The best open-world games on PC in 2022

Open-world games give us the freedom to fly, drive, and sail through handsome, borderless environments - here are the very best on PC, such as Skyrim and GTA V

Looking for some great open-world games? From the early days of gaming, with Ultima and Lords of Midnight, open-world games have always been right at home on PC – indeed, those pesky consoles often couldn’t handle it. Compare the ambitious early version of Halo to the final, more confined result, for example – and only the PC could hold sprawling regions in the very first Elder Scrolls games. Nevertheless, the leap into full 3D with Grand Theft Auto 3 and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind really brought the idea of open-world gaming to the masses.

These days, open world can be considered its own genre. You can find accurate depictions of real-life cities or countries, huge fictional expanses with their own landmarks, complete worlds to check out – or even entire galaxies, depending on where you want to go on your next open-world gaming adventure.

The cool thing about the best open-world games is that they can come in various forms: the important feature is that they allow you to explore freely. As such, our list of top open-world games features everything from the best FPS games to car games.

Open-world games

Here are the best open-world games on PC:

Elden Ring's Godric

Elden Ring

Elden Ring is a masterclass evolution of the Souls-like genre of hardcore action RPG games. A large part of Elden Ring’s success can be attributed to the new open world, which gives the player the freedom to explore and tackle quests, bosses, and dungeons in whatever order they please. The critically acclaimed ARPG also thankfully manages to avoid existing genre tropes – this is no Assassin’s Creed or Witcher – and offers its own unique fusion of challenging gameplay and free-form game design. Read our Elden Ring review to see what we thought of this open-world game.

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This is a must for Dark Souls fans, but even those new to the genre will find this a more welcoming entry point. If you’re looking for some tips to give you a leg up, we’ve got guides to all the Elden Ring bosses, how multiplayer works, and even the Ashes of War locations.

Master Chief looking towards the sunny horizon on Zeta Halo

Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite has made a pretty masterful transition into open world that brings out the best of Halo: Combat Evolved’s previous glory, while also bringing a new experience for veteran players. The grapple hook opens up Zeta Halo in a way we’ve never experienced before, increasing the tactical options and letting you explore this beautiful space.

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While Infinite introduces collectibles, they’re not too prolific and many are sign-posted on the in-game map. The only ones you’ll really have to go digging for are the Halo Infinite skulls, something Halo players should be used to by now as they are in every game. Once you’ve finished the campaign, you can hop into Halo Infinite’s multiplayer and – when it launches – the Halo Forge. Read our Halo Infinite review for more.

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The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim

Skyrim is one of those games we return to over and over again and the magic is always there. Its replayability comes from the hundreds of different ways to play through this open-world RPG, from typical character builds like thief and warrior, to trying to play the whole game as a vegan or role-playing as a character from the game’s lore. Skyrim’s open world is filled with characters and beasts going on about their daily business without you, and you’ll often happen across a giant kicking a poor wolf into orbit or a couple of Thalmor escorting a captured Nord.

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This fantasy open-world RPG explores the vast and spectacular region of Skyrim – where you play as a Dragonborn, a prophesied hero thrown amid a tense civil war. The world is heavily inspired by the environments of countries like Norway and Iceland, taking their history, culture, flora, and folklore, and muddling them together with The Elder Scrolls realistic brand of high fantasy. Skyrim has a captivating story and astounding attention to detail, which makes this nearly decade-old game still one of the most talked-about open-world games there is. It still has a dedicated modding commuting, too so you can check out the best Skyrim mods once you’ve exhausted all the ways to play.

No Man’s Sky

When No Man’s Sky released in 2016 the backlash was brutal. The hype for the game was out of control, and small studio Hello Games had an impossible job of delivering on what players expected from the game. Six years and a lot of updates later, that little studio has managed to turn No Man’s Sky into the best open-world space game around.

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Forget open-world – No Man’s Sky is open universe. Whereas some open-world games give you a city or even a state to explore, this game starts with an entire planet, and it only expands from there. You can explore it freely – finding outposts, meeting wildlife, causing trouble, mining for minerals, looking for artefacts, building bases, and messing around with No Man’s Sky mods. Then once you’ve fixed your ship and blasted off into the stars, you can find other completely different planets to explore and exploit. You could spend your entire life playing No Man’s Sky and not see everything the game has to offer. You can even play with friends now, craft huge bases, and simply explore this incredibly gorgeous universe.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

While its world is broken up into a series of miniature open-world regions, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt fills each one with enough detail and character that they feel like one cohesive world. Whether you’re tracking beasts across the battle-scarred plains of Velen, exploring the cobbled streets of Novigrad, or skulking through ancient woodlands, CD Projekt Red has crafted a world that feels authentic and fantastical in equal measure.

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And your exploration through these rugged locales is constantly rewarded with new quests, characters, beasts, and encounters. In The Witcher 3 you never want fast travel around the map for fear of missing out on a new and exciting adventure, and what higher praise could there be for an open-world game? Unfortunately, there’s still no official word on The Witcher 4, but at least we have the best Witcher 3 mods to tinker with.

Saints Row 4

The Saints Row series is the perfect antidote to the traditional modern open-world game. Volition took the template set by Grand Theft Auto 3 and cranked up the ridiculousness. Things were fun enough with Saints Row 2 and 3, with insane missions such as diving in front of traffic to make money off insurance, but Saints Row IV took it one step further and added superpowers.

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While the city of Steelport hasn’t changed much since the last game, being able to jump up tall buildings in a single bound or run faster than a speeding bullet adds an incredible amount of fun to the equation. Very quickly you’ll find that you don’t need cars, helicopters, or even guns – why bother, when you can run up to an enemy at super-speed and punch them off the map? These powers ensure Saints Row IV feels worlds apart from the series’ main inspirations, and makes it one of the most entertaining open-world games out there.

Combine this with an alien invasion storyline, an absurd and diverse range of missions, and the fact that you’re doing all this while playing as the President of the United States – it’s not hard to see how this barmy game has garnered a cult following.

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Fallout 4

You can sink a lot of hours into Fallout 4. From traversing the dusty post-apocalyptic plains to scavenging hidden resources to build a base and survive this new, uncertain future. The retro-futuristic wasteland of Boston, MA is brimming with adventures, memorable characters, and more locations than you could visit over the course of a 100-hour playthrough. Whether you’re battling through the mutant-infested streets of downtown Boston, braving the heavily irradiated Glowing Sea, or taking a tour of the Salem Witch Museum, Fallout 4’s gigantic open world never feels empty.

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Before you set off in your hazmat suit to explore the wastes, be sure to check out our beginner’s guide to Fallout 4, or if you’re ahead of the curve (the game was of course released in 2015) then see our guides to all the best Fallout 4 mods and Fallout 4 console commands to tweak the experience further.

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Red Dead Redemption 2

In RDR2, you’ll play as Arthur Morgan, a wanted outlaw and part of the Van der Linde gang, led by the infamous and duplicitous, Dutch. Even though the gang’s fate is sealed, hope is an involuntary reaction that will carry you through this melancholy love letter to the Old West. But it’s Rockstar’s immensely detailed open world that makes Red Dead Redemption 2 so special.

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The diverse landscape changes from frozen lakes and snowy mountain edges, to dusty plains, and murky swamp waters. NPCs are responsive to your character’s honour bar, and will react to your presence in town, depending on how well behaved you’ve been. If a bounty is out for you, you’ll need to visit the local post office to pay it off before you can enter freely into ‘wanted’ territory or risk being hunted down by bounty hunters.

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Red Dead Redemption 2 lets you play as you please, although story missions open up or close off different areas, you are mostly free to roam the expansive American frontier. From meeting strangers on the side of a road, plodding into town to get a haircut, to tracking down legendary animals in the severe terrain of the Grizzlies. You’ll want to touch every part of Red Dead Redemption 2’s intriguing and captivating open world.

best open world games GTA 5

Grand Theft Auto 5

While Grand Theft Auto 3 basically pioneered the 3D open-world game, GTA 5 is the culmination of everything Rockstar wanted to achieve with that innovative experience. The ridiculously large area of San Andreas is your playground, including the LA-inspired city of Los Santos, and it’s one of the most detailed open-world regions seen before or since in a game. There are easter eggs, stores, sports, and countless side missions to occupy you wherever you end up.

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If that’s not enough, there’s also GTA Online, which builds on what’s great about the sandbox game and adds dozens of other players – introducing them to races, heists, battle royale, biker gangs, and much more. There are even GTA 5 mods, which allow you to do all of this as Superman or Magneto, create weapons that fire cows, or just drop random whales from the sky. Who needs a Red Dead Redemption 2 PC release date?

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More recently the GTA Casino update dropped a massive online casino into Los Santos replete with minigames, new GTA casino missions, a stack of hidden GTA Playing Cards to track down, and a GTA casino heist mission payout – six years after launch this is still one of the best multiplayer games on this list.

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Batman: Arkham Knight

“Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman” should be the mantra for all open-world games. Rocksteady’s third and final foray into the world of the Dark Knight boasts a near-complete recreation of Gotham City, and while it’s a smaller play area than most other open-world games – few are as detailed and littered with fan service as in this superhero game.

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Every square metre of Gotham has something of interest to catch your attention, whether it’s a dastardly murder, an interesting encounter, an intriguing riddle, a gang of ne’er-do-wells to beat up, or a billboard advertisement that you should really take another look at after you’re doused with Scarecrow juice. Getting around the city is a lot of fun, too, from grapple-glides to barrelling through the streets in the Batmobile.

While the story might not be as good as the other Arkham games, Arkham Knight is still tops when it comes to gameplay, gorgeous visuals, and an open world you want to spend dozens of hours exploring – and if you’re an avid DC reader then it’ll never get boring thanks to the countless easter eggs you’ll stumble upon.

Riding a motorbike in Days Gone, one of the best open world games, all while shooting zombies.

Days Gone

Formerly a PlayStation exclusive, Days Gone is now available on PC, complete with a whole host of fixes and enhancements that make it the definitive way to play it. Clambering aboard your hog and driving through the Pacific Northwest, our review describes it as a “workmanlike open-world adventure” that’s “elevated into something special by its spectacular horde fights, ambitious scope, and warmly written characters.” The only thingd spoiling it slightly are the mandatory stealth missions that can end in instant failure if you’re not careful. Days Gone Days Gone Days Gone Fanatical $49.99 Buy now Network N earns affiliate commission from qualifying sales.

Varied missions add to the appeal of its exhaustive open world, from clearing out forts, navigating a research facility, or rescuing captive locals from the Ripper cult. Now that it’s on PC, Days Gone has seen its first PC mods, from slowing the zombies pace to a classic movie shamble, or reshading the game to look like Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake.

Whether it’s playing the game for the first time or revisiting it to explore the creations of the modding scene, Days Gone deserves its spot on this list, if only so people can give it a real chance on PC.

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Watch Dogs 2

In a world where Grand Theft Auto 5 exists, it can be difficult to release another modern, open-world city-based game. But Ubisoft found a way to freshen up the formula by adding hacking, Dark Souls-like game invasions, and sharper social and political commentary. Watch Dogs 2 does all that in a slightly condensed, caricatured, but believable recreation of San Francisco. And it’s brilliant.

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The troubles of main character Marcus and the misfit hacker group DedSec make for a far more satisfying and friendly backdrop than that of the first game. The sequel was finally allowed to take the (frankly hilarious) hacking mechanic and have fun a bit of fun with it. Anything can be hacked, from smartphones and traffic lights to vehicles and security cameras, and with various drones along for the ride, the moment-to-moment gameplay is action-packed, varied, and surprisingly funny. Nothing beats hacking a parked car and using it to play bowling with any nearby security guards.

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There are some standout missions across the main story, but exploring San Francisco is the main highlight thanks to a top tier soundtrack, a detailed recreation of the Bay Area, and the ability to hack oncoming traffic to clear up the roads a little.

best open world games metal gear solid v

Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear Solid V earns its place on this list for two reasons: it’s the first MGS game to make it to PC, and it’s the only open-world MGS game (we’re not counting Survive). Many were sceptical of the genre shift ahead of its release, but Metal Gear Solid V ended up being one of the most satisfying, immersive, and entertaining open-world games ever made.

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MGS V is a war game that offers an incredible amount of content – there are at least a couple of hundred missions, for starters. The stealth systems are fantastic, with loads of moving pieces fitting together like polished clockwork. Light, cover, stance, and noise are all things you have to be careful of, and if you arouse suspicion the guards can even communicate via walkie talkie or even with other bases if reinforcements are needed.

The open-world adds so much to these stealth mechanics by expanding the game’s scope. You can observe outposts from miles away and make a plan of attack, and the game gives you complete freedom to do things however you like – no matter how crazy.

Eivor having a drinking contest with a friend in Assassin's Creed Valhalla, one of the best open world games.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Odyssey isn’t the only open-world game we recommend from the Assassin’s Creed series. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has significantly better combat, allowing you to – among many other combinations – dual-wield axes like a berserk Viking warrior. It’s rather fitting then that the protagonist is a badass Viking named Eivor, who seeks glory in battles against the native Saxons currently ruling over England.

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Our Assassin’s Creed Valhalla review highlights that more than just improved combat makes it worthy of this list. It’s also the new stuff like rap battles, drinking contests, and the “hopelessly addictive dice game Orlog“. You can also participate in raids, ransacking villages for plunder for your own Viking settlements. If exploring the wilds of Dark Age England and Norway appeals to you, then you’ll find a lot to enjoy in Valhalla. Our Assassin’s Creed Valhalla beginners tips are available to get you started, although we have plenty of advanced guides as well, such as how to use Ymir’s Tear Stones.

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Far Cry 5

The latest chapter in the Far Cry series takes players to the US and still manages to feel like a far cry from civilisation. Hope County, Montana, is the gorgeous open-world players get to explore this time around, but you’ll have to share the experience with murderous cultists and deadly wildlife like bears, mountain lions, and wolverines on your way to your particular Far Cry 5 ending.

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Most open-world games see you journeying from Point A to B to get anything done, but Far Cry 5 packs an incredible amount of excitement between those points courtesy of random encounters. Expect to be distracted by enemy jeeps, bears, VIP soldiers, roadblocks, hostage situations, car chases, or aerial bombardments – often all at once. Far Cry 5 does its damnedest to keep players in a constant state of distraction, making it very easy to lose yourself in big sky country. To top it all off, while it doesn’t work as well as a co-op game where missions are concerned, it does work brilliantly when just screwing around in the open world. So join a friend, pick a place to go to, and wait for the fireworks to start. You won’t be waiting long in Far Cry 5.

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Forza Horizon 4

As open-world racing games become more common, it takes a truly special title to stand out from the pack.

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Packed with detail, while the latest Forza’s take on the British Isles is a highly truncated form of the UK, it’s still a vast area to explore – taking in the Scottish Highlands, parts of Oxfordshire and Cumbria, and down to Cheshire. The hills, forests, sleepy villages, and towns all provide a sense of character to the game’s map – our Forza Horizon 4 review found that it’s wonderful just to drive around and explore, even before you start talking about the beautiful visuals and the seasonal weather changes.

Forza Horizon 4 isn’t all visuals either, all of its vehicles feel distinct as you throw them into hairpin bends or speed over the crest of a hill – so make sure you screech over to our Forza Horizon 4 beginner’s guide if you’re new to the series. Additionally, there’s always something to do in Forza Horizon 4 – a ridiculous amount, in fact – including epic races, challenges, customisation, and even season-specific Forzathons.

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Trove

Trove is a Minecraft-inspired MMO, and part of that inspiration is having a procedurally generated world that you’ll explore for hours on end. As Trove is voxel-based, you build everything with simple cubes and can take those creations to any of the new open worlds you visit on your travels.

Simply hop into an adventure portal, find a plot of land, and you can drop down your base so you’ve got somewhere safe to return to between slaying sessions. Naturally, Trove also boasts all the trappings of a classic MMO, from challenging dungeons, to multiplayer meeting places where you can show off your shiny new velociraptor mount.

And there we have it, the best open-world games you can find on PC. The genre’s come a long way since the early days of procedurally generated dungeons in old games such as Daggerfall. Since then we’ve had a revolution in the genre, and nowadays the worlds we play in look and feel more real than they ever have before. As ever, we’re looking forward to seeing how the upcoming PC games of the future make use of cutting edge tech to deliver even more beguiling open worlds.

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