Top 25 Best Open World Games of all Time

Best Open World Games: Satiate your wanderlust with the top 25 open world games to ever grace the medium of videogames. [Updated with games for Xbox One and PS4]

Best Open World Games

open world games

The list has been updated to reflect new video game title releases along with past bonus video game selections. 

Original article follows:

What is an “open world” game? Wikipedia defines it as a type of videogame level design where the player can freely roam through the world and is given considerable freedom to interact with objectives and the like.

I decided against including the likes of Deus Ex and the Thief series, which despite the freedom they offer to the player, are strictly linear titles—at least in terms of exploration.

Rather, the showcase you see before you is a collection of the best open world experiences in which you, the player, can explore freely and to your heart’s content while engaging in a myriad of activities unrelated to the “main story”, if there is one.

The Witcher 3

Fans of western RPGs will no doubt have played at least one of the Witcher games. This series of Polish games based on the works of Andrzej Sapkowski has gained a lot of fans over the years, mainly thanks to its complex world and stories, incredible graphics and deep gameplay systems.

The third and final installment in the series sees a much older Geralt of Rivia – one of the titular Witchers – dealing with the invasion of the Northern Kingdom by the Nilfgaard Empire and the otherworldy threat of the Wild Hunt, spectral riders who’ve plagued humankind for ages. Offering a massive open world, hours upon hours of story content and sidequests, tons of NPCS to interact with and monsters to hunt, a living economy that adapts to different locations and events and improved gameplay, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is looking like a worthy conclusion of the series.


Just Cause 3

Just Cause 3 is the third game in the long-running Just Cause series of third-person action games. Offering a vast, open world setting on a fictional Mediterranean island known as Medici, series protagonist Rico Rodriguez returns, this time to oust a dictator named General Di Ravello from power. The game’s map size has been confirmed to be similar to that of Just Cause 2, offering 400 square miles of content–but with increased verticality. The game will be the biggest, baddest entry in the series to date.


Infamous: Second Son

Platform: PS4

InFamous: Second Son is a game that deserves to be on this list for its faithful recreation of the city of Seattle. Not only is there the Space Needle, there’s tons of recognizable landmarks that ring true to the city’s vast landscape, as we presented in our InFamous: Second Son Easter Eggs list not too long ago.

The city’s big, sprawling, and recreated in loving detail by the developers at Sucker Punch. What more could we ask for in an open world title?


Crackdown

Platform: Xbox 360

There’s plenty of fun to be had in Crackdown outside of the game’s main narrative. With objectives and tasks that skirt the main story, players are free to roam throughout Pacific City.

While the main story strictly limits you to playing the good guy, you can wreak havoc with your superpowers and face the wrath of your employers, or use those powers for good by going after the bad guys.

Great responsibility may come with great power, but so does fun—and Crackdown offers it in huge amounts.


Xenoblade Chronicles

Platform: Wii

Xenoblade Chronicles could be described as huge, complex, and a whole series of other adjectives—none of which would adequately describe everything it has to offer.

This gem of a JRPG, limited to the Nintendo Wii, not only offers an intricate story set in a meticulously put-together world but also highly customizable characters that serve to invigorate the JRPG genre. The game invites players to explore its vast and open world with a focus on doing whatever the hell you want whenever you feel like it.

JRPG fans couldn’t ask for a better, more immersive game.


The Crew

Platform: PC, PS3, 360, PS4, XO

The world is your racetrack in the Crew.

Instead of a series of self-contained challenges, The Crew offers up an open world where players are free to roam along with race challenges for their various vehicles and terrain locations.


Batman: Arkham City

Platform: PC, PS3 & Xbox 360

Not only does Batman: Arkham City surpass the likes of its genre-defining predecessor, Arkham Asylum, it also breaks new ground.

The game does away with the zones and transitions of the previous game in favor of the truly wide open setting of Arkham City.

Beyond progressing through the game’s main story, you can roam through the streets of Arkham City as either Batman or Catwoman, each with their own arsenal of gadgets and skills. There’s a variety of missions and open world sidequests that will keep you busy for dozens of hours.


STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl

Platform: PC

The atmosphere of STALKER is so thick you could cut it with a knife. And atmosphere is what defines STALKER.

It’s a first person, survival-horror game set within the radioactive wasteland of Chernobyl, where men known as Stalkers eke out a dangerous living by retrieving strange, reality-defying artifacts. They aren’t alone in the wasteland, which is haunted by mutant horrors and an assortment of nightmarish creatures.

This open-ended setting allows for players to perform a myriad of objectives for the wasteland’s human inhabitants while unraveling the mystery of Chernobyl.


Fallout 3

Platform: PC, PS3 & Xbox 360

Hardcore fans of the original Fallout may disagree, but the Wasteland has never been better realized than in Fallout 3. Like other Bethesda titles, Fallout 3 allows you to create your own adventure.

It is set in a vast landscape that would be relentlessly bleak were it not for the remnants of civilization and the hope of survival. Fallout 3 is absorbing, immersive, and beautiful in its desolation.


 Saints Row 4

Platform: PC, PS3 & Xbox 360

Saints Row 4 is the open-world genre taken to its most logical conclusion. Which is to say that it’s entirely open and free for you to do whatever the hell it is you want to do without even the slightest boundary to keep you in check.

Instead of forcing you to play through a story that keeps you roughly in check by means of rules enforced by cops and the like, the game actively encourages you to break the rules by subverting the rules of engagement that typify open world gaming experiences.

You’re free to do what you like, when you like, and however you like. That is Saints Row 4, and it’s a blast.


Far Cry 3

Platform: PC, PS3 & Xbox 360

Far Cry 3 has drawn comparisons to The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim in its encouragement of exploration, hunting, and crafting, the open world experience is actually quite different between the two.

While Skyrim allows the player to take the entire map at their own pace, regardless of their participation in the main quest line, Far Cry 3 is designed for the player to balance their exploring with making progress in the game. However, you will find pockets of time to wander about as you please, and indulging in what Rook Island has to offer will greatly aid you in your quests.

Far Cry 3 is proof that first person shooters can offer more in the way of exploration and world-creation beyond shooting people in corridors.


Morrowind

Platform: PC

Morrowind was a rare game for its time. Offering vast vistas and sublime greenery, Morrowind effortlessly captures the hearts and minds of players not only with the land, but with freedom it provided.

It is a massive, open-ended game that allows you to do what you want, when you want, wherever you want. You could be a warrior fulfilling an ancient prophecy, or a sneak thief who seeks only to enrich himself through the misery of others—or perhaps even a little bit of both. The choice is yours to make in Morrowind.


Just Cause 2

Platform: PC, PS3 & Xbox 360

Just Cause 2 sees the return of daredevil/action movie badass Rico Rodriguez in an open world adventure set in the diverse, tropical playground of Panau.

Panau is a fictional South East Asian country where violence is rife and where the physics enables Rodriguez to perform death-defying stunts with the game’s wide assortment of vehicles, weapons, and trick-enabling gadgets.

The game’s story isn’t big on its demands to your attention, allowing you to do whatever you please, whenever you please.


Red Dead Redemption

Platform: PS3 & Xbox 360

Red Dead Redemption is the Old West made anew with the fiction of Rockstar Games, and it’s every bit as bleak and unforgiving as it was back in the olden days.

It is within this unforgiving land that a man, John Marston, seeks redemption—not only for his life, but for his soul. And it is only within this land that such redemption is possible.

Needless to say, the game’s atmosphere is second to none, and it is host not only to John Marston’s story and those of his counterparts, but to the greater battle between the old and the new—the stolid Old West and the march of Progress.


Minecraft

Platform: PC & Xbox 360

Minecraft is ultimately our number one pick for the best open world videogame ever made based on the simple fact that the world in which it takes place is that of our own creation.

It offers players the ability to build kingdoms, go on adventures, and craft narratives that far transcend anything created by a game developer. The world of Minecraft is a sandbox, and it’s ours to play in and to do as we like.

The game is what you make of it.


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Platform: PC, PS3 & Xbox 360

Skyrim is the fifth game in Bethesda’s ever popular series of role-playing games. Like its predecessors, Skyrim takes place in an open environment in which we’re given leave to explore the world as we see fit.

While the world of Skyrim is charming and consistently engaging,  it doesn’t simply tell us a story—it offers us instead a chance to weave our very own tale.

Skyrim is interactive art at its finest.


Grand Theft Auto 5

Platform: PS3, Xbox 360

Grand Theft Auto 5 is by and large one of the biggest open world titles ever conceived. It’s bigger than GTA 4 and Red Dead Redemption combined, and brings to life the city of Los Angeles in the fiction of Los Santos.

Through years of hard-worn development and research, Rockstar has managed to create one of the most believable environments to ever grace the medium of video games.

Due to the fact that the game is new, and because it wouldn’t be very fair to GTA 4 to call it a lesser title compared to GTA 5, we’re naming this one a tie for first place on our list of the best open world games of all time.


Assassin’s Creed Black Flag

Platforms: PC, PS4, PS4, Wii U, 360, XO

The sixth main installment of the Assassin’s Creed series, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, takes players to the open seas. While following the main overall plot of the series with the fight between Assassins and the Templars, there’s a real joy in taking up the pirate life with Edward Kenway.

Players will find that there is an emphasis on exploring the open waters, gathering a crew, sink opposing ships, and reap the rewards that come across their way. Outside of the sea life, players will also explore lands and fight using melee combat with stealthy takedowns.


Fallout 4

Platforms: PC, PS4, XO

The Fallout franchise has hit this list several times in the past and now with its most recent installment available in the marketplace, we can’t help but add Fallout 4. If you’re a fan of the franchise then it’s likely you’ve already picked up the latest release.

However, if you’re completely new to the franchise, Fallout 4 still marks as a great first entry to the series. Set during the events of a nuclear war, players manage to escape into a vault, only to awaken hundreds of years into the future. What’s left of your world is nothing more than decay and outsiders trying to make it by in this new world.

Each installment to the Fallout franchise manages to bring out an incredible wasteland to explore and Fallout 4 is no exception to that trend. You’ll come across old ruins, new structures, and a fleshed out cast of characters to meet along your journey.


Dragon Age: Inquisition

Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XO

The third major installment to the Dragon Age franchise, Dragon Age: Inquisition is an action role-playing video game where players take on the role of an Inquisitor who is on a grand journey to deal with the civil unrest within the continent of Thedas.

While developers have set the game to be on the same continent of the past two installments, exploration for Dragon Age: Inquisition is rather massive in comparison. For instance, it’s been noted that the game features a map that is already five times larger than the setting of the first installment of the series. With all that said, you’ll want to set aside some time to really dive into the video game.


Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XO

Taking place after the events of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, players can enjoy the last installment of the beloved franchise in which was directed under Hideo Kojima. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain follows Snake as he goes through a new mission that takes him to a Soviet-occupied Afghanistan territory.

During the journey, Snake seeks his revenge on those who destroyed his forces during the ending of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, however, to do so, Snake will be exploring an open world environment. For fans of the franchise, this latest installment is seen to be a bit different in terms of the gameplay with this time around, developers have allowed players a little more freedom when it comes to completing objectives.


Horizon Zero Dawn

Platforms: PS4

Horizon Zero Dawn is the first IP developed by Guerrilla Games since their release of Killzone in 2004. This is an action role-playing video game title that is set a thousand years into the future.

Mankind has mysteriously fallen, with cities only a shell of a once thriving society. Now only small tribal groups remain where giant mechanical beasts roam the world freely in charge. The plot revolves around a female hunter named Aloy who sets out on a journey to explore the open world, meet with other tribes, and potentially learn of the reason mankind fell to being with.


The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Platforms: Wii U, Nintendo Switch

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the nineteenth main installment to The Legend of Zelda franchise. This time around, players will be placed in a large open-world environment with the ability to play through the game’s dungeons in any order.

Within The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, players will take on the role of Link after he awakens from a deep slumber that lasted a hundred years. A mysterious voice alerts link to reach a ruined Kingdom known as Hyrule where he will learn of Calamity Ganon, the antagonist who had previously destroyed Hyrule, though, during the process, he had trapped himself within the buried kingdom.


Far Cry 4

Platforms: PC, PS4, PS4, 360, XO

Much like the previous installment, Far Cry 4 makes our list. This time around, players take on the role of Ajay Ghale, a young Kyrati-American who travels back to his home country of Kyrat, a fictional Himalayan country.

During his travel, Ajay finds that this home country has been caught in a civil war that is controlled by a tyrant king, Pagan Min. A large portion of the game allows players to freely explore the Himalayan country and the wildlife that dwells within it. Furthermore, because the game has a few different storyline branches, gamers will likely replay the title a few times, offering a chance to explore a bit more of the world than before.


Watch Dogs 2

Platforms: PC, PS4, XO

After the success Ubisoft had with their new IP Watch Dogs, a sequel was released back in 2016. This time around, players are taken to the San Francisco Bay Area to explore and cause havoc by hacking various terminals connecting to city functions or personal smartphones.  Much of the same gameplay mechanics are present, though the developers did make a few overhauls such as driving.


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