Fly hard, fly fast, drop nukes in this accessible near-future flight combat sim

 Screenshot from flight simulator game Nuclear Option.
Screenshot from flight simulator game Nuclear Option.

A new flight sim from an indie studio is picking up attention: In Nuclear Option you're piloting tough, diverse aircraft on a near-future battlefield in singleplayer, cooperative, and competitive scenarios. It boasts realistic flight systems but isn't slavishly devoted to realism, falling somewhere nearer a more arcade flight sim in its objectives but still caring about g-forces and a damage model with lots of parts on your planes to break.

Nuclear Option is currently on Steam in Early Access, with a big ol' map to play on and five very distinct aircraft to fly: A prop-driven ground attack craft, a stealth attack helicopter, a light attack jet, a strategic bomber, and an air superiority fighter. The current map is about 100km wide, and NPCs abound in scenarios complete with enemy and friendly ground vehicles, installations, and fixtures. You're not just up against

What really makes this one stand out to me is that it has recommendations from both Ace Combat and DCS players in the reviews, which shows that it's satisfying both hardcore simulator and more casual flight sim enthusiasts. As a more casual observer of the flight combat sim genre that enjoys the full gamut of games, that's not too common.

Nuclear Option's other big feature is, of course, the scale of destruction that can go down. The battlefields are huge and persistent, with wreckage, smoke, and blast craters lingering long after the fight takes place. There's also modelling of physics for the marquee bombs and cruise missiles: The nuclear ones. The blasts leave huge rings of destruction, and their shockwaves can handily knock planes out of the sky.

Each of the five craft has its own immersive cockpit and HUD to learn, which is pretty neat, and the game comes with a pretty good mouse to joystick sim for you to control your aircraft without any special hardware. The full game is intended to release next year at the absolute earliest, but will include more planes, singleplayer missions, weapons, and ground units.

You can find Nuclear Option on Steam for $15.