Open-world is one of the most fun and innovative genres to watch evolve across all of gaming. Defined by granting players the ability to move freely throughout a virtual world, open-world titles shed the traditionally linear structure of most other games. By offering freedom and choice in how players can interact with a virtual environment, the free roaming nature of open-world games often succeeds in leaping over the barriers that aspects like “invisible walls” or loading screens present to a truly immersive gaming experience.
Every year the maps get larger, the people and environments becomes more interactive and realistic, and the amount of freedom you can experience from roaming around a virtual world grows and grows. Here are a handful of recent and up-and-coming titles perfect for losing yourself in a vast, sprawling digital creation.
Top Open-World Games of 2015 So Far
Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V is developed by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games. Check out the original review here.
Release Date: September 17, 2013 (PS3, Xbox 360), November 18, 2014 (PS4, Xbox One), April 14, 2015 (PC)
Rating: M for Mature
Where else to start but with the grandaddy of them all, the Grand Theft Auto series is practically synonymous with the concept of the open-world genre, and persistently sets the bar for every other game that tries to live up to its legend. Grand Theft Auto V garnered numerous game of the year awards when it originally released on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, and has since seen subsequent releases on Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Not limiting itself to a single style or genre, Grand Theft Auto V features both a very substantial story mode, and also an incredibly robust massively-multiplayer online component in the form of Grand Theft Auto Online. With the recent addition of multiplayer crew heists, there has never been a better time to pay another visit to the city of Los Santos.
Borderlands The Handsome Collection
Borderlands The Handsome Collection is developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. Check out the original review here.
Release Date: March 24, 2015
Genre: First-person shooter, action role-playing
Rating: M for Mature
The original Borderlands was one of the first titles to really push a first-person shooter into the open-world genre. Throw in elements of role-playing, shoot and loot, and awesome co-op gameplay, and finally mix in a creative and unique art style, and you’ve got one heck of a fantastic franchise. The Handsome Collection takes two full games (Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!) along with a treasure trove of add-on content and brings it all to current generation consoles in one spectacular package. Whether you’re prowling the post-apocalyptic dystopia of the planet Pandora or bounding in low-gravity across its moon Elpis, the sheer volume of content available here translates into potentially hundreds of hours of pure, vault-hunting mayhem. It’s two complete open worlds for the price of one!
Saints Row: SR IV Re-Elected & Gat Out Of Hell
Saints Row: SR IV Re-Elected & Gat Out Of Hell is developed by Volition and published by Deep Silver. Check out the original review here.
Release Date: January 20, 2015
Rating: M for Mature
Another cross-generation two-in-one, this release collects Saints Row IV and all its respective DLC, along with the standalone expansion Gat Out of Hell. Spawning from the immense popularity of Grand Theft Auto, the Saints Row series was once a similar take on big city crime hijinks. However, if Grand Theft Auto is a satirical, frequently hyperbolic look at the stereotypes in modern society, then Saints Row has evolved further into the realm of the completely absurd. Alien abductions, warped realities, physics-defying weapons, and locations including the likes of Hell itself are par for the course in a Saints Row game these days, and paired with slapstick humour that frequently breaks the fourth wall to mock its own outlandishness, Saints Row IV and Gat Out of Hell are nothing if not sheer, over-the-top fun. If open-world games are “sandbox” experiences, then Saints Row is what happens when you throw out ALL the rules and let your imagination run wild.
Keep This One On Your Radar
Mad Max is developed by Avalanche Studios and published by WB Games. Check out the pre-order bonus here.
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Genre: Vehicular combat, action-adventure
Rating: M for Mature
Do you remember the Mad Max game that came to the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990? If so, then I’m sorry for bringing up what is undoubtedly a painful memory. But while that may have been a less then spectacular effort, Avalanche Studios is out to correct the mistakes of the past with its own adaptation. Tying into the cinematic reboot of the beloved franchise, Mad Max will release for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC this September. Avalanche’s effort has been described as open-world third-person action-adventure game with elements of vehicular combat, which is definitely enough to at least pique my interest. If Mad Max does indeed manage to capture the atmosphere and thrill of everything that is great about the films in a fully-realized open world, then publisher WB Games may just find themselves with yet another sleeper hit on their hands – you may recall the somewhat unexpected yet very well-deserved success they had last year with Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.
My Favourite Open-World Game
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was supposed to be the next big thing, and maybe that’s why it was destined to fail. Don’t get me wrong, the game sold well … just not well enough. Developed by Big Huge Games and 38 Studios, former Major League Baseball superstar and video game lover Curt Schilling poured much of his own money into the project, and reportedly lost it all. Despite excellent reviews and sales that were not that far off the mark for a new IP, the game was considered a failure in the eyes of investors. Loans were called in, and 38 Studios ultimately faced bankruptcy, leaving the future of potential sequels for Kingdoms of Amalur in limbo. The franchise was designed to be a giant, but may have been done in by its own lofty ambitions.
What’s truly unfortunate is that Kingdoms of Amalur is an exceptionally fun game. It hits all the right notes for an epic open-world role-playing game, but manages to one-up all others by incorporating what is possibly the finest combat system I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience. No matter what class you are playing, fighting in Kingdoms of Amalur just feels great. Big Huge Games and 38 Studios had truly developed something special, and for that reason, it’s far and away my favourite open-world game, and I lament at what might have been had it been allowed to spawn a sequel.