When people think of great open-world video games, series such as “Grand Theft Auto” and — more recently — “The Legend of Zelda” usually are the first to come to mind. But either due to the passing of time or lack of publicity, some open-world games never get the recognition they deserve.
Some games, despite featuring legitimately engaging open-world gameplay, never end up being included in the category. The truth is, just because a game doesn’t feature the same type of massive sandbox seen in games such as “Skyrim” doesn’t mean its world is any less interesting to explore.
We came up with a list of some of our favorite open-world games that, for one reason or another, remain underrated.
“Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy”
Released in 2001 for Sony’s PlayStation 2, “Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy,” was hugely important for Sony’s new system. It also happens to be one of the best games released for a PlayStation console, as well as the first installment in one of the most criminally underrated franchises in gaming.
Controlling a futuristic elf and his bad-mouthed weasel companion across a world filled with bizarre weapons and characters might sound absurd, but it was — and still is — seriously enjoyable.
Like the film franchise it’s based on, “Mad Max” is set in a vast post-apocalyptic wasteland, and centers around protagonist Max Rockatansky. The game’s sandbox is enormous, the gameplay is awesome and the characters are as unique as they are in the movies.
Although critics loved this game, it never quite seemed to catch on with gamers, which is a shame.
In this action role-playing game, players actually get to play as Death, which on its own is amazing. Within multiple open-world settings including everything from eerie ruins to gorgeous vistas to modern-day city streets, gamers must navigate many difficult puzzles and challenges before the game’s awesome conclusion.
“Batman: Arkham Origins”
Released in 2013, this game might have suffered from fans being fatigued by the series, as prequels to the game were released in 2009 and 2011. However, “Batman: Arkham Origins” is our favorite game in the series, and allows gamers to explore Gotham City in ways never seen before.
All three versions of this series are great, but the first installment, which made its debut in 2007, is our favorite. Unlike most entires in the popular “Tony Hawk” series, “Skate” allows gamers to openly explore the areas they’re skating in.
In addition to free-roam style of gameplay, “Skate” also is more difficult and realistic than any skateboarding game seen before or since.
“Halo 3: ODST”
Largely forgotten among the growing lineup of “Halo” games, “Halo 3: ODST” is much better than it’s given credit for, and is the only game in the franchise that features an open world. The types of missions in “ODST” aren’t rapid departures from the ones seen in other “Halo” games, but the open environment certainly is.
Released in 2005 for Microsoft’s Xbox, “Jade Empire” is as awesome as it is overlooked. Centered around an orphan who grows up under the tutelage of a martial-arts master, the game features a ton of magic and a ton of weapons.
Along the way to saving Master Li, players are free to explore this game’s open fictional kingdom, which is largely inspired by ancient Chinese mythology.
“Tony Hawk’s Underground”
Often overlooked by gamers who are nostalgic for the first three “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” games, “Tony Hawk’s Underground” might be the best in the series. Players, finally, are free to hop off their boards, and explore open environments littered with over-the-top characters and absurd skating environments.
Although games in the “Spyro” series are mostly platformers, the argument can be made they also fit under the “open-world” category. Since the series’ introduction in 1998, gamers haven’t been able to stop navigating this goofy purple dragon through hilarious worlds.
Thumbnail photo via Flickr/Joshua Livingston