A Whole New World
The amount of freedom offered by open-world games is hard to resist, and they do a fantastic job of scratching that exploration itch. The genre also lends itself well to long games chocked full of activities, and some immersive open-world titles can even be played indefinitely. For adventurers who want to experience the best of what the genre has to offer, these ten games are not to be missed.
10. Forza Horizon 5
When open-world games are discussed, racing games are often neglected, yet they have a noteworthy presence in the genre. Forza Horizon 5 features curvy roads that wind through Mexico, exposing racers to picture-perfect scenery. It’s a must-play title for all gearheads, and with a massive catalog of customizable cars available, it has the potential to provide endless hours of fun.
9. Grand Theft Auto 5
GTA 5 presents a massive urban map for players to raise hell in, and it manages to go a step further than its predecessors by featuring three protagonists that players can switch between on the fly. The storylines of the trio intertwine satisfyingly, and their antics provide hours of high-stakes action. As one of the bestselling games of all time, GTA 5 has cemented its place in gaming history, and despite its age, it still manages to compete favorably against recent open-world titles.
8. Shadow of the Colossus
While Shadow of the Colossus certainly packs both good gameplay and a surprisingly emotional story, its unique place in gaming is, to some degree, a product of the atmosphere created by the open-world design. Wander ventures through a hauntingly empty world, though it is not a void. Crumbling architecture and hidden ruins tell ancient stories without words. Nothing is ever fully explained, and the world remains a mysterious realm filled with structures and forces far beyond Wander’s comprehension.
7. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3, released in 2015, proved to the world that CD Projekt Red can box with the best in the open-world genre. It follows Geralt on his quest to rescue Ciri. Along the way, players get to explore an enormous world filled with quests that seldom feel like busy work. A late 2022 re-release of the game on current-gen systems has polished the game even further, giving fans a reason to jump back into Andrzej Sapkowski’s fantasy world.
6. The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim made its first appearance on the now-iconic date of 11 November 2011, and it has remained a permanent fixture in gaming culture, with re-releases on the Nintendo Switch and current-gen consoles ensuring that it can be played almost anywhere. Skyrim has yet to overstay its welcome in part due to the active modding community that has developed around it. With the right mods, it feels like an entirely different game.
5. Horizon Forbidden West
Horizon Forbidden West doesn’t reinvent the wheel in terms of open-world gameplay, and there are plenty of other games that follow a somewhat similar structure. What sets it apart from its competitors is its beauty. It manages to artfully blend sci-fi robots with primitive tribes and wild jungles, and the result is an admirably unique aesthetic. Best of all, this is presented to players with graphics that make the game one of the most gorgeous of all time.
4. Elden Ring
FromSoftware’s critically acclaimed Elden Ring blends the studio’s notoriously difficult combat with an open-world dripping with enchanting fantasy elements courtesy of A Song of Ice and Fire‘s George R.R. Martin. The game’s greatest contribution to the genre comes from its willingness to turn its back on popular modern conventions that emphasize easy-to-understand user experiences propped up by detailed HUDs. In comparison, Elden Ring adopts a minimalist approach, allowing players to get lost and carve out a unique adventure.
3. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain
Metal Gear 5: The Phantom Pain continues to innovate the franchise’s stealth gameplay, though it is applied to an open-world environment. As usual, players find themselves on solo missions that involve infiltrating enemy bases. However, the sprawling open world allows for an almost infinite number of ways to complete objectives. Snake also has a plethora of weapons – including cardboard boxes and water guns – to use ingeniously.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Like other highly critically acclaimed titles in the genre, Breath of the Wild features an awe-inspiringly intricate world. The sequel, Tears of the Kingdom continues to build on Breath of the Wild‘s successful foundation.
Perhaps most notably, Link now can fuse items. This has opened a new realm of creativity, as players can now craft new weapons and build structures that allow them to interact with the world in new ways. When it comes to emergent gameplay that rewards imagination, Tears of the Kingdom has set a new bar.
1. Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2 follows the Van Der Linde gang as its member attempt to cope with the growing wave of industrialization and societal changes that spell the end for their outlaw days. Players take the role of Arthur Morgan, and the world presented is one teeming with things to do.
Though the game is primarily an American Western, it has strong naturalist themes, and players can put the guns away and just enjoy the untamed acres. When it comes to intricate open-world design, Red Dead Redemption 2 sits at the top, providing an unparalleled example of just how immersive open-world games can get.
Of course, open-world games do have their downsides. They tend to be buggy, and poor game design can result in titles that are filled with repetitive tasks and other forms of tiresome bloat. Nevertheless, when the developers get it right, as is the case with the above titles, they provide some of the best gaming experiences available.