There’s a certain inescapable magic to having an open-world game in the palm of your hand. It’s part of what made Breath of the Wild so engaging when it launched on the Switch. I vividly remember a dozen-hour train ride I took from Bucharest to Sofia, stuck in scorching heat, just lying in the train carriage, bleary-eyed, clearing out shrines. It was magical.
That sort of magic extends beyond Zelda though, as there are countless open worlds you can take with us for new, enduring memories. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the best open-world games on Switch and mobile; so that you can find your next fix and get lost in a different world, whether you’re lying in bed or sweating it out in Eastern Europe.
So, go ahead, dig in. There’s a lot to choose from. Once you’ve had your fill of the best open-world games, we’ve got lots of other recommendations for you, whether it’s the best mobile multiplayer games for those looking to spend some time with others or the best games like Civilization, for those looking to do the exact opposite.
Anyway, enough dilly-dallying, let’s get into the list.
The best open-world games
One game heavily influenced by Breath of the Wild, Genshin Impact has since made its mark as a wonderful game in its own right. It took a while for Genshin to move out of Zelda’s shadow, but it’s clearly done it now.
Giving you numerous characters to have in your party, an open world full of secrets, and lots of seasonal events, Genshin Impact is one of the best open-world games, and what makes it better is that it’s a game you can play forever. And it’s coming to Switch soon if you’re not up for playing it on your phone. (We’ve got a Genshin Impact Switch release date guide to keep you up to date, too).
Breath of the Wild – Switch
The game that launched the Nintendo Switch also happens to be one of the best games of all time. It’s covered in things to discover, leaving you to explore with very little direction. There are gentle dragons swimming past waterfalls, massive mountains to climb, or just strange glows in the distance. Everything that intrigues you leads to a surprise.
It’s one of the most engaging open worlds out there, in fact, I think it’s the best open-world game of all time. (If you’re eager for the sequel, check out our Breath of the Wild 2 release date guide to stay up to date).
The Witcher 3 – Switch
If you’re looking for an open world that’s gorgeous, maybe play this on a different platform. But if you’re after deep characters, rolling hills, and scary monsters, this is the game for you on Switch. The key with The Witcher 3 is the side quests, which are celebrated to no end. But there’s good reason; these are definitely the best side quests in any videogame, leading down winding narratives and engaging gameplay moments. It’s a must-play.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Switch
One of the best open-world games is also one of the first to say to the player “hey, go do what you want, doesn’t matter where you go, you’ll find something”, Skyrim came out in 2011, and is still getting ported to every system. Still, though, after maybe a thousand hours in the game, I love going back, even though it’s a weirdly uninteresting world. Oh, and my favourite way to play is on the Switch.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen – Switch
For anybody out there playing Elden Ring who wants to have a bit of a history lesson, go pick up Dragon’s Dogma. So much about it has seeped into many open-world games over the years, yet the game doesn’t get as much credit as some others. With magic and melee combat, large beasts for you to clamber up and grab onto, and a story that ends in the wackiest way, Dragon’s Dogma is a strange, excellent concoction that everyone should check out.
Assassin’s Creed Black Flag – Switch
Ubisoft’s recreation of the Caribbean in Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is endlessly gorgeous and enjoyable. You climb in the shoes of a pirate assassin, sail the high seas, and do lots of murders in beautiful places. Oh, and it’s part of the Rebel Collection on Switch, so you get AC Rogue too, which is an alright game. Black Flag is often talked about as the best Assassin’s Creed game, so it’s definitely worth a look. If you’re more of an Italy fan, check out our Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection review to see what we think.
Assassin’s Creed: The Rebel Collection Assassin’s Creed: The Rebel Collection $39.99 £14.79 Buy Now Network N earns affiliate commission from qualifying sales
Xenoblade Chronicles – Switch
The slow burn that has been Xenoblade Chronicle’s rise to stardom is great to see, considering it has some of the best open-world games out there all in one series. Back when Monolith Soft released the original in Japan, fans had to fight for a western release.
Now, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a headline title for Nintendo this year. If you want to go back to where it all started before the Xenoblade Chronicles 3 release date, check out the original on Switch. It has an expansive, beautiful world full of strange creatures and excellent storytelling.
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Switch
For more JRPG goodness, look no further than the grandaddy of JRPGs. Dragon Quest has been around forever (Square Enix released it a year before the first Final Fantasy game), and it’s a mega-hit in Japan. If you’re looking to get into it, the best place to start is with Dragon Quest XI. It has a grand, world-ending story, gorgeous monster designs, and lots of turn-based battling to keep you engaged.
A Short Hike – Switch
Those of you looking for a more peaceful open world, or just not looking to murder anyone, look no further than my personal game of the year for 2020, A Short Hike. It‘s a tiny little adventure where you meet quirky people, solve their problems, and try and hike up a mountain. It‘s delightful, and a great example of a small game still being one of the best open-world games. No matter what people say, size doesn’t always matter.
A Short Hike A Short Hike $7.99 Buy Now Network N earns affiliate commission from qualifying sales
L.A. Noire – Switch
While the open world in L.A. Noire may seem a little barren, that doesn’t stop it from being an excellent game. Full of excellent writing and dialogue suited to the period, the game tells the story of Cole Phelps, a cop in the LAPD, climbing the ranks and solving crimes. It has wonderful storytelling, and most people tend to overlook things that it does better than any other games out there, just because the open world is kinda empty. Who cares when everything else is as good as it is?
Sky: Children of the Light – Switch and mobile
Developed by Thatgamecompany (who also developed the similarly excellent Flow, Flower, and Journey), Sky: Children of the Light has a delicate open world, beautifully realised, with seven kingdoms to explore. Like Journey before it, there are clever, subtle social elements to make everything that much more impactful. And it’s free-to-play, which is even better. We also have a Sky: Children of the Light review if you need more convincing to play one of the best open-world games for free.
Sky: Children of the Light Sky: Children of the Light Free Play Now Network N earns affiliate commission from qualifying sales.
Oceanhorn – Switch and mobile
If you fell in love with Breath of the Wild and just need some more as soon as possible, then Oceanhorn may be for you. It’s an unabashed Zelda-like, even down to the main character. But that doesn’t stop it from being engaging. It has some great puzzles, some pretty world design, and a sequel, so if you like the first game, there’s more where that came from. Literally.
Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas $12.99 Buy Now Network N earns affiliate commission from qualifying sales
That’s that, then. Thousands of hours of the best open-world games for you to get lost in. Go on then, get lost! If you do decide to give Genshin a go, check out our Genshin Impact codes list to get some free stuff and get off to a good start. If you want more gaming recommendations, also take a look at our list of the best mobile MMORPGs for some inspiration.