Open World Games A Journey into Boundless Virtual Worlds

Open World Games: A Journey into Boundless Virtual Worlds

Open-world games have been growing constantly and consolidating their positions in the gaming industry because of their signature mechanics and bringing players exciting experiences. So, what are they?

In video games, an open world means a nonlinear virtual world. In that world, players have multiple ways to reach an objective.

Therefore, we can understand that open-world games allow players to have freedom in moving, interacting, and completing missions in vast virtual environments such as islands, cities, and even continents or planets.

As a result, gamers will be immersed in an open-ended world in which they have the full right to decide on all developments of the story, discover and explore every corner of that world, as well as develop their imaginations.

Historical Context and Evolution

Open-world games had their golden age from 2010 to 2020. However, the first open-world game was assumed to be published in the 80s.

Trace back to the 1970s and 1975s, although the early games like “Jet Rocket” allowed players to move around a large environment, they missed some criteria of the genre to be called the open-world game that we know today.

In June of 1981, the title “Ultima 1: The First Age Of Darkness” was released. It provided players a sense of freedom to go anywhere on the map along with different missions and equipment, so it was supposed to be the world’s first open-world game.

Ultima and Jet Rocket game

Another title that paved the way for this genre is “Wasteland” (1988).

Gamers travel in a vast virtual landscape. They could discover the map first and complete the mission anytime they wanted. Although the graphics were less advanced, “Wasteland” and other titles in the early periods created a solid foundation to develop modern open-world games afterward.

As a result, the 21st century saw the rise of this genre when many titles generated buzz among the gaming industry, and the typical games that must be mentioned are “Grand Theft Auto III” and “The Elder Scrolls“.

Grand Theft Auto III has brought the open-world game genre to a new level with its sharp and vibrant 3D graphics. It also combined elements from many different types of games, such as action-adventure, role-playing, platform, and shooter, which successfully attracted more players.

Besides, The Elder Scrolls series was also a milestone in the genre when several copies were sold, and it received many awards over the years.

Understanding Open-World Games

Open-world games have their own characteristics to become one of the most popular game genres. Read on to learn more about this interesting type of game!

1. Key Features

One of the significant features of open-world video games is their expansive environments.

Expansive Environments

They offer diversely and extensively, from urban landscapes to natural wilderness, even mythological worlds.

Expansive Environments in Open World Games

Open-world games simulate particularly and seamlessly. This not only brings authentic experiences to players but also intrigues them to discover the terrains throughout the map.

Nonlinear Gameplay

The nonlinear gameplay is also another strength of open-world games. Gamers don’t need to follow a certain pre-set route to complete missions. They can do any personal activities provided that they achieve their purposes.

From that point, players can expand their powers and diversify their way of playing more than in other games.

Quests and Missions

Besides, the massive tasks system is also an attractive aspect of open-world video games. Players need to complete the main quests to develop the plot and finish their journey, but many people believe the side quests are the meat of that game.

They exist parallel to the main quest and help the main storylines have more depth. Players can use them to understand other character’s origins or reasons why events occur.

The side quests also help players finish the main quests more easily.


Because of the enormous landscape, the number of NPCs and objects in open-world games is much more than in other games. They make gamers feel that space is a real world with live people doing things.

NPC Interaction in Open World Games

Therefore, when players interact with the NPCs, they will have natural and different reactions, which make players feel like they incarnate and experience their character’s life.

Immersive Storytelling

A distinctive point in open-world games is that the stories unfold in response to player actions.

Each of their choices will directly impact the story progression and lead to different journeys. When players can interact with the game world more freely and proactively, the storytelling will be more immersive and unique.

2. Technological Aspects

The role of advanced graphics is crucial to build a vast and complex virtual world.

Modern open-game worlds can attract many players partly thanks to their spectacular scenery, detailed characters, and eye-catching colors.

On the other hand, game mechanics also play an essential role in creating a dynamic and responsive world, immersing players in open-world games.

The way game developers simulate the physical objects and environmental elements, as well as the NPCs’ behavior like the real world, makes the game environment alive and natural.

Furthermore, the quest mechanics, which allow players to change the storyline based on their playstyles and decisions, create an engaging and responsive game world.

Scale and Impact of Open Worlds

There will be many open-world games nowadays, so the list of the biggest ones may change as new games are released.

The Biggest Open-World Game Vs. Biggest Open-World Map

In terms of sheer landmass, the biggest open-world game could be “Minecraft” with approximately 60 million meters, which is five times larger than the Earth. Gamers can discover many secrets hiding in an enormous area and immerse themselves in it for hours.

Minecraft and No Man's Sky

However, based on their map sizes, the game that has the biggest open-world map could be “No Man’s Sky“, which includes up to 256 galaxies that the players can explore, survive, combat, trade, or build the base.

Games With The Biggest Map Size

Depending on various sources and our research, different popular open-world games contain different world sizes.

While the map size in Grand Theft Auto 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2 are nearly the same, respectively 75.84 and 75 square kilometers, Elden Ring is a little larger at 79 square kilometers.

GTA 5 and RDR2 Map Comparison

Besides, other popular open-world games such as The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 have considerably larger world sizes with 135 square kilometers and 168 square kilometers.

Community and Modding

In fact, open-world games are not only an entertainment tool, but they also foster their own active communities.

Since open-world games have many different playstyles, players can spend hours playing games and joining groups or forums. Players can do a lot of activities like discussing strategies, sharing experiences, collaborating, competing, etc.

Among them, the culture of modding is a prominent aspect.

It allows players to create new features, improve the graphics quality, and add more challenges, enhancing the game experiences and contributing to the growth of open-world games in the future.

Cross-Genre Influence

In recent years, we can see that open-world elements have strongly influenced other game genres.

Action-adventure games provide a large world in which players can move around freely and offer a variety of hidden mysteries to explore.

In addition, these elements also allow RPG players to design their own stories throughout the side quests outside the main storyline. It fosters gamer’s creativity and enhances their experiences, and the game also has more depth and attraction.

Top Examples and Their Influence

Open-world video games have come a long way from the beginning and have created a lot of iconic titles, some of them are The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Red Dead Redemption 2, Grand Theft Auto 5, Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, Fallout 4, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, etc.

Top 3 Open World Games

These landmark games have been constantly developed and upgraded to bring a high level of player freedom and choice. Also, the detailed and realistic environments in these games succeed in attracting more and more players these days.

Based on the enormous game worlds they create, the detailed NPCs they design, and the series of diverse quests they set, we have to admit that open-world games are not only for entertainment purposes but also become a means to foster gamers’ imagination, creativity, teamwork, and perseverance.

Furthermore, these game design innovations continuously become foundations for future developments in the game industry.

Challenges and Future Directions

Technical and design challenges are inevitable due to the large scope of open-world games.

Bugs, performance requirements, and balancing narrative with freedom are common problems.

Because an open-world game requires massive processing from the game engine, sometimes it can’t handle all of the input from players. This may cause bugs or glitches.

Glitches in Open World Games

Also, performance requirements are high because of the large, detailed environment and NPCs in open-ended worlds.

Besides, ensuring that the players will focus on the narrative while feeling free to choose their journey path is also a delicate challenge for developers.

Whereas some open-world games are extremely immersive, there are opinions that more and more other open-world games that lack creativity are published.

They use the same formula without unique ideas, and the tasks in games are repetitive. This causes the monotony to players.

Another criticism is that although the game world is so large and expansive, some aspects are superficial and empty, leading to a lack of depth and immersion in the plot.

Despite the shortcomings and critiques, open-world games have a promising future ahead.

With AI technology game developments, we can expect higher-quality graphics. These larger game worlds correspond to the richness of their contents, as well as the increased use of VR in open-world games to create more immersive and natural experiences.


In conclusion, open-world games are worth playing for hours because of their nonlinear maps, engaging storyline with series tasks, active NPCs, and eye-catching graphics.

They also play an essential role in the gaming culture when offering unique and personal gaming experiences for players thanks to the sense of freedom in playstyles.

It is believed that open-world games will continuously develop to a higher level in the future.

With advancements in technology like VR or AI, open-world games are expected to create more realistic and immersive environments to enhance interaction between the player and the game, as well as maintain their popularity in the gaming industry.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Best Open World Games?

Depending on various research, the following represent the best open-world titles:

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Grand Theft Auto 5
  • Elden Ring
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

What Is an Open World Game?

Open World Game is a video game in which players can freely move around a vast virtual world and decide when and how they complete missions.

Gamers can do other activities outside the main storyline to shape their own journey: discovering new places, interacting with NPCs, approaching objectives, making friends, etc.

What Was the First Open World Game?

“Ultima I: The First Age Of Darkness (1981)” was the first open-world game. It offers a large virtual world along with massive quests.

What Is the Biggest Open World Game?

The biggest open-world game, in terms of sheer size, is often debated among several titles.

“No Man’s Sky,” “The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall,” “Elite Dangerous,” and “Minecraft” are popular for their expansive worlds, each offering different scales and methods of open-world exploration.

What Game Has The Biggest Open World Map?

The game with the biggest open-world map is “No Man’s Sky”. It has approximately 18 quintillion planets.

What Does Open World Mean in Video Games?

In video games, an open world means a nonlinear virtual world in which the player has multiple ways to reach an objective.

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