Open-world games are mostly dominated by triple-A titles and big publishers. Companies like Ubisoft, CD Projekt Red and many more release open world games year after year. It’s easy to see why the formula is so successful: you explore a new world at your own pace and at your leisure, whether it’s based on a real location or something completely fictional.
Despite the time and technique it takes to create an engaging open-world game, indie developers have consistently released many interesting titles that rival or even surpass what the big publishers have created.
ten The pathless
Giant Squid is known for its games with a strong theme and art style. The Pathless is no different, but it also succeeds in its gameplay and world design. Where games like Abzu were much more linear, The Pathless leaves progression entirely up to the player. You can explore beautiful mountainous regions with a falcon by your side. Giant, possessed monsters lurk in each area and can lead to dynamic stealth encounters. The movement system is where the game really shines, encouraging players to time their inputs and maintain rapid momentum. The Pathless is available on PS4, PS5 and PC.
9 Retro City Rampage
What if Grand Theft Auto was developed on NES? This is the central question around Retro City Rampage. However, this is not a shameless scam. The game takes inspiration from Rockstar’s acclaimed series, but also works as a parody of game design tropes and pop culture. You’ll take on missions with variations of Doc Brown from Back to the Future, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and more. The game also allows you to be chased by the police and the army. There’s a lot to do in Retro City Rampage, so don’t let this little game fool you.
8 The witness
The Witness is one of those open-world games that locks progression behind knowledge. Theoretically, you could head to the end of the game, but you’ll be stuck because you don’t know how these later puzzles work. It takes a basic mechanism and populates its world around itself, limited only by your level of intuition. The Witness is a beautiful game with challenging puzzles that will keep you coming back for more. It was a smash hit when it launched, but beware of spoilers if you want to try it out for yourself. The game is best experienced blind.
If you haven’t played Subnautica, you’ve probably heard rumors that it preys on your fear of the ocean. The community is tight-lipped about the details of Subnautica, knowing that the less you know, the better the experience.
In Subnautica, your only clue to progress is to travel further and descend deeper into the mysterious planet. Along the way, you’ll find blueprints for new gear, alien wildlife, and some of the scariest things you’ll see in a video game. Subnautica remains a champion of its kind and well worth your time.
6 Outer Wildlands
Annapurna Interactive tends to release more art-house style games, and Outer Wilds is no exception. Not to be confused with The Outer Worlds, developed by a large company, The Outer Wilds is an indie game in which you are tasked with exploring space to unravel the mystery of the galaxy. Progress is made by traversing new planets and finding information. Put things together and you will begin to understand the bigger picture. The Outer Wilds is a better known blind game. Once he’s inside you, be sure to look into the Echoes of the Eye DLC.
5 No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky is one of the most notable comeback stories in the video game industry. When Hello Games released this indie-developed but heavily marketed game, it was criticized for its lack of content and poor gameplay loop. However, the developers have worked tirelessly to rework the game into everything that was promised and more. No Man’s Sky has so many new features, creatures, and worlds to discover that there are few games quite like it. Put on a VR headset, party with your friends, build a base to your liking, pilot a mech, and more in this open universe experience.
Although Terraria may look like a Minecraft clone, it has made a name for itself. Terraria is a 2D open-world game filled to the brim with unique enemies, NPCs, and building mechanics. You can party with friends to build your base, equip your characters, and battle massive creatures.
Unlike Minecraft, Terraria focuses more on combat, which leads to more dynamic settings in the long run. The game has stood the test of time, remains inexpensive, and can be purchased on all platforms.
Sable debuted on Game Pass, many tried it out on launch day. Needless to say, Sable leaves a good impression the moment you start it. Despite being set in a desert, the game is a feast for the eyes, with a striking art style that few other titles can match. Jumping on your paraglider and zipping from town to town is an addictive feeling. There are also plenty of quests available to you, but Sable isn’t stuffed with bloat or filler. It’s an open-world game that respects your time and thus keeps you engaged.
2 Over There: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles
Games can be stressful. Combat is one of the key elements in most games, which means you’ll need some sort of skill to get through them. However, this is the case for Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles. This is a relaxing open-world game where you don’t fight. Instead, you focus on building the terrain, building relationships with residents, and observing the beautiful creatures and vistas. You can fish, cook, craft and more. If you like games like Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley, Yonder is right up your alley. It’s more of an adventure than its contemporaries, but you can still relax and enjoy the ride.
1 don’t starve
Don’t Starve is a classic open-world survival game. You (and a few friends if you’re playing Don’t Starve Together) are thrust into a Tim Burton-inspired world full of menacing creatures and unknown horrors. Your job is to learn the lay of the land, build your camp, and eventually get to safety. With each new expedition in the world, you learn more about the dangers you face and how to deal with them. The game also supports Steam Workshop on PC, which means you can add all sorts of mods to spice up your experience.
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