While contemporary gaming enthusiasts sing high praises of open-world games like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto V (and rightly so), it is interesting to note that the first open-world video game made its debut 33 years ago, in the form of the ‘Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness‘. Of course, we are not here to talk about quality or history, but rather the sizes of these so-called ‘open worlds’. And, in our quest to fetch the results from the far-flung corners of the internet realm, we were surprised to find that some of the larger open-world games are not actually mainstream successes. So, without further ado, let us check out the ten biggest open-world video games (released) in terms of sheer map size.
*Note 1 – We have decided to exclude the procedurally-generated and randomly generated maps in this list. So, games like Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall or Minecraft are not in the main list.
*Note 2 – Open-world doesn’t always equate to a sandbox experience.
10) World of Warcraft – before Burning Crusade (80 sq miles or 207 sq km) –
The MMORPG to end all MMORPGs, the World of Warcraft is arguably the ‘piece de resistance’ from Blizzard Entertainment. Released back in 2004, the world of Azeroth has since seen four expansions, with the fifth iteration being planned for next week itself. As for the numbers game, WoW has broken a slew of records, with the online game boasting of more than a whopping 100 million accounts. It also held the record of the highest grossing video game product (as of 2012), with an astronomical $10 billion that equates to over 10 million copies being sold. Given such remarkable figures, it comes as no surprise that the game’s lead designer Ion Hazzikostas has claimed that WoW will stay for 2024!
9) Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising (135 sq miles or 350 sq km) –
Released in the latter part of 2009, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising was developed by Britain-based Codemasters as a military simulation video game. The setting is focused on the fictional island of Skira, which is contested between American and Chinese forces – fueled by discovery of oil reserves on the isolated landmass. Interestingly, the Skira is actually based on the real-world island of Kiska, which lies at the western end of Alaska. Mirroring the modern world-set conflict, this island was actually contested between the US and Japanese forces during the period of Second World War. In any case, while the game scored relatively high on 70s on Metacritic, the users were not too impressed with its current rating (for PC) standing at just 4.9 out of 10.
8) Star Wars Galaxies (200 sq miles or 518 sq km) –
An MMORPG from 2003, developed by Sony Online Entertainment and published by Lucas Arts, the Star Wars Galaxies was ceremoniously launched with the inclusion of ten planets, including the fan-favorites of Tatooine, Naboo and the moon of Endor. Later expansions brought the Wookie-home world of Kashyyyk and the planet Mustafar into the mix, while also adding ‘space zones’ that were fully navigable – with each boasting of 15 km cubes of virtual volume. Unfortunately, in spite of critical acclaim being showered during its early years, the Star Wars Galaxies’s online servers were officially shut down on December 15, 2011. However, interested players are still left with the option of private emulators, with hard work of communities like Project SWG.
7) Burnout Paradise (200 sq miles or 518 sq km) –
The Burnout series put developer Criterion Games on the ‘map’ of the racing realm, and the jewel in their crown arguably is 2008’s Burnout Paradise, which was released as the fifth game of the franchise. Set in the fictional urban setting of the namesake ‘Paradise City’, the open-world allows players to participate in different kinds of races that also includes other types of game modes for online competing. Another noteworthy feature entailed the later free additions of the time-of-day cycle and motorcycles – which were smartly inserted with the software update titled ‘Davis’. Unsurprisingly, the Burnout Paradise still holds strong in Metacritic with an impressive score of 87 (for PC), while user scores also account for a solid average of 7.5.
6) True Crime: Streets of LA (240 sq miles or 622 sq km) –
One of the first games that boasted of expansive open-world after the acclaim and success of Grand Theft Auto III, the True Crime: Streets of LA from 2003 puts you in the shoes of a young detective named Nick Kang. As for the extensive setting, the game world comprises of a painstaking recreation of huge swathes of Los Angeles – that includes most of the San Monica and Beverly Hills neighborhoods, replete with street names, landscape features and landmarks. Interestingly, the player can achieve multiple endings at the game’s finish – with the three different finishing paths being decided by Nick’s Good/Bad cop rating. In any case, the console versions of the True Crime: Streets of LA were well received; with 77 critical Metascore, and user scores that actually average out better at 8.1.
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