If you are fortunate enough to have a break over this festive season, it’s the perfect time to feed your hunger for gaming.
Video games with vast open-world exploration have come a long way since the days of the first Legend of Zelda and The Elder Scrolls: Arena.
These titles contain highly-detailed worlds, fleshed-out NPCs, and tonnes of quests to choose from.
Exploring every bit of these impressive games requires many hours, which are hard to come by throughout the year.
But with no morning alarms, no deadlines, and no commute over the festive season, many gamers may find the time to dive into these games.
Whether you prefer science fiction, fantasy or post-apocalyptic settings, there is an open-world game for every taste.
Here are a few of the best open-world games to indulge in this holiday season.
The Outer Worlds – PC, PS4, Xbox One
From the creators of Fallout comes one of 2019’s most critically-acclaimed titles, The Outer Worlds. The single-player science-fiction action RPG delivers a colourful, engaging and immersive multi-world universe with complex plot lines driven by the player’s decisions and dialogue choices.
Players are able to fully customise the appearance and skill set of their character, the Stranger, at the start of the game.
The story is set more than 300 years into an alternate future, where humanity’s hyper-corporations have colonised a number of planets, but is struggling to sustain these new colonies as the demand for food increases.
Red Dead Redemption 2 – PC, PS4, Xbox One
The highest-rated game from the current console generation was also launched on PC in November. Red Dead Redemption 2 is the third entry in the Western-themed series.
Set in a fictional version of the Western, Midwestern and Southern United States in 1899, players take on the role of outlaw Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde gang.
You are free to roam and combat NPCs in a huge world. Players can travel on foot, by horse, train or stagecoach to explore areas teeming with wildlife, travellers, bandits, and more.
Metro: Exodus – PC, PS4, Xbox One
Few games match the chilling atmosphere and environments of the post-apocalyptic horror Metro series.
Although not as definitively open-world as the other titles on this list, Metro: Exodus offers large explorable environments along with its rich, dialogue-laden storyline.
The game’s plot follows on the events of Metro: Last Light and sees you take on the role of protagonist Artyom as you and a party of allies flee from Moscow on a mission to rally at the “Ark” in Mount Yamantou, a place believed to be at the core of the rebuilding of a new Russian government.
Along the way, you will face treacherous radiated environments, vicious mutants, religious fanatics, and groups of less-than-well-meaning stalkers.
Grand Theft Auto V – PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
It may be almost six years old, but Rockstar’s GTA V still enjoys a large multiplayer fan base and has plenty of replay value for single players.
In the single-player mode, players take on the roles of three criminals in the massive city of Los Santos and the adjacent San Andreas countryside.
During the course of the game, your missions will involve loads of shooting and driving, centred around attempts to commit heists while under pressure from a government agency and prominent crime organisations.
Stay out of real trouble and keep your criminal activity virtual in this hugely-popular action-adventure game.
Far Cry: New Dawn – PC, PS4, Xbox One
The Far Cry first-person shooter series is loved for its action-packed gunfights and explosions, set in massive locations that often have different factions battling it out without the player’s involvement.
Far Cry: New Dawn drops players in a post-apocalyptic version of the fictional Hope County, following nuclear devastation. Just like in previous Far Cry titles, players can go on treasure hunts, liberate outposts, and encampments.
To navigate the mutated countryside, players can use a variety of vehicles, including armoured cars and pick-up trucks, as well as helicopters and planes.
The game places an emphasis on weapon modification and attachments, and also includes a companion system.
The Witcher 3 – PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
As one of the most popular and praised open-world RPGs of the last few years, The Witcher 3 is still a joy to play today. With the release of the much-anticipated Netflix series this December, it’s likely that many will return to to the magical and dangerous world of The Continent for more adventures.
Play as Geralt of Rivia as you hack and slash your way through all manner of monsters in a vast world filled with elves, dwarves, castles, mages, and witches.
Or, if that sounds too adventurous for you, you can always just play another round of the addictive mini-game Gwent.
Days Gone – PS4
If the zombie-infested Pacific Northwest of America is more to your taste, Days Gone will serve up all the gore and horror you require.
In this open-world action-adventure, you play as Deacon St. John, a former biker outlaw turned bounty hunter.
You must fight to survive in a harsh world where you need to scavenge for equipment to craft items and weapons to battle feral creatures called Freakers.
Outward – PC, PS4, Xbox One
Outward is a survival RPG set in a high fantasy universe of magic. The game can be played both in solo mode or co-op.
The developers call Outward more than just an open-world experience, but rather an “adventurer life simulator”.
This means that eating, drinking, and sleeping are just as essential as looting and killing enemies and beasts.
Outward is ideal for those looking for something which is unconventionally challenging, with reviewers saying fights with enemies are on par with Dark Souls-levels of difficulty.
Death Stranding – PS4
Critics are divided on Death Stranding, but they all agree on the sheer scope of its universe – the enormous landscapes of an apocalyptic United States.
The game is less focused on combat and more on manoeuvring through scenic and challenging terrains as main protagonist Sam Porter Bridges, a former courier who is enlisted to deliver valuable cargo to various key destinations.
The world is filled with other dangers in the form of invisible undead apparitions from the afterlife and bandits known as MULEs.
Elder Scrolls: Skyrim – PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
If you haven’t tried this one yet, it is a must-play for any fan of open-world games.
Shape your fully customisable Dragonborn to be a raging sword or axe-wielding fighter, skilled mage, stealth-focused assassin, or any type of character you’d like as you battle and ride dragons, delve into dungeons, fight in a civil war, or travel and find unique and powerful items across the country of the Nords.