerous
    – Insurgency
    – Verdun/Tannenberg
    – Holdfast
    – DCS

    Now, I have more games in my wishlist to try !

    [votes tabulated]

  29. Horribly sorry for being so late. So:
    1. European Air War.
    The first time I dived into a B-24 bomber stream with tracers flying all over the place is still the most intense moment I had in any flight sim. The sheer number of planes simulated was great, especially for the time.
    2. Silent Service
    3. Aces of the Pacific
    4. Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe
    5. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six (first two installments before all became egoshooty and explody)

    [votes tabulated]

  30. 1. Aces of the Deep
    2. B17: Flying Fortress
    3. Jane’s Fighter Anthology
    4. Red Baron
    5. Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe (when I could get it to work on my old 386 PC!)

    [votes tabulated]

  31. 1. Falcon 4.0
    Reason: For 2 decades I have played it. And I still see myself doing so for years to come! The Dynamic campaign will give this life even beyond!

    2. IL-2 Sturmovik: Great Battles
    Reason: Since I first found out about it, I have been in love, and had the best online experience on any modern title. It deserves a vote and more. Especially how immersive it feels. Beautiful, incredible.

    3. EF2000
    Reason: No Eurofighter simulator has ever come close to make me feel like I am flying one like this. Even after all these years, I still try to fly it despite all these years, and despite the difficulty of getting it to work. Even the Reloaded version.

    4. Steel Beasts Pro Personal Edition
    Reason: 2007 Was my entry year for this puppy, and I still think is the best tank sim out there. Great support, and realism as it comes. Wish we had a dynamic campaign.

    5. Enemy Engaged
    Reason: Dynamic campaign, Cobra, Apache and other helicopters. What is not to like? Sad that we never had a proper modding community on EE2, and its source never leaked or released. But, still, the best heli sim out there… hands down. The only reason Longbow isn’t here is because I can’t play it still.

    [votes tabulated]

  32. 1: Red Baron
    2: silent hunter
    3: Luftwaffe commander
    4: Brothers in Arms
    5: IL-2 (1st gen)

    These choices are provably more due to not having played many on the list. Except for Red Baron and Silent Hunter, these would probably have won top spot even after playing countless others on the list.

    [votes tabulated]

  33. 1. Rainbow Six – I think better to tally in with the existing entry, but it was Raven Shield that gripped me like no other tactical game when it released. First game I ever played to simulate “round in the chamber” for firearms. The tension and slow boiling scenarios were a delight, and I burned many hours.

    2. Arma – I preferred the mid-2000s setting to the “future world” of Arma 3, but any time there’s tiny men running about simulating combined arms warfare is deeply fascinating to me. 90% of my time was spent in the scenario builder, cobbling together companies and flinging them at each other.

    3. Ghost Recon – The well scripted scenarios and believable narrative really elevated the original series. It’s a shame to see what monkey business the modern iterations are up to.

    4. Brothers in Arms – Never has a game so effectively taught me the four F’s of infantry combat.

    5. IL2 Sturmovik 1st Gen – Honestly I was rubbish at it, but I loved it.

    [votes tabulated]

  34. Apologies if this is too late, feel free to ignore. Was catching up on old articles and actually had some thoughts on this one!

    1. Operation Flashpoint – I had so much fun with this, mostly messing around in the map editor. Mods were an eye opener as well. I remember back when we still had very poor internet, downloading a 5MB (!) fire engine mod meant leaving the download running overnight 😀

    2. Hidden and Dangerous – I’ve played the first H&D campaign co-op with my Dad and brother multiple times, and it’s fantastic fun. Tense and calling for careful planning and good execution, with the occasional moment of chaos that ends in tragedy or ‘I can’t believe we pulled through that.’ Such a shame that the second game did away with the proper co-op campaign (it had individual co-op missions which were fun, but you lost all the inventory management and persistent characters between missions). I’ll never forget you, ‘Big Willy’ Slim!

    3. SWAT 4 – another great co-op game, and offering a very welcome change from hair-trigger shooting everything.

    4. ARMA – similar to Operation Flashpoint, great editor and mods and multiplayer. Had a lot of fun setting up very simple missions with a few patrolling enemies around airfields and bases, then trying to sneak in and explode planes or ammo trucks with friends. Still exciting even if you know where the enemies should be – and so simple to get people into your own custom missions, they just have to join your server, no faff at all.

    5. Day of Infamy – just a very slick WW2 shooter, not too deep but great atmosphere and exciting firefights. Nice variety of locations too.

    [votes tabulated]

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