It’s interesting to look back on this year’s releases. The biggest and smallest games have been memorable, but it’s impressive how expansive some of the worlds have been. Let’s look at 14 of the biggest gaming worlds of 2022 and what they offer.
God of War Ragnarok
If it wasn’t clear already after the onslaught of media in November, God of War Ragnarok is a massive experience. The base game’s story involves exploring the Nine Realms, including new ones like Svartalfheim and Vanaheim. But even the returning locations like Midgard and Alfheim have plenty of new things to see. Each realm is packed with Favors to complete, Yggdrasil Rifts, optional bosses, armor, Runic Attacks, weapon attachments, upgrade materials, you name it. The story isn’t even close to the end as a massive new area opens up in the post-game.
Mechanically, Elden Ring takes many cues from developer FromSoftware’s previous works, Dark Souls being the most prominent. Influences like Berserk are also prominent throughout the design, but nothing could quite prepare Souls fans for the sheer breadth of The Lands Between. Limgrave appears unassuming enough but contains enough horrors to keep you honest. Caelid is a nightmarish wasteland, Leyndell is a sprawling capital city…and that’s only a taste of what the entire game has to offer. Bosses, unique enemies, loot, whatever the hell is going on in Volcano Manor – there’s a lot to see, and kill.
Horizon Forbidden West
You’d think that exploring the world of Zero Dawn would prepare you for Guerrilla Games’ next. However, the sheer scale of Horizon Forbidden West is incredible to behold, even when you’re a ways off from the shores. Horizon Forbidden West expands on everything from its predecessor, whether it’s the side quests and gear variety or the number of collectibles, secrets, and Machines to hunt.
Throughout all of this, there are thick new jungles to explore, arid wastelands teeming with terrifying Slitherfangs and Thunderjaws, snow-covered mountains, and of course, the gorgeous beaches with their Tiderippers. It’s a stunning game, and being able to go just about anywhere – yes, even the ruins of the Golden Gate Bridge – is incredible.
Need For Speed Unbound
Lakeshore City, the setting for Unbound, is based on Chicago and leans even deeper into the street culture scene than previous entries with its Tags, graffiti art, and personalities. As you race through the streets, you’ll encounter a variety of locales, from the City Pier and Kennedy Test Track to the picturesque Mountain Road on Kennedy Drive. Everything looks vibrant and alive, especially at night when the cops are in pursuit, and the dozens of cars and events will keep you busy.
Unlike its previous efforts, Ghostwire Tokyo by Tango Gameworks is a completely open-world game. Set in Tokyo, facing a constant downpour in the wake of the Visitors’ abduction of most residents, it’s a stunning game teeming with gorgeous lighting and reflections. But there are also tasks to complete, Torii Gates to cleanse and visit, spirits to assist, cat merchants to buy from, and rooftops to grapple on. The mix of grounded and ethereal presents enough to keep you busy.
The “open-zone” format in Sonic Frontiers is most decidedly not open world. But each region is incredibly huge, teeming with puzzles, Koco to rescue, time trials, roaming enemies, and much more, whether you’re gathering Memory Tokens or the Chaos Emeralds. There are also various Cyber Space Stages, fishing with Big the Cat, and massive Titans to battle. It’s expansive but still well-paced and fits Sonic’s overall sense of speed. Except for that grass-cutting mini-game, probably.
Dakar Desert Rally
Is this a great racing game? No, and the controls aren’t exactly going to satisfy rally enthusiasts. But the open world is fun to explore, with weather effects like blizzards and sandstorms mixing up the vistas in unique ways. It’s gorgeous to drive through, as long as you ignore some of the more lacklustre gameplay elements.
The Gotham City in Gotham Knights may not live up to that in Arkham Knight, but the fidelity is impressive enough. Even if you stick to one hero, enough is going on in each district, from crimes in progress to challenges, to keep them occupied. If nothing else, it’s still nice to perch up high and gaze upon the city’s lights, soaking up the atmosphere.
Saints Row may falter in several aspects, but Santo Ileso is still a worthwhile playground for some mayhem. From the bustling lights of El Dorado to the deserts of the Gehenna Badlands and skyscrapers of Lakeshore, there’s a good variety of environments as you wingsuit or recklessly drive through them. The amount of activities and Criminal Ventures is also pretty healthy, and thanks to a recent patch, they should be less grindy and more palatable.
Sniper Elite 5
Sniper Elite 4’s levels were already embracing larger, more sandbox-like scenarios, but Sniper Elite 5 is on another level. Karl Fairburne is again battling the Nazis in various missions set in WW2 France, but the scale and the overall number of opportunities are much higher as you search for that perfect sniping spot. The visuals and attention to detail are stunning, and aspects like deeper weapon customization, shortcuts for future kills, and Invasion Mode, where another player enters your game as a rival sniper keeps things interesting.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus
Though technically not an open-world title, instead employing giant regions that are connected, Pokemon Legends: Arceus still offers a massive, captivating world to explore. Hisui is based on Hokkaido, Japan in the early times and offers a variety of incredible vistas to explore. They’re also teeming with danger from regular Pokemon to Alpha and Noble Pokemon, and being directly involved in the battle makes each experience more visceral. Despite having “only” 242 Pokemon, the journey to capture all of the same, through various story and side quests, and post-game activities, is still incredibly fun.
Pokemon Scarlet and Violet
Say what you will about the performance and fidelity, but Paldea in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet is a pretty massive place. Whether you’re pursuing the Path of Legends, fighting Titan Pokemon or facing down Team Star, there is a wealth of content available, from the four main Provinces to the mysterious Great Crater. You’ll discover hundreds of Pokemon, and maybe a few Legendaries if you’re intuitive enough. Also, unlike Pokemon Legends: Arceus, the entire world is seamlessly explorable in co-op with up to three other players.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
The sheer number of delays for this game is due to its massive size. Covering all nine mainline films in the series, from Episode 1: The Phantom Menace to the Rise of Skywalker, it also features hundreds of characters, upgrades, secrets, collectibles, side quests, space battles, and more. It’s a lot to take in, and while it may not offer as much freedom as other games on this list, The Skywalker Saga is still a huge experience.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human
The City is a big step up from Harran in terms of size and scale, with numerous detailed buildings to enter – some teeming with Infected Nests – and characters to interact with. Even with some aspects being stripped back, there are several side quests to undertake, and the sheer expanse lends itself well to challenges, time trials and so on. The improved controls and parkour mechanics make it much more seamless to explore.
Share Your Thoughts Below (Always follow our comments policy!)