10 best open-world games of the 2010s (one for each year)
Open-world games contain within them an impressively designed and explorable sandbox that players can delve into. This in-game world, though fictional, is an immersive experience, with elements that make it seem like a living breathing environment comparable to the real world.
Since gaming gained popularity around 1980s, many titles have adopted the open-world format, containing a sandbox environment where players can have fun. This setup also includes side activities and additional optional objectives around the map, which can generally be played aside from the main story.
Across the 2010s, open-world games were prevalent and pulled a lot of fans into this genre, as new technology allowed for the open environment to become bigger and more detailed. This list includes 10 of the best open-world games from this decade, with one from each year.
Note: This article reflects the writer's opinion.
10 open-world games which were the hype during the 2010s
1) Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood - 2010
Developed and published by Ubisoft, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood was the third major game in the franchise and the second to feature Ezio Auditore da Firenze as the protagonist. This open-world game was released on November 16, 2010 for PS3 and Xbox 360, and for Microsoft Windows the following month.
This time, the historical setting was shifted from Florence to Rome, taking place during 1500 - 1507 AD. After the destruction of his ancestral home, Ezio heads to Rome to reestablish the Assassin’s Order once more, as well as taking the fight to the Borgia armies and their head Cesare Borgia.
In this authentic recreation of 16th century Rome, players have the freedom to go and admire iconic sites in and around the city, including the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Vatican City. Alongside the main story, players will be making alliances, taking down strongholds, and assassinating vital targets. Certain additional activities and bonus objectives also exist, which reward the players with some unique items.
2) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - 2011
From Bethesda came Skyrim on November 11, 2011, which took the gaming world by storm. This fifth entry in the Elder Scrolls franchise was built largely in the same mold as its predecessor, Oblivion. However, Skyrim’s diverse landscape, freedom, and engaging world set the bar for open-world games to come.
The player character in the title was referred to as the Dragonborn, who was heralded as the hero that could vanquish the threat of the dragons that plagued the land. Thus, players set off on an epic journey through which they unlock their full potential as the Dragonborn and ready themselves for the final confrontation against Alduin, the world eater.
Aside from the main story, the wide open map of Skyrim itself was rife with content. Simply getting from Point A to Point B was an adventure unto itself, as players could run into different encounters along the way. The wild was populated by beasts, especially areas far away from civilization, while a dragon could swoop down from the sky at any moment.
3) Far Cry 3 - 2012
Far Cry 3 is an open-world game set in the tropical archipelago of the fictional Rock Islands. Developed and published by Ubisoft, this game was released on November 29, 2012 and was the third mainline entry in the Far Cry series. It is a first-person shooter that sees players regain control of the island from a tyrannical ruler.
The protagonist is Jason Brody, who, along with a group of his friends, has the unfortunate break of landing on a pirate-occupied island and is taken captive by the locals. While his friends are killed, Jason manages to escape and runs into Dennis, a member of the native Rakyat tribe, with whom he must work together to eliminate the pirates from the islands.
In this open-world game, players can approach missions in their own way, by either using their weapons for a head-on assault or holstering their guns for a stealthier approach. Players can level up their character by gaining experience points by completing objectives and unlocking various skills and abilities.
4) GTA V - 2013
Rockstar Games’ last GTA release came in 2013 with the launch of GTA V. Since then, the iconic franchise has not released a new game, as GTA V has remained somewhat profitable almost a decade later. This seventh entry in the series was an open-world game like its predecessors. The story is set in modern-day Los Santos, which had also featured in GTA San Andreas.
Following three protagonists whose lives collide with one another, the game’s main story is rife with drama, intrigue, and pure chaotic fun. Telling a thrilling tale of three men, the story takes some small twists and turns and ultimately leaves it up to the player as to what ending to take.
The open world, however, is best explored in online mode, which lets players create a fourth character and play online to build their own empire. The game's map has been intricately designed to be a fictional representation of Los Angeles.
The game features many side activities and events, which can be replayed at any time.
5) inFAMOUS Second Son - 2014
InFAMOUS was a PlayStation Exclusive series that started in 2009. inFAMOUS Second Son, an open-world game developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published by Sony, was released on March 21, 2014 as the fourth and penultimate entry of the series.
While the first two games and a standalone spinoff focused on Cole MacGrath, Second Son’s protagonist is Delsin Rowe. Unlike Cole, Delsin has the ability to absorb and copy power from other conduits, and can copy powers in-game from his allies to gain access to different abilities. Cole, along with his brother, end up in Seattle while on the run from the D.U.P.
InFAMOUS Second Son allows the player to traverse the urban jungle using different powers at their disposal. Played in a third-person perspective, Delsin can utilize his abilities in combat as well. Players can choose to play him as either a good or evil character, by helping or killing innocent civilians and apprehending or murdering enemies.
6) Batman: Arkham Knight - 2015
Rocksteady’s Arkham series came to an end with Batman: Arkham Knight, which was released on June 23, 2015. The final installment of the series sees Batman take on the forces of Scarecrow and other rogues from his gallery as he protects Gotham City from a night of terror during Halloween.
Set two years after the events of Batman: Arkham City, Scarecrow threatens to flood the city with his new fear toxin, leading to a mass panic. After evacuating most citizens, Batman must take on Scarecrow's forces, led by the Arkham Knight, to put a stop to his plan.
This open-world game takes place in modern day Gotham City, where players are required to keep Scarecrow's forces at bay through various optional objectives across the map. For the first time in the series, the Batmobile is fully usable in the open-world, as a means of transport as well as an offensive weapon against enemy tanks and vehicles.
7) Forza Horizon 3 - 2016
Forza Horizon 3 is an open-world racing video game developed by Playground Games and published by Microsoft Studios on September 27, 2016. This was the third entry in Forza’s Horizon series of games, which has a more informal approach to racing as opposed to its more nuanced take in the Motorsport games.
This open-world game was set in a fictional representation of Australia, following the tradition of Forza Horizon games set in exotic locales. Unlike other games in the series, players take on the role of the director of the Horizon festival, whose goal is to expand the event across Australia by completing races and other activities.
Players can visit various localities in this open-world game, which are based on the real-life areas of Australia. The game offers a four-player co-op campaign along with cross-play support. Since its release, the game has received several expansion packs and content updates which include new tracks, challenges, and cars.
8) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - 2017
The Zelda series finally went all out with an open-world game in the form of Breath of the Wild. Developed and published by Nintendo, the game was released on March 3, 2017 as a launch game for the Nintendo Switch and the final game for the Wii U. Set in the lands of Hyrule, players once again take control of Link as they set off on another adventure to stop Ganondorf.
As Link awakens from a 100-year sleep, he witnesses the land of Hyrule under threat once more from the evil of Ganondorf. Having taken on the monstrous form of Calamity Ganon, the age-old Zelda villain has sealed Princess Zelda in Hyrule castle. Link must regain his strength and armaments before taking on the evil monster to defeat him once more.
While players can attempt to reach Ganon immediately upon being released into the open-world, it is not recommended at this point, considering the meager amount of health and attack power they possess. Instead, players should first tackle the map, complete quests, gain items and experience to level up and become the legendary hero of Hyrule. The game will be receiving a sequel that will launch sometime in 2023.
9) Marvel’s Spider-Man - 2018
From Insomniac Games came a second superhero game that stood out as one of the best open-world games of the year. Marvel’s Spider-Man was released for the PS4 in September 7, 2018, as a new take on a solo game based on the friendly neighborhood webslinger.
Set in the city of Manhattan, the open-world game is set about eight years into Spidey’s superhero career. The game picks up as Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin, is finally put under arrest by the local authorities, with some help from Spider-Man. However, this causes some unforeseen changes in the criminal underworld as a new player begins taking control, leading to some disastrous results. It is up to Spidey to save the day.
The swinging is some of the best in a Spider-Man game, as players can simply zip around Manhattan if they are not in the mood for any action. Side missions and pop-up activities crop up all over the map, along with a plethora of collectibles to unlock special rewards.
10) Red Dead Redemption 2 - 2019
Okay, so Red Dead Redemption 2 actually came out in 2018 for the PS4. But since it was released for Windows in 2019, it technically qualifies for this year too. RDR2 deserves a mention for its open-world. Developed and published by Rockstar Games, this was a prequel to the original Red Dead Redemption, featuring John Marston as the protagonist.
This time around, players majorly assay the role of Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde gang of outlaws, of which John is also a member. The story takes place in the late 19th century as industrialization catches up with the American Wild West, forcing outlaws and gunslingers to find a new way of life, or end up behind bars.
The open-world game is set in a fictional representation of the American Wild West across five states. RDR2’s world is a monument to how far open-world games have come, with realistic NPCs, random encounters, and scenery that takes the audience’s breath away. People can sink hours into the game, and it may never feel like they stepped out of the real world for even a minute.