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Gaming 101: Open World Games

In this series, we are learning how different aspects of video games work by playing games that offer an easy introduction to this one concept. This is designed for people new to gaming, and aims to identify games with the least barriers. In this entry we are looking at Open World games.

Video games create space in which to play. Open World games offer a space that is very large, and possibly unlimited. As opposed to games that funnel your movement in a particular direction to create a directed experience, Open World games let you wander in any direction.

These games populate their open worlds with architecture, characters, quests, items and discoveries. The appeal of these games is that when a particularly exciting moment of play occurs it hasn't been pre-ordained by the developer but has emerged from the interactions of the player with the game world.

Open World games come in many forms. Adventures and Role-Playing in large open spaces invite exploration and create a sense of grandeur. Simulation games that offer large explorable worlds offer a chance to experiment with how the games physics, political, economic or even religious models work at scale. Strategy games played in Open Worlds are a chance to innovate techniques that take advantage of the landscape and terrain in which you find yourself.

This list includes 13 games from the last 15 years, with 866 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to play your first open world game.


 

Lego City: Undercover

Release Date: 04/04/2017

Platforms: 3DS and 2DS, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Lego City Undercover offers an open world to explore. While most Lego games have an open-world element in at least some areas, this one keeps play open throughout so that children can enjoy exploring at their own pace.

Proteus

Release Date: 30/01/2013

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS Vita and PS3

Skill Rating: 4+ year-olds

This game takes you to a pixelated island. As you explore you discover that your presence changes the seasons and time of day. Delving deeper, there are rudimentary interactions with the creatures that inhabit the land, and rain clouds that blow in from...

Journey

Release Date: 14/03/2012, updated in 2019

Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4 and iOS

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Journey is an adventure game set in a desert. Exploring the eerie sand-scape, you discover a world abandoned by the race that created it. The sense of space and scale evokes feelings of aloneness and being lost. But then the game pairs you with other...

Everything

Release Date: 21/03/2017, updated in 2019

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4 and Switch

Skill Rating: 3+ year-olds

This is an unusual game that simulates a world where you can become any object. It sounds strange and not much fun, but the enjoyment is in discovering how small or how big a thing you can become. From tiny atoms to whole planets and everything in between.

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Release Date: 18/08/2020

Platforms: PC and Xbox Series X|S

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Microsoft Flight Simulator (Microsoft Flight Sim 2020) is the latest flight simulator game in the long running series. Along with a huge range of aircraft you can learn to fly, the game recreates the entire Earth using textures and data from data maps...

A Short Hike

Release Date: 05/04/2019, updated in 2021

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

In A Short Hike you play penguin-like character Claire, who needs to climb a mountain in a beautiful national park to receive an important phone call. Presented in cute pixel graphics, the game invites you to explore the park, help other animals, find...

Go Vacation

Release Date: 01/10/2011, updated in 2018

Platforms: Switch and Wii

Skill Rating: 3+ year-olds

This is a resort exploration game where 50 mini-games can be discovered and played. The mini-golf, skating, surfing, volleyball, car racing, tennis and other games use the Wii and Switch motion-sensitive controllers and are simple fun for youngsters....

The Pathless

Release Date: 12/11/2020, updated in 2022

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch and iPhone, iPad

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

The Pathless is a mythic adventure about an archer and an eagle in a vast forest. You use timed button presses to use your bow and discover the open world, and unlock a mystical island and dispel a curse of darkness that grips the world.

Disney Pixar Toy Story

Release Date: 30/09/2010

Platforms: DS, PC, PS2, PS3, PS4, PS5, PSP, Wii and Xbox 360

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Toy Story 3 (Toy Story 3: The Video Game) is a running, jumping and exploration game from the developers who went on to make Disney Infinity. It is loosely based on the film and features the voice cast from the film.

Endless Ocean

Release Date: 09/11/2007, updated in 2010

Platforms: Wii

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Endless Ocean (Endless Ocean: Blue World in the US) and its sequel Endless Ocean 2: Adventures of the Deep are versions of a diving adventure game where you explore the Manaurai Sea to identify different fish and recover artefacts. As experience is...

Feather

Release Date: 05/04/2019

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

This game brings you, as a bird, to a beautiful island. You can explore freely, collecting items and soaring on the breeze. Often, other players will join you to create a flock of birds to fly together, making music on the wind. Communication is kept to...

The Forgotten City

Release Date: 28/07/2021

Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds

The Forgotten City is a mystery adventure. You explore and relive the final days of a cursed Roman city, where if one person sins, everyone dies. It starts as a bewildering array of characters, locations and information but over multiple goes your...

Car Quest

Release Date: 25/10/2018

Platforms: Switch

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Car Quest is an exploration puzzle adventure you navigate by driving your car. With no time pressure and a relaxed vibe you can take your time to drive, collect, explore, solve, discover.

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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