The Four-Decade History of Open World Games

Those Assassin's Creeds and Far Crys and Grand Theft Autos had to come from somewhere.


In his video, YouTuber XboxAhoy takes a look at how games like the original Zelda, 1984's Elite, or the legendary Ultima series contributed to open world and sandbox games as we know them today. There's bits about some truly obscure titles in here, so even if you consider yourself a gaming history expert, there should be something new for you to learn. Have a look:

Ahoy also recently uploaded a complete edit of his excellent five-parter series on game graphics from last year, so make sure to check that out if you originally missed it:

Questions? Comments? Contact the author of this post at andras-AT-kotaku-DOT-com.


I still wish the open-world design of Elder Scrolls (without the mechanical jank), Stalker or even bits of Far Cry were bigger trendsetters than GTA. Those former games provided more world simulation, open-ended objectives, diverse ways of play beyond funny physics tricks, and encouraged exploration to find new content.

I'm tired of GTA worlds with copious buildings I can't enter, solely existing for cosmetic appearance save the few that exist around particular missions. Markers strewn across the map revealing most everything you can do in a given area. Selecting markers that plot a GPS line to follow, with nothing to really do until you get there...rather than building events that just occur as the player wanders organically.

Missions that when entered just become scripted affairs, with control taken away, and a rigid method to complete. Deviation getting you a fail state, or a "leaving the area" notification. It just...makes the "open" world feel pointless, merely a hub space between pockets of linear missions, or at worst just a linear game but with more travel time.