It is starting to feel that the over-saturation of open world games has started to wind down after half a decade of them being a dime a dozen. That said, the most recent ones we have been treated to have been among the best of all time. I’ve always loved exploring open world games, and regularly find I am discovering (or re-discovering having forgotten about) things to see and do in games I have played over a hundred hours of. This week I’m looking back at five games I still regularly play and love getting lost in, which are still as fun and fresh now as they were when I first experienced them.

Forza Horizon 5

First up is my favourite game of 2021, and current frontrunner for best game of the decade so far: Forza Horizon 5. I was a regular and vocal critic of the decision for Horizon 4 to be set in one of the blandest and variety deprived countries in the world. Britain *yawn*. The gameplay was good enough for 2018, but since being treated to the massive, diverse and beautiful Mexico, I have never gone back to any of the previous Horizon entries.

I very recently hit the 200 hours of gameplay mark in Forza Horizon 5, which does not include any time in menus, customising my cars and their paint jobs, or spent furiously cycling through the same cars in the Auction House searching for the final motors to complete my collection. Playing on Xbox Series X at a solid 60 frames per second, with mesmerising visuals and loud satisfying sound design, Horizon 5 delivers the greatest racing and open world driving experience in any game I have ever played.

From exceeding 300mph along the freeway in a Koenigsegg Jesko to booting a Ford Bronco down the side of La Gran Caldera, the games massive volcano, Forza Horizon 5 consistently feels like a fun and captivating experience. The second expansion for it, Rally Adventure, launches this week on 29th March, and I cannot wait to jump in and play it.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Of course Skyrim had to feature on this list. The intricately detailed world never fails to be astounding in the richness of its lore and design, and no matter how many times I play it (always as a stealth archer) I constantly get distracted with just how much the game throws at me.

I was sceptical towards the idea of porting the game to yet another generation of consoles for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, but inside an hour the naysayer in me was promptly silenced. The main reason for this other than the frame rate and graphical improvement you would expect, is how the load screens in the game have been cut by around 80%. The fact I can now get so much more done in a single session is nothing shy of revolutionary for how Skyrim can be experienced, and I implore anyone to try it out. If you have ever been addicted to Skyrim in the past, prepare to be again.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey surpassed Final Fantasy XV to be my new favourite game of all time a couple of years ago, and I still love wandering around its open world achieving nothing at all. The beautifully realised Athens is a dramatic achievement in game design, and whether I’m taking in the sights and soaking up the culture, or butchering mercenaries to bloodily soak the culture, there is never a dull moment in Ancient Greece. Closing in on the 400 hours played mark across my various saves across three consoles, everything from ransacking a tomb for treasure to attacking merchant fleets on the high seas, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is an absolute triumph of a game, where every time I load it up, it feels like a homecoming.

While the map may be peppered with enemy camps clearly copy pasted en masse, the fact that the combat is so deliciously violent and addictive means I can happily while away an afternoon just chipping away at the Spartan and Athenian armies. The post-game addition of godlike powers is the cherry on top of this particularly pretty and bloody cake, and all comes together in an overwhelming argument to make this my favourite game ever. I just wish the same care and attention had been afforded to Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, but that’s a ramble for another time.

Elden Ring

The latest powerhouse in brutally tough yet richly rewarding game design has been dominating sales charts for over a year now. I’ve just about hit the 100 hours played mark across my two saves, though both playthroughs were marred by coming up against bosses I just couldn’t triumph over. Both totally theoretically possible, but temporarily impassable due to my short attention span for difficulty in games, as well as my penchant for violence against controllers when a game doesn’t constantly shower me with praise.

My most recent run ended after a gruelling struggle through Crumbling Farum Azula, only for Maliketh to reliably lose around 90% of his health in every attempt I made to best him. Unluckily for me, Maliketh is a mandatory critical path boss, but fortunately my inability to defeat him isn’t punished by Elden Ring, as the open world is still out there begging to be explored. Packed with secrets, hard as nails enemies and an absolute bullshit blizzard, the Lands Between will forever be one of the best crafted open worlds in history.

Elden Ring’s recent patch has added ray-tracing to the game, and as soon as I get over my trauma of losing over and over again to Maliketh I will absolutely be jumping back in to see how this already pretty game has somehow got even better looking!

Ghost of Tsushima

The overwhelming graphical beauty of Ghost of Tsushima makes it indisputably the best looking game on this list. While playing the game, no matter the time of day or what you are doing, you will regularly find yourself completely captivated by the scenery. As stunning as the PlayStation 4 version looks, as soon as you dive into the PlayStation 5 realisation of Tsushima you are in for a veritable visual feast.

One of my favourite places in the game is the southern coast of Izuhara, the first region you explore in the game. Flowing fields of grass accompanied by the rolling tide and white sandy beach is always a treat to wander around in. The area works so well as a backdrop for many spectacular battles against the invading Mongol forces. Crimson jets of arcing blood splattering wetly across the surfaces of the small wooden bridges for crossing the gently trickling streams make for one of the most picturesque places to instigate duels in the game.

Ghost of Tsushima is a game which does not need to be carried by its beauty as it is all around an outstanding experience, but it is the call of the vibrant colours of the locale which keep tempting me back to play it over and over again. I couldn’t love Ghost of Tsushima any more if I tried, and even if you’re not really a fan of anything samurai (like I’m not) this is still an absolute must play.

What’s your favourite go-to open world game? Whether you play it for tranquil escapes or to play out violent delights, let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Written and edited by Alexx.