In 2018, the best open world games are the gift that keeps on giving – and they’re not going anywhere. These days it seems like even game franchises that used to be linear experiences are embracing the open world. From shooters like Far Cry to expansive RPGs like the Witcher 3, we can see why everyone seems to love the best open world games on PC.
It’s not hard to see why some developers are abandoning more linear experiences – just look at how franchises like Metal Gear and Final Fantasy benefited from the ‘open world’ treatment. They didn’t lose anything, and they gained everything. We love it.
We’re even starting to see a ton of unconventional indie games embracing the open world trend. Games like the Long Dark, Neo Scavenger, Rust and more embrace open maps and player freedom – we just wish we had the room to cover them all in this list.
But we've picked our favourites out of the best wide worlds gaming has to offer. Disagree? Shout at us on twitter.
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article
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I mean, you know what this is about. There isn't a gamer reading this today who isn't aware that Minecraft consists of; exploration and crafting in a blocky, bright 8-bit world. And when night falls or when you go deep underground, monsters come out… and that's not just on the multiplayer servers.
Though it's now on every last platform going, from iOS to Linux and even to Amiga, its fundamentals are the same – a large open world to explore, with no purpose beyond the one you which you create yourself. If you want to create a moving replica of Mark Hamill's face or the hanging gardens of Babylon or just a suburban house built exclusively of dynamite, Minecraft can do it.
If you're bored of Minecraft, you're bored of life. But if you really are bored (of Minecraft and/or life), either try the 2D Minecraft Terraria, its sci-fi sibling Starbound or wait for Subnautica. They're lifesavers.
Yes, Fallout 4 is the latest, most mechanically-complex and least ugly of the series, but Fallout: New Vegas is, for me, the best of the games. It brought back the weirdness and smarts of the original titles to post-apocalyptic America – perhaps because as many of the team members from developer Obsidian worked on Fallout 2.
The series always drops the player in an open world wasteland, where you must fight and talk to survive, often exploring the bizarre vaults beneath the desert or battling the mutated creatures that scrape by. Its combat system called VATS is divisive (i.e most people think it's rubbish), but it introduces tactical flexibility to an otherwise brutally-hard game.
In Fallout: New Vegas, you play as an anonymous Courier. Left for dead, you roam the strange wastes around Arizona, Nevada and California, hunting for your killer, or exploring weird side quests. Turning on the hardcore game mode also means that food, water and sleep are essential, making it into a classic open world survival game, like S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
The first two Witchers were compelling and strange, but only mildly popular. The Witcher 3 was an absolute step up in quality, and probably the best all-round game of last year. You take the part of Geralt, a mutated monster hunter, searching for his adoptive daughter in a medieval world devastated by war.
The open world setting of the game is uniquely well-realized, knocking that of previous fantasy favorite Skyrim into a viking hat. Geralt can walk, ride or sail across the green, war-ravaged lands of the South or sail between the monster-riddled lands of Skellige in the North. He can forage for herbs, explore under the seas or the back alleys of cities, and encounter all sorts of folk tale creatures (and mostly kill them).
And the other elements of the game are spectacularly polished as well – limber, agile combat, a deep levelling system, and a storyline with some unusually-smart storylines.
We know that Grand Theft Auto V is one of the best open world games out there. It’s a huge pastiche of L.A. that you can drive across, or hop on a train, or a boat or a plane – an amazing achievement, and the fact it works in multiplayer is astounding.
Saint’s Row IV is more limited, we accept. But where GTA V seems to have a dislike for all its characters, Saints Row IV manages to love its cast. It’s also uproariously funny throughout, with throwaway jokes about Mass Effect, Prototype, Crackdown, The Matrix, and Metal Gear being built into ridiculous missions.
As the (criminal) President of the United States, you receive superpowers, fail to fight off an alien invasion, and end up exploring a simulation of your giant home city of Steelport where you must rescue your pals from their own personal hells.
The plot may have made less sense than a mumbling monkey with a mouthful of marbles, but Hideo Kojima’s swansong was a masterpiece of layered open world mechanics.
In its twin deserts of Afghanistan and Angola, your character Big Boss has a range of objectives to achieve. He traverses these areas on foot, horseback, or in a variety of ground vehicles. You can take either lethal or non-lethal weapons, and a variety of strange AI companions.
The world itself is believably bleak, weather-torn and heavily-guarded. Uniquely, it learns from your behaviour – overuse a particular tactic, and enemies will adapt. For example, rely too much on headshots and they’ll start to wear metal helmets.
Away from the frontline, you can develop Big Boss’ base, by building new facilities and airlifting enemy soldiers, prisoners, resources, vehicles, animals and anything else you want to from the battlefield.
Klei’s indie survival horror game takes the drawing style of Edward Gorey, the twisted monstrosities of the Binding of Isaac, and the crafting mechanics of Minecraft and creates an unholy, dark 2D world for players to explore. Suffice to say, it’s a joy.
As players explore the world, they encounter (and die at the appendages of) its various flora and fauna. Eventually, the player might have enough knowledge to not die from starvation, not to be eaten by monsters, not to die of thirst… and then they might learn how to survive winter.
Beyond that, Don’t Starve has tremendous replay value from unlockable characters, the Together expansion that allows for multiplayer survival, and the Shipwrecked expansion which introduces a whole new area to be eaten by monsters in.
The inaccessible indie open world game par excellence, Dwarf Fortress' world is open in space, but more importantly in time. Before you even start playing, the game's engine generates thousands of years of history for its huge fantasy world, then narrows in on a tiny slice of its history and geography.
Players can then either take control of a single adventurer, exploring this generated world or a caravan of dwarfs, setting off to found a colony in the history-saturated wastelands. Taking the latter mode, you have to establish supplies of food, beer, weaponry and a hundred other essentials for a comfortable dwarf dwelling.
Inevitably, they come under attack by hideous monsters, either wandering through the world or having been unearthed by Digging Too Deep. And then they all die or go insane.
If you're looking for a much more accessible version of the game, you could try Keeper RL – which allows players to take control of dungeon full of monsters attempting to wipe out humans, dwarves and elves.
An entirely text-based open world? In 2016? Well, sure. Failbetter’s Fallen London story world has been developing for seven years and by now probably has more text in it than the Bible. And it’s better written too.
Despite that, it was the Fallen London spin-off, Sunless Sea, that has won the studio plaudits. Failbetter has taken the same choose-your-own adventure model and built it into a game where you’re exploring an underground sea adjacent to Fallen London.
The shipping and combat is so-so, but the game is driven by its amazingly rich storyline, full of charming devils, malevolent icebergs and soul-filled great apes. There’s no peace in Sunless Sea’s dark waters, just endless storylines to explore – and you will.
Far Cry 5 might just be a benchmark of what the best open world games on PC will look like in 2018. Far Cry 5 is unique in the fact that it allows you to truly go anywhere on the map – and do anything. And, it doesn’t water this freedom down by limiting the amount of space you have open to you either, it’s perhaps one of the biggest game maps we’ve ever experienced.
You’re dropped into the middle of the Montana wilderness, and while it does feature a loosely connected plot involving cultists or something, that all falls into the background as you wander around and get lost in the massive world Ubisoft crafted here. We still haven’t ‘finished’ this game, but we don’t think you’re supposed to.
Now that a ton of Yakuza games are coming to PC, PC gamers can finally experience the insanity that is so unique to the Yakuza series.
Yakuza 0’s map isn’t as capacious as some of the other games on this list, but it is dense with activities. Everywhere you turn either has a mini game, a side quest, or some other kind of content that you can interact with. If you’ve never played a Yakuza game, do yourself a favor and try Yakuza 0 on for size – it’s unlike anything else you’ve ever played, we promise.
Where to begin with Assassin's Creed Origins? Have you ever wanted to explore Ancient Egypt, from Memphis, along the Nile to the steps of the Library of Alexandria? We think 'yes' is a safe assumption to make.
This is the most truly open world game ever released in the Assassin's Creed franchise and it's stunning, rich and completely alive. There's endless amounts to see and do while you traverse a country that's been created with an incredible attention to detail by the Ubisoft team. Even better, with the game's free Discovery Mode you can purely explore this glorious open world and learn about the history behind the game.