• Microsoft’s Xbox Game Studios includes top-rated open-world game franchises like
    Crackdown and Fable
    , known for challenging gameplay and rich plots.
  • Forza Horizon
    offers fantastic open-world driving experiences, taking players through real-world cities with a focus on mastering driving skills.
  • Sea Of Thieves
    , a popular pirate-themed RPG with multiplayer aspects, provides a fun high-seas experience that challenges solo players to compete with full crews.

Microsoft owns a number of well-known game development companies, such as Activision Blizzard, ZeniMax Media, Obsidian Entertainment, and Bethesda. For the most part, Microsoft allows these subsidiary companies to publish titles under their own trademark. However, Microsoft also publishes games under the Xbox Game Studios brand, and as Xbox Game Studios, Microsoft has released some great open-world games, some that can be quite challenging.


The 13 Best Open World Crime Games

The open-world crime genre allows players to climb the ranks of the criminal underworld: Here are some of the best.

It isn’t just individual Microsoft titles that have been of note in the open-world genre either. Several top-rated game franchises fall under the Xbox Game Studios banner. Many of these are noted as being some of the best (and hardest) open-world games of recent years. These games cover a range of plots and genres from motor racing to zombie survival.

7 Crackdown

Just Finding A Kingpin Is Tough, And Then They Want To Fight

Crackdown Fighting Crime Lords

February 20, 2007

Realtime Worlds


The Crackdown franchise consists of three separate titles. Each of these extends the storyline and adds some new features and mechanics. The backstory of this franchise revolves around the escapades of a biologically enhanced agent (controlled by the player), taking on various crime lords in Pacific City. The overall premise of Crackdown is to hunt down each crime boss.

However, this is far from simple, as even finding the location and then the entrance to a kingpin’s lair takes time. Add to this the fact the player needs to search for orbs to improve to a level where they can tackle the next crime boss on the list, and Crackdown has the makings of a game with a long and difficult playthrough.

There is plenty to do in Crackdown. With quests and in-game activities including car chases, street races, treasure hunts, and, of course, battling villains. This is partly what makes Crackdown a tough game. Full completion involves dealing with a large number of side quests and other activities that need to be tackled to ensure the safety of Pacific City’s citizens. For players who like open-world experiences and want to try a solid, well-established franchise, Crackdown would be a great choice.

6 Fable

Unpredictable Combat And Narrative Choices

Fable Exploring Albion

Fable (2004)
September 14, 2004

Action RPG

There are three games in the Fable franchise. Each of these takes place in the land of Albion, which is loosely based on Medieval Britain. The player takes on the role of a young boy whose village is overrun by bandits at the start of the first game. The player then progresses through the story, and the plot changes depending on the narrative choices they make. This is somewhat of a pitfall at times, as a wrong decision can lead to a tougher playthrough without the player intending it. Combat is also challenging, as enemy attacks are entirely unpredictable due to short animation times of only a handful of frames in some cases.

Players are free to roam Albion as they wish, but this is what makes Fable a difficult title to master. The map is vast and will take many playing hours to complete. Players can choose to follow the main plot or embark on their own adventures as a trader, prizefighter, or even a thief. Fable is a great choice for players who enjoy hack-and-slash open-world games.

5 Forza Horizon

Pixel-Perfect AI Racers And Missions That Force Varied Playstyles

Forza High Speed Open World Map

Forza Horizon 5
November 9, 2021


What needs to be said about the Forza franchise? Anyone who is into driving games will likely have played one, if not many of these games. There are also a number of spinoff titles that revolve around this franchise. Each of the games in the Forza series revolves around exploring an open-world map of a specific real-world city, so completing the entire map is going to take quite a while. Additionally, the player really does need to master their driving skills, as this is not a simple driving sim; it has real depth.


8 Open-World Games With The Best Driving Mechanics

Cruising around an open world can be a lot of fun if the mechanics are pulled off properly.

Players have often complained of the step-up in difficulty from FH4 to FH5. The main complaint is that at times, the AI seems to drive perfectly, making them very hard to beat. In some cases, AI driving exactly the same car as the player seem to perform much better, which can obviously be frustrating. What this does, however, is encourage players to race better. Where Forza really shines is in allowing players to progress their motor racing career however they wish. Don’t expect a linear storyline and set races. Instead, the player is free to pick and choose the style of race that best suits their playing style. However, they’ll be forced to adapt eventually if they want to clear out the map.

4 Sea Of Thieves

Solo PvP Requires A Talented Captain

Sea Of Thieves Become A Pirate

Sea of Thieves
March 20, 2018


Sea Of Thieves has been around for some time. It’s a pirate-themed open-world RPG that had a rocky start, but has since grown in popularity, especially after it was added to Game Pass. And of course, no pirate game would be complete without a large ocean map to explore, which Sea Of Thieves does very well.


10 Forgotten Pirate Games

There are many pirate games out there, making it easy to forget about some of the hidden gems that allow players to swashbuckle, steal, and sail.

Sea Of Thieves has some multiplayer aspects, although it is not considered a full-blown MMORPG. This means that players can team up with friends to become the scourge of the high seas, or, if they prefer, live a more peaceful life, simply trading between seaports. Sea Of Thieves has something for every playing style, as well as some of the most fun team PvP in any multiplayer game. This is where the main challenge can be found. Solo players will find it difficult to compete with teams of players that have a full crew for their ships. The single largest problem that solo players face in PvP is being boarded by a group of enemy players. Solo PvP in Sea of Thieves therefore revolves around making sure that the player’s ship is positioned in a way that makes boarding impossible, before engaging with cannons. Even if this is done perfectly, a talented enemy crew can still put up a fight.

3 Minecraft

A Huge Amount Of Information For Beginners To Take In

Minecraft Building With Blocks

PS4 , PS3 , PS Vita , Xbox One , Xbox 360 , Switch , 3DS , PC , Android , iOS , Wii U

November 18, 2011

Released in 2009, Minecraft has taken the world by storm. This is a simple game with a surprising level of depth. Minecraft has inspired a number of clones and copycat games, simply because it redefined the open-world genre. It is this depth that makes Minecraft a hard title to master. Players will need to learn about resources, crafting dependencies, and a whole host of other gameplay features that are much more complicated than first impressions hint at.

Minecraft isn’t for everyone. However, for players who enjoy exploration and building, and are willing to overlook the block-style graphics, Minecraft could well be their next addiction. Minecraft is hard in its own way, especially when trying to do something like building underwater, although frustrating might be a better word than hard. The real danger with Minecraft is that it lulls the player into a false sense of security. Often, players will be so busy seeking a resource node that they miss the fact they are about to step into a lava pool, or are about to be attacked by aggressive NPCs. And of course, players who want to learn how to use the Minecraft Script Engine face an entirely different set of challenges.

2 ReCore

Intense Platforming Puzzles Demand Frame-Perfect Jumping

ReCore Exploring New Eden

September 13, 2016

Armature Studio , Comcept


ReCore has a large open-world map set in the colony of New Eden. However, this isn’t the kind of open-world game where players can roam at will. Instead, explorers will discover platforming elements and world puzzles that need to be solved. For players who struggle with puzzles, ReCore is going to be quite a challenge, as they take some thought and logic to overcome.

Taking on the role of Joule Adams, players are encouraged to explore New Eden to find out why the original colonization mission went so wrong. The storyline is adequate, but it is the open-world puzzles that really make ReCore shine. The hardest challenge of all in ReCore is the final tower that has to be solved and scaled. Jumps must be timed with absolute perfection, and getting one even slightly wrong means a quick trip to the ground, far below and a full restart of the climb. Put simply, the standard jumping and platform puzzles in ReCore are already challenging, and the final one is insane.

1 State Of Decay

Permadeath And Micromanagement Make The Early-Game Intense

State Of Decay Zombie Survival

State of Decay
June 5, 2013
Action , Adventure , Survival Horror

One word can describe the State Of Decay franchise better than any other: Zombies! Where many zombie survival games focus on keeping the player alive, State Of Decay does things a little differently. Instead, the player is encouraged to discover and fortify strongholds on a large open-world map. What makes State Of Decay difficult is a twofold problem. Firstly, the game requires intense micromanagement, to the extent that the player can be under information overload at times. Secondly, the early game is very hard to overcome. With just a single survivor, this game is tough. Many players have complained that State Of Decay does not respect their time, posing unnecessary challenges that do not add to the game.


11 Games With The Most Threatening Zombies

Not all video game zombies come across as dangerous, but some are downright intimidating.

The player must harvest materials and find food to survive and build their strongholds, all while fighting off hordes of zombies at the same time. As mentioned above, this can be very difficult in the early game, as the player doesn’t have access to late-game resources and equipment, but even the most well-equipped survivor can be killed. That’s bad news, because in State of Decay, death is permanent. The second game in the franchise introduces a 4-player co-op mode, which really spices up the action and adds to the fun. Players who enjoy the zombie survival genre, but prefer a high-stakes open-world playing style, might like to check out the State of Decay franchise.


8 Hardest Original Xbox Games Published By Microsoft, Ranked

Microsoft marketed its flagship console – the Xbox – to an older gamer demographic, and it did this by making its games quite challenging.


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