[Top 15] Best Open World Games to Play Today

best open world games
A wide open world: Link surveys the land of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

What are the best open world games to play today?

Open world games have swept the industry as one of the most popular gaming genres, and it’s easy to see why. Open world games offer massive game worlds to explore and tons of activities to participate in, and this translates into hundreds of hours of gaming entertainment. But with so many open world games on the market, it can be hard to choose which one to spend your hard-earned cash on. That’s where this guide comes in.

Here are the 15 best Open World games you can play today:

15. Sea of Thieves (PC, XBO)

In Sea of Thieves, work with (or against) your friends to sail the high seas and live the life of a pirate. Explore a vast sea filled with islands to plunder. Follow treasure maps and seek out buried riches. Fight other players in exciting ship versus ship combat, or just jam out on the beach with your pirate instruments.

Sea of Thieves didn’t offer a lot for players to do when it came out back in 2018, but Xbox Games Studios has been releasing near-constant updates to the game, and it’s grown in popularity since then. In fact, as of January 2020, Sea of Thieves boasts over 10 million players, which means you’ll have plenty of people to form a crew with, and even more people to go attack with your pirate ship. 

The ship mechanics are definitely where Sea of Thieves shines the most. Just like in real life, you’ll have to work together with your crew to man the different stations on your ship. Communication becomes extremely important once you set sail. The main sail on most ships will block your line of sight if you’re manning the ship’s wheel, which means you’ll be reliant on another player in your crew to help you navigate. The game basically forces cooperation on you if you want to succeed, and I personally love it when games focus on teamwork.

But don’t worry if you love PVP. There’s plenty of fighting to be done with other players, both on land, on the decks of your ships, or staring across the waves, cannons blazing.

Ahoy, me maties: Ship combat in Sea of Thieves is frantic and exciting.

14. The Elder Scrolls V: Skryim SE (PC, PS4, XBO, Nintendo Switch)

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim gameplay

The Elder Scrolls series is the grandaddy of all open world RPGs. Bethesda redefined the fantasy genre with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind way back in 2002 (I built a gaming PC just to play it) and they’ve been improving ever since. In the fifth entry to the series, you'll explore the vast, frozen mountains of Skyrim, land of the mighty Nords. The main story will have you travelling all across the map, hunting powerful dragons that act like boss fights.

Skyrim is huge. There are literally hundreds of areas to explore, including a vast, connected underground area called Blackreach. Dozens of weapons and armor sets, deep crafting systems, and hundreds of hours of sidequests mean that even though this game was released in 2011, there is always something new to find. The vast array of skills means that you can take a completely different approach with every playthrough.

If all that wasn’t enough, the Special Edition of the game allows for mods on consoles, which is as rare as it is awesome. If you haven’t tried playing Skyrim with mods, I highly recommend you go back and check it out. I have several mods running on my copy and it feels like a whole new game.

A living world: The environments and cities of Skyrim feel natural and alive.

13. Horizon Zero Dawn (PC, PS4)

Horizon: Zero Dawn gameplay

In Horizon Zero Dawn, you play a human hunter in a world overrun with deadly machines, but instead of a Terminator-style army of robots, you’ll be facing an entire ecosystem of mechanical animals. The world has been almost completely retaken by plant life, and the player has a large map filled with sections of lush jungles, dense forests, massive deserts, and snowy mountains. Mankind has been reverted back to a tribal society, and you play Aloy, a hunter outcast from one of these tribes.

As Aloy, you’ll be exploring the world, meeting the major tribes, and hunting ever-larger robotic creatures. By the end of the story, you’ll learn the secrets of what happened to the Old World and where all these giant mechanical monsters came from. The game gives you a variety of traps to use to take down your prey, in addition to various types of arrows for Aloy’s bow. Aloy also has a spear that can hack certain enemies, turning them to the player’s side.

The larger creatures function as boss fights, and use a weak-point system of scanning the monster and then attacking it’s weak points. Aloy can also use stealth to take down her enemies. There are multiple skill trees to unlock which enhance Aloy’s abilities in various ways.

Horizon Zero Dawn really shines with it’s creature designs. The robotic animals look and act in ways that feel organic and realistic, despite the wild setting. Certain robots will travel in herds or even flocks, and every robotic animal feels like it serves some kind of purpose in the ecosystem. Guerilla Games (who also created the Killzone franchise) has managed to create a unique world that really feels alive.

Mechanical animals: Aloy prepares to fire her bow at a deadly robot.

12. Fallout 4 (PC, PS4, XBO)

Fallout 4 gameplay

Fallout 4 takes the post-apocalyptic world of the Fallout franchise and expands upon it with a huge map, improved gunplay, and a deep crafting and building system. Set 210 years after the Great War, Fallout 4 sends players through the wastes of Massachusetts and the ruins of Boston on a journey of rescue and revenge. Players will battle irradiated monsters, raiders, robotic synths, and more as they explore the remnants of the Pre-War world. 

There are several factions to interact with in the Commonwealth, and your decisions will ultimately decide which ones succeed and which ones go extinct. You can partner up with one of the game’s many NPC companions, or go it alone. Fallout 4 has a robust character creator and a variety of different Perks to unlock, which means you can build the type of character that suits your preferred playstyle. This also adds a lot to replayability. Playing the game as a power-armored soldier spewing automatic laser fire feels a lot different than playing the game as a stealthy melee fighter.

I really enjoy the crafting and base building mechanics of Fallout 4. These systems lead to a lot of emergent storytelling: suddenly, I’m not concerned with finding my son, because my main focus is finding some screws and duct tape so I can finish this next piece for my favorite gun. Building and defending your own settlements can be a lot of fun and almost becomes its own game. Also, if you don’t like crafting and building games, don’t worry: this stuff is completely optional.

Bolted together: This soldier’s armor fits in perfectly with the scrapped-together aesthetic of the Fallout universe.

11. No Man’s Sky (PC, PS4, XBO)

No Man's Sky gameplay

Technically, No Man’s Sky isn’t an open world game: It’s an open galaxy game. No Man’s Sky gives players a spaceship and a procedurally generated galaxy to explore. Your main goal is to explore planets, gather the resources you need to maintain and upgrade your exosuit and spaceship, and work your way towards the center of the galaxy. The procedural system means that there are over 18 quintillion unique planets to explore. Space flight is particularly fun because it lets you really feel the massive scope of the galaxy.

Every planet has its own ecosystem full of procedurally generated plant and animal life, all of which can be scanned and catalogued by the player. In addition to planets and moons, each star system has its own space station where the player can interact and trade with alien NPCs. You can designate a planet as your “home planet” and build a permanent base on it, or buy a freighter-class ship and use it as a space base. Eventually, you can assemble entire fleets of ships that you can send out on different missions.

When first launched in 2016, No Man’s Sky faced a lot of criticism for not having multiplayer, as well as a general lack of player activities. There just wasn’t much to do besides explore and harvest resources, but near constant updates since launch have added in full multiplayer, story missions, new biomes, and special locations like alien ruins and crashed freighters to find and explore. The absolutely massive size of the galaxy means that you could sink literally thousands of hours into No Man’s Sky with your friends and still not see everything.

Variety is the spice of life: This is just one of 18 quintillion worlds to discover. That’s a lot of planets!

10. The Elder Scrolls Online (PC, PS4, XBO)

The Elder Scrolls Online gameplay

Elder Scrolls Online takes the best of the Elder Scrolls series and redefines it as a massively multiplayer action RPG. Customize your character from one of ten races and explore new locations and familiar places across the continent of Tamriel as you battle the Daedric Prince Molag Bal to recover your stolen soul. Team up with friends, or fight them in PVP mode.

If you’re a fan of the Elder Scrolls franchise, then there’s a lot to love about ESO. The locations, items, and characters all feel firmly grounded in the world of Tamriel. Character customization is as deep as you’d expect from a Bethesda RPG. Explore iconic Elder Scrolls locations like Morrowind, Elsweyr, and the Summerset Isle. You can also delve into one of the many dungeons in the game in search of stronger enemies and better loot.

While many MMOs suffer from repetitive combat, the fighting in Elder Scrolls Online is actually exciting and fun. You really have to combine your weapon attacks with your special abilities and dodge rolls in order to stay alive and maximize your damage, and six character classes with branching skill trees means you can customize your character to the way you want to play. You can even become a werewolf or a vampire!

Here, kitty kitty: A sabrecat stalks a player as a friend moves in from behind.

9. Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4)

Marvel's Spider-Man gameplay

Marvel’s Spider-Man isn’t just a great open world game; many have called it the best superhero game ever made. In it, you’ll play the iconic superhero and guide him through the streets of New York City as you fight criminals and interact with other classic Marvel characters. Combat is quick and fluid, and focuses on using your web-slinging powers and the environment to take down your enemies.

Traversing the New York City skyline feels fantastic. Insomniac Games really nailed the web-slinging in a way that hasn’t really been done before. Every time you shoot out a web, it sticks to something that you can see, and Spider-Man spins and flips dynamically according to the situation. These things make the experience of travelling through the city as Spider-Man really immersive and fun.

The city itself looks great, too. The reflections on the sides of the many skyscrapers are very realistic, especially on a PS4 Pro. You can visit several real-world NYC places, such as the Empire State Building and Madison Square Garden, but also special Marvel locations like the Wakandan Embassy or the Avengers Tower, and you can tell that the developers spent the time and effort to faithfully recreate these iconic sites. If you’re looking to combine your love of comic books and video games, Marvel’s Spider-Man is the game for you.

Gotta fly: Traversing the city with Spider-Man’s webs is so much fun, you won’t want to use Fast Travel.

8. Monster Hunter: World (PC, PS4, XBO)

Monster Hunter: World gameplay

Monster Hunter: World takes the popular Monster Hunter handheld franchise and cranks it up to 11. Team up with your friends or battle solo against huge monsters in a variety of environments. Gather loot and craft new weapons and armor to help you in your quest to “study” these wild beasts by murdering them with a variety of melee weapons.

The combat in Monster Hunter: World is punishing and can be difficult if you are not used to this style of game. The player is rewarded for learning enemy attack patterns and timing their own strikes just right, and difficult combat like that feels incredibly rewarding when you manage to master it. Some of the larger monsters will really test your stamina as a gamer; many boss fights last over twenty minutes, but the satisfaction that you feel when you finally bring that giant t-rex down can’t be beat.

The environments in Monster Hunter: World are varied and detailed. Each area that you explore feels different from the last, and the monsters that you will encounter make sense for their respective biomes. There are over a dozen weapon types to choose from, and you can mix and match your armor pieces to really boost your chosen playstyle. Overall, Monster Hunter: World offers a uniquely challenging experience that sets it apart from other open world games.

Teamwork: Players work together to battle this Nargacuga in the forests of Monster Hunter: World.

7. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (PC, PS4, XBO)

Assassin's Creed: Odyssey gameplay

The latest in Ubisoft’s history-spanning saga, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey puts you in the boots of a Spartan mercenary as you cross blades with a deadly cult who wants to consume all of Greece in a massive war. Using your warship, you’ll sail to dozens of islands, levelling up your skills and dealing with mythological Greek monsters along the way.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey ramps up the RPG elements over precious AC games with things like branching skill trees, multiple dialogue choices, and romance options. There’s a lot to explore, both on land and at sea, and you’ll want to take the time to search out every nook and cranny to find all the hidden weapons and armor pieces. Legendary gear such as Poseidon’s Trident lies stashed away for keen-eyed players to find, and the sailing and ship combat mechanics are as solid and enjoyable as ever.

The AC franchise prides itself on accurately recreating the real world, and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is no exception. The attention to detail is fantastic and really shows off the graphical power of modern consoles and PCs. I may never get to travel to Greece in my lifetime, but I already feel like I’ve been there after playing AC Odyssey.

Death from above: Alexios leaps down on an unsuspecting guard, going for a quick kill.

6. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PC, PS4, XBO)

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain gameplay

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is Hideo Kojima’s final work with Konami, and it's absolutely the crowning achievement of the franchise. This game takes that trademarked stealth espionage action that the series is known for and expands it into an open world masterpiece. You’ll use a variety of gadgets and weapons to infiltrate enemy bases while also gathering resources and troops for Mother Base.

Metal Gear Solid V takes place in the desert of Afghanistan, and the map is almost dauntingly large. You are given total freedom with how you approach your objectives. Stealth is encouraged, of course, but you don’t feel punished for being discovered like you do in most stealth games. Gunplay is solid and responsive. The base management system allows to you unlock tons of new weapons, gadgets, and vehicle upgrades, as well as special abilities like airstrikes.

Metal Gear Solid V runs like a clock. It’s made up of many interconnected game systems, like a real-time day/night cycle and dynamic weather, and all of these systems work together to affect your game experience. If it’s dark and raining, you’re going to have an easier time sneaking, but you’re going to have a harder time aiming. Also, the things you prioritize when unlocking upgrades and gear at Mother Base will affect the tools you have to tackle your objectives. These systems mean that every encounter feels unique to your own individual war story.

Slow and steady: Venom Snake cautiously approaches an enemy encampment.

5. Minecraft (PC, PS4, XBO, Nintendo Switch)

Minecraft gameplay

Minecraft is the ultimate gathering and crafting experience. Since its debut in 2009, Minecraft has become the best-selling videogame of all time. It’s formula of exploring, gathering, crafting, and building has addicted millions of gamers of all ages, myself included. You can work alone or with friends to build anything you can imagine.

Minecraft offers unparalleled freedom to players. There are literally no limits on what you can build within the game. Aspiring teams of players have recreated entire cities and even a life-size replica of the Starship Enterprise. I’m happy with my treehouse and private lagoon waterfall, but my friends and I are also trying to build a tower to space to see how high we can get. In Survival Mode, you must gather resources from the procedurally generated world and fend off monsters at night. Creative Mode turns off the monsters and gives you unlimited resources to build with.

The recent Nether Update added in several new biomes to explore, monsters to fight, and blocks to gather and craft with. Between the exploration elements, multiplayer, and building, Minecraft can really provide whatever experience you want from it. For me, it’s a relaxing game world, and I love to jump in and enjoy my virtual hangout space after a long day.

Creativity unleashed: These temples are just one example of the things you can build in Minecraft.

4. Red Dead Redemption 2 (PC, PS4, XBO)

Red Dead Redemption 2 gameplay

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a sprawling cowboy epic. You’ll follow the story of outlaw Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang as they struggle to find their way in an ever-shrinking frontier. You’ll ride your horse through five fictional states while hunting for food, robbing trains and stagecoaches for money, and engaging in gun battles with the law and other criminals using a host of authentic cowboy weapons.

Red Dead Redemption 2 uses a huge map and a slower pace to tell an extremely engaging story. Plot-driving story missions are interspersed with side activities like hunting, fishing and fishing. Big heist and robbery jobs are always preceded with scouting and supply missions. This really gives you time to get to know the many characters in the Van der Linde gang. Each of the characters is incredibly well written and acted, and you’ll find yourself starting to love (or hate) every member of the gang.

The world of Red Dead Redemption 2 feels alive. Between the day/night cycle, weather system, and the incredibly rich wildlife, you’ll really feel like you’re riding your horse through the plains of the Midwest, the mountains of Colorado, or the deserts of New Mexico. The lighting effects are very well done and work with the top-notch animations to increase that realism. All in all, Red Dead Redemption 2 may be the most immersive game I’ve ever played.

Gunpowder and lead: Gorgeous details like smoke and debris bring the gun battles of Red Dead Redemption 2 roaring to life.

3. Grand Theft Auto V (PC, PS4, XBO)

GTA V gameplay

Grand Theft Auto V is the latest entry in one of the oldest open world franchises out there, and it brings a new level of polish to the series. Sure, you can still drive an inappropriately-named soda truck on a crowded sidewalk or snap witty one-liners at a stripper, but GTA V also presents a deep, compelling story of three criminals whose lives become intertwined. While the story unfolds, you'll be stealing cars, running from the cops, and engaging in a whole host of other criminal enterprises all from the safety of your couch.

The main story is really three stories in one, thanks to GTA V’s character-switching system. You’ll swap at-will between Michael, Franklin, and Trevor, each of which have their own story arc. Michael’s story is one of a retired criminal trying desperately to adapt to “normal” life. Franklin is a street hustler trying to rise above his hood roots and score it big. Trevor is a straight-up psycho, and we get to watch what happens when he finally loses all control. The story will switch back and forth from hilarious to dark and brutal in a heartbeat.

Grand Theft Auto V takes place in the fictional city of Los Santos and surrounding Blaine County, all of which are just a satirical take on Los Angeles and central California. The city is huge and feels alive, and the surrounding areas provide a nice change of scenery from the city. There are tons of things for the player to do between story missions. You can visit one of many shops to buy items for your characters, play a variety of sports minigames, or surf the satirical internet on your virtual phone. And if all that wasn’t enough, GTA V also includes Grand Theft Auto Online, which lets you create a custom character and continue the mayhem in multiplayer with your friends. There are even more activities and job types to try out in multiplayer, meaning you will never run out of things to do in Grand Theft Auto V.

Chaos unfolds: A gun battle erupts between players and police in GTA Online.

2. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC, PS4, XBO, Nintendo Switch)

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt gameplay

In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, you play as Geralt of Rivia, professional monster slayer, as you battle mythical beasts in a fairytale world. You’ll fight humans and monsters alike while levelling up your Witcher abilities and interacting with a variety of human and non-human characters. Watch as the choices you make echo throughout the visually stunning fantasy world of The Continent.

Combat in The Witcher 3 is absolutely brutal. By chaining together combos of Quick and Heavy attacks, you’ll be painting the scene red with the blood of your enemies. Expect to see heads and limbs go flying often. The story doesn’t shy away from mature themes either, and the choices you make as you progress will lead to one of several different endings. Unlike many other games, The Witcher 3 doesn’t provide you with an obviously “good” and obviously “bad” choice; sometimes, it's all bad, and the player is left to make their own decision about right and wrong. If you’re like me, you’ll end up regretting some of those choices, but it's fascinating to see the consequences play out.

The Witcher 3 manages to provide a very story-driven experience while still maintaining a huge open world to explore. Whether you’re hunting trolls in the darkness of a cave system or gambling on a card game at a boisterous tavern, you’ll really feel drawn into the world. The story is emotional and compelling, and drives the action without putting too much pressure on the player to stop exploring. Everything from the vibrant graphics to the incredible voice acting to the beautiful musical score serves to increase the sense of immersion.

Lush and vibrant: The bright colors really add to the overall visual style of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo Switch)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild gameplay

Breath of the Wild is a revolution for the Legend of Zelda franchise. With a huge environment, difficult enemies, and an open quest structure, Breath of the Wild makes you forget everything you thought you knew about Zelda games. At the same time, it feels fully grounded in the Zelda universe, thanks to its use of familiar characters and music. In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you once again control Link as he quests to defeat Gannon and rescue the Princess Zelda.

At the beginning of the game, you are given little more than a wooden stick to defend yourself with, but fear not. Nearly every enemy carries a weapon, and if you can defeat them, you can take their weapon. This means you will quickly build an arsenal of different gear to use in battle. There are over 150 weapons to loot, and your weapons and shields will wear down and break with use. This forces you to constantly change up your equipment on the fly. 

The land of Hyrule is breathtaking. Instead of trying to photorealistic graphics, Breath of the Wild uses an anime-influenced art style that looks beautiful on the Nintendo Switch. The environments are vast, and the ability to climb on nearly any surface means that if you can see it, you can probably reach it. The map is littered with hidden secrets and unlockables, as well as Shrines. Shrines act as optional puzzle dungeons and hide rewards for players clever enough to solve them. You are free to tackle the dungeons and Shrines in any order you want. This, combined with the freedom to approach encounters in any way that you want, means that there is always a new tactic to try if you find yourself stuck.

Combat in The Legend of Zelda: BOTW strikes the perfect balance between difficult and approachable. You’ll need to learn attack patterns and time your dodges and parries well, but the timing isn’t too precise. If you pull off a perfectly-timed dodge, you’re given a window of slowed time where you can wail on your enemy; in this way, Breath of the Wild rewards you for learning the finer points of its combat system. But there are still enemies that can kill you with a single hit, ensuring that you are always kept on your toes. In this way, BOTW manages to feel fresh and challenging throughout it’s 100+ hour playtime.

No thanks: Link flees from a powerful enemy in Breath of the Wild.

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As a Texas native with a natural resistance to Heat damage, Phillip has made a lifetime of escaping into digital worlds where he can explore new lands and craft epic tales of adventure!
Gamer Since: 1995
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: The Surge 2
Top 3 Favorite Games:Fallout 4, Grand Theft Auto V, Dying Light

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