Recent years are the prime time for open-world video games. Every now and then we would catch wind of a video game project that promises vast open worlds with beautiful, lively landscapes, innumerable of sights to explore and things to do, as well as lively inhabitants that you can interact with on the virtual journey. A good open-world video game, from my experience, can get you hooked for countless hours on end.
However, the massive scale of open-world games can be both a strong suit and a fatal weakness. The good thing is that with a massive map in hand that sometimes could take hours to traverse from one end to another you could get an incredibly immersive and satisfying experience of exploring a previously unknown world. Adding that up with good and well-focused gameplay and that game will almost certainly become a hit by giving the players not only enhanced immersion but also greater replay-ability values as well. Sometimes the graphical engine and the details added into an open map by the developers can make your jaws drop. To celebrate this spirit, here are ten of the greatest, biggest, and most realistic open-world games to ever come to the market.
No Man’s Sky
When the game first launched it was considered as a complete disaster and irrecoverable wreckage. The game was missing features left and right as well as its state being riddled with bugs and glitches didn’t help much in its critical reception, either. In fact, the omission of the feature was so great that the game straight out didn’t have a multiplayer mode when it first launched.
However, through the years the developer - Hello Games - had made up for their shortcomings and gradually fixed up the game. First with the addition of a multiplayer mode, then they brought several key features that they promised in the beginning and then some newer ones to the game. If you were to have both versions of the game when it first came out and as it is right now, the differences are staggering.
The best thing about the game though is definitely the open-world exploration. The scale of the game is so cosmically (Pun intended) great that it’s outright impossible to completely traverse the game in its entirety. Going from a star system to another is an extremely fun experience in No Man’s Sky and until this date, the game still has one of the most realistic interplanetary travel mechanisms to ever be featured in a video game.
Grand Theft Auto V
When it comes to open-world no one does it better than Grand Theft Auto.
As a matter of fact, every modern open-world video games will have to give credits to Grand Theft Auto for being the first to kickstart the open-world design trend with iconic classics like Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City. But the franchise simply blew all of the other games of the genre out of the water when GTA V came out.
As someone who has played through the game before, I can say with absolute certainty that Los Santos has the kind of detailed sophistication, detail-rich design, and a degree of polish so high that one area of the map can keep you occupied for hours. The game’s the most realistic GTA Rockstar Games has ever produced and since the game’s been out for quite some time now you can definitely find it for cheap at some points. The cars, the people, and even the locations are fictional, they’re actually based extensively on the real world. For a game that’s all about jacking people’s cars, Rockstar has outdone itself as always.
Fallout 4 is a pretty questionable piece even in its own fanbase. There’s a part of the community that liked the narrative-focused approach of earlier games better (Fallout 3, New Vegas). And there’s a part that wholeheartedly embraced the new changes. But no matter the arguments surrounding the game you cannot argue that it indeed has a pretty vibrant and expansive post-apocalyptic open-world packed inside.
In the game, a major tool that you’ll be using throughout your entire journey is the arm-mounted Pip-Boy personal computer. The map function will be of great use to your expedition through the wasteland, exploring the remnants of the Old World before the nuclear holocaust, and of course, peeling back the dark stories behind the sometimes whimsical game.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Though many people are saying that Assassin’s Creed franchise is getting a little bland after ten releases over the years, Ubisoft still continued to surprise us with the latest release being Odyssey. If you’re unfamiliar with the premise of the game, the plotline heavily revolves around an Animus: A high-tech simulation device that can access a person’s genetic memory to relive the memories and experiences of their ancestors.
Odyssey started during the Peloponnesian War in Ancient Greece. Though the revised gameplay is still a hotly debated change, one thing for sure is that the game offers a greater, more vibrant, and diverse world than any other Assassin’s Creed game that came before. Dialogues are done well and characters got distinct flairs from one another, Odyssey is definitely an open-world game that would be worth diving into if you haven’t done so yet.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
As an exclusive on PS4, the game’s probably one of the most easily recognizable games on the console. The thing that makes it stand out the most is the world in-game: Characterised by robotic animals and dinosaurs roaming and running amok on majestic fields and plains in a world where humanity had long ago descended into the apocalypse and reverted back to their primitive past.
The protagonist of the game, Aloy, found herself on a dangerous journey to defeat the Machines and thwart a plan to once more wipe the Earth of humanity for good. From the screenshots alone, it’s not difficult to see that the game’s definitely one of the more visually stunning games to be released on the PS4 that took the fullest advantage of the powerful hardware packed inside. The game can still surprise even recurrent players and that’s the reason why I think that if you have a PS4, don’t hesitate to grab the game. You’ll be in for quite a ride.
Forza Horizon 4
Forza Horizon is a well-known series in the racing circle right there next to Need For Speed. But Forza Horizon 4 under the hands of Turn 10 Studios managed to turn into quite a masterpiece with a new open-world system. Packaging that alongside an expanded lineup of new vehicles, dynamic weather, better driving mechanics, and an eye-popping graphical engine and you got a more or less perfect racing game in your hands. Though Forza Horizon 4 is set in a fictional land, the majority of its sceneries are inspired by real-world sights in Great Britain. No other games before could quite match the way Forza Horizon 4 looks and if you’re a fan of the racing genre then definitely check this one out.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
If there’s a game that’s made by Hideo Kojima then you cannot go wrong buying it. Metal Gear Solid V is a departure from the linear way that stories were narrated in the past Metal Gear games. In the fifth game, instead of having a focused storyline, the plot is scattered all throughout the big open world of the two major maps that Venom Snake can gallivant in: Afghanistan and Central Africa. Open world has never been a thing for the Metal Gear series so some veteran players were disgruntled since it felt like the stories suffered under the open-world treatment.
Nonetheless, the game came out as a masterpiece with realism, graphical prowess, and pure fun substantial enough to warrant it as an overwhelming success by critics. If you’re looking for the ‘Tactical Espionage’ atmosphere and realism, do not miss out on MGS V.
One thing about games adapted from superheroes is that those game developers rarely managed to do it just right. Spider-Man was one of the few exceptions to that rule first of with the massive open-world environment of Peter Parker’s hometown - New York City - fully rendered and wide open for the players to freely explore. Such are the details of New York in Spider-Man that it’s quite possibly the best video game representation of the game I have ever seen. Touring around landmarks like the Empire State and Central Park felt like you were actually there instead of viewing it all through a TV or computer screen.
There are a lot of things that future generations of open-world games can learn from Spider-Man: Making the world so vibrant and breathtakingly beautiful that for most players even though they were presented with the ability to fast travel many prefer to cross the map the ordinary way to take in the fullest splendor of the Big Apple. It’s a brilliant exclusive to the already rich game ecosystem of the PS4.
Watch Dogs 2
Many call Watch Dogs out for being a carbon copy of GTA. I beg to differ. Yeah, the open world is there and you can also beat people up and drag them out of their cars. But that’s about all of the similarities between the two games. Watch Dogs 2 (And even the first Watch Dogs) allow the players to control the environment around them through technology. You can change the color of the traffic lights with one button, you can open locked doors and gates, tap into surveillance cameras, listening in to people’s conversations on the phone, and even disable their phones altogether.
Aside from the hackings, Watch Dogs 2 got the realism down pretty well. One of the better games that Ubisoft had made in the last few years that’s gone by relatively unnoticed.
Red Dead Redemption 2
And now to the prime game of the open-world genre. Red Dead Redemption 2 has got to be one of the most excellent open-world game to ever be released in the modern era of gaming. After all, the game sold a record-breaking 15 million copies in just about a week after it was released. The game’s storyline was set in the lawlessness of the United States’ Western Frontier in 1899. The world is incredibly rich in detail and visually breathtaking. The developers did their fair share of incentivizing players to explore the vast in-game world through side quests.
Visiting towns and the island of Guarma got a certain thrill and a sense of wide-eyed wonder to it all that you’d absolutely be hooked onto the game for a while.
RDR2 won hand down the title of being the most realistic open-world game out there. Interested in more of our RPG related top lists? Please check out this list for all the RPGs published by Bethesda.