The 2018 Open World Game of the Year

As the year 2018 comes to a close, we want to look back at all the great and memorable open world games that graced our consoles and gaming computers. It’s no easy thing creating an entire simulated world which players can freely explore, and as you’ll see in the below nominations, some game developers pulled it off better than others.

Here are the best open world games of 2018.

Honorable Mentions

A surprisingly broad amount of game genres received an open world entry in 2018. First-person shooter fans got to explore a fictional cult-infested version of the Montana countryside in Ubisoft’s Far Cry 5  (which will be followed up by next year’s Far Cry: New Dawn). Meanwhile, gamers with an inclination towards fast cars and pretty vistas put the pedal to the metal in Playground Games’ Forza Horizon 4, one of the most critically acclaimed Forza games in the series’ history.

As for RPG fans, they got the incredibly sleek (and surprisingly newbie-friendly) online monster-hunting game Monster Hunter World from Capcom. Bethesda also took its venerable Fallout RPG series into the online realm with Fallout 76, though the game’s severe launch-related issues kept it from greatness.

Lastly, Avalanche Studios continued its Just Cause series with Just Cause 4. Just Cause 4 unfortunately didn’t reach the same zany heights as its three predecessors, but it certainly continued the series’ signature trend of letting players wreak all sorts of crazy chaos in a freeform open world.    

Runner-Up: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey took everything that was great about 2017’s Assassin’s Creed Origins and somehow made it even better.

Ubisoft’s clever tactic of framing the entire experience as an in-universe simulation meant it could bend and even break certain rules without spoiling the experience for the player. Odyssey still followed the Assassin’s Creed modus operandi of being grounded in real-world history, but “simulation glitches” meant that players could also challenge mythical beasts like the Cyclops or the Medusa.

Odyssey also more fully embraced the new RPG-esque path which Ubisoft had begun with Origins. Not only could players choose their protagonist’s gender, they could also customize their active and passive combat skills and even tweak the appearance of their equipment on the fly. The game’s open world is full of challenges to overcome, but Odyssey truly allowed players to face those challenges the way they wanted to.

Perhaps best of all, Odyssey moved away from the binary succeed/fail conditions which have often plagued other open world games (including previous Assassin’s Creed entries). Even if a mission goal was presented as mandatory (such as not being caught during a stealth sequence), failing that goal often wouldn’t result in an immediate fail state. Instead, the game would adapt and add in new challenges down the road as a consequence.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey dropped players into a world steeped in both real-world history and iconic mythology. It also gave players an unprecedented amount of control over how they interacted with that world, and so it has absolutely earned its place as one of 2018’s must-play open world games.  

Runner-Up: Marvel’s Spider-Man

Marvel’s Spider-Man from Insomniac Games went against the established grain in several ways, and it was all the better for it. Instead of retreating Peter Parker’s teenage years or tying itself to an established movie property, Insomniac’s entry was an entirely original take which featured an adult Peter Parker trying to balance his career as a scientist, his love life, and, of course, his second life as Spider-Man.

The game still had everything a proper Spider-Man game should have such as a litany of villain cameos, an engrossing story, solid character performances, and some top-notch traversal and combat mechanics. All of this was set in a world that Insomniac built from the ground up, peppering in enough of the familiar to entice established Spidey fans but also keeping those same fans on their toes with clever twists and surprises.

Of course, the version of New York City portrayed in Marvel’s Spider-Man was just as iconic for its little touches as it was for the big cinematic set pieces. Players could head down to ground level and give an excited onlooker a high-five. They could help thwart random street crimes and hunt down hidden collectibles. Or they could just leisurely web-swing around the city and cackle as they listened to J. Jonah Jameson’s angry podcast rants about the “Spider-Man menace.”

Marvel’s Spider-Man is a perfect combination of the old and the new, and thus it is yet another 2018 open world game you simply must play.  

Winner: Red Dead Redemption 2

With Red Dead Redemption 2, developer Rockstar proved yet again that it really has no equal when it comes to creating highly immersive and incredibly detailed video game worlds. The sheer scale of RDR2’s world is breathtaking, and that doesn’t even take into account the more gameplay-centric elements like shootouts and horseback riding.

RDR2’s world really is one you could just ride out and get lost in. Indeed, going out to explore the game’s vast frontier is honestly one of the best ways to experience the game as a whole. Sure, there’s an established story campaign you can work your way through, and it too is of a suitably high quality, but that’s only a small part of RDR2’s magic. It’s the little details and dynamic world encounters which truly make the game’s world feel alive.

In what other game can you set out on a long-term hunting expedition, tangle with a dangerous bear in the middle of the woods, and then have to fend off bandits while you’re transporting the bear’s pelt to a trapper? None of that previous sequence is scripted, by the way, it all happens dynamically and seamlessly. By simply booting up RDR2, picking a distant spot to ride to, and heading off into the unknown, you’re guaranteed to have a new story to tell by the time you reach your destination (if you’re not side-tracked along the way, that is).

Even “menial” tasks such as bathing, shaving, and taking care of your horse don’t feel so menial in RDR2 since they too can impact how your various cowboy adventures play out. Bathing and properly grooming yourself makes it more likely that random passerby will forgive any crimes they see you commit. And if the chips are down during a tense gunfight, nothing serves as a handy escape quite like a high-bond level horse riding in to rescue you.

Red Dead Redemption 2 isn’t a perfect game, but when it comes to picking the absolute greatest open world game of 2018, it wins hands down. Fans of open world games absolutely deserve to see for themselves how much thought, care, and passion Rockstar has put into its newest Wild West epic.

Congratulations to Red Dead Redemption 2, winner of GameCrate’s 2018 Open World Game of the Year!

Check out our full 2018 award list for more.