If there’s one genre of video games that’s really exploded over the course of the eighth generation of consoles, it’s the open world. Popularised by the likes of GTA, taking your franchise out into the open isn’t as big an innovation as it used to be with big names like Metal Gear Solid, Ghost Recon, and Mafia all going down the well-trodden route but with mixed results. That said, there are plenty of the best open world games for you to dive into.
So what makes something qualify as an open world game? Well, the definition is usually played with pretty fast and loose, but an open world is typically a large expanse that you can jump into without many restrictions on where you can go and what you can do. Sometimes the open world doesn’t have to be that big to qualify, as you will see throughout this list.
With everyone and your grandparents getting in on the act, it’s time to take a look at some of the best open world games around right now, whether they belong to this generation, the last, or even further back than that. Whether it’s sailing the open seas or being a superhero, there’s no shortage of options amongst all these games, plus one or two surprises that you probably forgot all about.
A couple of qualifiers before we start: we are only including one game per franchise for the sake of variety and we’re also excluding Early Access games because there are nine million of them that just dump you into a bland expanse with only a stick and your flapping genitalia for comfort. Also bear in mind that any games list for PS4 and Xbox One will also work on PS5 and Xbox Series X | S thanks to backwards compatibility.
Disagree with our choices for the best open world games on? Let us know down in the comments below, but it will not reach us unless you climb several radio towers first.
The Best Open World Games
Developer: Piranha Bytes Publisher: THQ Nordic Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One Players: Single-Player
Nobody’s going to try and pull the wool over your eyes and claim that ELEX is what you would call a masterpiece. More than a little rough around the edges and packed with some outright bizarre mechanics, its first ten hours seem to be a bit of a checkpoint. Can you grind through all of the early pain to find the unconventional gem at its center? Step right this way.
You play in a post-apocalyptic world where factions rule. As an ex-Alb, you must align yourself with a faction and discover why you were betrayed. It’s very much a European vision of Fallout, including the customary jank.
Fans of Gothic and Risen will adore ELEX, bizarrely segmented open world and all, and will no doubt enjoy countless hours of save scumming and jetpacking around.
Developer: BioWare Publisher: EA Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One Players: Single-Player
Forget about it being the worst Mass Effect game. Ignore it being rife with bugs and glitches. Don’t question why its sex scenes are the most detailed parts of the game. Instead, when it comes to Andromeda, approach with moderate expectations and you will walk away from it having enjoyed your time in space more than you thought you would.
The open world nature of Andromeda is one that makes sense, allowing you to explore the surface of more planets than ever and colonise them in the process. Nobody in their right mind is going to suggest that it’s a perfect game, but in terms of allowing exploration, it’s right up there with the most expansive.
“Mass Effect: Andromeda presents a promising fresh start for the franchise that’s held back by a myriad of technical and mechanical problems. It’s a rough diamond that needs more polish, but if you can spare the time to get to its core, you might be pleasantly surprised.”
Developer: Tripwire Interactive Publisher: Tripwire Interactive Platform(s): PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One Players: Single-Player
We’re not going to try and tell you that Maneater is the best open world game ever made. It is somewhat repetitive after you eat your fiftieth human in a row, but for sheer novelty’s sake, Maneater is a cathartic bit of nonsense.
You play as an increasingly dangerous shark on the hunt for their mother’s killer. As time goes on, you evolve more and more until you become the apex predator, the game embracing its ridiculousness as you swim through its wide open seas.
Maneater feels like a throwback to the weird ideas we saw during the PS2 era, and it’s just some guilt-free fun that’s a nice respite.
“Maneater is a game that, for the most part, lives up to its potential, offering something a bit different than other games. While it could be regarded as something of a one-trick pony, it’s still a very good trick that you’ll enjoy while it lasts.”
Developer: DONTNOD Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch Players: Single-Player
Vampyr’s world isn’t as large as the others but it’s certainly one of the most alive. You play in a plague-riddled London as a vampire with your actions dramatically altering the fates of its residents, for better or worse.
If you want to feast on the people of London, expect to become increasingly powerful with the caveat that districts will start to crumble. Vampyr is a game full of dilemmas and is a constant balancing act, helping it to become one of the most innovative open world games of 2018.
If you want to play god and all the baggage that comes with it, Vampyr is perfect. It also doesn’t hurt that it has some solid combat and a storyline worth diving into, either.
“Filled with moral dilemmas and an unexpected strategic depth to its city system, Vampyr is a vampire RPG that isn’t afraid to bite back. Although some characters are quite stiff in dialogue, it’s still a great game overall with intense confrontations, fast-paced combat and a thrilling story.”
Developer: Team Soho Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Platform(s): PS2 Players: Single-Player
Discarded as a weak GTA clone at the time of release by many, The Getaway’s influence is felt pretty keenly to this day when it comes to open world design and its overall mechanics.
Whether it’s the cover system, motion cpature lack of HUD, or lots and lots of swearing, The Getaway has provided inspiration for many developers throughout the years. While the overall package isn’t outright amazing, made even worse by the passage of time, The Getaway still has plenty to offer.
Plus, if you ever want to experience the horrible reality of London traffic, The Getaway is the game for you.
45. Crackdown 2
Developer: Ruffian Games Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios Platform(s): Xbox 360, Xbox One Players: Single-Player & Multiplayer
Crackdown used to be one of the most promising open world franchises around before the tumultuous development of its third game left it as a bit of an afterthought.
You could make the case that Crackdown 2, despite being many years older than the third game, looks and plays significantly better. One thing’s for certain, though: it’s still an absolute tonne of fun to pick up and cause some destruction in.
Orbs are the name of the game again here, but this time out there’s more verticality than ever and a general sense of mayhem that would make even Michael Bay blush. Put your brain in the bin for a few hours and discover one of the most simple and unpretentious open world games out there.
Developer: Facepunch Studios Publisher: Facepunch Studios Platform: PC Players: Multiplayer
Unless you have skin as thick as that of a rhino wearing Captain America’s shield as a cup, you should give Rust a wide berth. It’s notoriously toxic and almost entirely built on griefing — there’s no end goal for anything in the game, which is why many players create their own enjoyment by ruining the days of others.
However, if you have a friend or two in tow, Rust can be very rewarding. You can build a base while your genitalia feels the lick of the breeze before eventually having enough resources to do some griefing of your own. Trust nobody in Rust, not even those who appear friendly. Or even yourself.
And if you do come across some well-armed players, try to make them laugh and they may spare you and take you under their wing.
43. Dead Island
Developer: Techland Publisher: Deep Silver Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 Players: Single-Player & Multiplayer
An open world game that was never going to live up to its incredible trailer, Dead Island still has plenty to offer for fans of bashing zombie heads in. You will be doing that a lot in Dead Island, but as you progress you will begin to feel like an undead killing machine; handy, as you will have a lot of opportunities to encounter them in a huge tropical playground.
Dead Island certainly isn’t pretty and packed to the undead gills with the kind of blemishes that are sadly so frequent in even the very best open world games, though it still made enough of an impact to launch a franchise with two (pretty terrible) spin-offs and a sequel that is apparently happening? Who really knows at this point.
Developer: Avalanche Studios, id Software Publisher: Bethesda Softworks Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One Players: Single-Player
After two almost great games, it’s fair to say that Rage may never quite reach the next level Bethesda wants it to be. While both games are plenty flawed, the brilliant gunplay in the second game makes it stand apart.
Rage 2 is not some grand revolution of the old formula, but as the guys behind DOOM have their finger on their trigger, it’s always incredibly fun to send enemies flying into the air and use them basically like clay pigeons.
A short game without an overwhelming amount of detail in its open world, Rage 2 is the perfect Blockbuster game, something you’d rent for the weekend as a bit of a palate cleanser. Sometimes that’s all you need.
“id Software’s magic touch with the old ultra-violence isn’t quite enough to completely save Rage 2 from the rest of its sloppy and seemingly rushed trimmings, but if you want to play as a superhero who isn’t fussy about killing, you’re well set here.”
Developer: Ubisoft Publisher: Ubisoft Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One Players: Multiplayer
It’s safe to say that The Division was an open world game that burned brightly on release before quickly fizzling out. A more “grounded” approach to Destiny, The Division sees you playing as part of a crisis squad that’s activated when a virus sweeps through New York City.
This means killing waves of guys with baseball hats and looting their bodies, because of course. It’s a game built entirely around the grind, which can be tiresome on your own but good fun with friends. You may grow bored of The Division relatively soon, but its depiction of the Big Apple is at least worth wandering around in and marvelling at.
The Division 2, meanwhile, is more of the same goodness if you enjoyed what the first game had to offer.
40. The Long Dark
Developer: Hinterland Studio Inc. Publisher: Hinterland Studio Inc. Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One Players: Single-Player
This isn’t an open world game for everyone. On the face of it, The Long Dark may seem low-key; boring, even. However, once you’re embroiled in your quest to just survive and scrape by every day with what little scraps you have, it becomes more engrossing than many of its peers while also being far simpler.
Featuring a gorgeous, minimalist style, The Long Dark isn’t full of action, and neither is the Canadian wilderness packed with ghoulies to avoid. It’s just you, the creeping cold, and the occasional wolf. It’s a wonder how Hinterland made such a straightforward, single-player experience so captivating, but they did.
Developer: Endnight Games Publisher: Endnight Games Platform(s): PC, PS4 Players: Single-Player & Multiplayer
The Forest isn’t a million miles away from The Long Dark in terms of style; a downbeat game with some glimmers of action but one that’s largely about the simple things. Most of your time in The Forest will be spent foraging for materials, whether alone or with a friend, to carve out a living in the wilderness after your plane crashes and your child disappears.
In contrast to The Long Dark, however, The Forest does embrace its supernatural side by introducing some seriously freakish enemies that make the creatures from The Descent look like pussycats.
The scary thing about them is how little you see them, but they’re almost always there, watching and waiting. You can build the perfect fort, but one misjudgement can be the end of you in this Early Access success story.
“If you’re yet to try the game on PC, its PS4 version is a surprisingly sleek and arguably just as rewarding time-sinker that won’t even make you feel bad for being a terrible parent.”
Developer: Radical Entertainment Publisher: Activision Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 Players: Single-Player
Released when the open world buzz was only really just taking off, Prototype was too inseparable from inFamous (more on that one later) for its own good. Despite its “edgier” take, Prototype couldn’t quite match Sucker Punch’s effort in terms of polish and an interesting world to explore. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t still worth exploring, however.
You play as Alex Mercer, a superpowered anti-hero who must use his abilities to stop an outbreak in Manhattan. Players can shapeshift and run up with walls, as well as being able to sprint at super speed, so there’s definitely room for different playstyles.
The only things really going against Prototype are its uninspired storyline and hero, but if you just want to feel like a Todd McFarlane creation for a bit, you can’t go wrong.
Developer: Kojima Productions Publisher: SIE/505 Games Platform(s): PC, PS4 Players: Single-Player
Probably the most polarising game on this list, no two of us in the office can agree on Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding. While some of us love the game’s slow pace and patient storytelling, others are put off by it and the fact it takes hours upon hours to really get going.
You play as Sam Porter Bridges, a man tasked with reconnecting America following an apocalyptic fallout. You do this one delivery at a time with many an obstacle in your path, whether that’s the BTs or something as simple as a steep hill.
If you’re yet to play Death Stranding, it really is one of those games you have to experience for yourself. Give it time and allow its world to feel less disconnected and it may drag you under its depths.
Developer: Avalanche Studios Publisher: WB Games Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One Players: Single-Player
A tie-in for Fury Road but not really, Mad Max is a Frankenstein’s Monster of game design with many ideas leeched from other open world games. Though it may not surpass any of its inspirations and won’t endear itself to anyone who hates relatively empty playgrounds, it’s still a total blast.
Taking parts of the Batman: Arkham series and a lashing of Assassin’s Creed, Mad Max comes into its own with its approach to Max’s vehicle of choice, the Magnum Opus. Over time, you turn the car from a bucket on wheels into the scourge of the wasteland, meaning there’s more of an attachment to the game than punching dudes and drinking water.
Worth checking out for fans of the movies and open world lovers in general.
Developer: Hello Games Publisher: Hello Games Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S Players: Single-Player & Multiplayer
If this piece had been written in 2016, No Man’s Sky would find itself on the opposite list for open world games. After launching in a laughably threadbare state with the game clearly not what its marketing had suggested, it would have been easy for Hello Games to go underground and give up on the game entirely.
Luckily for spacefarers (and people who paid full AAA price), they persevered and although it may never fully recover from the backlash, No Man’s Sky is worth checking out on the cheap.
With new modes and huge content updates seemingly always on the way, the initial appeal from visiting planets and seeing sights will wear off quickly in No Man’s Sky, but if you want a low-key game to zone out with flying around star systems, it’s a more than competent distraction.
Developer: Ubisoft Publisher: Ubisoft Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One Players: Single-Player & Multiplayer
More of an excuse to use the name of a dormant franchise than an out-and-out Ghost Recon installment, Wildlands drops the “hardcore” elements of the franchise and takes it into an open world. While it may alienate some long-time fans, Wildlands still maintains a semblance of strategy and teamwork that usually goes down the drain the second your friends start messing around.
Belonging in the massive-but-empty camp of open world games, Wildlands asks you to embrace your daredevil side with a ridiculous spectacle and a surprising difficulty. There’s plenty to do, though the missions and side distractions do tend to follow an eventually very familiar formula.
If you just want to mess around with some friends, party up and drop in to a game that’s still receiving updates, including the re-introduction of Sam Fisher. Maybe swerve Breakpoint, though.
Developer: Klei Entertainment Publisher: Klei Entertainment Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS3, Vita, Xbox One, Switch, Wii U Players: Single-Player & Multiplayer
A survival game released before survival games were cool, Don’t Starve’s developers, Klei Entertainment, may have watched a lot of Tim Burton movies before they made this genre-definer.
A mischievously dark game, Don’t Starve tasks you with staying alive after you are shipwrecked by exploring your increasingly dangerous surroundings as a pretty feeble gentleman who must use his scientist background to stand a chance.
Thanks to the randomly generated levels, your chances of success can be a little like a roll of the dice. Some are fairer than others, giving you ample opportunity to stock up on resources, while others can throw all manner of creepy crawlies at you almost immediately.
In terms of scale, Don’t Starve is likely the smallest game on this list of the best open world games, but you would be dumb to overlook it just for that.
Developer: Undead Labs Publisher: Microsoft Studios Platform(s): PC, Xbox One Players: Single-Player & Multiplayer
Perhaps we’re missing something, but State of Decay 2 really didn’t deserve all of the scorn it received at launch. Sure, the amount of bugs were laughable and its performance certainly lacking, but overall it’s just the natural evolution of the first game, itself one of the best open world games around.
If you’ve ever wanted to micro-manage in the post-apocalypse, State of Decay 2 has you covered. Featuring major refinements and improvements over the first game, it’s your job to establish a community and help it to thrive.
It’s tough going, especially when some of your peers become demanding, but nobody said surviving after the end of civilisation was going to be easy. It’s included with Game Pass, so you should at least try it if you have an Xbox One.
Developer: Rare Publisher: Microsoft Studios Platform(s): PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S Players: Multiplayer
After arriving on a wave of hype (heh) as Rare’s most exciting new venture in years, Sea of Thieves found itself all out at sea just a few days after setting sail. A lack of content, no meaningful progression, and an entire system built around needing friends to get anything out of it meant that most abandoned ship as quickly as they jumped aboard.
However, much like the aforementioned No Man’s Sky, Sea of Thieves is an open world game that continues to grow with updates already flowing in. Adding to that, there is something to be said for simply taking to the seas with your friends and griefing each other until Christmas is cancelled.
Don’t go into Sea of Thieves expecting the world and you will be enjoying eating bananas before you know what’s happening.
30. Days Gone
Developer: SIE Bend Publisher: SIE Platform(s): PS4 Players: Single-Player
Days Gone is a bit of a rough diamond that rewards you for sticking through its sticky first ten hours, and even then it’s not a flawless experience — even with optimisation, it’s on the buggy side.
Despite its issues, Days Gone really is a superb slow grower. You may not like its protagonist Deacon St. John at all to begin with, but he, and everything else Days Gone has to offer, will likely win you over the more time you invest in the game.
Whether you’re cruising around on a motorcycle or taking down increasingly large hordes with whatever is at your disposal, Days Gone is a surprisingly great open world game that continues to cultivate a dedicated following.
Developer: Capcom Publisher: Capcom Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 Players: Single-Player
The Dead Rising series is one of the most fluctuating you’ll find in terms of quality with the consensus being that it’s majorly lost its way. If you found Dead Rising 4 too “casual”, approach Dead Rising 2: Off the Record as the perfect halfway point.
More forgiving than the first game with welcomed refinements to boot, Off the Record plays much in the same way as Dead Rising 2 itself, except that bland boy Chuck Greene has been swapped out with series mascot Frank West. Dicing zombies up with increasingly dumb weaponry is the biggest selling point of the franchise, and Off the Record is arguably that ethos at its purest.
28. Sleeping Dogs
Developer: United Front Games Publisher: Square Enix Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 Players: Single-Player
A cult favourite, Sleeping Dogs came along at a time when everyone wanted a piece of the GTA pie. While it may not be quite as expansive as Rockstar’s monolith, Sleeping Dogs still has plenty of charm and things to sink your teeth into for dozens of hours. Also, kicking people in the face.
You play as an undercover cop in Hong Kong as you infiltrate a notorious gang, but good luck doing just that. You can expect to venture around the bright lights of Hong Kong for hours at a time, levelling up as you kick your way through the glitz and grime. It’s available for an absolute steal these days, making it the perfect weekend game if you’re yet to play it.
Developer: Sucker Punch Publisher: SIE Platform(s): PS3 Players: Single-Player
It’s a puzzle to us why so many developers dropped karma systems. Sure, there were far too many of them in games at one point, but they helped to create two drastically different playstyles with your actions having far-flung consequences for your world and also your fate. Infamous 2 is a perfect example of how to use karma with it allowing you to become a superhero or supervillain.
The Infamous franchise has been somewhat forgotten about after the so-so Second Son on PS4 with Sucker Punch now working on Ghost of Tsushima, but that doesn’t take away from just how great this superpowered sequel is.
Often compared and contrasted with the aforementioned Prototype, it’s Infamous that comes out on top with its better storyline and smoother mechanics with Infamous 2 being the series at its zenith.
26. Elite: Dangerous
Developer: Frontier Developments Publisher: Frontier Developments Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One Players: Single-Player & Multiplayer
This doesn’t really belong on this list of the best open world games because Elite is more than just one world: it’s galaxy after galaxy of spacefaring that will consume you if you can overcome its absurd learning curve. Those who dissect the details will be in their element here.
Elite isn’t a mile a minute game with its “moments” being few and far between. Instead, it’s more about the tranquillity of exploring space alongside friends and building your reputation up as a trader, bounty hunter, pirate, or just an idiot who can’t figure out how to land your ship.
Speaking of, thanks to the Odyssey expansion in 2021, players will finally be able to walk on planets and properly explore new worlds. Just have to land the dang ship first.
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