Smallest Open-World Games

Highlights

  • Open-world games have become increasingly popular over the years, allowing players to explore vast virtual worlds at their own pace.
  • Some of the best open-world games are actually the smallest in size, proving that a large map doesn’t always matter when it comes to creating an immersive experience.
  • Despite their small map sizes, games like Bully, Batman: Arkham City, and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate utilize their spaces effectively, offering plenty of content and a unique atmosphere.

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When it comes to gaming trends, open-world games have been popular for years now, increasingly so. Although we all enjoy a linear adventure every now and then, there’s nothing that beats the thrill and fun that comes with exploring a gigantic virtual world at will, seeing all the nooks and crannies that it has and really immersing yourself within it.

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As technology has progressed so has the detail and size of these open worlds. But just because an open world seems vast doesn’t mean it is. Some of the best ones are the worlds in which size doesn’t matter at all. So these are some of the best, yet smallest, open-world games.

8 Bullworth (Bully)

Jimmy from Bully standing in front of Bullworth Academy

Bully is already going to be small in size just due to the concept alone, with the main setting being Bullworth Academy, a school campus which would seem like just another building in a larger open-world map of another game.

However, later on in the game, the map does expand to let you explore most of the surrounding town. Although some players may expect this to be a huge map expansion, it’s still pretty small and so doesn’t make the map greatly big either. But even if it’s small, the game is still just as atmospheric and the developers clearly utilise the space well to make it seem much larger and lively.

7 Arkham City (Batman: Arkham City)

Batman standing on a rooftop over Gotham City

Although Gotham is often portrayed as a metropolis, Batman: Arkham City only takes place in a small cordoned-off section of the city, now titled Arkham City. The map is only about 0.38 square miles and once again a lot of the space is utilised well, with a focus on interiors that help to make the world seem deeper with a lot more to explore.

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Arkham City clearly makes good use of its space and shows that an interesting enough setting is more than enough to compensate for a lack of size.

6 Hong Kong (Sleeping Dogs)

The city of Hong Kong from Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs is an open-world crime action game that is set in Hong Kong and comes in at just under 2 square miles total. Though it could be off-putting to have a game claim to represent a city but having it be smaller, yet it doesn’t matter. Sleeping Dog clearly celebrates the city it’s based on and has a lot of things to do that distract from the size.

From fun mini-games to side missions, the city is packed with lots of content, making it one of the better open-world cities to play in.

5 London (Assassin’s Creed Syndicate)

Jacob Frye on a rooftop in London of Assassin's Creed Syndicate

From one real city to another, we’re going all the way from Hong Kong to London in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. The map is 1.4 square miles and is densely packed with different things to do and rooftops to jump across. The most interesting thing about the map is mostly the time period.

Much like other Assassin’s Creed games, we’re going historical, meaning that instead of a typical modern-looking city, the small map is instead a rendition of 1860s London during the Industrial Revolution, making the environment look unique compared to others.

4 Kamurocho (Yakuza)

A neon lit street of Kamurocho from the Yakuza series

The Yakuza series is an interesting one, almost a blend of different genres and known to have dozens of hours of content in its fun, unique side missions. But it’s also known for almost always having Kamurocho as its main map, a district of Tokyo. As opposed to having a whole city to explore, players are given a district that comes in at about 2 square mile.

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Although it may seem odd to have such a small concept for a map, Yakuza fills it with tons of detail, decoration and love that makes you familiarise yourself with the map and remember it fondly as opposed to feeling like it’s too small and constraining.

3 Mordor (Middle-Earth: Shadow Of Mordor)

A figure fighting monsters in Mordor

The vast and well-detailed world of Middle-Earth and its many locations such as Mordor always appears as this huge setting to explore, which makes Middle-Earth: Shadow Of Mordor interesting. The game takes place in Mordor through two different areas and although it has a decent-sized map, it’s still quite small.

However, the world is hardly the main thing to talk about, as the gameplay and nemesis system is the most captivating aspect of the game, and you quickly forget about the map size when you appreciate the beauty and fidelity with the graphics and world design.

2 Hyrule (The Legend Of Zelda)

The Legend Of Zelda Logo for the original NES title over a waterfall

It may seem odd that Hyrule is on this list, but we don’t mean the breathtaking world of the kingdom in Breath Of The Wild or Tears of the Kingdom. Instead, we look at what it was like in the first game, The Legend Of Zelda. Due to the hardware limitations of the NES, Hyrule wasn’t really a place that was keen on having you traverse through the whole kingdom.

Instead, the small map was almost linear, and though you could go through different sections, you mostly were guided along a path. It hasn’t aged well but still is very impressive for its time and is part of the reason why the series was so successful.

1 Liberty City (Grand Theft Auto 3)

Claude walking down the street of Liberty City

It’s hard to imagine that Rockstar Games, known for their huge and detailed open worlds, would end up on a list of the smallest map sizes. But we all have to start somewhere and that began with Grand Theft Auto 3, the first 3D game in the series.

Liberty City, based on New York City, comes in around three square miles and yet was very impressive for its time, pushing PlayStation hardware to the limit by featuring a populated and living, breathing setting with districts to drive through and missions to embark on. Although the map is small, the city certainly felt big.

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