Open world games are those that have a vast and detailed virtual world that the players can explore and interact with at their leisure. While many open world games have an overarching linear quest or plotline, that is not always the case. These types of games are not a genre, as the open world format is a game mechanism that can be used in games of multiple genres.
Many players like open world games for the freedom that they award to the players to choose their own paths and storylines. Also, open world games generally have great world building graphics that lend themselves to expressing the hugeness of the game’s true scope. The open world mechanism has been around since the 1980s, and is still going strong today. Another main reason for the popularity of this game format is that it often motivates developers to make the actual plotline creative enough that players will want to engage with it. This has led to the development of some of the best video games in the industry, especially in the last decade.
In this article, we have listed 10 of the best open world games in the last decade, i.e. from 2011 to 2020. Please note that this list is not a ranked one as the games are from different genres.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Release year: 2011
First released in 2011, Skyrim wowed its players with the sheer vastness and complexity of the world the game was set in. This was also one of the few games at the time that let the player just ignore the main quest in favor of exploring the world and engaging with NPCs (Non-player characters) in interesting ways, including marriage and dueling.
Another point that was received very well was the amount of character customization options, and the fact that the character class system from the previous Elder Scrolls games had been removed, giving players more freedom to make multi-dimensional characters.
The fight options were also well loved by both players and critics, especially the ability to dual wield their weapons, which, when combined with the magic, gave players a whole host of new ways to fight and engage with threats.
- Fallout 4
Release year: 2015
Set ten years after its predecessor, Fallout 4 is a one of the best open world games in the dystopian genre, though it was greatly helped by the official and unofficial patches that smoothened out the gameplay to a large degree. The game involves the player taking in the identity of a survivor emerging from stasis. In this game, there is a very clearly outlined main quest, but the player can choose to explore the virtual world and engage with quest related plotlines on their own time. Also, players sometimes choose to finish the main quest early to get it out of the way, as the game does not end after the main goal is fulfilled, leaving the player free to explore the entire world without the obligation of the quest.
As far as open world games go, Fallout 4 offered players more freedom than many other games, and not just with the exploration aspect. Players can not only go wherever they want, they can interact with multiple aspects of the world, including the other characters in the story. The other characters in the game also have specific skills and characteristics, making the game an intensely enjoyable experience.
- Mad Max
Release year: 2015
This might seem like a surprising addition to the list, especially considering the mixed reviews the game received, but as an open world game, Mad Max hold up. Another post-apocalyptic game, Mad Max combines the automobile and combat genres to create an intense, almost cinematic gameplay experience. This game lets the players explores multiple regions in the world, each of which has a boss fight.
One of this game’s greatest achievements is the detail of the realistic survival aspects and the climate. Weather changes are unpredictable and an important plot aspect, and Max, the main character has to scavenge for food and water, the lack of which affects him negatively. The vehicular combat aspect is the most praised part of the game, due to the variety offered to the player in terms of weapon choices, and vehicular and on-foot combat.
The world building is also excellent, and each region has its own stye and identity, which players have to adapt to. As an open world game, Mad Max is good choice for people who want to combine structure with exploration.
- Red Dead Redemption 2
Release year: 2018
Released eight years after its predecessor, Red Dead Redemption is actually a prequel to its 2010 sequel and one of the highest rated games of the decade. The game operates largely in the bounty hunter Western genre, veering occasionally into a heist plotline. The game combines structured missions with open world freedom to create a good balance and keep players invested.
As an open world game, the landscapes in the Wild West themed world are absolutely gorgeous, making the game look almost like a dynamic art piece. In addition to regular in-game interactions like fighting, crimes, and horse care, the player can also play some card games and do some hunting. The feel of the game is realistic, which is helped further by the holistic approach to the character’s life and interests.
Interestingly, this is one of the few games that alters the character’s perception based on his morality.
- Grand Theft Auto 5
Release year: 2013
A part of the intensely popular GTA franchise, Grand Theft Auto 5 is one of the most highly rated games on multiple platforms. Unlike many other games on this list, GTA 5 uses the real world city of Los Angeles as the inspiration for its open world locations. The detail of the city in the game is immaculate, with an extremely hyper-realistic rendering.
Though the quality of the plotline and the treatment of some characters is questionable, GTA 5 is excellent as an open world game. The automobile focused game features aspects like firefights, issues with law enforcement, and controlling multiple main characters at a time. The open world design, combined with multiple character control, lets a player explore different parts of the world at the same time.
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Release year: 2015
Combining aspects of mythology and magic with a compelling main character, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has great potential for creative combat and action scenes, as well as a detailed open world for the player to explore. The Witcher, the main character, also interacts with other NPCs with their own personalities, skills and powers, which makes the world seem realistic.
The in-game world is also extremely vast, and players have to explore to find new quests. This is a game that not only allows exploration, it requires it.
- Assassin’s Creed Origins
Release year: 2017
One of the main installments in the Assassin’s Creed series, Origins redefined the franchise with its brilliant renditions of real world locations, especially Egypt. While the actual plotline of the game is similar to that of the earlier releases, the game is still extremely fun to play. And, it truly shines as an open world game with the exploration options and the variety in missions.
Origins was also one of the few video games that developed a memorable romance plotline that universally beloved, which is a rare feat in video games.
- Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Release date: 2017
Part of the classic and ever-iconic Legend of Zelda franchise, Breath of the Wild is an open world masterpiece. Compared to many of the other games on this list, Breath of the Wild is a purely low stakes sandbox game that combines the nostalgia of the Zelda franchise and the creative vastness of the past decade to present a game that you can spend days getting lost in.
The narrative of the game is non-linear and players are encouraged to be as creative as possible when solving problems or interacting with NPCs, which further highlights the quality of this open world game.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Release year: 2012
A shooter game from the acclaimed Call of Duty franchise, Black Ops 2 is favored by casual and professional players alike. The game is highly tactical, and players have to make strategic decisions on the fly. The game has a multiplayer format, which lets the players explore locations through maps, and complete missions as a team.
And while many of the weapons in the game may seem commonplace now, it is important to remember that the game was first launched in 2012, when many of the combat options in this game were extremely rare. Black Ops 2 is also one of the few games to have done multiple endings in a way that felt organic.
Release year: 2011
Though the testing software was released in 2009, the game was officially launched in 2011, making it eligible for this list. As far as open world games go, Minecraft is, and may always be, the one to beat. It is extremely different from many of the games on this list in terms of plot, look, and vibe. However, Minecraft is a universal phenomenon, both as an open world game and as a cultural influence.
Minecraft is known to encourage creativity, not only in building and escape situations, but also in ways that the players can influence the emergent gameplay. The game consists of a blocky world that has different landscapes and terrains that the players are free to explore at will. Players can also build elaborate structures, or play the game in survival mode that involves trying to fight or escape from the mobs.