Open-world games are one of the most popular genres in the industry. After developers realized that giving players exploration options gave much greater returns than it cost them to develop, they knew that there was a lot of money to be made. Thus, just about every developer imaginable is adding their own spin on the genre each year with new releases, from mega-icons like Nintendo's Mario franchise to two-person indie teams

We're at the point now where many of the major triple-A releases every year are open-world games. While there are a lot of problems with how major developers are handling these games, the genre truly has been advancing little by little every year.

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Some of the best games of all time are marked as open-world, which makes talking about them a difficult task. Many of them are held in such high regard that it’s nearly impossible to have anything critical to say or even rank them against other open-world games. With that in mind, we’re going to rank the best open-world games (and/or franchises) of all time.

Updated November 9, 2021 by Jacob Buchalter: Once again, it’s been a few months since the last time we updated this ranking, so let’s take another look back. The term “open-world” is always so vague when it comes to video games, as there are quite a few ways to define it.

And, because of this, a lot of smaller or lesser-known open-world games fall through the cracks. Hopefully, we’ve got just about all the most-notable ones at this point.

Disclaimer: These are our opinions. After looking through what fans seemed to agree on and what we felt were personally better choices, we came up with this list. If there are some open-world games you feel we missed, feel free to let us know what your choices would be in the comments.

39 No More Heroes 1 And 3

No More Heroes 3 - Travis Touchdown Talking On His Cell Before Hopping On His Motorcycle

When you think of No More Heroes, the first descriptor that comes to mind is likely not “open-world,” and that’s fair. NMH is more well-known as a chaotically hilarious third-person character-action game, as complex as that may sound, but it still "technically" has an open-world. In any case, the open-world sections of both NMH 1 and 3 are serviceable at best, which is why NMH2 took out the open-world and replaced it with a location map.

That said, the open-world sections of these games serve as a breather from the endless hallways of grunts you’ve been slaying with your beam katana, the off-the-wall events of the story, or just so you can process all the absurd lore stuff that was played off as a joke in the last cutscene. And, in serving that purpose, the open-world parts of NMH 1 and 3 are fantastic.

This is especially true for NMH 3 as the recently released third entry into the franchise pretty much improves upon everything that made the first game so memorable. So, if you like open-world games, but can’t seem to find any that capture the same amazing combat as something like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, then the No More Heroes franchise is your best bet.

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38 Cloudpunk

Cloudpunk - Flying Around In The HOVA

Cloudpunk is an open-world game that slipped past a lot of people’s radar, and that’s a shame. Compared to the “scale” of most of the other open-world titles on this list, Cloudpunk is relatively small, with a much shorter list of "things you can do" but there’s still tons of content packed within it. You spend all your in Cloudpunk controlling Rania, a new delivery driver for Cloudpunk, the fictional shady company the game is named after.

And this Cloudpunk company is relatively well known for delivering their packages in a speedy manner and without asking questions, which gets Rania wrapped up in a whole lot of drama.

That said, deliveries are what you’ll be spending most of your time doing, flying around the cyberpunk x Minecraft-esque voxel city in your HOVA car. There are a few other games that fall into this same “delivery category”, such as Elite Dangerous or even Death Stranding, but Cloudpunk manages to stand toe-to-toe with them in terms of atmosphere and writing prowess.

37 Dragon Age: Inquisition

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Before BioWare tried to make a galactic open-world game with Mass Effect Andromeda, they already had a well-designed open-world game on their hands with Dragon Age: Inquisition. The game puts you in the role of a medieval hunter and throws you into a world that’s practically begging to be explored. The story elements left much to be desired, but the combat, characters, and skill systems all seemed to be generally favorable overall. As an open-world game, it's passable if not pretty good, but as a game in general, Inquisition seems to fall short.

36 Days Gone

MC Of Days Gone On His Motorcycle Overlooking A Beautiful Skyline

In Days Gone, you take control of Deacon St. John, an army veteran who’s just trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies called “Freakers.” If you're like most of the people who got tired of zombie games years ago, this won't sound all too appealing. Combine that overdone factor with the relatively simplistic combat and the bugs, and it becomes clear why this game is so low. That said, the gunplay and exploration of Days Gone are pretty great, especially since the game looks pretty visually impressive (most of the time). And, the concept of the Freaker Hordes is so interesting at a basic level.

35 Batman: Arkham City

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After Batman: Arkham Asylum put developer Rocksteady on the map, they outdid themselves completely with Batman: Arkham City. The combat was smoother and the world was much larger, giving the Dark Knight a portion of Gotham to fly around. With the series already creating the freeflow combat and Predator system that people loved so much, the sequel simply refined those elements, created a better story, and gave more of what the players wanted. But, the method of hook-shot into gliding to get around the city did feel awkward, and most of the city exploration really just boiled down to Riddler puzzles, so as an open-world game Arkham City did a decent job, but Arkham Asylum is definitely a more "complete" product in comparison

Batman: Arkham Knight

Then there's Arkham Knight, Rocksteady's attempt at fixing the flaws from Arkham City, improving upon past systems, and introducing new ones (such as costumes). And, in most departments, they absolutely succeeded! Arkham Knight has a bigger map, more side activities to do, easier terrain traversal, and smoother combat. But, in the process, the boss battles aren't nearly as enjoyable, the gadgets aren't used quite as much, and the forced Batmobile stuff felt like a tacked-on gimmick right away. Overall, the two games are almost equal in quality, so it's entirely up to you which one takes the cake as the "best Batman game". That said, if being Batman was a bit too lonely, we've got Arkham Knights (that "s" at the end is important) on the horizon in 2022 that seems to be going for a co-op experience instead.

34 Shenmue

Shenmue - Ryo In Shenmue 1 Walking Around

Ah, Shenmue, the series that basically invented the open-world genre as well as one of the most polarizing open-world games of all time in regards to its overall reception nowadays. There are two types of people when it comes to Shenmue, those who absolutely adore it and can’t get enough, and those who find it to be the ultimate expression of tediousness.

But regardless of your opinion on Shenmue’s general gameplay loop and martial arts-centric combat, the franchise revenge story of Ryo Hazuki searching for Lan Di, the man who killed his father, is something that has influenced almost every other open-world game going forward. There are three Shenmue games, all numbered accordingly. And, in general, the average opinion of each game is as such:

  • Shenmue 1: A masterpiece for its time that is very difficult to go back to nowadays due to all the dated systems, but still holds up to a certain degree.
  • Shenmue 2: The sequel that improved upon the first in almost every way, basically Shenmue at its peak and the best way to test if you'll like the franchise.
  • Shenmue 3: The most recent game and the one with a development funded by Kickstarter, is generally regarded as an open-world game stuck in the past that is missing a lot of what made Shenmue 1 and 2 so memorable.

33 Forza Horizon 4

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Forza Horizon took what was established with previous innovative racing games like Burnout Paradise (which is also on here) to create a concise racing game in an open-world that is just so much fun to explore. Newer graphics allow it to stand out from the competition in ways that no one could imagine. Everything feels connected where a traditional racing game would force players to scroll through menus.

While it was hard to decide which game in the series would take this spot, Forza Horizon 4 irons out a few kinks from the previous game to where we believed it to be the best in the series. And, from what we've seen of Forza Horizon 5, the next game in the franchise looks to be just as innovative (and inclusive) with graphics that quite literally look better than real life at times. Considering the game is on Xbox Game Pass as well, it's almost criminal not to at least give it a look, as it seems a lot of people are. But, if cars aren't your speed, than maybe something like Rider's Republic might be more up your alley.

32 Just Cause 3

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The Just Cause series is all about giving you as many tools as possible so that you can run around having a blast trying to pull off ridiculous stunts. It's something of a "toybox sandbox" game where the story and narrative really don't matter, the obvious intention of the developers is for players to enjoy themselves with a slew of interesting systems and weapons stacked on top of each other. Just Cause 3 nails this to a tee. The entire draw of the game is playing around with the physics system just to see what you can come up with next. The game could’ve been boring, and if you're not one to find enjoyment from wanton destruction it probably still will seem boring. But, for those of you who could destroy stuff in Red Faction: Guerilla all day just to see how the destruction system would adjust, then the Just Cause franchise is perfect for you.

Just Cause 4

Just Cause 4 came out a whopping three years after JC3, and when it was first released the game had a ton of issues. Horrible load times, and plenty of other technical issues on release. If you play it now, most of those issues are gone, thankfully. And, for the most part, JC4 just piles on more tools and locations onto what JC3 already introduced. More regions to explore, different environments, tons of ridiculous new tools to use, and that's just to name a few additions. But, even with all those additions, the question of "is JC3 better than JC4?" is hard to answer. JC3 was a bit purer, had more interesting challenges, and the progression system of the story didn't restrict players quite as much. That said, both games are still incredible open-world experiences that could be your #1 or #100 pick, depending on what you enjoy doing in these types of games.

31 No Man's Sky

No Man's Sky Promotional Art Of Two Starships Fighting Close To A Planet's Surface

Thinking about it now, Sea of Thieves (another game on this list) and No Man’s Sky might actually have a fair bit in common. Both games were released to a pretty loud negative reception but were vastly improved over time through dedicated developers who released constant updates and/or DLCs. Now, to be fair, the original response to No Man’s Sky release compared to SoT’s was night-and-day in terms of the sheer volume of the negative outcry, as Hello Games' marketing (and behind-the-scenes development) for NMS bit off more than they could chew, to say the least.

But, in its current state, No Man’s Sky is a fantastic open-world experience that just about has everything in it that was originally shown or promised in that infamous E3 2014 trailer. So, if you’ve held off on trying this game due to friends swearing that it's still bad based on critic reviews from 3+ years ago, there’s no better time than now to give the game a look and form your own opinion, considering it’s also on the Xbox Game Pass as well.

30 Resource Management And Survival-Type Games

Valheim,-Rust,-Astroneer,-Raft,-And-The-Forest-Screenshots-Side-by-Side-1

Okay so here's the thing, there are a ton of resource-management survival games out there. Something about collecting resources, building new items, managing your hunger/thirst, and collecting more resources really grabs the gaming industry as a whole. And, a lot of them differ greatly in their execution whether it's the story, the gameplay, or following through with promised content/DLC. But, in terms of an open-world title, we decided to bunch all of these similar notable survival games into one entry. That said, we'll rank them from worst to best in terms of quality and explain why.

The Forest

The Forest is by far the best survival game on here in terms of atmosphere and horror, but its crafting, collecting, and tips you should know beforehand do leave a lot to be desired. Plus, the game as it is now and the initial Early Access release are two entirely different products.

Raft

Playing Raft with a group of friends is such an enjoyable time. And, managing to best the shark constantly attacking your tiny floating home feels amazing. But, after your first shark is gone and you realize how easy they are to bait or kill, the game loses some of its luster. Then, when you fall into the loop of harvesting resources with your hook, crafting one thing, and harvesting again, it loses a bit more. Granted, the overall exploration and story of Raft are probably the best out of the survival games, but its core gameplay does feel tedious the quickest.

Astroneer

In terms of concept and style, Astroneer takes the cake over games like Rust or The Forest in the aesthetic department. The bright colors, the low-poly geometry of the terrain, and the OST make Astroneer such a comfy experience. Plus, it almost rivals Dead Space in how masterfully it blends UI design and gameplay mechanics thanks to your backpack in-game. But, once you stop having fun finding Research Orbs to open, Astroneer's enjoyment starts to fall off pretty quickly.

Rust

The big streamer game of 2020/2021. Seriously, this game skyrocketed in terms of new players (and new private servers) this year, thanks to some of the biggest Twitch Streamers on the platform and their participation in multiple private servers. Rust is still pretty janky in terms of its user experience design and systems, almost as much as the Forest in fact. But, the systems, crafting, and potential activities in this game are miles apart from any other survival-based title. That said, there is one more survival game that manages to exceed it in simplified design and almost matches it in mechanical depth.

Valheim

Valheim was the perfect sleeper-hit that everyone needed when they were stuck indoors back in February 2021. It was addicting, had a charming artstyle, featured a lot of historical inspiration from Norse mythology (one of the most popular mythologies used in games), and was a great game to play all day with a group of friends. While it doesn't match Rust in the complexity of its systems, it is a lot easier on the eyes both in its UI and in its combat.

Muck

Muck is a relatively recent addition to this survival category, this time integrating some roguelike elements as well. It's a fantastically simple game about grinding resources, building up equipment, fighting bosses, and really just trying to survive as long as humanely possible. It's free-to-play, can be played with friends, was developed for a hilarious reason, and has a lot to grind out.

29 Middle-Earth: Shadow Of Mordor

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People might be surprised to see how low Warner Bros Interactive's Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is. With a game that borrowed elements so heavily from the Arkham (which was a franchise WB Interactive published) and Assassin’s Creed series, it seemed that it would be a total bust. However, the game manages to shine through the utilization of these systems and bring together an experience that The Lord of the Rings fans can enjoy. The Nemesis system is the shining light of this game, introducing a concept of "rival" enemies that would return multiple times that Assassin's Creed would immediately "borrow" right back in their next game. This, combined with Mordor's combat which was equal to if not greater than the Arkham games in terms of enjoyment, made Shadow of Mordor one of the standout open-world games for its time.

Middle-Earth: Shadow Of War

While the first game had a lot of positive press and had its time in the spotlight, the second game wasn't quite as well-received. Shadow of War introduced a loot box-type mechanic that players could spend real money on, which was almost unheard of in a AAA single-player experience. This, combined with the game feeling very similar to the first in the activities, combat, and skills, led many people to forget it ever even existed. Still, if you liked Shadow of Mordor, you'll still like Shadow of War quite a lot. But, the bad press the game got on release really did a number on its reputation and popularity overall.

28 Death Stranding

Death Stranding Screenshot Of Sam Porter In The Distance In The Volcanic Rock Area Of The Map

Out of all the open-world games on here, Death Stranding made by the iconic Hideo Kojima is likely the most polarizing. Many people adore this game and call it the future of the open-world genre. But, to contrast that, there’s also a huge portion of the player base who hated Death Stranding's core gameplay loop and called it a “walking simulator”. No matter which side you personally fall on, it’s safe to say that Death Stranding is a one-in-a-million game in terms of its development, its narrative, or the concepts it introduced. And, knowing Kojima, there will probably be more interesting concepts to see in Death Stranding Directors Cut.

In this title, you’ll be sneaking past ghosts (called BTs or "Beached Things), fighting ex-delivery men (called MULEs), avoiding time fall rain that instantly ages anything it touches, and most of all, you’ll be constantly managing your balance while carrying cargo and coming up with tactics to traverse the upcoming terrain as efficiently as possible. Getting from A to B in a lot of these open-world games is an aspect that a lot of players don't realize is actually pretty boring. Riding Roach to the next waypoint in Witcher 3 is snooze-worthy and getting to a mission waypoint in GTA5 (when you don't want to mess around) is a true test of patience. But, in Death Stranding, getting from A to B is the most exciting part of the game, and you'll either love it or hate it. And, with the recently released Directors Cut, you're now able to deliver packages in even more unique ways, build your own racetrack, and more!

27 Saints Row 4

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The Saints Row series has always been about wacky concepts come to life and giving players every tool in their arsenal to play around with them. Saints Row 4 takes a lot of those ideas and goes the extra mile, making it one of the most screenshot-worthy games in a long time. There are all sorts of things players can do and crazy elements to see. It builds on its predecessors with all the right steps and additions that make it hard to not regard as the best in the series.

Saints Row: The Third

While Saints Row 4 is the more commonly known entry nowadays, it's only thanks to Saints Row 3 that SR4 could get so absurd. The tone, gameplay, and mechanical changes from Saints Row 2 to 3 is one of the biggest 180-turns we've ever seen in gaming. SRII was similar to the GTA games, focusing on an actual narrative and using a bit of humor. Meanwhile, Saints Row 3 is off-the-wall wacky, the activities in the open-world grew so much larger, and the narrative was rarely ever serious again. If you play SR4 and feel like the aliens, superpowers, and super-jumps are all a bit too much then SR3 might be just enough of a step back.

26 Far Cry 3

The-Big-Bads-From-Far-Cry-3,-Far-Cry-4,-And-Far-Cry-5,-Side-by-Side-1

Far Cry 3 is an interesting game because it takes the conventions of shooting games and makes players think twice before pulling the trigger. It's not on the same level as something like Spec Ops: The Line, but it does have you questioning yourself and your decisions. What are the implications of this decision? How would those actions affect a person in real life? It presents a compelling narrative through that organic moral system while still setting it against a gorgeous world with insane characters to meet and plenty of hostiles to take down. Even with subsequent entries, Far Cry 3 remains the best of the series in terms of perfectly blending fun open-world exploration, an interesting narrative, and enjoyable objectives.

Far Cry 4

Far Cry 4 is a lot like Far Cry 3 but turned up a few notches. More map to explore, more things to do, and more chaotic gunfights to immerse yourself in. This is where it became clear that every future game in the franchise would have some "insane" antagonist that most of the marketing would be about. And, in comparison to Vas from FC3, Pagan Min is a far more interesting character. But, in contrast, the playable character, Ajay Ghale, doesn't have nearly as interesting of a character arc as Jason Brody did in FC3. If you liked FC3, you'll probably like FC4, but there might be some aspects of it you think the previous game did better.

Far Cry 5

Far Cry 5 is where a lot of the player base for these games either re-affirmed that they adored this franchise, or fell off it completely. Far Cry 5 was a game that tried to introduce a lot of different systems, mechanics, and activities at once. You can do a million different things in the game, buy hundreds of weapons/guns, unlike over 50 different skills, and experience 3 different DLC campaigns. All this lead to some balance issues some players griped about. But, as an open-world game, Far Cry 5 really does feel like an open-world with an incomprehensible amount of choices at every turn. And, with the number of people working on Far Cry 6, who knows how mind-blowingly big it is.

Far Cry 6

It's still a bit too early to say if Far Cry 6 deserves to be on here, but the general reception since it came out in early October 2021 is that the game is just as good, if not better than the multitude of Far Cry games that came before it. A decent portion of the player base are even calling it as good as Far Cry 3, so it's at the very least worth a look.

25 Don’t Starve

Dont-Starve-Cover-Art-1

There’s a lot of simplicity to a game like Don’t Starve. It’s nothing more than surviving. Players are dropped on an island and must gather resources to build their own camp before night falls and sinister monsters try to take their lives.

RELATED: Open-World Games With The Best Storylines

Players learn through experimentation and are punished for their mistakes, yet its simple nature doesn’t totally discourage players from trying again. Plus, the art style is so incredibly unique that you can easily attach yourself to any of the characters. It’s addictive and fun, just like an open-world game should be. There’s also a version called "Don't Starve Together" that you can play with your friends, letting this already adorable game reach a much higher audience.

24 The Entire Borderlands Franchise

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Borderlands 2

Who would’ve thought that a gun-based RPG open-world game with a cel-shaded art style would’ve been so good? Borderlands 2 takes a lot of cues from MMOs with its quest system and new weapons to discover, but it does all of those things so well. It’s a game that knows what it wants to be and just has a lot of fun with it. To be more precise, the Borderlands franchise is incredibly unique in its art style, comedic writing, and interesting character "classes". The Vault Hunters don't follow the standard warrior, mage, rogue classes, which makes it innately more interesting to play. And, the second game managed to fine-tune just about everything players liked from the original game and expand upon it with characters like Handsome Jack or the immense number of DLCs Gearbox steadily added after release, which is exactly why it's the most well-regarded of the three games and how it earned itself such a big-budget movie adaptation.

Borderlands 3

The sequel to Borderlands 2, this iteration just hasn't quite matched up to the second game in its charm or Vault Hunters, but it improves on just about everything else. There are more worlds to explore, the flaws of BL2 have (mostly) been fixed or improved upon, and the visuals are a step above. But, the Calypso Twins are no Handsome Jack in terms of memorability, and the comedy just doesn't seem to hold up as well in comparison to 2. It has the body of BL2, but not the soul. Thankfully, Gearbox did put a good amount of work into all its DLCs, and with Tiny Tina's Wonderland not all that far off, we're starting to get excited once again for a new Borderlands entry.

Borderlands 1

The original Borderlands, understandably, holds up the least of the three when viewed in the present day. That said, it is undeniably the most simplistic version of the game, so if the millions of guns in BL3 or the long campaign plus 5 DLC campaigns of BL2 seems overwhelming. then absolutely give the first Borderlands a try first and go from there. But, as an open-world game, it pales in comparison to the second or third entry in the franchise.

23 Xenoblade Chronicles

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Despite Monolithsoft having two other Xenoblade Chronicles games that came after this one, the entry on the Wii (and the definitive edition on Nintendo Switch) remains the best of the bunch according to the fans. The story is downright masterful as it explores its hero and his motivation for going on his quest. It also has one of the most unique settings in any JRPG to date, as the game takes place on the bodies of two world-sized titans. The combat is intense, rewarding, and exciting, and the soundtrack is perfect. That said, compared to more modern open-world mechanics, it is a bit dated, but still absolutely holds up as both a JRPG and open-world game.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

The "second" entry into the Chronicles franchise isn't technically a direct sequel to the first game, but it does develop and improve upon a lot from the original. In terms of combat, people seem to favor this game a tad more, thanks to it coming out five whole years later, giving it a lot of time to clean up and incorporate concepts from other open-world games. Plus, the sheer amount of explorable terrain and customization found in this game overshadows both 1 and 2 by a mile. The only real department it falls behind in heavily is the story, which is about as forgettable as they come.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

Now comes the actual sequel, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 which came out almost a decade after the initial one (7 years). So, how does it stack up compared to the founder of the franchise? Well, it's certainly a fantastic game, but the general opinion seems to be that it still falls a fair distance short. This is due to a variety of divisive differences, from the overly sexualized female characters to the combat that goes on for much longer or even the hilariously bad English voice acting. Still, XC2 is still absolutely an A+ open-world JRPG, especially for one you can play on the Nintendo Switch, but the original is still the #1.

22 Nier Automata

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Nier Automata is a game that probably should work conceptually, but somehow, with all its gameplay styles and crazy ideas (thanks to it being the brainchild of Yoko Taro), makes for one of the best games in 2017. It has tight action made by Platinum Games (known for the Bayonetta series), brilliant graphics (thanks to a big budge from Square Enix), and a world that's so unique and immersive (again, thanks to Yoko Taro).

Like its predecessor, Nier Automata has a multitude of optional endings, most of which expand upon the main story in some way. So, by design, the game has a ton of replayability and ways to re-explore its rather small but dense open-world. This is one of the games that excel in the mechanical department but falls a bit short in the open-world department. Plus, its Steam port was so poorly supported by Square Enix that it took four years to finally get fixed.

Nier Replicant V1.22

The first Nier came out originally in 2010, but thanks to the bombastic success of Nier Automata, it got a full remaster/remake that came out earlier this year (April 22, 2021). The first Nier game isn't Yoko Taro's original work, he was actually the mastermind behind the Drakengard series as well, and Nier is technically the continuation of Ending E from the first game in that series. While the open-world in Nier is absurdly small and the game is rather linear overall, the masterful writing, loveable cast, and innately entertaining combat earn it this spot. That said, Nier Automata improves upon the base game in almost every way, so while the remake/remaster is a ton of fun, Automata is still the better open-world game.

21 Super Mario Odyssey

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While some might consider Super Mario 64 the best of the series, we have to give it to Super Mario Odyssey. Nintendo perfected their old formula this time around. Mario controls and moves around better, and each new kingdom is a small sandbox where players are free to explore at their own pace. With dozens of new characters to meet and hundreds of Moons to find, this game will keep players busy for dozens of hours. That’s all without mentioning the game’s beautiful soundtrack or gorgeous graphics.

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

This is an interesting one, as it is sort of an "extra game" bolted on top of the Nintendo Switch port of Super Mario 3D World, as well as Nintendo's first real attempt at an "open-world" Mario game, as Odyssey is a special-case that technically doesn't truly fit the bill for "open-world". Super Mario 3D World is a fantastic Mario game that didn't do amazingly mostly thanks to the fact that the Nintendo Wii U was such a low-selling console.

But, thanks to this port and Bowser's Fury, this game was the highest-selling game of February 2021 for Nintendo, hands down. As for Bowser's Fury itself, the game is a ton of fun but obviously flawed in its experimental nature. The poor performance, un-finished concepts, and odd design choices land it far below Mario Odyssey, but it's still a pretty incredibly open-world game overall.

20 Burnout Paradise

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Taking a racing game to an open-world was always a risky idea, but Burnout Paradise executes it so well that we wonder why developers didn’t try it earlier. Zipping around Paradise City is a breeze as each location connects to another, making each race and each chase feel like they have greater significance. On top of that, the driving itself remains a pure thrill as players bust through gas stations, take shortcuts through construction zones, and figure out the lay of the land to best avoid the police.

And, the Shut Down system that this game introduced where players would have to find new cars they unlocked roaming around the open world and take them down in order to make them playable was so absurdly smart. It's essentially the racing game version of unlocking new characters in the Super Smash Bros. games by beating them in a "Challenger Approaching" battle.

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