Finding games like War Thunder is a rather difficult task because few other games manage to seamlessly merge air and ground combat as it does. Some like World of Tanks offer a similar tank-driving experience while others like World of Warplanes have the air combat nailed down.
However, War Thunder is truly unique in the sense that it delivers a realistic war simulation experience on all fronts- land, sea, and air.
On top of having over 1800 unique vehicles, War Thunder is completely free to play and supports cross-platform gaming. PC users can play with Xbox and PlayStation users since everybody is on the same server. Even Mac and Linux gamers can join in on the fun.
War Thunder really made me love military simulation games, especially those that involve vehicular combat. That’s why I made a list of 15 games like War Thunder that are guaranteed to blow you away with their attention to detail.
So without further ado, let’s begin.
1. World of Tanks
As you can guess from the name, this is a game about driving tanks and fighting against other tanks. However, there’s a lot more to it than just that.
World of Tanks is a massive online multiplayer game involving strategy and teamwork within a constantly evolving battlefield.
There are tanks that go as far back as the 1930s. And you can get into one of these beauties with a few of your friends for some good old-fashioned armor vs armor action. On the more contemporary side, you’ve got tanks like the American M1A2 Abrams and Soviet T-72BM.
There are different classes of tanks- light, medium, heavy, tank destroyer, etc. Despite being a free-to-play game, World of Tanks has over 600 vehicles and an extremely diverse selection of maps.
All these tanks can be upgraded and customized. Plus, you have multiple game modes and clan battles.
Now, Warface is probably the one game on this list that doesn’t feel very similar to War Thunder. Yeah, both have “War” in their names but they are extremely different.
One is a semi-realistic military simulator with large-scale battles involving aircraft and tanks. The other is a free-to-play Call of Duty style shooter with generic character models and weapons.
Still, Warface is its own thing and not just a Call of Duty rip-off. There is no vehicular combat, but the arenas are quite large and involve dozens of players duking it out over extended fights involving all sorts of weapons.
You’ve got LMGs, snipers, assault rifles, shotguns, etc. with 5 unique classes of warriors to choose from.
3. World of Warships
If you ask War Thunder fans what their favorite vehicle types are, they’ll say aircraft and tanks- in that order. You might be surprised considering the fact that vast naval battles with historically accurate warships are a thing in that game.
But Gaijin never paid much attention to naval combat, which is why it feels less developed than air and land combat in War Thunder.
World of Warships is all about fighting at sea. You’ve got giant armored ships with really big guns and some really exciting locations to fight within. From the icy waters of Alaska to the archipelagos of the Pacific, you’ll never feel like any two battles are the same.
Controlling a ship in real life is extremely difficult, but World of Warships makes it feel accessible even if you’ve got a basic controller.
4. IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover
Centered entirely around WW2 fighter aircraft combat in the Battle of Britain, IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover is a gem in the rough. What it lacks in polish or UI design, it more than makes up for with stellar gameplay.
When it works, the lighting in this game is simply exceptional. Sunlight streams in through the glass panels of your cockpit while shadows dance around on the instrument panel.
Environmental effects like rain, snow, clouds, etc. outside the cockpit make it feel as if you’re actually inside a fighter aircraft.
The airplanes themselves are very accurately modeled, with every detail replicated from their real-life counterparts. Damage is shown in a very realistic fashion. You knock out specific bits and pieces from an enemy aircraft instead of whittling down a health bar.
As a result, you can knock out a subsystem with the aircraft like the controls or kill crew members such as pilots, gunners, etc.
5. Panzer Elite Special Edition
Most tank games these days have a well-defined objective laid out in front of you. Like capturing an enemy area or knocking out a certain number of tanks.
However, this ancient gem from the early 2000s only asks that you survive. That’s right, there is no fancy PvP game mode.
Instead, it’s you in a WW2 tank and your comrades at your side in various campaigns across the world. You can experience the mayhem from an Axis or Allied point of view.
If you play as a Russian tank commander, you’ll be tasked with defending your motherland from invading German forces. If you play as an Axis member, you’ll find yourself leading the Blitz.
6. Steel Armor: Blaze of War
Some armored warfare games have only modern tanks while others have only WW2 tanks. Steel Armor: Blaze of War strikes a balance by putting you in the middle of cold-war era conflict.
You pilot classic main battle tanks from the 1960s, such as the American M60A1 and Soviet T-62.
You are the tank commander with a crew comprised of a gunner, loader, and driver. Since Soviet tanks like T-62s are equipped with autoloaders, the crew size is down to 3 with commander, gunner, and driver. The entire cockpit is fully interactive, you can reach around and activate all sorts of levers/ switches.
The game also features believable ballistics and realistic tank damage models. Yeah, it doesn’t look that visually stimulating since it was released all the way back in 2015.
But with all the flexibility in mission types and maps, you won’t be thinking about graphics while playing this masterpiece.
7. World of Warplanes
This is a game centered around the concept of dogfighting, using WW2-era propeller-driven aircraft that use machine guns to rip holes in the canopies of their enemies.
Still, it does have early jet fighters like the Focke-Wulf Fw 252 and Yak-30. There are various aircraft types, and each type has tiers going from 1 to 10.
The game has aircraft from the following nations- U.S.S.R, Germany, USA, Japan, UK, and China. Apart from that, it also has fighters simply tagged as “European”. Like the Avia B-534 and Blériot Spad S.510 which are Czechoslovakian and French, respectively.
Tier 1 aircraft are what you start with, and you gather XP by winning fights. Using this XP, you can unlock higher-tier aircraft or make upgrades to your existing aircraft.
Tier 1 units are mostly biplanes from the late 20s and early 30s. As you get into higher tiers, you’ll start seeing more advanced designs some of which are jets. There are fighters, bombers, multi-role aircraft, heavy fighters, and attack aircraft.
8. Birds of Steel
Unlike the other games on this list, Birds of Steel is a console exclusive title. It can only be played on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Plus, it isn’t a massive online multiplayer game built to take advantage of the trendy war simulation genre. Instead, it’s a game designed with love and great detail for vintage fighter fans.
There are over 100 classic fighter aircraft in this game, including legendary ones such as the Spitfire and Zero. You can also fly bombers and heavy fighters.
Apart from each plane being rendered in loving detail down to every switch and decal, the gameplay is realistic too. You have to keep wind speed and direction in mind while flying and lining up your gun sights.
Fuel and ammo aren’t unlimited, and hits to specific parts of your aircraft might take out key systems.
9. Star Conflict
It’s like Warface, but instead of guiding a single soldier on the ground, you’re piloting giant battleships in space. There are both PvE and PvP game modes.
However, the player count for this game has dropped drastically since its release in 2013. It’s still an MMO with loot, perks, and a massive sandbox to play within.
Star Conflict starts you out small, but over time you can gather XP and command your own fleet full of frigates and cruisers.
There are 9 roles and over 100 ships to choose from. Tactics and resource management are of paramount importance in this game.
10. EVE Online
While Star Conflict is basically Battle of Warships in space, EVE Online is a legitimate space sandbox. Here you can do everything from managing an entire fleet to traveling across the galaxy and mining exquisite minerals to create your own business.
You can take over entire sectors, partner with people on the internet to create an alliance, betray your friends, steal their resources, and fight in grand wars that span months or years.
It’s as if Guild Wars 2, No Man’s Sky, and War Thunder were put into a blender to create this game.
While swashbuckling my way across the oceans in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, not once did I think what it’d feel like to do the same in spaceships.
But thanks to Dreadnought, I know how much fun it can be to aim your futuristic space cannons at ships and blow them into oblivion.
You also upgrade your ship and have the option to purchase newer, better ships as you advance through the game.
12. Armored Warfare
I guess they decided to call it “Armored Warfare” because World of Tanks was already taken.
Nevertheless, it isn’t a cheap WoT clone. The developers of this game listened to complaints that WoT players had, and used that to improve aspects of their own game.
It’s less grindy than World of Tanks and some gameplay elements are “streamlined” to make the overall experience less stressful for new players.
In terms of balancing and polish it might lag behind War Thunder and World of Tanks. But everything else from the UI to graphics is pretty good for a f2p game.
13. MechWarrior Online
All other games on this list are about piloting ships, tanks, fighter aircraft, etc. But MechWarrior is for the mecha fans among you.
If you are new to BattleTech or MechWarrior, don’t worry- this is a great starting point. Instead of tanks, you’ve got giant humanoid robots outfitted with all sorts of futuristic weaponry. Lasers, machine guns, rockets- you name it.
The feeling of getting into a robot the size of your house that weighs 60 tons is otherworldly, and the game makes you feel like you’re sitting in a giant robot too.
Everything from the cockpit layout to sound design is sublime, and there are so many interesting mech designs too. Each mech looks unique and has its own strengths/ weaknesses.
Multiplayer is the bread and butter of this game, and it involves 12 v 12 combat. The gameplay is slow and requires tactics, this isn’t a twitch shooter like Call of Duty.
Gaijin has released an MMO that puts you in the shoes of a WW2 infantry soldier. There are tanks and airplanes, but the main focus is on ground troops.
Think of this game as WW2 Arma III. It involves large-scale battles in well-designed maps with tons of strategic points where you can ambush your foes or set up impenetrable defenses.
There are campaigns to recreate historic battles, and PvP modes where you’ll engage in squad-based combat against online players.
15. DCS World
DCS is short for Digital Combat Simulator. And if reviews are anything to go by, this might just be the best air combat simulator there is.
It’s so good in fact, that you’ll find dozens of YouTube channels featuring actual fighter pilots who play this game with their buddies. Oh, and of course, you need a flight stick to truly enjoy this game. A keyboard and mouse/ controller simply isn’t enough.
Not only is DCS pretty, but in terms of simulation, it’s unbeaten. It features real aircraft like the F-18 Hornet and F-15 Eagle, with every single detail copied into a digital world.
All the controls in the cockpit of a specific aircraft are exactly what you’d find in the real thing. Each bolt, lever, strap, switch, and digital display is accurate to real life. Aircraft handle and take damage like real fighters in the real world.
What did you think of my list? I covered games with warships, aircraft, and tanks. If you want a game similar in feel to War Thunder, but focused on infantry- check out Enlisted. It’s published by Gaijin, the developer for War Thunder.
If you want games focused solely on air combat, check out Birds of Steel and IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover.
IL-2 isn’t free to play but offers a much more realistic simulation of air combat. In that sense, it’s closer to DCS than War Thunder.