Open world games are more popular than they’ve ever been, which means that nearly every developer and publisher in the industry is trying its hand at the genre (if it can even be called a genre, that is). That is, of course, excellent for fans of open world games, but this sort of oversaturation also goes hand in hand with the sad reality of some really good games simply getting lost in the crowd. Here, we’re going to be taking a look at a few open world games that didn’t get the sort of recognition they deserved.
ASSASSIN’S CREED ROGUE
Coming at a time when the classic Assassin’s Creed formula was starting to get a little stale, and launching alongside the next-gen exclusive Assassin’s Creed Unity, AC Rogue was fighting an uphill battle from the get go. It didn’t help that many people viewed it as a watered down version of the excellent Black Flag. All of that’s a little unfair though, because Rogue is a pretty solid game. A unique twist on the Templars vs Assassins conflict, solid naval gameplay, inventive mission structure, and a relatively brief yet dense runtime make for a thoroughly enjoyable Assassin’s Creed experience.
DESTROY ALL HUMANS!
The very definition of a cult classic, Pandemic’s Destroy All Humans! series was on a long hiatus until not that long ago, until THQ Nordic and Black Forest Games recently brought it back with a faithful remake of the first game. And for those who yearn for an old-school, compact open world experience, the Destroy All Humans! remake really hits the sport. Concerned with nothing beyond chaotic fun and open world mayhem and silly humour, this is a game that really does deserve more attention. Thankfully, it’s sold well enough to (hopefully) guarantee a future for the series, so here’s hoping Destroy All Humans! continues to perform well.
Eastshade is probably the most unique open world game out of all the games we’ve mentioned in this feature, because above all else, it emphasizes serene exploration in a lush and beautiful world. You traverse gorgeous landscapes, you get to know and help characters through their struggles, you capture the beauty of the environments you find themselves in and paint them on your canvases- it’s a very relaxing, very peaceful experience, and one that you absolutely shouldn’t ignore.
FIST OF THE NORTH STAR: LOST PARADISE
Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise didn’t hit the mark as convincingly as Ryu Ga Gotoku games (read: Yakuza) usually do, but as those who’ve played it would tell you, it’s still a damn good game, and worthy of much more praise and recognition than it gets. Solid writing, typically excellent combat, and a well-crafted world densely packed with engaging activities and oodles of charm and personality come together to make for a consistently enjoyable experience.
MERCENARIES 2: WORLD IN FLAMES
Pandemic Studios were known for their unique brand of open world mayhem and destruction-fueled gameplay, and they took that formula to its absolute zenith in 2008’s Mercenaries 2: World in Flames. Even if the game was let down at times by some issues that were hard to ignore, such as its inconsistent AI and its disappointing co-op gameplay, exploring its vast world and blowing it to smithereens never failed to be enjoyable,.
If you’re the sort of player who loves getting lost in vast, dense fantasy worlds and role playing experiences, you really shouldn’t be missing out on Risen. Appealing to the crowd of all Skyrim or Kingdoms of Amalur fans out there, Risen offers a deeply engaging role playing experience set in a fantasy setting that is just begging to be explored. Sure, there are technical issues to contend with (especially on consoles), but by and large, this is a solid game that should have been played by more people.
INFAMOUS FIRST LIGHT
The inFamous series got its fair share of critical and commercial success- not nearly as much as what Sucker Punch would go on to enjoy with Ghost of Tsushima, but nothing to be scoffed at either. The series’ final outing, however, sort of got lost in the shuffle. inFamous First Light was sold as a standalone expansion to Second Son, which meant it was overlooked by a lot of people- which really shouldn’t have happened. Enjoyable powers, consistently fun combat and traversal, and a well-crafted open world setting ensured that First Light would have gone down as a welcome addition to the series- if only more people had played it.
Tripwire Interactive wisely decided that there’s a bunch of people out there that want to play as a shark and just wreak havoc in and around the ocean, and with Maneater, they delivered on that weirdly specific but alluring power fantasy. Maneater is just pure fun, whether you’re just messing about the open world and chomping humans to the bone or being an absolute nuisance on beaches or fighting against other deadly animals in the water or upgrading your own abilities. It’s been played by quite a few people, of course, but even so, we’d say it deserves more of the spotlight.
RED FACTION: GUERRILLA
Like other games in this list such as Mercenaries 2: World in Flames and Destroy All Humans!, Red Faction: Guerrilla is all about open world mayhem, and on that front, there’s very few games that do what it does as well as it does. Robust destruction mechanics turn the entire world into a sandbox of destruction, and though the game certainly has issues – from a bland open world to a rather drab art style – it still scratches that itch pretty well.
Survival games are often inherently inaccessible owing to how much they constantly demand of their players, but Subnautica is perhaps one of the best examples of a survival game that balances the core tenets of the genre with accessibility almost perfectly. A steady and solid progression loop ensures that you’re always engaged, but the biggest strength of the game by far is its beautiful underwater world, which is brimming with gorgeous sights and fascinating alien creatures to observe and interact with. The same, of course, is also true of its sequel, Subnautica: Below Zero, and anyone who’s looking to be immersed in a unique and beautiful world should give any one of these two games a shot.
On the other end of the survival spectrum is The Forest– a grueling, taxing, yet brilliant open world survival game that is hard to put out of your mind if you manage to get into it. The Forest puts you in a terrifying, hostile environment and makes you feel completely vulnerable to its haunting denizens and even the elements themselves. Scrounging for survival in this grueling world and steadily becoming stronger feels incredibly rewarding, and the excellent atmosphere that the game builds up really cannot be praised enough.
AGENTS OF MAYHEM
Volition’s open world shooter Agents of Mayhem doesn’t really ever come close to reaching the same heights as the series that spawned it, Saints Row, but it delivers a solid adventure with the same brand of gameplay. The combat here is excellent and consistently a blast, while the game also deserves a lot of praise for its large roster of playable characters, how wildly they can differ from each other, and the kind of action it enables by allowing you to switch between them. Though not a knockout hit, Agents of Mayhem is still quite an enjoyable game.
GRAVITY RUSH 2
It’s hard not to think about the Gravity Rush games when talking about underrated open world games, Gravity Rush 2 in particular. Sony’s sequel took everything that made the first game so unique and really honed in on those qualities, delivering an excellent and imaginative world that you could never get tired of exploring, thanks in large part to the consistently thrilling gravity-switching traversal mechanics. Sadly, with the demise of SIE Japan, it doesn’t look like we’ll ever get a new Gravity Rush game- which is a shame, because as Gravity Rush 2 proved, this was a series with an incredible amount of potential.
Giant Squid have a knack for crafting hypnotic, beautiful worlds, and they just hit the ball out of the park with The Pathless. Taking cues from greats like Shadow of the Colossus and Journey, The Pathless put players in a desolately beautiful world that was an absolute joy to explore, thanks to excellent traversal that made even the simple act of moving around a constant thrill. Add to that engaging exploration, excellent music, and smartly designed puzzles, and what you have is a proper gem that really should get way more love than it gets.
DRAGON’S DOGMA: DARK ARISEN
Dragon’s Dogma is one of the first games that comes to mind when one thinks of excellent yet unfairly overlooked games, and there’s a very good reason for that- because contrary to what it’s less than stellar commercial performances at the time may have indicated, this was an absolute homerun by Capcom. Boasting a vast fantasy world brimming with engaging content, incredible combat, and dense role playing, Dragon’s Dogma is simply unmissable for all RPG fans.