Open world games are a dime a dozen these days, with the near-yearly cases of Assassin's Creed or dozens of open-world survival titles that pop up on the Steam store. Everyone seems to want to be the next big king of expansive worlds.
Turn-based offerings have also begun to grow in popularity with something like XCOM or Persona. Although niche in the face of vast virtual landscapes, they've found a solid footing in the modern market.
However, when you put the two together, the result is a rarer genre than you might think, although, in terms of popularity, it seems to sit right between both. That is the eye-grabbing open worlds that appeal to everyone and the tightly crafted turn-based adventures only a few appreciate. The ten titles below belong to that category.
Best games in turn-based, open-world genre
1) Divinity: Original Sin 2
With the Divine Lucian gone, the Void has begun to creep its tentacles into the realm of Rivellon. As a Sourcerer captured by the Divine Order, the player must ascend to godhood and stop the chaos.
Initially released in 2017, Larian Studios' grand sequel to 2014's Divinity: Original Sin (or DOS2) improved the formula in every way.
The RPG and skill customization combine with element-based gameplay to create one of the most innovative and organic turn-based combat systems of all time. Every problem encountered can be solved in numerous ways.
Encapsulate this smart design with a tightly knit open-world replete with secrets to find and powerful foes to fight in strategic combat. The result is that DOS2 emerges as one of the best RPGs ever — meaning the upcoming Baldur's Gate 3 is in good hands.
The game is available on PC, PS4, XB1, and Switch.
2) Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition
As the human incarnation of the Luminary, the protagonist must stop the monstrous forces rampaging around the world. They should explore the world of Erdrea and its dungeons teeming with many different foes.
With several unique party members in tow, engage in meticulously designed turn-based JRPG combat and utilize each character's unique skills and attributes to attain victory.
Dragon Quest XI S combines all the studio has learned from the franchise's nearly four-decade-long history to deliver one of the finest JRPG gems. Fans must ensure to pick up the S version (released in 2019) as it has extra content, including a 2D mode.
It is available on PC, PS4, XB1, 3DS, and Switch.
3) Wasteland 3
Wasteland 3 acts as the successor to both 2015's acclaimed Wasteland 2 and Bethesda's original Fallout games. After a brutal ambush, surviving members of the Arizona Ranger Team 'November' are forced to work for a ruler called the Patriarch.
He reigns over the frozen wastelands of post-apocalyptic Colorado, rife with political struggle and warfare.
Stuck between a rock and a hard place, users have to make difficult choices as they engage with the well-written cast of the land. The strategic XCOM-like combat in this 2020 strategy RPG is both punishing and rewarding. Hence, gamers must put adequate thought into creating a well-rounded party to brave the violence-drenched paths of Wasteland 3.
The title is available on PC, PS4, and XB1.
4) Shin Megami Tensei V
As a high-school student, the protagonist is thrust into the matters of the supernatural when he enters the otherworldly realm of Da'at. Saved from demon assault by a god, he combines with the deity to become the Nahobino and must arrive at the crossroads of the war between angels and demons.
In traditional Shin Megami Tensei (SMT) fashion, last year's SMT5 sees players explore demon-infested worlds and engage in the signature strategic Press Turn combat.
They can battle, negotiate, and fuse demons to create the ultimate party and face mythological beings of unimaginable power.
It is available exclusively on the Nintendo Switch.
5) Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
In this 2018 sequel to 2015's renowned Pillars of Eternity, the Watcher must chase after a rampaging god across the world after his revival. This takes players to the titular Deadfire Archipelago, home to many factions. They will explore the lands of Eora on foot or in the game's free-form naval mode.
Gamers can pick between different races and classes to create a robust lineup of warriors to face the hostile forces across Deadfire. They can employ the game's turn-based-with-pause system to conquer foes methodically. At the same time, users may take on narrative-shifting decisions and manage the crew of misfits via developer Obsidian's knack for solid writing.
This title is available on PC, PS4, Switch, and XB1.
6) Yakuza: Like A Dragon
In a shocking makeover for the Yakuza franchise, developer RGG decided to switch it up from real-time beat-em-up to turn-based JRPG for their 2020 entry. After being sent to prison and betrayed by his clan boss, ex-yakuza Ichiban Kasuga must strive to learn the truth about what happened.
Users will explore the detailed rendition of real-life Yokohama with its shops and alleys. Taking cues from Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, combat is party-driven, with members able to dish out special moves, use various skills, and use the Job system to suit players' needs.
Despite the alien gameplay, the game retains the over-the-top vibe and elements that Yakuza is known for.
The game is available on PC, PS4, PS5, XB1, and XB X|S.
7) South Park: The Stick of Truth
As a newbie in the town of South Park, the New Kid teams up with the boys and goes on a pretend live-action RPG journey to find the Stick of Truth. Obsidian Entertainment strikes gold with everything they touch, and this one was no different. Their 2015 RPG embodies everything the acclaimed show is known for and more.
The perfect writing and spot-on visuals aside, the gameplay is a turn-based affair. Players and their team will face unique foes as they traverse the town map and engage in different set pieces with the NPCs. They can buff their attacks, chain together combos, and take on hilarious bosses in this not-so-serious adventure.
Available on PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, XB1, and Switch.
8) Pokemon Legends: Arceus
Taking place way before the Sinnoh region Pokemon games, last year's Pokemon Legends: Arceus transports players to Hisui. They are tasked with exploring the wilderness of this bygone era and capturing all kinds of Pokemon.
The title offers the most significant change to the same design formula that has been regurgitated since the mid-90s originals, despite mostly-traditional combat.
Pokemon encountered in the wild can attack users directly and must be approached with stealth to be caught. Gamers can also use Pokemon to freely travel across the land, water, and sky. Even the battles employ a Style system to switch up priorities of attacks and moves. It is a much-needed breath of fresh air for the series.
The game is available exclusively on Nintendo Switch.
9) Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales
A prequel to the Witcher games, Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, sees players take on the role of Queen Meve, the ruler of Lyria and Rivia. She must take back the north from the opposition and, to do so, must build an army to retaliate. The isometric visuals aren't the only defining feature of the game.
The 2018 RPG saw CD Projekt Red combine their knack for memorable writing and detailed world and decision making with their popular Gwent card gameplay. The combat sees Meve's army feature as cards in a Gwent deck, following the same rules of strategizing to win by having the higher number at the end of a round.
The title is available on PC, PS4, XB1, and Switch.
10) Bravely Default II
Taking after the Nintendo 3DS originals, last year's Bravely Default 2 is a new adventure in the world of Excillant. Chosen by crystals of the four elements, the Heroes of Light must band together to defeat an ancient evil while traveling across the lands.
Square Enix's Bravely Default series is a relatively new JRPG franchise but has still managed to allure many. It might be a traditional JRPG with all the familiar tropes and systems, but this game has its perks, like the returning Brave/Default system.
It allows users to save up turns or expend future ones at the cost of being unable to act. Paired with the varied Job system, it adds a layer of complexity that fans of the genre would love to sink their teeth into.
The title is available on PC and Nintendo Switch.
Note: This article reflects the author's views.