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Essays 01 July 2021, 16:00

author: Darius Matusiak

A wannabe fighter pilot, racing driver, and a spec-op; an adventurer and a space marine – hence, a gamer. I’ve been playing games since Wing Commander, and writing since Destiny.

Best Open-World Games You Can Play In 2021

Open worlds and single player sandboxes are a great way to lose 100 hours out of your life. Here are the best open world games you can play in 2021 on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox and Switch.

Games with an open world guarantee dozens or even hundreds of hours of fun. They're also famous for great freedom in gameplay, allowing us to follow our own style. So, here is our list of the best sandbox and open-world games you can play today, in 2021.

"War? What war? I'm fishing here!" – There's no denying that the main reason for the enduring popularity of open-world games over the years is this, almost unfettered freedom. We go where we want, do what we want, and often be who we want, too. In the newest games, the graphics also matter, as the beautiful, often near photorealistic landscapes encourage exploration and just taking in the views, without any other, more important goals.

The games offer different settings, styles, characters, and stories, but we really value them all for the same reasons – for the freedom of choice, for deciding ourselves whether to tackle side activities or the main plot, whether to go right or left at the crossroads. Games with an open world guarantee dozens, often hundreds of hours of fun and are mostly aging with admirable dignity. New generations of players are reaching jumping on the bandwagon, and veterans are returning.

Whether this is the ultimate video games genre, however, is a subject for another conversation. Instead, we present you a set of the best open-world games out there. Whether you've played these games and haven't finished them, or if it will be your first time with the given title, here's a definitive list of must-play open-world games.

Best open-world games for PC/PS4/Xbox| TOP 2021 list

  • GTA 5 – Grand Theft Auto 5 is one of the best open world games. Ever.
  • Skyrim – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an iconic game and probably the best open-world RPG.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – a great RPG with a fantastic storyline and engaging side quests for hundreds of hours.
  • Minecraft – There's no open world like your own open world. Certainly the ultimate sandbox.
  • The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild – a charming adventure in the iconic world of Zelda.
  • Far Cry 5 If you enjoy FPS games and shooting, this is the title for you.
  • AC Valhalla – Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is an ultimate modern-day action RPG. Beautiful graphics, huge open world, and a great Viking setting.
  • No Man's Sky – the greatest open-world space exploration game.
  • Forza Horizon 4 – An open-world car racing game? That’s Forza Horizon 4!
  • Valheim – An indie survival open-world multiplayer game. You really should check it out.
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn– Good post-apocalyptic action RPG for PS4, PS5 and PC.
  • Ghost of Tsushima – You can be a samurai or a ninja. Or both.
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 – RDR2 is one of the greatest games in general. An incredibly rich and complex open world set in the reality of the old west.

GTA 5

Released: 2013

Developer: Rockstar Games

Platforms: Windows PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One (also announced for PS5, Xbox Series X/S)

GTA 5 is an example of a veritably immortal production. It's still the same game, and it's about to be released for its third generation of consoles. While everyone eagerly awaits the announcement of the new installment, the fifth part of the famous series still looks and plays like a charm. The virtual Los Santos is still the best virtual impression of Los Angeles you'll find in any game, and the believable, vibrant city full of side activities means you don't even have to play a gangster to have fun with GTA 5. Instead of shooting, you can do stuff like yoga sessions or play tennis.

And if, by some miracle, anyone hasn't seen the story of Michael, Franklin and Trevor yet, they should definitely catch up. It's like a compelling action movie where we get to be the main character. All these years after its release , however ,what keeps GTA 5 at the top is the online mode GTA Online. That's where new content appears regularly – new locations, new activities, new items. And if anyone has an aversion to rather idiosyncratic GTA Online community, there are still countless mods to try with the PC version.

  1. GTA 5 in our encyclopedia

Skyrim

Released: 2011

Developer: Bethesda Softworks

Platforms: Windows PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One

The letter/number "V" in the title must be telling in some magical way, because if any game can equal GTA 5 in terms of immortality, it's definitely The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. As much as we'd like to see a concrete trailer for the sixth installment by now, the five is still fun to play. We lovedSkyrim for the atmosphere of an extraordinary adventure in a fantasy world with very coherent design of locations and enemies, as well as the extraordinary music. All of this was the backdrop for an epic tale of a dragon hunter – the dovahkiin – who you could empathize with like few other characters in video games.

The vastness of the lands we traversed, the freedom on all fronts, from appearance to siding with factions made the world of Skyrim seem to exist and function regardless of our presence. The creators did not impose anything, didn't suggest anything – we decided about every step ourselves from the first minutes of the game. Today, thanks to the special edition, the game still looks good, but it shows its true power only on the PC, where countless mods can bring this oldie to near cutting-edge state, also introducing numerous mechanics. It's hard to believe that such free gameplay can be made even more fun.

  1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in our encyclopedia

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Released: 2015

Developer: CD Projekt RED

Platforms: Windows PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, (also coming to: PS5, Xbox Series X/S)

The third part of the adventures of Geralt of Rivia is often considered the best either RPG ever, the best open-world game ever, or both of them – also ever. The Witcher 3 had many great attributes, but perhaps the most important was the approach of the developers to side quests. In addition to a few, garden-variety fetch quests, we got a real myriad of engaging stories with memorable characters that sometimes surpassed those of the main thread. Even the card minigame (the famous Gwent that eventually made it into a full-blown card game) was terribly engrossing.

The Witcher also enchanted players around the world with an extraordinary version of fantasy, a bit darker, seasoned with them Slavic motifs. In addition to regular elves and dwarves, we had strigas, godlings, vyverns, and certain three witches that looked like straight out of a nightmare. Combined with a truly epic soundtrack, the game offered an utterly gripping, electrifying experience. There aren't as many mods to revamp the game as in the case of Skyrim, but there are two excellent, massive story expansions that introduce further tens of hours with great characters, memorable stories, and stunning locations.

  1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in our encyclopedia

Minecraft

Released: 2011

Developer: Mojang AB

Platforms: Windows PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo WiiU, Nintendo 3DS, iOS, Android

Although Minecraft isn't all the rage anymore, it still remains one of the most popular – and best – open-world games. And nowadays, you can play it on practically every platform – from smartphones to PCs with the best graphics cards; the once simple graphics have recently been revamped with RTX support! Minecraft is invariably attractive with its simplicity of gameplay, with the survival mode, which pits the player against the dangers of the night, completely overshadowed by free play, especially creating your own worlds and all kinds of structures.

Minecraft turned out to be the Lego of the gaming world. A game where you can build anything you want – famous locations, buildings, and even recreate other famous games. Tolkien's Middle-earth, King's Landing from Game of Thrones, the game Among Us, or Novigrad from The Witcher 3 have all been recreated in Minecraft – and these are just a fraction of the examples. It sounds clichι, but in Minecraft, we are limited only by our imagination. We can play as the developers intended, we can use numerous mods, or we can just do what the hell we like!

  1. More about Minecraft in our encyclopedia

The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

Released: 2017

Developer: Nintendo

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Nintendo WiiU

Link's adventures in Breath of the Wild are to this day the true paragon of open-world gaming. Here, the world itself is an adventure and a character! There are no markers you have to reach, no matter what task you should be doing. We simply move ahead in any direction and the adventures unwind as we go! The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild takes gameplay freedom to a whole new level. On top of that, we also have a huge amount of details, each of which is meaningful.

It's all delightful: the physics of objects, side activities, exploration and, in general, the whole game world that lives its own life, regardless of the presence of the main character. It may sound strange, but it all adds a bit of authenticity and credibility to this very much fairy-tale universe. Here, every moment manages to delight us without the feeling of obtrusive repetitiveness, even though we will spend at least several dozen hours with Link in Breath of the Wild.

  1. More about The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

Far Cry 5

Released: 2018

Developer: Ubisoft

Platforms: PC Windows, PS4, Xbox One

Until the release of Far Cry 6, it's the fifth installment that exemplifies an extremely wacky sandbox, where serious themes and brutality are mixed with an absurd sense of humor. The story of a religious cult and its leader Joseph overrunning the wilderness of Montana may not be outstanding, but the open world alone is very enthralling. Far Cry 5 allows you to feel some of the atmosphere of the "preppers" subculture and get a taste of life in the backwoods with beautiful views at every turn. You can hunt, fish, look for prepper shelters and hideouts.

Cars, airplanes, helicopters and even tractors turn travel into fun, and getting into the smallest crevice is easier with a wingsuit and climbing abilities. The combat, however, is where Far Cry 5 really shines, though, with almost complete freedom in choosing the appropriate style. Either silently eliminating everyone with a bow or knife, or frontally attacking with grenades, machine guns blaring, and airstrikes coming in. Indeed, there's tons of ways to turn the hostile outposts into rubble. And for dessert, there's collecting bull testicles and looking for the landing site of a UFO. Few people have managed to pack so many themes, so different from each other, into one game.

  1. Far Cry 5 in our encyclopedia

AC Valhalla

Released: 2020

Developer: Ubisoft

Platforms: Windows PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

With each installment of the Assassin's Creed series, Ubisoft has not only perfected its open-world formula, but also expanded its content, which can be considered as much of an advantage as a flaw. Completing the latest Valhalla is quite time-consuming, not to mention clearing the map of all the markers and quests. For fans of this type of gameplay, however, it's the biggest and longest feast. The melee combat traditional to the Assassin's Creed series, exploration with an emphasis on climbing, and a storyline based on historical realities take place in the heydays of the Vikings. As Eivor, we leave the native Norway and set course to the British Isles.

Setting up a new home, however, isn't easy, as you have to dig through veritable tons of content: things to find, activities to try, and places to explore. All this is made more pleasant by beautiful views, both in Scandinavia and Britain, great music, and many surprises. The developers had plenty of room for interesting easter eggs meant for the most attentive players, as well as historical locations and figures.

AC: Valhalla is not the only Assassin's Creed worth recommending. A similar gameplay formula and equally rich open worlds can be found in the previous parts: Odyssey and Origins. The former takes us to ancient Greece, while the older Origins takes us to ancient Egypt.

  1. More about Assassin's Creed: Valhalla

No Man's Sky

Released: 2016

Developer: Hello Games

Platforms: Windows PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

One of the most dramatic stories in the gaming world has finally reached a happy ending. After the disappointing release of No Man's Sky, when it became apparent that the game lacked many of promised mechanics, the developers got to work and systematically fixed the game. Today, No Man's Sky is a completely different title, no doubt worth recommending to any fan of open worlds. Here, the world is the entire universe, as we are exploring, after all, the entire cosmos and the procedurally generated planets in it.

There's a lot to see, and there are also elements of survival and base building once we decide to land on a planet. There's also combat and multiplayer modes. In addition to receiving a hefty dose of content, the game has also been polished in terms of visuals. If the online rules of Elite Dangerous are too complicated and unforgiving, No Man's Sky will certainly help you fulfill the dream of personal space conquest.

  1. No Man's Sky in our encyclopedia

Forza Horizon 4

Released: 2018

Developer: Playground Games

Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

Similar as in the case of Far Cry – until Forza Horizon 5 settles on our drives, part four remains the apex achievement of the open-world racing genre. It's a bit of a different sandbox than most of the titles above, because instead of a main character and plot, the most important thing here is the car, and fast driving. However, this doesn't mean there's a lack of exploration, locations to visit, or fierce competition. Or you can just free drive – alone or with a crew of friends.

As in any open-world game, there are side activities and a story, plus quests, character development and the quintessence of it all – something you don't find in other sandboxes – car collecting! The roads and offroads of Britain in Forza Horizon 4 are the backdrop for acquiring hundreds of shiny rides from nearly every automotive era and class. Fans of virtually all brands should find their beloved cars, creating their virtual dream garage.

  1. More about Forza Horizon 4

Valheim

Released: 2021 (Early Access)

Developer: Iron Gate Studio

Platforms: PC Windows

Valheim conquered Steam in early 2021. It's supposed to be another survival game, but with its Viking vibe, it fits right in with the wave of popularity of AC: Valhalla, and besides, the gameplay itself is really addictive. There's something of the immense freedom of Minecraft in here; there's always rewarding exploration, and every action – from fighting to simply felling trees – is satisfying an deep.

The combat in particular is noteworthy, as some have even compared it to Dark Souls. Besides, solo gameplay can be swapped for cooperation with a group of friends. Valheim also boasts great technical condition for an early access game, and quite minuscule disk size by today's standards. If the devs managed to debut with such a smash hit, I'm afraid to think what their next game will bring.

  1. Valheim in our encyclopedia

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Released: 2017

Developer: Guerilla Games

Platforms: Windows PC, PS4

While we wait for the new set of adventures of the brave Aloy, Horizon: Zero Dawn, in which we met her for the first time, still remains a great sandbox. The setting itself is interesting: hunter-gatherer tribes at the dawn of time have to fight mech dinosaurs. Civilization as we know it collapsed long ago, and intelligent machine-animals took over the world.

This allowed the developers to introduce not only interesting enemy designs, but also combat methods – have bows, spears and other ranged weapons. These are seemingly old-fashioned tools, but everything is constructed from machine parts, so it also looks quite futuristic at the same time. Thanks to this mix, the world of Horizon: Zero Dawn is incredibly original, and the beautiful visuals encourage you to stay in this universe for as long as possible.

  1. More about Horizon: Zero Dawn

Ghost of Tsushima

Released: 2020

Developer: Sucker Punch Productions

Platforms: PS4

Samurais, feudal Japan, real history – these elements made for one of the best open-world games to date... Who would have thunk? The story of Jin Sakai and the aftermath of the Mongol invasion of Tsushima Island is the backdrop for an extremely gripping and beautiful production, in which almost every element is stunning. Fans of open worlds will encounter a completely different way of guiding the player here, as instead of the traditional markers on the map or screen interface, you have to keep a close eye on your surroundings!

Anything can turn out to be of importance. From a plume of smoke on the horizon, to the eye-catching behavior of an animal somewhere in the distance. Such mechanics make exploration in Ghost of Tsushima seem to be on a whole different level than in most similar games. Catching the details is made easier by the beautiful visuals, which add to the unique atmosphere of the whole thing. All the side activities fit perfectly, and the unique mechanic of taunting enemies deserves its own appraisal! Let's hope Sony decides to release this game outside their console as well.

  1. Ghost of Tsushima in our encyclopedia

Red Dead Redemption 2

Released: 2018

Developer: Rockstar Games

Platforms: PC Windows, PS4, Xbox One

You can argue whether Red Dead Redemption 2 is the best open-world game ever, whether it has the best storyline, or cast. The fact of the matter is, though, that the open world itself – the way it looks and, in fact, behaves – is something only Rockstar can outdo in the foreseeable future. The developers have created a true open world to end all open worlds, and for that reason alone, RDR2 is worth playing. The story of Arthur Morgan and his gang rampaging through the Old West draws you in with its maturity and memorable characters, but even when we stop following these events, we can still remain completely immersed in the realistic world of the second part of Red Dead Redemption that’s just insanely detailed.

It is a living, breathing ecosystem if we've ever seen one in games. There are hundreds of types of animals, and you can observe all of them. Time passes no matter what we do. We are just a small part of this habitat. The game world changes as time goes by – you can notice a house being constructed, or the protagonist's beard growing. We can completely forget about the main thread and focus on really detailed and entertaining side activities – the more serious ones, like catching bandits, and less – like hunting or catching fish. And that's just a fraction of things to see and discover in Red Dead Redemption 2. Rockstar just managed to create the perfect cowboy simulator.

  1. More about Red Dead Redemption 2

Darius Matusiak | Gamepressure.com

Assassin's Creed: Valhalla

Assassin's Creed: Valhalla

Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto V

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2

Horizon: Zero Dawn - Complete Edition

Horizon: Zero Dawn - Complete Edition

Valheim

Valheim

Ghost of Tsushima

Ghost of Tsushima

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