More than any other genre, open-world games have frequently succeeded in making players and their player characters feel surprisingly small. At the simplest level, many of these games pull off that feeling through vast, sprawling landscapes that wholly dwarf the player character.



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Impressive, expansive environments help to fill out the game world with everything from towering mountains and dense forests to richly detailed cities and settlements. The scale of these large, open worlds helps to create a feeling of both wonder and immersion for the player, encouraging exploration and discovery along the way. The stark contrast between the epic size of the game world and the relatively limited presence of the player can instill a surprising level of humility and curiosity in players. By making the player character feel small, great open-world games can provide addictive thrills to uncover secrets and explore.

5 Death Stranding

An Atmospheric Journey Through A Sparse, Nightmarish World

death stranding sam porter bb

Death Stranding
November 8, 2019

Few games have captured a feeling of loneliness in a vast world the way this polarizing 2019 release did. Hideo Kojima’s delivery-focused epic follows troubled courier Sam Porter Bridges as he attempts to connect a variety of remote settlements across the United States.

The gameplay infuriated fans and fascinated players in equal measure, as just the very act of walking proved to be surprisingly complex. Timing and weight-bearing become essential skills very quickly, and failing to maintain a good pair of boots can lead to a bloody visual of a barefoot Sam plucking out a ruined toenail from feet ravaged by the great outdoors. Players must traverse large spaces of uninhabited terrain as they make their deliveries, passing through an eerie, haunting landscape in the process. The isolation and the ever-present threat of invisible Beach-Things can lead to players feeling almost hopeless in such a large, moody setting. Overall, it’s a slow-burning, atmospheric gaming experience.

4 Shadow of the Colossus

A Haunting Landscape Full Of Mystery And Enormous Creatures

Fighting a boss in Shadow Of The Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus
October 18, 2005


The melancholy journey of eventual colossi-hunter Wander proved to be a one-of-a-kind release that still fascinates gamers today. The game introduces players to the Forbidden Land, a sparse, unsettling, and quiet area completely separate from the more populated world beyond.

In a bid to bring a young woman called Mono back to life, Wander commits to slaying 16 Colossi. These enormous beings, unsurprisingly, make the player character look and feel small due to their stature and impressively monstrous esthetics. However, the sense of scale doesn’t stop there, as even just traveling through the spacious yet closed-off quarters of The Forbidden Land can lead to an isolated vibe taking hold. Whether players choose to travel by foot or by horseback, this classic game’s eerie setting, visuals, and challenging colossi battles still pack a punch whether it’s the original or the 2018 remake.

A Vibrant, High-Fantasy World Bursting With High Stakes And Lore

A screenshot from Skyrim showing a player character shooting a bow at a dragon.

November 11, 2011

This fan-favorite epic from Bethesda introduces players to the snowy world of Nords and dragons that is Skyrim. Taking control of the Dragonborn, it’s up to the player to go out and conquer all the world has to offer.



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Skyrim provides an incredible amount of entertainment and discovery, with a variety of guilds to rise through, mines to explore, and rich lore everywhere one turns. The deep history and narratives provide a sense of epic wonder, with the player frequently growing and progressing in a complex and dangerous setting. DLCs Dawnguard and Dragonborn added to this, providing additional epic storylines that help change the perception of many key areas players had gotten used to in the main game. Still packing a punch all these years later, Skyrim has a knack for making players, especially newer ones, feel somewhat overwhelmed by the enormity of the map and plots on offer.

2 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Hyrule Reached Bigger, Better Heights With This Sprawling Epic

The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild Guardian

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
March 3, 2017

Nintendo EPD

The land of Hyrule has rarely reached the epic heights of Breath of the Wild. Here, players are left feeling like tiny adventurers in a vast world of sprawling fields and towering mountain peaks.

This time, players take control of Link as he struggles with memory loss, the kidnapping of the titular Princess Zelda, and the latest nefarious schemes of long-running lead villain Ganon. Beyond the grand-scale primary plot line, Breath of the Wild also has a smorgasbord of intriguing side quests, challenges, and collectibles to uncover. On top of the enormity of the world on offer, the game’s nonlinear structure adds further to a sense of smallness, as players are wrapped up in the consequences of Link’s amnesia whilst trying to discover the many surprises Hyrule has to offer.

1 Red Dead Redemption 2

A Gritty, Often Unpredictable Old West Setting Brimming With Danger


Red Dead Redemption 2
October 26, 2018

The trials and tribulations of troubled outlaw Arthur Morgan make for one of the most engrossing player characters of all time. As players take Morgan through a variety of missions, setbacks, and journeys, the expansive nature of the Old West grows more and more impressive.

There are times when riding a horse through the large portions of relatively empty land reflects perfectly the senses of fear and doubt that Morgan struggles with as the game wears on. Coupled with a variety of threats, including lawmen, bandits, Murfrees, and even serial killers, the game provides a suspenseful sense of dread to go with the more adventurous side of the Wild West. Side quests that chart everything from poisoned water to time travelers also help expand the world and its lore, often making the player feel like a relatively minor note in the grand scheme of the richly detailed world on offer.



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