The Top 10 Open World Masterpieces in Gaming

Josh Challies

Open world games have quickly become the flag-bearer of the next generation console, as developers utilise the better frame-rates, graphics and memory availability to create visual masterpieces and massive new worlds to explore.

It’s not just as easy as creating a massive game with plenty of side quests, characters and treasures though, as too much can be daunting for a gamer if not done correctly and too little can seem out of place. It’s a fine balance but, when mastered, makes for an incredible game.

The fact of the matter is that games with linear level design are dying. Gamers want to go to places designers wouldn’t expect them to, and they want to do it on their own terms.

In the past decade, open world games have really stepped it up and we’ve been left with some fantastic games. Here, we’ve run down ten of the best from the last decade – so take a trip down memory lane with us and perhaps book a return trip to one of these worlds of your own.


First released in 2011, Skyrim raised the bar for open world games. With an engine rebuilt specifically for the game, the graphics were sensational and the storyline, as well as the abundance of side quests, left one with plenty to do and an incredible world to explore.

A wealth of mods on PC, which later came to consoles, allowed the game to be expanded further and it still stands as one of the most successful games ever. Remastered for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 last October, Skyrim comes to the Nintendo Switch this year – in addition to being reworked for the Xbox One X.

Fallout 4

Another Bethesda masterpiece, Fallout 4 was released in November 2015 and quickly became one of the best games of the year. The vast amount of freedom, crafting and exploration allowed players to get lost in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, although there were criticisms of the visuals, with some feeling that not enough improvements had gone into the game’s graphical capabilities.

With six DLC’s released in the past two years, Fallout 4 continues to grow and hold the franchise in the spotlight. A next installment in the franchise is likely but there’s plenty to come, with the game currently being reworked for VR.


The king of open-world crime, an installment that brought the best out of the franchise, GTA V still goes strong to this day. With an immersive storyline, where you switched between three separate characters, GTA V was a Rockstar piece of brilliance – and that’s simply the tip of the iceberg.

Having now past it’s fourth birthday, GTA V remains as one of the highest selling games – largely due to the immensely popular and successful GTA Online, which has taken multiplayer games, particularly free roams, to a new level. It changed the landscape and we’ve yet to see anything take it’s crown.

The Witcher 3

If you asked someone to say what they believe gaming perfection truly is, they may just hand you a copy of The Witcher 3. Speeding through the story can take around 25 hours. If you take it slowly, that number can rise astronomically to around 700 hours.

The Witcher 3 also saw extremely successful DLC that other companies may have been tempted to launch as standalone games. The franchise celebrates it’s tenth birthday this year and few open-world titles have seen the success the likes that the Witcher 3 has.


How do you sum up Minecraft? First launched in 2009, Minecraft has set the flag as the leader for sandbox games. You can build, you can destroy, you can do whatever you want in all it’s pixelated and squared glory – which is due to get a 4K texture revamp with the Xbox One X.

Another game that changed the gaming landscape vastly, Minecraft’s procedurally generated worlds may never be matched. It’s simple, it’s brilliant and it’s extremely addictive, we haven’t seen the end of Minecraft-  and we’ve even got Minecraft Lego to purchase. Just in case you can’t get your fill of the world’s blocky goodness.

Red Dead Redemption

Set in the Wild West, Red Dead Redemption is a cult classic among gaming fans. Released in 2010, the story was one of the best we’ve ever seen in an open world game and, as is customary for a Rockstar game, there were plenty of side-quests and missions to do.

The massive online multiplayer also helped to pave the way for GTA V a few years later, which took things to the next level (as mentioned above). Now, we’re patiently waiting for the release of the sequel which, unfortunately, has been pushed back to Spring 2018.

Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag

Assassin’s Creed celebrates it’s tenth birthday this year and the release of the next instalment, Origins, is upon us. In terms of it’s open world though, Black Flag certainly stands as the bestn- putting you in the era of pirates.

With plenty of islands to explore, an abundance of side-quests, an extremely immersive storyline and other things to do, like hunt sharks, Black Flag raised the, er, flag for the franchise. Sure, it may not be the best Assassin’s Creed game in terms of narrative, but it blew the concept of open-world exploration out of the water for the franchise.

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Nintendo has fallen behind in the battle of the consoles, becoming an after-thought for the majority of the last console cycle, but Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild showed the quality that the company still boasts – with the game becoming a hit on the Switch & Wii U.

Deemed to be one of the greatest games of all time, Breath of the Wild’s open-ended, physics-driven gameplay was extremely immersive – particularly as it encouraged not only exploration but also experimentation, allowing you to play your way.

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Launched in February this year, Horizon: Zero Dawn stands as one of the best PlayStation exclusives in this generation. Set in a future where robots have become sentient and dangerous, it sounds like a typical venture into that genre – but the reality is it’s completely different, with the robots instead being more akin to prehistoric creatures.

With an immersive story line, plenty to explore and a vast amount of side quests, Horizon: Zero Dawn deserves all the plaudits it receives and we eagerly anticipate the release of the game’s first DLC, The Frozen Wilds, which drops on November 7th.

No Man’s Sky

Ok, so No Man’s Sky didn’t quite live up to expectations. The indie game attracted a lot of attention during it’s development stage and felt rather sub-par upon it’s release, with Steam offering refunds to many and the game being widely criticized.

For all it’s failures though, No Man’s Sky set the bar for procedural generation extremely high. Their recipe wasn’t quite sound, with the general assumption being that they tried too much too fast, but it does open the door for games in the future – particularly due to it’s frankly ridiculous size, with planets that have yet to be explored still waiting in the game.

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