Not every video game requires a massive map or hundreds of hours’ worth of content, but when you dive into an open-world title, there’s an expectation that you’ll be able to explore every inch of its landscape. Sheer quantity rarely trumps a smaller quality experience. That fact hasn’t stopped developers new and old from making their games absolutely gigantic, and this list includes the absolute greatest.
To prevent the list from reflecting the size of some of the maps featured here, we limit the lower limit to 100 square miles and have been published in the last ten years (with one exception). Unfortunately, that removes some of the best open-world games, including:
The greatest video game maps of the decade
Even if we limit ourselves to just ten years of gaming, there are more than a dozen huge areas to choose from, some so vast they’re almost unpredictable. The earliest entries may seem like some of the largest maps possible, but you’ll see just how big games can end up being.
10. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint:
At 315km2 (115 km²), Breakpoint was a massive open world where exploration and tactical decision-making were paramount. Unlike its predecessor, the environments were uninteresting and the gameplay even less engaging. Worse, even though the map itself is ridiculously large, only a tiny portion of it is playable; the rest is water that serves no other purpose. There are miles of underground complexes to explore, but they don’t add enough extra space to place the game higher on our list.
9. Xenoblade Chronicles X
xenoblade chronicles X, released in 2015 for the Nintendo Wii U, was a science fiction story set on a post-apocalyptic earth. The map was 400 km long2 (154km2) and as the story followed the last survivors left on Earth after a devastating intergalactic war and their quest to unravel the mysteries and technologies of the world, its narrative scope was greatly exceeded by the size of its map. You could easily fit three whole versions of Los Santos with a little space in them, or pack in six Hyrules or five Skyrims. Luckily, the world was also a feast for the eyes, full of huge beasts and beautiful fauna scattered across the bright green plains.
8. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands
If there’s one thing Ubisoft is good at, it’s creating colossal game worlds. This dedication to 450 km2 (170 mi2) size was a key selling point of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands when it was released in 2017. The game world was rough but beautiful, with different biomes and a long default view range to show it off. Too bad there was a major lack of quality content, as players had to settle for resource gathering and random encounters with roving enemies. It was more entertaining than Breakpoint, both for exploring and playing, but only
7. Only cause 3
Map size has almost always been a hallmark of the Just Cause series, and both Just Cause 2 and 3 have taken this to the extreme, offering a massive sandbox – 1042km in total2 (400 km2) – where chaos was the only constant. Neither the story of the game nor the individual locations around the world were particularly memorable. Instead, it was the fun of pulling off bigger and more elaborate hijinks that kept players pulling back.
6.Final Fantasy XV
The Final Fantasy series attempted its first true open world with Final Fantasy XV, but unfortunately, as colossal as its 1813 km2 (700 mi2) total map is, much of it is locked behind invisible walls or otherwise inaccessible. Almost half of this passes by some train windows or exists as a large expanse of water separating two levels. The ability to turn the Regalia sedan into an airplane mitigated some of the map’s seclusion, but to really experience the whole world, download the Removed Collisions mod (and sorry for the sharp screenshots).
5. The crew
Racing games need a lot of space for your fast car to show its class. The Crew gave players a scaled version of the entire United States to explore, with 4921 km2 (1,900 mi2) of play area and even more miles of road to rip up. It wasn’t the best game ever, either as an open world or a racing title, but it was fun to hit the gas pedal and drive for hours, which is what usually happens.
4. Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020)
A monumental technological feat, Microsoft Flight Simulator uses satellite imagery and other publicly available data to simulate not just a large country, but the entire planet Earth on a one-to-one scale, every 510,072,000 km2 (196,940,000km2) from that. There are tens of thousands of real world airports to land in, and some of the most famous ones were built in-game by developers rather than assembled from images. To say you could lose lives in this game is an understatement, but if you want the ability to travel literally anywhere on our homeworld, this is one of the best ways to do it.
Yes, we’re cheating a bit here, with the release of Minecraft in 2011, but one could argue that the game is almost as relevant today as it was in those early years. It’s also just as huge, at more than billions of kilometers2/ mi2, or 18 times the size of Earth. Being a procedurally generated world, it’s nearly impossible to reach its outer limits through normal play. Modders were of course able, and the game can technically create millions and billions of kilometers of playable space, but how much it makes depends on your hardware. As with the last two games on our list, size is almost irrelevant for Minecraft, as it’s so incredibly large it’s practically infinite. At least for unmodded game.
2. Elite: Dangerous
Elite Dangerous isn’t for everyone. The universe you inhabit is fraught with dangers, both real and artificial, and its size so incredible – 400 billion star systems strong – that it is impossible to explore even a fraction of one percent in a human lifetime. However, the established systems are full of profit opportunities regardless of whether you are dealing in legal or illegal goods and services. The gameplay is also on the hardcore side, trying to more closely simulate what it would be like to pilot a spaceship in the distant future. Even landing at a station requires focus and skill, not to mention winning a dogfight or trading contraband.
1. No Man’s Heaven
Thanks to the procedural application of a complex mathematical equation, No Man’s Sky is quite possibly the biggest gaming world ever, and it’s not just big. It’s not just massive. It is literally impossible to imagine how much space there is in space with five quintillion star systems. Whether here in the neon version or in our reality. His quest for scale meant that when No Man’s Sky was released it was less a game and more a series of procedural skyboxes, and it would take Hello Games five years to bring the title to some of its potential in one of the most admirable Displays exhausts of devotion in recent memory. That doesn’t excuse how it was released in 2016, but it’s now worth spending even a few hours exploring the vastness of space.
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