Nothing beats having a sense of control and freedom in a game. With the numerous First-Person Shooters and linear games that are regularly released and are to be released in the year, it's always nice to find a game filled with side missions, random events and a huge map to put them in. Open-world games have become more and more popular over the years, with each one having more content and a bigger world to roam free in.
With huge, new open-world games such as Horizon: Zero Dawn, Watch_Dogs 2 and No Man's Sky being released this year, it's time to look back over the years and find the one true open-world experience. For the most part, I'll only be including one game per franchise, so all you San Andreas and Oblivion fanboys can go sit back down. (This will not include games I have not played, such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Mad Max, however both these games would be very high up on the list.)
No matter who you are, you have played this game. If not, then you would know exactly what it is. Minecraft is the game this generation will be known for, much like Super Mario for the previous generation. The levels of creativity you can achieve in this game is outstanding and its Survival Mode is exceptionally difficult considering the simplicity of the mechanics.
Crafting your own items and creating your first wooden house is only the start of Minecraft's capabilities, with hundreds, possibly thousands of different blocks to use and build with. With its randomly generated worlds and multiple game-modes, Minecraft is a game that has influenced and will influence many games in the future and is without a doubt, an open-world game.
9. Batman: Arkham City
The second game in Rocksteady's Arkham series, Arkham City put the world's greatest detective in the criminal-ruled city empowered by Hugo Strange. Following the success of the previous game, Arkham Asylum, the map was changed to be an open-world larger than its predecessor. Even though the map is not the largest and certainly isn't in this list, it was a perfect change and allowed for more creative gadgets that aided in traversal around it.
With nearly all the super-villains you could ask for as side-missions, including Joker and Penguin as main antagonists throughout the story, this game will keep Batman and the player intrigued with endless fights and side-missions to interact with. Containing one of the best twist endings of any game and a combat system that influenced many modern games today, Batman: Arkham City is an excellent sequel and, along with Spider-Man 2, one of the best superhero open-world games to exist.
8. Far Cry 3
First-Person Shooters are usually known for their linear paths, but Far Cry changed this around and created an excellent blend of FPS and sandbox. The game follows Jason Brody, a lost traveler who is trapped on a pirate-ridden tropical island in search for his captured friends. The island is led by one of the most memorable villains in gaming, Vaas.
With the mixture of stealth and shooting, scouting a base and clearing it out is satisfying and allows Jason to grow as a character. The world of Rook Island is beautiful and the vehicles, including the hand glider and the wing-suit, feel great to control. The range of animals makes the world feel alive and the crafting system and upgrade system are very creative, allowing us to see the full range of abilities. Plus, it's the only game that jump-scared me successfully with a crocodile.
7. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
High-Fantasy RPGs have given me some of the best gaming experiences, and Skyrim is no exception. Creating your own story in the world of Skyrim has been some of the most fun I've ever had. The fact that you can walk in any direction and instantly find a quest or a random encounter is what makes this game so special; the world feels so alive. Every person, whether they're from Winterhold or Markarth, has their own story to tell, which makes the world feel so open and engaging.
With hundreds of hours of quests and strongholds, Skyrim is an utter timesink that will never runs out of adventures. The world of Skyrim itself is gorgeous and vibrant, with lots of dragons. I like dragons.
6. Just Cause 2
My favourite game for many years, Just Cause 2 was the biggest open-world of all time, with 400 square kilometres to explore. That's a pretty large map and still is one of the biggest, even though it's now six years old. Rico Rodriguez, an American agent sent to the island paradise of Panau, has a large array of weaponry, including C4, rocket launchers, LMGs, you name it and Rico's got it.
The blending of Rico's grappling hook and parachute makes the traversal of the vast world fun and constantly dangerous, even though any vehicle can be hijacked in Panau. Both the grappling hook and parachute are Rico's signature gadgets and feel great to use and with a world filled with over 300 settlements to take over and blow up, you'll have plenty of time to experiment with them and very quickly, you'll learn to love them.
5. Red Faction: Guerrilla
With the greatest damage engine of any game, Red Faction: Guerrilla knows what gamers want; to destroy everything. You play as Alec Mason (technically Thor) who is a mine worker on Mars. The Red Planet is ruled by the EDF (Earth Defence Force). After the death of his brother, Dan, by the EDF, he joins the rebel group called the "Red Faction". With a large arsenal of weaponry and his signature sledgehammer, you can explore Mars and destroy any structure.
The destruction engine is what makes the game so unique, with realistic destruction physics for every building and all infrastructure. This and the side missions, such as destruction frenzies and hostage situations mix very well, allowing for destruction to aid you in a mission. There's no doubt that this game will keep you entertained if all you've wanted to do is to demolish everything. The Red Planet is there to explode, I mean explore.
4. Red Dead Redemption
Considered one of the best games ever made, Red Dead Redemption is basically GTA but with cowboys. You follow John Marston, a former outlaw whose wife and son are taken hostage in exchange for his services as a hired gun. Therefore, John must take down the men from his former gang and bring them to justice in any way possible.
With a huge western open-world to explore with many villages and settlements, this game is full of content. Not to mention its random mini-missions that spawn, always giving you a goal to achieve. Moreover, the inclusion of the "Dead Eye" game mechanic that allows players to mark multiple bandits in slow-motion makes the gun-slinging enjoyable and more accurate. Red Dead Redemption, along with its expansion, Undead Nightmare, are both exceptional open-world experiences.
3. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
It's very rare to find a decent pirate game, probably because there are so little of them, but Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag took the idea and made something incredible. Edward Kenway, a Welsh pirate, can sail around the Caribbean seas in his boat, The Jackdaw, with his trusty pirate crew. You can sail anywhere you like, with the biggest map of any other Assassin's Creed game and the scenery of the map is beautiful, with lovely sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters and a range of fauna from Havana to Kingston.
The sailing, similar to The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker, feels really pleasant to control in both calm and stormy waters. Plus, being able to get off your boat at any point, even in the middle of the ocean, increases the level of freedom and allows for frequent exploration in caves, shipwrecks and small, coast villages. Boarding other British and Spanish ships in any way you desire is some of the most fun I've had in an Assassin's Creed game and just shows the enjoyment that can be had from a historical sandbox.
2. Grand Theft Auto 5
Many of you may be surprised on why this is second, but yes, there was no doubt that this legend of a game would be in the list. Considering it earned $800 million in its first day, it's obvious this game was a success. From it's incredible accuracy of the Los Santos map to Los Angeles and it's astonishing level of detail in everything, GTA V was and still is the biggest earning piece of media of all time.
The ability to jump between Trevor, Micheal and Franklin was a creative inclusion in the Single-player and their individual special abilities made it all the more enjoyable. The world of Los Santos feels so alive and enticing; interacting with citizens makes it feel all the more enticing. It's a major improvement from the previous games, with an all new game engine and a bigger, better world. Oh, and the online is also extremely fun. Everyone's already got ten copies of it and I wouldn't blame them for it.
There are so many brilliant open-world games out there that just couldn't go in this list. Games such as Saint's Row 2 and Saint's Row: The Third are both enjoyable, stupid sandboxes, along with Burnout Paradise and Assassin's Creed II, also excellent games. I absolutely loved my time with Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 4, all brilliant open-world games and not to mention Spider-Man 2 from before, an outstanding superhero sandbox. But now, in my opinion, the best open-world game...
1. Just Cause 3
Considering Just Cause 2 was my favourite game ever, all they had to do for the sequel was make a new 400 square kilometre world and improve everything wrong with it, and that's exactly what they did. The world of Medici in Just Cause 3 is colourful and beautiful and the bases, villages and cities are constantly varied with so many different types of military compounds. The grappling hook and parachute were massively improved, with the ability to use multiple tethers and the new mechanic, the wing-suit, is quite possibly the best traversal game mechanic of any game.
The upgrades for both Rico and the vehicles are exciting and consistently change how you play the game and furthermore, the game itself is purely made to be a fun video-game and that, is all a gamer could ask for. Yes, the story may be poop, but you don't play it for the story, you play Just Cause 3 for the vast world given to you. I could gush about this game till I'm suffocating on the floor, but it's best if you experience it for yourself because there's so much for an sandbox lover to enjoy.
The open-world genre is one that allows for freedom and exploration in the world given to you and to make your own stories in these virtual worlds. With the new sandboxes being released this year, there's no doubt there will be many world to explore and lose yourself in.