Video games are more refined in 2021 than ever before. Not too long ago, a compelling story and good gameplay were enough to become recognizable. These days, a lot of studios are capable of doing that. Competition is tough, and with the number of studios out there, standing out of the crowd becomes a bit difficult. Especially considering that trends dictate the amount of success you’ll get.
Open-world games are one of those trends. It’s also possible the longest-running one out of all of them. It all started when GTA III became popular back in 2001. Since then, we have seen open-world games continuously reinvent themselves. This has given us a lot of gems. Open-world games are also extremely popular among the casual audience since they are arguably the easiest genre to get into.
With all of that said, it is extremely difficult to cherry-pick the “best” open-world games. Personal preference comes into play here. However, we’ll try our best here. After a lot of thought, here are our favorite open-world games worth playing in 2021.
1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
It should be no surprise to anyone that the Witcher 3 is on this list. There’s an argument to be made for the Witcher 3 if we’re talking about the game of the decade. It won the Game Of The Year Award back in 2015. Even now, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. It has two: Hearts Of Stone, and Blood And Wine. These give the player more content and a lot of new adventures to experience.
The Witcher 3 (and previous entries) is based on a series of books by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. Open-world games and fantasy settings almost go hand-in-hand. We’ve seen it work before with Skyrim, Final Fantasy, and more. However, this game is unique as it has a lot of personality and vigor. Creating a game with a massive open world is easy but being able to bring purpose into every aspect of the open-world like CD Projekt has done in this game, well, that is something special.
In this game, you take on the role of Geralt Of Rivia. He is a monster hunter who has been trained since childhood for one purpose: slay beasts. Geralt is an interesting character and has a unique personality, which is something we rarely see in open-world games. He’s not just a backdrop to this incredible world, he is prominently a part of it.
Geralt is on a quest to find his adopted daughter: Ciri. A group of underworld hunters is seeking to capture her for her powers, this group is known as the Wild Hunt. That’s all we’ll say about the story. Not many people talk about the excellent writing and dialogue in this game. You can tell the people behind it cared about the experience.
The Witcher world is divided into 4 different environments you can explore. Velen consists of forests and swamps, Novigrad is a massive city surrounded by farmland. Skellige is where you will find mountains and snow and Toussaint is the land of colorful vineyards. The varying weather conditions and the day/night cycles are also excellent ways to bring more dynamicity into the game.
Perhaps the best quality of the Witcher 3 is the amount of care and love shown in its creation. The beasts, NPCs, towns, allies, enemies, all have a lot of soul to them. You can say a lot about this game, but no one can dare call it dull. The environment and visuals are also stunning. If you haven’t yet, try giving the Witcher 3 a shot.
Developer: CD Projekt
Publisher: CD Projekt
Release Date: May 2015
2. Red Dead Redemption 2
There are a lot of companies that focus on making open-world games. However, not a lot does it better than Rockstar. GTA V would have been an obvious entry on this list, but every kid in every country knows about that game by now. While you could say the same for Red Dead Redemption 2, it deserves to be talked about. Red Dead Redemption 2 is the open-world experience almost perfected.
There’s no surprise as to why this game is a success. Everyone always loves any form of content that involves the Wild West. It was a time of anarchy, liberty, and a lot of chaos. Some of the best stories take place in the old West, and this game is one of time. Lawlessness will always have that glamorous quality, no matter how taboo it sounds in our current social state.
The fact that Red Dead Redemption 2 takes you back to a time when streets were ruled by horse riding gangs should be enough to sell anyone on it. However, that’s barely the beginning. The Wild West era is coming to an end in this game. You are a part of the Van Der Linde gang, and the entire crew has become outlaws. You run from bounty hunters, gangs, and even the government. The Van Der Linde gang is looking for a place in the world that holds no compassion for them.
You play as Arthur Morgan, who is a crucial member of the gang. Arthur Morgan is one of the greatest protagonists ever written, and not just in video games. Arthur realizes that being an outlaw isn’t easy these days, and he’s fighting his inner demons throughout the game. One side of him wants to be free with his companions, yet the other side wants to accept the reality of the situation.
Every single character in the game has interesting dialogue, and most even have their own stories. While scavenging for supplies, pulling off heists, and engaging in gunfires, you’ll somehow still fall in love with some of these characters. There’s a lot of depth to this game, and on top of all of that, it is visually stunning. Even the side quests are unique and enjoyable.
The best part about RDR2 is its exploration. You run into people being robbed on the streets, people hunting animals, and other interesting characters. You can find different horses, guns, and explore new areas. There is too much fun to be had in this game, and it is very difficult to put down.
Developer: Rockstar Games
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Release Date: October 2018
3. The Outer Worlds
In an industry where open-world games can get quite repetitive, the Outer Worlds is a breath of fresh air. It was one of the biggest surprise hits of 2019. More than anything, it’s an overall exciting time, and the fun to be had here is alone worth the money.
The Outer Worlds is developed by Obsidian Entertainment. If you are a long-time fan of the Fallout series, that name should sound quite familiar to you. Obsidian was the studio that developed Fallout: New Vegas. It’s personally my favorite game in the Fallout series, and many other Fallout fans would agree. That puts a lot of expectations on the shoulders of Obsidian, but thankfully they live up to it.
When you play The Outer Worlds, you get a sense of familiarity that Obsidian made this game, it uses the foundations laid down by New Vegas, with a little bit of BioShock inspiration sprinkled on top. Uniquely, the game feels nostalgic, yet utterly new and innovative in a sense. People who grew up playing proper polished RPGs will understand what I’m saying here.
That’s enough with the history lesson, so what exactly is this game all about? Well, it’s a genre that many people absolutely adore. That genre is a first-person shooter/RPG game. Yes, this game does involve a lot of shooting and action, but that’s not the sole reason for playing this game. When I say RPG, I think of long branched character conversations, creative game mechanics, lots of weapons, skill trees, and tonnes of other systems to be messed around with.
But I also think of a large universe with a lot of things to explore, and we can’t forget about all the lore to be found. The Outer Worlds absolutely nails every aspect I just mentioned, which is a feat of its own. You take on the role of “The Stranger” a character who was lost in transit on a spaceship that was supposed to travel to the farther end of the galaxy. You awake decades later from a deep sleep lost in space.
Eventually, you find your way into an area of planets called the Halcyon system. The world is different from as you remember it. Instead of a democracy, it is being run by megacorporations who don’t care about the common folk. The game pokes fun at late-stage capitalism in a satirical way, and it does all that while being self-aware.
In short, this game is superb. The game-world is inviting and distinctive compared to most open-world games out there. It also looks visually stunning and is one of those games that can take advantage of high-end PCs. Don’t get us wrong, this game looks great on consoles, but being a dialogue-focused open-world RPG, it’s one of those games that feels special on PC.
Either way, you should try to get your hands on it. It goes on sale quite often where you can pick it up for 50% to 60% off. Other than that, it is also available on Xbox Gamepass. That alone should make it enough for you to give this game the chance it deserves.
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Private Division
Release Date: October 2019
4. Metro Exodus
Metro happens to be one of the most loved single-player FPS games out there. However, the first two games are quite linear and revolve more around the plot rather than the world itself. The newest installment in the series, Metro Exodus has ambitions to change that for the better. Metro Exodus is a semi-open-world game, which doesn’t forget its roots and is still true to the formula of Metro games.
On the surface, it’s just like any other metro game. There are dark creepy hallways with monsters and enemies waiting around every corner. Even though Metro Exodus has changed the formula by going open-world, the story is still quite linear and it creates an amazing sense of dread that lingers with you throughout the plot.
The setting for the original games was based in the tunnels of Moscow (Metro 2033), and in the post-war city itself (Metro Last Light), Exodus is set in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the remains of the Earth. It’s a direct continuation of Last Light, so we won’t spoil anything if you are new to the franchise.
The game also has a dynamic weather cycle, meaning you can creep around at night without being unnoticed. However, certain enemies only come out in the night, so you have to keep that in mind. Most of the game is spent on a moving train called “The Aurora”. A lot of survivors are living in hidden compartments in this train, and it is your job to find them and uncover their conflicts.
The weapons and crafting in this game are also very satisfying. Every single bullet counts, and you’ll spend a lot of time going around in stealth, which the game does very well. It features a mix of linear storytelling and sandbox elements. The story is told through various seasons and weather, so you’ll face rain, snow, the desert, and a lot of rough terrains.
Overall, it’s a very satisfying game and a great addition to the already phenomenal series. You will have to play the previous games, however, but that’s what makes the whole experience worth it.
Developer: 4A Games
Publisher: Deep Silver
Release Date: February 2019
5. Ghost Of Tsushima
Straight away from the announcement trailer in 2017, we knew that Ghost Of Tsushima was going to be something special. The only reason it is the last game on this list is that it is a Sony exclusive. That’s great for Sony, as this game really is what some people call a console seller. However, it’s a bit of a shame as folks on other platforms won’t be able to see it in all its glory.
So, what makes Ghost Of Tsushima so phenomenal? Well, this is the last major PS4 exclusive title, developed by Sucker Punch Productions. They are the team behind the Sly Cooper games and the Infamous series. It’s been quite a while since they released a game. Other than that, the game looks superb in terms of graphical fidelity. Videos and images online do not do it justice.
The other interesting aspect is the setting. It takes place on a Japanese Island called Tsushima during the 13th century. You play as a Samurai Warrior, Jin Sakai. The Mongols are invading and trying to take over the Island. Tsushima’s forces cannot defend themselves, and Jin Sakai gets severe injuries. Eventually, he recovers and explores the island, and plot for revenge. Your character is referred to as The Ghost and is a bit of a legend in Tsushima.
If the above paragraph doesn’t want you to go play the game, we don’t know what will. There are great character moments, good acting, and some huge action set-pieces. However, the game also likes to slow down at times with both the story and the gameplay. Jin Sakai follows the Samurai Code, yet the Mongols do not care for this and fight without honor. This complication and others are played out beautifully in the story.
Furthermore, the world is absolutely beautiful. Sucker Punch has crafted a magnificent open-world here. There is also a lot to do in this world that we won’t spoil for you. Since this game takes place in Japan, you have the option for both Japanese and English voice acting. The game also has a black and white filter, which gives it the feel of an old Samurai movie. These things really show that the game was crafted with a lot of care and respect. It’s a must-play for any PS4/PS5 owner.
Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: July 2020