Do you remember the way you felt when you first started playing Grand Theft Auto 3? It was as if, suddenly, any insane fantasy you ever had about how a game could play out was suddenly coming true. Suddenly, I didn’t HAVE to go in any direction I didn’t want to. Suddenly, I wasn’t forced, as a gamer, to make the game play out the way the programmers MADE ME with other games. For the first time, I was free to play a game ANY WAY I wanted to.
If I liked the linearity of some games, I could very well play through any Grand Theft Auto by doing all the missions, one after the other. If I HATED missions like that, I could spend countless hours just running over pedestrians and trying to get hookers into my car. That was what was so beautiful about how the GTA series opened up gaming. Gone were the stagnant, still worlds where you could only go in one or two given directions, and had to follow a strict set of rules. And in its place? A blank canvas of a virtual sandbox, that you could play any way you wanted to.
And with GTA3 came the revelation, among other developers, that the sandbox vibe of an open world game is something they could create, too. And while the first batch of GTA clones was pretty weak, the further we have gotten into the genre, as well as this gaming generation, the more proof we have that there are other developers who can ALMOST do it just as well as Rockstar. And some do it SO differently that you almost lose sight that GTA‘s gameplay and world influenced it in every way at one time.
The reality is, we now have a handful of open world games that play out very differently than the Grand Theft Auto series, but still owe a great deal of debt to Rockstar and GTA for having the balls to bust open the doors and do it first.
So, with that in mind, here are six games that do the open world sandbox thing just as good (and sometimes, better) than the GTA series does.
Oh, and commenters who want to come on the thread and tell me that RPGs did open worlds first, comparing an RPG to a GTA is apples and oranges. But yes, I know many RPGs did open worlds first. That being said, there are no RPG games on this list, so feel free to scuttle off back to your dungeons now. Good news, though, our interaction just now granted you a +1 to your mercantile and persuasion skills.