Best Indie Open World Games To Play In 2024

When we think of ‘Open World Games,’ we usually think of monstrously big AAA worlds with millions of map markers, endless cities and monuments to visit, and countless NPCs with endless streams of dialogue. Skyrim, The Lands Between in Elden Ring, Los Santos, there are so many to call upon.

However, the phenomenon of Open World games isn’t something that AAA gaming has a monopoly on. In fact, the indie scene offers a vast range of open worlds, and I would argue that some of them far surpass that of the AAA gaming scene. 

Indie games tend to offer much more pocket-sized worlds by comparison, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In these titles, there’s no bloat, no filler content, and each aspect of the world is made from a place of love and passion, rather than from a place of necessity or, worse, for the sake of making a profit. 

So, with that in mind, we want to fight indie gaming’s corner and show off some of the most eye-catching and immersive open-worlds that gaming’s little guys have to offer. So, without further delay, here is Indie Game Culture’s list of the best Open World Games to Play in 2023. Enjoy! 

Unravel Revachol's Mysteries in Disco Elysium | GOG

Dive into the award-winning narrative masterpiece of "Disco Elysium," where every choice shapes your destiny in a world brimming with intrigue and moral ambiguity. With its innovative blend of role-playing elements and noir-inspired storytelling, prepare to unravel the mysteries of Revachol and confront the demons within.

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Selection Criteria

Before we jet off to a laundry list of new locales, we need to lay down some ground rules to ensure that we have a grasp of what defines an open world game. So these are the rules that we will be putting in place: 

  • All games listed must be indie games (duh!)
  • All games listed must offer a truly uninhibited, open-world experience 
  • Loading Screens will be allowed, provided the game offers a vast world, and a complete sense of freedom
  • All games listed must have a Metacritic aggregate score of 65% or higher
  • We will include semi-open worlds, provided they offer something truly unique

Okay, let’s get going. It’s a big old world out there, and we aim to explore it all! 

The Best Indie Open World Games To Play In 2023

#1 – The Outer Wilds

The Outer Wilds

Developer: Mobius Games

Metacritic Score: 85%

When considering making an indie open-world game, The Outer Wilds is the benchmark that any indie developer should aspire to.

The Outer Wilds began as a university project, but eventually grew into an award-winning pocket solar system time-loop adventure like no other. It’s a game that offers a meticulously crafted mystery that can only be unraveled through exploration, a lust for knowledge, and a whole lot of trial and error. 

You’ll set off in your janky little spaceship and will literally need to get to know an entire solar system to crack the case and break the time loop you find yourself trapped in. It’s a game with no quest markers, very few pointers, and no real sense of urgency. You simply cover ground at your own pace and enjoy the ride as you go. 

It’s an enthralling, awe-inspiring, and truly special indie experience that I could not recommend more. So, if you want an interstellar adventure to remember, this one is the game you’ve been waiting for. 

#2 – A Short Hike

A Short Hike

Developer: Adamgryu

Metacritic Score: 82%

When I said that open-worlds don’t need to be gargantuan in size to leave a lasting impression on the player, A Short Hike is a game that proves the point perfectly.

In this game, you play as Claire, a little bird who needs to climb to the top of the mountain on the island to get cell phone reception; and to do this, you’ll need to collect feathers, coins and help the locals to get the resources needed to make the not so short hike to the top. 

The in-game world is tiny in comparison to other open worlds, and you can fly around the circumference of the island in about 15 seconds if you pick up speed.

However, this smaller world allows you to memorize each little pocket of the world, navigate with no need for a map or HUD, and ensures that each encounter is a worthwhile and whimsical one, rather than some throwaway, procedurally generated NPC. 

Thanks to Dreamcast-Era chunky polygon visuals, satisfying platforming and traversal mechanics, and varied quests, this game offers a short but sweet adventure that is perfect for a lazy afternoon gaming session. 

#3 – Disco Elysium 

Disco Elysium 

Developer: Za/Um 

Metacritic Score: 93%

If you’re looking for a game that really emphasizes player choice and the open-world game staple of ‘go anywhere, do anything,’ then there are few better games we could recommend than Disco Elysium.

This title is a CRPG title where players will take on the role of Harry Dubois (or Raphael Ambrosius Cousteau) and will need to work together with straight-laced detective Kim Kitsuragi to solve a murder mystery involving The Hanged Man. 

This is how the game begins, but before long you’ll have innumerable opportunities to peel off from your main quest and explore Revachol to your heart’s content, by searching for Karaoke songs to sing, sourcing drugs for the local kids, or discovering which type of Heraldic Bird best suits your personality.

The amount of distractions around you is astounding, and with so many branching choices, you could do each side quest multiple times and continue to enjoy new and often humourous experiences. 

Revachol is the gift that keeps on giving, and the world is so dense with lore and detail that one playthrough simply isn’t enough to see all that Disco Elysium has to offer. So, for something that promises a tonne of replay value, this is the game to go for. 

Unravel Revachol's Mysteries in Disco Elysium | GOG

Dive into the award-winning narrative masterpiece of "Disco Elysium," where every choice shapes your destiny in a world brimming with intrigue and moral ambiguity. With its innovative blend of role-playing elements and noir-inspired storytelling, prepare to unravel the mysteries of Revachol and confront the demons within.

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We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

#4 – Sable 

Sable

Developer: Raw Fury

Metacritic Score: 76%

Usually, when you play an open-world game, you expect a lot of encounters with characters, or a lot of run-ins with dangerous creatures or monsters to keep things exciting. However, that isn’t always the blueprint for success, and Sable proves that. 

Sable is a title that plays a lot like a modern Zelda title, where you will explore a vast open desert region as you set off on your ‘Gliding.’ A tribal ritual where you set off into the world to find your true calling.

You’ll be able to climb, glide, and race around on your Glider to get around this sizable world, and in between these solitary moments, the game will be punctuated by little settlements and cities where you can take on quests, acquire new maps, and glider parts, and collect masks to help you come to a final decision on your true calling at game’s close. 

Cards on the table, the game does have some performance issues, enough to put off less patient players for sure. However, if you’re willing to cut this game some slack, you’ll enjoy one of the most enigmatically beautiful and immersive open-world games on the market, plus zipping about on a glider is worth the price of admission alone. So do yourself a favor and give Sable a try! 

#5 – Valheim

Valheim

Developer: Iron Gate AB

Metacritic Score: TBA (Early Access)

Next up, we have a game that is billed as a traditional survival game, but in truth, it plays more like an open-world adventure RPG. Valheim sees you play as a Nordic warrior who must brave a harsh and unforgiving procedurally generated world.

You’ll start from nothing to build an arsenal of weapons, armor, ships, and more, capable of aiding you in exploring the land, and taking down the mythical Norse creatures of the realm. 

Despite still being in early access, Valheim offers a pretty polished adventure that can be enjoyed with up to four other friends, and thanks to the sandbox survival mechanics, even when you wrap up all the story content, there are plenty of ways to remain engaged with the world of Valheim by building awesome bases, continually improving your weapons and fleet of ships, and with regular updates, there’s usually a reason to hop back in on the regular anyway. 

All in all, if you are looking for a biking adventure that will offer a steep challenge and allow you to share your adventure with others, Valheim is the one for you. 

#6 – Shadows of Doubt 

Shadows of Doubt

Developer: ColePowered Games

Metacritic Score: TBA (Early Access)

Here’s a game that popped up in our Best Indie Detective Games list, the incredible procedurally generated detective epic, Shadows of Doubt.

The problem with a lot of detective games is that when you solve the whodunnit, there’s no way to capture that feeling of intrigue again. Well, Shadows of Doubt solves that problem by using procedural generation to create endless murder cases and side quests, all tied together through a meticulously crafted open-world city. 

In this city, you’ll be able to access literally every building, and every room in each building. You’ll be able to access every personal computer and check everyone’s ID, Blood Type, Shoe Size, schedule, and more.

Plus, you’ll be able to create intricate case notes for each case you try to crack. In short, it’s the ultimate sandbox game for anyone who would like to try their hand at being a vigilante detective. 

Because the game is still in early access, there are still some kinks to work out, but we are very confident that Shadows of Doubt will eventually iron out all of these creases to offer one of the most open and polished detective games ever made, so watch this space. 

#7 – Dredge 

Dredge

Developer: Black Salt Studios 

Metacritic Score: 81% 

Ever since I played the PS1 Demo Disc containing a snippet of the game Overboard, I had longed for a game that allowed me to explore a world by simply sailing a boat, and it would take over twenty years before that would become a reality.

Dredge is a fishing and resource management game with an eldritch horror twist that will have you catch fish, upgrade your ship, and explore the archipelago around you to uncover a sinister mystery that lurks under the surface. 

The game has a wonderful ‘one more day’ gameplay loop akin to Stardew Valley, for example, and the game’s subtle horror mechanics are rather masterfully implemented.

However, the game also succeeds thanks to the game’s focus on offering the player the freedom to explore the main islands in any order they like, and engage with whatever quests interest them more, making this a pocket-sized open world done right. 

I do feel that the game does run out of steam a little towards the end as upgrades and player rewards become less frequent and interesting, and the horror aspect of the game becomes less spooky, but overall, Dredge is a wonderful indie title well worth trying out for yourself. 

#8 – Tchia 

Tchia

Developer: Kepler Interactive

Metacritic Score: 77%

We head to New Caledonia for our next entry, Tchia, which is an open-world game where you will explore an idyllic tropical archipelago and get to know a series of colorful characters that represent the true-to-life inhabitants of New Caledonia. 

From a world-building perspective, Tchia is a game that really takes authenticity seriously, as it aims to showcase the real-world locale in all its glory with real customs, relationships, struggles, music, and locations in keeping with Caledonia.

Which culminates in a lovingly crafted world that looks staggeringly pretty, and is a joy to explore. Especially because the soul-jumping mechanic allows you to hop into the body of any animal you choose to get around, which is a lot of fun. 

I will concede that this is undoubtedly a flawed gem, as the story is like a rejected Pixar project, and the combat sections are handled about as poorly as I have ever seen within a video game.

However, I would still say that Tchia is something that you should check out, as the love for the region practically oozes from this title, and for someone who loves open-world gaming, Tchia may just scratch that itch. 

#9 – Core Keeper 

Core Keeper

Developer: Pugstorm

Metacritic Score: TBA (Early Access)

Most open-world games will throw you right in at the deep end by placing you in a huge world where you can go off in any direction and do just about anything you like.

Well, Core Keeper does that in a way, but to avoid overwhelming players to the point of choice paralysis, you’ll begin in a closed-off Mining area, and you’ll gradually have to create underground pathways to expand your world and explore beyond your starting area. 

Technically speaking, you could just mine in one direction and explore the most high-level areas of the game if that’s what you were intent on doing, but the goal here is to explore, gather materials, craft new machines, gear, and items, and use these new tools to reach new areas, battle bosses, and find a way to power the Core to uncover the secrets of the realm.

However, much like games such as Stardew Valley and its Community Center, completing the main quest doesn’t signal the end, and Core Keeper has hundreds of hours worth of content for you to delve into if you’re willing to commit to the miner’s life.

It’s a brilliant game, and it’s only getting better with consistent updates, so get your pickaxe and get to work! 

#10 – Terraria 

Terraria 

Developer: Re-Logic

Metacritic Score: 81%

It would be unfair to mention Core Keeper without shouting out its inspiration, Terraria, a game that essentially plays like 2D Minecraft in a lot of ways, but that description is a little reductive, as Terarria in 2023 is far more than a second-rate Minecraft clone. It’s an open-world Sandbox survival adventure with a treasure trove of content to uncover. 

Terraria accommodates all types of players; whether you are an adventurer who seeks a fitting test in combat, or you’re more of a casual player who wants to explore, craft, and create a world in your own image, Terraria provides for all. 

Then, just when you think there’s nothing more Terraria could possibly offer you as a player, you’ll discover an active and thriving community, endless amounts of mod content, and consistent free updates from a developer who simply can’t stop adding to their beloved creation. 

Terraria has been around for well over a decade, and yet the open-world game still feels fresh and interesting in 2023, which is a testament to how well-designed this game is, and how much content is there to be enjoyed by fans.

For all these reasons and more, Terraria is one of the best open-world indie games around, and one you need to try. 

#11 – Season: A Letter to the Future

Season: A Letter to the Future

Developer: Scavangers Studio

Metacritic Score: 76%

This one may be cheating a little bit, as Season: A Letter to the Future’s opening segments have the player move through a series of linear areas. However, when the player arrives in Tieng Valley, the game opens up, offering a pocket-sized open world for players to explore, documenting history for later generations as they go.

That’s the main premise of Season: A Letter to the Future. You play as Estelle, who sets off from her home in Caro Village, intent on documenting the state of the world before a new era comes to wash away the past.

Meaning your journal is the only link between the past and the present, and you’ll be the one who can document history as you see it. 

It’s a tranquil and thought-provoking adventure with plenty of moments of introspection, touching connections between those who remain in Tieng Valley, and you also travel around on a bike, which sounds like a throwaway detail, but it’s actually really fun to pedal around, and free wheel downhill drinking in each stunning vista. 

It’s a modern take on a walking simulator, and a game with a compelling story to tell. If that sounds like your thing, then be sure to check this one out. 

#12 – The Forgotten City

The Forgotten City

Developer: Modern Storyteller 

Metacritic Score: 84%

An open-world game we mentioned right at the top of the article was Skyrim, the Elder Scrolls game where you take control of the Dragonborn. Well, what if I told you that The Forgotten City was born from a Skyrim mod, and now serves as an equally impressive open-world game in its own right?

It’s a staggering achievement, especially when you consider that this game offers a rich story-driven adventure shaped around a time-loop mystery. 

In this title, you’ll find yourself trapped 2000 years in the past within a pocket-sized Roman city that is governed by ‘The Golden Rule.’ Which is a rule handed down by the gods which ensures that the city remains completely without sin, or everyone will suffer for the sins of the one. 

This means that the player will need to find loopholes in this golden rule, use the time loop to their advantage, and find a way to create a time paradox and escape this strange world.

It’s a game that features some of the finest writing I’ve ever witnessed in a game of this nature, and while the facial animations are a little unsettling, if you can get past that, you’ll be blessed with a mystery game that will live long in the memory. 

#13 – Cat Quest II

Cat Quest II

Developer: The Gentlebros

Metacritic Score: 76%

Up until now, we have been featuring open worlds that succeed due to their detail, and how clever they are in terms of content and design.

Well, what about an open world that boils everything down to its simplest form, and then fills in the spaces with animal puns? Cat Quest II is a title that focuses on offering a super accessible and silly open-world RPG where you gradually build up your weapons and armor, complete quick and easy quests, and help restore balance to the world around you. 

It’s about as simple as it gets as far as gameplay goes. You have the ability to use attacks, dodges, and spells to get through each encounter, and the rest of the time, you’ll be exploring the rather literal map, and helping the cast of cats and dogs put aside their differences and take down Lioner and Wolfen once and for all. 

The real draw of this game is that it’s a very accessible and enjoyable couch co-op adventure that just about any level of gamer can pick up and play, so if you want to introduce some beginner gamers to the open-world genre, this is a good starter game to choose. 

#14 – Minit 

Minit

Developer: Vlambeer 

Metacritic Score: 81%

A third game about perpetual time loops, you have to be kidding, right? No, I’m not, and I’ll tell you why. Time loop games are awesome.

Minit is a game that has you play in 60-second spells, and in this time, you’ll be able to explore an open-world setting and try to make changes to your surroundings or pick up key items that will allow you to get a little further, unlock a new starting location, or unlock new areas to explore. 

It’s essentially a boiled-down retro Zelda game combined with a mind-bending puzzle game format, which will ask players to experiment with the world around them, optimize their routes, and by the time you’re done, you’ll know each pixel of this little monochrome world like the back of your hand. 

It’s a short game that you could easily complete in as little as a few hours, but every single minute of your time will be a blast. So, if you want an open-world puzzle game with a twist, Minit is the way to go. 

#15 – Moonstone Island 

Moonstone Island

Developer: Studio Supersoft

Metacritic Score: 81%

Next, we have Moonstone Island, a game that aims to take the tried and tested Stardew Valley formula and shake things up to offer a game that is less about small-town vibes, and more about open-ended adventure. 

Moonstone Island will act as your hub where you can pursue romantic interests, create a base and farm, and generally act as a member of the greater community.

However, this game succeeds due to two unique gameplay mechanics. One is the turn-based card mechanics akin to Slay the Spire, which marries together nicely with the Pokemon-esque creature taming.

Then, secondly, you have the open-ended exploration that allows you to explore one hundred interconnected islands, clear dungeons, and uncover the secrets of the world. 

It’s a game that offers a perfect blend between Stardew Valley farming sim coziness, and Zelda-esque exploration. It’s a game that allows you to go at your own pace, and has plenty of natural discoveries for you to make along the way. So pick your preferred spirit companion, and get going! 

#16 – Pacific Drive

Pacific Drive

Developer: Ironwood Studios

Metacritic Score: 78%

Again, this one is an entry that I desperately wanted to crowbar in here, because while it isn’t a completely open world, as you will constantly be looping back to your garage in a roguelike format, it has a lot of open-world adjacent qualities. In Pacific Drive, you play as ‘The Driver’.

A soul lost to the Olympic Peninsula, and your goal is to use a beat-up station wagon to navigate this new weird setting and find a way to escape the irregularity. 

This game feels like an open-world title when out on each excursion for parts, as the peculiar and unpredictable nature of the Peninsula will have you barrelling down cliffs, battling radiation, uncovering oddities in the wild, and discovering what in the name of the DHARMA initiative happened to this place. 

Again, I must state clearly that this is not a fully open world, but due to the depth of systems, the detail of the world, and the semi-randomized nature of each route, you could easily convince yourself it is.

It’s unlike anything I have ever played before in the best way possible. So be sure to get behind the wheel of this one real soon! 

#17 – Palworld

Palworld

Developer: Pocket Pair

Metacritic Score: TBA (Early Access)

If you managed to avoid the flash success of Palworld in January, then you truly must have been out of it. But for those unaware, it basically got the same wild reception as Helldivers 2 would repeat a month later. Palworld’s elevator pitch is that it’s Pokemon with guns, and on that alone, millions of players hopped on to experience this open-world survival hit. 

Having poured hours into this one myself, I can say that this is more than just a cheap cash grab to ruffle Nintendo’s feathers.

The survival systems are fun and satisfying, the battling and creature taming are top-notch, and exploring this vast and open world is rewarding, which is not something you can often say about an early-access survival game. The world-building tends to come much later. 

It’s a game that exceeded my expectations by some distance, and will only get better with time. So you can either let this incubate for a little longer, or hop into this one in early access right now. 

#18 – Lil Gator Game

Lil Gator Game

Developer: Mega Wobble

Metacritic Score: 84%

What is gaming, if not a more adult-friendly version of playtime? Well, this is a notion that Lil Gator Game grabs and runs with to create a pocket-sized platformer with an open-world setting based on childish whimsy and imagination. 

From a gameplay perspective, the game is a boiled-down and super-accessible Zelda game at heart, but the real selling point of this game is the cozy feel of the game, the fun writing, the satisfying mechanics, and, above all, the ability to provide a Zelda-inspired game with puzzles, combat, and quests with no urgency, and no stakes. 

As a self-professed expert in all things 3D platformers, I, with no hesitation, would say that Lil Gator Game, perhaps alongside Tinykin, is the most accomplished and unique mascot platformer of the modern era of gaming, and that’s why you need to give it a try! 

#19 – Firewatch

Firewatch

Developer: Campo Santo

Metacritic Score: 78%

A sign of a truly well-made open world is one that feels great to just exist within, regardless of quests, storylines, or objectives, and Firewatch is a game that nails this.

Firewatch, at its core, features a touching story of a man getting over a tragic loss by taking himself away from it all to be a forest ranger, only to find that this job might not be as uneventful as he might have hoped. 

It’s a game with masterful writing and quintessentially accessible and low-effort walking simulator gameplay, which allows the setting, the story, and the characters within the play to take center stage. However, when all is said and done, it’s the world of Firewatch that stays with you.

This is perhaps why the player is offered the chance to simply free-roam through the forest when the credits roll, and there is even an audio tour mode where you can learn more about your setting as you might do when visiting a real national park.

It’s a game I would wholeheartedly recommend, but just be prepared for an emotional time gut punch or two. 

#20 – Tunic

Tunic

Developer: TUNIC Team

Metacritic Score: 85%

Then, lastly, we have Tunic, a game that takes what made retro-top-down Zelda games and then builds on these strong foundations to offer an adventure game that feels like the best possible version of what it’s trying to be.

Tunic sees you start from humble beginnings, with no understanding of the world around you, from your surroundings to the language used in this world, and your job is to decipher this, explore, solve puzzles, fight monsters, and so much more. 

It’s a game where knowledge is power, and without spoiling anything, that’s something you’ll see firsthand should you choose to replay the game, and that, in part, is down to the clever world design. 

It’s a game that also has wonderful accessibility settings, so it’s as challenging or as cozy as you want it to be, and no matter what you choose, it’s still a worthwhile and rewarding adventure.

So, if you’ve been waiting for a great new top-down adventure game akin to The Minish Cap or A Link to the Past, Tunic is the game you’ll want to check out. 

Honorable Mentions

Just before we let you shoot off to explore these new and interesting locations, I think it’s only fair that we highlight a few lesser titles that may not be ‘best in class’ but still have enough going on to warrant a quick mention. Here they are listed below: 

  • The Long Drive
  • SpaceEngine
  • Project Zomboid
  • Raft
  • Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord
  • The Hunter: Call of the Wild
  • Hunt: Showdown
  • Medieval Dynasty
  • ECO
  • Avorion
  • Deep Rock Galactic
  • Wildmender
  • Kenshi
  • Lake
  • My Time At Sandrock
  • The Witness
  • The Planet Crafter
  • Haven Park
  • Eastshade 
  • Untitled Goose Game 

Cure Your Wanderlust

So there you have it, indie fans, fifteen amazing open-world indie games that offer some of the most rich adventures and exploration-based gaming experiences that money can buy. We hope that this sates your wanderlust, and as always, thank you for reading Indie Game Culture. 

Unravel Revachol's Mysteries in Disco Elysium | GOG

Dive into the award-winning narrative masterpiece of "Disco Elysium," where every choice shapes your destiny in a world brimming with intrigue and moral ambiguity. With its innovative blend of role-playing elements and noir-inspired storytelling, prepare to unravel the mysteries of Revachol and confront the demons within.

Check Price
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
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