These are the best hunting games ever made.
While most hunters want to spend most of their time in the woods pursuing the animals themselves, there are plenty of us out there who have filled the gaps between seasons with hunting games on PC or video game consoles. The gameplay of these hunting simulators was often quite simplistic. Action games these were not.
Still, we have a soft spot for many of these video games that helped scratch the itch of hunting the real animals between seasons.
These are the best hunting games ever made and why we loved them so much.
Deer Hunter, PC, 1997
If you are like me, this game was your first introduction to the deer hunter game genre. It was released for Windows and Mac back in 1997. Sure, hunting had been an element of other games in the past, but the first Deer Hunter game was the first to attempt to simulate the hunting experience in total. I did not realize this until I did some research, but Gamasutra has an old article that reveals the budget for this game was only $75,000. It went on to sell more than a million copies. Talk about a great return on investment! That is insane considering most big budgeted video games cost hundreds of millions to produce today. Deer Hunter had a release date of November 13, 1997. Right in the middle of most hunting seasons. The gameplay was rather simplistic. Pick a spot on an overhead map and you, the hunter, were dropped into a stationary position in the woods. Call, and spread some attractant scents. When a buck comes out, shoot it. That was it. That was the whole game. It was simple, but it worked, and it spawned a slew of sequels and hunting simulation game imitators that continue to this day.
Bird Hunter: Wild Wings Edition, PC, 2000
The hunt game genre craze was in full swing by the year 2000 and millions of hunters were filling the off-season with digital quests for trophy animals. Many of the knockoff titles that appeared around the same time were glorified shooting games. The stuff being developed by Wizard Works, the developers behind Deer Hunter, were realistic depictions of open season for a variety of wild animals. BHWWE was simply the best bird hunting simulator ever made. Pheasants, quail, turkey, ducks, and geese, they were all there in brilliantly detailed maps of some of the best North American bird destinations out there. This was the most realistic hunting game ever made to feature wingshooting. As if the gameplay was not awesome enough, this game also featured the ability to install custom, user-made maps of new locations that featured a plethora of animal species. One of my favorite custom maps was a high water one where you were downing ducks and geese in people’s flooded backyards. If you went to the right area, you also had a great chance of hearing and seeing Bigfoot sloshing around the swamp near your decoy setups. This game also featured online multiplayer where you could gather you buddies for a day of duck hunting. How cool was that?
Trophy Hunter Rocky Mountain Adventures 2003
By the time 2002 rolled around, hunting games were starting to lose a bit of steam. Wizard Works software released Deer Hunter 2003 in October and that terrible, glitch-filled disaster felt like the end of an era for hunting games. However, a little later, Southlogic Studios released one of the last great hunting games of the early 2000s, Trophy Hunter: Rocky Mountain Adventures 2003. While the graphics look quite dated today, in 2002, they were nothing short of amazing. This was where big game hunting simulations topped out. Featuring a bevy of prime hunting locations across North America, this was the closest many of us could get to hunting moose, elk, caribou, bears, bighorn sheep, and more without ever stepping foot into the woods.
Hunting Unlimited, PC, 2001
This game flew under the radar quite a bit in 2001, allowed you to hunt whitetails, mule deer, elk, moose, and bear all in one complete package. This game was also unique in that It offered different hunting challenges to complete. The game would drop you into different scenarios with different equipment and your goal was to make a successful harvest as quickly as possible. It was a nice twist on the genre that made for faster action while still retaining the simulation qualities that most hunters were looking for out of these types of games. Also, this game had some incredibly catchy menu music, perhaps some of the best of any game in the genre.
Deer Hunter 4: World-Class Record Bucks, PC, 2001
If you are looking for my opinion on the very best deer hunting game of all time, this is it. Deer Hunter 4 was published by Wizard Works software after being developed by Sunstorm Interactive. In addition to a bevy of weapon and map options, this game let you hunt for whitetails, blacktails, and mule deer. The big selling point was trying to bag a new world record of every species in the game. Each species had a typical and non-typical world record. Filling up your world record trophy room was tough. As if that was not enough, Sunstorm decided to sneak another little surprise into this game. That was the addition of “rare deer” types. There were albinos, “demon deer” that were missing their skin, and “Unicorns” that were albinos with only one antler jutting out of the center of their skulls. Realistic? No, but it was a fun twist. While many people loaded and shot albinos, the odds of loading the other two types were nearly 1 in 10,000. Most digital hunters never saw one, but that didn’t stop us from trying. Even rarer was shooting a rare deer that was also a world record. If you did that, buy a lotto ticket, because that took a tremendous amount of luck! This was also an online game that had great and unique features like “Play the Deer,” where you would try to evade your friends as a big buck during an online session. Simply put, this was the peak of hunting games in the early 2000s and they just do not make them like this anymore.