I should perhaps declare some parameters and disclaimers here. Note the word 'casual' above - with flight simulators, there's an entire spectrum from a simple flight in a Cessna or Airbus to enjoy some scenery and 'being up there', to life-enveloping realism where you take ostensibly a real commercial flight from gate pushback through ATC (Air Traffic Control) and then multiple hours of real time flight, to landing in a planned destination on ALS approach.
In between these two extremes there's me - and probably you, reading this article. Occasional flight sim players won't be too bothered about the finer details, while hard core sim fans will already be set up and will know all this already. But slap in the middle there's a choice of (at least) four major mobile flight sim systems, within which you can traverse most of the sim continuum.
As a gamer and reviewer I'm in this category, not using all the features, but also wanting to appreciate more than the very basics, which is partly why I was 'Pro' for most of what you'll see below.
I should also note that this is all just a snapshot in time - all four applications are constantly being improved, not least server-side, with new scenery, liveries, objects, and so on. Thankfully, three of the titles are available as free trials, so there's a lot of flying and playing that you can do before you decide on a winner and feel obliged to dip into your wallet.
|Titles (all on Pro setting as needed)||Aerofly FS 2021||Infinite Flight||Rortos RFS||X-Plane 11|
|Cost||£9 one-off cost||around £10/month for 'Pro', £75/year||£4.50/month for 'Pro', or £27/year||£5.50/month for 'Pro', or £45/year|
(all available for each, though)
|iOS 14.5||iOS 14.5 and
|Android 11||Android 11|
(not counting livery changes)
|23||60||39||16 (including 3 military)|
(including undercarriage animations)
|Interactive cockpit controls||Yes||No||No||Limited to major controls, throttle, flaps, etc.|
|3D scenery objects||200 airports in the USA
and selected other countries
|20-odd airports so far, more coming||500 worldwide airports
(35 in 'HD' with ground traffic)
|Ground object collision||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Ground detail||Excellent (for supported regions)||Poor (by
|Interface||Simplified, can be hard to see icons against landscape||Easy and full, always clear against scenery||Intuitive and clear, but slightly fiddly (small touch targets)||Intuitive, easy|
(including clouds, rain)
|Clouds and winds,
but no rain
|Limited clouds, no rain||Excellent||Excellent|
|Multiplayer, Air Traffic Control||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Real time, real world flights||No||No||Yes||No|
|Replays available (e.g. to admire what you did)||Yes, via pause/rewind system||Yes, via Home screen, all previous flights are recorded! Terrific.||Yes, but only after flight||Yes, at any point|
|Crashes||None, flight gets reset||Yes, but no graphics||Yes, but no graphics||Yes, with graphics|
(By the way, if you're an enthusiast for any of the above games and I've got any of the stats or features wrong then do please get in touch - these are huge and complex bits of software and there's no way I could exercise every last option!)
The table above is your main reference point here in terms of comparison, but before I deliver my own verdict(s) I need to present a truckload of screenshots, by way of illustration. During gameplay and testing (hard work, but someone's got to play these games - they're not going to fly themselves... Oh wait... auto-pilot!), I captured about 20 or 30 screens for each. Which is way too many for a humble web feature, so I've picked the half dozen or so for each that are most interesting, pretty, or representative, along with comments. You'll soon get a flavour of each.
Aerofly FS 2021
I do have a personal favourite, but in fairness, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with all four contenders. Once underway in each, they were immersive, realistic and enormous fun. Rortos RFS and X-Plane 11 are slightly wilder in terms of gaming challenges (rain, failures, etc.), while Infinite Flight is a slightly more serious simulation environment and Aerofly FS is a super all-rounder if your chosen flying region is supported yet. But all four have numerous 'pros' and relatively few 'cons'.
For me, Aerofly FS 2021 just wins out, for two reasons. Firstly, and slightly selfishly, although detailed airport and scenery coverage is limited worldwide, the UK (where I live) is very well represented - admittedly this would play less well for a reviewer in France or the Middle East, and so on, but I was delighted to find my entire country here in detail (along with large chunks of the USA and, oddly, Switzerland).
Secondly, and more fundamentally, Aerofly FS 2021 is a one-off cost - and quite affordable at under a tenner in UK money. In these days of us all being 'nickel and dimed' to oblivion by monthly subscriptions for everything, I rail against yet more monthly commitments. For a flight sim game that I might play intensively for a month and then not pick up again for six months, perhaps, it's galling to have to either pay per month in the interim or have the hassle of remembering to cancel a subscription and then revive it, just to fully pay a game. So Aerofly FS wins for me by only requiring one purchase. In fairness, the other three titles can be played with basic airplanes, scenery, and features for free, i.e. without 'Pro' subscriptions, so my slightly strange suggestion would be to leave my 'winner' til last, trying the other three for free and seeing if one feels 'right' to you. If you're still not sure, then pay the £10 and get Aerofly FS 2021.
I had in mind a third reason, and that's that Aerofly FS 2021 is simply gorgeous in terms of aircraft graphics, lighting, and scenery - but then so is RFS and X-Plane, with Infinite Flight not too far behind. As the screenshots above show, they all look superb, with stunning camera views that would have seemed like science fiction ten years ago - such is the compute and graphical power of modern smartphones, that almost anything can be rendered and animated in real time.
- You can buy Aerofly FS 2021 here in the iOS App Store and here in the Android Play Store
- You can grab Infinite Flight here in the iOS App Store and here in the Android Play Store
- You can grab Rortos RFS here in the iOS App Store and here in the Android Play Store
- You can grab X-Plane 11 here in the iOS App Store and here in the Android Play Store
PS. I'm also conscious that there are other flight sims for mobile - many more. If you think that there's a major contender I should have looked at then please suggest away in the comments.