Lose Yourself In The Best Open World Games

Middle Earth: Shadow of War

by William Lobley |
Updated on

Open worlds are the ultimate in video gaming escapism and freedom. The digitally rendered landscapes and worlds allow players to retreat from reality and explore realms hitherto undreamed. Whether by foot, horse, hang-glider or supercar, exploring non-linear and immersive open worlds is a pure thrill, allowing imaginations to be flexed and curiosities to be piqued.

The open world format is popular, in part, due to its flexibility. It is not a standalone genre, but a method of building a game to maximise narrative, gameplay and enjoyment potential, whether it's from the comfort of your front room or on the go with a handheld console. The open worlds that can be explored on today’s market span from the amphitheatres of Ancient Greece, through British highways and hillsides, and out into the frontiers of the universe. These worlds play host to RPG epics, FPS battlefields and wildernesses to test intuition and survival skills.

With such variation, you may find yourself wondering: “What is the best open world game?” Well, that is a tough question to answer, but to help you get the most out of the open world gaming catalogue, we’ve put together a list of the best games to help you start your next adventure.

If the prospect of an open world adventure doesn't do it for you, we've also rounded up the best horror and best hack-and-slash games.

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Best Open World Games

Middle Earth: Shadow of War1 of 22

Middle Earth: Shadow of War

Platform: MultiMiddle Earth: Shadow of War has everything that anyone could want from an open-world Tolkien-inspired game – stunning landscapes, gameplay and narrative. One of the standout elements of this game is the Nemesis system, which sees surviving enemies remember encounters with the player and being promoted to increase their challenge. There's also infighting amongst orc captains, meaning that the enemy landscape is continuously in flux. Read Empire's review.

Marvel's Spider-Man2 of 22

Marvel's Spider-Man

Platfrom: PS4Spider-Man takes a swing with an open world adventure game, and knocks it out of the park - the game manages to perfectly capture the playful atmosphere and goofy humour of the comic book series. The player takes control of Spidey as he seeks to defeat Mr. Negative and end his plan to unleash a deadly virus on the people of NYC. Exploring the city is endlessly enjoyable thanks to the fluid web-swing system, and though the boss fights can fall into the formulaic, landing blows on to unsuspecting bad guys hasn't been this fun since Batman: Arkham Asylum.Read Empire's review.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild3 of 22

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)

Platform: SwitchBreath of the Wild doesn't hang around before throwing the player into the sprawling and enchanting plains of Hyrule. The near-flawless mechanics of the game reward free thinking and experimentation. A truly landmark game for the Zelda series, the Switch console and open-world gaming. Read Empire's review.

The Outer Worlds4 of 22

The Outer Worlds

Platform: MultiThe Outer Worlds has the player exploring a sci-fi universe bursting with captivating planets, creatures, friends, foes and corrupt corporations. The visuals are stunning, and the gameplay and comic narrative offer loads of freedom as possible.Read Empire's review.

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Far Cry 5

Platfrom: Multi In a brave choice (that did not go unnoticed by the press), Far Cry 5 doesn't jet the player off to some far-flung corner of the world, but drops them in Montana, USA. The fictional Hope County is under threat from Joseph Seed, a maniacal preacher and radical cult leader of the Project at Eden's Gate. Eden's Gate is seeking to bring all to salvation, through coercion violent and psychoactive. Both the gameplay and narrative are near-impeccable. If you're looking to sink into a new world, consider Hope County – it's loaded with a resplendent and sprawling map to explore, skills to master, vehicles to commandeer and reams of FPS gunplay. Read Empire's review.

Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain6 of 22

Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain

Platform: MultiIf bullet-showering chaos isn't your thing, then the award-winning Phantom Pain might just be for you. As with everything MGS, the key to dominating this open-world Afghanistan border is stealth. The game rewards non-lethal gameplay and tactical approaches which utilise Snake's AI colleagues. Read Empire's review.

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Borderlands 3

Platform: MultiBorderlands 3, much like its previous instalments, has the player battle hordes of enemies littered across the savage, but ever so explorable, Pandora. Players can run through the world solo or as part of a multiplayer team, utilising special abilities and mad FPS skills to liberate the world from the Children of the Vault. Read Empire's review.

Elder Scrolls Online8 of 22

Elder Scrolls Online

Platform: MultiAfter a rocky launch way back in 2014, Elder Scrolls Online quickly pulled itself together to deliver one of the greatest, and most popular, open world MMO titles available today. Players quest, trade and battle on the continent of Tamriel, where factions feud and world-destruction looms. It's been around for a while, but this shouldn't stop newbies from jumping in with both feet. It's very accessible, and the majority of the map isn't level-locked. If you're a fan of the single-player Elder Scroll instalments, you owe it to yourself to explore this world – you won't regret it.

Minecraft9 of 22


Platform: MultiThis open-world sandbox title has changed the landscape of contemporary gaming. How? With smashable cubes and exploding cactus monsters. The basic premise of the game hasn't changed since then and considering that there is an absolute absence of narrative and quests, the player will find themselves utterly, utterly engrossed.

Assassinu2019s Creed: Odyssey10 of 22

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

Platform: MultiEver wanted to be a legendary Greek hero? Well, Odyssey is here for you. The player will take control of a mercenary seeking vengeance in Ancient Greece. More than just another game in the series, this installment focusses on role-playing elements of the narrative, allowing the player to forge relationships, alliances and playstyles tailored to their personal preference.Read Empire's review.

Red Dead Redemption 211 of 22

Red Dead Redemption 2

Platform: MultiAfter taking control of Arthur Morgan, the player is loosed upon the American Midwest in the last hurrah of Wild West epoch against the impending modern world. Cowboy moments come aplenty as the player confronts gangs, governments, wild animals and local hicks in a game which is nothing short of a cinematic open-world masterpiece. Read Empire's review.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt12 of 22

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Platform: MultiPlayers control Geralt, the burly monster hunter and sword for hire, as he quests his way across the lush and sprawling Riva, fighting, magicking, bartering and card gaming his way to victory. Not only is the map vast, but the massive quest log will have players engrossed in this award-winning game for hundreds of hours. Read Empire's review.

Forza Horizon 413 of 22

Forza Horizon 4

Platform: Xbox OneThis arcade open-world racer is loaded full of spectacular vehicles to take out on British streets, which'll seriously test any player's driving ability. The stunning world environment is ever-changing and offers endless challenges and new circuit possibilities – including frozen lakes and muddied green lanes. Read Empire's review.

Terraria14 of 22


Platform: MultiTerraria is a sandbox open title which pays homage to its 16-bit forefathers with refinement. The player will explore, mine and fight their way across a map littered with biomes (including the creeping and sinister Corruption and Crimson biomes), enemies and bosses, encountering NPCs who can be traded with or attracted into player-made settlements.

Super Mario Odyssey15 of 22

Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

Platform: SwitchFor a game to be both open-world and a platformer seems like a dichotomy, but Odyssey proves that this contradictory pairing makes for one of the best gaming experiences available today. Not only is the world gorgeous and charming, but thanks to Mario's ability to morph into various objects, each with its own particular set of abilities, players have dozens of ways to beat each environment at their fingertips. Read Empire's review.

Final Fantasy XIV16 of 22

Final Fantasy XIV

Platform: Multi Another MMO, another rocky start fixed by quick minds and a development team that listens to fans. Final Fantasy XIV is high-fantasy and then some. Players will find themselves enthralled, and a little overwhelmed, by the huge three-continent world of Hydaelyn. The world packs in all of the biomes and areas a Final Fantasy fan could hope for, including snowy mountains, forests, deserts and dense urban cities. Player skill development is rich and intricate, with weapons and armour sets aplenty offering even greater customisation. The game is a startlingly brilliant success and more than worthy of sinking (all of) your free time into.

Grand Theft Auto V17 of 22

Grand Theft Auto V

Platform: MultiAnarchy reigns, and has since 2013. The single-player story mode is a joy, full of OTT missions, vulgarity and violence, all taking place on a vast island. Then there's online, where a whole new level of madness subsides. Previously, the single-player cities of GTA were populated by relatively neutral citizens, with the player blazing through their regular lives on sprees of insanity. GTA:V switches this up and fills the city with 30 players – they're gung-ho, unrelenting and they're everywhere. To this day, it's still worth jumping on to spend a few hours bathing in chaos.Read Empire's review.

Horizon Zero Dawn18 of 22

Horizon Zero Dawn

Platform: MultiIt's the 31st century and the world is dominated by gigantic mechanical beasts. Player's take control of Aloy, outcast and hunter, as she treads the (gorgeous) landscape which echoes with memories of the "Old Ones". This masterclass of original action RPG gaming provides the player with great narrative flexibility and provides an expansive map, ripe for mech-smashing battles and countless hours of adventuring. This is what open world gaming is about – Horizon Zero Dawn is breathtaking.Read Empire's review.

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Platform: MultiA less-known open world title amongst console gamers, Subnautica is often seen in extended playthroughs by cult YouTube personalities, but it is well worth spending some time with. The player has crash-landed on an alien planet, which is entirely ocean. They must survive by finding water, food and resources to survive and discover the truth hidden in the surrounding waters. There's bases to build, caves to scavenge, fish to eat and many larger 'things' to keep away from. It's a unique game, both tranquil and tense, and the open world map is truly humongous. One piece of advice going in – beware of the night.

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Fallout 4

Platform: MultiOnce more unto the wasteland, dear friends, once more. Following Fallout 3 and New Vegas was a tough gig, but Fallout 4 did the franchise proud. The player takes control of 'Sole Survivor' from Vault 111 as they make their way into the Commonwealth, a vast (wasted) expanse littered with goodies, baddies and more than a few nasties. The narrative holds few surprises for the Fallout series stalwart, but the mechanics that Bethesda pumped into this title provide hundreds-of-hours' worth of gaming content, including settlement development and expanded weapons crafting. There are prettier games out there, but there's just something about the retro-future that'll have you crawling back time after time.Read Empire's review.

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Watch Dogs 2

Platform: MultiThe player takes control of Marcus "Retr0" Holloway, an easy-going uber-nerd with inexplicable athletic and firearm abilities, as he hits the street of San Francisco to carry out vigilante missions on behalf of DedSec. Ubisoft's Watch Dogs (2014) was a disappointment. There wasn't much demand or hope for the sequel, but still it came. And we couldn't be happier. Watch Dogs 2 takes all the misused promise and originality of its forefather and injects a likeable character, selfie-worthy open world map, refined controls, an interesting and varied narrative and, most importantly of all, joy.Read Empire's review.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim22 of 22

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Platform: MultiYes, Skyrim is still making these lists. You know it already, and chances are you've played at least once – but it's never a game to be underestimated or ignored. The role-playing elements of both the narrative and skill development means that no two (three, four, five) playthroughs are the same, and the wider game expansions only add to the hundred-plus hours of potential adventuring. It's time to come home, Dragonborn.Read Empire's review.

If you're looking to stay up-to-date with all that the gaming world has to offer, make sure check in on our video game release schedule which will guide you through the next two months of unmissable content.

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