With clever open-world games, small companies can still make games that are as big and creative as triple-A games.
Most “triple-A” games and big companies make “open-world” games. Every year, companies like Ubisoft, CD Projekt Red, and more put out open-world games. It’s easy to see why this formula works so well: you can explore a new world at your own pace and to your heart’s content, whether it’s based on a real place or something totally made up.
Even though it takes a lot of time and skill to make an interesting open-world game where your choices count, independent developers have still made a lot of interesting games that are on par with or even better than what big publishers have made.
Giant Squid is known for making games with strong themes and art styles. The Pathless is no exception, but it also does well in terms of how it plays and how it is put together. Games like Abzu were much more straight, but The Pathless lets the player decide how to move forward.
With a hawk by your side, you get to tour beautiful mountain areas. Each area has giant, possessed monsters that can lead to dynamic stealth battles. The game’s real strength is its movement system, which encourages players to time their actions and keep moving quickly.
Retro City Rampage
What if the NES was used to make Grand Theft Auto? That’s what Retro City Rampage is all about. The game is based on Rockstar’s popular series, but it also pokes fun at game design tropes and popular culture.
You’ll go on tasks with different versions of Doc Brown from “Back to the Future,” the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and more. Retro City Rampage also lets you send the cops and the military after you. There’s a lot to do in this small game, so don’t be fooled by its size.
Even though most of the world is, you guessed it, a forest, The Forest lets you explore a huge and creepy open world. After you crash, you can go wherever you want, but some places are better to avoid than others.
Since this is mostly a survival game, you should take advantage of the open world to find a safe place to gather resources.
There are a lot of secrets to find and goods to find in this big world, but there are also a lot of enemies that get stronger the longer you stay alive. Few places are as incredibly beautiful as The Forest, and even fewer can get so very scary.
The Witness is one of those open-world games where you can only move forward if you know something. Theoretically, you could go straight to the end of the game, but you won’t be able to because you don’t know how the later puzzles work. The game takes a central mechanic and builds its world around it, with the only limit being your instincts.
The Witness is a beautiful game with tricky puzzles that will make you want to play it again and again. It was a huge hit when it came out, but if you want to try it for yourself, don’t read about how it ends.
If you haven’t played Subnautica yet, you may have heard that it plays on people’s fears of the ocean. The Subnautica group doesn’t talk much about the details because they know that the less you know, the better the experience is.
In Subnautica, the only way to figure out how to move forward is to go farther and deeper into the strange world. You’ll find plans for new tools, strange alien animals, and some of the scariest things you’ll ever see in a video game.
Even though a game like Firewatch is not a typical open-world game, it is still a very interesting game that everyone should try. The beautiful game has a unique story set in a big area that looks like a forest. This gives a different spin on a common trope.
You can explore the world as much as you want, but because Firewatch wants to be different from other games, you might be more interested in the story before you do much wandering. No matter what, you always have the choice, and it’s never a bad idea to go off the beaten road.
Annapurna Interactive makes more art-house games, and Outer Wilds is no different. The Outer Wilds is an independent game that is not to be confused with The Outer Worlds, which was made by a big company. In The Outer Wilds, you have to explore space to solve the puzzle of the galaxy.
You move forward by going to new worlds and learning things there. As you put things together, you’ll start to see the bigger picture. Once you’re interested, check out the Echoes of the Eye DLC.
No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky is one of the best examples of a game making a big return. When Hello Games released this game, which was made by an independent developer but was highly marketed, it was criticized for having no content and a bad game loop.
But the people who made the game worked hard to fix it so that it was everything that was promised and more.
There aren’t many games like No Man’s Sky because it has so many new things, creatures, and places to find. In this open-universe experience, you can put on a VR gear and have a party with your friends. You can also build a base the way you want, drive a mech, and do other things.
Untitled Goose Game
Goose Game is another open-world indie game that most people probably wouldn’t think of when they think of open worlds. You are the most pessimistic goose in the world, and you are put on a town. It is up to you to walk around and do what cynical geese do best.
The game’s simple but unique art style makes every part of the world quickly memorable, even if it’s just a small village.
Even though Terraria may look like a copy of Minecraft, it has made a name for itself. Terraria is a 2D open-world game full of unique enemies, NPCs, and building features. You can play with friends to build your base, outfit your characters, and fight huge creatures.
Terraria is different from Minecraft in that it puts more emphasis on fighting, which leads to more interesting set pieces in the long run. The game is still cheap and can be bought on all devices. It has stood the test of time.
People probably don’t think of Factorio as an open-world game, but in reality, it is, and so are many other games like it. You can do what you want with the world, even if exploring isn’t always the most exciting thing about it.
The whole point of this game is to build and run factories while building and launching a rocket. As easy as that sounds, it can be very hard and take a very long time. People who like big, open worlds where they can make their own projects will like this hard indie game.
When Sable came out on Game Pass, many people tried it out right away. It goes without saying that Sable makes a good impact as soon as you start it up.
Even though it takes place in a desert, the game is beautiful and has a style of art that few other games can match. It’s hard to stop jumping on your flyer and flying from town to town.
You can also do a lot of quests, but Sable isn’t full of useless or boring stuff. It’s an open-world game that doesn’t waste your time and keeps you interested because of that.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles
Games can be stressful, and most games’ main focus is on fighting, so you’ll need some skill to get through them. Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles, on the other hand, is a peaceful open-world game where you don’t fight.
Instead, you build up the land, make friends with the people who live there, and watch the beautiful animals and views. You can cook, fish, make things, and more.
Yonder will be right up your alley if you like games like Animal Crossing or Backrooms game. It has more action and excitement than other games of the same type, but you can still relax and enjoy the ride.
Don’t Starve is a classic survival game set in an open world. You (and maybe some friends if you play Don’t Starve Together) are dropped into a Tim Burton-inspired world full of dangerous creatures and unknown horrors. Your job is to learn the lay of the land, build your camp, and finally get to safety.
Every time you go out into the world, you learn more about the risks and how to deal with them. The game also works with the Steam Workshop on PC, which means you can add changes to make the game more fun.
Hyper Light Drifter
People often take it for granted that most Zelda games have an open world. Since a lot of Hyper Light Drifter’s powers are based on the Zelda games, it makes sense that it also has a mostly open world that you can start exploring right away.
You have to figure out how to play the game on your own because it’s not very interesting to show you how to do it. It’s a throwback to the classic era of gaming with a lot of modern twists, so gamers who miss the older age of games will love picking up this indie game for lots of open-world exploration.