One thing I've used to help with this problem in the past is the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit. It's sort of a way-advanced version of the options you get in the compatibility tab of an application (different Windows mode, different color mode, etc.).
In particular, I've found that a lot of Maxis games crash abruptly on my system. A guy suggested in an Amazon review that I try restricting processor affinity. (I have a dual-core system.) I did, and this seems to have alleviated the problem.
Unfortunately, the App Compatibility Toolkit isn't as straightforward as it could be, but it does give you a lot of control. For instance, there are several different ways to identify the application, from path to version to checksum.