This year, our list of the best open world games has already changed a bit, with Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom making its way into the top five.
But Starfield and other open world games are coming out in the next few months, so this list is likely to change soon.
For now, though, the best open world games we’ve picked out are a great way to explore some beautiful digital wildernesses.
Only true open worlds can be on this list, so Pokemon Legends: Arceus doesn’t make it. Pokemon Violet and Scarlet also doesn’t make it, but for different reasons.
So, if you have a lot of free time, these top open world games will keep you busy with rich digital worlds you won’t mind getting lost in.
We’ve played all of these, so we can promise you’ll have a good time with any of them.
- 28. Shenmue
- 27. Prey
- 26. Hogwarts Legacy
- 25. Death Stranding
- 24. Terraria
- 23. No Man’s Sky
- 22. Dragon Age: Inquisition
- 21. Minecraft
- 20. Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain
- 19. Fallout 4
- 18. Far Cry 6
- 17. Dying Light 2
- 16. Halo Infinite
- 15. Days Gone
- 14. Forza Horizon 5
- 13. Sea of Thieves
- 12. Genshin Impact
- 11. Marvel’s Spider-Man
- 10. Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim
- 9. Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla
- 8. Elden Ring
- 7. Ghost of Tsushima
- 6. Horizon Forbidden West
- 5. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- 4. Grand Theft Auto 5
- 3. Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
- 2. Red Dead Redemption 2
- 1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Before Shenmue came out for the Sega Dreamcast in 1999, open-world games were still in their very early stages.
While most writers were still trying to figure out how to go from 2D to 3D, Yu Suzuki was busy making one of the most immersive and realistic video game worlds ever, and he did a great job.
The game takes place in the late 1980s and lets players visit parts of Yokosuka, which is a small city in the Kanagawa prefecture of Tokyo.
All of the NPCs they’ll meet have full voices and well-developed personalities and daily habits.
Even the weather in the game is based on historical facts so that it fits with the time period in which the story takes place.
Prey is not an open-world game in the sense that players can go anywhere on the map right away, but they can go back to places they’ve already been.
Arkane basically made a 3D Metroidvania, and it’s a great one at that.
Prey is a realistic simulation game that takes place on the space station Talos 1, which has been taken over by an alien threat.
Each area of Talos 1 tells a story through its surroundings, making it a great example of how to make a world.
The map is linked, both in terms of where you can go and how it looks.
Even though most of the game takes place after the station has been abandoned, it is easy to believe in Talos 1.
26. Hogwarts Legacy
Hogwarts Legacy by Avalanche rode the hype train all the way to a very successful release.
Harry Potter games aren’t new, but good ones are hard to come by. In a lot of ways, the 2023 game is the first one to really use the franchise’s gaming potential.
No matter how someone feels about Harry’s story, most people agree that the Harry Potter universe is great, and Hogwarts Legacy lets fans dive into a world full of magic, mystery, and charm.
Even though the story isn’t anything special, the game looks great, and players can spend dozens of hours living out their Wizarding World dreams.
25. Death Stranding
The story of Death Stranding might not be for everyone, but the open world of Kojima’s new game is very interesting.
As much of a walking simulator as it is an action game, you’ll spend a lot of time walking around it, sending packages, working with other players to rebuild and build, and seeing what they’ve done.
It’s definitely different and gorgeous, especially when the music starts.
Terraria has so many things you can do that it’s almost on the line between a playground and an open world.
Build a house and protect it from nasty things that will try to break down the door and eat your brains.
If you don’t want to deal with them, you can ignore them and dig deep into the earth to find valuable materials or just wander around until your tiny, pixelated heart’s content.
Craft better armor, weapons, and even a jetpack. When you feel strong enough (and possibly a little bit arrogant), wait for one of the game’s bosses to attack you on their own.
There’s always something better to build, like a new tunnel to dig or another floor to add to your house.
23. No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky has become a fun way to travel around the star system, with procedurally-generated worlds that make you feel like a real space explorer.
It now has 30 hours of story material, new lore, different ways to talk to NPCs, portals that make traveling between planets a lot easier, and the ability to change the planet’s environment.
The No Man’s Sky: Beyond update added even more features and changes, such as aliens that can be ridden, a new social system, and support for virtual reality.
Since then, changes have added more story, more features, and even more ways to get lost in space.
No Man’s Sky is more like an open galaxy than an open world. If you look good in a spacesuit and like finding strange alien animals, you should definitely jump into it.
22. Dragon Age: Inquisition
Because it’s no fun to travel around a huge world by yourself, Dragon Age: Inquisition gives you a lot of allies and a lot of sidequests to do with them.
After all, you wouldn’t want to waste their skills. Not only that, but some of the allies, like Dorian Pavus, are some of the best party members around.
At first, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of sidequests in its lush fantasy world.
However, if you remember that, like many of the best open-world games, there are multiple areas to explore from the start (don’t just stick to one), you’ll slowly be able to figure out which ones you should do right away.
The story will also keep you interested the whole time, so even if it takes up a lot of your time, it’s worth it.
Okay, so officially Minecraft is a sandbox game, but hey, that’s still an open-world game.
In this huge adventure game, you can punch trees, mine deep into the mountains, and try not to fall into lava.
People have built whole towns, working computers, tall statues, and a lot more on Minecraft’s blocky landscape.
If you want a little more structure in your games, you can use “achievements” as a loose framework, and if you get bored of the normal world, you can start exploring the Nether and build your next fortress there.
So, officially, you have two open-world settings to choose from. What a great use of money!
20. Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain
Not everyone likes to go in with all guns blazing, so if you want a sneaky action open world game, Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain should be your hot drink of choice.
It’s amazing how well all the different systems work together, and you’re free to move around and kill enemy fighters in whatever way you think is best.
The game encourages non-lethal play styles rather than random killing. But don’t get too used to a set of methods.
If you use the same ones too often, your enemies will figure out how to deal with them. You have D-horse and D-dog, a wolf that was raised to help you in the field, to keep you company in the world.
The weather system is also helpful, as it makes it harder to see and hear you at times.
19. Fallout 4
Well, someone has taken your baby this time, and you need to get him back. Don’t worry, it’s not that big of a deal.
Listen to me: Fallout 4’s possibilities are just too tempting to ignore for long.
Its surprisingly colorful world of Boston, MA is full of quests: follow the freedom trail, solve mysteries with the unforgettable synthetic detective and sassmaster Nick Valentine, try to free synths with the Railroad, explore a haunted house, or just loot everything (and everyone) in sight to get a mountain of caps.
In this post-apocalyptic open world game, you can play however you want and see how it affects your followers.
This gives the game more meaning. Just don’t set fire to the world. Yet.
18. Far Cry 6
Far Cry 6 takes us to the made-up South American country of Yara, where you play as a rebel fighter named Dani and try to bring down the dictatorship of the Castillo family, led by Anton, who is played by Giancarlo Esposito.
But it’s also a big open world with lots of things to do while you’re dealing with politics. In Yara, there are mysteries to solve, races to finish, friends to find, and people to help.
17. Dying Light 2
The sequel to the first infected-killing, parkouring, fighting game is here, and it has an open world that is just as interesting as the first.
Dying Light 2 has a huge world to explore, but try to stay out of the way of the moving hordes. There are also plenty of reasons to keep looking around the next corner.
Even though the story wasn’t as much about choices as many people had hoped, this is still a great open world game for those who like survival horror.
16. Halo Infinite
Halo: Infinite really did make Halo last forever. Well, not exactly, but Master Chief and the others really like how big the world is.
It’s not a huge open world, but it pushes you to explore and move forward, opening up new areas as you go.
Between the set pieces, it’s a great world to live in, with lots of reasons to keep coming back. There’s a reason why it’s the best Halo world so far.
15. Days Gone
Days Gone is another great horror game with an open world where hundreds of zombies are waiting to jump you.
You play as Deacon St. John, a biker with a bad name but a very interesting story.
It’s a dark and interesting world with human stories to balance out the terror of the zombies, or “freaks.”
As you’d expect from a well-made open-world game, you’ll find things if you look in every corner.
14. Forza Horizon 5
Forza Horizon 5 is the only racing game on this list of the best open world games, but it more than deserves to be there.
In this arcade racer, you go to Mexico for the latest Horizon event, which is a big party for everything with four wheels (and sometimes special guests, too).
It looks great, has a great music, and gives you something new to do all the time. And, of course, there are a huge number of cars to choose from.
13. Sea of Thieves
Sea of Thieves provides you with an open world playground in which you can tell your own adventures.
Build your crew, uncover treasures, and more as you become a legendary pirate.
This is a game that has come a long way since its first release in 2018, with regular updates and expansions.
It also has a fantastic community, which adds to the pirate illusion.
12. Genshin Impact
What if you combined Breath of the Wild with JRPG themes and a dash of anime? So, hello and welcome to Genshin Impact.
Teyvat’s universe is full of secrets, not just about who you are and why you’re there, and with continual updates and new characters being added at regular intervals, there are plenty of reasons to delve in.
Did we mention it’s completely free?
11. Marvel’s Spider-Man
Marvel’s Spider-Man was one of the few games that revitalized the super hero genre.
Insomniac’s game, which launched initially on PS4 and then received a PS5 patch, sees us swinging across a stunning reproduction of New York, complete with massive side missions and other diversions to balance off the equally memorial tale.
It’s also worth noting that Spider-Man: Miles Morales is situated in the same open environment and continues the tale. It’s shorter and more compact, but just as interesting, so it’s worth looking into.
10. Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim
The world of Skyrim does not revolve around you. A necromancer is attempting to animate a skeleton somewhere in the wilderness.
During the day, you’ll see a bunch of bandits fighting a giant (RIP), or you’ll stroll into a nearby village only to have a dragon attack you as you stumble out of the inn.
Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim is built for storytelling, and it’s so anxious for you to experience its joys that even if you avoided every major settlement, you’d still encounter 30% of its quests in the wild.
The map is chock-full of things to do, strange sights to view, critters to impale with sharp implements, NPCs to pickpocket, eerie Dwemer ruins to explore…oh, and dragons to kill.
Even after a casual 100 hours (those are novice statistics), there are still tasks to be discovered and hidden bosses to be slayed.
It’s difficult to overestimate Skyrim’s impact on the lives of gamers everywhere, but to get a good notion of its impact and what Elder Scrolls 6 has to live up to, hop in and start your new life in its world.
9. Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla
All of the latest Assassin’s Creed titles have been amazing open-world games, but Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is definitely one to check out, especially since it’s already one of the top Xbox Series X games and best PS5 games.
Valhalla takes you to the Dark Ages, journeying through England as Viking Eivor to locate a new home for your clan, building on the advances made with Assassin’s Creed Origins and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (both of which are well worth your time).
Build your community, make new friends, build new alliances, participate in politics, and do a lot of traveling to discover the mysteries and treasures hidden in old England.
8. Elden Ring
The sense of mystery that shrouds practically everything in Elden Ring is one of its greatest qualities as an open environment.
Good open world games thrive on making you wonder ‘what’s over there?’, but all too frequently, repeated features like towers to climb and enemy bases to clear mean you already know.
That is, providing it hasn’t been marked on the map in the last few hours of play. The location of FromSoftware reveals little and lends a great pleasure to its exploration.
Every door or new place is both exciting and dangerous, and the lack of obvious allusions or roots to its universe frequently means that even when you can see something, you’re not sure what to anticipate.
The open world structure has also mellowed From’s regular game design style. I won’t claim it’s more approachable because there are still difficult bosses and high level regions that will deliver you what’s left of your ass in seconds.
The flexibility to explore, on the other hand, eliminates the grind of more linear games like as the Dark Souls series, allowing you to walk off and explore, leveling up at a more leisurely pace and reacting to the obstacles ahead.
7. Ghost of Tsushima
Hold down your startled expressions if you see a samurai game full of swords, blood, and violence on a list of the finest open-world games to play right now.
Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima is surprisingly zen when the swords aren’t clashing.
Create haikus while marveling at a tranquil lake, reflecting on your father’s death in a hot spring, following a fox through the wilderness to a hidden shrine, or simply going to see what that smoke in the sky is all about.
A basic user interface, waypoints indicated by fluttering yellow birds, and the wind combine to create one of the most intriguing and natural open-world experiences to date.
Of course, it helps that the combat and plot are also excellent. This is not one to be missed.
6. Horizon Forbidden West
Horizon Forbidden West has done what many sequels have failed to do before: it has outperformed its predecessor.
Providing a far larger and more diverse open world than the original, with each side mission adding something fresh and intriguing to the one you’ve already explored.
Aloy’s latest adventure is magnificent and unforgettable, with a stunning graphical showcase of what the PS5 is capable of if you play it on the latest hardware.
5. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Do you see that mountain?
You can do it.
You can also use octopus balloons to float a raft in the air, or turn a fallen tree into a lethal weapon.
The ingenious mechanics of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s open world are what make it so deliriously freeing, as it encourages that special breed of mad scientist experimentation, so it’s no surprise that it’s one of the best Nintendo Switch games available right now, as well as one of the best open world games.
Instead of objectives propelling you around the majority of the globe, you’ll discover that curiosity gets the best of you the majority of the time, since Breath of the Wild’s landmarks are genuinely intriguing and offer the chance to learn more about the planet before Calamity Ganon struck.
Alternatively, you might go in search of the 600 beautiful Korok Seeds. Or hone your culinary skills. Take on a Lynel, for example. Or…you get the picture.
4. Grand Theft Auto 5
GTA 5 was always going to be one of the best open-world games. You’re aware of it. I’m aware of it. For Christ’s sake, it’s the most successful entertainment product of all time!
Driving through the winding streets, taking advantage of certain adult clubs, skydiving, stabbing sharks with knives, tracking a serial killer, fleeing the police (or fighting them if you want that 5-star wanted rating), going full Trevor and causing as much chaos as possible, and do I really need to keep going?
Grand Theft Auto is a network of illegal exploits and mind-boggling potential, with every inch of the world teeming with NPCs to influence, tasks to complete, or simply gigantic heights of hijinks to indulge in.
It’ll eat you whole, spit you out, and leave you wanting more.
3. Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom narrowly defeats its predecessor as the superior open world game.
For one thing, it’s larger, but it also has a lot more fun with letting you be creative inside its larger Hyrule.
This is a magnificent open world, half playground for your own unique creations and part rich canvas of missions, secrets, and stories to explore.
In that sense, it’s a complete progression of Breath of the Wild, taking everything that fans loved and made of the first game to the next level. It’s magnificent.
2. Red Dead Redemption 2
If you want to hunt, it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter if you want to try to help Dutch reach his elusive goals or if you just want to try to get the fanciest, most rootin’ tootin’ clothing in the whole country: Red Dead Redemption 2 is full of things to do that will keep you busy from the moment you step into its world.
On its own, the story is about how Dutch Van Der Linde tries to keep his gang going while trying not to give in to his own ego.
His loyal friend Arthur Morgan watches him as he does this. It’s a story about how the Wild West is becoming more civilized, which means there are a lot of people who need your aid.
You could also rob them if you wanted to…Each different area is so beautiful that it hurts your eyes a little bit as you try to take it all in.
Rockstar’s game will have you hunting for dinosaur bones, trying to solve a murder mystery, or even calling up that famous Red Dead Redemption 2 vampire.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the best open world games to play right now because there are so many choices and things to do.
So, what are you waiting for, partner?
1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Geralt has some flaws. Even his surroundings aren’t ideal. Most of the countryside is destroyed by war.
Bloodthirsty creatures that no longer hide in the shadows attack innocent civilians, while others try to hide their identities in an area controlled by humans.
But that’s what makes The Witcher 3 the best open-world game to play right now. Because everything is broken in its own way, there’s always something for Geralt to do (for gold, of course) that’s written on a peeling notice board.
Stick to the dirt country roads and help villagers who have monsters barking at their doors while they look at you and your yellow eyes with suspicion.
Talk to a well-meaning poltergeist in the middle of a city or just find out what all those strange question marks on the map mean.
The Witcher 3 is a perfect game because it takes place in a world that isn’t perfect. This means that it has set a very high standard for future open world games.