Part of the thrill of gaming is being able to step into imaginative worlds that let us make our own marks in them. In an instant, we can be transported to virtually anywhere, such as places in history or fantastical lands. Therefore, we thought we'd celebrate some of the best, as we look forward to new open world adventures with new consoles. The list below is in no particular order and is comprised of games from this past generation. The list focuses on the worlds themselves and the freedom they put at your fingertips.

Red Dead Redemption

A big part of what makes Red Dead Redemption thrive is its Wild West backdrop. The dangers of the time period lurk within; robberies constantly occur in towns and on deserted roads. Innocents often get held captive for money or worse, and it's up to you if you want to play hero. Saloons showcase some of the personality of the time with plenty of drinks, music, and gambling to go around. The competitive spirit is also alive and well as you engage in shoot-offs with other cowboys and outlaws trying to make a new for themselves. While there's plenty of action around every bend, the moments where you're just exploring the majestic backdrop riding your horse also add to the experience. However, where John Marston's journey most makes its mark is in its shifts from killing to farming, using its world to speak to the narrative's deeper dilemmas. 

Sleeping Dogs

Not stopping to look and embrace Sleeping Dogs' Hong Kong is hard. From high rises to billboards, the city has a pulse and plenty to get wrapped in, such as cockfights, karaoke, drag racing, and more. Whether you're making a drug bust or just exploring a serene temple, Sleeping Dogs shows both the beauty and ugliness of Hong Kong. The city is flooded with tourists and desperate merchants, who also add personality to the populated locale. Sleeping Dogs brings Hong Kong right to your fingertips and lets you lose yourself in its atmosphere and activities, making it one memorable destination. 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The snowy Nord homeland of Skyrim is enough to give you a chill during exploration, but where it stands out is in how its realism overlaps fantastical elements like a created language of the dragons. Skyrim has a rich history that entices you to explore more, whether it's chatting up NPCs for insight or finding hidden places that reveal its secrets. Its treasures locked within are an adventurer's delight and a loot lover's dream. Not to mention, Skyrim also lets you have a stake in its land; you can build homes in multiple places and marry. Not many games can entice people to dedicate over 100 hours, but Skyrim provides enough content and intrigue to prolong the experience. 

Assassin's Creed II

While the Assassin's Creed series has taken us to many locales, nothing can compare to the first steps you take in Assassin's Creed II's Italy. The majestic architecture is breathtaking; as you ascend rooftops and towers, the beauty takes over as you make your way through popular cities, such as Venice, Rome, and Florence. This is a stark contrast to the violence you commit as Ezio along with his assassin kin. Exploring different regions and landmarks may be the premiere highlight, but the side activities that play off the assassin theme also make for compelling content. Like helping a young Leonard da Vinci before he hit his stride with inventions, racing fellow citizens, using your eagle vision to find prime targets to take down, and locating hard-to-find glyphs. 

Saints Row: The Third

Steelport's vibrancy and liveliness make it cross between New York and Las Vegas, but where Steelport becomes its own is the ridiculous antics that can occur during your ventures. How many places actually let you use a giant purple *** as a weapon, or would applaud you for using a fart in a jar to stink out the enemy? Your next step could also have you streaking or busting people at an S&M house. That's just scratching the surface of what you encounter in the world of Steelport, activities like  Prof. Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax (shooting mascots has never been so fun), playing in traffic in insurance fraud, and riding a flaming ATV also keep the fun going. Unpredictability also runs through it; you never know when a rival gang is going to show up...or a zombie infestation. A day in Steelport is like living out an episode of your favorite comedy relief show… a much needed break from your everyday life, which makes its world so damn entertaining.