Few simulators have had more acclaim than Microsoft Flight Simulator (MFS), the series that released titles from the late 1970s through until 2006. The series has now been retired, with it's place in the industry filled by the likes of X-Plane and more specialised military simulators.
Below, the history of the simulator will be explored, and the key differences in each major version explained.
Prior to the release of the first Windows flight simulator, a number of titles were put on on the Apple II. The initial versions started with 6×6 square scenery, and had to be played on a monochromatic monitor.
Now black and white, the first Windows game had slightly more detail in both the plane and scenery. Visible land patterns could be observed, and runways were definable. A version could also be played on a colour composite monitor.
Two iterations of the second simulator were developed, with a Tandy computers variant bringing a number of improvements. Among these were a detailed night time flying mode and even a WWI Ace mode.
A release for IBM PCs had the same Ace mode, but could also be played on red-green-blue (RGB) monitors for greater colour information.
Versions three, four and five
Subsequent releases from 1988 through 1995 brought weather, detailed 3D models and further cities for enthusiasts to explore. Visual quality was also substantially higher, with cockpit imagery of an extremely high quality.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 98
The 1998 release brought a high level of terrain detail, with planes able to descend into areas such as the Grand Canyon and over mountains. This would lay the groundwork for further quality in the later releases.
Microsoft Flight Simulator X
The last full Microsoft version of the game ever released (A smaller digital game called Microsoft Flight was released later), X was highly detailed, and featured cars on roads, animals, a number of environments and the far more varied sound effects.
While Microsoft no longer creates MFS, they've certainly laid the ground work for future simulator games.