Best Open World Games of 2022

These massive open worlds of 2022 had their claws sunk deep into us.

Posted By | On 24th, Dec. 2022

Best Open World Games of 2022

At this point, we’re pretty much guaranteed to get a healthy dose of new open world games every year, and given how many of them we get, it’s also pretty much guaranteed that several of them are going to be anywhere between good and excellent. 2022 was no different in that regard, and from its first month right until its last, it delivered a number of games that were set in massive open maps that were always a joy to explore. Here, we’re going to talk about the year’s open world titles that impressed us more than all the others, and then pick out one of them as the best of the lot.

NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.



pokemon legends arceus

2022 was a big year for Pokemon, seeing not one but two new releases that reinvented the series’ long-established formula with the introduction of proper open world settings. Right at the beginning of the year, we got our first taste of that with Pokemon Legends: Arceus– and it was almost everything that series fans had been desperately craving for several years by that point. Split across multiple large maps, Legends’ world was an excellent setting of the game, thanks in large part to the very unique flavour lent to it by the game’s period setting and all the changes that that brought along with it. No, it’s not the most populated open world you’ll ever see in a game, but finding hidden areas and interesting points of interest and coming across new species of Pokemon that you hadn’t yet caught didn’t lose its luster right until the very end of the game.


pokemon scarlet and violet

Following up several months later on Pokemon Legends: Arceus’ successful switch to an open world formula, we got Pokemon Scarlet and Violet. The series’ Gen 9 titles obviously launched with a litany of technical issues that drew plenty of justified criticism, but on the open world front in particular, the RPG duo impressed. Unlike Legends, Scarlet and Violet’s map is one giant, seamless world, with nearly all of it being open to you very early on in your adventure. The level of freedom it affords to players in where they want to go and what order they want to tackle objectives in is unprecedented for the series, and the fact that all of that real estate is populated by genuinely engaging and addictive content also obviously elevates it to another level. We can only hope the series continues to build on this, because these are some mighty impressive foundations.


Very few open world games can claim to have genuinely good world design, paradoxically enough- most rely on crutches like markers and the HUD to guide players through their expanses. Very few open worlds rely on actual organic design, and fewer still do it well. Elden Ring is one of a small number of open world titles that does both- and boy does it really commit to doing so. More than perhaps any other open world game before it, this one is reliant on its core design and geography to guide its players. FromSoftware’s penchant for incredible level design is on full display here, except now, instead of being applied to specific areas or dungeons, it is applied to a whole, massive world, which doesn’t dilute its quality or variety in the slightest in spite of its size. Honestly, that right there should be enough to sell you on just what an astonishing achievement the open world of The Lands Between really is.


Horizon Forbidden West

Guerrilla Games impressed with its first open world outing in 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn, and sure enough, its sequel lived up to high expectations and effortlessly delivered an even better experience. Horizon Forbidden West boasts a staggeringly large map, but more than its size, what impresses is how it manages to main a high level of consistency across all of that real estate, not only in terms of the beauty and variety of the locations it encapsulates, but also the engaging content that populates that world. Something else that deserves a lot of praise is the level of visual fidelity, attention to detail, and technical polish the game maintains in spite of its massive size. Calling Forbidden West one of the most impressive open worlds to date wouldn’t be an exaggeration in the slightest.


ghostwire tokyo

Tango Gameworks dipped its toes in the waters of open world game design with The Evil Within 2 back in 2017, and this year, the Japanese studio took the full plunge with Ghostwire: Tokyo. The result? Well, not as good as 2017’s survival horror title- but impressive enough in its own right nonetheless. Ghostwire: Tokyo’s map can feel a little empty, and many of its activities suffer from generic design, but it shines in other areas. The atmosphere, for instance, and how effectively it sells the idea of an eerie Tokyo that’s suddenly become devoid of any and all signs of life. Then there’s the traversal, and how consistently enjoyable it remains to zip and fly and run through the empty streets of the city throughout the experience. It might not be groundbreaking, but fans of open world games will still find plenty to love here.


lego star wars the skywalker saga

LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga might not be a traditional open world experience, but as those who’ve played it will tell you, the game’s many open maps put together can easily rival some of the best games of the year. Not only is every single one of these maps impressive in terms of their size, exploring every nook and cranny of these locations is also always an absolute joy. The game fills these spaces with simple yet incredibly fun puzzles and consistently engaging side content, to the extent that you can easily spend dozens of hours doing nothing but the optional stuff. Add to that the trademark charm of Traveler’s Tales’ LEGO games, not to mention the inherent strengths of the Star Wars universe, and what you have is a galaxy that’s an absolute pleasure to simply exist in.


Need for Speed Unbound

Open world maps are nothing new to Need for Speed games, but good open world maps and the racing series have sort of been like rubber and glue in recent years. While 2019’s Heat was definitely a step in the right direction, 2022’s Unbound, which marks Criterion’s return to the franchise, is the game that’s well and truly dragged NFS out of the doldrums. Lakeshore City in particular is one of the stars of the show, as a map that’s densely packed with immaculately designed events, races, and side activities that might not be out-of-the-box, but exhibit an incredible understanding of what makes games like this tick. Racing through the city’s streets, smashing up its billboards, evading the increasingly relentless law, and climbing the ladder of the street racing scene never loses its charm in Need for Speed Unbound.


Sonic Frontiers_01

For diehard fans of Sonic the Hedgehog, it’s no surprise that a switch to open world design has brought about a reversal in fortunes for the franchise’s mainline games- this is what so many Sonic fans have been asking for for so long, after all. Is Sonic Frontiers perfect? Well, no. Not even close. But in spite of its many issues and rough edges, it’s still an inherently fun platformer that remains consistently enjoyable in spite of itself. Open world and Sonic gameplay are an excellent mix, and that core aspect of gameplay elevates the entire experience in so many ways. Hopefully, with further refinements and improvements in the future, successive entries will continue to build on Frontiers’ considerable strengths.


There’s several ways to make an open world map stand out- it can be incredibly massive, it can be packed full of content, it can sport impressive environmental variety. And yes, Dying Light 2’s map does all of that, to varying degrees. What really makes it shine, however, is how effectively it’s built around the game’s core gameplay foundations- the parkour. Just like its predecessor, Dying Light 2’s world works overtime to highlight and uplift the incredible parkrour mechanics, from well-placed handholds to structures that are packed densely together to networks of ziplines and more. Getting from point A to point B is always an absolute blast in this game, in a way that almost no other open world game has ever managed. For that reason alone, Dying Light 2 deserves special praise.



It usually takes developers multiple cracks at open world game design before they finally get it right (and often even that’s not enough), but the folks at FromSoftware, being the absolute masters of their craft that they are, hit the ball out of the park (and then some) with their very first go at it. The Lands Between may very well be the best world that FromSoftware has ever put together- which, of course, is massive praise in more ways than one. This is a game that you can clock hundreds of hours into, so the fact that it somehow still keeps finding ways to take your breath away with new discoveries, hidden areas, excellent designed locations, and more is, simply put, an astounding achievement. Not only is Elden Ring the best open world game of 2022, it’s probably also simply one of the best open world games ever made, period.

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