Most Immersive Open World Games

Most Immersive Open World Games

Occasionally, a game comes out that players just want to cozy up to for hours on end. Open-world games can be riveting, or they can be frustrating and tedious. The scale of an open-world game can be both its strong and weak suit. On one side of the spectrum, some games have enormous maps that are time-consuming to traverse.


With focused gameplay, however, open-world games can provide immersive experiences that have immense replay value. The realism of these maps is awe-inspiring. Love or hate the following titles, they are some of the highest-selling in gaming. Let’s take a look at the most immersive open-world games.


43 Enshrouded

Build A Home, Explore, & Co-Exist

Enshrouded Standing and Looking Across the Landscape

Enshrouded

Released
January 24, 2024

Developer(s)
Keen Games

Steam User Rating
85%

January 2024 was a big month for open-world games. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is a contender for the best game in Sega’s franchise, which is saying a lot. Furthermore, Palworld had an absolutely massive early access launch, and there is nothing to suggest it won’t have a long and successful life. If it were not for Palworld, Enshrouded would have been the month’s biggest early access release, and Keen Games’ survival open-world project has also generally garnered a positive reception.

While still rough around the edges, Enshrouded has potential for greatness, and the current iteration is already impressive. Focusing on base building, co-op, and slow but rewarding exploration, this 2024 release brings to life a beautiful world filled with mystery and danger.

42 Death Stranding

Slow Track Across A Post-Apocalyptic United States

Death Stranding - Sam Using The Anti-BT Handgun Against A Visible BT

Death Stranding

Released
November 8, 2019

Metascore
85

Many fans were heartbroken to hear that masterclass game developer Hideo Kojima wouldn’t be working on the critically acclaimed Metal Gear Solid series any longer but were quickly placated to learn the iconic creator was opening his own studio. His first foray into the world of video games as an untethered designer was Death Stranding.

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Although it’s a bit avant-garde for some, the world that Kojima created is nothing short of spectacular, especially from an immersion standpoint. Players get to control Sam, a “futuristic delivery man” portrayed by the talented Norman Reedus of Walking Dead fame. Although the game itself is superbly strange, it’s also incredibly enthralling (although some may find it hard to enjoy its quirky gameplay). It’s definitely worth a look, if just to appreciate its open world.

41 Avatar: Frontiers Of Pandora

Beautifully Recreates Pandora

avatar frontiers of pandora navi flying on animal

Avatar: Frontiers Of Pandora

Released
December 7, 2023

Genre(s)
Action-Adventure

Metascore
75

While not the be-all and end-all of what makes a great game, graphics do matter. Would Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora have made the grade if it was not so gorgeous? Probably not, and that is not an indictment of the rest of the experience. It is just that the title’s visuals are by far its most striking feature, and they bring to fruition a vibrant, lively, and reactive alien world that is packed to the brim with jaw-dropping vistas. The game is fully aware that its main selling point is its world, and it goes out of its way to ensure nothing distracts from its beauty.

The immersion goes beyond just the visuals though, as Frontiers of Pandora also does an admirable job of making players feel like they are controlling huge alien creatures that tower over humans. While the combat is not that far removed from the typical Ubisoft first-person experience, the game’s heightened mobility gives everything a different and refreshing flavor.

40 Prey

Metroidvania Horror Masterpiece

Prey 2017

Prey

Released
May 5, 2017

Metascore
84

Prey is not an open-world game in the sense that players can immediately explore the entire map, but they will be able to return to previous areas. Essentially, Arkane created a 3D Metroidvania, and a fantastic one at that. Prey is an immersive sim set within Talos 1, a quite large space station that has been taken over by an alien threat.

Talos 1 is a masterclass of world design, with each area telling a story through its environment. The map is interconnected, not only in terms of exploration but also in consistency. Even though the campaign mainly takes place after the station has become a wasteland, it is easy to buy Talos 1 as a real place.

39 Shenmue

The Daily Cycle

Ryo hanging out in Yokosuka's Dobuita Street in the first Shenmue game

Shenmue

Released
November 7, 2000

Genre(s)
Action-Adventure

Metascore
88

Before Shenmue arrived for the Sega Dreamcast back in 1999, the concept of open-world games was still very much in its infancy. While most other developers were still trying to figure out how to make the leap from 2D to 3D though, Yu Suzuki was instead focused on creating one of the most immersive and realistic video game worlds of all time; and boy, did he succeed.

Set in the late eighties, the game allows players to explore parts of Yokosuka; a small city in Tokyo’s Kanagawa prefecture. All the NPCs that they’ll encounter are fully voiced and have their own well-fleshed-out identities and daily routines. The game even utilizes historic geographical data to ensure that the in-game weather matches that of the period in which the story takes place.

38 Ghost Of Tsushima

Stunning Rendition Of 13th Century Japan

combat

Ghost of Tsushima

Released
July 17, 2020

Metascore
83

Where Shenmue serves as a window into life in 1980s Japan and, in its sequel, 1980s Hong Kong, Ghost of Tsushima instead takes players back quite a bit further. Set on the island of Tsushima during Japan’s Kamakura period, Sucker Punch Productions’ epic action-adventure tells the story of a samurai named Jin and is one of the best-looking games of the PS4 era.

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What makes Ghost of Tsushima all the more impressive is that it was developed by a Western studio. Indeed, Yakuza creator Toshihiro Nagoshi once described the game as an amazing achievement and also expressed his surprise at how historically accurate the title is. The attention to detail paid throughout the game is astounding and helps to draw players into its beautiful open-world.

37 Microsoft Flight Simulator

Travel Across The World

A plane flying above mountains in Microsoft Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Released
August 18, 2020

Genre(s)
Flight Simulator

Metascore
91

Microsoft Flight Simulator is not for everyone, but if the game clicks with someone, it might just become one of their favorites. As the title implies, this project is all about simulating the flying experience, and realism is prioritized to quite an extent. That said, the game does provide players with some options to neutralize the difficulty. Alongside a mode revolving around specific flight plans, Microsoft Fight Simulator also includes the entirety of Earth as a world map, permitting players to just pick a location and fly there.

Outside of landing the planes, the map can only be interacted with from the sky; consequently, Microsoft Flight Simulator might not be exactly what most people are looking for in an immersive open-world game.

36 Sons Of The Forest

Survive Among The Locals

Sons of The Forest

Sons of the Forest

Released
February 23, 2023

Developer(s)
Endnight Games

Genre(s)
Survival

Steam User Rating
85%

In early access, Sons of the Forest is the sequel to 2018’s The Forest, which is a great survival open-world game in its own right. Despite still being unfinished, the 2023 project already has a fair amount of content, particularly if someone is mainly interested in the survival gameplay loop rather than the story. Once again, players find themselves stranded on a beautiful but hostile island that is home to cannibals (and other natives), who might or might not be aggressive toward the outsider.

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Sons of the Forest is punishing and addictive. While encouraging exploration, the island is also packed to the brim with things that can spell someone’s doom, and discovering these dangers often produces a playthrough’s most enjoyable moments. Endnight’s project is a full-blown survival game that will likely become a must-play once it fully debuts.

35 Mortal Online 2

Player-Driven MMORPG

Mortal Online 2 - Sunset

Mortal Online 2

Developer
Star Vault

Released
January 25, 2022

Steam User Rating
59%

MMORPGs can be immersive in their opening hours, but that impression typically lessens as players begin to focus on ways to take advantage of the mechanics. Mortal Online 2 advertises itself as the “most immersive MMORPG,” and this tagline also serves as a disclaimer to new players. Star Vault’s project is a cutthroat sandbox game fueled almost entirely by its community.

While Mortal Online 2 provides a (massive) map, cities, and tools, players will need to essentially create their own content and fun. Naturally, this technique is risky since the game’s value is entirely dependent on the playerbase’s commitment. Toward the end of 2023, Mortal Online 2 was updated to the Unreal Engine 5, so it now looks better than ever.

34 TheHunter: Call Of The Wild

Each Area Is A Self-Contained Hunting Ground

Player hunts for game in the snow using Hudzik .50 Caplock Terra

theHunter: Call of the Wild

Released
February 16, 2017

Developer(s)
Expansive Worlds

Genre(s)
Simulation

Metascore
83

Many open-world games incorporate hunting in some form or another, but very few are designed solely around the act. theHunter: Call of the Wild is arguably the most well-known hunting game on the market, and it has earned that reputation over several years. Boasting realistic gameplay that rewards precision and planning, this game encourages players to get lost within its maps.

While not set in an endless sandbox, the game features a wide assortment of reserves that can be freely explored, and they are all reasonably large. If someone picks up the base game, they will gain access to two areas, although they can buy a bunch more as DLC.

33 Outer Wilds

A Groundhog Space Traveling Journey

Someone playing a banjo in front of the fire in Outer Wilds

Outer Wilds

Released
May 28, 2019

Developer(s)
Mobius Digital

Genre(s)
Adventure

Metascore
88

Stuck within a 22-minute time loop punctuated by a star going supernova, Outer Wilds‘ protagonist must traverse a solar system to find the cause behind the catastrophe. This process involves jumping on a ship and visiting a couple of planets in search of clues; in the meantime, players might run into a few NPCs who are minding their own business and, perhaps, living their best lives.

Despite the premise’s urgency, Outer Wilds has quite a relaxed tone since exploration is the name of the game here. As information is learned about the time loop, players get to immerse themselves briefly in the worlds they visit, all of which have something unique to offer.

32 Kenshi

An Unforgiving Post-Apocalyptic Open-World Survival RPG

kenshi game

Kenshi

Developer
Lo-Fi Games

Released
December 6, 2018

Metascore
75

Kenshi is an ambitious game that drops people into a massive open-world and challenges them to make their own way. After creating a group of starting characters, players are not given much direction, so they must venture out into the unknown as they gradually develop their party’s skills through activity. They can build houses, farm goods, and establish settlements, just to name a few things.

Although not entirely without written quests, Kenshi largely relies on its established mechanics to organically inspire stories built upon a user’s personal ventures. The result is a punishing and overwhelming experience that is also immersive and frequently deeply satisfying.

31 Batman: Arkham City

Become The Batman

Fighting enemies in Batman: Arkham City

Batman Arkham City

Released
October 18, 2011

Metascore
96

“Immersive” is not a synonym for “realistic.” Rocksteady’s Arkham games do not pretend to be grounded crime dramas; however, in terms of making players feel like they are the Dark Knight, they are almost flawless. An argument could be made that Arkham Knight represents the franchise’s peak in open-world design, but the polarizing Batmobile sections can pull someone out of the experience if they do not enjoy them. Arkham City has no such issue, and the game nails almost everything else.

After being purposefully arrested and imprisoned, Batman finds himself in the eponymous Arkham City, a large-scale prison that serves as the home of Gotham’s worst and most iconic criminals. Armed with an impressive arsenal of tools, DC’s Caped Crusader investigates Hugo Strange’s Protocol 10, all the while engaging in a plethora of side content. Arkham City’s nature means its streets are mostly devoid of NPCs, except for thugs who have a date planned with Batman’s fists. While this emptiness would be frustrating in most open-world projects, Arkham City provides narrative justification for this decision, helping to enhance the immersion.

30 Hogwarts Legacy

Detailed Recreation Of Hogwarts

Exploring the castle grounds in Hogwarts Legacy

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Legacy

Released
February 10, 2023

Metascore
84

Avalanche’s Hogwarts Legacy rode the hype train all the way to a wildly successful launch. Harry Potter games are nothing new, but great ones are rare; in many ways, the 2023 release is the first title to properly take advantage of the franchise’s gaming potential.

Regardless of someone’s feelings for Harry’s story, Harry Potter‘s universe is generally regarded as fantastic, and Hogwarts Legacy enables fans to immerse themselves in a world filled with magic, mystery, and charm. Even if its story is nothing to write home about and everything outside Hogwarts leaves something to be desired, the game nails its aesthetic and recreation of the eponymous academy, and players can spend dozens of hours living out their Wizarding World fantasies.

29 Yakuza 0 (& Most Yakuza Games)

Size Does Not Matter

yakuza 0 world

Yakuza 0

Released
January 24, 2017

Metascore
90

Nowadays, the mantra for open-world games seems to be that “bigger is better”, but Yakuza has constantly proven that is not really the case. Yakuza 0 takes place in two districts called Kamurochō and Sotenbori, neither of which is particularly huge. However, these settings nevertheless effectively complement the main story and also provide players with a playground to participate in entertaining optional content.

The Yakuza games blend realism with over-the-top silliness fit for B-movies, and the open-world tends to focus on the former. These maps are packed with arcades, restaurants, and bars, along with containing plenty of side activities and mini-games.

28 Mafia 2

Era-Accurate City

mafia 2 game

Mafia 2

Released
August 24, 2010

Developer(s)
2K Czech

Metascore
77

This one is a different case than all the other games on this list as Mafia 2‘s open-world is mostly set dressing that does not offer much to do outside of driving from one main mission to the next. This is not a map designed to distract people for hours on end.

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However, in terms of realism, Mafia 2 does a fantastic job of recreating the aesthetic of the late 1940s and early ’50s. The cars, slums, and shops all come together to craft an immersive landscape soaked in historical accuracy (despite the game taking place in a fictional city), albeit one that cannot be interacted with in any significant way.

27 Outward

Hard-As-Nails Open-World About Being An Average Person

The hero outside a town in Outward

Outward

Developer
Nine Dots

Released
March 26, 2019

Metascore
71

An acquired taste, Outward somehow combines many standard ideas found in action RPGs in a way that gives the game an entirely unique feel. For one, this open-world title incorporates survival elements like a hunger meter, and players will need to keep a close eye on these mechanics as they are not especially forgiving. Outward also opts against the typical “save the world” premise, focusing instead on a more mundane debt-clearing quest to get players started. This storyline is primarily there to incentivize the main character to begin adventuring, at least until they no longer need a reason to justify heading out into the unknown.

Outward is all about exploration and discovery. Whenever heading out into the world, players need to prepare themselves for their travels as they could quickly find themselves stuck in a dire situation. The map can be accessed in its entirety right from the start, even though some sections are obviously designed for higher-level players. Outward has its share of issues, such as underwhelming combat, that could be deal-breakers for some people, but the game’s open-ended structure is a huge positive in its favor.

Outward: Definitive Edition is the version to get.

26 Gothic 1 & 2

Fully-Realized World & NPCs

Gothic 2 gameplay

Gothic 2

Released
October 28, 2003

Developer(s)
Piranha Bytes

Genre(s)
Action RPG

Metascore
79

Piranha Bytes achieved open-world perfection with the original two Gothic games, so much so that the developer spent the next two decades trying to recapture the same magic, to mixed results. The first entry is impressive and arguably features the best story in the trilogy, but in terms of open-world design, Gothic 2 is up there with the genre’s best projects. Set on an island, the campaign finds the Nameless Hero going on a quest to defeat the dragons, a journey that will take them all across Khorinis.

The central storyline is nothing all that special, but Gothic 2 shines in its minute details. NPCs feel like they are leading lives within this world, and they have their own things going on that have nothing to do with the protagonist. Featuring an impressive range of customization and progression options, Gothic 2 encourages players to craft their ideal adventurer, granting them endless choices in how they fight, live, and explore. Although fairly small by modern standards, Khorinis is a joy to traverse, provided someone does not mind the occasional difficulty spike.

25 Sea Of Thieves

Live The Pirate Life As Part Of A Crew

sea of thieves sinking a skeleton ship

Sea of Thieves

Released
March 20, 2018

Genre(s)
Adventure

Metascore
69

Rare’s Sea of Thieves garnered a mixed reception upon launch due to a lack of content. More than 5 years later, the pirate-themed game is still going strong, a triumph credited to the developer’s commitment to the project and the community’s appreciation of that work. Sea of Thieves can be played solo or as part of a crew, and both iterations have their positives; however, the latter opens up more avenues. The game takes place in a shared world, so groups of players can engage in PvP as they try to sink each other’s vessels.

Although not especially difficult, Sea of Thieves encourages exploration and self-reliance. Treasure seekers will need to read and figure out maps for themselves rather than just follow a waypoint. While on the sea, there is a sense that something could happen at a moment’s notice, challenging crews to stay on their guards at all times.

24 Rust

Unforgiving Survival Sandbox

Rust Screenshot

Rust

Released
February 8, 2018

Genre(s)
Survival

Metascore
69

Rust often gets criticized due to the large number of players who shoot on sight and raid other peoples’ bases. Though this kind of behavior can make things difficult for new players, it’s arguably exactly what one should expect from a post-apocalyptic wasteland and therefore helps to make the game’s open-world a lot more immersive.

When all’s said and done, the radiation zones and irradiated animals in Rust pose very little threat to those who know what they’re doing. The unpredictable nature of humanity, on the other hand, ensures that players need always remain on their toes, while simultaneously making the experience feel a lot more genuine than it would otherwise have been.

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