Best Xbox open world games: Epic worlds to explore

The best open world games offer an immersive experience that you can get lost in — here are some of the best open world games on Xbox...

Best Xbox open world games: Epic worlds to explore
Heidi Nicholas

Heidi Nicholas


Open-world games and their promise of almost endless possibility are endlessly attractive. Sure, we might need the odd break to take on a shorter game or to get swept up in something entirely different, but the best open world games can always lure us back with the temptation of an undiscovered world full of secrets and life.

We've put together a list of what we think are some of the best Xbox open world games out there right now. Many of the games on here have fantastic stories or wildly different gameplay, but with open worlds so richly detailed that you find yourself forgetting about the main quests and missions while you focus on exploration instead.

We'll be updating and adding to this list in the future, and have also marked down which ones are on Game Pass, so subscribers know which ones they can pick up straight away. On to the list!

13. Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora

  • Release date: December 7, 2023
  • Developer: Massive Entertainment
  • On Game Pass: No
As much as we’ve enjoyed the recent Assassin’s Creed games, the fact that their worlds can be a bit bloated had us nervous for Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. Yet despite its own occasional shortcomings, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora turned out to be so much fun — and much of that is due to its world.

Sure, there are the usual Ubisoft activities of clearing the map, clearing enemy camps, and so on, but Massive also did a great job of making Pandora feel as bizarre, beautiful, and purely alien as we’d come to expect from the movies. Plus, while we know Pandora is meant to be huge, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora quickly does away with much of the frustration you might otherwise have felt about traipsing across too much empty ground by arming you with an ikran. The experience of soaring over a vibrant alien world on the back of a flying dragon-like creature is just wonderful, and ticks off one of the most important Avatar activities we’d wanted to do since seeing the films. It would have been great to have a little more control over this creature and some of its maneuvers can be clumsy in aerial combat but the ease with which you can go leaping off a cliff, land on your ikran, and soar to incredible heights to continue your exploration is purely excellent.

Couple that with the strangeness and vibrancy of the world below — the creatures and plants you can find and the way you can rely on Na’vi senses — and you’ve got a great open world experience to immerse yourself in.

12. Starfield

starfield review

  • Release date: September 6, 2023
  • Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
  • On Game Pass: Yes
Right, let’s get into it. Starfield is technically open world on a huge scale, since you explore countless planets across the Settled Systems, with each planet differing in everything from its gravity to its plantlife and creatures. On top of that, there are a number of cities and settlements to explore, which have a dizzying array of distractions to pursue. If Starfield strikes your fancy, there’s enough there in the way of exploration to keep you going for a long time. You can follow quests and find out more about your companions, or you can ignore everything and set off into space alone. So why is Starfield so far down on this list? Because, after being hugely anticipated, Starifeld soon after launch became highly contested. Opinions vary wildly on this game — on whether “open-world” applies since to get from planet to ship to space to planet again, you need to navigate through menus. Opinions also varied on whether those planets were worth exploring once you get to them, since many outposts seemed to have a similar layout.

Since launch, Bethesda has released a number of updates to improve the surface maps and add new gameplay options, and the overall experience seems to be improving all the time. So, why Starfield is where it is on this list: it’s incredibly ambitious and aims to give you almost unending potential for exploration. On the other hand, just deciding where this game should go on our list caused a small in-office argument (some enjoyed it, some decidedly didn’t), so taking into account all those differing opinions, here’s our compromise. Nobody is happy about it.

11. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Assassin's Creed Odyssey Achievements
  • Release date: October 5, 2018
  • Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
  • On Game Pass: Yes
Assassin's Creed Odyssey is older than Valhalla and Mirage, but still stands out as one of the examples of where Ubisoft's often over-ambitious approach to open world design for the AC games worked best. Valhalla was just too big, so we're giving this slot to Odyssey. That's not to say Odyssey isn't huge — you're exploring many regions of Ancient Greece (and the seas) and it takes a while to get anywhere.

But Odyssey succeeds in the first point: it's a beautiful game world to explore. It sags a little under its own weight, and doesn't hold up to the others on this list when it comes to constant excellence, but there's so much to do — and so much incentive to explore — that you'll lose countless hours to it.

10. Hogwarts Legacy

Hogwarts Legacy xbox

  • Release date: February 10, 2023
  • Developer: Avalanche Software
  • On Game Pass: No
Hogwarts Legacy was something we’d been looking forward to for some time. The magical action-RPG is set in the wizarding world, but takes place in the 1800s, well before the time of Harry Potter and Co. This was a good move to dodge any story limitations and meant there was more freedom to be creative with what was going on in and around the castle, but at the same time Hogwarts Legacy sort of missed what many of its fans were hoping for, which was more of the structure of life in Hogwarts itself: classes, activities, and the wizarding school experience.

Still, we nevertheless got a beautiful enjoyable open world. One of the best bits about this open world, apart from seeing places like Hogsmeade or the Forbidden Forest, was that you could ride around on a broom (or magical beastie), and Avalanche really got the feel of that just right, making soaring around the castle grounds one of Hogwarts Legacy’s most magical bits.

On top of that, you had a range of enemies and creatures to tackle, puzzles to solve, and all of the map to explore. Exploration rewarded you with new gear, but another of the most enjoyable bits about the game was the customisable Room of Requirement, which let you grow plants, shelter magical animals, and design and personalise to your heart’s content. Despite its shortcomings (and Merlin’s endless bloody Trials), Hogwarts Legacy’s open world was pretty irresistible.

9. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

11/06/15 - Screen 8
  • Release date: September 1, 2015
  • Developer: Kojima Productions
  • On Game Pass: No
Konami's decision to shift to an open world setting for Metal Gear Solid V certainly raised a few eyebrows when it was first announced, but the implementation turned out to be one of the game's greatest strengths.

World-class mechanics coupled with scenarios that can be approached from any angle makes for a degree of freedom and creativity seldom seen in traditional stealth games, although some missions do fall back into the more linear scripted sneaking the series was built upon. Ocelot had the right of it — "Afghanistan is a big place," he correctly asserts in that still-incredible trailer, and it's a map rich with opportunity for imaginative stealth. Plus, it's just one of several massive locations to explore. Even the classic cardboard box gets an overhaul to make it even more versatile, with Snake able to burst out of it to ambush unsuspecting foes or dive out of the side to leave it in place as a decoy or diversion.

And then there's Peace Walker's Fulton extraction system which allows you to pilfer supplies, vehicles, and even enemy soldiers to build your own private army in hilarious fashion. The Phantom Pain has its issues, but the moment-to-moment gameplay definitely sits in the genre's upper echelons, largely thanks to the boundless potential afforded by the open world setting.

8. Microsoft Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator world update 3
  • Release date: August 18, 2020
  • Developer: Asobo Studio
  • On Game Pass: Yes
Microsoft Flight Simulator is the most open-world game out there, especially when you consider, oh, I don’t know, that the entirety of planet earth is playable. It’s astonishing what Asobo Studio has managed to pull off with this simulator. Microsoft Flight Simulator uses map data from Bing to produce the game’s open world, and it does so with incredible accuracy.

If you take off from one of the 37,000 airports included in the game — over 40 of these are hand-crafted to a high level of detail — and fly towards your house (which is probably one of the first things you’ll do), you’ll most likely be amazed at just how true-to-life the sim looks.

Sure, Asobo hasn’t painstakingly modelled your street exactly, but it will be fairly close. It has modelled most of the major cities, big points of interest, and a boatload of planes, all of which look visually fantastic when running on either Xbox Series X|S or PC. The gameplay/simulation may be a little dry for some people’s tastes, but even so, it’s still worth checking out, even if it is just to crash a 747 into that one annoying neighbor’s house who constantly has parties that go on until 4am.

7. Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077
  • Release date: December 10, 2020
  • Developer: CD Projekt Red
  • On Game Pass: No
Despite the troubles Cyberpunk 2077 had at launch (and for some time after), it's now evolved into a far more polished and fluid experience. One reason its issues were such a shame is that they undermined what would otherwise be a fantastic world. Now, however, after numerous updates, Cyberpunk 2077's open world can really shine.

Night City is endlessly fascinating to explore. It's visually striking, with neon lights, ads, and movement everywhere, but its world is also backed up by a wealth of things to do in it. There's always jobs to do for someone or some other way to endanger your life, and that's before taking the Badlands into account too. Thanks to all those updates, Cyberpunk 2077's world is more believable and alive too. It's overwhelming, irresistible, and easy to get lost in.

6. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth

Yakuza: Like a Dragon
  • Release date: January 26, 2024
  • Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
  • On Game Pass: No
When last we took a look at this list, it was Yakuza: Like a Dragon which had a spot. Its open world being quite a bit smaller than those of the other games on this list was by no means a drawback, as Yakuza: Like a Dragon was (and still very much is) in all respects an excellent (and eccentric) game, and its open world reflected this in both the quality of the world and the quantity of weirdness you’re sure to find in it.

Now, however, it’s Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, which has already earned itself a huge amount of popularity. Infinite Wealth stepped things up with its world even further, and it now goes beyond the bustling setting of Yokohama to also include areas of Hawaii. As usual, the game is packed full of enjoyably bizarre things to do, but Infinite Wealth also makes use of its beautiful setting with Dondoko Island, which represents a big chunk of great new side content involving revitalizing the island, gathering resources, crafting and constructing, attracting guests, and more.

5. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition

Skyrim Special Edition
  • Release date: October 28, 2016
  • Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
  • On Game Pass:Yes
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim remains one of the best open world games there is. Over a decade after it first launched, players are still sinking hundreds of hours into Skyrim — just take the Skyrim Grandma as an example. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a true example of a fantasy world you can get utterly lost in, and that sense of adventure never dulls no matter how many times you play. One of the factors which makes Skyrim’s open world such an immersive experience is the haunting soundtrack, which beautifully complements the game’s wintry world.

Where other games might fall short through lacking impactful exploration rewards, Skyrim excels, with secrets scattered tantalizingly throughout the map along with cities and settlements that really feel alive and full of opportunity.

4. Grand Theft Auto V

Best Xbox open world games
  • Release date: March 15, 2022
  • Developer: Rockstar North
  • On Game Pass: Yes
GTA V might be an obvious pick, but that’s for a good reason. It is, ultimately, a perfection of the GTA formula — a big open world stuffed with satirical comedy and satisfying action. The single-player has aged really well as a piece of narrative that, in some ways, satirically skewers its own growth into the endless, live-service, money-churning experience of modern GTA Online. You follow three tales through the tapestry of modern America in a fictional version of LA, called Los Santos, where you set up heists in order to finally make all three characters rich. It’s a really well written, but often searing indictment of the corporate, social, and political structure of America that allows money to rule all.

It never really lets you see that in the moment, though. You'll be too busy dangling off of boats driving over a motorway, or plotting how you are going to get your money out of the bank in the coolest way possible or driving an old Dewbachee Aston Martin DB5 look-alike away from a film set while being chased. It’s wild, but also funny, but also quite sentimental, but also feels fun to play… it’s just really good! You know what, maybe we are going soft, but there is even fun to be had in that money-grubbing, expletive-laden, hellscape of an online mode, as well.

3. Red Dead Redemption 2

red dead redemption franchise sales
  • Release date: October 26, 2018
  • Developer: Rockstar San Diego
  • On Game Pass: No

Red Dead Redemption 2 saw the bar that GTA set for open world games, jumped it, and never looked back. Its open world is ridiculous in its level of realistic detail, from the variety of plants you’ll find to the gradually decomposing bodies of hunted animals. The towns and cities of Red Dead Redemption 2 feel alive and highly detailed, while the wilderness is teeming with wildlife (except for when you’re actually trying to hunt). If you take Arthur out exploring, you can do everything from setting up his tent and brewing him a nice coffee to skinning your kills and cooking them over an open fire.

Red Dead Redemption 2 takes everything into account, even Arthur’s smell, and hunting requires no small amount of patience and planning. The random encounters make every part of Red Dead Redemption 2’s world feel alive, whether you’re anxiously defusing a situation with a camper who’s a little too protective of his campfire, or else pretending you can’t hear someone asking for a lift into town while you ride away with a high-quality pelt on the back of your horse instead. It’s unbelievably gorgeous, too, and small details like dislodging pebbles as you make your way up a bank or wading through water help make Arthur feel grounded in that beautiful backdrop. That weighty movement is especially noticeable when he slips, falls, and goes shouting his way down the hill he just climbed up, or else when his horse goes face-first into a tree mid-gallop and both go catapulting through the air.

2. Elden Ring

Elden Ring
  • Release date: February 25, 2022
  • Developer: FromSoftware
  • On Game Pass: No
It didn’t take long for action-RPG Elden Ring to prove just how excellent it is, and the game shot its way onto many "best of" lists in no time at all after its launch in 2022. For good reason, too: Elden Ring’s open world not only adds further depth to the game's lore, but is also full of mysteries to explore while also managing to be visually breath-taking. It’s a beautiful and atmospheric world at times, but always ominously terrifying.

Elden Ring has you traveling for countless in-game miles in your quest to become an Elden Lord, and yet its massive open world feels as fresh and full of promise no matter how long you’ve been playing for.

1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — Complete Edition

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Complete Edition physical edition release date
  • Release date: August 30, 2016
  • Developer: CD Projekt Red
  • On Game Pass: No
Come on, you know it, I know it: this list wouldn’t be complete without a grim-faced Geralt to represent The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — Complete Edition. Now, The Witcher 3 is my favourite game, and I could happily talk about it for hours, so to keep me from wittering about it all day, I’ll just say this: The Witcher 3 raised the bar for the quality of open-world RPGs across the board.

Many great games have come out since, but The Witcher 3 still stands apart with a world that feels rich and real whether you’re hunting for every last question mark in Skellige or admiring the sunsets in White Orchard. Its world is satisfyingly convincing whether you’re in the middle of nowhere with only monsters on the horizon, or exploring the bustling streets of one of its bigger cities. Add to this that the Complete Edition includes Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine (the latter being arguably the best bit of The Witcher 3’s open world) and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition definitely deserves a spot on this list.
Written by Heidi Nicholas
Heidi tends to lean towards indie games, RPGs, and open-world games on Xbox, and when not playing Disney Dreamlight Valley, happily installs every new wholesome game that appears on Xbox Game Pass, before diving back into favorites like The Witcher 3. She's looking forward to Age of Mythology Retold, Everwild, Fable, and Avowed on the Xbox horizon. Heidi graduated with an MA in English Literature before joining the TrueAchievements team.
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