In 2018, the best open world games are the gifts that keep on giving – and they’re not going anywhere. And, even if you’re starting to feel that open-world fatigue (we all do, from time to time), they’re not going anywhere. Even game franchises that used to be linear experiences are embracing the open world – just look at The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Given the success that these open-world-converts have been enjoying, we can see why the best open world games continue to proliferate.
That’s not to mention the franchises that have been open world for years. Games like Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Grand Theft Auto V are the pedigrees of open world game design. There are even plenty of indie games that have adopted the open-world sensation.
However, because the best open world games are so plentiful, and demand so much time, it’s important to find the best of the best. Luckily, we here at TechRadar have put in the time to find the best open world games, and we’ve picked out some of our favorites. So, read on to find the best open world games you can buy today.
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article
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I mean, you know what this is about. There isn't a gamer reading this today who isn't aware that Minecraft consists of; exploration and crafting in a blocky, bright 8-bit world. And when night falls or when you go deep underground, monsters come out… and that's not just on the multiplayer servers.
Though it's now on every last platform going, from iOS to Linux and even to Amiga, its fundamentals are the same – a large open world to explore, with no purpose beyond the one you which you create yourself. If you want to create a moving replica of Mark Hamill's face or the hanging gardens of Babylon or just a suburban house built exclusively of dynamite, Minecraft can do it.
If you're bored of Minecraft, you're bored of life. But if you really are bored (of Minecraft and/or life), either try the 2D Minecraft Terraria, its sci-fi sibling Starbound or wait for Subnautica. They're lifesavers.
Sure, Fallout 4 is the latest Fallout title, but New Vegas is the best of the series. It brought back the weirdness and smarts of the original titles to post-apocalyptic Las Vegas – maybe it’s because many of the team members of developer Obsidian worked on Fallout 2.
The series always drops the player in an open world wasteland, where you must fight and talk to survive, often exploring the bizarre vaults beneath the desert or battling the mutated creatures that scrape by. Its combat system called VATS is divisive (i.e most people think it's rubbish), but it introduces tactical flexibility to an otherwise brutally-hard game.
In Fallout: New Vegas, you play as an anonymous Courier. Left for dead, you roam the strange wastes around Arizona, Nevada and California, hunting for your killer, or exploring weird side quests. Turning on the hardcore game mode also means that food, water and sleep are essential, making it into a classic open world survival game, like S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
The first two titles in the Witcher trilogy were compelling and strange, but only enjoyed minor success. However, all the word of mouth about the first two games paid off when the Witcher 3 came out and absolutely blew up. It was a massive step up in quality, as well, and probably one of the best RPGs of the last decade. You step in the role of Geralt a mutated monster hunter, or witcher, searching for his adoptive daughter in a medieval world ravaged by war.
The open world setting of the game is uniquely well-realized, completely blowing something like Skyrim away. Geralt can walk, ride, or sail across the war-ravaged lands of Novigrad and Velen, or sail across the monster-riddled and frost-ridden islands of Skellige in the North. He can forage for herbs, explore under the seas or the back alleys of cities, and encounter all kinds of folk and creatures.
And the other elements of the game are spectacularly polished as well – limber, agile combat, a deep levelling system, and a storyline with some unusually-smart storylines.
Grand Theft Auto V is simply one of the best open world games to have ever existed. It’s a huge pastiche of L.A that you can drive, fly or run across. It’s an amazing achievement and the fact that it works in multiplayer is astounding.
What makes it such a success is the freedom it gives you. When you’re not running around and robbing banks during the campaign, GTA V basically lets you do whatever you want – even if it breaks the game. You can go anywhere, do anything and commit however many atrocities as your wicked heart pleases.
There are also a ton of side activities available. So, in your downtime from creating all kinds of mayhem, you can take up some tennis, yoga, or even kick your feet up and watch some TV. There’s a reason this game is so beloved.
The plot may have made less sense than a mumbling monkey with a mouthful of marbles, but Hideo Kojima's swansong was a masterpiece of layered open world mechanics.
In the twin deserts of Afghanistan and Angola, Big Boss, or Venom Snake, has a range of objectives to achieve. He traverses the areas on foot, horseback, or in a variety of ground vehicles. You can take either lethal or non-lethal weapons, and a variety of AI companions.
The world itself is believably bleak, weather-torn and heavily-guarded. Uniquely, it learns from your behaviour – overuse a particular tactic, and enemies will adapt. For example, rely too much on headshots and they'll start to wear metal helmets.
Away from the frontline, you can develop Mother Base by building new facilities and airlifting enemy soldiers, prisoners, resources, vehicles, animals and anything else you want to from the battlefield to beef up your armory.
Bethesda has made a name for itself over the last couple of decades for making some of the best open world games, and Fallout 4 is a fantastic example of why. You’ll be able to traverse a post-apocalyptic Boston, where you’ll explore the ruins of the city in all it’s retro-futuristic glory.
While the plot ultimately revolves around rescuing your child from their kidnappers, you’ll ultimately forget about it altogether as you do side missions and plunder a ton of loot from super mutants and bandits.
And, even once you get everything done (if you ever get everything done), Bethesda’s games have a tendency to be immensely replayable thanks to the way different character builds can interact with the world around you.
When Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor released way back in 2014, it was praised for its portrayal of Tolkien’s Mordor, alongside with its unique nemesis system. The sequel, Middle Earth: Shadow of War takes this concept and turns it up to 11, setting you loose in the last human stronghold in Mordor – and is thus one of the best open world games you can play in 2018.
And, especially after the removal of the microtransactions that plagued the game at launch, the Nemesis system still feels fresh, and the combat is just as good as ever, with a wealth of new skills that you can unlock during its lengthy campaign.
Later on in the game, it will start introducing some RTS elements as you command an army of dominated orcs to retake and hold different strongholds. The Middle Earth series has shown some real innovation, and we can’t wait to see what Monolith Studios will be capable of in the future.
Last year, Ubisoft took one of the most venerated squad-based shooter series in its arsenal, Ghost Recon, and turned it into an open-world delight. You’re set loose in Bolivia, and you’re tasked with taking down a drug cartel that has taken power over the region. You’re then free to pursue this goal however you feel like.
Ghost Recon Wildlands may be one of the best open world games when you’re playing by yourself, but where it really shines is when you’re playing with friends. This is because Ghost Recon, at its very core, has always been a tactical shooter that’s built around working with a team of AI companions. So, naturally, when you team up with your friends, this gameplay is elevated to another level entirely.
Just keep in mind that this game is gorgeous, and demands a pretty beefy setup to run properly, so make sure you keep an eye on those system requirements.
Far Cry 5 might just be a benchmark of what the best open world games on PC will look like in 2018. Far Cry 5 is unique in the fact that it allows you to truly go anywhere on the map – and do anything. And, it doesn’t water this freedom down by limiting the amount of space you have open to you either, it’s perhaps one of the biggest game maps we’ve ever experienced.
You’re dropped into the middle of the Montana wilderness, and while it does feature a loosely connected plot involving cultists or something, that all falls into the background as you wander around and get lost in the massive world Ubisoft crafted here. We still haven’t ‘finished’ this game, but we don’t think you’re supposed to.
Now that a ton of Yakuza games are coming to PC, PC gamers can finally experience the insanity that is so unique to the Yakuza series.
Yakuza 0’s map isn’t as capacious as some of the other games on this list, but it is dense with activities. Everywhere you turn either has a mini game, a side quest, or some other kind of content that you can interact with. If you’ve never played a Yakuza game, do yourself a favor and try Yakuza 0 on for size – it’s unlike anything else you’ve ever played, we promise.
Where to begin with Assassin's Creed Origins? Have you ever wanted to explore Ancient Egypt, from Memphis, along the Nile to the steps of the Library of Alexandria? We think 'yes' is a safe assumption to make.
This is the most truly open world game ever released in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, and it’s beautiful, deep and completely alive. There’s so much to see and do while you traverse a country that’s been created with an incredible attention to detail by the Ubisoft team. And, with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on the horizon, there’s never been a better time to jump into this historical fantasy franchise.