DCS is a study sim which means it requires some commitment to learn its realistic systems and models. But for those who manage to get past the initial learning curve, it is one of the most rewarding gaming experience ever created for PC.
In order to really enjoy DCS, you most definitely need a joystick and throttle combo (collectively called HOTAS). You can start with something reasonably priced and move over time to more premium options. Or you can get the best ones right away and save cash in the long run. That choice is up to you and I am here to help you pick out the best option in each category.
This list is based on my own experience of playing DCS for thousands of hours and trying out dozens of sticks, VR Headsets, graphics cards and other hardware. Let’s dive in!
1. Best Mid-range Option
- USB programmable joystick
- 3 axis and 24 buttons (three push buttons, one mode switch button, three 4 way hat switches and one...
- Three axis and 24 buttons (3 pushbuttons, 1 mode selector, 1 4-way & 1 8-way switch)
- X and Y axis on miniature joystick and Z axis on accurate throttle sliding motion
CH makes some great products in the mid-range segment. In fact, the CH stick is rather close to the expensive, premium products in this list because of how good it is. its not uncommon to hear stories of how people have been using theirs for years and years. The reliability is truly unmatched in this price category.
The stick has a large base which makes it stable without being too heavy. The buttons have a nice tactile feedback to them and are definitely on par with the premium options. The throw on the axes is good as well.
The throttle is good as well with excellent layout that feels very ergonomically designed. The buttons have the same good tactile feel to them and the axes is price and accurate which comes in handy for those tricky air-to-air refuelling maneuvers.
2. Best Budget Option
- The T.16000M FCS HOTAS is compatible with PC via USB in Windows 10, 8, 7 and Vista (32-bit and...
- 16 action buttons with braille - style physical button identification
The T16000 is an extremely popular entry level joystick. It is the stick that the majority of flight simmers start with because of its great price point and it has few worthy competitors in its category.
What makes it so good? Here are the highlights:
- Its ambidextrous!
- Plenty of assignable axes.
- You can adjust the feel of the stick to make it tighter or lighter
- Decently solid and well made with a strong enough base.
- You don’t necessarily need a rudder as you can have that on the HOTAS.
- Great option for first timers and those on a budget.
3. Best Premium
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The Warthog is my number one premium pick for several reasons:
- It’s sturdy, solid and heavy. This gives it a premium feel and it gets the job done. I have had no quality issues in the 5+ years that I have owned mine.
- It comes with the option to upgrade to the awesome F-18 replica stick
- Plenty of after-market parts. I personally use an extension made by Sahaj which really helps with finer control. You can also buy things like different resistance springs and so on.
- The fact that this is the most popular premium joystick, means that it is quite easy to find support, mods, advice, profiles and so on. It’s the safe option.
- The software isn’t the best but TBH I don’t really need to use it. Everything I need is configurable from inside DCS.
- Almost every mounting option whether it be the Wheel Stand Pro or any of the desk mounts, are built with the Warthog in mind.
- Enough buttons and hats to get the job done. Plus you can double them with modifiers. (Modifiers means keys like Shift and Ctrl and you can make joystick buttons modifiers in DCS as well).
- Great tactile feedback when you press the dual-stage trigger! The stick feels great in your hand as well and the best part is you can tweak it with extensions and springs.
- The throttle switches have great tactile feedback and it is the most versatile throttle out there. There are enough buttons that most of the controls you need to map even for complex DCS jets can be accommodated if you use modifier keys (I use the pinkie level as the modifier key). Its also very sturdy and solidly built.
- The Warthog is expensive, but worth it IMO.
4. Other Premium Options
Virpil and VKB also make great joysticks and I prefer them for space sims like Elite and Star Citizen because they have some ambidextrous options which are great for a dual-joystick setup.
Lack of availability and massive shipping costs are my main issues with them. But if you can get your hands on them, they offer a premium feel that is unsurpassed.
5. Best Entry Level
If you want the cheapest option this is the the stick for you. It is surprisingly decent for the price.
- 12 action buttons, an eight-way hat switch, and a rapid-fire trigger
- Button customization and multiple controller configurations
The 3D Pro is the one I started with almost two decades ago. There are plenty of buttons and there is even a small throttle knob that you can use to adjust engine power. It gets the job done.