Ever since Grand Theft Auto III came out, open-world games (or sandbox games) became one of the most popular genres. So popular, in fact, that more titles feature open-world gameplay as time go by, so I think it’s fair to say that this an ever evolving genre that’s here to stay. Below you’ll find some of the best open-world games ever made: these are games that are famous for its sprawling worlds, interactivity and the ability of going pretty much anywhere. Of course, what happens around that large world is as important as the world itself, so gameplay, visuals, music and everything in between was also considered. Without further ado, here are some of the best open-world games available.
10. Just Cause 2
This open-world game gets it, since it allows players to do pretty much whatever they want, whenever they want. The result is an eminently satisfying action game that so ridiculous and over the top that you forget about the story and focus on the sheer stupidity of everything you can do. To explore the 400 square miles of land you can fly planes, use parachutes and get different vehicles. If you have the PC version, make sure you download the multiplayer mode which is chaotic and beautiful.
9. Far Cry 3
Like most of the games on this list, Far Cry 3 encourages exploration and experimentation. The best part about Far Cry 3, though is probably how it balances the storyline and the open-world aspect, which means that you could be playing a mission as part of the story one moment and the next hunting down animals. The game’s multiplayer mode is nothing to write home about, but the characters, story, unpredictable enemies, variety of weapons and large world make it one of the best of its kind.
8. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Middle Earth is the kind of open-world game that shouldn’t work. But despite the bland world and insipid collectibles, Shadow of Mordor adds so many fresh ideas that once you start playing, you won’t be able to stop. The most meaningful addition to the formula comes in the form of the Nemesis system which basically allows you to live your own story and take revenge against a series of procedurally generated orcs. This is one of the most gratifying virtual moments you can have and a feature that will keep you hooked for hours on end.
7. Red Dead Redemption
Time and time again, Rockstar Games proved that they are the company that can craft some of the most engaging open-world titles ever made. Unlike Grand Theft Auto which took us on an adventure set in contemporary times, Red Dead Redemption takes us to the Western world of the 19th century America where we can ride horses and rob trains.
6. The Witcher 3
For many, The Witcher 3 is a technical achievement that spearheaded a wave of open-world games on the new generation of consoles. The environments are large and incredibly detailed, so you can easily spend hundreds of hours interacting with NPCs, exploring the sweeping landscapes and fighting enemies and bosses. The Witcher 3 is one of the most convincing open-world games ever made and it was only possible on the new consoles.
5. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain
This is one of those games that’s so special that it can only come out once every generation and maybe not even that often. The Metal Gear Solid series has always favored freedom as a way to complete your objectives, but no other game offered this amount of freedom. Additionally, the story has emotional power and explores some mature themes, so even if everything around it can be ridiculous and silly from time to time, this is one of the features that makes Metal Gear Solid V one of the best games on the series.
Creating and destroying three-dimensional environments made out of blocks sounds boring as hell, but with such a simple concept Minecraft managed to do something unbelievable: it conquered the hearts of millions of players from all over the world. Minecraft is certainly not for everybody, but if like LEGO and you want to try to put together something in the virtual world, this is your game. Like some other games on this list, Minecraft is an ever evolving platform that receives patches and updates on a regular basis, so it’s impossible to determine what the game will be in a few years.
3. Fallout 3
You’ve never seen the apocalyptic wasteland like this. Ever since Mad Max came out in the late 70s, games have tried to rip off that unique vibe and atmosphere, but it wasn’t until the release of Fallout 3 that the medium achieved that. The best part about the Wasteland is that it incorporates elements from several genres, including science-fiction, western and horror but it still conveys that idea of togetherness. Like other Bethesda games, Fallout 3 might be plagued with technical issues, but if you can ignore some of them, you can spend hundreds of hours on the wasteland.
There have been two numbered entries in the GTA series ever since San Andreas came out, but 2004 action game was so impressive in terms of presentation and atmosphere that it’s impossible not to include it on this list. At first sight, San Andreas is all about scale, but as keep looking harder and you’ll notice dozens of vehicles, RPG elements, an inviting story, great voice acting, a fantastic soundtrack and as cliché as it sounds, a world of possibilities. Also, there are hundreds of mods available for the game, so if the PC is your platform of choice, San Andreas offers thousands of hours of playtime.
1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim has a story, the game has a set of rules and you can follow a linear path, but the best part about this role-playing game is that you can craft your own story. In a way, Skyrim is like a virtual canvas where you can do whatever you want and that’s what makes the game so staggering and fantastic. Its hundreds of hours of gameplay, day-night cycles, gorgeous world, deep RPG elements, make it hard to put down. Also, there are dragons, lots and lots of dragons.
These are other open-world titles that were considered, but didn’t make it to the top ten: Dead Island, Infamous Second Son, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Crackdown, Borderlands 2, Grand Theft Auto V, Burnout Paradise, Batman: Arkham City, Saints Row: The Third, Fable, Spider-Man 2, Sleeping Dogs and The Legend of Zelda.