Open world games are part of the gaming lexicon here in a major way these days and it’s become a natural progression for the industry ever since the emergence of GTA 3 changed everything. Just a few years later, we got to The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, and once that happened, it was pretty clear what was going to happen.
RPGs are now completely open world and regardless of the theme or storyline, you can be sure you’ll have a map with tons of places to explore and side quests to complete. Part of the purpose of this model is to keep you playing for hours and hours even after you’ve finished the game and you know what? The model works.
Some of the biggest games of all time are open-world RPGs and while there are tons to choose from, there are a few that stand the test of time and just never stop being amazing games. Here’s a list of the best open-world RPGs of all time.
- Huge worlds that give you absolute freedom from the start of the game
- Side quests and other optional content
- Ability to experience the story at your own pace
- Visually intriguing open maps filled with secrets
- Lengthy experiences that make you feel like you’re experiencing an entirely new world
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Much like another game soon to come on this list, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has become an entity so big that it inspired the most successful Netflix show of all time.
Often, when a new open-world RPG is released, there is immediately the thought of “Is it as good as the Witcher 3?”. It seems ridiculous, but it really is the bar for which all open-world games should be judged.
The Witcher in the title refers to Geralt, a medieval monster hunter who is a superhuman altered by chemicals and largely shunned by society. You are on a mission to save your ward Ciri from being taken by the Wild Hunt; an army of spectral riders who want her for some unknown reason.
There is 80+ hours of content, tons of weapons to find, abilities to unlock, monsters to fight, and relationships to form and the overall experience is equivalent to that of an epic TV show.
There are also multiple DLC add ons available that add around 40 hours of original stories as well. This is a living world and it feels like you’ve really experienced it once the credits roll and you’ll never forget the time you spent with Geralt, Yen, Triss, and Ciri.
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla
Released in 2020, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is the latest in the new Assassin’s Creed mythology series and what a massive open-world RPG this is. You start off in the snowy wastes of Norway and from there, you take to your tribe of Vikings to England and set out to ally yourself with the various cities and kings you encounter.
You’ll be fighting wars, taking down kings, uncovering assassination plots, discovering ancient rights, encountering all manners of enemies, and exploring to your heart’s content. The amount of content available here is staggering and much of it is completely optional.
Keeping all of this together is perhaps the best combat system of the past 3 games. Gone are the damage sponges of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and instead, the one-hit kill, hidden blade attacks are back and the attacks feel as brutal as ever.
As a Viking, you’ve got some over-the-top abilities that fit right in with the dark and gritty world as well.
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is an epic journey that will take you months to finish. So treat this as your next favorite TV show, because the open world on display here has as much content as any you’ve experienced.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
If ultra realistic open-world games aren’t your thing, perhaps you’re up to try something a bit more anime flavored? Okay, that’s the understatement of the century as Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is as anime as it gets, but that’s far from a bad thing.
The world you explore in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is staggeringly big and you will experience tons of different environments during your playtime with this one. It’s got some of the best graphics on Nintendo Switch and is one of the lengthiest experiences on there as well.
Combat in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is incredibly complex and it’s crucial you pay attention to the tutorials as you can get lost quickly. When you get the hang of all the systems in place though, it’s a very engaging and creative system that emphasizes timing and player skill.
The story starts off mundane, but stick with it and you’ll see one of the more interesting and completely insane stories in gaming history. This is easily one of the best open-world RPGs ever, so if you’ve got a Nintendo Switch, it’s time to take the dive.
Infamous: Second Son
Some might not characterize this one as an RPG, but you level up, unlock abilities, take on side quests that have multiple outcomes, and can completely customize how your character fights. If that’s not an RPG, I don’t know what is.
Released way back in 2013, Infamous: Second Son was a launch title that did fine critically, but failed to gain massive success. That’s fine because now, you can find it for $5 and while it’s not a long experience, it’s one of the more original ones on PS4.
Graphically, it still holds up 8 years later as one of the most visually impressive games out there, and the particle effects and powers you have put many of today’s games to shame.
You play as Delsin, a rebellious 20 something who gets gifted with insane powers, and from there, it’s up to you to unravel a government conspiracy. The story isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but it’s a fun journey with some excellent voice acting and feels like an action movie playing out in videogame form.
The combat is nuts and your power variety is something that’s never been seen before. This isn’t the typical ice, fire, and lightning powers that you see in tons of games. Here, we’ve got smoke, video, and neo powers to play with and it’s incredibly unique.
Smoke is similar to a fire power, but comes with some sleek visual effects and video has you basically becoming pixelated in order to rain down energy on your foes. Neon is perhaps the coolest looking and anytime you absorb that energy, you become a bright purple blur with super speed and some explosive attacks to boot.
You’ve got a whole city to explore, side quests, and even a morality system that dictates what path you end up traveling. It’s not as long as some of the other RPGs on this list, but it’s certainly unique and most importantly, very cheap to play.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the last game developed by videogame visionary Hideo Kojima while he was still employed by Konami and while it was one of the best-rated games ever, it didn’t exactly satisfy fans completely.
The change from focused, story-driven, and linear games to an open-world RPG type formula really rubbed some people the wrong way, but others were ultimately captivated by the freedom it provided, and I’m one of those people.
You play as Big Boss, aka Venom Snake and after one of the most incredible opening sequences in gaming history, you’re given free rein to explore Afghanistan and take down the villain Skull Face and his army that is on the verge of unleashing a deadly virus on the world that only infects people who speak certain languages.
Once you get used to the insane story being told, the gameplay shows why it is the main appeal and why its the best third-person shooter of all time.
The gunplay is razor-sharp with a crazy variety to equip yourself with and your options for outfit customization, companions, alternate ways to complete missions, and even characters you can play as is simply astounding.
The experience is around 60 hours long for the main story, though there are multiple side missions and even extra missions to take part in after the main story is finished and there’s a reason why players still are logging on to play Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain all these years later.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
When talking about open-world RPGs, you generally don’t think Zelda, but Breath of the Wild changed all that in 2017 by completely dominating the genre and becoming one of the best video games of all time.
In between all that though is one of the most amazing open worlds you’ll ever experience. The freedom you have here is simply outstanding and anywhere you can see on the map, you can go.
What makes this world so enthralling is how you interact with it. You will need to wear specific clothing for specific weather, cook to keep yourself buffed for the next fight, and also maintain your weapons so they don’t constantly break.
Your options for combat are hugely varied for a Zelda game and this time around it’s not just the Master Sword by your side but a massive selection of different weapons that all feel completely unique.
Breath of The Wild also boasts some really challenging bosses and optional secrets for those constantly on the hunt for something to do, so you’ll rarely be left bored here.
It seems that every time a Zelda game releases people call it one of the greatest games of all time. Take it from someone who has experienced everything from A Link to the Past to the Twilight Princess, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the greatest games of all time.
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
One of the most romanticized periods in the history of the world is ancient Greece and despite that, we’ve never got the chance to explore it in gaming. That is until 2018 when Ubisoft gave us perhaps their crowning achievement in the form of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.
After the quick intro sequence, you take up arms as either Alexios or Kassandra, an ancestor down the famous Leonidas’s family tree who is working as a Misthios(think mercenary) on Kephalonia.
What starts off as a collection of meager quests soon turns into an epic search for your family, a battle against a mysterious cult, and a journey to unlock the secrets of the gods themselves.
Combat is vicious and fast-paced here and it’s clear that Bloodborne was a direct inspiration. There are no shields, only dodges and parries and your suite of abilities.
If you haven’t taken the journey yet, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey has 150+ hours worth of content to take on. It’s a trip worth taking to one of the most astounding gaming worlds out there.
Ghost of Tsushima
Ghost of Tsushima was one of those games that seemed to be stuck in development hell and that’s before the dreaded word delay got brought into the picture.
Once the game was delayed, fans eagerly awaiting their samurai RPG adventure started to have doubts. Miraculously, those delays and doubts didn’t matter and we got one of the best games in PS4’s impressive history in the summer of 2020.
You play as Jin, a samurai who barely survives a massive battle and from there, starts to wonder if the samurai code is worth upholding if it means losing the land he loves.
From there, the Ghost is born in you and you become a ruthless Mongol killer, trying to rid your land of their invading force by whatever way you see fit.
The combat in Ghost of Tsushima is among the best I’ve ever played and the timing and stance-based dance that you must do to defeat your enemies never gets old and is supported by some brutal sound effects and maybe the best combat animations I’ve ever seen.
There’s a good and long journey here that will last you 40+hours and after that, you’ve got got a great DLC add-on in Iki Island and a whole multiplayer mode added to the game for free. It’s an incredible package on offer here and Ghost of Tsushima is easily one of the best games of the decade.
God of War (PS4)
God of War is a franchise that’s almost 20 years old now. It started off as an action brawler that oozed testosterone and had the star player Kratos screaming and sleeping with every half-clothed woman under the sun on his furious quest to seek revenge on the gods.
While the games were for the most part great, the story was just completely over the top and the voice acting was a bit much at times as well.
In 2018 though, we got a whole makeover for one of gaming’s most popular franchises. The over the top action remained, but story-wise, things were quieter, more subtle, and ultimately, more powerful. You take on a seemingly normal quest to bury your wife with your son Atreus and that quickly turns into a battle against some very angry gods.
The combat is brutal and bloody and it’s complete with the over-the-top finishers you remember from the old God of War days. Coming along for the ride is your son Atreus who you can direct to damage and distract enemies as well and both of you are fully upgradeable.
The world is pseudo open as you’ll be traveling to different realms all through the hub world that is surrounded by a gigantic snake called the World Serpent. From here, you’ll be able to access pretty much all of the areas for quests in the game.
In addition to the main story, you can take part in a challenge world, side quests, and hunt down the Valkyries to fight some of the toughest bosses in God of War’s impressive list of enemies.
God of War is not only a gaming achievement, but it’s a visual one as well. 3 years later and it’s as unbelievable looking as any game out there still. If you’ve never tried it, God of War is an excellent open-world RPG that keeps its quest short, but the experience lasts regardless.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
It’s really rare that a franchise revives itself after being mediocre for multiple games, but that’s exactly what happened with the Divinity series. While people liked Divinity: Original Sin, it wasn’t until the sequel where the franchise really made its mark among RPG greats.
The world on display here is an imagination come to life and while there are some more docile lands on display here, there are also crazy environments with wild visual detail that make the entirety of your quest a joy to explore.
In combat, things are turn-based, but that basically turns the combat arenas into giant chess boards and figuring out your position and how many action points you need for each attack is a huge part of being successful and it’s often the difference between beating an enemy handily or suffering defeat after defeat.
I never liked the top-down perspective RPG until I played Divinity: Original Sin 2. When I finally did though, I was rewarded with a one-of-a-kind, open-world RPG that is infinitely replayable and even better, you can do the entire experience multiplayer.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Although it wasn’t the massive hit it probably expected to be, Kingdom Come: Deliverance redefined the open-world RPG in my eyes. You need to sleep, you can get injured, you can’t take on an entire army by yourself and you suck horribly at combat at the start. This game makes you feel like a knight who just happened to pick up a sword one day.
The journey is awesome and while you start out as a lowly peasant, soon your village is attacked and you’re thrust into a story filled with war, political intrigue, and romance, and every bit of it is incredibly well acted with some of the best animations you’ll see.
You’re going to need patience with the combat here. At the start of the game, you won’t be good in combat no matter what you do.
You simply have no moves at your disposal and you’re purposely made to feel like you’re not prepared for any of this. Over time though, you’ll learn combos, parries, ripostes, and other techniques that will slowly but surely turn you into an absolute beast on the battlefield.
For those ready for a more serious experience, Kingdom Come: Deliverance delivers a hardcore experience that is one of the most rewarding open-world RPGs I’ve ever played and one that is not to be forgotten.
No Man’s Sky
You like open-world RPGs right? Well, how about open universe RPGs? Although it had a truly disastrous initial launch because of a bunch of failed promises from the developer, No Man’s Sky has made a comeback for the ages to give us one of the most astonishing experiences in gaming.
Hyperbole you say? Not a bit. No Man’s Sky is a landmark achievement for many reasons. First off, we’ve got a literally endless universe to explore with millions and millions of randomly generated planets complete with randomly generated wildlife and secrets to explore.
You can take enemy factions, fight hostile aliens, take to space and get into dogfights and even acquire a massive cruiser to travel the galaxy with.
Multiplayer is also fully available too and you and any of your friends can traverse the universe together. There is the main questline to follow, but there are countless side missions and expeditions which act as their own separate stories to complete.
As far as open-world RPGs go, some have better combat, some have a better story, but none have the transcendental experience that No Man’s Sky has to offer.
Middle Earth: Shadow of War
Middle Earth: Shadow of War is one of the most influential games to come out this decade. It’s an enormous experience that can last you 100+ hours and for fans of Lord of The Rings and fantasy open-world RPGs, there is no better experience.
Combat in Middle Earth: Shadow of War is awesome and it feels like a mix between old Assassin’s Creed games and Ghost of Tsushima. It’s very much timing based and it’s all about counterattacks as you try and time your parries to your enemies oncoming attacks.
The main attraction here is the nemesis system which has an endless supply of named orcs coming for you throughout your quest. These guys have personalities, vendettas, and special abilities to boot and they are some of the most alive characters of any game I’ve seen.
Middle Earth: Shadow of War has an awesome open world in the form of Mordor and there are truly an endless amount of quests and armies to take on, so in that way, this game will never get old.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
Capcom is pretty much the last company that you would think would release an open-world RPG, but that exact thing happened with Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen. This is an extremely unique game with some of the best combat the genre has to offer.
You create a custom hero and almost immediately, you have your heart ripped out by a dragon and wake up the next morning as an Arisen, or one chosen by a dragon. What proceeds is one of the more bizarre and intriguing fantasy stories that completely flips genre cliches on their head.
Along for the ride are your pawns, who are warriors summoned from another plane of existence called the rift. Pawns have a ton of variety to them and if you play online, you can even use other people’s pawns and send them gifts after if you’ve been happy with their service.
The highlight is fighting against monstrous beasts who you’ll fight throughout the journey and each of these can be climbed on to hit their weak spots and it’s an epic feeling to scale the back of a Cyclops just to ready yourself for a plunging blow into its eye.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen stands up well today as one of the better open-world RPGs out there and its combat system is second to none.
Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition
You might not think of Final Fantasy when you think of open-world RPGs, but in 2017, Square Enix changed all that with Final Fantasy XV. It was released to some solid reviews, but part of the dig on the game was that it felt unfinished.
That is why Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition was released and because of it, we finally have our complete Final Fantasy XV experience.
On display here is a gorgeous world with all of the Final Fantasy craziness you’ve come to expect over the years. Over-the-top summons, crazy magical attacks, and unbelievable-looking creatures are all here to explore and it’s finally in an open-world format.
There are hidden dungeons to discover, side quests to go on and endless weapons to discover in one of the most amazing Final Fantasy worlds to date.
The combat is like Final Fantasy meets the Avengers and you’ll be teaming up for various attacks, launching magic attacks, and using character-specific abilities with a variety of different weapons that make every combat encounter thrilling.
The story has you as Noctis on a journey to meet your childhood love Luna and secure an alliance with her country. Of course, this goes haywire quickly and soon the world is invaded by a monster plague and demons are possessing political leaders and yeah, it’s nuts, but it’s also great fun.
If you were on the fence about Final Fantasy XV at first, definitely give the royal edition a shot.
A bit off the beaten path, Greedfall is a unique open-world RPG that focuses on narrative and the result is a great experience that just feels so different than what you’re used to.
Greedfall’s journey seems to mirror how America was discovered as you take to a new land to colonize except when you get there, a plague is infesting everything and horrifying monsters are suddenly abound.
Combat feels much different than most RPGs. It’s a unique mix of swords, guns, and magic, but it has a few special things of its own.
The story is very interesting and complex and requires some serious focus to follow fully. There are political machinations, betrayals and some other juicy RPG goodness here that makes the quest a worthwhile one to complete.
Greedfall is not the most popular open-world RPG out there, but it’s definitely rewarding and a great change of pace if you’re getting tired of the tried and true formula.
Question: How Long are these Games?
Answer: Every game is unique in terms of how long it is, but the majority of these games last a very long time and often very replayable as well. Expect to get at least 50 hours worth of gameplay out of every game above.
Question: What Makes a Game Open World?
Answer: Open world refers to how the game map is situated. Linear games generally take you from level to level, but open-world games give you a massive map to explore at your leisure.
Question: Don’t All these Games Feel the Same to Play?
Answer: While there is definitely some familiarity between open-world games, each one has a unique combat system and storyline that should be enough to keep you invested along with unique characters and world-building that bolster the experience.
In case you haven’t noticed, open-world games have pretty much taken over the video game medium and there are several released each year. The ones I’ve listed above though are the standouts that need to be played if your catalog is running a bit low. They deliver 100’s of hours of gaming goodness and should not be missed.
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