10 Best-Sounding Open World Games

These are some of the most memorable soundscapes you’ll ever hear.

For many video gamers, “open world” options are some of the most fulfilling. These titles allow players to freely explore a virtual world by using their instincts as compasses, rather than following a more stringent and traditional side-scrolling, level-oriented map. Open world games give players the ability to work towards their goals in less structured ways, deciding when and where they’d like to act.

Such an approach delivers a great sense of autonomy and self-determination, and can also provide a more satisfying sonic experience, especially when enjoyed on quality headphones, speakers and sound bars. Soundtracks and sound effects can pop up seemingly out of nowhere, making them that much more memorable and tantalizing. Here’s our list of 10 of the open world games that offer the best soundscapes.

1. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA

For those looking to relive their childhoods, hearing every song, enemy, coin acquisition and boomerang throw is crucial in this title. While this game may have originated some 35 years ago, it’s as pleasurable as ever to play (try to do so without dying even once!). Remember that little ditty when you discovered a secret staircase with a candle flame? Remember the sound of a fairy filling your hearts? It’s just not the same on mute (or when listened to on an outdated audio system). Check out the evolution of this series here.

2. TOEJAM & EARL

Here’s another classic, with one of the most beloved bass-driven soundtracks of all time. It’s funky, percussive and will stick in your memory for, well, decades! It’s particularly important to be able to clearly hear every sonic nugget in the later levels, as your protagonists — the three-legged ToeJam or the hefty Earl — attempt to dodge any number of foes on their way to collecting strewn ship pieces on their hopeful way home. Check out the trailer here.

3. HORIZON FORBIDDEN WEST

Looking for a truly cinematic experience? This game delivers. Players are exposed to ambient sounds of the jungle and other unpredictable locales, as well as key bits of dialogue that offer hints at what’s next to come. These are certainly not to be misheard or ignored! To be fully immersed, it’s important to listen to each deep breath, every mosquito buzz and bird chirp. They get your heart pumping and your fingers flying, ready for serious battle. Check out the trailer here.

4. RED DEAD REDEMPTION II

Here’s a game that allows you to hop on your metaphorical horse and explore every inch of the Wild West in the late 1800s. Around every corner, you’ll find yourself walking though sticky mud, getting into saloon fights, crashing through windows and dodging the bullets of six-shooters going off all around you. Nothing about being an outlaw is easy, of course! Check out the trailer here.

5. THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT

Ever wonder what it would be like to move through a world-class painting, with every intricate element coming to life? That’s exactly what happens in this imaginative game, only here those animated objects include the monsters of the land, which you, the Witcher, have to slay. As you ride your steed through the rolling hills, pay attention to the flute music from the townspeople, the songs of birds and the screeches of seemingly unstoppable foes, which include angry warriors and flying griffins — not to mention the gurgle of the water you must swim through to achieve your missions. Check out the trailer here.

6. ELDEN RING

What do spells sound like? That’s what you’ll find out when you play this elaborate game rooted in medieval aesthetics. Claps of thunder, the roar of dragons and the sickening thud of sharpened swords piercing scaled flesh come from all around as you manifest glowing blue magic arrows, galloping horses and a will to survive. Trust me, you won’t want to miss a single note or clash of steel against armor. Check out the trailer here.

7. GENSHIN IMPACT

This anime-style title takes a bit of a cutesier approach than some of the other ones mentioned in this article. Here, the protagonist worries about stomach cramps and can fly with wings that resemble a hang glider. There’s less carnage and more cartoonish fun. But don’t let that mislead you — there’s also plenty of action, from hand-to-hand combat to important conversations and item discovery. Not only does this game’s soundtrack excite, it also puts a smile on your face. Check out the trailer here.

8. ASSASSIN’S CREED VALHALLA

This title is one of several in the vaunted Assassin’s Creed franchise, and it’s also one of the best in the lot (to date, anyway). As the name suggests, the game involves mythology as much as it does a quest for truth and treasure; there’s dancing, combat, dialogue and massive hunts. But there are also spells, blizzards, sailing and swimming in cold, cold waters (so frigid you can see your breath). Transport yourself to this snow-covered adventure and immerse yourself in a world only dreamed of until now. Check out the trailer here.

9. GHOST OF TSUSHIMA

Perhaps the most realistic of all the titles listed here (and that’s saying something), this is as much an exercise in getting your heart pumping as it is a testament to the thrill of victory. Swords slash through armies, gunpowder explodes and horses whinny as blazing fire lights up the darkened sky. For those who want to hear each drop of blood splattering, this is your game! Something is always moving, changing or kicking up dust. Check out the trailer here.

10. GOD OF WAR: RAGNAROK

Like its predecessors in the God of War series, this soon-to-be-released sequel takes place in the world of Norse mythology and features battles with fearsome creatures and gods like Thor and Odin. In those dangerous moments, keeping your senses razor-sharp is imperative. That’s the basis for this video game’s soundscape: Know when your adversary is nearby; discern your enemy’s last breath in the winter chill. Without the ability to take note of each such sonic intricacy, you might as well give up, dead in the metaphorical water. Check out the trailer here.

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