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Open World Games That Have No Combat

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Open World Games That Have No Combat

Highlights

  • Outer Wilds offers a unique time loop narrative with deep mysteries waiting to be uncovered by players willing to dive in.
  • Alba: A Wildlife Adventure stands out for focusing on animal welfare activism, showcasing a positive message in a cute aesthetic.
  • A Short Hike provides a short yet charming exploration experience, perfect for players looking for a relaxing adventure.

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The open-world genre of gaming has had a sharp rise in prominence over the last decade. Games like Skyrim, Grand Theft Auto 5, and Minecraft were all released in the early 2010s and helped to pave the way for open-world games to be pushed into the forefront of the gaming industry. It’s easy to see why this genre is so popular, given that players love losing themselves in these massive landscapes.

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Along with fetch quests, NPC interactions, and looting, one common theme of the open-world genre is combat, as most games task players with overcoming some type of enemy force. Though conquering evil is all well and good, it can get tiresome. Sometimes gamers just want to play at their own pace, without the threat of raiders, zombies, aliens, or whatever else popping up looking for a fight. Thankfully, there are a handful of open-world games that solely offer puzzle-solving, social interaction, or simple exploration.

Updated March 3, 2024 by Ritwik Mitra: There’s a common notion that open-world games need to feature intense combat and tough battles to keep players invested, which isn’t necessary in the slightest. Sure, most video games indeed feature an action-heavy gameplay loop to help players enjoy a power fantasy for the ages.

However, many great open-world games focus on calmer, more serene gameplay loops that do a great job of letting players enjoy something different in a sandbox setting, which is rarer than most people would assume.

1 Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

Interacting With A Complex Array Of Fauna & Raising Awareness To Ensure Their Survival

Alba A Wildlife Adventure ps5

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

Released
December 11, 2020

Developer
Ustwo Games

There aren’t many games that actually place focus on things that matter, like animal welfare. So, Alba: A Wildlife Adventure feels like a breath of fresh air, focusing on the activism of the main character and her friends as they try to help a natural habitat thrive instead of being harmed by rampant tourism.

The cute aesthetic of Alba: A Wildlife Adventure coupled with its positive message and soothing gameplay makes it worth checking out for any fan of unique sandbox games. More people should check this game out, especially if they’re aware of the evils of mankind and how their quest for dominance has led to the endangerment and loss of many exotic, unique species that deserve to live just as much as anyone else.

2 Astroneer

A Procedurally-Generated Adventure Game Where Players Form Structures And Gather Valuable Resources

An image of a character interacting with an alien in space

Astroneer

Released
February 6, 2019

Developer
System Era Softworks

Genre(s)
Adventure

Intergalactic adventures are all the rage now, with a major part of the gameplay loop being combat with alien lifeforms and the like that adds an interesting new dimension to the gameplay. However, not all sci-fi games need to rope players in with action. Instead, what makes things arguably better are games that have a greater focus on the wonders of exploration.

Despite being a procedurally generated game, Astroneer‘s fun exploration and cozy crafting gameplay make it a perfect title for players to unwind without worrying about a large alien threat that stands in their way. The game features a well-made drip feed of content that never overwhelms players without losing their interest, which requires some finesse to achieve by any developer, indie or otherwise.

3 Sable

Explore A Desert Planet And Solve Many Puzzles Along The Way

Sable looking out at the world from a tower in Sable

Sable

Released
September 23, 2021

Developer(s)
Shedworks

Genre(s)
Adventure

Sable‘s gameplay is about as simple and cathartic as it gets. Exploration is the name of the game, taking a page out of Journey‘s book and letting players enjoy a serene title that relaxes players and lets them enjoy a great vibe as they explore this largely empty world and solve the wealth of puzzles that lay within.

Players who enjoy fun puzzle games without any high stakes will love what Sable brings to the table. The amazing art style of this game will wow players throughout an unforgettable experience, making it clear why Sable is considered by many to be one of the most underrated games in recent times.

4 Need For Speed Unbound

The Latest NFS Game With Unique Cel-Shaded Visuals

need-for-speed-unbound-screenshot

Need for Speed Unbound

Released
December 2, 2022

Need for Speed: Unbound was shadow-dropped out of nowhere, serving as a nice treat for fans of this racing series. While the grind involved in this game can get rather grating at times, players who look past the padding of this title will enjoy the core racing mechanics and the new sense of style present in every facet of the game.

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It’s refreshing to see a Need for Speed game that tries something different for a change instead of trying to look like every other racing game out there. The world of this game is fun to race in, even if it may not be anything spectacular. As long as players are willing to get through oodles of filler present in this game, they’ll find Unbound to be a halfway-decent racing game worth checking out.

5 Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture

A Walking Simulator With An Intriguing Premise

The observatory in Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

Released
August 11, 2015

Developer
The Chinese Room, SCE Santa Monica Studio

Genre(s)
Adventure

Walking simulators have become all the rage in modern times, and it was only a matter of time before this genre would be merged with an open world. The result is games like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, an excellent video game where players have to explore a desolate settlement where its residents have seemingly vanished into thin air.

Players experience the story in whatever order they see fit, with the execution of this narrative being pretty impressive. Walking simulators may have a bad rep because of the lack of any gameplay, but the story and exploration present in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture more than make up for this genre’s limitations.

6 Outer Wilds

Players Uncover The Mystery Behind A 22-Minute Time Loop In A Solar System

Outer Wilds screenshot showing The Vessel

Outer Wilds

Released
May 28, 2019

Genre(s)
Adventure

Developer(s)
Mobius Digital

Outer Wilds is easily one of the most underrated indie titles, showing developers how to do a time loop story right if the ingredients are all placed in a neat and sophisticated manner. The game doesn’t seem all that special early on, which is perhaps why many fans didn’t uncover the brilliance of this title.

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It’s a shame since Outer Wilds features one of the greatest and most imaginative time loop narratives in any medium, gaming or otherwise. To this day, many fans of the game are puzzled as to why this title didn’t get the credit and recognition it deserved, despite being warmly received by critics and players alike!

7 The Talos Principle

A Philosophical Puzzle Game In Open Environments That Scratches That Portal Itch

The Talos Principle

The Talos Principle

Released
December 11, 2014

Genre(s)
Puzzle

Developer(s)
Croteam

The Talos Principle is an excellent puzzle game that fans of the genre should check out. The game’s vast and abandoned landscapes are quite intriguing, and fans will love the slow drip of the story as they solve numerous challenging puzzles. These brain teasers are quite stimulating, with the game’s puzzle design being quite excellent indeed.

Players who want to check out a puzzle game with a great story should check out The Talos Principle, with this game available on VR systems too. Of course, even if players don’t have this ultra-immersive medium at the ready, that shouldn’t dissuade anyone from checking out The Talos Principle to see why it’s such a riveting title in every sense of the word.

8 Disco Elysium

An Introspective CRPG With An Amazing Narrative

Kim & Harry Disco Elysium

Disco Elysium

Released
October 15, 2019

Developer(s)
ZA/UM

ZA/UM put themselves on the map with Disco Elysium, an incredible and awe-inspiring RPG without any combat whatsoever. Players control an amnesiac cop who is easily one of the greatest protagonists in gaming history, with the eccentric nature of this character and the unique nature of his psyche making this game quite engaging indeed.

Not many games make failure as entertaining as Disco Elysium, with many people arguing that some fail states are arguably better than the moments players unlock if they pass some particularly difficult skill checks. Regardless of which character players decide to roleplay, they can rest assured that Disco Elysium will have many interesting moments for them to uncover using their skills.

9 Assassin’s Creed Origins (Discovery Tour Mode)

A Shift For The Assassin’s Creed Series with A Separate Mode That Removes All Combat From The Game

Character walking through the desert

Assassin’s Creed Origins

Released
December 15, 2020

The Assassin’s Creed franchise originated in 2008 and has gone on to become a cornerstone of open-world gaming. The series began under the banner of stealth, action, and adventure, but since the release of Assassin’s Creed Origins, the franchise has started to transition into the action RPG genre.

The influx of RPG elements wasn’t the only interesting new feature in Origins, as the game also offered a Discovery Tour mode. The Discovery Tour mode removes combat, quests, and enemies from the game. Instead, it lets players explore Ancient Egypt from an educational standpoint, with an audio tour guide offering detailed information.

10 Minecraft (Creative Mode)

One Of The Best Survival-Crafting Games With A Mode That Removes Any Combat

Minecraft-characters-underwater

Minecraft
Platform(s)
PS4 , PS3 , PS Vita , Xbox One , Xbox 360 , Switch , 3DS , PC , Android , iOS , Wii U

Released
November 18, 2011

It’s been nearly 10 years since Minecraft first hit stores. The game is still going strong today, thanks to continuous improvement and updates that make the game almost unrecognizable from its original state. The open-world game is filled with enemies to kill in Survival mode, but the popular Creative mode removes such hazards.

Along with the absence of enemies, Creative mode also gives players every item and piece of equipment in the game. This allows them to make some incredible creations — the only limitation is their own imagination. Players will be surprised to know just how engaging Minecraft can be when they don’t have to look over their shoulder to tackle any threat that may arrive in the dead of night when they’re the most vulnerable.

11 Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

A Calming Game Focused On Exploring A Lush Island

Yonder - open world

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

Released
July 18, 2017

Developer
Prideful Sloth

Prideful Sloth’s open-world adventure Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles was initially released on PlayStation 4 and PC in 2017 before coming to Xbox One and Nintendo Switch in the years that followed.

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After the player’s ship crashes onto an island, Yonder tasks players with helping the inhabitants by clearing a substance called Murk. The gameplay predominantly centers around fetch quests. Though this may sound tedious, exploring the Breath of the Wild-like game world can provide hours of simplistic enjoyment.

12 Shape Of The World

A First-Person Game Focused On Exploring A Procedurally-Generated World

Shape of the World - walking through the woods

  • Available Platforms
    – Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox One
  • Initial
    Release Date
    – June 5, 2018
  • Main Story Completion Time
    – 1 Hour
  • Best Feature
    – Offers a great way to wind down with some wonderful art designs.

Shape of the World was released in 2018 by the team of Hollow Tree Games and Plug In Digital. This first-person game puts players in a beautiful, artistic forest and simply lets them explore the surrounding environments.

The game’s world is procedurally generated, ensuring that players will always have a fresh experience each time they boot it up. Shape of the World simply wants its players to find peace and relaxation. The game’s Steam page exemplifies this philosophy, stating: “This is a place to get lost in, a relaxing world for you to spend 1 to 3 hours meandering at your own pace, observing and unwinding.”

13 Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020)

Lets Players Explore Picturesque Landscapes With Numerous Planes And Helicopters

Flying over a river town in Microsoft Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Released
August 18, 2020

Genre(s)
Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator is, in some ways, the ultimate open-world game, as it lets players travel around the entire earth. Players can soar past Big Ben, ascend Mount Everest, and explore the seven wonders of the world.

Being able to fly around an in-game recreation of the earth is, of course, the game’s biggest selling point. However, the game is also a great educational tool for those interested in piloting a plane. The gameplay is so realistic that some pilots used it to ensure that they didn’t get too rusty during COVID lockdowns.

14 Forza Horizon 5

An Excellent Addition To The Open-World Racing Series

Forza Horizon 5 - Zenvo TSR-S - Player cruises through the Horizon Festival

Forza Horizon 5

Released
November 9, 2021

Genre(s)
Racing

Forza Horizon 5 continued the Forza Horizon series’ excellent track record of providing players with incredibly well-designed open worlds to explore that are varied, meticulously detailed, and simply stunning to look at.

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The game takes place in a fictional version of Mexico and boasts a wide range of biomes that give the gameplay superb variety and give players a good reason to try out the plethora of different vehicle types on offer. Unsurprisingly, Forza Horizon 5 was a huge hit with critics, exemplified by its 92 Metascore on Xbox Series X.

15 Need For Speed: Underground 2

A Breakthrough In The Racing Genre And One Of The Best NFS Titles

Need for Speed: Underground 2 title art

Need for Speed: Underground 2

Released
November 9, 2004

Developer(s)
Electronic Arts

Genre(s)
Racing

From one racing game to another, Need For Speed: Underground 2 differentiates itself from its peers by being released nearly 20 years ago now. The game was developed by Electronic Art’s former subsidiary EA Black Box and is credited today for its influence on open-world gaming.

Underground 2‘s open world was far from its only selling point, however, as the game also features a fantastic range of customization options and a great range of game modes. Truth be told, any list of the best video games without combat could be entirely populated by open-world racing games if one were so inclined.

16 A Short Hike

A Brief, Charming Exploration Game That Fans Will Certainly Love

a short hike - fishing

A Short Hike

Released
April 5, 2019

Genre(s)
Adventure

Developer
Adam Robinson-Yu

With an impressive Nintendo Switch Metascore of 88 and an Overwhelmingly Positive score on Steam, Adam Robinson-Yu’s A Short Hike was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2019. The game’s main quest requires the player to jump, swim, and glide through the open world to find a collection of Golden Feathers.

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The main quest isn’t all that’s available to players, however, as they can also partake in numerous side activities such as fishing, finding treasure with the help of maps, and competing in the unique Beachstickball. It’s a great game, particularly for those with an aversion to combat.

17 The Sims 3

The Sims 3 - promotional image of chaotic characters

The Sims 3

Released
June 2, 2009

Genre(s)
Simulation

The first entry into The Sims franchise was released in 2000 and played a fundamental part in the rise of casual games. The popular Electronic Arts series has since become one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time, likely due to how it appeals to such a wide audience.

2009’s The Sims 3 saw a significant shift in playstyle for the series. The game broke down its predecessor’s linear walls in favor of an open world to explore. Exploring the game’s town is a joy and is the main reason why The Sims 3 is the most beloved entry in the franchise.

18 Obduction

A Puzzle-Focused Adventure Game By The Creators Of Myst And Riven

Obduction - house in the distance

  • Available Platforms
    – PC, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation 4, PSVR, Xbox One
  • Initial
    Release Date
    – August 24, 2016
  • Main Story Completion Time
    – 12 Hours
  • Best Feature
    – Classic
    Myst
    gameplay in a modern setting.

Obduction was released in 2016 by Cyan Worlds, the same team behind the aforementioned Myst. The game begins with the playable character being abducted by aliens and putting them in a Myst-like game world where they must solve puzzles to find their way home.

Obduction was well-received by critics. It received praise for the game’s atmosphere, its constant unsettling sense of not belonging, and its well-designed collection of puzzles. For those who love open-world games but don’t enjoy combat, Obduction is an excellent choice.

19 Eastshade

A Calming Title Where Players Explore The World And Draw Paintings

Eastshade - hot air balloon

  • Available Platforms
    – PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox One
  • Initial
    Release Date
    – February 13, 2019
  • Main Story Completion Time
    – 9.5 Hours
  • Best Feature
    – Meditative gameplay on a beautiful island.

Eastshade is a relaxing, visually impressive open-world game developed by the suitably named Eastshade Studios. The game starts with a bit of a bang. Once again, the player is on the wrong end of a boat crash, but the game soon finds a far more meditative pace.

With an easel and canvas by their side, players travel the world of Eastshade and paint the scenery and environments around them. The game isn’t just a painting simulator, however. Players can also receive quests from NPCs and brew a multitude of tea flavors.

20 The Witness

An Excellent Open-World Puzzle Game

The Witness' map

The Witness

Released
January 26, 2016

Developer(s)
Thekla Inc.

Genre(s)
Puzzle

2016’s The Witness faced high expectations when the puzzle game was first announced, predominantly due to it being designed by Braid‘s Jonathan Blow. The game also turned heads when the first details started to be released. It was clear that players were going to find themselves on a Myst-like island with beautiful modern visuals.

The Witness differentiates itself from Myst with its puzzle variety, as the game solely features line puzzles. Sticking to one kind of puzzle-solving may make the game sound one-dimensional, but there’s an excellent range of themes and solutions to the puzzles that ensure the game remains engrossing.

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