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With the outside world off-limits, get exploring other-worldly realms, historic cities and entire galaxies with these open world wonders!

By Virgin TV Edit

Whether it’s journeying through the Wild West, tearing round the sun-soaked streets of an LA-esque metropolis, flying through space and discovering previously uncharted planets, or even being a microscopic speck of bacteria, open world games offer countless means of exploration.


We love a good open world game. And, in the current climate, they’ve proven a perfect getaway, providing endless hours of entertainment and immeasurable miles of places to explore.

The best thing is that you can journey to galaxies and beyond in your comfiest, most battered up pair of slippers… or flip-flops, if the heat makes your feet get a bit… you know…


Moving on. Keen to get exploring? Then hold your horses, and feast your eyes on the absolute belter of a list we’ve assembled below!


1. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Available on PC, PlayStation Network and Xbox One

Let’s get started with a classic. This one literally has it all. Stunningly varied, incredibly detailed open world? Check. More side quests than you’ve had hot dinners? Check. A gripping story and brilliant characters? Triple check. If ever there was a time to revisit Cyrodiil or explore if for the first time, it’s now.


2. Forza Horizon 4

Available on PC and Xbox One

Never have British roads looked better or flown past faster than on this cracking fourth entry to Forza’s open world spin-off series. Tear Mini Coopers through the gloriously rendered streets of Edinburgh or a Lambo through the Cotswolds. This is a must-have for racing and open world fans alike.


3. Batman: Arkham City

Available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One

A game that lets you punch, kick, glide, swoop, soar, whack and crunch wrong’uns as Batman? Sure, why not. A game that lets you do so in a brilliantly dark, gritty, city-sized insane asylum packed with the legendary caped crusader’s most fearsome foes? Where do we sign?


4. Wii Sports Resort

Available on Wii and Wii U

Yes, we’ve whacked Wii Sports Resort in there. Why? Because it’s the only the game where you can have Gladiator-style foam sword fights, sky-dive, fly a plane, shoot some hoops, play table-tennis and so much more and do so while listening to absolute tunes like this. Wuhu Island is heaven – fact.


5. Super Mario Odyssey

Available on Nintendo Switch

When a company as old as Nintendo delivers a banger so brilliant it ranks amongst their very best efforts, you know to sit down and take note. From a New York-esque cityscape to a desert via a snow world and another that’s underwater, there is no end to the number of places you can explore and triple-jump through in this ridiculously brilliant game. 


6. Terraria

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and 3DS

This delightful exploration game is like a small, digitalised chill pill on a screen. Effectively a 2D, side-scrolling iteration of Minecraft, you can explore randomly generated environments for resources and, well, do pretty much anything you can imagine… Careful though, hours can evaporate with this one.


7. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch

The most acclaimed game of 2015 and arguably one of the best of all time, this cracking fantasy epic sees you journeying through the magical, fantastical and mysterious world of the Continent. Fantasy lovers and just plain old gamers alike will have plenty to love with this action-packed RPG romp.


8. Firewatch

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch

Boy, do we love Firewatch. Not an open world game in the conventional sense, this charming title sees two strangers develop a surprisingly engrossing friendship while you keep an eye on and tend to a beautiful, autumnal-looking forest. It’s a slow-burner (sorry, pun sort-of intended…), and is a pleasingly sedate change of pace.


9. Minecraft

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch

This one you might have heard of. It’s a testament to Minecraft’s enduring appeal that, ten years on, legions regularly dip back into its randomly generated worlds. You never quite know what you’re getting yourself in to, which keeps things remarkably fresh and can lead to calm, peaceful sessions or ones packed with action in equal measure. Think you know pain? Try dropping into lava and losing your inventory…


10. LA Noire

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch

Keen-eyed readers may spot that we’ve already chatted about this cracking crime noire of a game here, and for good reason. We love it. The atmosphere, the animations, the art-deco, 1950s LA and the intrigue remain insatiably captivating all these years after its release.


11. Everything

Available on PC, PS4 and Nintendo Switch

This. Game. Is. Bonkers. But it’s so, so good. There’s no real point to it, but the fun to be had in controlling anything from microbes floating in the air to entire planets and galaxies themselves is immense. It’s a fun-filled, goofy, fascinating look at life, the universe, and, well… everything!


12. Horizon Zero Dawn

Available on PS4

This is a post-apocalyptic world with a twist, with huge, deadly, dinosaur-like robots scouring the land for some lovely humans to snack on. Bloodthirsty robots aside, the environment is an eerily beautiful 31st Century Earth that has seen nature reclaim much of the landscape. Just watch out for the robots.


13. Grand Theft Auto V

Available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One

For a game in which the world is built around action-packed set pieces and all-out madness, the scenery of Los Santos and its surrounding mountains are stunning. Putting your guns down and going for walks on the towering mountains and windswept fields is well worth a go.


14. The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

Available on Nintendo Switch

Look at that world. No, seriously, look at it. Fittingly, the game that sees you exploring this ridiculously sumptuous environment is more than worthy of its setting. Easily the best in the series’ illustrious history and one of the best games of all time, this isn’t just a classic – it’s a piece of gaming history.


15. Journey

Available on PC and PS4

Though it sort of isn’t an open-world game, Journey is worthy of a mention just because of how unique, stylised, calming and captivating the world is. As a small robed figure, you drift through a sandy landscape towards a mysterious, faraway mountain. Rarely does a wordless game last so long in the memory.


16. Marvel’s Spider-Man

Available on PS4

Just as Arkham City is a must-play because it lets you whack people as Batman, Spider-Man is also worth playing solely for its amazingly detailed replication of New York and the fluid web-slinging that allows you to soar through its streets, up its skyscrapers and soooo much more.


17. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch

“…you’re finally awake.” Whether it’s taking arrows to the knee, slaying a few dragons or riding your horse up impossibly steep slopes, Skyrim is another game that just has to be played. Magic, millions of side quests and a stunning world to explore are just a few of the reasons why it’s worth doing so.


18. No Man’s Sky

Available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Ever heard of the number quintillion? Nope, neither had we… until we saw No Man’s Sky features over 18 quintillion planets for you to fly to and explore… Let that sink in a second. Mental. Mine them for resources or document the bizarre wildlife within them. There’s no limits, with this one. (By the way, a quintillion is a number with 30 noughts on the end.)


19. Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Available on Nintendo Switch

It’s taken the world by storm in recent weeks, and deservedly so. From creating your own utopias, catching 14,000 sea bass or customising your own “fire” wardrobe of threads, there’s plenty to do and soooo much time to do it in. Again, you’ll lose hours to this one. But is that such a bad thing?


20. Red Dead Redemption 2

Available on PS4 and Xbox One

Part open-world action RPG and part-real life cowboy simulator, we love Red Dead 2. It’s basically Animal Crossing, but with far more violence. Explore New Haven’s ferocious wilderness, nab a turkey for the camp and brush your horse to earn its respect… no, honestly. It’s rare for a triple A title to be so slow, so calming, then so action-packed. But we dig it.


21. Elite Dangerous

Available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One

If you’ve ever dreamt of being a rootin’, tootin’ spaceman, then this is the game for you. Journey through an entire galaxy exploring planets, systems, and getting up to all manner of spaceperson high jinks in the process. Much like No Man’s Sky, not even the sky is the limit in Elite Dangerous.


22. Dragon Age: Inquisition

Available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One

This acclaimed gem of a game plops you into a dangerous, fantastical realm rife with dragons (duh), magic and all manner of crazy stuff. Like any good RPG, from battling the game’s primary villain to helping someone find their chickens, there’s plenty to do and so many ways to do it. A blast from start to finish, in other words.


23. Fallout 4

Available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Never has journeying through a post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland been so colourful and straight-up fun. The fourth main entry to Bethesda’s Fallout franchise sees players constructing bases, embarking on countless quests across the wasteland and listening to a plethora of jazzy tunes like this!


24. Borderlands 2

Available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Though it’d be a stretch to say this is a “relaxing” open world game, Borderlands 2 is easily one of the most gorgeous. Brightly coloured, crazy environments with the series’ trademark, comic book-esque self-shaded art style make for a visual feast as you shoot and blast your way past a truly insane galaxy of headcases like Face McShooty.


25. Mass Effect

Available on PC, PS3 and Xbox One

Much like Elite Dangerous and No Man’s Sky, Mass Effect lets you journey beyond the stars and into entire systems and galaxies. A long, engrossing story plays out across a vast chain of brilliantly detailed (and explorable) planets. Sure, the controls are a tad clunky, but it’s still a great game.


26. Abzû

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch

Abzû (or Abzûûûûûûûûûûûûûû, as we like to call it), is a calming, charming little game that plops you into an ocean teeming with life and strange, alien-esque monuments and caverns for you to examine. Look up “beautiful” in the dictionary and there’s just a picture of Abzû’s ocean.


27. Shadow Of The Colossus

Available on PS4

Another game we’ve mentioned before, this really is a piece of gaming history (albeit a remastered version). Put simply, you have to journey through a mythical landscape to slay giant “colossi” to revive a dead woman. It’s a slow-burner with bursts of jaw-dropping action that lasts long in the memory after the final boss has been beaten. Give it a go.


28. Assassin’s Creed II

Available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Open world games set in a single city are cool, sure. But combine stunning and explorable iterations of Florence, Venice and Forlí from Renaissance Italy with a captivatingly bonkers, time-travelling story and you’ve got a recipe for one hell of a game. We love ACII. Bellissimo!


29. Middle-Earth: Shadow Of Mordor

Available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One

This acclaimed gem is a great addition to the pantheon of brilliant Lord Of The Rings games. The combat from the Arkham series is blended with the gameplay of the aforementioned Assassin’s Creed titles within a gloriously gloomy, pre-wasteland Mordor, and it’s a sight to behold.


30. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Likely the last properly good Metal Gear game following Konami’s acrimonious sacking of Hideo Kojima (the mastermind behind the series’ longstanding success), The Phantom Pain was the definition of going out with a bang. A vast, varied open world that allows you to complete a mission in a variety of ways, it’s straight-up, open world, action-packed perfection!

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