There are a lot of video games out there and in this day and age of mobile and home-based gaming, the choices have never been greater. So how do you cut through the noise and find the “Best of” for any chosen topic? Well, we’re here to help celebrate and shine a spotlight on some of the latest, greatest and unforgettable games through the years.
For our ongoing series of articles depicting the best video games, our attention this time turns to games with a focus on exploration. From simple building mechanics to vast and grand adventures, there’s a good choice to whet your appetite.
Of course, if we’ve missed any of your favorites, feel free to comment below and we’ll get them added on!
The Legend of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda is arguably one of Nintendo’s flagship franchises. From its vast areas to its thought-provoking puzzles, it’s offered many an experience that’ll last with them for ages.
The Legend of Zelda follows various reincarnations of a heroic boy named Link and a mystical princess named Zelda. Their goal is to defend the magical land of Hyrule from an evil warlock and demon king named Ganon. Not only that, but they must prevent Ganon from claiming the Tri-Force as he plans to use its power to change the world to fit his evil ways.
While this is a consistent storyline among the games, each entry in the franchise can be vastly different in story, gameplay, and visual fidelity. Essentially, adding new lore to the franchise with each new game.
At the same time, this is one of The Legend of Zelda’s best explorative feats, as each new game brings new landscapes, societies, species, and lore to the franchise to explore. Game mechanics have evolved alongside the franchise and become even more expansive thanks to Breath of the Wild.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
One of the most influential video games of the previous decade is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. With its incredible gameplay, high replayability, and distinct locations, Skyrim gives players the craft of their tale.
At the same time, Skyrim does have a story tailored to the game. Essentially, Skyrim takes place in the land of Tamriel, where conflicts involving rights to the Skyrim king’s throne occur. Meanwhile, dragons have unexpectedly returned to Skyrim to cause massive destruction. While deemed a Dragonborn, the only race capable of fighting dragons, the player must ready themselves for the impending threat.
While the story is incredible and worth playing through, many choose to explore the game the way they want. Skyrim opens the door for gamers to explore areas, buy homes, complete missions, marry NPCs, and much more to their hearts’ content.
Moreover, this further encourages people to play the game for longer hours as there’s always something new to discover. While Skyrim’s fighting mechanics may take time to master, players will reap the rewards for mastering said playstyle. Whether following the planned storyline or crafting your adventure, Skyrim promises to give you an experience tailored toward your choices.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Despite releasing next to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero Dawn managed to give rise to a dedicated fan base with its excellent gameplay, heightened graphical fidelity, and exciting world.
Horizon Zero Dawn follows its female protagonist Aloy on a journey to avenge her fallen caretaker. While on her quest, she will encounter and team up with various factions who will eventually enlighten her about the mysterious world around her.
Although this game introduces plot threads into its story during the entirety of Aloy’s journey, it’ll never feel like the game’s purposely stretching out the plot. In addition, it allows players to feel as if the game in itself is complete and needs no sequel. Therefore, encouraging them to spend more time exploring its world.
Furthermore, the gameplay mechanics in Horizon Zero Dawn emphasize the players need to explore its vast areas. For example, players can level up via a skill tree, craft materials to increase inventory space, and climb up various hills or mountains to unveil new objectives to complete.
Due to Horizon’s excellent progression system, players will eventually be able to take down beasts with ease, thanks to the spears and bows of Aloy. From its engaging plot to its excellent gameplay, Horizon Zero Dawn offers players an intriguing mechanized world worth exploring.
Minecraft took the world by storm in the past decade and became the best-selling video game of all time. With its integral gameplay mechanics, infinitely vast biomes, and growing community, the franchise doesn’t look like it will be going away anytime soon.
Even though Minecraft has no overarching narrative besides killing the Ender Dragon, players can participate in numerous activities. For example, players can create their unique worlds or start with a template right off the bat. The game even gives players options to select a difficulty mode that’s right for them.
As far as gameplay is concerned, the crafting mechanic opens up a wide range of opportunities. From building a luxury resort to recreating pixel art of your favorite video game character, Minecraft allows players to utilize their creativity in any way they choose. Not only that, but players can also craft weapons and home decor to spice up their experience.
The online community with this title is another route worth exploring in this game. Many fans love to create mods or servers that contain minigame-like activities where you can meet and make new friends. Even though Minecraft’s graphics are bizarre, it’s an excellent game about discovering one’s creativity through exploration and realizing it through crafting.
Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V is another game that resonated well with fans and has sold many copies since its release on the PS3 and Xbox 360. The title not only features three major protagonists players can follow the storylines for, but it also made way for a grander online experience.
The story follows two bank-robbing partners named Michael and Trevor and a gangster named Franklin. The three come together to complete a mission regarding robbing a warehouse and seizing gold, worth over millions of dollars. However, they’ll have to jump through many hurdles if they hope to pull off the best robbery of all time.
While the story is captivating and has fun missions to complete, the player can spend most of the time wandering the city of Los Santos. Whether players want to purchase firearms, get into fights with NPCs, or buy a home, the entire world of Grand Theft Auto V is theirs for the taking.
Regarding the world, players can also explore the city with other players via Grand Theft Auto Online. With Grand Theft Auto Online, players can participate in new in-game events and complete missions with friends. They can even partake in things they’d typically do when playing offline, like beating up NPCs, but with friends.
Considering the amount of content implemented into Grand Theft Auto V, players can rest assured they’ll have a great time cruising and exploring the streets and landscapes of Los Santos.
Despite gamers feeling iffy about Genshin Impact at first, they wound up enjoying the game upon its release. With its charming characters and beautiful areas, fans respect Genshin Impact.
However, it’s worth noting that this game features microtransactions in the form of Gacha pulls. These Gacha pulls aren’t the best, despite players receiving some in-game currency. Besides that, the story and gameplay are captivating enough to pull people in for the long term.
The story follows either a male or female protagonist who you can name whatever you’d like. Depending on which character you choose, the game’s storyline will differ slightly as the one not chosen is taken away by a mysterious entity.
After the battle, you’ll awaken on a mysterious island and meet a girl named Paimon. Afterward, you’ll aim to rescue your sibling by completing quests for the mysterious land Teyvat and recruiting new allies.
For the most part, the gameplay is integral to moving the story forward and leveling up the player’s roster of characters. Some missions will have players take to the sky and fight random creatures and enemies. Other tasks may involve delivering documents to nearby nations or participating in a cooking contest.
While the Gacha aspect of Genshin Impact isn’t required, participating in it does have its merits. By utilizing the gem currency tailored to this mechanic, players can receive highly ranked characters and weapons. This will give them an extra advantage and assistance with the game’s difficult missions. Yet, like every other Gacha game, you’re likely to receive fodder weapons that’ll do you know good.
If you’re looking for a game that encourages you to utilize different characters to defeat magical monsters and enemies, Genshin Impact’s worth playing. It’s also free to play too.
Sea of Thieves
With how beloved pirates have become over the years via the Pirates of the Caribbean and One Piece franchises, it makes sense for a gaming company to produce a product covering the topic. Sea of Thieves is a first-person action-adventure game focused on exploring the seas and completing tasks with friends.
However, players can experience heavily rooted story campaign experiences through Sea of Thieves, Tall Tales updates, including a collaborative campaign featuring Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. However, Sea of Thieves’s appeal lies in exploring the open sea, building up your crew, and capturing treasure from islands and nearby opponents.
The game offers other activities outside of stealing or looking for treasure regarding fighting mini-bosses called Skeleton Captains and fishing. Completing the quests allows your character to rank up as many players aim for the status of Pirate Legend, the highest rank in the game. As a Pirate Legend, you’ll gain access to numerous perks that are sure to excite you.
If you’re looking for a fun, explorative title that captures the essence of pirate life and culture, Sea of Thieves awaits you!
No Man’s Sky
Even though fans were dissatisfied with No Man’s Sky at launch, the game received massive improvements over the years. Now feeling complete and well-developed, No Man’s Sky offers players the spatial adventure experience they envisioned on launch day.
The story revolves around the player’s avatar stranded on an unknown planet next to their broken spaceship. After gaining the materials needed to fix their vehicle, they then depart and encounter three different races. After meeting the three races, the player learns about the overarching mission of the game. The mission is to travel to the center of the universe to find out the universe’s secrets.
While the story seems enticing, the developers allow players to traverse through the game in any matter they want. Survival and exploring are the main focal points at play in this game. It’ll encourage you to mine resources, upgrade equipment, and visit unknown planets. Players can play along with friends online, customize their avatar, vehicles, bases, mech suits, etc.
The organisms on the planet can range from plant-based organisms to deadly creatures. The enemies are nothing to laugh at and will give you a brutal beating if you’re not well-equipped. The scenery is also gorgeous to look at, especially when you’re traveling in space.
It’s a game that will give players a space-like adventure like no other.
Superhero games have been hit or miss with the gaming fandom since some feel like cheap cash grabs. However, the video game studio Insomniac Games, which developed and released Marvel’s Spider-Man for the PS4, wanted to change that thought.
The game provides players with a realistic web-slinging experience, but the world itself felt more lively and grand.
Marvel’s Spider-Man follows Peter Parker as he’s about to aid in the arrest of Wilson Fisk (Kingpin). Despite Peter accomplishing that task, a new threat emerges. Going by the name: The Demons, their goals are to cause chaos in New York City. They end up giving Peter a worthy challenge. The game follows Peter’s journey to improve himself and save the city from The Demons and other villains.
While the storyline will leave fans emotional and engaged, the gameplay feels just as grand. While there is a learning curve for Spider-Man’s web attacks and swinging mechanics, players will feel satisfaction upon mastering his techniques.
Whether it’s escaping through tight canals or metal gratings from a water tower, the game wants you to feel like Spider-Man. The buildings, streets, and NPCs also give players a fresh and lively experience that captures the city-like atmosphere one would expect when visiting New York City. There are also some neat callbacks to the Spider-Man films and the comics that diehard fans will treasure.
If you’ve been looking for a superhero game with depth, Marvel’s Spider-Man is worth purchasing.
Outer Wilds received praise for its freedom and unique spin on adventure games. With its engaging storyline and well-crafted puzzles, players will need to prepare for the game’s difficult journey ahead.
Outer Wilds follows an unnamed alien space adventurer who must solve the riddles of a civilization lost to time. The player must board their spacecraft and explore nearby planets, moons, satellites, etc. However, the catch is that you only have 22 minutes to do so. Everything, including yourself, will be destroyed via a supernova. You then reawaken at your home to continue your adventure.
While the game’s twist may sound revolting, it further encourages players to explore more of what this game offers. When a player travels via spacecraft, they can reach destinations within minutes and begin exploring an area to their heart’s content. While the spacecraft’s mechanics have a learning curve, mastering them will feel rewarding to the player.
On the other hand, if you run into a reset, your spacecraft records your discoveries from your previous time loop. Essentially, everything you discovered in your first run of the game will carry over to your next time loop. Furthermore, each planet has a unique set of species, rules, secrets, and puzzles to discover.
This game’s focus lies in its exploration. It wants the player to venture out and play the title in any way they wish. Whether you want to speedrun or wander around the game’s planets, Outer Worlds wants you to experience it in your distinct way.
So, there we have it, our pick for the best video games through the years about exploration!
What do you think of our picks? Do you agree? Are there any notable omissions? Let us know in the comments below!