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The 15 best open world games on PC

Keep your options open

A composite image made from characters from Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth, Elden Ring, Horizon Forbidden West and No Man's Sky, against a background from Skyrim
Image credit: Hello Games, Bandai Namco, PlayStation, Sega, Bethesda Softworks

Our list of the best open world games on PC is for those who look at a forest and think about seeing what's in the middle. For the players who really do want to climb that mountain. Sure, the size of games these days means in some sense they all have an open world, but here we're leaning in to those games that want you to adventure, where the onus is on exploring and seeing what you find. These are the games where part of the destination really is the journey, and you can tell the devs wanted you to stop and look around every so often to see what you could find. They might not be for everyone, but if you're the sort of person who likes getting lost in a game for a long time, then these open world games will help you do that.

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The 10 best open world games

Yep, open world games are still a big deal. Get them right and they can be genuinely spectacular forays into the most memorable spaces. To make the entries below easy to follow, you'll find links to all of the best open worlds on this list. Don't be afraid to fight for your own favourites in the comments if you think they've been missed out. We might just include them in a future update.

15. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

A vista in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim showing a blue cloudy sky, pine forest in the foreground, and a snowy mountain in the distance
Image credit: Bethesda Softworks

Look, there's a reason some things become so entrenched in pop-culture that their very existence is sort of a joke. How many times has this game been released, arrow to the knee, see that mountain? Yuk it up, but we wouldn't be able to make those jokes if we didn't actually all love this game. Skyrim is still incredibly popular, not just for the huge vistas and engaging world, not just for the slightly janky physics that sends you screaming into the air the first time a giant attacks you, and not just beacause of the 2016 remaster, or the Anniversay Edition update that officially welcomes mod content into the game.

It's all those things and more. Skyrim, arguably, perfected the Bethesda style of RPG, where you are an extremely special chosen one, but without it seeming smug or annoying. At the same time, it was perfectly possible to just go off and do your own thing - take a slow ride through the snowy forests in the north, if you don't fancy killing dragons and sucking the soul out of their bones to power your magic shouting. It's a flexible and joyful Tolkien-esque fantasy by itself. But the modding scene? That really kicks things to another level. One where you can replace dragons with Thomas The Tank Engine.

14. A Short Hike

A screenshot from A Short Hike which shows two characters chilling by a campfire.
Image credit: adamgryu

A Short Hike takes the crown for the loveliest game on this list. You play as a cute penguin who decides that they'd quite like to reach the summit of Hawk Peak. And so, off you pop, on a calming ascent which you can tackle any way you'd like. There's fishing by river banks or diving off cliff edges and soaring over to hidden treasures.

There are many other wonderful bits about the game, but it's bumping into other hikers that makes the climb particularly memorable. You might get involved in some races, you never know! Oh, and the soundtrack by Mark Sparling is lush and relaxing. What a world to soak in. Please give it a go.

13. Hitman: World Of Assassination

Ian Hitman wearing a bird costume in a Hitman 2 screenshot.
Image credit: IO Interactive

Hitman: World Of Assassination may not spring to mind as a traditional 'open world game', but hey, it's all of Hitman 2 and 3's offerings bundled into one mega-package of mini-sandboxes. You control Agent 47, a bald man with a barcode on the back of his head. He's good at garroting folks and making quips while garroting folks, and it's up to you to deploy the garrote, and sometimes explosive rubber ducks, to assassinate high profile people.

What makes Hitman such a great open world game is the freedom you've got from the off. Each formula one race course, or Italian town, or quaint manor house has so many ways to creatively kill off the bad guys. There's a demo on Steam, too.

12. Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth

Ichiban rides his segue along Hawaii's sunny streets in Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Sega

Yakuza: Like A Dragon was a joyful introduction to a new protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu, and transported players to the city streets of Isezaki Ijincho, as well as Kamurocho Sotenburi. In Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth you're whisked away to Hawaii. Though Ifinite Wealth has an optional island area to play a sort of upscaled version of Animal Crossing, there's much fun to be had riding a Segway around Hawaii.

As ever, seemingly small quests can spiral into strange, multi-part stories, but great attentino to detail has been given to making the setting feel authentic. You can buy Kona coffee, Mango shave ice, see the living statues on Waikiki beach, and visit the canals, malls and markets that actually exist in Honolulu. It's a real holiday, getting to run around and indulge in the Yakuza series' signature brand of kind of wacky antics - unabashed fun, noless - but with more of a beach party vibe.

11. Forza Horizon 5

A jeep makes a huge jump in Forza Horizon 5.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/ Xbox Game Studios

Justin said Forza Horizon 5 is "as close to flawless as any racer has ever come" in our review. Whatever you might think of this, the game is a might open world racer that's - as cheesy as it sounds - an actual festival. Chopping up Mexico's dusty beaches, tangled jungles, and sunny streets is a carefree celebration of swinging the back out. The map is filled with interesting slants on traditional races, and it's perhaps one of the most positive games, ever? It's the sort of game where if you could crash your Bugatti Veyron through someone's porch, it would give you a little treat for doing so.

Maybe one of FH5's strongest assets is being a racing game for people who might not be into racing games. You can take it as seriously as you'd like, and it's an actual joy to hop in and drive around Mexico for a bit, whether that's with pals or on your lonesome.

10. Baldur's Gate 3

Looking out at a vista in Baldur's Gate 3: the port and bay outside the titular city
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Larian Studios

There's so much to say about Baldur's Gate 3. Perhaps up top we should mention that it has difficult turn-based combat built on Dungeons & Dragons' D20 system, so it's not for everyone. But if you're alright with that, the fantasy world in BG3 is a real doozy. The maps are huge and fold in and around each other, full of secrets and weirdo characters who are as likely to ask you to steal an egg or track down a missing child as they are to be, er, having sex in a barn. It's worth the effort to go on an arduous quest to save Faerûn so you can keep running around the place.

From waking up in the wreckage of an exploded ship, you gingerly explore and find temple ruins, a rocky coast, a secret druid grove. There are sun-dappled forests and a camp of hard-partying goblins. Did someone order a bustling city with docks and fortresses? What about a swamp, or the Underdark - an underground realm full of bioluminescence and living mushroom people. There's a cursed land covered in life-leeching fog, with an equally cursed castle at the centre of it. There's a vampire's stronghold, and a lair in actual hell. The world of Baldur's Gate 3 holds basically anything you can imagine for a fantasy epic.

9. Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2 image showing Arthur Morgan riding a horse with an ally while staring towards the camera. He is holding a revolver.
Image credit: Rockstar Games

Red Dead Redemption 2 might seem like too obvious a choice for a list like this, but it's an obvious choice for a reason: it's really good. And man, its open world is an astonishing feat and totally transportative. The diversity of flora and fauna, hooves crunching in snow, crouching over a clifftop and watching a herd a bison graze. It might not be as densely packed as say, Elden Ring, yet that isn't Rockstar's aim here.

As we pointed out in our Red Dead Redemption 2 review, the game is more of an orchestration of action rarely seen in open world games. You've got carefully curated heists, with a slow-burn story that catalogues the rise and fall of Arthur's gang as motivations once aligned go out of joint. There's relative freedom to relax - at least early on - and soak in the pleasures of taking a bubble bath or hunting a gator, or simply rolling a potential purchase around your hands in some out-of-the-way shop in a little town. RDR2 is special.

8. Subnautica

Undersea exploration in a Subnautica screenshot.
Image credit: Unknown Worlds Entertainment

Subnautica's open world is, for the most part, an underwater wonderland filled with coral reefs, volcanoes, and neon jellyfish. It's a survival game at heart, where you craft oxygen tanks and pod homes to keep yourself in tip top condition underseas. And there's nothing quite like riding your handmade submarine off the edge of a cliff and staring into a vast inky blackness. Honestly, it's both mesmerising and terrifying as you wonder what's beneath, then hear a bloodcurdling roar bubble upwards. Subnautica is, without a doubt, a horror game in disguise.

As with all the open worlds on this list, Subnautica lets you submerge anywhere and everywhere early on. But it's great in letting you know your limits, and gradually exposing you to new and helpful materials, or areas, or whatnot. The game never makes the survival aspect a chore.

7. No Man's Sky

A No Man's Sky player in their spaceship, flying towards a huge pirate dreadnought with a ringed planet in the top left corner
Image credit: Hello Games

No Man's Sky was a divisive release in 2016, but since then the devs at Hello Games have been hard at work building on the foundation provided by their space exploration sim. Hell, this is a game all about open worlds - multiple! About charting a course through unknown starts and seeing what you find! Since launch, No Man's Sky has had more than 30 updates to add new features and polish it up. It's had new vehicles, new play modes, and you can even domesticate the alien creatures you find now. How cool is that?

But for our purposes on this list, we should also highlight that basically everthing on every world you explore in No Man's Sky - and there are a lot, as you head towards the centre of the galaxy - is created through procedural generation. It leads to unexpectedly beautiful planets full of weird ferns and wonky dinosuars, bright purple rocks and yellow skies. Sights that only RNG could come up with. The most recent update to No Man's Sky was this year (which is true of basically every year). It's one of those games where the best time to start playing is always today.

6. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

A bloodied Snake and co. step off a helicopter and walk towards the camera in MGSV: The Phantom Pain.
Image credit: Konami Digital Entertainment

Metal Gear Solid was always revered for its complex sneaking systems, but Metal Gear Solid V took that depth and applied it to (multiple) enormous open worlds. Sneaking across the sun-scorched mountains of Afghanistan is as much an exercise of imagination as it is a test of your stealth abilities. Sure, you can choose to take the long way around an enemy outpost. If you’re boring. But why not ride your horse straight through it instead, avoiding conflict by hiding against the body of your trusty steed? Or take out the soldiers using a tranquiliser gun, before shipping them off to home base using a big comedy balloon? Or avoid stealth altogether, and call in your helicopter to gun them down while A-Ha’s Take On Me blares out of its speakers?

The world of MGSV is a delight, sure, but it’s the playful things you can do in it that makes it feel truly special. Every journey back into enemy territory is a fresh opportunity for expressive decision making. Part immersive sim, part stealth sandbox, the game really is something else.

5. American Truck Simulator

A screenshot of American Truck Simulator's Montana expansion, showing a curved road, a truck, and a lotta trees.
Image credit: SCS Software

For a game limited to major highways and byways in a cut-down version of a fraction of the USA (still building eastward with each expansion), American Truck Simulator feels vast and free. That is partially the romance that American trucking holds for a European: the call of the open road, those flat lands with endless skies, and the Americana that drips from every vintage convertible and neon-lit gas station. But it is still huge, and feels surprisingly open and free even though you're mostly driving a set route to a time limit.

One job you're hauling a load up the Pacific Coast Highway on a glorious day, next you're winding through narrow unknown roads at night with a wide load, then you're blowing through mundane towns you've never heard of and wouldn't want to live in but are glad to have briefly known. And you can always sack off and go exploring because hey, it's only money. The developers are also increasingly supportive of tourism, adding viewpoints at pretty places and even creating reasons for trucks to go where they shouldn't, into Yellowstone. Honk honk!

4. Dragon's Dogma 2

Screenshot of an Oxcart ride in Dragon's Dogma 2.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Capcom

The original Dragon's Dogma was a kind of cult hit, almost, and Dragon's Dogma 2 continues in it's grand tradition of fantasy weirdness. What marks DD2 apart - otherwise being a fantasy world with dragons and ogres that you adventure in - is that journey's anywhere are fraught with danger. You have to genuinely plan ahead. Do you have enough money to get a cart somewhere? That'll be safer, but it might be quicker to go yourself. Still, though, if the journey is going to take longer than a day, you'll end up travelling at night, and things get genuinely dark and wildly more dangerous at night. That's when the deadliest monsters come out. Still, even if you pay for a cart you might get attacked by an ogre, but at least on the cart you've got some guards to back up you and your crew.

Point is, Dragon's Dogma 2 isn't technically a tactics game, but you have to approach travel very tactically if you want to succeed. And because of the systems in the game, there's a chance that when you make it to town a massive bastard dragon will just wander up to the gates anyway. It's great!

3. Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines

A quiet city street at night in Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines.
Image credit: Activision

Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines may need a big ol' mod to get it in working order, but it's pen 'n' paper RPG is a wonderful descent into sex, blood, and dependency, going to dark nooks and crannies which other games dare not. The game offers you so many choices, too - ways to succeed or fail, miserably - in the first half, which makes it one of the truest RPGs on PC. There are a myriad of ways to tackle any situation, whether that's finding some passcodes, sucking on some necks, or doing some sexy sweet talk. Couple these choices with superb writing and you've got a world that genuinely feels alive, even if the character models look... less alive.

But why is Bloodlines on an open world list? Because of its setting in a grimy 00s playground, small but dense, where you get to know the denizens that stay up late for all sorts of reasons. There are odd pockets and secrets to find in the four areas: Santa Monica, Hollywood, Downtown Los Angeles, and Chinatown. And after the gunsmoke has cleared and you've failed your last attempt at a seduction, the thing you'll remember most is your rundown apartment in Santa Monica, the red lit windows of the club in LA, the graveyard in Hollywood...

2. Horizon Forbidden West

Riding on a bristleback machine, past a big Thunderjaw (which is a t-rex robot) in Horizon Forbidden West
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/PlayStation

Horizon Zero Dawn was one of the first games to escape PlayStation exclusive containment and make it onto PC. Thus, we get a taste of the sequel, too. Set a thousand years in the future after rogue robots turned everything living on Earth into fuel, the Horizon series starts when things have been in a more stable state for a while. An advanced AI system has been producing robots that take the place of some of the missing animals to cultivate the planet, while humans have re-evolved into disparate tribal societies with their own cultures and customs. In Forbidden West you head over to California, which means you get redwood forests, and rocky desert along with your lush jungles and snowy mountains.

There are also new huge robot dinosaurs to hunt, including ones that are like giant brown bears, or massive snapping turtles. The ruins of the old world are still around, too, so you get to climb and leap around the sky scrapers that were once San Francisco, or explore the underground remains of Vegas. Coupled with a day and night system, and some absolutely beautiful water that covers the place with jewel green and blue rivers and ponds, and you've got an open world you can really get lost in.

1. Elden Ring

The Volcano Manor in Elden Ring
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / FromSoftware Inc, Bandai Namco Entertainment

Elden Ring is an open world RPG set in the Lands Between, a place teeming with gangly beasts that want to murder you. Except it's a really wonderful world, actually. One that gently guides you in the right direction, yet tempts you off the beaten track and into ruined forts, or tight knit caverns, or elevators that'll blow your mind. Without sounding overdramatic, you probably haven't ever encountered an open world as dense as Elden Ring's.

What's special about Elden Ring is its freedom to explore, not only on your spectral steed, but in your character's build, too. Want to go samurai? Sure. Want to go for a hybrid of mage and knight? Absolutely. It's the first FromSoftware game which actively encourages you to probe the dark if you're struggling with a big obstacle. You never know what you might find, and crucially, how - if you can survive getting your skull crushed by a rock giant, or something - whatever it drops, or unlocks, might help you push further.

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