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, with so many open world games in every corner of the industry, it can be hard to decide which ones are worth your time – and they will demand your time. Luckily, we here at TechRadar have spent an inordinate amount of time with the best open world games, and we’ve picked out our favorites. So, read on to find the best open world games 2018 has to offer.
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 its twin deserts of Afghanistan and Angola, your character Big Boss has a range of objectives to achieve. He traverses these areas on foot, horseback, or in a variety of ground vehicles. You can take either lethal or non-lethal weapons, and a variety of strange 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 Big Boss' base, by building new facilities and airlifting enemy soldiers, prisoners, resources, vehicles, animals and anything else you want to from the battlefield.
Klei's indie survival horror game takes the drawing style of Edward Gorey, the twisted monstrosities of the Binding of Isaac, and the crafting mechanics of Minecraft and creates an unholy, dark 2D world for players to explore. Suffice to say, it's a joy.
As players explore the world, they encounter (and die at the appendages of) its various flora and fauna. Eventually, the player might have enough knowledge to not die from starvation, not to be eaten by monsters, not to die of thirst… and then they might learn how to survive winter.
Beyond that, Don't Starve has tremendous replay value from unlockable characters, the Together expansion that allows for multiplayer survival, and the Shipwrecked expansion which introduces a whole new area to be eaten by monsters in.
The inaccessible indie open world game par excellence, Dwarf Fortress' world is open in space, but more importantly in time. Before you even start playing, the game's engine generates thousands of years of history for its huge fantasy world, then narrows in on a tiny slice of its history and geography.
Players can then either take control of a single adventurer, exploring this generated world or a caravan of dwarfs, setting off to found a colony in the history-saturated wastelands. Taking the latter mode, you have to establish supplies of food, beer, weaponry and a hundred other essentials for a comfortable dwarf dwelling.
Inevitably, they come under attack by hideous monsters, either wandering through the world or having been unearthed by Digging Too Deep. And then they all die or go insane.
If you're looking for a much more accessible version of the game, you could try Keeper RL – which allows players to take control of dungeon full of monsters attempting to wipe out humans, dwarves and elves.
An entirely text-based open world? In 2018? We’re crazy, right? Well, hold on – Failbetter’s Fallen London story world has been developing for years now and probably has more text in it than the Bible – and it reads better, too.
In spite of that, it was the fallen London spin-off, Sunless Sea, that has won the studio plaudits. Failbetter has taken the same choose-your-own-adventure model and built it into a game where you’re exploring an underground sea adjacent to Fallen London.
The shipping and combat is so-so, but the game is driven by its amazingly rich storyline, full of charming devils, malevolent icebergs and soul-filled great apes. There's no peace in Sunless Sea's dark waters, just endless storylines to explore – and you will.
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 gorgeous, rich and completely alive. There’s endless amounts to see and do while you traverse a country that’s been created with an incredible attention to detail by the Ubisoft team. Even better, with the game’s free Discovery Mode you can purely explore this gorgeous open world and learn about the history behind the game.
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