Open world games have reached a golden age. Whether they offer role-playing or action, they will soak up your free time as you hunt, explore immersive locations, try to complete the main mission, follow side quests, or encounter random enemies. The best PC open world games are the ones you can spend an entire day playing without even touching the main quest, and still feel like it’s time well-spent.
From dystopian futures to the far reaches of space, these are the games that reward you for exploring. The developers spent a lot of time fleshing out these worlds, so they naturally want you to explore as much of the game as you can, so why not dive in? Let’s take a look at the best open world games you can play right now on PC.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla had the unenviable task of following up the excellent Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Thankfully, it did so with aplomb.
For starters, the game is easier to get into than its predecessor. The loot system is simpler, and the game world — a version of Middle-Ages England — is more immersive than Odyssey. The world is also bigger than you might think, it stretching across much of the country with tonnes of rivers to sail down.
In addition, instead of wide, empty spaces, it’s full of meaningful encounters that reward you for exploring. These encounters range from finding treasure and new equipment to encountering hidden boss battles, one-off quests that can be downright bizarre, and challenging puzzles.
2. Death Stranding
Developer: Kojima Productions Publisher: 505 Games
In Death Stranding, the US has suffered a cataclysmic event, and society has broken down to the point where people no longer trust each other. You play as Sam Porter Bridges, who walks across the country delivering items and linking cities so he can help to rebuild it.
A lot of people refer to Death Stranding as a walking simulator. There are plenty of tough terrains to traverse, and a wrong step on a mountain can set you tumbling down, losing your precious cargo. You also have to contend with extreme weather conditions like blizzards, terrorists who want to steal your cargo, and BT: the game’s supernatural enemies.
That said, the challenges are part of what makes Death Stranding so alluring. They can be unforgiving at times, but accomplishing them feels satisfying.
Elite: Dangerous doesn’t have a mere open world. Instead, it has an entire galaxy to explore.
You can fly your spaceship through the whole Milky Way, which comprises over 400 billion star systems. Just exploring the systems, stars, and planets will take up countless hours. In fact, players have only explored less than 1 percent of the game so far.
The game isn’t only about exploration, though. You can also trade and transport goods, mine asteroids, fight space pirates, or even become a pirate yourself. If you’re lucky, you might even encounter some aliens.
4. Genshin Impact
Developer: miHoYo Publisher: miHoYo
Genshin Impact is an open world RPG that looks like an anime and plays like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
That said, while there are similarities between the two games, Genshin Impact is not a mere clone. It also borrows elements from other games, like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Kingdom Hearts III, while bringing its own ideas to create an entirely new experience.
The world is diverse, with plenty of things to do. You can glide across it, go on side-quests, learn to cook, climb massive mountains, and more. The game also rewards straying off the beaten path with plenty of secrets to unearth.
5. Grand Theft Auto V
Developer: Rockstar North Publisher: Rockstar Games
Grand Theft Auto V is one of the best-selling games of all time, and with good reason as it has one of the most immersive open worlds you can find. You can stab sharks, skydive, join races, drive all over a county, and more.
The game’s storyline involves three protagonists who take on heists while clashing with common LA stereotypes like corrupt feds and bored housewives. You can change between Trevor, Michael, and Franklin at will and discover everything San Andreas has in-store.
After doing everything you can in the campaign, online is where you should go. There are businesses to buy, heists to take on, events you can be part of, and even deathmatches to join, but beware of the Shark Cards.
6. Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Developer: Warhorse Studios Publisher: Deep Silver
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an immersive sim where you play a regular guy who doesn’t have any special abilities and isn’t the “chosen one”. This makes for a refreshing change of pace as the world doesn’t revolve around your character.
While its world might not be the biggest, the details inside it are immense. If you’re caught stealing, for instance, you will have to spend some time in jail. If you’re in a fight and you unsheathe your sword, your opponent will also back down, and they might even say sorry. If you’ve had a bath, it will be easier for nobles to talk to you. Finally, if you have a good reputation in a town, the townspeople will let you know by singing praises.
All of these details help to increase the game’s realism and to make Kingdom Come one of the best PC open world games around.
Developer: Mojang Publisher: Mojang, Microsoft Studios
Minecraft is more than just an open world—it’s also a gargantuan sandbox. You can create anything you set your mind to, from statues to buildings, entire cities, and more. Heck, we’ve even seen someone create an entire country.
If you get tired of building stuff, Minecraft also has achievements to unlock, trees to punch, mines to explore inside mountains, lava to avoid falling into, and more.
For a change of pace, you can also explore the Nether, which is a hellish dimension full of fungal vegetation, hostile mobs, fire and lava with the ultimate goal of defeating the Ender Dragon.
8. Red Dead Redemption 2
Developer: Rockstar Studios Publisher: Rockstar Games
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a magnificent ode to the Wild West. Rockstar gave the game a monumental level of detail, like Arthur Morgan’s commentary for almost every character and location, animal corpses that actually decay, random world events like getting ambushed, the ability to stick up a train or stagecoach, and more. You’ll feel like a real outlaw in no time.
The game also has Read Dead Online, which is packed full of side quests, odd jobs, horse races, deathmatches, fishing, and more. Set just before Arthur’s story, Red Dead Online weaves its own tale. You can’t play story missions alone unless you’re part of a posse, but that’s for a good reason — plenty of online missions need the players to split up so they can help each other to complete objectives.
If you want to channel your inner Jack Sparrow, Sea of Thieves is the game for you. Sail the high seas, fight or steal from other pirates, and explore various islands for lost treasure or loot. You can even go fishing or hunting.
The game’s world is packed with sunken ships, mysterious artifacts, and unspoiled islands. It also has multiple expansions and monthly content updates, so it’s only getting bigger and denser with time.
You can go it alone, or team up with other players to tackle the game’s tougher challenges. Whether you play this on Xbox or PC with friends, Sea of Thieves will steal your free time.
Developer: Chucklefish Publisher: Chucklefish
For a simple-looking 2D game, Starbound packs in a lot. You can travel between planets, build, craft, mine, survive, explore, go on quests, and challenge bosses.
There are over a dozen planet types, ranging from zero threat level, like gas giants, to inconceivable threat level, like volcanic or decayed planets. They are all procedurally generated, so chances are each planet you find will be unique in some way. It’s possible, for instance, to land on an ice planet and drill down until you reach a liquid ocean.
If you find a planet you like, you can establish a base. Just build a small town and fill it with friendly NPCs and then prepare to get utterly lost among the stars.
Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment Publisher: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
For deep-sea exploration, few survival games are more detailed than Subnautica. The game has an immense ocean environment with plenty of underwater biomes, with an art style and lighting that leave each biome feeling distinct.
That said, the game can be unsettling at times. Some of the sea giants you encounter look otherworldly and Lovecraftian, almost too big to fathom. Nonetheless, it’s worth seeing every sea creature in the game just to see what kind of nightmares Unknown Worlds thought up.
If exploration starts to feel stale, you can also establish a base. It can be a small structure or a sprawling home that feels like you’re living in Atlantis. But no matter what, you will always feel like a drop in Subnautica’s absolutely gigantic ocean.
Developer: Re-Logic Publisher: 505 Games
In Terraria, the entire world is literally at your fingertips as you can construct your own city and use it as a base for any allies you might encounter in your adventures.
You can also explore randomly generated worlds, entering deep, cavernous expanses for machinery and loot. You can even seek out monsters and other enemies to fight, but be careful not to undo all of your hard work.
While the game will inevitably draw comparisons to Minecraft, it’s more than that asTerraria places more emphasis on adventure and action. It also introduces elements like a bigger monster population and an in-depth weapon crafting system, so if you want something arguably even more ambitious, check this out.
13. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
For a lot of people, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the ultimate open world game and has been since its release way back in 2011.
The main quest is something you can ignore as everything else in the game still offers thousands of hours of fun. Just pick a direction, follow it and sooner or later, you will encounter something interesting like bandits, a dragon, wolves, a mountain troll, a cave or even a necromancer. In Skyrim, you make your own fun.
Mods have increased the game’s lifespan more than anyone could have predicted. They range from the serious—armor and weapon sets, original quests, new companions, and more — to the silly, like having dragons appear as Thomas the Tank Engine.
14. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Developer: CD Projekt Red Publisher: CD Projekt
The open world of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is simply stunning. From the trees swaying in the rain to the snowy heights of Skellige, everything packed into the Continent is a visual marvel.
The Witcher 3 is also packed with monsters, ghosts, creatures hiding in plain sight, ruthless bandits, and random side-quests to fulfill. Come to think of it, some of the side-quests have more depth than some games’ main plots — the Bloody Baron springs to mind.
The major difference between Wild Hunt and a game like Skyrim is that the former’s side quests and encounters often feel more personal, and you can even unlock multiple endings for the ultimate completionist.
Developer: Iron Gate AB Publisher: Coffee Stain Publishing
Vikings? Check. Survival? Check. Open world? Check. Valheim immerses you into a procedurally-generated open world with everything from snow-capped mountains to mysterious forests. Each terrain has its own creatures you have to battle to survive.
The good thing is you’re not stuck in one place. If you gather enough items, you can build a ship, escape your island and sail to another island. You can also build a home base, defeat legendary beasts or craft items.
Playing solo is fine, but you can also go co-op with other players and take on the tougher challenges in the game. Valheim may not have the most beautiful open world, but it certainly has one of the fullest.
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