The 30 Biggest Open Worlds in Video Games

Open world video games have become a staple in the gaming industry, offering players expansive and immersive virtual worlds to explore. Whether it’s the thrill of traversing vast landscapes or the freedom to shape their own narratives, open world games have captivated players for years. In this article, we will delve into the world of open world gaming, discussing the definition and characteristics, the evolution of the genre, the criteria for ranking open worlds, the top 30 open world video games, the impact of open world games on the gaming industry, and the future of open world gaming.

The Criteria for Ranking Open Worlds

Size and Scale

When ranking open world games, size and scale play a crucial role. The sheer magnitude of the game world contributes to the sense of exploration and adventure. The larger the world, the more opportunities players have to discover hidden treasures, uncover secrets, and engage in a wide range of activities.

A large world alone is not enough to make a great open world game. It is essential that the size of the world is meaningful and doesn’t feel empty or devoid of interesting content. A well-designed open world strikes a balance between expansive scale and engaging content, ensuring that players always have something interesting to see or do.

Imagine a vast open world, stretching as far as the eye can see. Picture towering mountains, sprawling deserts, and dense forests teeming with wildlife. Each region of the world is meticulously crafted, with unique landmarks, hidden caves, and ancient ruins waiting to be discovered. As players traverse this expansive landscape, they stumble upon a variety of quests and encounters, each offering a new and exciting challenge. Whether it’s rescuing a lost traveler, hunting down legendary creatures, or unearthing long-forgotten artifacts, the possibilities for adventure are endless.

Detail and Immersion

Another crucial criterion for ranking open worlds is the level of detail and immersion they offer. A truly immersive open world is filled with intricate details that make the environment feel alive and vibrant. From bustling cities to lush forests, every aspect of the world should be carefully crafted to create a truly believable and engaging experience.

Attention to detail extends beyond the visual aspects of the game world. Dynamic weather systems, realistic physics, and responsive NPCs all contribute to the sense of immersion. Imagine walking through a bustling city, where each NPC has their own unique routine and personality. The city streets are filled with vendors selling their wares, children playing games, and musicians serenading passersby. As the day progresses, the weather changes, with rain showers giving way to a breathtaking sunset. The world feels alive, with every interaction and observation adding to the sense of immersion.

The open world is not just a static backdrop, but a dynamic ecosystem that reacts to the player’s actions. Imagine chopping down a tree and witnessing the impact it has on the surrounding environment, or starting a fire that spreads and engulfs nearby vegetation. These interactive elements add depth and realism to the world, making it feel like a living, breathing entity.

Interactivity and Freedom

The degree of interactivity and freedom available to players is another crucial factor when ranking open worlds. A great open world game allows players to shape their own experiences and play the game in a way that feels unique to them.

Open world games with robust systems that allow for meaningful player choices and consequences tend to rank higher. The ability to undertake a variety of quests, engage in diverse activities, and influence the development of the game world adds depth and replayability to the experience. Imagine a game where your choices truly matter, where the decisions you make have a lasting impact on the world and its inhabitants. Whether you choose to be a hero, a villain, or something in between, the open world adapts and responds to your actions, creating a personalized narrative that is unique to your playthrough.

The freedom to explore the world at your own pace and in your own way is a hallmark of a great open world game. Imagine a game that doesn’t restrict you with invisible walls or linear paths, but instead invites you to venture off the beaten path and discover hidden secrets. Whether you prefer to embark on epic quests, engage in intense combat, or simply soak in the beauty of the world, the choice is yours.

Top 30 Open World Video Games

  1. Final Fantasy X (49 miles²)

    Step into Spira, a 49-square-mile tapestry woven with elements from Southeast Asian and Japanese cultures, presenting a rich, vibrant world of interconnected subcontinents and isles. This RPG masterpiece invites players to journey through diverse climates and landscapes, each zone meticulously designed for deep narrative exploration. Spira stands out for its detailed environments, from the sun-kissed beaches of Besaid to the sacred temples that punctuate the landscape. The game balances its epic story with an expansive world that feels intimate and grandiose in equal measure.

  2. Final Fantasy XI (70 miles²)

    In a vast shift from its predecessor, Final Fantasy XI expands the series’ horizons to an MMORPG format, spreading out to a sprawling 70-square-mile world of Vana’diel. This sequel invites a multitude of adventurers to explore its rich ecosystems, from desolate deserts to lush forests, all teeming with life and lore. The game’s progression through narrative and combat unfolds across several distinct regions, each crafted to offer a unique multiplayer experience within the series’ fabric. Though not the largest in the MMO genre, Vana’diel’s vastness and complexity set a new standard for the Final Fantasy worlds that would follow.

  3. World of Warcraft (80 miles²)

    The quintessential MMO, World of Warcraft, offers players 80 square miles of Azeroth to conquer, a realm that has grown and evolved with its community over the years. As expansions unfurl new territories, Azeroth’s map weaves a rich tapestry of stories, cultures, and conflicts that resonate with a vast player base. From the chilling peaks of Northrend to the scorched lands of Outland, each inch of terrain is laden with quests, dungeons, and raids that offer endless opportunities for heroism. The dynamic ecosystem of Azeroth, coupled with the communal tapestry of its inhabitants, makes it a living world that’s both historic and vibrantly current.

  4. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (84 miles²)

    The Continent in “The Witcher 3” sprawls across 84 square miles of war-ravaged lands, brimming with folklore, danger, and intrigue. CD Projekt Red’s craft has yielded a segmented world where each zone, from the free city of Novigrad to the archipelago of Skellige, offers distinct cultural and geographical diversity. Despite its non-contiguous design, the game weaves an intricate, responsive narrative landscape, where every choice echoes through the fabric of its world. It stands as a testament to design, where detail and scale coexist, making it a realm where every alley and forest glen holds potential for adventure and consequence.

  5. Arma 2 (87 miles²)

    Bohemia Interactive’s 87-square-mile Eastern European region of Chernarus in “Arma 2” sets the stage for military simulation amidst a detailed brutalist architecture. This theater of combat melds varied landscapes, from undulating hills to urban sprawls, each quadrant offering a distinct tactical challenge. The game’s engine powers a simulation where the environment impacts every decision, and the vast open world reinforces the unpredictability of warfare. Exploring Chernarus by foot or vehicle not only showcases the game’s geographic fidelity but also stages a canvas for the tense, strategic gameplay that defines the military-sim genre.

  6. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (90.2 miles²)

    Embark on a nautical odyssey across the 90.2-square-mile sparkling seas and lush islands of the West Indies in “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.” Ubisoft’s foray into piracy and naval combat expands the series’ horizons with a maritime map that is as vast as it is lively. From the Jackdaw’s weathered deck, engage in harpooning, naval warfare, and island exploration, making the ocean feel like a character in its own right. This title’s world is a briny blend of freedom and adventure, where the whisper of the ocean is as inviting as the call of uncharted lands.

  7. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (98 miles²)

    Amidst the turmoil of the Peloponnesian War, “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” offers a 98-square-mile Ancient Greek world ripe for exploration. Odyssey’s world impresses not just with its scale but with its dynamism, where naval combat complements a land ripe with myth and history. From the olive groves of Athens to the azure waves of the Aegean Sea, the game ensures the journey between the Greek isles is as full of intrigue and discovery as the destinations themselves. The game crafts a balance between land and sea, history and legend, forging an odyssey that’s as expansive as it is deeply personal.

  8. Arma 3 (103 miles²)

    “Arma 3’s” 103-square-mile island of Altis serves as a backdrop for one of the most realistic military simulators on the market. Bohemia Interactive’s meticulous design offers varied terrain that challenges players on the ground and in the air, complementing the game’s strategic depth. Altis is not just a battlefield but a canvas for tactics and narratives, where every hill, settlement, and coastline shapes the stories of conflict and camaraderie. Although action may be concentrated in hotspots, traversing the seemingly serene spaces between is to move through a world alive with the tension of potential encounters.

  9. Ghost Recon Wildlands (105 miles²)

    “Ghost Recon Wildlands” pioneers the open-world format for its series with a vast 105-square-mile version of Bolivia, carved with mountain ranges and peppered with unique biomes. This expansive terrain works in harmony with dynamic weather and a day/night cycle, enriching the tactical gameplay that the series is known for. The game’s landscape is a sandbox of conflict and discovery, where every mission can be approached from multiple angles, thanks to the open-ended design of the world. Though it was the first of its kind in the franchise, Wildlands set a high bar for the geographic scale and diverse settings that would become a hallmark for the series.

  10. Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising (135 miles²)

    Taking inspiration from the rugged terrains of Alaska, “Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising” offers 135 square miles of the fictional island of Skira to navigate. This game world is a sprawling expanse of greenery, challenging players with a variety of tactical landscapes, from rolling hills to sparse settlements. Despite its vastness, Skira feels intimate in combat, forcing players to adapt to its repetitive yet unforgiving terrains. The game captures the isolation of warfare in a vast open world, making each engagement a test of skill and strategy.

  11. Xenoblade Chronicles X (154 miles²)

    Humanity’s new home on planet Mira unfolds across 154 square miles in “Xenoblade Chronicles X,” a title that pushes the Wii U to its limits with its sheer ambition. Divided into five distinct continents, each biome is a world unto itself, offering varied ecosystems and terrains that showcase the game’s diverse design. Monolith Soft’s endeavor provides players with an entirely open world, emphasizing exploration and the seamless transition between grandiose landscapes. This game stands as a marvel of scale on a platform not known for its power, proving that the breadth of a world can elevate the gaming experience.

  12. Star Wars Galaxies (200 miles²)

    In “Star Wars Galaxies,” players once had 200 square miles of iconic Star Wars locations to explore, from Tatooine to Naboo. The MMO’s extensive world grew with its expansions, offering a deep dive into the lore and landscapes beloved by fans. Despite its servers being sunset in 2011, the game’s legacy continues through private servers, keeping the vastness of its world and the spirit of exploration alive. The game was a galaxy unto itself, providing a home for stories and adventures that were as expansive as the universe it mirrored.

  13. Burnout Paradise (205 miles²)

    “Burnout Paradise” delivers high-octane thrills across 205 square miles of urban and rural landscapes, set in the game’s fictional Paradise City. This racer was ahead of its time, infusing a genre typically constrained by circuits with the freedom of open-world gameplay. Every street and alley offered new challenges and races, ensuring that the world remained as vibrant and varied as the gameplay itself. For a 2008 release, the game’s scale and ambition were unprecedented, setting the standard for future open-world racers.

  14. Death Stranding (230 miles²)

    “Death Stranding” weaves a tale of connection across a 230-square-mile post-apocalyptic United States, ravaged by supernatural entities and societal collapse. Here, the vastness is a narrative device, emphasizing solitude and the weight of rebuilding a fractured world. The game is as much about traversing and understanding its terrain as it is about the characters that inhabit it. Despite the expanse often feeling desolate, the level of detail and care in every location underscores the game’s theme of finding beauty and purpose in rebuilding.

  15. True Crime: Streets of LA (240 miles²)

    Navigating the nearly exact streets of Los Angeles in “True Crime: Streets of LA” brings players 240 square miles of urban sprawl, remarkably mirroring the real city. The game’s 2003 representation of LA is a triumph of detail, with a dedication to street accuracy seldom replicated even in modern titles. The vast open-world map captures the essence of Los Angeles, from the glitz of Hollywood to the sun-soaked avenues, all while offering a hard-boiled crime story. Its ambition laid the groundwork for future games to attempt equally grand urban simulations, showcasing what open-world design could achieve.

  16. Just Cause 3 (400 miles²)

    “Just Cause 3” turns the Mediterranean-inspired island of Medici into a 400-square-mile playground of destruction and liberation. The game’s expansive world is a patchwork of biomes and landmarks, each nook and cranny crafted for explosive action and unbridled exploration. Despite its size, Medici feels accessible and teeming with activity, thanks to a traversal system that encourages fast and fluid movement across the vast landscapes. It’s a world where the sheer scale amplifies the chaos, making every action feel epic and every explosion a spectacle.

  17. Test Drive Unlimited 2 (618 miles²)

    Spanning two meticulously crafted islands, Oahu and Ibiza, “Test Drive Unlimited 2” offers a combined 618 square miles of driving paradise. The use of satellite data brings a touch of realism to the roads and topography, while still prioritizing playability and exploration over strict geographical accuracy. This racer is not just about the drive but the lifestyle, blurring the lines between simulation and open-world adventure. The game’s ambition is a testament to its time, aiming to be more than just a driving game but a holistic virtual experience of car culture.

  18. Final Fantasy XV (700 miles²)

    In “Final Fantasy XV,” the world of Eos stretches across 700 square miles, encompassing diverse nations and landscapes that blend fantasy with a touch of reality. Despite geographical barriers and wide-open spaces, the game encourages road trips and camaraderie against a backdrop of looming mountains and sprawling plains. Eos is a world alive with wonder, from the metropolitan majesty of Insomnia to the natural splendor of Duscae, each region offering a slice of the game’s epic narrative. While the open world’s enormity is occasionally felt in the long drives across its terrain, it serves as a canvas for the brotherhood’s journey and the tales they weave.

  19. Ghost Recon Breakpoint (781.9 miles²)

    The 2019 sequel “Ghost Recon Breakpoint” casts players onto the diverse island of Aurora, encompassing 781.9 square miles of treacherous wilderness and high-tech facilities. The game builds upon its predecessor with a world that’s larger and filled with more biomes, but also criticized for feeling too sparse in between its pockets of activity. As players traverse the island’s expansive terrain, they find a landscape that is as beautiful as it is deadly, with the environmental design serving both the tactical gameplay and the immersive experience. Despite its vastness, the challenge for players often lies not in the distance but in the details of survival and combat that punctuate the quiet expanses.

  20. The Crew (1,900 miles²)

    “The Crew” offers an ambitious rendition of the United States, sprawling across 1,900 square miles of varied landscapes and iconic cities. This vast racing world takes players on a coast-to-coast journey, capturing the spirit of American road tripping with a blend of urban and rural settings. It’s a game where the journey is as significant as the destination, allowing players to experience the diversity of the U.S. from behind the wheel. Despite its vast scale, “The Crew” manages to keep the adventure engaging with dynamic challenges and landmarks that anchor the expansive world.

  21. Fuel (5,560 miles²)

    Set in a post-apocalyptic version of the United States, “Fuel” unfolds over a staggering 5,560 square miles, making it one of the largest racing environments in gaming. The game’s world is a blend of devastated beauty and harsh landscapes, offering endless exploration opportunities for thrill-seekers. With seamless transitions and no loading screens, the experience of racing through “Fuel’s” varied terrain is as uninterrupted as it is grand. The game’s achievement lies not just in its size but in its ability to create a cohesive, immersive world that remains compelling and drivable.

  22. Guild Wars Nightfall (15,000 miles²)

    “Guild Wars Nightfall” transports players to the continent of Elona, a 15,000-square-mile land rich in diversity and detail, setting it apart in the realm of MMOs. This vast landscape is filled with a variety of ecosystems and cultures, offering a depth of exploration and gameplay that has kept it beloved by fans. The sheer size of Elona ensures that adventures always feel fresh and new, even for veterans of the series. “Guild Wars Nightfall” stands as a monumental achievement in virtual world-building, offering an expansive yet intricately detailed world that continues to captivate.

  23. ATLAS (17,300 miles²)

    In “ATLAS,” players navigate a massive 17,300 square miles of oceanic and island terrain, making it the largest MMO world to date. The game’s emphasis on naval exploration and piracy brings the vastness of the seas to life, with islands scattered like jewels across the expansive blue. Despite the dominance of water on the map, the moments of landfall are filled with discovery and danger, making every shore a new chapter in the player’s saga. “ATLAS” epitomizes the grandeur of open-world design, where the journey across the sea is as significant as the lands that rise from it.

  24. The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall (62,000 miles²)

    “The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall” astonishes with its 62,000-square-mile fantasy realm, offering a scale that dwarfs almost all other games. Situated between High Rock and Hammerfell in the Tamriel universe, Daggerfall’s world is a pioneering feat of procedural generation, teeming with thousands of locations to explore. Despite its age, the game remains a landmark in open-world design, showcasing the potential of virtual landscapes to offer endless adventures. Daggerfall’s legacy lies in its boundless scope, providing a world where every journey can lead to untold stories and discoveries.

  25. Microsoft Flight Simulator (196,940,000 miles²)

    Microsoft Flight Simulator sets an unprecedented benchmark in simulation, covering the entire globe of 196,940,000 square miles with astonishing detail. Utilizing Bing Maps data, it offers a flight experience across a fully realized Earth, from bustling metropolises to the most remote wilderness, all rendered with precise accuracy. Landmark recreations and real-world weather conditions enhance the immersion, making every flight a unique journey through our planet’s diverse landscapes. The game continues to evolve, with ongoing updates further refining its already staggering representation of the real world.

  26. Minecraft (1,500,000,000 miles²)

    “Minecraft” revolutionizes the concept of open-world games with a procedurally generated universe that spans roughly 1,500,000,000 square miles, offering infinite possibilities for exploration and creativity. Each world is unique, crafted from a random seed that dictates the layout of its blocky biomes, terrains, and ecosystems. Players can delve into vast landscapes, build intricate structures, or survive against a variety of challenges in a world that is as boundless as the player’s imagination. The game exemplifies the power of procedural generation to create a limitless playground for individual and shared adventures.

  27. Starfield (1692 planets)

    Bethesda’s “Starfield” embarks on a cosmic scale adventure with 1692 explorable planets, each offering unique environments and challenges. While the game may have faced mixed reactions, its ambitious scale and the freedom to explore such a vast array of celestial bodies stand out as a monumental achievement in gaming. The procedural generation of these planets ensures a vast diversity of experiences, making each journey across the stars a unique exploration. “Starfield” represents the next frontier in open-world gaming, where the boundaries of space and the potential for discovery are nearly limitless.

  28. Spore (500,000 planets)

    “Spore” offers a galaxy-spanning odyssey from microbe to cosmic deity, encompassing over 500,000 planets in its evolutionary adventure. Designed by Will Wright, this game combines creation, evolution, and exploration, allowing players to interact with and shape a universe teeming with diverse life forms and planets. Each stage of the game unfolds in a new, procedurally generated world, ensuring a unique experience filled with unpredictable encounters and creative possibilities. “Spore” remains a testament to the innovative potential of open-world concepts, pushing the boundaries of player-driven storytelling and exploration.

  29. Elite Dangerous (400 billion star systems)

    “Elite Dangerous” recreates the Milky Way galaxy on a 1:1 scale, offering a jaw-dropping expanse of 400 billion star systems to explore. This space-faring simulation game blends combat, trading, and exploration in a universe where player actions can influence the galactic narrative. With the Odyssey expansion, the game deepens its exploration mechanics, allowing players to disembark from their ships and explore planets on foot. “Elite Dangerous” is a staggering technical achievement, encapsulating the vastness and mystery of space in a way that few other games have dared to attempt.

  30. No Man’s Sky (256 galaxies)

    “No Man’s Sky” presents an almost incomprehensible universe of 256 galaxies, each filled with billions of star systems, planets, and moons, offering an endless voyage of discovery. Since its rocky launch, the game has evolved into a sprawling cosmos of opportunity and adventure, with continuous updates enriching the player experience. Its procedural generation creates a universe where no two planets are the same, fostering an unparalleled sense of exploration and wonder. “No Man’s Sky” is the epitome of the open-world genre, pushing the limits of scale and player-driven exploration to cosmic heights.

When it comes to open-world video games, each title on this list offers players a vast and immersive experience, allowing them to explore intricate worlds filled with quests, challenges, and hidden secrets. “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” is celebrated for its rich lore and endless possibilities, where players can become anything from a noble warrior to a powerful mage. “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” redefined the open-world genre with its breathtaking landscapes and innovative gameplay mechanics, encouraging players to think creatively to solve puzzles and overcome obstacles.”Grand Theft Auto V” is a modern classic known for its sprawling city of Los Santos, where players can engage in a variety of activities from heists to leisurely bike rides along the coast. “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” captivates players with its morally complex narrative and detailed world inspired by Slavic folklore. “Minecraft” offers endless creativity, allowing players to build and explore blocky worlds limited only by their imagination.

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