Nothing immerses me more than a good freeroam/sandbox game. Heres a rundown of some of the best open-world games i have ever played in no particular order.
Minecraft grants players to create the ultimate sandbox world; you can build anything you can imagine by gathering resources and crafting them into blocks, tools, weapons and furniture. Resources are gathered by cutting down trees, digging up dirt and mining deep into any surface which reveals ore veins which include such materials as iron, gold and even diamonds. No game has consumed more of my time than Minecraft, the amount of time i say to myself "Just...one...last...block" and end up building a deep mining complex filled with exit signs and minecarts, chests and crafting tables and little structures to protect myself in from the evil that lurks the surface and the caves. Minecraft despite its cute graphics, has a fantastic atmosphere that changes with its day & night cycle. During the day you collect your resources and build, but at night you must remain hidden in your structure you have built to avoid being killed. It's frightening when you spot a silent creeper in the distance trying to avoid its gaze and explosive nature, when you hear the groan of a zombie when youve run out of torches and when your turn around to see a cow in your face mooing its blood curdling moo (just me then?). Its also a brilliant multiplayer experience, teaming up with your buddies to build the house of your dreams and go deep into the mines to collect some gold. Your objectives and goals are what you make them and it is a genuinely captivating and addictive game with or without friends.
Similar to Minecraft in many respects, but it is a 2-D side scrolling sandbox as oppose to a 3-D first person adventure. My first judgements of Terraria were unsure, I had heard of the game but have only played it recently (Last week in fact) and I did wonder how Re-Logic could pull off a side scrolling sandbox but was pleasantly surprised. I knew I would like the game from the moment it let me create my own character (anything that involves and personalisation & customisation is a major plus for me) then decide on the size of the world, naturally I chose the biggest. After a lengthy set of loading screens I was presented with pixelated sunlight and a mass of trees and grass, revealing a small set of caves beneath it and only to be inhabited by one person named Connor who was my guide. After conversing with the NPC (and trying to beat him with a hammer) i learnt that there were a lot of materials that could be collected, a lot of items to be crafted and a lot of land (and earth) to uncover. The list of things you can create is enormous, and the fact that you can build your own 2-D house is awesome, complete with doors, windows, tables, chairs and a giant keg to brew beer. Terraria has me hooked at the moment and gave me this overwhelming sense of Oh-oh its like Minecraft all over again.
3. The Grand Theft Auto series
Whilst not being so much a sandbox, more an open-world 3rd person shooter (to some degree) the GTA series has held a place in my heart ever since the first game. Back when I was a naughty primary school student, my older brother purchased the original Grand Theft Auto title alongside GTA: London and was strictly told by my mum not to play it did I listen? No. I never played any missions as really the navigation system was awful (and I was just awful at following it) I just spent my time finding guns, fast cars and tanks and destroying whatever I could destroy, be it people or cars. I even collected a mass of cars which I parked up in the road and pretended I was selling them and became angered when pedestrians walked past uninterested, so I violently pressed the tab key (which provided numerous fart and burp noises) chasing them down the street and eventually beating them, to which I would return to where I parked all my cars to find that the game had wiped them off as I had left them behind. This resulted in me finding a rocket launcher, holding down the fire button and spinning around furiously for a few minutes. Grand Theft Auto taught me to be a menace in games, not in real life, and that games allow you to do the gruesome and violent things that you would never do in life because you are a law abiding citizen. Ive played and own every Grand Theft Auto title to date, with IV being my personal favourite, purely because of its gritty style and crazy attention to detail that Rockstar seem to provide in all of their games now-a-days, it truly feels like youre playing the role in some sort of Scorsese flick. Each game regardless of its controversy actually never encourages you to kill civilians and pedestrians, only those targeted usually from other gangs. The choice to go on rampages was entirely up to you which is why the controversy that surrounded the game puzzled me, as this game is intended for adults (even if I am biting my own tongue a little with that one though I am not exactly deranged to go out tomorrow and start beating someone in Burger King with a baseball bat). Each platform this game has been released for, whether it is DS, Xbox, PSP or iPhone, not one has been disappointing. Great stories, lovable and memorable characters, fantastic gameplay and freedom just make GTA so immersive, its just an obvious choice.
4. The Elder Scrolls (III-V)
Whilst admittedly I have only played from Morrowind onwards, The Elder Scrolls titles have been the only games to ever really give me a true sense of freedom. You create a character, create a background for that character and then once you have completed the tutorial like first quest the rest is up to you. Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion is the first game I played on the Xbox 360 and is probably still the only game on 360 i still played up until the release of Skyrim. It felt as though it just never ended, there was always something else you could experience, whether that is a new quest or just a tucked away Fort that you stumbled upon in your adventures, the game just never seemed to run out of things for you to do. Thats not to say that they didnt get boring after a while as things can get repetitive but thats where its biggest quality becomes its biggest flaw the game just never ends. Skyrim more recently, especially more so with the Hearthfire pack, just makes me realise why I love these titles so much, that reason being simplicity. Never has there been a game for me where I feel as though weeks later once I get that urge to play it again I can instantly pick up from where I left off and get sucked back into it for another month. Skyrim always sits high and mighty in my collection of games.
5. The Sims
The Sims you say? Chants of queerness being thrown at me? Secretly your guilty pleasure too? I thought so. I cant think of anyone who hasnt played The Sims in this day and age and is probably the best and most fun sandbox/life simulator to date. I loved the original games and own every expansion pack for the original title, making it a hell of a lot better than the crap that EA churn out for The Sims 3, which is still a good game but just lacks something that the first game had which was its cool wit and charm. The Sims felt like it was approaching you to shake your hand, it welcomed you into this creative world that let you build and live in the house of your dreams, create wild family fiascos and even kill your neighbours by deleting the swimming pool steps with the move_objects on cheat. While more of this craziness is available in the latest Sims, such as being able to have step-fathers and playboys who have multiple children all over the place, the original Sims was unbeatable once you had all the expansions. Hundreds and hundreds of items meant endless customisation, the ability to become famous, go on holiday, build your own mountain resorts, buy dogs & cats (and that bloody parrot) and turn people into frogs using a magic wand (thank you Makin Magic expansion pack). You felt as though you got your moneys worth with the expansions for this title, as opposed to having to pay £10-£15 for an Ikea Furniture Pack which makes me feel like Ive just had an organ stolen I mean really? The Sims 3 had Maxis name rubbed off of every case, cd and intro and this is where I started to lose interest! God damn you EA and your money stealing habit JUST BE NICE PLEASE.
Whilst this is no longer really a mod (as you have to pay for it) Gmod is one of the best sandbox experiences you can ever have. Gmod takes objects from Half-life 2 & Counter Strike: Source and throws it all into a big source playground. You can spawn NPCs, build cars, houses and even put balloons on objects making them float in the air to then shoot them out of the sky. Gmod lets you do anything, I created numerous childish comic strips back on Gmod 9 (when it was actually a mod) containing Breen running over a Stormtrooper to then be rewarded topless action with Kasumi and Hitomi from DOA, to only then realise they were robots who exploded and set Breen on fire I know dont ask. You could pose characters in the form of Ragdolls by using a special Gravity Gun named the Physics Gun and put them in any position you liked. In fact this has become such a culture that people have actually made pornographic comic strips on the forums for other peoples viewing pleasure I must admit its rather sad but whatever floats your boat (I tend to prefer living and breathing women as oppose to Alyx from HL2). Gmod provides hours and hours of playing time as the game is one big experiment which you can do only whatever you can possibly imagine. Shame it now costs money as that kind of misses the point of it being a mod, surely?
7. Hitman (Codename: 47 Blood Money)
Hitman, although not freeroam, is a sandbox game. Hitman is the only game that makes you completely work out each assassination that you have to perform with barely any information whatsoever, meaning you literally have to stalk your prey, figure out your way in and your way out and pick the best way to perform the kill. Hitman gave you the choice to go in guns blazing if you wanted to or to do it like a pro, by stealing guards uniforms and sneaking your way past security with a toolbox packed with mines, its just plain awesome. I have admittedly not played the original Hitman even though it is in my collection, but have played through the last game numerous times to the point that completing hits in a professional manner is just too easy. Hitman has a brilliant atmosphere, large playing areas and tons of ways to kill your enemy. You could even stage your kills to look like accidents; pianos could crush your target, you could poison their drinks or you could simply wait until they were alone and strangle them with piano wire and then stick them in a nearby bin, the choice was yours. Blood Money was more my favourite as each mission gave you money that you could spend on weapon upgrades such as new scopes for sniper rifles and different types of ammo for your trademark Silver Ballers. There isnt a majorly engaging storyline, in fact the story gets ignored but its remarkable and unique gameplay backs this up immensely, creating one of the best 3rd person stealth experiences to date. I salute you Hitman please dont kill me.
8. Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption is just plain bad ass. Set in the western world, during hard and merciless times. John Marston is out to kill those involved with his past to start a new life, but not everything goes as it seems. This gritty and harsh story, lined up with great characters, amazing gameplay and a beautiful environment to play in is a marvel to play and is one of the gems of 2010. Its strange to think that this game is now two years old and it provides still a great single & multiplayer experience. Rockstar again do not disappoint in terms of attention to detail and this lengthy game is a real pleasure to explore. Hunting bears in the snowy woods with nothing but your shotgun is a really intense experience especially when they come up behind you. The game also reaches and unforgettable climax which again makes the story fantastic. Whilst not being really a sandbox game it is in true free-roam fashion that fits the Grand Theft Auto mould. Red Dead is a must for anyones gaming collection and must be played!
9. Mafia 1 & 2
Moving further away from sandbox to more freeroam the Mafia titles offer a unique and exciting experience in the world of organised crime. The first game sees you as Tommy telling the tale of his life starting as a simple taxi driver in the 1930s only to be confronted by a shot gangster and his buddy, held at gun point and being told to drive. This sets the scene for the rest of the game. The first title offered a free roam option as oppose to the main story and the action was limited, but this was in true fashion of the real mafia, as they didnt just go around blasting the hell out of places. Mafia 2 followed quite a few years later for the next generation and was one of my favourite titles for the Xbox 360. Driving around town buying new suits and shooting up bars and watching the blinds fall and the glass shatter really gave this game a great atmosphere. Period music such as Aint that a kick in the head made me feel like I was playing Goodfellas: The video game it had a really nice feel to it. The story is a decade in the shoes of Vito Scalleta who goes from being a war hero to being a drug dealer. The missions are interesting, driving is fluid and the game map has plenty of places to explore. Although this title isnt as strong as some of the above mentioned, it is still a must play, though I can see why some people wouldnt enjoy it BUT WHADDAYA GUNNA DO UH?
10. Prototype 1 & 2
Prototype makes you feel like a GOD. Few games put you in the position of an anti-hero fighting off a zombie like virus whilst beating the **** out of the military with a giant hammer for a fist. Prototype makes you feel powerful when playing it and it is probably one of the most fun games I have ever played. Free running through the busy streets of Manhattan, aimlessly grabbing vehicles whilst you run then hurling them towards helicopters has never been so much fun. You even have the ability to turn into every pedestrian or soldier you meet by consuming them then disguising yourself by transforming into them which lets you blend into the crowd when being hunted. Its more satisfying when you take the role of an old lady and beat the living daylights of an entire army platoon. Prototype is a manic and crazy experience from start to finish, every mission and moment is as explosive as the last and the powerups and upgrades are just insane. Im not the biggest fan of Activisions work after they seem to be churning out the same things over and over (coughCODcough) but this really is a great title. FEEL MY FIST erm.
These above are probably my favourites but Ill round off with a few mentionables:
· Red Faction Guerrilla
· Sleeping Dogs
· Dead Island
· Dead Rising
· Just Cause 2
· Project Zomboid
I have probably missed off a ton, but these were some of my favourites. Please feel free to comment and add your own experiences with these types of games!