It wouldn't be too outlandish to suggest that Rockstar Games has a vice grip on the open-world genre with game franchises like GTA, and it has been so for the last couple of decades.
Back in 2002, Rockstar Games emerged as one of the boldest voices in the industry and introduced the industry and audiences to the revolutionary "open-world" genre.
Ever since the success of GTA III, the open-world genre of games has become one of the most successful genres of all time. To that end, several games have tried replicating what worked for GTA in a bid to capitalize on the success of that formula.
However, oftentimes, the effort fell flat on its face as the game would simply not be able to stand on its own two feet. Instead, studios took the open-world genre and put an original spin on it to let the game succeed independently of the GTA franchise.
Here are some open-world games that fans of the GTA franchise should try out in 2021 if they're looking to experiment outside of the GTA franchise.
Top 5 alternatives to GTA 5 that fans should try out in 2021
#5 - Watch Dogs 2
Ubisoft was in a tough spot regarding the Watch Dogs franchise after the original turned into a hotbed of controversy as the result of a massive graphical downgrade. However, the game still had a lot of cool ideas that would later on be polished to a good extent and packaged in a much more accessible form in the sequel.
The sequel, Watch Dogs 2, is a far cry away from the dreary, moody, and almost joyless world of the original and is a bright, colorful, and light-hearted experience.
Watch Dogs 2 has a great sense of fun and momentum and keeps players coming back for more with its competent gameplay loop that gives equal weight to combat and stealth.
The hacking mechanics make a return in a far more polished way, and the Ubisoft map design is perhaps at its best in Watch Dogs 2. The world simply entices the player to explore, thanks to a great sense of exploration and meaningful side quests.
It might be a little light on story and nuance, but it makes up for it with fun gameplay and a rather enjoyable cast of light-hearted characters.
#4 - Cyberpunk 2077
Perhaps due to the controversy surrounding this open-world title, the conversation around Cyberpunk 2077 gets pretty toxic quite fast. However, while it is miles away from the action-adventure open-world style of GTA 5, Cyberpunk 2077 presents a whole other way to experience the open world.
The RPG mechanics of Cyberpunk 2077 keeps players on a constant quest to acquire better loot, cosmetics, and gear to have an easier time in the game.
As in every good RPG, players can tailor their character's skills to suit their play-style and be presented with multiple ways to complete missions.
This makes for a very interesting dynamic in the game as any two players can have a wholly different experience within the game. While the open-world definitely lacks in certain areas, the story and characters of Cyberpunk 2077 make up for it in spades.
While still far from perfect, Cyberpunk 2077 is a game with many good ideas, and there is a lot of fun to be had in Night City.
The open-ended mission structure is quite distinct from GTA 5's linear mission structure, which is why fans of the franchise should try it out.
#3 - Sleeping Dogs
Heralded as the true king of the underground, an almost cult-classic, Sleeping Dogs didn't exactly fly under the radar upon release but was relegated to the shadows for the most part.
However, underneath the ill-advised "GTA-Clone" comments, Sleeping Dogs is an original and fantastic game.
In all honesty, Sleeping Dogs has more in common with the Batman: Arkham series than it does with GTA, given its fantastic counter-based combat system and tightly-constructed open world.
Sleeping Dogs is an amalgamation of a lot of cool concepts and ideas, marrying the thrill and innate fun of the Hong Kong-action with a fantastic martial arts combat system and open-world.
Sleeping Dogs might not be the most groundbreaking narrative presented in videogames, but it is definitely one with a surprising amount of heart.
The game will definitely go down as one of the most underrated titles of all-time, but it seems players have now woken up to the greatness that is Sleeping Dogs.
If players have ever felt that GTA 5 could do with some better combat, Sleeping Dogs definitely illustrates how impactful great combat can be.
#2 - Mafia: Definitive Edition
Mafia, as a franchise, at least before Mafia III, was never a traditional open-world game and emphasized narrative over open-world complexity. Purely on a technical level, there is an open-world in Mafia: Definitive Edition, but it is solely there to serve the narrative.
The game puts players in the shoes of Tommy Angelo, a cabbie turned Mafioso, who starts to climb the ranks of the Salieri Family while facing threats from all sides of the law.
The game has a Freemode-style mode which puts the narrative aside to let players explore the masterfully-crafted Lost Heaven.
Mafia: Definitive Edition might not have the high-stakes over-the-top ridiculousness of GTA 5, but it has a fantastic narrative that will leave a lasting impression on the player.
#1 - Red Dead Redemption 2
A close relative of GTA, seeing as it also falls under the Rockstar banner, Red Dead Redemption as a franchise, couldn't be any more different than GTA.
While the original from 2010 was quickly heralded as Rockstar's finest work in terms of storytelling and intuitive game design, the sequel might just be better.
A prequel to the events of Red Dead Redemption, the game follows the decline of the Wild West as Dutch's gang struggle to find their place in the world. What follows is a masterfully-told emotional narrative that is rife with both action and big drama.
The gameplay is symbolic of Rockstar at the height of their powers, with the best iteration of the RAGE engine yet. The open world of the Red Dead Redemption simply never fails to impress, as there is always something interesting waiting just around the corner.
GTA might have the ridiculous satire, but Red Dead Redemption has the heart and soul of a powerful story, which is what makes it so distinctly powerful.