Get realistic with these Android simulation games

by Tim McLain

If you're like me, you've got at least one high-tech flight stick gathering dust in a closet somewhere (I think I have three). Flight sims have been among the longest-running genres of "games" around, starting back in the Commodore days of the 1970s. However, this collection of the top sim apps for Android wouldn't be complete without a real-life replacement game (yes, it's The Sims), plus a pair of outdoorsy games that will help cure your cabin fever by letting you hunt deer and catch fish from the comfort of your couch or office chair.

The Sims 3 ($4.99)

Bored with life? The Sims have long given frustrated gamers the chance to create an alternate, simulated life inside their PCs and consoles. Now EA brings this ever-popular franchise to the mobile market with The Sims 3. Right from the character-creation screen, you know you're in for some serious fun. Make your character a near-match of your real-life self (boring!) or go for that rocker, more attractive or intensely outgoing guy or gal you always wished you could be. Once inside the game, you'll need to keep your digital avatar alive and out of trouble, while following a "Story Progression" to give your sim a chance to land a perfect job, find a spouse, learn to be a parent, and more. The built-in "wish" system replaces the old "wants and fears" module, giving you boosts to your lifetime happiness score over time. The higher your score, the more rewards you can buy. Although you're limited to living in one neighborhood, Sims fans will feel right at home in this mobile version.

Deer Hunter 3D ($4.99, free demo available)

Deer Hunter 3D does away with the real-world guns, ammo, camo gear, fuzzy orange hats, long underwear and all the rest, and lets both real-world and virtual hunting enthusiasts take down game animals with a finger-press on their phone. Start by adding skill points to your character (accuracy, reflexes, endurance, tracking), select your weapon, and head out to an available hunting range. Headshots are preferred, and are rewarded with extra points. As you progress, additional types of animals and new locations are unlocked, and just like the Xbox 360, special achievements can be earned along the way. In addition, new firearms are made available as you go along. The shooting process is clean and clear. First, move your finger around the map until an animal is sighted. Once the view pops up, your shooter will get into position, allowing you to target, then zoom in on the animal. Take the shot, and see the results. Moms and dads, take heart: there's no blood visible here. The animations of the animals falling to the ground are just cartoony enough to keep things tasteful. If you're on the hunt for a mobile game that simulates the thrill of the hunt, Deer Hunter 3D is a must-have game for your Droid.

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X-Plane 9 ($9.99)

Flight sims have been around since the dawn of the personal computer age. X-Plane 9 shows us just how far this ever-popular "gaming" genre has come, giving Android users access to a fully approved FAA flight simulation application that's considered just as good as real-world flying for pilots looking to log flight time to keep up their licenses. The app gets you right into the action, swiping the left side of the screen to increase the throttle, and using your phone's accelerometer to tilt your plane's wings left and right to execute turns. Tilt your phone toward you to pull up on the stick, or away from you to angle downward. The sound effects are spot-on, the scenery is light years ahead of the competition (Microsoft, I'm looking at you), and switching between camera views is a snap. Be sure to check the app stats to be sure your phone is compatible. At $10, this is a pricey app for sure, but all serious flight sim fans will find nothing but hours and hours of flying bliss in this top-quality offering from Lanier Research.

Fishin' 2 Go ($2.25)

Ice fishing not your thing? Dreaming of warm summer days, out in your boat on some crystal-clear water? Fishin' 2 Go is here to cure your cabin fever, and not a moment too soon. After firing up this godsend, you're confronted with photo-realistic images of real-life lakes. Choose your lure and bait, and it's time to get it wet. To cast your line, hold your finger down on the screen, tilt your phone back as if you're getting ready to cast, then move your arm forward to send your line flying into the water. To reel in your line, drag your finger across the screen until you get a bite. Tire the fish and keep your line taught, and you'll bring home quite the catch. With multiple waterways to choose from, realistic sounds and water effects, and tons of gear choices to make, now you don't even have to leave your snowbound home (or office) to do a little fishing.

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