- Open-world games have embraced desert settings, showcasing the beauty and danger of these exotic locations.
- Games like Mad Max and Assassin’s Creed Mirage have successfully created atmospheric open worlds in desert settings that were initially underrated but have gained appreciation over time.
- Assassin’s Creed Origins and both Red Dead Redemption games have set a high standard for open-world desert games, offering expansive maps, diverse environments, and immersive experiences.
There are a huge number of open-world games nowadays with a wide variety of settings. The genre has exploded in popularity over the last decade, and many franchises, from new ones that have been kickstarted by their open worlds, to old ones that have jumped on the bandwagon, now revolve around non-linear exploration of a huge area.
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A lot of games take to the desert, showcasing the biome’s beauty as well as danger.
Deserts aren’t that common in gaming, but these exotic and tropical locations have popped up in various franchises over the years. Sometimes defining them, sometimes used for a single fun and different entry, and sometimes found in bizarrely charming one-off games. Open-world deserts don’t sound like the most intriguing locations, but these games made them work.
7 Mad Max
Metacritic Score: 69
- September 1, 2015
- Set In Post-Apocalyptic Australia
Mad Max is a franchise that has been around for a long time and has always used a desert setting in films to great effect, allowing players to see a very different sort of post-apocalyptic world. The major game that was released is no different, set in an Australian outback that has become a horrifying place in which to exist, and it is even canon to the films.
Although the game didn’t receive the level of praise that fans of the franchise were hoping for, one of the things that critics truly loved was the atmospheric open world created, causing many fans to revisit this game today and scratch their heads as they wonder how it was so heavily underrated upon release.
6 Assassin’s Creed Mirage
Metacritic Score: 76
Assassin’s Creed: Mirage
- October 12, 2023
- Ubisoft Bordeaux
- Set In 9th century Baghdad, Iraq
The most recent release in the Assassin’s Creed franchise represents the wide variety of settings that the series can make work as a fascinating open world. Taking place in 9th century Baghdad and taking cues from the older entries in the series, fans feared that the focus being taken away from the RPG formula would mean the open-world aspect of the series would be diminished.
Thankfully, they were wrong. A beautiful city that comes with a lot of scale, as well as a huge expanse of desert that can be explored, proved much more interesting than it initially looked. While Mirage hasn’t been deemed one of the very best Assassin’s Creed games, the refreshing return to the roots of the franchise will please most fans of the series.
5 Assassin’s Creed Origins
Metacritic Score: 81
Assassin’s Creed Origins
- December 15, 2020
- Set In the Ptolemaic Period, Egypt
The Assassin’s Creed games were always destined to find a way to go to Egypt, and this was finally achieved with Assassin’s Creed Origins. Taking on a whole new direction for the series, Origins was much more of an RPG than the previous games, and with that came the inevitable expansion of world size to create something wondrous.
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Origins took place in and around Egypt during the Ptolemaic Period, featuring famous ancient cities, and impressively expansive deserts that have plenty to do within them. Players were blown away by the volume of content, making this game much longer than most Assassin’s Creed games.
4 Fallout: New Vegas
Metacritic Score: 84
Fallout: New Vegas
- October 19, 2010
- Set In 2281 Around The Mojave Wasteland
One of the most beloved open-world franchises still running today is Fallout, a series set in the 23rd century and featuring a post-nuclear apocalypse America. New Vegas remains one of the most beloved entries today, setting itself in and around the Mojave Desert, encompassing the area that was formerly Nevada and California, allowing players to go from a simple courier to an incredibly overpowered soldier.
The great open-world map was impressive for 2010, giving players plenty to do as they navigated the different factions attempting to take control of New Vegas and the surrounding area. An expansive RPG, Fallout: New Vegas set a standard for desert games set in North America, helping remind the rest of the world how large (and dangerous) the Mojave can be.
3 Forza Horizon 5
Metacritic Score: 92
Forza Horizon 5
- November 9, 2021
Forza Horizon has always been the leader in the field of open-world driving games, even incorporating RPG elements, and the fifth entry heads to the deserts of Mexico to showcase the incredible open-world driving experiences that can be created today. 50% larger than the size of the Forza Horizon 4 map, the fictional representation of Mexico is huge and impressively built.
Players can drive around and see everything from huge deserts to active volcanoes, ancient temples, and entire cities. Though the size of the map isn’t a 1-1 recreation of Mexico by any means, Forza Horizon 5 is a giant leap forward in terms of realistic open-world game maps.
2 Red Dead Redemption
Metacritic Score: 95
Red Dead Redemption
- May 18, 2010
- Rockstar San Diego
- Set In 1911 Between The US & Mexico
The Red Dead Redemption franchise is one of the few gaming series that has been bold enough to use the Western genre as inspiration. The story, feel, and gameplay of Red Dead Redemption are perfectly crafted to make it feel just like a classic Western movie about an outlaw looking for money, revenge, or in this case, redemption.
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Set in a fictionalized version of Western America and Mexico, Red Dead Redemption has a wonderful open world which helped put it on the map. Filled with intriguing characters and conflicts, this game includes several different biomes across the map but is primarily known and played for the great desert feeling that it gives players. Red Dead Redemption is undoubtedly one of the best open-world games of all time, and it has helped create an IP that few modern games can match.
1 Red Dead Redemption 2
Metacritic Score: 97
Red Dead Redemption 2
- October 26, 2018
- Set In 1899 Around The American Frontier
The sequel to Red Dead Redemption changes the game, bringing a much larger world map for players to venture across, moving forward as the story goes back to the time of the Van der Linde Gang’s heyday. RDR2 contains the same desert areas around New Austin that the first one contained while expanding upon the original map to include more diverse and detailed environments, as well as giving players even more morality options.
Spread across five fictional states, Red Dead Redemption 2 allows players to see a variety of locations, but the desert is still the most prominent, particularly since the game still puts so much stock into feeling like a traditional Western, crafting one of the best open-world games ever to be set in the desert.
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