Empower yourself by rebelling against linearity.

The first open-world game I ever played was GTAIII in 2001, and my friend and I were blown away by this relatively new genre. At the time, I couldn't believe that a game could incorporate so many things I liked into one package, and I loved how it was up to me to decide how to proceed. Since then, the open-world genre has exploded with new features and innovations, and it's still gaining popularity! In fact, you can say it's the standard. Here is my list of the 12 best open-world console games.
Grand Theft Auto V (PS4, Xbox One)

Sporting three dynamically different main characters in a huge open world with gorgeous visuals and a virtual cornucopia of things to see and do, what's not to love? GTA V is one of the few open-world games where the side missions are as interesting and fun as the main missions. In addition, players can literally spend hours off the beaten path doing everything from playing golf to robbing banks to simply messing around with the game's A.I. and physics. This three-year-old game is so popular that a wide variety of mods are still being made and released every month.

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Crackdown (Xbox)

Microsoft decided to make an open-world game where players fight crime instead of perpetrating it, and thus Crackdown was born. It's really cool how players start off as a slightly-enhanced agent and end up as a freakin' crime-fighting superhero! Minor RPG elements let players augment their character to suit their play style, and nearly everything in the city can be used as a weapon. As if that weren't enough, the drop-in, drop-out online co-op play literally doubles the fun as two people can rain destruction down on their enemies.

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Just Cause 2 (PS3, Xbox 360)

I didn't know what to expect with Just Cause 2, but it only took a short while for me to become completely addicted to the vast array of possibilities this game has to offer. Thanks to the innovative parachute and grappling hook combo, I've done incredible stunts in this game that I still haven't been able replicate in other games. Add in a huge world full of cities, towns, and open areas as well as a great physics and destruction engine, and the result is a unique gaming experience that I will never forget.

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Red Dead Redemption (PS3, Xbox 360)

If ever there was an open-world game begging for a sequel, it's Red Dead Redemption. This fantastic game is set in the Old West and it features a classic storyline as well as excellent gameplay. In addition to the main mission, players can engage in bounty hunting, animal hunting, playing cards, taming horses, dueling, and herb collecting. It also has a deep morality system where players' actions are deemed “good” or “bad,” and townsfolk react accordingly. There's also several traditional multiplayer modes, like deathmatch and CTF, but my favorite is forming a posse and wreaking havoc.

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Batman: Arkham City (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U)

Of all the open-world Batman games, Batman: Arkham City is still my favorite. The second game in the series has all the good qualities of the original, like the free-flowing combat system and deep stealth mode, and adds the vastness of Arkham City to the mix. As a result, there's much more to see and do than what's found in Arkham Asylum. Moreover, the developers added a plethora of Easter Eggs, and they even included hidden storylines that are triggered by activities like investigating where Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered or playing the game on certain days of the year.

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Fallout 4 (PS4, Xbox One)

Fallout 3 was awesome, Fallout New Vegas was okay, and Fallout 4 is a masterpiece! I could easily fill several pages with the numerous features and abilities players have in this game. Fallout 4 has everything from exploration to character customization to weapon crafting to fort building to forging alliances, etc., and this doesn't even touch on the main storyline. If I could only play one game for the next two years, it would be Fallout 4, and I'm confident that in that time I still wouldn't be able to access all of the content.

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Minecraft (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

Featuring true sandbox-style gameplay where players can literally build the type of game they want to play, Minecraft has become a bit of a global sensation. The ingenious design lets players follow simple rules to explore, mine, and craft buildings, or they can choose to go deeper and create their own platforming game, make puzzles, create their own A.I., fight monsters, and much more! It's even possible to hop online with a friend and explore the blocky world together. This is the type of game that makes young players aspire to become engineers.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PS4, Xbox One)

This is by far the best game in the series as it combines excellent controls, beautiful visuals, and an engaging story with a huge, open world full of characters with their own agendas. I'm glad that combat received a huge upgrade as players don't have to fight with the controls and can now focus on creating the most effective use of weapons and magic. Also, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt actually makes side quests important for not only achieving money, training, and new gear, but also for discovering the world itself. This game has the potential to offer a significantly different experience on each playthrough.

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Spider-Man 2 (PS2, Xbox)

Spider-Man 2 has the distinction of being one of the first open-world superhero games and one of the first non-gangster open-world games. Despite the fact that it was based on a movie, it still turned out to be really good. It was the first Spider-Man game to truly impart the feeling of what it might be like to fly through the sky the web-slinger. I also liked the open combo nature of the combat system that lets player string together their own combos instead of having to remember long combo strings.

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Far Cry 3 (PS3, Xbox 360)

As one of the earlier open-world games that actually features an intriguing story, Far Cry 3 is… ahem… by far the best game in the series. Not only does this game have an extensive skill tree, but it also sports extremely deep crafting and weapon customization. I also really like the stylish and deadly stealth takedowns because they add another layer that can be woven into combat. Even more handy is the ability to use a variety of vehicles, ranging from cars to boats to gliders. All of this takes place on one of the most serene and gorgeous island environments ever seen in a video game.

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Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (PS3, PS4, Xbox, Xbox 360, Wii U)

I've played every Assassin's Creed game, and none of them gave me the freedom that I found in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. This iteration takes the established gameplay from its predecessors, adds in new moves and features, and lets players take to the woods as well as the high seas. It's really cool to perform a quest in a large city, then jump in my pirate ship and sail to small islands, towns, atolls, jungles, and forts in order to explore them and find additional missions. I also love the advanced naval combat as it adds a huge amount of variety and even lets me commandeer ships. Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me!

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3, Xbox 360)

Anyone looking to delve into a seriously gigantic world full of fantasy lore and mystical creatures will surely fall in love with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It's extremely fun and remarkably easy to simply ignore the main quest line and spend dozens of hours exploring the vast world of Skyrim. In addition, there are numerous factions to ally oneself with as well as other ways to customize gameplay. Toss some menacing dragons into the mix, and even Daenerys Targaryen wouldn't know whether to jump for joy or cower in fear.
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12 Best Open-World Console Games