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Adventures (Secretly)
Open From The Start
 

Like most forms of media, video games often save the best and most interesting chapters until the end. However, there are many games that set you loose in their world without barriers or restrictions. Most interesting, I think, are games that do this without it being obvious that the world is your oyster.

These games seem to offer dense, impenetrable worlds that require special knowledge and equipment. However, these restrictions to progress are often psychological rather than practical. If you know where to go, or which buttons to press you can progress right from the start.

Whether an intended part of the design or something players discover to hack around intended barriers, being able to progress in this way is the bread and butter of speed runners. This is the player community that specialises in completing games as fast as they can. Games that seem to take many hours can, in this way, often be finished in minutes. Many of the tricks used to achieve this are hiding in plain sight if you know where to look.

Games provide worlds with everything unlocked from the start:

  • Adventures without Artificial Barriers: You can progress things in any order, and you have all the abilities you need to go anywhere you want.
  • Sandboxes without Barriers: Open worlds, like Minecraft, where you don't have to unlock or synchronise areas to access them, like Assassin's Creed.
  • Chapters In Any Order: Narrative games where you can play the chapters in any order, as well as skip chapters when you want.

 
This list includes 39 games from the last 38 years, with 1,620 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to find secret ways to progress. We break them down into the following areas:

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Adventures without Artificial Barriers

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild departs from the previous Zelda formula with the scale and depth of its world. You walk, fly, ride and climb your way through a landscape that varies in climate, terrain, inhabitants and vegetation. Weather and...

Outer Wilds

Outer Wilds is an exploration space mystery about a solar system trapped in an endless time loop. After twenty minutes of game time, you must start again – but each time brings a new opportunity to learn how you ended up on the planet and solve the...

Hogwarts Legacy

Hogwarts Legacy is an open-world role-play game set in the world of Harry Potter. You control a wizard character who starts as a student at Hogwarts and then ventures out on a dangerous journey with a mystery to solve. You design your character, learn...

Overboard

Overboard is a murder mystery narrative game played in reverse. You murder your husband at the start of the game and then try and get away with it. It's played on a ship where the characters are affected by your choices and changes their actions...

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is part of a long series of Zelda adventure games. As well as exploring Hyrule you can also take to the skies in an expanded world full of secrets. The game stands out for how heavily it leans into crafting and...

Elden Ring

Elden Ring is a role-play game set in a fictional world created by fantasy novelist George R. R. Martin, with a focus on combat similar to Demon's Souls and an open world with real time and weather like Zelda Breath of the Wild.

Sable

Sable is an adventure game where you play a young girl, Sable, alone in the world, but bravely exploring ancient monuments, ruined architecture, and fallen ships to uncover her place in it. It's an adventure without combat that calls you to find your...

Tunic

Tunic is an action-adventure game where you play a small fox who wakes with no memory of where he is. You push through trees, pick up weapons and learn new moves to discover an expanse of forests, caves and landscapes. You can do anything from the...

The Elder Scrolls (Series)

The Elder Scrolls is a series of action role-playing games that take you to detailed open worlds with free-form gameplay. The series has sold more than 58 million copies.

Gone Home

Gone Home places you in the role of Katie, returning from overseas to her family home. But the house is deserted and by exploring the rooms you piece together what happened to her sister, Sam. It’s a mystery to solve, but a common one of family...

Her Story

Her Story is a narrative puzzle game where you attempt to solve the 1994 mystery of a murdered man by searching an old police computer archive of interview videos of his wife. The game presents a retro computer interface but the interviews themselves...

The Forgotten City

The Forgotten City is a mystery adventure. You explore and relive the final days of a cursed Roman city, where if one person sins, everyone dies. It starts as a bewildering array of characters, locations and information but over multiple goes your...

Telling Lies

Telling Lies is from the same developer as Her Story. It's named as an investigative thriller game with non-linear storytelling by the developer.

Fallout 4 (Series)

Fallout 4 is an open world role-playing and shooting game. Set in a post apocalyptic world called The Wasteland, you explore a large map, interact with inhabitants, collect useful items to sell or craft with, build your own settlements, and defend...

Starfield

Starfield is a role-play adventure where you explore the galaxy and forge your own Dungeons & Dragons space story. You can travel to thousands of unique worlds, interact with characters, and fight enemies with guns and lasers. Ambition on this scale can...

Red Dead Redemption

Red Dead Redemption is an adventure game set in a vast wild west open world. As you play, you meet characters, engage in shootouts and heists, and define your character's legacy in the twilight of the cowboy era. It stands out for the freedom it gives...

The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda is an adventure game where you venture through a mysterious land and fight enemies. As you explore, you use your sword and shield to defeat monsters you find secrets and puzzle-filled dungeons. As the first game in [link...

X4: Foundations

X4: Foundations is a space adventure where every element, from planets to ships to finance, is simulated to create a living universe where actions breed deep consequences. Play is varied; you can fly every ship, explore anywhere, trade, build a space...

DataJack 2020

DataJack 2020 is a stealth action game where you play a mercenary in the dystopian underworld of the East Coast Hub. Drawing inspiration from cyber-hacking role-play of games like Shadowrun and Syndicate, you take contracts to steal data by hacking...

Eve Online

Eve Online is a space adventure where you join thousands of other players in a huge open universe to make your fortune, form industrial empires or conquer new frontiers. Play involves battling other players to control star systems and build star bases...

Chapters In Any Order

Road 96

Road 96 is a narrative adventure where you play a teenager trying to escape an oppressive, authoritarian country by reaching the border. Through a series of vignettes, you experience the most important and poignant parts on an epic road trip through a...

Hitman (Series)

Hitman 3 is a stealth game where you take on assassination missions and then figure out how to execute them. The dynamic situations you enter unfold as you play and you can try different approaches.

Railbound

Railbound is a track-bending puzzle game where you lay track, switch points, and use tunnels to get the carriages to the engine in the right order. Although it's the puzzles that keep you playing, there's also a real joy in connecting tracks and seeing...

That Dragon, Cancer

That Dragon, Cancer is a game about a family with a young son who has terminal brain cancer. It sounds off-putting and morbid but this living biography invites you to join the family and find hope, faith and love in the face of an insurmountable...

Koral

Koral is a diving exploration game where you play as the sea current. This sounds a little odd, playing a flow of energy, but works brilliantly.

Riverbond

Riverbond is a frantic adventure in a blocky world. With four people on one system, you take on an adventure to defeat evil and free the charming citizens. It's a brawling game with an emphasis on fun and over-the-top cartoon combat.

Bonito Days

Bonito Days is a pastel-retro rolling, jumping and gliding game. You roll down a slope to launch yourself into the air and then glide around before landing. It's a simple challenge that combines with the breezy summer aesthetic with lite touch...

Nidhogg

Nidhogg is a fast two-player duelling game whose simple visuals belie the skill required to defeat your opponent. The novelty is that upon death you reappear on the next screen. The player to advance through the most screens wins.

Bonfire Peaks

Bonfire Peaks is a puzzle game where you explore a Minecraft-looking world. Unlike the generalised blocks of that game, here the landscape is lovingly crafted and pulsing with life. It's a tightly designed puzzle game about closure, that invites you to...

Live A Live

Live A Live is a remake of the 1994 game released only in Japan, it's a fighting role-playing game where you play seven characters across time in unique stories. In each, you defeat enemies in tactical turn-based fights where each attack has a distinct...

Sunset Overdrive

Sunset Overdrive is an action shooting game set in 2077 with your city under siege from toxic zombies. You traverse the open world on foot and on rails to find and fight the zombies through a series of missions. It stands out for its freedom of play and...

Beastieball

Beastieball is a sports adventure game where you use Pokemon-style creatures in turn-based volleyball matches. You grow your team, develop interpersonal relationships, and take on ever-stronger opponents to win the prestigious Crown Series championship...

Darkest Dungeon

Darkest Dungeon is a turn-based battling game where you fight monsters in dungeons to restore your ancestor's hamlet to its former glory. From a side-on perspective, you recruit an adventurer team to take on quests in the dank, dim dungeons that make...

Sandboxes without Barriers

Minecraft

Minecraft is an open-world adventure where you collect, craft and construct structures and items. Play involves exploring the world to find resources and good locations to build. Some of the best aspects of the game are less well known; along with the...

Teardown

Teardown is a creative traversal game where you plan and execute a heist in fully destructible environments. Play involves knocking routes through the destructible buildings to set an escape route to steal the key cards. It’s an unusual game because...

Terraria

Terraria looks like a 2D, lesser version of Minecraft. However, this is a game every bit as complex and creative as the better-known block-building game. To the world-crafting and survival, it adds hundreds of items to collect, characters to defeat and...

Humanity

Humanity is a puzzle-action game where you are a lone Shiba Inu dog shepherding a huge marching crowd of people to safety. You place commands to get your flock of humans to jump, turn, push, float, shoot, and climb their way to deal with the "others"...

Light No Fire

Light No Fire is an adventure game where you explore a planet the size of Earth. As you traverse rolling hills, deserts, mountains and oceans, you take on monsters, build a home, gather resources, meet characters and discover new civilisations. The...

Craftopia

Craftopia is an open-world creature collecting adventure from the creators of Palworld. You build an automated base of operations, collect creatures, explore islands and dungeons, and even fight fantastical monsters with swords...

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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