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The best open-world games for Xbox Series X

As soon as the Xbox Series X hit the market in 2020, backward compatibility immediately gave it a catalog filled with hundreds of incredible Xbox One titles. In the following months, however, it put together its own roster of games and next-generation updates that fully utilized its increased processing power. Nowhere is this more evident than in open-world games, which radically benefit from reduced load times and increased frame rates.

If you’re looking for the best open-world games on the Xbox Series X, you’ve got plenty of options to choose from. For this list, we restricted our choices to games that have either launched on the Xbox Series X or have received next-gen updates to improve their performance. Plenty of other great open-world games are still playable on the system but don’t yet have a next-gen update, so they’ve been excluded.

Instead, you’ll want to take a look at these games that showcase the power of your new Xbox Series X.

Further reading

Elden Ring

Elden Ring
82%
4/5
M
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S
Genre
Role-playing (RPG)
Developer
FromSoftware
Publisher
Bandai Namco Entertainment
Release
February 25, 2022
After years of anticipation, Elden Ring is finally here — and it doesn’t disappoint. Largely hailed as FromSoftware’s best game to date, Elden Ring takes the iconic Soulsborne gameplay and merges it with a sprawling open world. The result? A masochistic, grim adventure that somehow feels more approachable than its predecessors. Not only does Elden Ring nail the tense combat-feel FromSoftware is known for, but it also brings a map that’s absolutely brimming with content. If one direction poses too much of a challenge, there are always six other places you can explore. No matter where you look, there’s always something fascinating to discover. It won’t be for everyone, but if you can push beyond the learning curve, there’s a lot to love about Elden Ring.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition
4.5/5
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S
Genre
Role-playing (RPG)
Developer
Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher
Bethesda Softworks, Xbox Game Studios
Release
November 11, 2021
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition launched in 2021, marking the game’s 10th anniversary. Enhanced for Xbox Series X and with loads of new content, this updated version is without a doubt the best way to experience the snowy mountains of northern Tamriel. Everyone knows the drill by now — craft a character, slay dragons, buy a home, neglect the main quest, and collect as much cheese as humanly possible. Even if you experienced the action when it first launched in 2011, playing on Xbox Series X breathes new life into the iconic game.

Dying Light 2: Stay Human

Dying Light 2: Stay Human
77%
3/5
M
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S
Genre
Role-playing (RPG), Adventure
Developer
Techland Publishing
Publisher
Techland Publishing, Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd.
Release
February 04, 2022
Taking place several years after the original, the world of Dying Light 2 hasn’t seen much improvement. Undead still roam the streets in packs, and other humans are just as untrusting to outsiders as ever. All that hostility, however, makes for a great parkour playground, and one that relies heavily on verticality and speed. Dying Light 2 might be a bit gruesome and foreboding, but there’s no denying the fun that can be had while zipping around its dystopian rooftops, kicking undead off 10-story buildings. Plenty of unlockable weapons and abilities mean you always have a new toy to play with, even if the story leaves something to be desired.

Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5
86%
4/5
E
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Genre
Racing, Sport
Developer
Playground Games
Publisher
Xbox Game Studios
Release
November 09, 2021

Forza Horizon 5 gets a lot of things right, but nothing is more impressive than its colorful landscapes. From volcanoes and small villages to a tropical coast and dense jungles, every inch of its world is begging to be explored. And — thanks to a large roster of supercars — every second is just as thrilling as you’d expect. While Forza Horizon 5 is an easy recommendation for car fanatics, even casual racing fans will find a lot to love about the next-gen game. Everything you do rewards you with experience (even crashing into structures and causing mayhem), so there’s always a constant sense of progression. Couple that with the Xbox Series X’s impressive graphics, and its easy to get lost in this Mexican paradise for hours on end.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Assassin's Creed Valhalla
76%
M
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Google Stadia
Genre
Adventure
Developer
Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher
Ubisoft Entertainment
Release
November 10, 2020
The latest installment in the Assassin’s Creed series was an instant success — and the best way to experience the rolling hills of England is on next-gen consoles. Faster loading screens, 4K resolution, and 60 fps are all supported by Xbox Series X, making this the most visually stunning Assassin’s Creed game to date. You’ll step into the blood-soaked boots of Eivor as they trek through swamps, raid villages, and slowly build a Viking empire. Gameplay is reminiscent of most other games in the franchise, featuring a mixture of stealth, melee combat, and upgradeable skills. Its open world is one of the most exciting options on Xbox Series X — especially if you’re a history buff, as you’ll see long-forgotten renditions of iconic cities such as London and York.

Watch Dogs: Legion

Watch Dogs: Legion
69%
M
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Google Stadia
Genre
Shooter, Adventure
Developer
Ubisoft Toronto
Publisher
Ubisoft Entertainment
Release
October 29, 2020
Ubisoft’s first next-gen installment of Watch Dogs brought players to a dystopian London brimming with places to explore and secrets to uncover. Not only does the city offer thousands of locations to discover, but you can run around it as a variety of characters since literally every NPC you encounter can be recruited to your cause and turned into a playable crew member. Whether you’re hobbling around as a granny stealing cars or sneaking through construction sites, the world of Legion is filled with ridiculous opportunities, and it’s a must-play for an Xbox Series X owner.

Sea of Thieves

Sea of Thieves
68%
T
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Genre
Simulator, Adventure
Developer
Rare
Publisher
Xbox Game Studios
Release
March 20, 2018
The popular pirate simulator has been enhanced for Xbox Series X, offering the usual suite of 60 fps, 4K resolution, and significantly reduced load times. Its nautical world was always worthy of your time, but with these enhancements, there’s more reason than ever to experience the seafaring fun. Sea of Thieves is best played with a few friends, as you’ll need their help to navigate the dangerous waters without getting attacked by other pirates. Its massive open world is still plenty enjoyable by yourself — although you’ll need to be extra vigilant for black flags on the horizon.

No Man's Sky

No Man's Sky
69%
T
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, SteamVR, PlayStation VR, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Meta Rift
Genre
Shooter, Role-playing (RPG), Simulator, Adventure, Indie
Developer
Hello Games
Publisher
Hello Games, 505 Games, Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release
August 09, 2016
Hello Games has done an incredible job reworking No Man’s Sky into a game worth playing. Its procedurally generated universe means there’s an endless supply of planets to explore and creatures to discover, and its next-gen upgrade provided a much-needed graphical boost on Xbox Series X. It’s also seen more than a dozen updates over the past few years, adding things like base building, functional multiplayer, and a well-developed story.

Immortals Fenyx Rising

Immortals Fenyx Rising
74%
T
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Google Stadia
Genre
Puzzle, Adventure
Developer
Ubisoft Québec
Publisher
Ubisoft
Release
December 02, 2020
Immortals Fenyx Rising takes you to a sprawling world inspired by Greek mythology. You’ll face off against a litany of demonic creatures on your journey to save the gods, and you’ll discover seven distinct regions along the way. While the game didn’t sell as well as other Ubisoft titles, there’s no doubt it’s an incredible game worthy of your time. Its open world is brimming with side quests and hidden content, its combat is fast-paced and visceral, and it features an engaging story that’ll motivate you to explore every inch of its mythical world.

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator
91%
E
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), Xbox Series X|S
Genre
Simulator
Developer
Asobo Studio
Publisher
Xbox Game Studios
Release
August 17, 2020
Featuring the entirety of planet Earth, games don’t get more open-world than this. Pick from one of a dozen planes, set your flight plan, then hit the runway as you soar through clouds and get an aerial view of nearly every square inch of our world. Unlike most other titles on this list, Microsoft Flight Simulator plays at a much slower pace. It’s the perfect way to unwind after a long day, although you can turn off all of the flight assist options and turn it into a serious flight sim. But no matter how you play, you’ll be treated to one of the biggest open worlds in gaming.

The Ascent

The Ascent
75%
M
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S
Genre
Shooter, Role-playing (RPG), Adventure, Indie
Developer
Neon Giant
Publisher
Curve Digital
Release
July 29, 2021
The Ascent proves there are still plenty of unique ways to explore the saturated cyberpunk genre. Played from a top-down perspective, this ARPG shooter mashup boasts one of the most well-developed cyberpunk aesthetics in all of gaming — in fact, some would argue its world is more alive than the notoriously popular Cyberpunk 2077. While it’s a bit smaller in scale than others, there’s no denying its open world is packed full of quests, characters, and storylines worth exploring. Combat is fast and strategic, although you can make things a bit easier on yourself by teaming up with a few friends. It’s available as part of Xbox Game Pass, so there’s a strong chance you can download it tonight without dropping a dime.

Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077
77%
M
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Google Stadia
Genre
Role-playing (RPG)
Developer
CD Projekt RED
Publisher
CD Projekt RED
Release
December 09, 2020
Speaking of cyberpunk, no open-world list would be complete without mentioning Cyberpunk 2077. It’s still rough around the edges on last-gen consoles, but Xbox Series X can handle its demanding requirements without too many hiccups. Several updates since launch have made it a much better game than it was in 2020, with improved stability and hundreds of squashed bugs bringing it closer to what fans expected Cyberpunk 2077 to be at launch. Whether you’re hacking into minds, barreling down highways in supercars, or ducking behind cover in frenetic shootouts, Cyberpunk 2077 still manages to bring a fantastic open world to the table — despite some of its flaws.

Saints Row: The Third Remastered

Saints Row: The Third Remastered
80%
M
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S
Genre
Shooter, Racing, Adventure
Developer
Deep Silver Volition
Publisher
Deep Silver
Release
May 22, 2020
With a reboot on the way, now is the perfect time to dive back into Saints Row. Xbox Series X fans, in particular, will want to check out Saints Row: The Third Remastered, as it includes everything that made the original game an instant classic, but modernizes it for new-gen consoles. Improved frame rates, 4K resolution, and radically reduced load times make the Remaster the best way to experience the fictional — and absolutely gigantic — world of Steelport. It’s broken up into a variety of different islands, where you’ll encounter hundreds of mini-games and side quests, dozens of vehicles available for the taking, and rival gang members located around every corner. It’s also included as a pre-order bonus for certain editions of the upcoming Saints Row reboot, making it an ideal time to pick them both up.

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Jon Bitner
Jon Bitner is a writer covering consumer electronics, technology, and gaming. His work has been published on various websites…
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