Exploration is one of the main facets of video games, especially modern ones, that take games well beyond the territory of Pong and Super Mario Bros. and invite them to immerse themselves within worlds fantastic.
Well beyond completing mission objectives and furthering the storyline, games that offer exploration as a choice allow players to fully immerse themselves within these virtual environments, discovering facets of the game that otherwise elude players who’d choose instead to breeze through the story for the sake of finishing the game.
To incentivize exploration, developers hide quests, bits of collectibles, as well as easter eggs for adventurers to find and discover, providing them with countless memories to call their own.
In this list, we cover some of the medium’s best exploration games of all time. If you think we left anything out, feel free to chime in the comments below, and be sure to tell us what you’re looking forward to playing–what game you’re interested in exploring.
#23 Far Cry New Dawn
Note: Spoilers for Far Cry 5
If you enjoyed Far Cry 5 then you know that the ending leaves you hanging. At the end of the game, you find that the world is on the brink of collapsing due to the end of the world and you find yourself stuck with the antagonist where the game ends following credits. Now if you’re hoping to find out what happens after the credits roll and what has happened to Hope County after the nuclear blast then you’ll get the opportunity in Far Cry New Dawn. This title takes place seventeen years after the events of Far Cry 5 where you will find returning characters from Far Cry 5 and the result of the protagonist and antagonist of Far Cry 5.
With Hope County mangled and distorted by the nuclear blast, players will find new landmasses to explore. Survivors have started to rebuild the world but a new threat of bandits has prevented Hope County from truly being free from tyranny control. Players will be stepping up to free up outposts and preventing from the new bandit group controlled by twin sisters from destroying Hope County and the innocent citizens who dwell within it
As previously mentioned, this game takes place years after the events of Far Cry 5 which means that if you played the game then you’ll be a bit familiar with the surroundings. However, it has been noted before that because the Far Cry 5 installment ended in a nuclear blast, there will be new areas formed to explore along with past locations inaccessible. Ultimately, you’re going to have some enjoyment exploring the new areas rather than getting the same overall land terrain of Far Cry 5.
#22 Far Cry 5
The fifth main title within the franchise, Far Cry 5, takes place within the United States of America in a fictional Montana area known as Hope County.
Within the narrative, Far Cry 5 pins players against Joseph Seed, a leader of a cult who has forced his way into controlling Hope County. As more innocent civilians become trapped and forced into submission under Joseph Seed’s rule, only a handful of resistance stands in his way.
Just as before, players can expect the title to deliver as a first-person shooter in an open world environment which can be explored either on foot or through vehicles. However, the campaign can be experienced both as a single player narrative or through cooperative multiplayer.
#21 Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV is an action role-playing video game and the fifteenth main installment to the Final Fantasy franchise. Overall the story of Final Fantasy XV will center between two empires that have declared war, Lucis, and Nifheim, though after Nifheim successfully captures the kingdom’s crystal of Lucis, a group of friend’s sets out to regain it.
Players take control of Noctis, prince of Lucis, who teams up with his fellow friends on a grand journey against a massive empire force. The game is also set in an open world environment with available quests and collectibles to gather. Gamers are encouraged to explore the wide-open environments likewise, there was much to discover in the game’s open world as you completed the lengthy campaign.
#20 STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl
The atmosphere of STALKER is so thick you could cut it with a knife. And the 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.
#19 Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
For those familiar with the Yakuza series, the seventh main installment of the series, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life which will pick back up the narrative storyline players have been following over the years.
The game has already released in Japan where it has received a positive reception. Gamers can still expect a brawler type gameplay set in an open world environment. Much like previous installments, players will have the ability to level up various skills and abilities to use against other yakuza thugs in battle.
As for the narrative, players will step into the shoes of Kazuma Kiryu once again who is on a mission to learn what has happened to Haruka after being locked away for three years. The game does feature an open world city for players to explore and as you progress you’ll gather exp to use towards making upgrades such as agility or strength along with unlocking new skills.
#18 Tom Clancy’s The Division 2
Set after the events of Tom Clancy’s The Division, this sequel follows a storyline featuring agents of the Strategic Homeland Division that are working on a means of rebuilding after the smallpox incident. Players will be working together as they attempt to save Washington D.C. from potential collapse. Just as before, this is an action RPG that multiplayer-focused. With that said, this is a great title to explore as not only are you given a large open-world map, but the map is based on a very detailed replication of the D.C. area. Likewise, you’ll find that there will be a ton of buildings to explore which may include a variety of decent supplies and caches. You may find yourself wandering about to a mission only to get lost as you seek out more loot from nearby buildings and alleys.
#17 Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is set in 431 BCE where players will have the choice of being a mercenary that fights for Athens and the Delian League or the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta. Either way, players will be a descendant of Spartan King Leonidas I during the Peloponnesian War.
Much like the previous Assassin’s Creed installments, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey will feature a modern day protagonist as well. Ubisoft will be reintroducing players to Layla Hassan who was present during Assassin’s Creed Origins.
There will also be an RPG progression system included in the game as well where players can adjust their character skills and attributes. Likewise, with a branching dialogue system, your narrative journey may offer a unique ending thus giving players an incentive in going back and replaying the game.
#16 Far Cry 4
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.