It’s 2021, which means developers are going above and beyond to try and secure worthy open-world games. But in a market so competitive — especially with the open-world genre becoming the top dog of the pool — smaller studios are struggling to keep up in the leg race. With fewer designers and strongholds to host their works — many ambitious open-world games are becoming subject to being overshadowed by triple-A releases.
That being said, we’ve seen plenty of fantastic games over the years that stem from smaller teams. And, even the more well-rounded studios with a colourful history packed full of success often become sidelined over another game. Of course, that isn’t to say that these games are bad. In fact, it’s just to say that they weren’t quite capable enough to tackle their biggest rivals at the time of release. And, in the gaming world — everything is a work of art in its own way. You just need to look a little deeper.
These five, although facing a smaller audience compared to best-selling titles, are deemed worthy of being played this year. They were underrated on launch — and they are underrated even today. So, are you prepared to give them a chance?
5. Mad Max
When we look at video game adaptations of hit movies we can’t help but cringe and bite our tongues. Even if the trailer piques our interest and hooks us in with a genuinely interesting narrative, we still hesitate when forking over the cash. Mad Max, sadly, was one of the victims to this. Although boasting some incredible open-world settings with vast wastelands and bandit-infested deserts — players still passed up the opportunity to buckle in and hit the throttle.
One thing Mad Max contains is a captivating storyline, as well as a fully-customisable armoured vehicle that can take you across miles of fascinating landscapes. Action is fast-paced, and the hours of cinematic drama you’ll be thrown into is enough to keep you satisfied for days. All in all, there’s plenty here for gamers — even if you’re not a fan of the movie franchise. That’s why we have to recommend Max Max to anyone who has a thirst for the open road and a hunger for the open-world.
4. Sleeping Dogs
When Square Enix took the reigns for the Hong Kong chapter of the True Crime series, fans were ambivalent on what to expect. With a massively successful history stemming from the two previous instalments, it was clear that the reputation was a lot to live up to. Sadly, upon release, Sleeping Dogs didn’t quite harvest the sales the developer had originally hoped for— therefore being thrown under the radar.
Sleeping Dogs, although not amassing record-breaking sales, offers one of the most enjoyable gangster stories in gaming history. The fact that players are immersed in not only Triad warfare — but also having to balance the responsibilities of the law is truly an engaging concept. Hong Kong is visually stunning, and every little detail that Square Enix put into the game all summarize a genuinely fantastic experience that was sadly overlooked on launch. So, here’s hoping you’ll give it the attention it needs in 2021. After all, it’s only a few dollars.
3. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate
We tend to cover Assassin’s Creed quite a lot here, and it’s usually somewhat mixed reviews in terms of graphics, concepts and mechanics. However, in terms of open-world gaming — we have to put forward the London chapter, Syndicate. Why? Well, I’m glad you asked. You see, while Ubisoft may put all of their eggs into one of many baskets when building a game, Syndicate pretty much had the tender loving care on all fronts — thus filling every basket.
Navigating the steampunk-influenced streets of London has never been more wondrous. The iconic monuments that bulge out of the screen and the fascinating characters that share their history with you at every corner. It’s all there, and it practically urges you to delve deep into the lore of Victorian London. Plus, as mentioned in previous articles — you can role up to Buckingham Palace and have a chat with the Queen. That’s got to be worth the price tag alone, no?
2. Dying Light
When the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One became flustered with remastered zombie games in 2014, many of us began looking for a new entry that hadn’t been built before. Dying Light, although accruing a great amount of success, was short-lived after its 2015 release. Even with some meaty DLC backing the base game, fans were quick to draw their eyes away and find something fresh — thus putting an abrupt end to the zombie survival sprint.
While the foundations of the parkour-based survival game have since been demolished, there are still plenty of reasons to jump back and rediscover it. Dying Light has some seriously wonderful visuals and plenty to absorb during all hours of the day. Plus, with parkour being your strongest weapon, you can quite literally roam the world and soak up the picturesque backdrops with very little holding you back.
1. Watch Dogs
Ubisoft faced a worrying amount of backlash from gaming critics after the ambitious release of Watch Dogs. Where some would point out that the concept struggled to meet par with other rival games, others disagreed and praised the developer for their innovative design. Although suffering from mixed reviews based on all fronts, Watch Dogs did actually host a very enticing setting that brought Chicago to a whole new light.
Story aside, Watch Dogs can be compared to the likes of Grand Theft Auto 4. I know, that’s a pretty big statement to make — but in terms of visuals, these two are alike in so many ways. Both sharing that melancholic aura with monochrome surroundings, each host incredibly lifelike settings and backstories. Chicago looks and feels like a home on the brink of collapse, and we’re left to feel as if it’s a home worth clutching onto and exploring. And, for that reason alone, we have to put it as our number one underrated title.