10.) Red Dead Redemption – New Austin, Nuevo Paraiso and West Elizabeth Areas. (USA & Mexico Borders)

Ride your horse across the railway tracks and through the ghostly graveyards right the way past the old church into the saloon, straight out of on old cowboy movie styled town. Red Dead Redemption’s setting achieves one of the most difficult factors that many games open worlds cannot and come nowhere near achieving. The world is oozing atmosphere and this world will immerse anyone into its rich and realistic cowboys and Indians styled setting.

The world is split into two sections and the second half of the game will see John Marston battling away and entering Mexico, which seems to be a place of much emptier and vast landscapes of cascading hills, low valleys and deserted slopes with small shanty town dotted about the landscapes until you reach the grande mansion like villa where many of the main missions take place.

Horse races and exploration challenges for herbs as well as hunting wild animals will take you all across the map and will encourage you to just ride around sometimes taking in the scenery and not aiming to go particularly anywhere. Red Dead has one of the most fun co-op free roam experiences as you ride around the full open world with your friends and fight other players as well as go hunting into places such as the snowy tipped mountains and forests as you fend off bears and the like. Red Dead Redemption is one of the best open world games as a whole but just based on the actual open world itself it has been pipped to the post by many of the following games.

9.) Fallout 3 - Washington D.C.

Fallout 3′s post apocalyptic and futuristic version of Washington DC makes this list because of the sheer perfection the developers have created when it comes to atmosphere the environments create. The areas of the game are not just shooting galleries or empty soulless corridors, they are in fact homes, workplaces, supermarkets and factories that are filled with objects, notes, books and personal possessions that tell the story of the people that used to live there before the nuclear war ended their lives. When you explore the world and uncover the stories of the fallen you cannot help but feel sorrow, anger, hate or a mixture of feelings depending on what story you are uncovering, games like Fallout allow the player to engage emotionally with characters and their stories in the same way films and literature have managed to do so for many years.

Fallout games are notorious for having many glitches that make characters float or enemies merge with the scenerey but even these glitches could not sullen exactly how good this game is. Many open world games struggle to make the player feel as though they are part of a living world or they struggle at the other end of the spectrum and they make the player feel as though they are the only person that is alien the game world, and the other characters only exist to fill the world out.

Fallout 3 creates just the right mixture of allowing the player to feel as though they are completely alone as a lone wanderer exploring this post apocalyptic world while at other times it allows the player to also feel as though they are in the company of an actual village with people going about their daily lives as normal. The vast and barren wastelands can be explored as well as all of the smaller bustling villages. One of the most revered and memborable moments in gaming for many people is the moment that you leave the underground vault and can see for miles and miles into the distance. This already plants the thought in your mind that your a small fish in a very, very big pond.

8.) Fable 3  - Albion

The rich folk live in large mansions filled with expensive and shiny possessions while the poor folk live in small huts and caravans and have little more than a primitive bed. The rich wear there elegant garments and ponce around doing much of nothing while the poor children are slaves and carry crates back and forth all day. The overall economic disparity that is shown really tugs at your heart strings as you explore these different areas they feel as though they are different worlds entirely.

Albion is filled with interesting people to interact with and if one of them particularly tickles your fancy you can marry them and have children. You can buy property and houses and this really adds an extra management element to the proceedings, as you buy, rent and maintain homes to keep a steady amount of money flowing into your pockets. There are items to dig up and find and with areas as different as vast open deserts to bustling inner city industrial towns and wayward tiny forest villages to explore the actual locating of said items is a joy to do.

Fable 2 and 3 have their own personality and charm as a game, they have their own unique graphical style with the use of soft colours and the lack of actually sharp edges in the building designs. This world is the perfect setting for a rags to riches hero adventure of epic proportions.

The areas of industry and child slavery will tug at your heart strings as you see little poor child carrying boxes back and forth. The levels were originally designed in Fable 2 to have no sharp corners or rigid edges and the game has a smothly animated style with no rough textures. Lionhead wanted to create a world that could charm the player and that could stand out from all other generic games. The moment you see a screenshot from a Fable game you know straight away that the game is Fable.

7.) Assassins Creed 2 – Areas of Italy

The world is not always open because you exit and re enter the animus but for those ties when you are free to just explore the city it does not disappoint. You travrse the streets, alleyways and rooftops of the cities and each time you are presented with a building you can’t help but think to yourself ‘I bet I could climb that beast!’.

The world’s rooftops, balconies and ledges become pathways to your free running across the city and this only heightens the sense that te world is open. This is not only an open world enviroment because of the vast distance it spans, it is an open world enviroment because you can not only move forward but you can travel upwards.

You cannot enter many of the buildings other than the courtyard areas and the inside of some of the smaller buildings that contain the chests with the florins. Swimming, running, jumping, falling and sneaking around are the various ways you have of getting around. You can buy upgrades for your weapons or take part in training at different places acros the map.

The inclusion of the home base area of the mansion villa allows you to have somewhere to store many of the feathers, and artifacts you stumble across. Like Fable 3 this and game gives you the power to manage an area of the world. You could buy and rent poperty in Fable but in Assassins Creed 2 you can upgrade areas of your home city and recieve funds at regular intervals. This adds a level of customization and a personal touch to the open world area environments.

6.) Borderlands – Planet Of Pandora

A world filled with interesting and quirky characters to accept missions from, vehicles to explore the vast open landscapes and areas with different strengths of enemies. You can visit some areas of Pandora and explore freely as you hack down low level creatures with ease, but at any time you could easily wander down a short path and be walking right into a strong, tough enemy that will beat your ass all across the large open environment.

The games’ cell-shaded look only serves to extenuate the quirky, wacky styling of the characters and adds an almost comic-book style feel to the game at times. This method also enables certain visuals (such as NPC’s) to be rather simple, while other areas like the landscape and weapons are highly detailed. The world of Pandora would be considerably higher on the list if it only had some more content to the actual world. At times the world feels empty and as if nobody has ever bothered to live or work their and as a mining planet that is a fair excuse for the setting to be this way, but this is not a setting that creates much atmosphere for the player to sink their teeth into.

5.) Saints Row 2 – City Of Stillwater

Have you ever discovered the pirate ship cafe and then thrown an unsuspecting citizen off the starboard bow? Have you visited the prison again just to shoot some security guys? Did you ever visit the secret islands and find the giant pink Boogie Bunny in the water?

If the answer to all three of these questions is no then you have probably not played one of the most fun, frantic, silly and quirky open world games of all time. Grand Theft Auto decided to follow the realistic route with their games after San Andreas so Saints row stepped in to keep giving players an open world environment to just go crazy with and have a load of explosive fun. Surf on top of cars as your co op partner drives you around at 100MPH or customize your cars and drive them around the closed cities or the even take on the ramps in the hillbilly trailer park.

The city gives you the perfect chances to explore every avenue and every street as you seek out the hidden CDs and Spray Tags. The city could also be owned by your gang as you took over territories of the city, you could buy clothes, car upgrades, weapons and extras like food, drugs and alcohol at many of the shops and then even buy shares in the particular business to receive a share of their overall money at regular intervals.

4.) Grand Theft Auto – Liberty City

Liberty City has been the setting for a fair few of the Grand Theft Auto games and if you are a fan or have played any of the GTA games you will more than likely be familiar with Liberty City. I personally know my way around Liberty City better than I know my way around where I actually live!

From the mammoth sized skyscrapers to the actual representation of the Statue Of Liberty it is clear that Liberty City has always been a close version copy of New York. The world at times feels as though it could continue on without you and for the first time in gaming Grand Theft Auto 3 broke the mould for open world games and introduced a vastly huge and varied area styled city with AI that went about its normal business as usual shopping, driving and visiting bowling alleys, bars etc.

Liberty City has many places to visit and carry out activities such as bowling alleys, bars, pubs, golf courses and diners. Clothes shops, paint shops and IT Lounges were all present in order to allow you to customize your character, stay out of trouble with the law and to activate missions and surf the in game world wide web. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas used to be known as the wacky, crazy customizable open world but Saints Row has since adopted and perfected this style of open world play while Grand Theft Auto has gone back to it’s GTA3 roots of realistic cityscapes and an almost photo-realistic looking and feeling world.

Walking and obviously as the game’s title suggests driving are main modes of travel around Liberty City but you have access to a sprawling train and railway service as well as the new inclusion of helicopter rides and tours. You could already drive boats and helicopters yourself but somewhat strangely in GTA4 the previously included aeroplanes were stripped from the game. Taxi’s could be flagged down and used when you just can’t be bothered to walk across the city and overall you will be forgiven if in Liberty City you cannot help but stop and stare.

3.) Just Cause 2 – The Island Of Panua

Just Cause 2 holds the current Guinness world record for the largest explorable open world in a video game and the sheer size of this playable game world is truly a technical achievement to marvel at in itself. Panua has long stretches of motorways, roads, bridges and dirt tracks that will take the player through hills, mountains, small villages and large military compounds.

The easiet way to explore the world is via the grappling hook and the parachute and as you fly across the sea so clear your reflection can be seen on the surface you really cannot help but stare in awe at the true beauty of this game world. The AI and enemies are a little repetitive and predictably stupid at times as they will simply fire at you or stand behind a wall shouting aloud but not actually doing anything other than being a standing target.

A wide range of cars and motorbikes can be driven around the island as well as boats, aeroplanes and helicopters. The most impressive aspect that can be pulled off in regards to vehicles is the ability to ‘stunt jump’ when in the vehicle and jump from the exterior of vehicle to vehicle. This makes for some amazing car chases and random action sequences when traversing the island. Fire the grappling hook while jumping from car to car and hanging from the hood of the car and watch as you dodge the enemies flying cars as they collide, smash and splinter to pieces in inches above you. Just Cause 2 is a ground breaking step in the right direction for open world games and if you have yet to experience this openly wonderful world where the actual story and missions come second to your random adventure and exploration, then pick this up and give this a go!

2.) Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas – San Andreas

For a very long time Grand Theft Auto was unrivalled as the most popular open world game and San Andreas pushed many open world aspects further than any game had done so before. Shops for clothes, restaurants for food and the gym to build muscle, not only did these places add to the realism of the world but they served a purpose and function within the game.

You could drive around in some highly customized cars, fly helicopters and even own your own mini airport with your very own set of planes. Parachuting and driving bicycles were particular highlights and it is a crying shame that future GTA games done away with the RPG style character attribute building that San Andreas introduced with weight, fitness and sex appeal levels. San Andreas was all about customization, being and looking gangster and simply having a blast. The game had humour, it had crazy set pieces and memorable missions. San Andreas was arguably a masterpiece and even though the graphics have aged somewhat, it is still one of the greatest open world games to date and will always hold a special place in my heart.

The San Andreas world was split up into the vast countryside sections filled with farmers and stretched across built up city areas and even explored the ghetto like slums and rich folk suburbs. I would welcome a HD remake of this game but this seems an unlikely move for Rockstar to take when the success of each new Grand Theft Auto seems to be considerably more than the previous.

San Andreas had to make it into this list because the game came about at a time when many open world games were simply not that open and explorable and awesome to play in. This world was over the top, silly and yet had serious undertones all the way through. The San Andreas game alone inspired Saints Row and the GTA games in general inspired many devolpers to follow suite with their games and release open world games for everything from True Crime to Scarface to The Godfather and even The Getaway.

1.) The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion – Cyrodiil

Through the snowy Breton mountains to the wonders of the high walled grande Imperial City, the world of Oblivion is varied, amazing, beautiful and harsh at times. The harshly sinister evil places of Hell inside the ‘Oblivion Gates’ are desecrated, lonely areas where only the truly evil creatures and beings dwell.

The actual graphics engine used to create Oblivion is a little outdated compared to the quality of graphical gameplay on offer at present but this is simply to be expected as Oblivion is a few years old now. The cities are filed with various characters spanning a variety of species, races and roles in society. You can wander along lonely paths into the vast countryside areas of Cyrodill and discover rare plants that can be used with your alchemy, be ambushed by waiting criminals awaiting to steal your valuables and stumble upon homes and structures that once housed entire families or possibly even still do. Oblivion’s world is the perfect place for RPG players that want to feel immersed into a living, breat

hing world where they can craft their own personal stories and complete quests largley in the way they see fit.

If you have yet to play Oblivion and you enjoy playing RPG games then I urge you to pick this up as soon as possible, this game is extremely cheap now and still a masterpiece. There are few games I would recommend as games that every RPG fan should play but Oblivion is one that you literally can not afford to miss because it is just that good.