Best Open World Games
Note: This list was updated in October of 2018.
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.
#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. The game is without rival in terms of being an open world, zombie-killing action RPG.
#29 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.
#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.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is Fable done right.
#27 STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl
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.
#26 Watch Dogs 2
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.
#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 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.
#24 Xenoblade Chronicles
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.
#23 Far Cry 3
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.
#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 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.
#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 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.
#19 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.
#18 Saints Row 4
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.
#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 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.
Spider-Man was developed by Insomniac Games who are previously known for their Ratchet & Clank and Resistance video game franchises. Their latest title breathes some new life into the Spider-Man story as this video game title will not be linked to any past comic books or cinematic movies.
Furthermore, the game doesn’t offer the normal origin story of Spider-Man, instead, the video game will be focused around Peter Parker, eight years after he has established the role of being the famed hero. From what we know so far, this is an open-world title where the narrative will follow Peter Parker graduating college while keeping up as protector of New York City.
The video game will also give players the ability to go through the narrative as not only Spider-Man but as the civilian Peter Parker character as well. From what we know from so far through trailers released, Spider-Man’s main antagonist will be Mister Negative, who turns out to be Martin Li, one of New York’s prominent philanthropist and owner of the F.E.A.S.T. shelters that Peter’s Aunt May is employed.
Outside of the campaign, players can freely explore New York City where crimes and collectibles will pop up throughout the area in need of Spider-Man’s attention.
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.
#14 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 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.
#13 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.
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.
#12 Borderlands 2
Like the first game, Borderlands 2 takes place on the planet of Pandora. It’s not exactly “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 eke out a living as best they can using the resources left behind by those very same corporations—and new ones intent on claiming Pandora’s riches.
The game is designed as a semi-open world title split between spacious levels, each with their own architecture and assortment of enemies, traversable through the use of vehicles or on foot.
#11 Monster Hunter: World
The Monster Hunter franchise is consistently growing and with each new installment a number of 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 a number of 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 environments 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 supporting other players with helpful guides and tricks to make your first hunt a successful one.
#10 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.
#9 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 side quests, 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.
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.
#6 Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
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.
#5 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 a chance to weave our very own tale.
Skyrim is interactive art at its finest.
#4 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.
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.
#3 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 their own arsenal of gadgets and skills. There’s a variety of missions and open world side quests that will keep you busy for dozens of hours.
#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.
#1 Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V 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 IV to call it a lesser title compared to GTA V, we’re naming this one a tie for first place on our list of the best open world games of all time.