When done right, open-world games are a master class in immersion, and as an open-world Dune game has been revealed, that has led to the possibility of one of the most epic sci-fi games of all time. And though not every game has to feature free-roaming to be immersive, some games over the past 20 years could have greatly benefitted from it.
Whether it’s because the games are too ambitious for their limited hallway levels or simply because they’d be so much fun with a sandbox approach, these games would be improved with an open-world setting. Between a survival horror classic, the one non-open-world Rockstar game, and a dinosaurs-with-lasers-featuring expansion to Far Cry, not all open worlds have to be crime-driven.
Resident Evil 4 (2005)
Many agree that Resident Evil 4 is one of the best games ever made, and many consider it the greatest survival horror game of all time. And while it is a game-changer and anxiety-inducing in the way that players have to stand still when they shoot at zombies, it’s an extremely narrow game.
The locations in the survival horror include villages, swamps, and castles, making for such a haunting aesthetic, and they could be neatly tied together in an open world with the river that runs through them. And Leon could travel between these giant areas in his riverboat. An open-world would also mean that it’d lean heavier on the RPG elements of the game too, which is one of the most immersive parts of the game.
The Warriors (2005)
The Warriors was developed by Rockstar, and given that it’s the gold standard in open-world gaming with series like Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto, it’s surprising that the 2005 game didn’t follow the same format. Even its lesser-known games like Bully are open world. The game is great and was well-received, but the small levels don’t work all that well with Rockstar’s mechanics, which are clearly designed with an open world in mind.
Roaming the streets of New York and running into theatrical and different gangs could have made for the best non-GTA free-roaming game out there. It could have followed The Warriors as they take over each faction of New York. Ironically, other games based on decades-old gangster movies that were released at the time are open world. The Godfather, Scarface, and others all allow for free-roaming, whether it’s Miami or New York, and The Warriors was a missed opportunity.
Bioshock Infinite (2013)
Columbia, the city in the sky, is one of the most beautiful-looking worlds in video game history, and Bioshock Infinite actually does a great job of making players feel like it’s an open world. Many of the stages are open with big rooms, and there’s a wealth of NPCs that have original things to say instead of repeating the same dialogues that thousands of other NPCs have already said. And because it’s airborne, there’s the blue sky as far as the eye can see, making the world feel much bigger than it actually is. But it’s all a facade.
A whole steampunk city full of locations like the beach at the beginning of the game, which is a huge, open area where every encounter is strange and unique, could make for one of the most immersive open worlds ever. The main mode of transportation in Bioshock Infinite is the “Sky-Line,” which is a rail system that feels like a rollercoaster as players are shot through the sky. That rail could connect a whole city, and it’s such a unique way of traveling compared to ordinary vehicles in most open-world games.
The Hitman Series
Except for Hitman Absolution, which strangely neutered the ambition of the series, every Hitman game features sprawling levels where players can wander around for hours just plotting how to assassinate the target, whether it’s an English manor or a Formula 1 race track. On paper, each Hitman level is as open-world as it needs to be.
However, an open-world Hitman game could see epic missions where Agent 47 hunts his prey on a much bigger scale. Players could follow targets as they go about their daily lives and figure out the most perfect and creative way to murder them and get away undetected. Levels could last days within the game.
Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights (2007)
The 2000s saw a video game trend that was seemingly never-ending, as every racing game focused on street racing and car customization, and the Juiced series was no different. While it sounds like an open-world Juiced game would be no different from the likes of the Need For Speed series, Juiced had a novelty that no other racing game did; players could race for pink slips.
Though it’s already one of the best PlayStation racing games, an open-world Juiced could have players roaming around a huge city and choosing which opponents to race based on which car they are looking for. And it comes with high stakes too, as players can very easily lose their own car. On top of that, as Hot Import Nights took place in some beautiful-looking European cities, such as Rome and Paris, the game could have used the same formula as Midnight Club by having two or three smaller open worlds.
Split/Second has a bizarre high concept for a racing game, as a whole city has been taken over by a television network and turned into the basis for a car racing reality series. It’s almost like Saw for vehicles, as so many traps are set up to destroy opponents in the game, whether it’s flattening vehicles with buildings or racers being taken out by the tarmac caving in.
No other open-world racing game would be as meticulous or as detailed as an open-world Split/Second. And while it seems difficult to pull off, if Burnout Paradise can build a satisfying open world, which is a game about driving as fast as possible, crashing, and causing millions of dollars worth of damage, then the 2010 game can do it too. As Split/Second ended on a cliffhanger and teased a sequel, a follow-up could easily take advantage of an open-world environment.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (2013)
Most of the Far Cry games have an exotic open world, and the games encourage exploration, whether it’s stealthily sneaking through the jungles or climbing up radio towers to unlock more of the maps. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is essentially an expansion to Far Cry 3, but it’s completely unrelated narratively, it doesn’t have the same free-roaming ability, and even the aesthetic and tone is completely different too. It’s simply the gameplay, mechanics, and satire that keep it tied to the third game.
Technically, Blood Dragon does have an open world, but it’s so compact and is no bigger than some levels in the Hitman series. A fully fleshed-out futuristic and Dinosaur-plagued island could have made for the best game in the Far Cry series. T-rexes shooting lasers from their eyes and players controlling a Terminator-like cyborg just scream “open-world survival comedy horror.”
The Last Guardian (2016)
Team Ico is the developer behind the breathtakingly beautiful Shadow of the Colossus, one of the very best open-world PS2 games, and it sees players exploring the Forbidden Land, a scenic open environment full of mystery. The developer’s follow-up, The Last Guardian, features the same kind of mystique, but it also sees the team revert back to the much smaller level design that they applied to Ico.
The Last Guardian not having an open world was such a missed opportunity, especially as the game is about a boy’s connection with a giant dog-like bird, Trico. The scale of the levels is way too small for the ambition of the concept. Exploring a Forbidden Land-like open world with Trico could have made the colossi in Shadow of the Colossus look unambitious by comparison.
Call Of Juarez (2006)
Just like with western movies, western games aren’t all that popular, and there’s only one that’s worth playing every few years. Red Dead Redemption and its sequel are the two westerns that get the most praise. However, while there are loads of great old west video games, one that flew under most gamers’ radar was 2006’s Call of Juarez, which was a riveting first-person western shooter.
The game takes place in both Texas and Mexico in the late 1800s, and the levels are full of gold mines and oil drilling sites, which would be way more fun to explore and discover randomly in an open world. As the 2006 game is set in two major locations, it should have approached open-world gaming by featuring two smaller open worlds, again like Midnight Club.
The MotorStorm Series
The MotorStorm series is unique when it comes to racing games. Instead of just having a sequel with a larger variety of cars and customization options like most racing franchises do, the MotorStorm sequels drastically change the aesthetic and gameplay.
The first game takes place in sand dunes and rocky canyons, Pacific Rift takes place in lush island environments, and Apocalypse takes place in a dystopian future. Because of the creativity of the locations, the well-designed maps, and the vastly different terrain, the games could have been equipped with the most exciting open-world maps ever.
Games Like BOTW To Play While Waiting For Breath of the Wild 2