The Games With the Best Open-Worlds, According to Our Readers

A collection of the most rewarding open-world games to explore.

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Screenshot: FromSoftware

Elden Ring has poisoned my brain, folks. I spend most of my free time playing it, and when I am not playing, I am thinking about it. I’ve got nearly 100 hours logged so far, and still, a large portion of the map is just a blotchy blur of unchartered territory. This may frankly be the only game I play all year. At the very least, the only one I sink this much time into.

This latest release from FromSoftware doesn’t just scratch an itch that I have. No, years of open-world games have scratched my itch. The itch to explore every nook and cranny of an area, fully immerse in a world and discover every secret before me. Other games have scratched this itch so much so that my skin is raw and bleeding. Elden Ring is the ointment I needed all along.

The hype is still at a high. As recency-bias fades, I will have a clearer idea, but this has a real shot at being my all-time favorite game. It has reinvigorated my love for a genre I thought I was sick of and has begged me to now ask what else is out there I might have missed along the way.

We asked our readers which games have the best open-worlds to explore. We had nearly 40 comments, and I am in utter awe that not a single person suggested Breath of the Wild. I’m kind of relieved, actually. Yes, the game is incredible, but how boring would that have been to have made the list as number one?

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Without further adieu, here are the video games with the best open-worlds to explore.

Red Dead Redemption 2 | $28-32

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Screenshot: Rockstar Games

Red Dead Redemption 2 has got to be one of the most immersive environments ever.
-JPcpmma

Something in every square inch of that world plus the NPC’s almost had their own individual lives. Incredible game.
-@___mcgee___

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Just Cause 4 | $8-$15

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Screenshot: Square Enix

I would argue the Just Cause series. They have massive maps, on the order of a couple hundred square miles, but I would say it’s the traversal mechanics that REALLY shine. Between the grappling hook, parachute, wingsuit, and jet pack, traversing the game map is always entertaining and even though there IS fast travel, you find yourself rarely if ever using it. Plus the map with the villages, towns and big cities feels alive.
-liffie420

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Skyrim Anniversary Edition | $30-$32

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Screenshot: Bethesda

I mean obviously Skyrim. There was nothing “new” about this game when it came out but apart from a great story and side quests you can have a good old time following interesting markers on the map and there was almost always something with exploring. And the game did a pretty good job of leveling with you so the challenge was always right wherever you were.

Combat could be better but there’s a reason they keep releasing new versions of the game every couple years: some people visited Skyrim and never left.
-Tebow Kneeled First

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Elden Ring | $60

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Screenshot: FromSoftware

I never liked open-world games until I played Elden Ring. They always made me feel overwhelmed and like I was collecting a checklist of things to do. The only “open-world” sort of thing I liked was exploring a big, generous MMORPG like Lineage 2 or Lord of The Rings Online. But those always devolve into cash grabs and I hit annoying paywalls.

Elden Ring feels like a single-player MMORPG that respects my time and intelligence. For someone who loves exploration and doesn’t wanna get bogged down by systems and item management, it’s a dream come true.
- A B

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Outer Wilds | $25

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Screenshot: Annapurna Interactive

For the sake of something a little different: Outer Wilds

It is unlike any game I have ever played, and I am sure some will question calling it an ‘open world’: There is no combat (it still got my adrenaline higher than any other game I can remember), the only unlockable ability is mediating, there is no fast travel and only one checkpoint. But once you find that you can get to and do anything in the game in less than 22 minutes; the only thing stopping you is knowledge. That feels more open to me than the vast maze of locked doors and trials you are not yet strong enough to pass found in most ‘open world games’.

Also, this may be a bit controversial, but I recommend installing the DLC from go. It might make a bit more sense if you play it after the main game, but nothing else in the story is necessarily told linearly, so why should this be? Also the new location is by far the most extensive in the game, and I found myself wishing I could take breaks and explore elsewhere on occasion.
-Nick

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