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Open worlds just keep getting bigger and better. With each year comes more games that immerse us in dramatic scenery, long quests, and new worlds. Exploring virtual worlds has never been so immersive. From fantasy to comic book, from wild west to viking, from humans on the brink of destruction or instead thriving, the best open world games give us a deep study of what life could be like in another reality. That's what makes them such a successful genre of game, and when an open world is done well, it's almost immediately a highlight of the year it's released.
Elden Ring is the open world game of 2022, and likely the one everyone will remember the most vividly. FromSoftware creates some of the most intricate and morbid worlds we've seen and Elden Ring was its first time creating a less linear and more open experience. Needless to say, it's a success.
A looser grip on the series' trademark stealth, a simplified loot system, and a gorgeous interpretation of 800's England would be enough alone to edge Valhalla above the already excellent Odyssey. But Valhalla's surprises, specifically the open world ones, catapult it over the top. This is a massive, moody world, and Valhalla has a couple more waiting in the wings. You'll have to play it to find out what we mean, just know this game is much bigger than the surface implies. Ubisoft also fills all that space with meaningful encounters, ranging from absurd to tragic. Some of these tiny characters will stick in our minds much longer than the big ones on the box art. That said, female Eivor rules (opens in new tab).
Kojima's first game after leaving Konami, Death Stranding is set in a post-death reality where the concept of the afterlife has been blown open. Your goal as Sam Porter Bridges is to rebuild America by walking across the country and linking up cities, preppers, and waystations to, uh, the Time Internet? It makes next to no sense, but that's OK. Death Stranding is an indulgent mood piece first and an excellent hiking and delivery game second.
2023 games: Upcoming releasesBest PC games: All-time favoritesFree PC games: Freebie festBest FPSes: Finest gunplayBest MMOs: Massive worldsBest RPGs: Grand adventures
It's all layered into an excellent story that'll take you as long as the complete Deadwood series to get through, and that's if you're rushing. And on top of it all, Red Dead Online brings a Day Z adjacent quality to the open world, invoking everything from serious roleplay to ridiculous, surreal shenanigans. It's also one of the prettiest games you can play on the PC today. With the mods rolling in quickly, RDR2 is bound to be a PC game we talk about for years and years to come.
Another PlayStation game that's made its way over to PC, Horizon: Zero Dawn is the first of the two Horizon games. You play Aloy as she has to save the last vestiges of human civilisation, which has reverted back to clans, tribes and kingdoms following an earlier apocalyptic crisis. Now humans live alongside robotic wildlife, with hunters and gatherers scavenging ancient tech underneath ruined skyscrapers.
Skyrim is the best Elder Scrolls open world to play today. Some will say Morrowind should be here, while others will sing the praises of Oblivion, but for me Skyrim is the definitive open world game. And as much as you might love the others, it's pretty hard to play some of the older entries without some mods. Skyrim's gargantuan wilderness and diverse cities beg to be explored. I want to see a settlement on the horizon and trudge over to it. I want to fear a new dungeon with bones scattered outside it. And I want to glitch my horse up a sheer cliff to see if I can find a faster way over to my next destination.
It even manages to avoid map icon fatigue, as each promises another fun activity, especially since it now includes some surreal Hot Wheels tracks. It might be one of the best racing games around, but it could also teach most open world games a thing or two.
Not exactly the deepest of the games on this list, but one of the most empowering, exciting, and silly. Rarely has such a huge and beautiful open world felt like a true playground, and with a grappling hook and infinite parachutes to swiftly navigate the lush and tropical island, it's always playtime. Your boots will barely touch the ground before you're careening through the air again, zipping from place to place amid chaos and destruction. Just Cause 3's world may have been bigger, but this one is definitely better.
Microsoft Flight Simulator arguably delivers the best open world of all time because it's literally the world. It's one of the few games where you can probably visit your own home, even if it does look a little different. MFS really knocks the exploration of new places out of the park. As well as flying over your usual stomping grounds, you can also fly over the Alps, the Bahamas, the volcanoes of Iceland, or into hurricanes in the United States. The exploration of a world has never been so expansive, technologically impressive, and accidentally included a terrifyingly monolith because of a data issue. And it's bizarre that this world, the world you can explore, is the one out of your window.
"Do you ever wonder how it'd feel to take a few years away from games, and then peek back through the curtain once you'd become out of touch? Quite often, Microsoft Flight Simulator feels like that peek," reads our Microsoft Flight Simulator review "In its scope and fidelity, it seems to be visiting from the future, when it's commonplace to have access to a photorealistic Planet Earth and the freedom to explore it. When you can hop in a plane and fly over your own town, in the same weather conditions and lighting you can see outside your window. When 'open world' means just that."
For a while, it seemed like open-world games had plateaued. Video game design is often at its best when developers seek to reach new heights, permitting the studio has the resources to justify its ambition. Franchises like Assassin's Creed are continually pushing the envelope for scale and design, and that is just one franchise that has helped establish the conventions of the open-world genre.
Open-world games excite players because of their lifelike nature, and the online scene has led to plenty of great titles. Projects like Red Dead Online and GTA Online seem to be never ending, offering a forever evolving multiplayer-focused world backed with constant updates to keep players coming back indefinitely. MMOs are incredibly popular on PC, with the likes of Black Desert Online, Final Fantasy 14, and Guild Wars 2 presenting gorgeous and engrossing settings for fans to immerse themselves in.
As exciting as online games can be, sometimes a solo, offline experience hits the sweet spot. What are some of the best open-world PC games that can be played without a constant internet connection?
Updated August 25, 2022 by Mark Sammut: Way of the Hunter, Saints Row, Stray, Dying Light 2 Stay Human, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, V Rising, and GhostWire Tokyo are all open-world PC games that came out in 2022. The year is not done yet either since Skull and Bones, Goat Simulator 3, and Gotham Knights should also debut before 2023 rolls around. Basically, if someone is a fan of single-player open-world games, they should not have any issues finding a universe to get lost in.
Cyberpunk 2077 earned a negative reputation due to launching at a nearly unplayable state on certain platforms, and these criticisms were valid. However, CD Projekt Red's game performed well on PC, as this version had considerably fewer technical issues. When analyzed on its own, Cyberpunk 2077 has plenty of positives that make it worthy of a mention as one of the best open-world PC games.
Avalanche Studios' Just Cause license arguably peaked with its second entry, although the third game comes in at a close second. When a dictatorship needs to be toppled and an army blown to smithereens, Rico Rodriguez is the one to call. Armed with all the weapons in the world and the determination to make creative use of them, Rico parachutes his way into Panau and gets to work.
Just Cause 2 is an offline sandbox game, and players simply need to explore the map and destroy anything that remotely threatens to get in their way. In fact, just annihilate everything.
After decades of inactivity, Mad Max returned in a huge way in 2015. Along with the stellar Fury Road, the franchise also dropped a shockingly great game. Developed by Just Cause's Avalanche Studios, Mad Max recreates the harsh post-apocalyptic wasteland seen in George Miller's movies. The world is big but purposefully barren, which enhances the game's atmosphere.
The game had issues at the PC launch date, but patches have improved things. Horizon Zero Dawn is by no means flawless on PC, but its beauty, combat, and slow-building but satisfying story shine through despite some of the port's rough edges. This single-player experience has some magnificent moments.
2007's S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl and 2009's Call of Pripyat are two of the best open-world survival games of all time. Even though the latter is the more polished experience, Shadow of Chernobyl should be played first by newcomers to the franchise.
Set in the Zone, Shadow of Chernobyl captures