Best Open World Games
What is an “open world” game? Wikipedia defines it as a type of video game 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.
You may want to make note that these games are not necessarily ranked in any particular order. You will find a wide range of titles available both current releases to classic titles launched for previous generation of consoles.
#36 The Division 2
The Division 2 takes place just a few months shy from a full year after the first title, where there is a new primal enemy focus. As The United States of America begins to get back on its feet from the viral outbreak that plagued the first installment, factions try to take control. Innocent civilians are being slaughtered, leaving daily life to be a difficult struggle. Players will be taking on the role of an agent within The Division as they start a new civil war. This installment mainly focuses on Washington D.C. as you attempt to get the area back under control from the rebel groups trying to overthrow the government altogether. However, the game did bring out expansions, with the first bringing players back to New York. Just as before, The Division 2 is set up to be enjoyed with multiple players rather than a single-player experience, but you can still get away with doing missions solo.
#35 Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition
Rockstar Games is known for delivering the stellar Grand Theft Auto franchise. These games have been around for ages now and continue to thrive today. With each new installment, we’re thrown into an over-the-top crime-ridden narrative. Likewise, we’re given a large open world map to explore and create chaos within. While some fans have been waiting on the announcement of a Grand Theft Auto 6, Rockstar Games opted to give players something to tide them over. Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is a remastered collection of Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. The narrative is intact here, but players are receiving some overhauls in visuals and modern mechanics.
If you’ve never played these three-game installments in the past, each features a unique protagonist and overall storyline plot. For Grand Theft Auto III, players are taking the role of Claude, who is on a revenge quest in a New York City-style location called Liberty City. With Grand Theft Auto Vice City, we’re taken to the late 1980s in a Miami-inspired area. Here you’ll be stepping into the role of a mobster named Tommy Vercetti, who is building up his own criminal empire. Lastly, with Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, you’re playing Carl Johnson, who ends up back in his hometown. Here he’s drawn back into the life of crime and corruption. If you played even the latest Grand Theft Auto installment, Grand Theft Auto V, then you know what to expect with these games. Of course, since they are a bit older, they might not have all the bells and whistles as the more recent releases. Still, it’s a thrilling experience to go back and play three iconic titles from the Grand Theft Auto franchise.
#34 The Outer Worlds
Obsidian Entertainment is a well-known and beloved video game development studio after releasing countless iconic RPG titles. For instance, the developers were responsible for Fallout: New Vegas, and during The Game Awards 2018 came the announcement of The Outer Worlds. This is a brand new experience that resembles a bit like their past Fallout: New Vegas work. Within the game, players will be embarking on an adventure set in the distant future where humankind has colonized space. Like past RPG titles developed under Obsidian Entertainment, the gameplay narrative will present players with multiple answers and options. Depending on the options selected may result in various branching storylines. In this game, players take the role of a crew member from a ship that was essentially abandoned years ago. Stuck in an endless frozen slumber, you are only awoken when a scientist that’s deemed mad rescues you in hopes you will help free civilians from the tyrannical reign by the current day government. From there, you’re given the freedom to explore different planets, take on quests from various NPCs and choose just how the story will end.
#33 Death Stranding
After Hideo Kojima and Konami parted ways, the legendary video game developer opted to make his video game development studio Kojima Productions. It took a little while, but Kojima started to alert fans about his debut title. In a true Kojima fashion, his first game would be cryptic with plenty of teasers leaving players guessing what this next project would be about. We, of course, now have this debut title which is Death Stranding. It’s a game that follows a man that has to deliver goods to different parts of the world. However, because of the supernatural event that left most of humanity spread across massive terrains, players are mainly preparing for large treks. This means ensuring your packages are secure and finding an appropriate pathway to lead you around dangerous obstacles and enemies. There’s also a bit of content scattered across this game world which prompts players to take a bit of time and explore their surroundings. You may find some incredible landscapes, places, and cargo that will make it all the more rewarding spending a bit more time wandering about rather than heading to your next destination.
#32 Days Gone
Days Gone is a game after a virus outbreak turning most of humanity into mindless zombie-like creatures. Players step into the role of a biker named Deacon St. John, who is surviving the harsh world doing odd jobs for various factions with his best friend, Boozer. This title is set in an open-world environment allowing players to freely explore and take on various missions at any given time. However, because this world is filled with zombies, it can be challenging to visit certain places, especially if you find yourself being blocked off by a horde. It’s a survival game set in the open world where Deacon is taking on various tasks while seeking resources to keep himself healthy and his motorcycle functioning. Of course, there’s a campaign story to keep you pulling along where Deacon is still holding out hope that despite all odds, somehow his wife is still alive somewhere out there.
In this particular Spider-Man title, the game is focused around Peter Parker, eight years after he has established the role of being the famed hero. Players are forced into fighting against a new enemy, Mister Negative, along with a few other iconic nefarious foes you may recall from the comic book series. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Spider-Man game if you couldn’t freely explore New York City. Players can swing around the busy city, stop by to interact with citizens, and take out random criminal thugs that start trouble. If you haven’t tried this game out yet and own a PlayStation 4, you’re really missing out.
#30 Dead Island
Set on a resort island overcome by a viral outbreak that turns everyone into zombies, you take on the role of one of four main characters who find themselves among the lucky (or unlucky) survivors. Equipped with little more than a boat paddle, you must make your way through the hordes of the formerly living and bring the rest of the survivors to safety before finding out what caused the outbreak in the first place. Dead Island may be a little rough around the edges, but its ambitiousness can’t be denied. When it comes to open-world zombie games, this is one of the classics you have to play.
#29 Far Cry 5
The fifth main title within the franchise, Far Cry 5, occurs 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 cult leader 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.
#28 Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
There’s rarely a dull moment in the Kingdoms of Amalur. It’s a world filled to the brim with magic, mystery, and adventure. It even changes as you leave your mark upon the world. Thanks to the game’s open-world nature, you can go about saving the world at your own pace and opt instead to pursue numerous sidequests provided by townsfolk and magical creatures throughout the land. You can even collect scattered bits of lore.
#27 STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl
STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl is a fantastic game if you want some real atmosphere in the game world. This is a first-person, survival-horror game set within the exiled and incredibly radioactive wasteland of Chernobyl. It’s here where men known as Stalkers seek out a dangerous living by retrieving strange, reality-defying artifacts. They aren’t alone in the wasteland, as it’s 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.
#26 Watch Dogs 2
After Ubisoft’s success 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. If you’re familiar with the franchise, you know that you’re teaming up with a group known as Dedsec. These are skilled hackers attempting to overthrow government regimes that prey on privacy and rule with a corrupted fist. A large part of the game is all about stealth as you make your way around different environments undetected and use your hacking skills to get the job done.
#25 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, will pick back up the narrative storyline players have been following over the years. Gamers can still expect 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 features 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 and unlocking new skills.
#24 Xenoblade Chronicles
Xenoblade Chronicles could be described as monumental, complex, and a whole series of other adjectives—none of which would adequately describe everything it has to offer. This gem of a JRPG was first limited to the Nintendo Wii but has since been released on the Nintendo Switch. Likewise, the game provides an intricate story set in a meticulously put-together world and highly customizable characters that serve to invigorate the JRPG genre. There’s also a sequel to pick up as well for the Nintendo Switch, Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Both have been highly regarded by fans and critics alike. If you’re looking for a new open-world JRPG to try, then this is a series not to pass up on.
#23 Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3 has drawn comparisons to The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim in its encouragement of exploration, hunting, and crafting. However, 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 questline, 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 significantly 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.
#22 Just Cause 2
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.
#21 Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
The sixth main installment of the Assassin’s Creed series, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, takes players to the open seas. While the narrative is mainly centered around the fight between Assassins and the Templars, this game puts players into the role of a pirate. There’s an absolute 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, sinking opposing ships, and reaping 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.
#20 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 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.
#19 Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is set in 431 BCE, where players will choose to be 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 also feature a modern-day protagonist. Additionally, 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 where players can adjust their character skills and attributes. Likewise, with a branching dialogue system, your narrative journey may offer a unique ending, thus incentivizing players to go back and replay the game.
#18 Saints Row 4
Saints Row 4 is the open-world genre taken to its most logical conclusion. This is to say that it’s entirely open and free for you to do whatever 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. However, the main plot here is taking down an evil alien regime that has invaded Earth.
#17 Fallout 4
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 entirely new to the IP, Fallout 4 still marks 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 brings 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.
#16 The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
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 the freedom it provides. 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. It might be a bit rough on the eyes these days, but it was still an incredible installment to the popular The Elder Scrolls franchise.
#15 Dragon Age: Inquisition
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 on the same continent as 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. Meanwhile, if you enjoy fantasy action RPGs, then this is a solid title worth picking up despite its age.
#14 Horizon Zero Dawn
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. Humankind 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 she was thrown out as an outcast as a newborn baby. At one time, this was a PlayStation 4 exclusive that was a must-have. However, it’s not been ported to the PC platform.
#13 Borderlands 2
Like the first game, Borderlands 2 takes place on the planet of Pandora. It’s not precisely “post-apocalyptic,” but it comes pretty close to what you’d expect from a planet destroyed more or less by corporations who are hell-bent on digging up resources and finding something called The Vault. The planet’s full of raiders—disenfranchised miners and former employees of corporations who were left behind on the planet to fend for themselves—and survivors who seek out a living as best they can using the resources left behind by those very same corporations. The game is designed as a semi-open world title split between spacious levels, each with its architecture and assortment of enemies, traversing through vehicles or on foot.
#12 Monster Hunter: World
The Monster Hunter franchise is consistently growing, and with each new installment, several new gamers explore the monster-filled worlds development studio Capcom has crafted. Monster Hunter: World will mark as the fifth main installment to the franchise, and as you can expect, there will be several notable updates. For instance, Capcom has placed larger maps, a more seamless experience between zones, and what’s a Monster Hunter video game without the ability to hunt with friends? Outside of the offline campaign, the game will allow a four-player online co-op opportunity. This might not be directly an open-world video game, but players will still find a rather large environment to explore. Also, if you’re a newcomer to the series, then this will still mark as a great title to jump on, but you will find that the gameplay can still be a bit advanced. Luckily, the community is very active in supporting other players with helpful guides and tricks to make your first hunt successful.
#11 Fallout 3
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.
#10 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 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 otherworldly 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 side quests. Likewise, there are tons of monsters to hunt, and overall a thrilling narrative to dive into.
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.
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.
#7 Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
After the events of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, players can enjoy the last installment of the beloved franchise, which was directed under Hideo Kojima. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain follows Snake 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. This time around, developers have allowed players a little more freedom when it comes to completing objectives.
#6 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
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 of a chance to weave our very own tale. Skyrim is interactive art at its finest.
#5 Red Dead Redemption
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. Within this unforgiving land, 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. The game’s atmosphere at the time was 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.
#4 Batman: Arkham City
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 its own arsenal of gadgets and skills. In addition, there’s a variety of missions and open-world side quests that will keep you busy for dozens of hours.
#3 Red Dead Redemption 2
It didn’t come to much surprise that Rockstar Games opted to bring back the Red Dead Redemption franchise. The video game was a beloved open-world title that acted much like the Grand Theft Auto series but set in the old west. This particular title takes place before the events of the first Red Dead Redemption title, where players are taking on the role of Arthur Morgan, a member of the infamous Van der Linde Gang who is on the run from the law. Rockstar Games really pushed the world players can dwell within. Outside of having plenty of missions and NPCs to meet, random events can occur, exploration and hunting.
#2 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
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. Now players are actively exploring this massive map in search of aid to regain his memories, rescue the princess, defeat Ganon and save Hyrule. With various monsters awaiting across the lands, a slew of different weapons, and quests to take on, players can spend quite a bit of time in this game. For quite a few fans of the franchise, this game had easily outranked previous releases.
#1 Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V is by and large the most extensive map for the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Rockstar made a lively Los Angeles-like city called Los Santos in this game. In this game, we’re given three protagonists to switch around with. Each has its own unique storyline, which gets tangled together. We have Trevor, a chaotic criminal hoping to own a drug empire, Michael, a ghost trying to keep his life of crime in his past, and Franklin, a young man trying to earn quick money. Just as you expect, the installment is full of chaos, action-packed gameplay, tons of exploration, and the ability to become a ruthless criminal. This game has been around since 2013, so chances are you’ve played the game by now.