The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 was supposed to come out this year, but now we'll have to wait until 2023. Still, Nintendo's delay might be good news in disguise, since it gives backlogged players a chance to explore some of the other best open-world games in the meantime. While Breath of the Wild isn't quite like any other game out there, it shares structural similarities with a variety of others — and some of those games are similarly excellent.
When we thought about what makes Breath of the Wild special, a few features stood out to us. The game is open-ended, right from the start; it doesn't hold your hand; it has a huge world to explore; it has a gripping story that emerges organically; it encourages you to master your own gameplay style. Each game in this list has at least one of those features, and the genres range from action/adventure, to side-scroller, to RPG, to MMO. Read on to learn about 11 games to play before Breath of the Wild 2.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
If you're eagerly awaiting The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2, it's fair to say that you've probably played the original Breath of the Wild. However, an awful lot of people picked up the game, played for a few (or a few dozen) hours, and then got sidetracked with other projects. If you haven't finished the game, now would be a great time to do so, since Breath of the Wild 2 will pick up where the first one left off. Even if you did finish Breath of the Wild, it's worth revisiting the game for the two expansive DLC packs: The Master Trials and The Champions' Ballad. The first tests your combat skills, while the latter has more puzzles and a new dungeon.
Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition
While Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition is a more directed experience than Breath of the Wild, it should still scratch the open-ended exploration itch. In this Dungeons & Dragons adaptation, you'll create an avatar from a wide variety of races and classes, then venture off into the Forgotten Realms. Along the way, you'll level up your skills, recruit a party of like-minded adventurers and uncover a high fantasy conspiracy that could threaten the Sword Coast. What makes Baldur's Gate feel like Breath of the Wild is that the game doesn't tell you exactly how to get from Point A to Point B, meaning you'll have to explore intermediary wilderness areas and forge your own path.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen is an open-world fantasy RPG that gives you a vast world to explore, and not many directives on how to explore it. You create your own avatar, and set off in pursuit of a dragon who's eaten your heart (just go with it). What sets Dragon's Dogma apart from most other games is that your party members, called Pawns, aren't predefined characters. Instead, each player creates a Pawn, and freely shares them with everyone else online. Apart from the interesting party mechanics, Dragon's Dogma also offers an expansive setting where you'll have to uncover most of the map by simply exploring it.
When Elden Ring debuted, fans and critics compared the game to Breath of the Wild, and with good reason. Like Breath of the Wild, Elden Ring sets you loose in a gigantic world with minimal instruction, and lets you explore and figure things out as you go. Unlike Breath of the Wild, though, Elden Ring also has a deep and difficult combat system, where you can build up weapons over time rather than breaking them every few swings. Inspired by the Dark Souls series, Elden Ring has a steep learning curve, and feels much more demanding than the often-chill Breath of the Wild. But the rewards are well worth the investment.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls didn't invent the open-world genre, but the series has brought a lot of innovation to it over the years. Skyrim, the fifth title in the series, has come out on just about every console since the Xbox 360/PS3, so it's easy to check out, if you're so inclined. In this open-world RPG, you create a character and set out to explore the fantasy world of Tamriel. There's a main story involving a rebellion against the crown, but that's not really the main focus here. Instead, Skyrim is about pursuing the game's myriad side quests and seeing what kind of story emerges. Like Breath of the Wild, there's a lot to see and no rush to see it all.
As a Japanese game, Breath of the Wild invariably draws a little inspiration from the wide world of anime. If you want a similar game that draws a lot of inspiration from anime, try Genshin Impact. This free-to-play online RPG lets you create your own character in the fantasy world of Teyvat, and team up with a variety of recruitable characters as you explore, craft and fight your way from plot point to plot point. While Genshin Impact is a much noisier game than Breath of the Wild, a lot of the gameplay feels similar, including the glider that helps you navigate each level vertically.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Breath of the Wild came out just a few weeks after Horizon Zero Dawn, and it's safe to say that the former took a lot of wind out of the latter's sails. However, if you put down Horizon to play Zelda and never picked it back up, now is a good time to remedy that. Horizon Zero Dawn is an impressive open-world game in its own right, with an intriguing sci-fi story and a combat system that's more about precision than brute strength. You play as an archer named Aloy in the post-post-apocalyptic American West, where she must hunt down both human and robotic foes as she learns the truth about her own origins. The sequel, Horizon Forbidden West, was released earlier this year and is similarly excellent.
Immortals: Fenyx Rising
Considering how successful Breath of the Wild was, it's actually a little odd that more games didn't try to copy it wholesale. One game that appeared to take a lot of inspiration from it, though, was Immortals: Fenyx Rising, an open-world action/adventure title from Ubisoft. Based on Greek myth, the game casts you as Fenyx, a demigod who must fight his or her way through every villainous creature in the pantheon. Immortals: Fenyx Rising isn't quite as quiet or atmospheric as Breath of the Wild, though, since Zeus and Prometheus narrate your adventure. Whether you find their constant banter charming or grating depends on your tolerance for that kind of thing.
Metroid Dread demonstrates that the stripped-down, naturalistic level design in Breath of the Wild can work in other genres, too. Metroid Dread is a side-scrolling Metroidvania, just like most of its predecessors. However, if you liked exploring at your own pace in Breath of the Wild, you'll probably like doing so in Metroid Dread as well. You play as Samus Aran, a futuristic bounty hunter who must escape from the deadly Planet ZDR. Along the way, she'll have to explore the extensive labyrinth just under the planet's surface with only cursory guidance from her shipboard computer, ADAM. If you like chill, atmospheric games with lots of secrets, this is a solid bet.
Unlike most of the other games on this list, there's absolutely no combat in Myst, and only seven levels to explore. However, "explore" really is the key word here, as Myst is entirely dependent on your own curiosity and logical reasoning. You play as, essentially, yourself, having found a magical book that teleports you to the mysterious island of Myst. There, you'll find lots of puzzles to solve, a minimalist story to pursue and plenty of notes that help build the game's extensive lore. If you liked Breath of the Wild for its quiet solitude, Myst should be up your alley as well. Plus, if you stick with the series until Myst III: Exile, you get to see Brad Dourif as the villain.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is, in some ways, the polar opposite of Breath of the Wild. Whereas Breath of the Wild features empty space, hidden secrets and a minimalist story, The Witcher 3 directs you to every optional objective and details its narrative with reams of dialogue. However, unlike many open-world games, The Witcher 3 almost never feels padded or repetitive. That's because the main story is excellent, and many of the game's detailed side quests also contribute to it. Playing as roving monster hunter Geralt of Rivia, you'll explore six distinct regions in the Northern Kingdoms, slaying fantastical beasts, unraveling political conspiracies and wooing beautiful sorceresses as you go.