I’ve put together an “in no particular order” list article. I’ve done this because I’m a glutton for punishment, particularly at the hands of video game fans, waiting in the wings ready to verbally shiv me to death with their +1 daggers. On today’s menu, we have the greatest open-world games that I have ever sunk an inordinate amount of time into, just to discover every facet of an obscure piece of lore. There are almost certainly games that would be added on to this list, like The Witcher 3 and Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but I simply haven’t played them enough to justify their inclusion. So, with that being said, and as I take cover behind this handily placed wall, let us begin.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins
The newest entry on this list, Assassin’s Creed: Origins was somewhat of a surprise for me. As a huge history nerd the series has always appealed because of its expansive renditions of bygone eras, but it was Origins that took this to the next level. Adopting a more RPG-type feel, the game allows us to play as Bayek, traversing the sands of Ptolemaic Egypt and saving its citizens from the tyranny of an oppressive regime. What makes the world of Origins so great is that I can’t think of a title with a similar setting that has been executed so well. The dunes feel huge and difficult to navigate, and popping over the top of one to discover a pretty incredible view of the surrounding lands offers a feeling one rarely rarely comes across in gaming.
Fallout: New Vegas
The first entry on this list from everyone’s favourite post-apocalyptic “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT OVER THERE” simulator, Fallout: New Vegas took us to the Mojave for a lad’s holiday like no other. If you don’t mind your strippers with chunks of flesh missing and your roulette tables covered in dirt, then this is the Las Vegas experience you’ve been waiting for. From the gaudy advertisements to the inhospitable countryside, the devil is in the detail with this one, delivering an experience that is exactly as you imagine it would be, even if you were somehow going into the game cold.
Often lauded as the most successful video game of all time (with the possible exception of World of Warcraft, see below), GTA V really is a remarkable achievement. With a bustling, complex open-world that still throws up surprises for to this day, it’s the satirical take on modern society that makes this one of the most absurd, and yet relatable worlds out there. I won’t bang on because everyone on the planet has played it, but you get the picture.
World of Warcraft
The MMORPG equivalent of The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak (up until about 4 years ago), World of Warcraft is the game that continues to defy the trend and remain perpetually popular. The world of Azeroth is so vast and packed with stuff that innumerable players who were there from the very beginning remain, just to explore every inch of it. Regular updates and expansions keep the game fresh but there may well be no other game as notorious as WoW for taking sizeable portions of its player’s lives away from them.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Bethesda makes another appearance on the list and this one was tough to pick over the third entry in the series, Morrowind. The reason I went for Oblivion over the aforementioned third iteration is because the world contained therein feels deeper and more rich in the lore laid out in the series, for me at least. That being said, if you’ve somehow missed either of these two then they are both worth an extended play-through.
Just Cause 3
All of the games in the Just Cause series are great, but it’s three that gets the nod for this article because its world is bigger, and more bonkers, than any that came before. With the ability to alter almost any man-made feature on the map, and by alter I mean blow up in ever more amusing ways, this one is an absolute must for any open world junkies out there.
Mount and Blade: Warband
This game brings to life the medieval era and allows players to build their own fortunes from the very bottom. The way this action-RPG is set up will allow you to travel across it frequently, whether to recruit men, complete tasks or gather supplies. This isn’t the most interesting open-world on the list, but the mechanics behind how everything works are pretty flawless, making for an unbelievable foray into the world of swords and chivalry.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
The second and final entry for any hidden dagger enthusiasts amongst you, Black Flag contains some of the best written and most intriguing characters in any of the Creed games. Where this one really comes alive, however, is in the charming locales of some of the major in-game islands and the ability to traverse the titles vast open oceans freely. Both land and sea are packed with features and mini-games meaning this one will keep surprising you long after you first set sail.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The land of Dragons and Draugr’s is an unmissable experience for any RPG buff looking for a complete journey into the land of fantasy. Building on the success of the previous games in the series, this one is not short of a few bugs, but it doesn’t really detract from what is a pretty great experience overall. The very active modding community only serves to extend the games longevity and keep the world of Skyrim feeling as fresh as the day the Imperial Legion first tried to execute you.
Red Dead Redemption
You may be noticing a trend amongst the developers of a lot of the games on this list, as Rockstar make another appearance. This time we are taken back to the death throes of the Old West, following the perpetually grumpy, and yet hugely likeable, John Marston as he navigates the treacherous end of an era. The Wild West setting is captured beautifully and it won’t be long before you find yourself pining for the warm embrace of an errant tumbleweed. With the second game coming soon, it might be a good time to take a look at where it all began.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl
One of the lesser known, but still very much appreciated, games on this list, Stalker offers players the post-apocalyptic experience turned up to 11. Set in an alternate reality where Chernobyl has somehow exploded for a second time, the sheer amounts of things that can kill you make this world so nerve fraying that you won’t know whether to boot the game back up or go outside and stand on the edge of an endless precipice. Both are equally terrifying.
Far Cry 3
It was difficult to pick which entry in the Far Cry series was most deserving of a spot on this list, but it was 3 which really raised the bar. The lush jungle terrain and long sandy beaches make this world one of the few that are firmly rooted in a modern reality. The ability to explore it in a variety of vehicles doesn’t hurt either, as you attempt to undo the maniacal machinations of Vaas Montenegro and the wider goals of even his masters.
The Capital Wasteland is where the 3D open-world Fallout saga began and, whilst it hasn’t aged brilliantly, it is still chock full of things to do and people to meet. Massive real world landmarks add to the immersion with the deep lore in each location offering players hours and hours of content to get stuck in to. Most are divided on whether Fallout 3 is as good as critics say it is, with many preferring the aforementioned New Vegas, but for me this still holds up as an excellent game in its own right.
Batman: Arkham City
The only superhero entry on the list, as it seems we’re going to be waiting on Rocksteady’s Superman until the end of time, Arkham City does a fantastic job of bringing DC’s most famous hero to life. With neon lighting the order of the day, and a host of locations from the comic books, this builds on the foundations laid out in Arkham Asylum by expanding them into a much wider setting. The comic book aficionados in your number will most likely have already played this one, but it stands as a brilliant game for the more casual fan of chunky fighting games and great storylines.
So there you have it. I’m currently working my way through MGSV: Phantom Pain and, with the way things are currently going, that will be making its way on to an updated version of this list at a later date. Sound off in the comments below with any you would like to see on this list and I’ll be sure to give it a go when I get the chance.