Good entry level joystick for air battles

Hey folks! Staying playing WT recently, and have about 50 hours in, mostly in Ground RB. I’ve been grinding Air AB, and I’ve been pretty frustrated by the mouse controls. It works pretty well most of the time, but sometimes I find I can’t get the feedback to understand the “feel” of the aircraft.

Not looking to splash out on a full HoTaS set up, but just something to give me better control.

You don’t want to fly arcade with a joystick. You really don’t.


Take a look at Thurstmaster products for some neet budget equipment. At the very least, you’ll want a joystick with a twist axis to control the rudder. If you can afford it, I would really suggest getting some pedals, since more control is what you’re after. A twist rudder just has no comparison to the control that you’ll get from pedals.

Another great affordable joystick is the VKB Gladiator. It’s probably the best budget offering out there. And a great start to a future HOTAS setup.

Arcade isn’t the best place for joystick play, but we all start somewhere. Consider venturing into RB and Sim if you go the joystick route. The learning curve can be steep, but the better you get, the more rewarding your efforts will be.

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Thanks for the advice!

What’s the reason for avoiding a joystick in Air AB? I play mostly Ground RB, so I’ll probably switch to Air RB when I get comfortable with leading targets, etc.

Arcade isn’t designed for joysticks. It is very difficult to align the plane with the required precision if you use a joystick. While everyone else has the precision with a mouse.

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I myself played AB with joystick when I was new to this game, for quite a while too. I figured you can’t have too much practice, but it did slow down my efforts, and it really wasn’t worth it.

The issue is planes are very reactive and twitchy in AB because of the boosted flight controls. It’s harder to keep a steady aim. Also, your progress will suffer, because mouse-aim is just so much more affective in AB. Even as a joystick player, I revert to mouse-aim these days if I visit AB to complete some tasks or to quickly unlock low tier planes.

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OK, gotcha! I’ve ordered the Thrustmaster T16000M FCS joystick. Decent reviews and you can add on pedals and a throttle later.

I’ll start dipping my toe into RB in the meantime.

BTW, are there any good video tutorials on how to play RB (Air, but also Ground would be useful)? I feel like there’s a ton of nuance beyond just the literal control of the vehicle that I need to learn.

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Yes, there’s a ton to learn! First thing is getting your joystick to feel right for you. WingalingDragon on youtube is a good resource to start with. Here’s a video from him describing how to use nonlinearity and sensitivity settings on your joystick.

Another thing I would do, is get used to the idea of trimming your aircraft very early on. It doesn’t take long to become second-nature, and will enhance your flight experience. WingalingDragon has a video for this as well. My personal recommendation is to assign pitch and roll trims to a very convenient thumbhat on your joystick, because you’ll be using it regularly under Full Controls. As for rudder trim, it’s used much less and can be assigned to a less accessible place like your keyboard.

You can use Realistic Controls if you want to simplify trimming, but I suggest you venture into trimming and Full Real Controls as soon as possible, because you’ll have more control over your aircraft.

To sum it up:

Step 1: Is getting your joystick to feel right for you with sensitivity and nonlinearity settings. Along with assigning the controls you’ll need to fly your plane. Starting with prop planes will be simple enough to not overcome you with the advanced keybinds that are required for jets with advanced weapon systems.

Step 2: Get your Trim setup and get used to using it regularly. Your planes trim settings are not static, and will need to be adjusted as your plane changes in altitude and speed. Trim is also handy to help nurse a damaged aircraft back home.

For now, just concentrate on these two steps. When you get comfortable enough with those controls (as in you get bored with just flying), you can venture into MEC (manual engine controls). This will further enhance your aircrafts abilities. MEC can be very beneficial to prolong engine overheating, and to edge out better flight performance out of your aircraft.

The key is to learn a little bit at a time. So you don’t over-come yourself with so much to do, that you can’t focus on flying.

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One more thing… Don’t forget to backup your settings! 😉


I would recommend you to try sim instead of air ab.Playing sim would definitely help you to learn joystick controls. Also you aren’t going to see that much action in sim thus it would provide you some time to get used to the controls.

Mhm - all i read so far was good advice from highly experienced players, but imho you should consider more what kind of mode you enjoy most, possible synergies within combined arm modes and your actual BR goals.

So just by following your own words you play Ground RB, try to enjoy Air AB and think about playing Air RB later - and you feel uncomfortable with missing feedback of your plane whilst playing Air AB with mouse.

Have in mind that there is no right or wrong, but there might be more things to consider for a player with 50 hours game time.

A small example:

  1. If your want to play Simulator battles with aircraft - there are actually way better games available.
  2. If you want to have some planes to play CAP or CAS in Ground RB you sacrifice the mouse aim accuracy necessary to kill ground targets with the agility increase of a joystick.
  3. If you want to play Air RB successfully your time in Air AB is rather wasted as the physics of flight models are different, and a joystick shines actually mostly in direct 1 vs 1 duels within prop game play - jet fights rely usually on technical performance / the quality of your weapon systems as a whole.

This list is endless, but you might get the point…

And yes, i fly with joystick in Air RB as i play WW 2 props only and i do not know any plane IRL that flies with MnK - but it comes with a price: Your aim is way less accurate in headons vs mouse aimers (you should avoid them at any cost as joystick pilot) and in order to benefit from agility / better turn rates in pure 1 vs 1 with a joystick vs a mouse player you have to actively create undisturbed 1 vs 1 by separating single enemies from the crowd.

Within 16 vs 16 lobbies most prop fights looks like headon orgies and are decided by numbers, not necessarily by quality of the pilots or superior agility.

Have a good one!