It can be hard to make time for that one game you've wanted to play for seemingly ages. You know the one: open world, sprawling story, more lines of dialogue than an Aaron Sorkin show. The five-star reviews roll in and it looks incredible, and while temptation is high to finally take the plunge and dedicate the 80-plus hours needed to participate in what you'll be sure is a worthwhile experience, you just know that you may struggle to do the game justice.
However, these epic campaigns are often well worth the time investment, allowing you to immerse yourself in worlds that have so far proved too vast to consider. Here's our list of 10 incredible single-player games you could be getting stuck into now.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo Switch)
We don't really need to heap more praise on Nintendo’s astonishing, GOAT-contender Breath of the Wild and yet this epic RPG offers an experience so rich, vast and breathtakingly ambitious that it only feels right to once again reach for the superlatives. The story, as you know, is simple: get to the castle and free the princess. The journey however is anything but straightforward.
Its scale is immense, with Hyrule a living, breathing world with so much to do and learn that it can, at first, seem completely overwhelming. Dropped into a land that stretches out in every direction, there's a bare minimum of hand-holding, requiring players to simply find their own way and make their own decisions. Want to go climb that enormous mountain? Knock yourself out. Fancy wearing a monster's head to infiltrate their squad? Sure. Interested in trying to fight the final boss from the very beginning of the game? You can even do that.
You can really play Breath Of The Wild for as long as you like, avoiding the final boss until you find every shrine, climb every mountain, or chat with every villager and merchant. The joy of standing atop a tower, pointing yourself in the direction of something brilliant and new in the distance, and casting yourself toward it is something that can't really be understated. BOTW is big, it's beautiful and it may very well be the best. Jump in.
The Witcher 3 (PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC)
It's odd to think that, for many, The Witcher is now synonymous with Henry Cavill glowering through a wig and swinging a sword the size of a teenager. Those who have experienced CD Projekt Red's The Witcher 3, though, will know that there's so much more to Geralt of Rivia than the (admittedly quite good) Netflix series would lead you to believe.
The developer's second sequel to an adaptation of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski's series of fantasy novels was the first to truly stick the landing. Boasting a vast, beautifully realised open world to explore, with deep combat that made swinging a massive sword feel weighty enough to satisfy when burying it in the hide of fearsome foes, and superb side quests that have real impact on the world around you, The Witcher 3 is as fun to play as it is impressive to explore. That's before we even get to card battler Gwent, the in-game game so addictive it received its own multiplayer spin-off.
The game also boasts a brilliant protagonist in the grouchy, perma-horny Geralt. The Witcher 3 provides a bona fide conclusion to his story in a blockbuster finale that offers emotional heft, as well as the requisite high stakes. A grand achievement in every sense, The Witcher 3 still stands out as one of the best RPGs on current platforms.
Red Dead Redemption 2 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
There was an almighty sigh of relief when Red Dead Redemption 2 first landed in 2018. The wait for a sequel to Rockstar's seminal PS2 cowboy epic had been a long one and with delays heightening expectations further, RDR2's launch was greeted with the breathless excitement usually reserved for a new console.
To say that it didn't disappoint would be an understatement. Rockstar delivered an absolutely vast game, both in terms of the sheer size of its map and in the depth and breadth of what you could actually do. From fishing to hunting and flower-picking, RDR2 leant heavily into survival mechanics to ensure players weren't just shooting up saloons and riding horses (though there's a lot of that). They got a fully fleshed-out version of the Wild West to explore, discover and, ultimately, try to tame. Rockstar's writing is, as always, superb and the strength of the characters and the strange melancholy that pervades RDR2 stops it from becoming an exercise in style over substance.
Assassin's Creed Odyssey (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC)
The Assassin's Creed franchise has undergone a fascinating evolution since first appearing as an action-adventure title with strange sci-fi trappings on PlayStation 3 back in 2007. Through many sequels and sidequels, the series began dipping its toes into open world waters (notably in the swashbuckler Black Flag) and in 2018 Ubisoft went all in, delivering arguably the series' zenith – certainly its most ambitious title – in the huge action RPG Assassin's Creed Odyssey.
Offering players a choice between two playable main characters (male and female), Odyssey is astonishing for its colossal scope and the weight of its ambition. Telling a long and winding story of your protagonist's bloodline and Spartan heritage, your playground is no less lavish than that of Ancient Greece, with players able to explore this impeccably realised world by land or sea, involving yourself in countless exploits, from avoiding bounty hunters to searching for mythic beasts and altering the political landscape by shifting others' allegiance from Athens to Sparta and back again.
The combat is deep (and very different from predecessors), while the sheer number of side quests and interesting characters populating this massive world ensure that Odyssey could keep you firmly in its grip for months to come.
Monster Hunter: World (PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
The only thing bigger than Monster Hunter: World is the monsters themselves. Capcom's epic adventure gives you an entire world to track and slaughter your monolithic prey, with an incredible level of customisation available to ensure your hunter is armed to the teeth with the skills and weaponry needed to take on the game's challenging battles.
Even better, Monster Hunter: World can be played online, so you can team up with chums to rid the world of some of the enormous beasts on offer. Combat is deep and tough to master, items and weaponry are massively varied and the monsters themselves are staggering achievements – ferocious, sometimes beautiful and always imposing. Join the hunt.
Persona 5 (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3)
JRPG series Persona is, to put it mildly, huge. Western audiences may be less familiar with the series, its spin-offs, the mass of merch and its live-action stage shows (seriously), but trust us, it's a big deal. Atlus's Persona 5, which landed on PS4 and PS3 in 2017, only cemented the aura around this monolithic franchise, delivering the best instalment yet with the story of a high school student who also occasionally saves the world.
If this all sounds a bit Peter Parker, that's where the similarities end. Persona 5 is fascinating and fantastic in equal measure, asking players to live out the life of a high schooler (take tests, attend classes) by day and battle evil by night, ousting the demons living in the minds of corrupted adults. Here, there are sprawling dungeons to conquer, with tricky puzzles and brilliant mini game-esque mechanics, but it's in the study of friendship and an honest, empathetic look at the troubles of the teen characters where the game truly comes to life.
It looks stunning, and the sort-of turn-based combat sings, but it's the weight of your choices and the cumulative experience of something so brilliantly original that makes Persona 5 well worth the 100-plus hours you could easily sink into it.
Dragon Quest XI (PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC)
From one long-standing, much-loved JRPG series to another, Dragon Quest XI is in a more traditional mould than Persona 5, but no less enjoyable. The series has been around so long that many of the tropes it embraces were established by its early franchise predecessors, so you can expect all the JRPG staples you know and, presumably, love. The Definitive Edition even lets you switch between 2D and 3D, for all you purists out there.
While Dragon Quest XI may well play the hits, it's done with such beauty, reverence and clear understanding of the genre that it may well be the very best in the series. You play as the reincarnated Luminary, a warrior destined to save the world – only, his return isn't welcomed by all and sundry. A simple-sounding plot unspools into something special, with the game boasting stunning visuals, memorable characters and an emotional weight that'll keep you going through the game's enormous playtime. If you're new to JRPGs, or are just looking for your next hit of this much-loved genre, then you can't go far wrong with Dragon Quest XI.
No Man's Sky (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
If you're looking for a big game, why not try something that's technically endless? No Man's Sky is exactly this and, after its notoriously tricky launch and a series of updates that followed, this trailblazing sci-fi has now spread its wings and realised the vast potential it always promised.
The game that throws together aspects of everything from survival sims to walking sims and space epics, No Man's Sky offers a procedurally generated universe – an endless array of planets and solar systems, each with their own vital, varied forms of life for players to explore and build upon. A huge, active community ensures that No Man's Sky just will not sit still, with ever-evolving content meaning that it's not only the planets themselves that are seemingly infinite, but what you can do on and outside of them. For sheer ambition, No Man's Sky can't be matched and it's a trip that's definitely worth taking.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Nintendo Switch)
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is, to put it mildly, a bit bonkers. This is very much a good thing. It not only offers one of the richest, deepest and most immersive turn-based strategy games we've ever experienced, but delivers just as much off the battlefield as on, with players tasked with getting to know and teaching students in the huge military fortress-slash-church Garreg Mach Monastery.
This is no small undertaking, because about half of the game's mammoth playtime takes place here, with missions to complete, students to woo (don't worry, it's not as creepy as it sounds) and tactics to teach, as you aim to lead one of the three houses into battle and towards victory.
The amount of choice and depth in the story ensures that this time away from the battlefield is hugely rewarding, with each house offering a unique tale that's brilliantly written and boasts lovingly drawn characters and deep wells of drama. When you do get to unleash your tactical knowhow, it feels both earned and with stakes that are suitably high. Fire Emblem: Three Houses may well be bonkers, but we wouldn't have it any other way.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered (PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC)
While the recent sequel to Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch failed to live up to the lofty standards set by its much-loved predecessor, it's a good thing that just last year we were treated to a painstakingly remastered version of the already-stunning Wrath of the White Witch.
With Netflix recently welcoming a glut of Studio Ghibli output, it's a fantastic time to acquaint yourself with this epic JRPG, which was animated by the famous Japanese studio. And yes, it's exactly as gorgeous, charming and heartfelt as you'd come to expect from what is essentially a masterpiece factory.
Developers Level-5 wrap the visuals around a simple and sprawling plot in which protagonist Oliver must save the world (we won't give any more away). Needless to say, you must explore the world, battling fiends and exploring dungeons, but it's the overall package that makes Wrath of the White Witch so special – expertly written, visually stunning and with a soundtrack to swoon over, the remastered Ni No Kuni is a game to get lost in.
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