1: Flight Simulator X
Developer: Microsoft Game Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Games/Dovetail Games
The moment has finally arrived. Pipsqueak Magnificas, the 300-foot-tall hamster deity that watches over all of us from his cloud-shaped dirigible in the sky, has come for you. Before climbing the swaying rope ladder that leads to The After-Life, you’ve got five minutes to kiss your loved ones goodbye, put together a wash bag, and select the one book and the one game that will help while away the eternity to come.
Choosing the reading matter is relatively easy (Moonfleet or a Putnam tome of some kind, obviously) but what about the game? You want something as vast as the Sahara and similarly easy to lose yourself in. You want a cornucopia of challenges, a palace of variety, an Old Curiosity Shop crammed with reminders of the extraordinary land/life you’ve left behind. Ideally you want a game that doesn’t have slaughter at its centre.
Your rheumy eyes scan higgledy-piggledy shelves for several minutes before finally settling on the golden spine of FSX.
More hobby than game, Flight Simulator can be enjoyed in countless different ways. It welcomes nostalgics, explorers, aspirants and obsessives. It caters for the sociable, the solitary, the stressed and the war weary. It soothes, it trains, it entertains and employs. One moment it’s effortlessly satisfying our wanderlust and reminding us that borders only exist on maps and in minds, the next it’s binding us closer to the places we call home. To pigeon-hole MSFS is to malign it.
Without the work of modders and third-party devs, make no mistake there’d be another title occupying this slot. All of MSFS’s finest airframes and prettiest panoramas have been parachuted in post-release by outsiders. To fully understand why the sim is held dear by so many, you must first embellish and embellish hard. Expect to spend hours browsing freeware file repositories and mulling over potential payware purchases.
A pre-existing passion for planes will accelerate initiation and enhance enchantment, but is by no means essential. A toybox this capacious, an experience engine this potent and flexible, has more than enough power to sow the seeds of air enthusiasm on its own. Flight Simulator will change you, you can be sure of that. Whether it sets you on the road to a Private Pilot Licence or a career in commercial or military aviation, or merely turns you into an aviation anorak with bookshelves stacked with aircraft books (*turns to admire bookshelves stacked with aircraft books*) only time will tell.
Where can I buy it: Steam
What else should I be playing if I like this: X-Plane
Read more: Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry