Open world games are the ultimate form of gaming escapism. When you're in the mood for a sprawling adventure, there's nothing quite like setting off across a countryside of rolling hills, a huge cityscape, or an alien planet. These days, we're spoiled for choice when it comes to great open world games, especially on PC—and if you're craving a game to really get lost in, we recommend starting with the excellent examples below.
Elden Ring(opens in new tab)
Released: 2022 | Developer: FromSoftware | Steam (opens in new tab)
Elden Ring isn't just a fantastic open world game, it was the defining game of 2022—so much so that we gave it our Game of the Year award (opens in new tab). Equal parts beautiful and repulsive, inviting and deadly, it's a real vision for what an open world can be. Without a quest log, map markers, or a collectibles list, the focus is purely on your own organic exploration of the world, and its sense of true discovery is absolutely enthralling.
Following in the spirit of FromSoftware's famously brutal Dark Souls games, it's a game that pulls no punches—before you step foot in its sprawling kingdom, you've got to be ready to die, die, and die again. But that also makes your adventure wonderfully rewarding. It's an open world full of trials and challenges that you'll feel like a true hero for overcoming.
Read more: Elden Ring is the new Skyrim (opens in new tab)
Assassin's Creed Valhalla(opens in new tab)
Released: 2020 | Developer: Ubisoft | Ubisoft (opens in new tab)
Assassin's Creed Valhalla's open world is an astonishing technical achievement. It's become fashionable to dunk on Ubisoft for the sometimes formulaic approach it takes to its flagship games, but it deserves credit where its due—the sheer scale and detail of Valhalla's rendering of medieval England is something to behold.
As an angry (and occasionally stealthy) viking, you're given free roam of a huge chunk of the country—not to mention Iceland and other realms I won't spoil. Taking its cues as much from The Witcher 3 as previous AC games, Valhalla is a grand action-RPG, sending you out to find quests and treasure in its historical setting.
If you're craving an open world that feels truly endless, Valhalla is a fantastically rich and accessible adventure to dive into. Just don't expect to finish it before at least the 100 hour mark.
Read more: Assassin's Creed Mirage is officially the next Assassin's Creed game (opens in new tab)
Death Stranding(opens in new tab)
Released: 2020 | Developer: Kojima Productions | Steam (opens in new tab)
Kojima's first game after leaving Konami, Death Stranding is set in a post-death reality where the concept of the afterlife has been blown open. Your goal as Sam Porter Bridges is to rebuild America by walking across the country and linking up cities, preppers, and waystations to, uh, the Time Internet? It makes next to no sense, but that's OK. Death Stranding is an indulgent mood piece first and an excellent hiking and delivery game second.
Andy Kelly puts it nicely in his review: "Some jobs seem impossible. Standing at the foot of a mountain, snow whipping at its peaks, fragile cargo stuck to every inch of your suit, you wonder how you'll ever get over it. But you power on, one step at a time, patiently placing ladders and climbing ropes, edging closer to your destination. Along the way you might have to slip into Metal Gear mode and sneak past BTs, or deal with extreme weather such as disorientating blizzards. You might even get knocked out by terrorists and have your cargo stolen, forcing you to sneak into their camp and take it back. But after all that, you make it, and it feels incredible."
Read more: Norman Reedus confirms Death Stranding sequel, Kojima Responds. (opens in new tab)
Red Dead Redemption 2(opens in new tab)
2023 games: Upcoming releases
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Released: 2019 | Developer: Rockstar Games | Steam (opens in new tab)
Rockstar's historical open world series finally hit the PC with Red Dead Redemption 2 (opens in new tab), a monumental ode to the fading American frontier. RDR2 is rife with detail, overstuffed with little touches: animal corpses persist and decay, the protagonist Arthur has commentary for nearly every location and character, and random world events make the world feel lived in, be it sucking on a man's snakebite wound or getting ambushed by hillbillies.
It's all layered into an excellent story that'll take you as long as the complete Deadwood series to get through, and that's if you're rushing. And on top of it all, Red Dead Online brings a Day Z adjacent quality to the open world, invoking everything from serious roleplay to ridiculous, surreal shenanigans. It's also one of the prettiest games you can play on the PC today. With the mods rolling in quickly, RDR2 is bound to be a PC game we talk about for years and years to come.
Read more: Sprawling Red Dead Redemption 2 mod pack restores parts of Mexico (opens in new tab)
Marvel's Spider-Man(opens in new tab)
Released: 2022 | Developer: Insomniac | Steam (opens in new tab)
Formerly a PlayStation exclusive, but now ported to PC, this slick superhero adventure makes New York your playground. Its open world design can feel a little old-fashioned, with lots of fairly by-the-numbers side activities, but what makes Spider-Man such a gem is how fun it is simply getting around the city.
Insomniac absolutely nails the feeling of web-swinging from skyscraper to skyscraper, with smooth and snappy controls that make you feel every bit the comic book star. Though the pacey and exciting story, with its menagerie of classic villains, will keep tugging at you, you'll often find it hard to resist just leaping and flipping your way around New York over and over. A slick, Arkham-inspired combat system is the icing on the cake of one of the best superhero games ever made.
Read more: Bully Maguire pushes his way into Spider-Man Remastered (opens in new tab)
Grand Theft Auto 5(opens in new tab)
Released: 2015 | Developer: Rockstar Games | Steam (opens in new tab)
This is what money is for: creating a kind of pastiche of a real-world location that’s so staggeringly accurate in atmosphere and details that it’s actually better than being in the real thing. Los Santos represents the meticulous approach Rockstar gave to the compact Liberty City in GTA 4, brought to the scale of 2004’s San Andreas—and the result is an open world of such a high standard that it’ll only likely be topped by Rockstar itself. Between GTA 5's strong multi-protagonist campaign and the mad playground of GTA Online, there’s well over 100 hours of chases and gunfights across land, air and sea for those who want it here.
You can even turn GTA 5's open world playground more to your will with GTA 5 cheats (opens in new tab) and the best GTA 5 mods (opens in new tab).
Read more: Trying to survive GTA 5's campaign amid the absurdity of the Chaos Mod (opens in new tab)
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim Special Edition(opens in new tab)
Release: 2022 | Developer: Bethesda | Steam (opens in new tab)
Over a decade on from its original release, Skyrim remains the definitive open world RPG. Its grand, wintery landscape must be one of the most widely visited locations in videogame history—and it's popular for a reason. It's still an adventure of absolutely breath-taking scale and variety, letting you not only travel wherever you want across an enormous map, but also letting you be whoever you want to be—from a petty thief to the head of a wizard's guild.
These days, an endlessly growing library of user-made mods (opens in new tab) allow you to tailor the experience exactly to your liking, as well as adding even more to its already enormous open world. Whether you want to turn it into a realistic survival simulation, a ridiculous super-powered sandbox, or a battle to the death against Thomas the Tank Engine, the power is in your hands.
Read more: Cheats for an unbeatable Dragonborn (opens in new tab)
Dying Light 2(opens in new tab)
Release: 2022 | Developer: Techland | Steam (opens in new tab)
Combining zombie survival with first-person parkour, Dying Light 2 is a post-apocalyptic playground. Its huge city, partly controlled by survivors and partly home to roaming bandits and undead, is a joy to traverse—as you progress, you gradually unlock more and more tools, until you're wall-running, grappling, zip-lining, and gliding around to your heart's content.
And when night falls, you find yourself very grateful for that agility. As the sun sets in this open world, the scariest, fastest undead nasties come out to play—get caught outside of a safe house, and you'll find yourself fleeing for your life across the rooftops in thrilling freeform parkour chases. The day-night cycle gives the city its own life (or unlife?) that makes Dying Light 2's open world wonderfully unique.
Read more: Dying Light 2 tips to outrun the zombie apocalypse (opens in new tab)
Forza Horizon 5(opens in new tab)
Released: 2021| Developer: Playground Games | Steam (opens in new tab)
PC Gamer gave Forza Horizon 5 the honour of our Best Open World award (opens in new tab) in 2021, which means it naturally deserves a spot on this list. Forza 4's interpretation of Great Britain was good, but Mexico's natural diversity makes for a much more diverse playground. Instead of endless fields and hills, you get to race through ancient temples (a bit disrespectful, sure, but immensely fun), deserts, rainforests and sandy beaches. It's a vibrant setting that's the perfect spot for some four-wheeled digital tourism.
The weather and time of day can also have a transformative effect, and while the sunshine is lovely, races are considerably more thrilling when you're in the middle of a storm or being chased by a wall of sand. Weather is local and affected by the changing seasons, too, making this a world always in flux.
It even manages to avoid map icon fatigue, as each promises another fun activity—and with its post-release support, that now even includes some surreal Hot Wheels tracks. It might be one of the best racing games around, but it could also teach most open world games a thing or two.
Read more: Forza Horizon 5 developers are working on a 'premium open-world game' at their new studio (opens in new tab)
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt(opens in new tab)
Released: 2015 | Developer: CD Projekt RED | Steam (opens in new tab)
It's not just the scale of The Witcher 3's enormous open world that's so impressive—it's the richness of it. This is a landscape bursting with stories. Everywhere you go, you discover deep, captivating quests to distract you away from wherever you were originally travelling, encouraging wonderfully meandering journeys across its grim fantasy world.
Eight years on from its release, it still stands out from the crowd as a truly incredible feat of game development. Its open world is so lavish and meticulously crafted that it feels like a miracle it exists at all. Which only makes it all the more impressive that its two DLCs, Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine, push the bar even higher.
And all of it is elevated by the presence of starring hero Geralt himself—surely one of gaming's best ever travelling companions. His rough charms and heart of gold make him the perfect hero for the game's rugged landscape, and a character you'll be more than pleased to spend 100+ hours with.
Read more: The best Witcher 3 mods (opens in new tab)