Hunting is all about ditching the couch for outdoors. So trying to ape all the experiences that come with a hunting trip—the smell of the forest, the weight of the rifle in your hands, and even cleaning the muck off your boots—is a tall order for any video game developer. It’s almost counter-intuitive, as one of the biggest draws in hunting is enjoying what America’s natural resources have to offer and bonding with your fellow hunters in the field. Yet that didn’t stop a host of game studios from offering their own take on a virtual hunt.
If you ever find yourself sitting at home and experiencing a bit of buck fever, perhaps these games will whet your appetite.
1. The Hunter
If you’ve never heard of this video game, it may be about time that you have. The Hunter, also stylized as theHunter, is perhaps the most highly-rated offering on this list. Hunting games have often been stigmatized for a lack of technical polish, but this game defies that trend in a big way. The Hunter is an attempt by Emote Games to produce a realistic—and drop-dead gorgeous—simulation of hunting. The base game is free to play and download, but more options open up once you buy a subscription. Virtual hunters have the chance to chase after mule deer, whitetail, elk, turkey, European wild boar, black bear, roe deer, alpine ibex, and many other species. Unlike other “point-and-shoot” games that revolve around the kill, The Hunter forces players to keep an eye on their landscape, wind direction, and all the other details that could mean the difference between a successful kill and going home empty-handed. A multiplayer mode even allows players could work together to harvest large animals.
2. Cabela’s Big Game Hunter: Pro Hunts
Platforms: Windows, Playstation 3, Wii U, Xbox 360
There can’t be a list of hunting games without at least one selection from Cabela’s. This latest installment of the Big Game Hunter series is arguably the best to come out of developer Cauldron Ltd. The game revolves around a single-player experience in North America, and veteran hunters such as Wade Middleton, Jim Shockey, and Ralph and Vicki Cianciarulo all lend their voices and expertise to the game as well.
3. Bass Pro Shops: The Hunt
Platforms: Wii, Xbox 360
Odds are that if you’ve ever been in a Bass Pro Shops location, you’ve seen or tried your hand at this hunting simulator. Equipped with a gun-shaped controller and a variety of game species to hunt, this game is one of the more entertaining ones out there. If you can get the controller to work, that is.
4. Deer Hunter 2014
Platforms: Android and iOS
The Deer Hunter series may have gotten its start on the Mac, but its latest and most popular offering is now on mobile devices. With more than 10 million downloads, it is no joke to say that Deer Hunter 2014 is perhaps the most played hunting simulator of all time. What made it so accessible is the choice of platform—Android and iOS—the free price tag, and its casual gameplay. While Deer Hunter’s latest incarnation is hardly the most realistic hunting game, it will certainly leave your thumbs sore. The almost endless range of firearms, scopes, stocks, barrels, gear choices, and other add-ons will have you addicted while the over 100 game species means that variety is never lacking.
It may be free, but its popularity and selection of in-app products have also made its developers rich.
5. Big Buck Hunter HD
Platform: Arcade cabinet
While arcades may have died out, Big Buck Hunter is still a staple in bars, diners, and just about anywhere that arcade machines still exist. To boot, the Big Buck Hunter series has since built up a cult following made mostly of non-hunters. The game is perhaps most notable for the rowdy tournaments held every year in its name, where quick reflexes and an itchy trigger finger take front stage over patience and proper strategy. While some have derided the 2012 iteration for its unrealistic gameplay and ultra-attractive hunting guides, fans of this series still stand by it for some heart-thumping fun.
What’s your favorite hunting game? Or would you rather leave the comforts of your living room behind and go into real-world woods instead? Leave your thoughts below.