There are few pleasures in gaming more delightful than mucking about in an open world sandbox, where the limits of what you can accomplish are often just your imagination. With plenty of the best open world Xbox One games available to play right now, it can be hard to know which ones are the best, but luckily your friends here at Cultured Vultures have you covered.
Naturally, there’s a few ground rules when it comes to collating all these games. Firstly, we’re ranking them, because who doesn’t love a bit of spice? Secondly, we’re operating a one game per franchise rule here, just to ensure some variety in the list, but feel free to substitute your preferred game instead. We won’t tell anyone. And we’re also including backwards compatible games, because the classics still have a lot to offer.
With that said, here’s our picks for the best Xbox One open world games. Bear in mind that all of these games will also work on Xbox Series X | S thanks to backwards compatibility.
Developer: Radical Publisher: Activision Single/multiplayer: Single Player
When it comes to super-powered sandboxes on the Xbox One, there’s two main choices (three if you count Saints Row 4, but we’ll get to that series in a bit): Crackdown or Prototype. While Crackdown’s exploration focus and combat are worthy of merit, sometimes it’s just more fun to be a bit of a bad boy, and Prototype fills that hole brilliantly.
As the conduit for a dangerous mutagenic virus, you have the powers and abilities to turn New York City into your own personal playground, whether that’s by imitating an old lady and roundhouse kicking people, or by calling in air strikes on military bases. There’s also that little ability to turn your arms into giant blades. That’s pretty cool too.
19. Burnout Paradise Remastered
Developer: Criterion, Stellar Entertainment Publisher: EA Single/multiplayer: Both
We’ve waxed lyrical in the past about the virtues of Burnout Paradise on this fine website, and rightly so. Not only is it a brilliant racing game, but it’s a fantastic open world game to boot. It takes development skill to balance superlative arcade racing with an open world that begs to be explored.
Taking place in Paradise City, players can find something to do on every single street, whether that’s an event at every intersection, smashable gates and billboards that can be found on every street corner, or online challenges that require you to team up with other players to complete. It’s utterly enjoyable, even after a decade.
18. Dragon Age: Inquisition
Developer: Bioware Publisher: EA Single/multiplayer: Single Player
Bioware’s brilliant fantasy RPG, Dragon Age: Inquisition offers plenty of action for all kinds of players, whether that action is fighting in the streets or passionately hugging in the sheets. DA: Inquisition allows players to become the fantasy hero of their dreams, or the insufferable dick of someone else’s nightmares. You got to love player choice.
As the Inquisitor, it’s your responsibility to try and close a mysterious tear called the Breach that threatens all life on Thedas. Of course, in order to do this, you’ll have to get distracted by countless side quests and potential romantic relations. If nothing else, it’ll keep you occupied for hundreds of hours, so that’s something.
17. Forza Horizon 4
Developer: Playground Games, Turn 10 Studios Publisher: Xbox Game Studios Single/multiplayer: Both
You’d think that racing games and open worlds would be something of a match made in hell, but there’s two on this list and if Need For Speed Underground 2 was available on the Xbox One, there’d be three. Anyway, Forza Horizon 4 is not only a brilliant racing game, but a fantastic open world game too.
Featuring a pretty faithful recreation of rural Great Britain, including the Lake District and Scotland, Forza Horizon 4’s world is just drop dead gorgeous to look at. With a huge amount of collectibles, plenty of events and modes to engage, and the changing seasons providing four different versions of the UK, FH4 is genuinely one of the best Xbox One games on the market.
16. Watch Dogs 2
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal Publisher: Ubisoft Single/multiplayer: Both
If Ubisoft are good at anything, it’s creating open worlds. Sure, some of them might be filled with map-unlocking towers and weird collectibles, but they’re brilliant sandboxes all the same. Expect to see a few of them make some appearances on this list, but for now, let’s talk about Watch Dogs 2, a fantastic open world hack-a-thon that improves on the first game in a number of ways.
While the first Watch Dogs had the weight of an impressive E3 showcase tied around its neck, dragging down a final product that couldn’t meet the hype, Watch Dogs 2 worked on improving the core experience in a number of ways. There’s more items to hack and interact with, more varied mission types and just a generally more fun vibe than the first game’s incredibly serious tone. It’s well worth checking out.
15. Far Cry 3 Classic Edition
Developer: Ubisoft Publisher: Ubisoft Single/multiplayer: Single Player
You can argue as much as you like about which Far Cry game is the best, or which one offers the best open world, but for our money, you can’t get much better than Far Cry 3. It was the entry that defined the series going forward, with subsequent games trying their hardest to emulate the same formula of sandbox shenanigans with charismatic villains.
Far Cry 3’s storyline and characters elevate it above many open world games on the market, but it’s the core gameplay that makes it such a standout title. The third entry perfected the open-ended approach to taking down encampments, allowing for methods such as stealth, subterfuge, animal ambushes and all-out carnage.
14. Sea of Thieves
Developer: Rare Publisher: Xbox Game Studios Single/multiplayer: Multiplayer
There are few things more open in the world than the open ocean, so it makes sense that Sea of Thieves would end up on this list. Rare’s pirate simulator, Sea of Thieves lets up to four players team up to try and tame the high seas, come hell or high water. Well, come skeleton armies or high water, anyway.
With a host of content updates since the game’s launch, adding more structured missions and activities for your friends to undertake, Sea of Thieves is a more well-rounded experience now. Still, there’s no thrill like charging headlong into battle against another pirate crew only for both ships to end up sinking, scuppering both your plans.
13. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Developer: Kojima Productions Publisher: Konami Single/multiplayer: Single Player (the online mode was crap)
Is it just me who still thinks it’s a little bit odd for a series known for traditional stealth games to drop a title that could be considered a brilliant open world title? In fairness, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a huge departure from the series as a whole, dropping scripted stealth sequences and infiltrations for more open-ended exploration, allowing you to approach situations in a variety of ways.
With a wide array of gadgets, weapons and other tools to utilise, Metal Gear Solid V is a wonderful open world experience, and we’re not just saying that because Snake has a rocket arm that you can pilot to knock people out. It certainly adds to the game’s value, but it’s not the only reason.
12. Just Cause 4
Developer: Avalanche Studios Publisher: Square Enix Single/multiplayer: Single Player
If open world games can be described as sandbox games, Just Cause 3 is the product of throwing a grenade into a sandbox and seeing what happens. The series started out as a late sixth generation/early seventh generation title with ambition that exceeded then-current console capabilities. Future instalments have allowed for the hardware to catch up, culminating in the most recent entry Just Cause 4.
As Rico Rodriguez, it’s on you to enter countries run by hostile dictators and overthrow their government by any means necessary. Those means could include taking out vital points of interest, like supply depots and fueling stations, or it could be by grappling a guard to the back of a jet and watching him flail around while you break the sound barrier.
Developer: Mojang, 4J Studios Publisher: Xbox Game Studios Single/multiplayer: Both
For some, open world games are at their best when they introduce elements of survival and crafting into the mix, and for that, there’s no game better than Minecraft. The block based sensation that’s still drawing in millions of players, Minecraft is an institution at this point, and is one of the best open world games on the Xbox, or any other platform.
In order to survive, you’ll need to acquire resources and create shelter, tools and weapons to deal with the hordes of monsters roaming the landscape. Crafting tools allows you to grab more valuable resources to create more effective tools, and so on and so on until you realise you’ve spent 50 hours gathering enough cobblestone to make a giant statue of The Doomslayer. Time well spent, I’d say.
10. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Developer: Ubisoft Publisher: Ubisoft Single/multiplayer: Single Player
The Assassin’s Creed games are a brilliant way of exploring a massive open world while also experiencing a slice of history. While the previous games are more focused on combat, Origins and, arguably the series pinnacle, Odyssey, feature expansive maps filled with quests, NPCs to talk to and history to discover.
In Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, you play as either Kassandra and Alexios as you wander around Ancient Greece, fighting and romancing your way through the world. Even without the expansive DLC, Odyssey has enough content to keep you going for hundreds of hours, and at least one of them will be spent climbing a huge statue’s penis.
9. Saints Row: The Third – Remastered
Developer: Volition Publisher: Deep Silver Single/multiplayer: Both
When it comes to zany open world experiences, you can’t get much more maniacal than the Saints Row series. While it might have spawned as a GTA clone of sorts, with the first two games playing a little more like your generic crime sandboxes, Saints Row: The Third was a bold step out from the shadow of a genre goliath.
Saints Row: The Third is an erratic game, with each mission and activity seemingly offering something new. Within the space of half an hour, you could go from committing insurance fraud, fighting off zombies and punching cops in the crotch. The game moves at a breakneck pace, but it makes for an incredibly enjoyable game, arguably the best in the series. Saints Row 4 went a little bit too “out there” at times.
Yes, I will die on this hill.
8. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition
Developer: Bethesda Publisher: Bethesda Single/multiplayer: Single Player
While we wait for Todd Howard to drunkenly stumble out to declare that Skyrim will be ported to the Xbox Series X and PS5, we may as well take some time celebrating the fact that it’s one of the best open world games ever made. The Elder Scrolls series has always been popular, but Skyrim could easily be considered a cultural touchstone.
In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you control the Dragonborn, a prophesied hero who will save the land from a terrifying resurgence of dragons. That’s the theory, anyway. In practice, you’ll get distracted joining the various guilds, or by leading people up the mountains before “Fus Ro Dah’ing” them off a ledge. It never gets old.
7. Dying Light
Developer: Techland Publisher: Techland Single/multiplayer: Both
Depending on your opinions, the presence of zombies in your open world games is either a benefit or a detriment, so if you’re in the former camp, Dying Light is just the game for you. With support for up to four players, you can roam around the city of Harran, slicing up zombies to your heart’s content. Well, until the sun goes down anyway. That’s when things get a bit more dicey for you.
While the idea of battering zombies with your mates is tantalising enough on its own, Dying Light comes into its own with how you can interact with the open world, as its parkour elements rival that of Mirror’s Edge. Players can scale rooftops to escape from the zombies hordes, and the grappling hook is one of the most fun traversal tools in gaming.
6. Bully: Scholarship Edition
Developer: Rockstar Publisher: Rockstar Single/multiplayer: Both (multiplayer for minigames)
Most third or first person open world games are usually tied to a storyline with high stakes and plenty of action, so sometimes it’s nice to play an open world game that follows the same gameplay tropes, but is much more innocent in its approach. Bully: Scholarship Edition is that game, and it still holds up as one of Rockstar’s finest games.
Taking place in and around a high school, you control Jimmy Hopkins as he attempts to navigate the various social circles that occupy Bullworth Academy. You can either get your head down, taking part in classes to try and improve your skills, or you could start stuffing everyone into bins and lockers. Both are equally valid.
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio Publisher: SEGA Single/multiplayer: Both (multiplayer for minigames)
Yakuza 0’s open world might be a bit smaller than most. In fact, it’s arguably the smallest on this list, but it’s one of the most uniquely engaging worlds to explore, ever. Whether that’s due to the constant distractions, the life-like depiction of Japanese culture or the hapless goons waiting on every street for you to batter, Yakuza 0 is a wonderful open world game.
Despite the fictional locations of Kamurocho and Sotenbori being a couple of city blocks in size, they’re positively crammed with content. From restaurants and bars to underground fight clubs, arcades and a manageable nightclub, there’s so much to discover in Yakuza 0, and that’s before you take on the 100 substories.
4. Grand Theft Auto V
Developer: Rockstar Publisher: Rockstar Single/multiplayer: Both
It wouldn’t be an open world list without placing Grand Theft Auto V somewhere, and naturally it belongs near the top. Despite its age, it’s still one of the most played games currently, thanks in no small part to the constant updates that GTA Online has received since launch. Seriously. For new players, GTA Online can be a bit daunting.
While we talk about the benefits of GTA Online mode, when you’re not being targeted by orbital strikes anyway, the single-player offering is still remarkable. A wonderful blend of humour and drama with varied missions and climactic heists, GTA V is still just as worth playing now as it was when it launched. Clearly Sony and Microsoft think so too, as they’re bringing the game to next-gen to boot.
3. Fallout: New Vegas
Developer: Obsidian Publisher: Bethesda Single/multiplayer: Single Player
Alright, you can argue for yourself which Fallout game you’d rather see in this slot, whether it’s Fallout 3, Fallout 4 or Fallout 76, but for us, New Vegas is the best Fallout game ever made. Obsidian’s take on the popular post-apocalyptic might be a decade old at this point, but its approach to gameplay, setting and story are the best the series has ever been.
As The Courier, you have to explore the Mojave Wasteland, interacting with the various factions and characters that occupy the ruins of Nevada. With plenty of quests to complete, along with some huge expansions, Fallout: New Vegas is the series at its pinnacle, though if you’d rather switch New Vegas out for The Outer Worlds, that’s cool too.
2. Red Dead Redemption 2
Developer: Rockstar Publisher: Rockstar Single/multiplayer: Both
People might argue about this statement, but Red Dead Redemption 2 is Rockstar’s best ever open world game, and a milestone achievement for the current console generation. While it’s already been announced that GTA V will make the leap to next-gen, it wouldn’t be surprising to see RDR 2 do the same. Not for Red Dead Online though, purely because we’d like to experience Arthur’s journey once again with much better graphics.
The narrative of RDR 2 is one of the most heart-wrenching and emotional plots ever committed to gaming, and is worth recommending to anyone with even a passing interest in games. On top of that, the game’s depiction of the Wild West in its dying stages is crammed with people to meet and stuff to do, meaning you’ll often be sidetracked when trying to complete the story.
If you haven’t played Red Dead Redemption 2 yet, consider this your kick up the backside to do so.
1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Developer: CD Projekt Red Publisher: CD Projekt Red Single/multiplayer: Single Player
Geralt’s adventure has often been heralded as the best game of the current generation, and it’s not hard to see why. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt contains all the features a game needs to truly succeed, with an engaging storyline and characters, fun gameplay and brilliant open world that just begs to be explored.
Discovering quests in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt never gets old, as you can very quickly go from finding a pan for an old lady to hunting down a dangerous beast in the space of about five minutes. It’s all in a day’s work for a Witcher, and when all’s said and done, you can simply relax, head to the nearest Tavern and play a game or 20 of Gwent.
Honestly, it’s impressive how CD Projekt Red created the best open world RPG possible, and it’s an accompaniment to a damn card game.
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