The Top 10 Sandbox/Open-World Games Since 2000

7. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Being the oldest RPG on this list, the conventions and standards of later games were yet to be set by the time KOTOR released. Yet, that didn’t matter in the end because KOTOR turned out to be an incredible game that set the bar for the genre for years to come. Along with having one of the most dramatic, unexpected, and simply best plot twists in all of gaming, KOTOR is a game that popularized the common good vs. evil, action and consequence of later games. You could fail to save a planet, and in consequence prices for a certain product that that planet primarily produced would become much more expensive due to the increased scarcity. It also allowed you to pursue relationships with other characters, and we all love to act like we’re being smooth and sexy with same non-existent NPC in a galaxy far, far away. Nonetheless, KOTOR was a true pioneer, and what it pioneered, it did very well. Much like Ovid’s quote “And he sets his mind to unknown arts,” Bioware created something both new and polished at the same time, which is no simple feat.

6. Dark Souls

If you’ve read some of my previous articles, you’ll know of my love affair for Dark Souls. I think of it as one of the most underrated games of the generation, but that’s also something that is a fault of its own. Being so intentionally difficult is the virtue that drives it, and what keeps me and a few millions gamers so obsessed with it, yet also far more pushed away. This is perhaps the least “open” of games on the list; you can play the game in pretty much any order you want – though some areas are virtually impossible to get through without the proper level and equipment – but the sandbow elements aren’t as fleshed out as, say, Skyrim. Sure you can trade items, buy from several merchants, and loot enemies, but whereas this is one of the main gameplay focuses of Skyrim, it is minimal in Dark Souls. The best weapons are made by yourself, the best armor is simply found (most, anyway), and the true focus is the gameplay. If this we a list of the Top 10 RPGs, I’d make it much closer to number 1, but it’s open-world elements simply aren’t as good as the games that surpass it on this list. Regardless, it is an unforgettable experience that any true gamer should at least try.

5. Grand Theft Auto 3

I know I said that KOTOR pioneered a lot of things, but it’s got nothing on what GTA 3 did. Arguably one of the most innovative games ever made, GTA 3 may be a bit aged these days with its lack of a talking main character, or the hands with no fingers, but this was a game that, in 2001, you could run around the sprawling Liberty City, hijack almost any vehicle you see, kill anyone you see, drive or boat almost anywhere you see, and cause general mayhem in a vast, open sandbox. The GTA series could all be on this list (aside from the first two, and the PSP and DS spinoffs), but I simply couldn’t make this list composed of primarily GTA games. Thus, I chose the very best ones, in my opinion, and included them. This is a modern equivalent to Super Mario Bros., essentially.


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  • KingOfArcadia

    I spent a grand total of 240 hours playing Fallout 3 GOTY edition, then stupidly sold it. I am now trying to get a cheap copy of it so I can do it all over again. I’ll never part with it again, I swear!

  • eeeee

    why is mass effect on this list? OPEN WORLD rpg…. smh