%% If you are going to add a game to this scale, please add an explanation so that people who haven't played the game will understand why it is in the category it is in, and please add a link to this page to the game's page. Please also add the games in alphabetical order (while treating Roman numerals as regular numbers) to keep this neat.
Some VideoGames are linear, forcing you to follow one set path throughout the whole game. Other games are more open, allowing you to choose how you progress to your goal. Some games are are even more open than that, giving you a wide open world to explore at your leisure. Most [[ActionGame Action]][=/=][[AdventureGame Adventure]][=/=]ActionAdventure[=/=][[PlatformGame Platform]] games fall somewhere in this spectrum of linearity and openness; this scale exists to catalog exactly where they fall.

The Sliding Scale of Linearity vs. Openness comprises six categories for ranking how linear or open a game is. The lower on the scale a game is, the more NoSidepathsNoExplorationNoFreedom it is; the higher on the scale a game is, the more WideOpenSandbox it is. {{Platform Game}}s will usually rank low on the scale (by design), while {{Role Playing Game}}s will usually rank high on the scale (by convention).

The most important factor in determining where a game lies on this scale is the game world itself. A game that limits you to one path will rank lower on the scale than a game that presents an open world and lets you decide how you are going to get to your objective. The objectives themselves are also important in determining a game's place on the scale. A game with a set story progression and one goal or a linear series of goals that get you from the beginning to the end will rank lower than a game with many {{Side Quest}}s or a game with multiple ways to progress through the main story. A game can still rank relatively high on the scale with few side quests if it presents you with many missions that are required to complete the main story line and lets you decide how/in what order you will accomplish them. The way the story is set up, however, will usually be influenced by how linear or open the game is, not the other way around.


# The game follows a linear narrative, as well as a largely linear pattern with how you move between levels and/or within the levels themselves. Any attempts at exploration will be inconsequential if not outright fruitless. There might be secret warps to later stages, but any bonus stages will be entered automatically. {{Rail Shooter}}s are this level taken to the most extreme. {{Auto Scrolling Level}}s may be present. Games that fall into this category have become more and more rare with the passage of time. The majority of cinematic shooters fall into this category though.
# Though games at this level will still be largely linear in their design, you will have some choice in how you progress. You may be given a choice between two paths that take to you to the end of the level, or you may find a bonus level on the side that gives some reward before plopping you back on the main progression path. Exploration may result in some interesting discoveries. Many old-school first-person shooters fall into this category.
# Overall progression becomes less linear at this level. While levels themselves will still have a "get from point A to point B" feel, you will have many options in how you get from point A to point B. Backtracking will now be allowed, even if only to allow you to replay levels that you liked; whether the levels change from your initial trip through will vary from game to game. There is still a central narrative, of course, and these games are still on the more linear side of things, but they will not be constrictingly linear. {{Side Quest}}s may be present, but will not feature prominently.
# We now get to the more MetroidVania type of games. These games will likely allow you to explore and do [[SideQuest side quests]], but they will still want you to put the storyline first. Exploration will be encouraged, but controlled, with more of the game world opening up to you as you play. Games at this level will frequently play out such that you won't be able to explore the world or deviate from the main storyline at all in the beginning, but the whole world will be open to you by the end. Games can also fall into this level if the whole world is open to you from early on, but there's little reason to explore it other than to see the sights, and thus the main storyline will still be your primary concern.
# Open-world {{Role Playing Game}}s. Games at this level will have plenty {{Side Quest}}s and a very open world. (Some will still open up more of the world as you progress along the main storyline, but from the beginning, you will feel like you have a wide world to explore.) The main storyline may still be emphasized over the side quests, but it's not unheard of for games at this level to emphasize both equally. The central narrative itself may branch off into multiple paths, usually accompanied by MultipleEndings.
# WideOpenSandbox games will be very de-emphasized and, if there even is a main storyline or central goal, it'll likely only comprise a very small part of the whole experience. You are free to do whatever you want in these games, and those at the highest end of the spectrum will have no limits on what you can do. There may be a plethora of {{Side Quest}}s to keep you busy, or you may just need to make your own fun. Most MMORPG games fall into this category. Beware of sinking into the QuicksandBox.

See also the SlidingScaleOfContentDensityVsWidth. Although there is a noticeable correlation between the openness of the game world (linearity of exploration) and the degree of StoryBranching in a game (linearity of plot), these are two separate scales.


[[folder: Level 1 ]]

* Most railshooters, although some provide branching paths that make them level two instead.
** ''VideoGame/HouseOfTheDead''
** ''VideoGame/{{Paperboy}}''. You go from start to finish.
** ''{{VideoGame/Rez}}''
* Many side-scrolling platform games.
* ''VideoGame/RadiantSilvergun'', except in arcade version where it is level 2.
* ''Wonderboy / VideoGame/AdventureIsland 1'': You go from left to right and there's no exploration except an occasional bonus stage.
* ''[[VideoGame/BattleCity Tank Force]]''. Enemies appear, kill enemies, repeat 35 more times, victory.
* ''Toki'' , a platformer taking place linearly in 6 stages.
* ''VideoGame/BitTrip RUNNER'' where you move right and only jump, slide and block and kick on certain intervals.
* Though the style of gameplay in the ''VideoGame/{{Battletoads}}'' games tends to vary from level to level, the linearity in level design is very consistent.
* ''VideoGame/{{Cryostasis}}''. The game follows a linear narrative and usually only a single path is available to take.
* ''VideoGame/{{Battlefield 3}}'' single player campaign where the levels are getting from point A to B while regularly stopping to fight or have a cutscene.
* ''VideoGame/{{Homefront}}'' single player. You are hand-held throughout the entire game and have to do what must be done.
* ''VideoGame/ModernWarfare'' series single player campaigns also go to category 1 as there are are numerous setpieces and to make the game feel more dramatic, like a movie.
* ''VideoGame/{{Killer7}}'' is literally railroaded, as even the paths of the player are predefined. There are several branches and forks through the chapters, but almost none of them are optional since the player will ultimately have to visit all possible areas to collect the right amount of Soul Shells to challenge the bosses and proceed through the game.


[[folder: Level 2 ]]

* ''VideoGame/{{Dishonored}}'': there are two main ways to complete any of the 9 missions (just murder the target or a FateWorseThanDeath) which creates one of three endings and a handful of small tasks which grant you runes or open up new ways to neutralize the target, along with dozens of different ways to reach the target (rooftops, waterways, posses ion of animals, possessing people, sabotage or just simply murdering everyone) but each area can only be visited once and can lead to many a GuideDangIt moment if you missed a blue print for an upgrade or [[HundredPercentCompletion any of the dozens of collectables]]
* ''VideoGame/ConkersBadFurDay'', unlike most Creator/{{Rare}} platform games, follows a linear design and storyline, with very few collectibles (namely money and items that are specific to the chapters' objectives). However, during the first half of the game, it's still possible to leave a chapter's area and start another (indeed, Windy, Barn Boys, Bats Tower and Sloprano can be played this way, the only condition is that all of them have to be eventually completed). During the second half, which is set in nightime, the linearity dominates the progression completely, and the last three chapters (Spooky, It's War and Heist) have to be played in that order to finish the game (and once the very last one starts, [[PointOfNoReturn it won't be possible to turn back]]).
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII'', whose linearity created a huge amount of controversy, not only about whether it was good or bad but whether it was true to the series.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX'' goes here, prior to getting the GlobalAirship. Afterwards, it shifts to Level 4 as you prepare to take on the FinalBoss.
%%* ''VideoGame/GodOfWar''
* ''Franchise/{{Halo}}'' is linear overall, but it adds some wrinkles here and there. For one, there tends to have a lot of EasterEggs that often require you to go well out of your way to get. Additionally, a number of levels (''VideoGame/HaloCombatEvolved''[='s=] "Halo", ''VideoGame/Halo3ODST''[='s=] "Mombasa Streets") give you a surprising amount of freedom in choosing how to get to the next objective.
* ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil4'' is one of the longest ''Franchise/ResidentEvil'' games to date, spanning three major overworld settings, but like all of them it follows a linear structure, while still having various optional rooms and caches for treasure (particularly in the Castle area).
* ''[[VideoGame/ResidentEvilGunSurvivor Resident Evil: Survivor]]'' features some branching paths early on in the game. The first series merely takes you from the outskirts of Sheena Island to an alleyway with a payphone in one of three manners, but the second trio of branches actually changes minor elements of the story, namely which character becomes your direct antagonist.
* ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros1'', ''[[VideoGame/SuperMarioBrosTheLostLevels The Lost Levels]]'' and the first ''VideoGame/SuperMarioLand'' just barely made it to this level with their hidden bonus areas, while ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros2'' does for having alternate routes and shortcuts in many levels. ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros3'' almost exceeds it, as the introduction of world maps occasionally gives the option of skipping certain levels. The worlds in the Super Mario Challenge mode of ''VideoGame/SuperMarioMaker'' always have linear maps, but the levels you play in them are guaranteed to vary when the mode is played online, which in turn guarantees a near-unlimited replay value.
* ''VideoGame/HalfLife'' (justified in-story from the second game onwards as behind-the-scenes manipulation).
* ''VideoGame/{{Portal}}'', insofar as many of the puzzles have multiple solutions and the player is often free to muck about for awhile.
* {{Visual Novel}}s, if you consider them games, don't normally have more than different narratives depending on your selection. Some (called [[KineticNovel kinetic novels]]) are level 1, though.
%%* ''Franchise/AceAttorney''
* ''VideoGame/{{Doom}}''. You're supposed to collect keys and get to the exit, but there are also quite a few side areas which you can explore to find items, enemies to fight, or just out of curiosity what's there. Also, sometimes you have two or more ways of getting to the exit, and generally you can freely backtrack to early areas of the level. Custom maps often are less linear, sometimes qualifying as a 3.
* ''VideoGame/GliderPRO'' houses, on average. Bonus rooms and branching paths are common, but backtracking is often unrewarding or impossible. The mechanics of the game don't really allow for side quests.
* The Genesis and later modern ''VideoGame/SonicTheHedgehog'' games which have multiple paths to complete the level, although the level layout is still linear.
* ''VideoGame/{{Flower}}''. You go from point A to B, but you'll likely explore on your way.
* ''VideoGame/{{Eversion}}'' also falls to this category. It's rather linear, but levels often require lots of backtracking.
* The ''Videogame/MechWarrior'' series traditionally has a linear mission path, but missions often have optional secondary objectives or alternate ways to complete the primary objectives. The ''Mercenaries'' ExpansionPack for ''Mechwarrior 2'' and ''Mechwarrior 4'' bring the games to Level 3, with entirely optional missions, a largely non-linear campaign, and the ability to take sides in conflicts.
* ''VideoGame/SeriousSam'' series. Layout is usually very linear, but there are secrets to discover. ''Serious Sam II'' has the most linear paths, ''3'' has the least of them.
* ''VideoGame/EternalSonata'': most attempts at exploration are thwarted by the characters.
* ''VideoGame/{{Bug}}!''. There is only one end to a level, however, there is usually more than one path that Bug could take to get there. Bonus levels are also scattered around the area too.
* ''VideoGame/FarCry''. There are often many ways to tackle the level with a lot of paths to the goals.
%%* ''SoldierOfFortune'' series.
* ''Videogame/{{Journey}}''. Although it follows a linear narrative, the areas are often very large and exploration is often encouraged and rewarded.
* ''VideoGame/BattlefieldBadCompany'' contains a campaign that could be described as an adaptation of the series' large multiplayer maps for single player. Combined with the destructible environments that allowed you to could holes in walls you could move through, the game allowed the player to move freely and choose their plan of attack with a whole plethora of weapons, gadgets and vehicles to choose from. It's sequel was bitten with a "Call of Duty Competition" bug and narrowed the maps and limited the weapons and vehicles from whatever they give you at the time, but still kept an emphasis on destructible environments. Overall, the first game is at the top of the Level 2 scale while the second game is at the bottom of it.
* ''VideoGame/StarFoxAdventures''. Despite being an action-adventure game in the style of ''Zelda'', it follows a linear story progression and its world design is compacted and tailored to reflect this, which is an oddity for a Rareware game. Backtracking is still allowed to collect Cheat Tokens, Energy Cells and play a hide-and-seek sidequest in [=LightFoot=] Village (whose reward is still a Cheat Token). [[PointOfNoReturn At one near-end point, though, the game will lock all main areas and the player only has the option to go forward in the events until the credits roll]].
* The progression in ''VideoGame/{{Geist}}'' falls into this category, since the story will require that the player (as a ghost) possesses the required hosts to succesfully explore the Volks Corporation and (near the end of the game) eventually retrieve the main character's original body. There are a few optional rooms and corridor for special collectibles, though, and on certain occasions the player ''can'' choose different hosts (or control them in a different order) to clear the chapters.
* ''VideoGame/MedalOfHonorVanguard'' starts every Operation [[spoiler:except Neptune]] with a parachute jump, allowing players to decide what location they land in, these parachute sections are fairly open. Although the rest of the game is fairly linear outside of this, it does have the occasional open area and sidepaths outside of parachute jumping sections.
* ''VideoGame/BrothersATaleOfTwoSons''. There is one way to solve each puzzle and backtracking is impossiblle, but there are some optional side-quests and side-gags that otherwise have no effect on the ending.
* The ''Videogame/MonkeyIsland'' series, you can complete TheThreeTrials and its variations in any order.


[[folder: Level 3 ]]

* Unlike the other ''VideoGame/MedalOfHonor'' titles, ''VideoGame/MedalOfHonorAirborne'' gives players the option of where to start, and which objectives to accomplish first. While the levels do end in a linear fashion, the game gives freedom for the players on how to progress through the semi-open world portions. Doing so may reveal hidden weapons, skill drops, and ammo resupply stations.
* ''VideoGame/CaveStory'' feels like a {{Metroidvania}} game, but is more linear than usual. The progression through the levels is limited by the plot and many levels are linear in design, but backtracking is rarely difficult and there are a bunch of rewarding side quests.
* Most ''Franchise/FinalFantasy'' games. You have a handful of sidequests and might be able to visit a few places early, but it's all about the story. Though their non-linear last acts tend to be closer to level 4.
* ''VideoGame/{{Iji}}'', where each level is a miniature Metroidvania.
* The ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'' series, though close to a 2, makes it into this level. There aren't any side quests (at least, not in 1, 2, or 3), but exploring can lead to weapons, ammo, and supplies that can make your experience easier, and there are plenty of ways to navigate each room/area. In 3 there are what you might call sidequests in the form of destroying weapon and food supplies, also a few things like destroying the helicopter or killing The End early on.
* ''VideoGame/SonicAdventure2'' (though the Chao raising minigame is decidedly level 6)
* ''VideoGame/SpyroTheDragon''
* ''VideoGame/SuperMarioWorld'' is still mostly linear, but does offer some options as to the routes you take. Many levels have two different exits which set you off on different paths along the map. Though all the road splits either eventually meet up again or lead to the bonus areas, you do have some choices how you progress through the map if you're not trying to find everything to get HundredPercentCompletion. The most open-ended area is the Forest of Illusion, since its primary theme is having a maze-like map that can only be fully unveiled by finding all secret exits. This trend is kept for the ''VideoGame/NewSuperMarioBros'' subseries and some of the 3D installments (''VideoGame/SuperMarioGalaxy2'' and [[VideoGame/SuperMario3DLand the 3D]] [[VideoGame/SuperMario3DWorld duology]]) .
* The ''Franchise/TombRaider'' series in general; levels throughout the series might only have one exit, but are frequently quite open beyond that. Some of the games approach level 2, and others verge on Level 4.
* The ''VideoGame/{{MOTHER}}'' series, though [[VideoGame/{{MOTHER 1}} the first game]] is a Level 4 verging on Level 5, as it only has ''three boss battles'', including the FinalBoss.
* ''VideoGame/AdventureIsland IV''. There are plenty of side routes although most of the level layout itself goes fairly linearly.
* In ''VideoGame/BlasterMaster'' series, levels are opened in order, but there is a lot of backtracking to do and plenty of side areas.
* Half of the character's stories in ''VideoGame/SaGaFrontier'' fall into this category; Red, Emelia, Asellus, and [=T260G=] are all largely linear, with some exploration allowed, especially at the end of the game.
* ''VideoGame/PandorasTower'' starts in a linear fashion as you clear the towers one by one, but after the first five are conquered you're invited to complete the following five in any order; this allows you to get certain collectible items earlier to upgrade more often your weapons and tools, as well as bring gifts to Elena to increase the affection status between her and Aeron. When they're all cleared, two more towers open and require to be beaten simultaneously, but the ability to warp between them means that the order of going through the rooms is up to the player. After that, the final level is unlocked.
* ''VideoGame/RadiantHistoria''. The storyline is very linear and you can't reach anywhere the story doesn't specifically send you, but there are a downright ridiculous number of sidequests and backtracking (via TimeTravel) is half the point of the game.
* ''VideoGame/{{Messiah}}''. The game is overall linear, but there's a couple of side areas to find and the levels often let you run around more or less freely; there's also some backtracking. There also tend to be at least two paths to finish a task, even if the choice is usually between "get past stealthily" and "kill everyone".
* Most closed-circuit racing games tend to rank here. While the main focus is to win races, they usually give you the choice on how to do it. Some games such as ''VideoGame/GranTurismo'' and ''VideoGame/ForzaMotorsport'' also have bonus races that act like sidequests in most [=RPGs=], as they're entirely optional and do not influence the completion of the main career. Other games, such as ''VideoGame/ProjectCARS'', take it a bit further by having full-fledged career modes where you take control of your racing career, all the way down to team contracts.
* ''VideoGame/TheLastStory'' is divided into chapters, and as such has expectantly a more linear progression than other [=RPGs=], but some chapters are optional, and both Lazulis City and the castle are explorable extensively for sidequests (including the aforementioned optional chapters).
* ''VideoGame/GoldenSun'', especially ''[[VideoGame/GoldenSunTheLostAge The Lost Age]]''.
** No matter which direction you prefer to do the Osenia loop, you can make a very good case for it being the "correct" one[[note]]The {{NPCs}} in last town on Indra point you towards the first town you'd encounter doing it clockwise, the only Djinni in the last town in the clockwise loop can only be obtained with a Psyenergy obtained from the boss of the first area traversed in the clockwise loop, and said area has a one-way path (until you get a Psyenergy much later in the game) so a counterclockwise "loop" would actually require you to double back clockwise anyway; other than said Djinni, the first town in the counterclockwise loop contains nothing but story pointers to the second town in that loop, which in turn will grant you a Psyenergy needed for a dungeon that you'd have to pass right by to get to that town when going clockwise and the toughest boss in the entire loop is in the last town on the ''counterclockwise'' path.[[/note]], and once you get the Lemurian Ship, you gain access to roughly half a dozen areas, all of which have to be completed in order to assemble the pieces of a necessary PlotCoupon and most of which can be completed prior to completing any of the others.
** ''[[VideoGame/GoldenSunTheBrokenSeal Broken Seal]]'' is the most linear of the three, but still has nothing indicating which way to go from Bilibin. The intended next destination is Kolima, at which point you'll be sent to Imil after beating the boss of the forest, but there's nothing to stop you from going to Imil first and it'll make Kolima Forest easier as you pick up a new party member in Imil.
** ''[[GoldenSunDarkDawn Dark Dawn]]'' has a similar structure to ''Lost Age''--fairly linear up until a point (though even heavier on the sidequests that require you to double back to locations you've already been to, [[PointOfNoReturn often with a very small window of opportunity]]) and then a second half in which a bunch of objectives need to be completed in no particular order to unlock the next bit of storyline progression.


[[folder: Level 4 ]]

* ''Franchise/AssassinsCreed''
* The ''VideoGame/BanjoKazooie'' series
* ''VideoGame/SystemShock''' is broken up into "floors", but each floor is a massive, open map with multiple side-objectives (such as activating Resurrection Chambers) and a number of ways of accomplishing your main task. [[https://www.systemshock.org/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=1631.0;attach=2580;image Example]]. The sequel is more of a level 3.
* ''VideoGame/DarkSoulsI'' takes a very Metroidvania-like approach to its levels: once you leave the TutorialLevel, you have a pretty obvious "correct" story path before you and a couple less obvious paths to much later areas, barred by {{Beef Gate}}s or literal locked gates (which you can bypass early with the Master Key). As you clear available areas, you unlock passages to more areas, as well as [[DoorToBefore shortcuts back to the ones you know]], so while every large level has its own self-contained ecosystem, they all remain interconnected.
* ''VideoGame/DeusEx'': The "acts" are self-contained, and until you complete the task you can't advance to the next area, but within those acts you can explore and use stealth, hacking or shoot-em-up to complete your tasks. However, many of the more linear sections (especially later in the game) come closer to level 3.
* ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOrigins'': You're locked into your beginning (one of six), the main storyline is always the most crucial thing, and while you can explore side quests concurrently with the main plot, certain areas of the game remain locked until certain points of the main story (often with a BeefGate).
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyV''. Lots of sidequests and exploration, solid main plot.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXII'', verging on Level 5. There's probably more gameplay in the optional material than the main story, but you don't have to do any of it.
%%* The ''VideoGame/HarvestMoon'' series
* Most ''Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda'' games have a fixed order to complete the dungeons, but allow the player to explore the overworld to do sidequests and play minigames, and new areas become available for this purpose as the dungeons are cleared. Some games, like ''[[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaALinkToThePast A Link to the Past]]'' and ''[[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaOcarinaOfTime Ocarina of Time]]'', do allow the player to complete dungeons in a different order after the Master Sword was collected. Exceptions to the Level 4 family include ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaI'' (at Level 5 for having an overall nonlinear progression), ''[[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaSpiritTracks Spirit Tracks]]'' (at Level 3 during most of the playthrough due to the need to travel through the overworld via train) and ''[[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaBreathOfTheWild Breath of the Wild]]'' (at level 6 for being fully open-ended to the point of allowing the player to defeat the FinalBoss ''while bypassing almost everything else'').
* The ''VideoGame/{{Metroid}}'' series, though both ''VideoGame/MetroidFusion'' and ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime3Corruption'' often lean towards a 3. ''VideoGame/MetroidOtherM'' '''is''' a 3 and leans towards a 2.
* ''VideoGame/NoMoreHeroes'' has a wide open world, but there is little reason to explore it. Aside from key locations where side jobs, shops and other places can be found, the main reason for Santa Destroy's large space is to collect various collectibles (buried underground or otherwise). ''VideoGame/NoMoreHeroes2DesperateStruggle'' does away with this (the levels, shops, minigames and such are all selectable through a menu accessed as soon as Travis exits his hotel room), and thus dials back to a 3.
* ''VideoGame/{{Okami}}'' has some parts in which the player is locked by urgent events and cannot roam freely, but otherwise is very expansive and open-ended.
* ''VideoGame/TalesOfSymphonia''
* ''VideoGame/SkiesOfArcadia''
* ''Franchise/SuperMarioBros'':
** ''VideoGame/SuperMario64'', ''VideoGame/SuperMarioSunshine'', and to a lesser extent the first ''VideoGame/SuperMarioGalaxy''. The former two remain 4's throughout and verge on 5 when enough of their respective {{Hub Level}}s are opened up; the latter is a level 4 in terms of overall structure and freedom to skip (or get ahead into) levels if the current number of Stars allow it, but most levels themselves are either Level 2 (Good Egg Galaxy, Battlerock Galaxy, etc.) or 3 (Beach Bowl Galaxy, Gold Leaf Galaxy, etc.) depending on the case. ''VideoGame/SuperMarioOdyssey'' builds upon the open-ended style of these games and further streamlines the exploration by allowing the player to continue exploring the levels after collecting each Power Moon without taking them back outside.
** ''VideoGame/SuperMarioLand2SixGoldenCoins'' is unique among the 2D ''Mario'' games in that it allows the player to tackle the six main Zones in any order. The only requirement is that all of them have to be completed eventually in order to unlock the final, single-level world (Wario's Castle).
* ''VideoGame/BatmanArkhamAsylum''. You work your way through a single linear storyline with only one sidequest (solving the 240 Riddler riddles, which is a borderline example of a sidequest) but you are free to travel anywhere on the island and use newer gadgets in older levels to discover new secrets. The actual story takes you back through at least four previously explored locations. A MetroidVania title.
* ''VideoGame/{{Borderlands}}'' and its sequel. While fairly linear in progression of story missions, there are plenty of side quests to be completed whenever (as soon as available or even after you've beaten the main quest). And if [=DLC=]s are available, you can start their story quests immediately, even before finishing the main game!
* ''VideoGame/{{Seiklus}}''. There is a main objective but you can start doing this from any end. There are few sidequests though.
* ''VideoGame/ChronoTrigger'' and ''VideoGame/ChronoCross'' feature (multiple) worlds that you can easily explore and open up fairly quickly, with numerous optional sidequests and incentives to revisit old areas. In ''VideoGame/ChronoTrigger'', you can fight the final boss at any time starting less than halfway through the game; in ''VideoGame/ChronoCross'', you can make numerous important decisions that affect which areas you will need to navigate, which characters join your party, and how various subplots are resolved. Both games feature MultipleEndings, though without using NewGamePlus, they are implausible in ''Trigger'' and impossible in ''Cross''.
* ''1000 Amps''. Eventually you'll get to the main branching hub and you'll start to can start beating each branch of the world from there.
* The ''Franchise/RatchetAndClank'' games can reach this level depending on the game. The first and second games in the series would often open up multiple planets at once for you to explore, each with several branching paths and multiple objectives to complete, with even more routes opening up as you obtain more gadgets. ''VideoGame/RatchetAndClankUpYourArsenal'' by comparison is far more straightforward and linear and is more akin to a Level 3, as there's still a few side quests and secrets encouraging revisiting and exploring levels, but the main story doesn't emphasize it.
* ''VideoGame/RabiRibi'' is this on the surface, being a {{Metroidvania}} game where you have some freedom in which to explore areas and tackle bosses in the order of your preference, but [[AbilityRequiredToProceed many areas are inaccessible if you don't have the necessary mobility upgrades]]. However, there are secret techniques that elevate the game to level 5 on the scale, allowing you to fight a large number of bosses early or even outright skip some of them, and if you choose to do a MinimalistRun, the game will alter some areas to accomodate your lack of any upgrades whatsoever, effectively breaking the sandbox wide open, though some areas still remain non-accessible until later chapters. Many of these atypical ways to play even have their own achievements.
* Progression in all ''VideoGame/MonsterHunter'' games is regulated by the player's current Hunter Rank, but in each chapter only a few quests are required to raise it, thus leaving the (many) others for optional grinding, exploration, and overall leisure. And near the end the HR can be raised without any constraints by simply accumulating rank points.
* ''VideoGame/EtrianOdyssey IV: Legends of the Titan'' has plenty of [[MiniDungeon Caves]], only a few of which are required to progress through the campaign. The Mazes are the only explicitly-mandatory destinations, but their large size and scope allows the [[PlayerCharacter customized party]] to explore them extensively at their own pace. The other games rely on a floor-by-floor progression (there is no overworld in them except for ''The Drowned City''), but even those have various secret areas and passageways that are optional.


[[folder: Level 5 ]]

* ''VideoGame/{{ARMA}} II''. The majority of battles are not scripted, player needs to decide where to go and how to approach objectives etc.
%%* The ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAuto'' series.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyII''. Once you get the canoe you can go to any location on the planet except for [[HiddenElfVillage Deist and the Black Mask Island]] and [[DiscOneFinalDungeon Palamecia]], but be prepared for {{Beef Gate}}s to curb stomp you back onto the plot.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII2'' and ''LightningReturnsFinalFantasyXIII''. After the first couple of hours in either game, you can do what you want.
* ''VideoGame/LegendOfMana''. All of the 60 or so quests are optional but playing through them rewards you with artifacts that you choose where to place on the OverworldNotToScale to create the AdventureTowns. There are very few cues to determine [[TrialAndErrorGameplay where to go]] or [[GuideDangIt who to talk to]] to progress, leading to long sessions of wandering around the world looking for what to do next. While highly addicting due to its incredible amount of customization options and details, the lack of a strong central narrative to tie the 3 main [[StoryArc story arcs]] together was criticized.
* The ''VideoGame/DeadRising'' series
* The ''VideoGame/EscapeVelocity'' series
* The ''VideoGame/{{Fallout}}'' series is highly open, and you can go anywhere right from the start. Now, that does ''not'' mean that you'll be able to survive wherever you go; except in ''VideoGame/{{Fallout 3}}'', LevelScaling is absolutely not in effect, and [[BeefGate threat placement]] means that if you go to some locations before you're ready to handle the enemies there, you'll be gecko chow in short order. In ''VideoGame/FalloutNewVegas'', this is the main incentive keeping you from rushing to New Vegas right at the outset.
* ''VideoGame/FantasyLife''. There's a main plot that [[OpeningTheSandbox unlocks new areas bit by bit]], but you can forget about it at any point to work on your job skills, gather and craft items, or do some of the hundreds of sidequests available. [[JustForPun Also published by]] {{Creator/Level5}}.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVI'', once you hit the World of Ruin.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX2''. Technically most of the game is optional, but you'll need to do most of the side quests to be at a decent level.
* ''Franchise/MassEffect'':
** ''VideoGame/MassEffect1'', there are plenty of sidequests to keep you busy, and you can do the main missions in any order you want. Do enough main missions, and more are unlocked.
** ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'' belongs either here or further down the list. You are provided with an objective and a list of party members you can recruit to help you achieve it, some of them [[OptionalPartyMember optional]]; there are also side quests which focus on those party members' CharacterDevelopment and thus increase the likelihood of them having clear heads and steady hands once things start getting real. Of course, it also starts with a heavy-handed dose of {{Railroading}} in which you are forced to work for TheMafia just because they brought you BackFromTheDead, so, there's that.
** ''VideoGame/MassEffect3'' is even further down the list than 2, with the hub worlds being reduced to just the Citadel, and a much more compact mission structure (only 2-3 missions per world at most, as opposed to dozens in the previous games).
* ''VideoGame/GuildWars'' has a main storyline for all three campaigns, but you can freely explore most areas of the world, with the chance to explore high end areas as a low-level character...if you can survive the onslaught of level 20 mobs in between (example: the run from Northen to Southern Shiverpeaks).
* ''VideoGame/GuildWars2'': Both open world exploration and storyline are favored. {{Sidequest}}s are replaced by Events, sort of what Side Quests would be like if their backstory was actually played out [[note]]For example, you are in one of the outpost villages deciding what to do, when SUDDENLY CENTAURS, setting up an AllYourBaseAreBelongToUs situation in the village where winning or losing the defense of it can trigger a cascade of events throughout the whole world, and trigger new events or altering current ones, and so on.[[/note]] and by trait gathering, which is Side Quests without exclamation marks [[note]]For example, you coerce someone to tell you the location of an ancient tome, and when you go there and read it, you gain a trait. Or, as a warrior, you could defeat an expert knight in the main city, and he will teach you some of his techniques.[[/note]]
* ''{{Mercenaries}}''
* ''VideoGame/{{Xenoblade}}'' has a multitude of sidequests, vast open worlds and even NonCombatEXP for completing the overarching CartographySidequest, getting achievements and Colony 6 reconstruction, both of which aren't essential to the plot (yet essential for achieving HundredPercentCompletion). The 60-hour campaign is just miniscule compared to the immense amount of sidequests, and some of these sidequests even give you smaller-scale stories on the worlds of Bionis and Mechonis.
* ''VideoGame/SteambotChronicles'' has a plethora of side-quests to do, as well as various diversions to keep players entertained, such as performing music (both in a band and on street corners), dungeon exploring, arena combat, and billiards.
* The ''Franchise/BaldursGate'' series. Works very much like the ''Franchise/MassEffect'' example above.
* ''VideoGame/RomancingSaGa'' and ''VideoGame/RomancingSaGa3''.
** ''VideoGame/RomancingSaGa2'' is closer to a 6 than a 5, but still has that overarching plot.
** Blue's, Lute's, and Coon's/Riki's stories in ''VideoGame/SaGaFrontier''.
* ''VideoGame/{{Crackdown}}'' and its sequel.
* ''VideoGame/ThePrecursors''.
* ''VideoGame/{{Freelancer}}'' has a storyline which cannot be easily departed from (there are a chain of level {{cap}}s, all the gear is level-limited, and you can't [[OpeningTheSandbox Open The Sandbox]] until you complete the earlier quests), but the storyline doesn't take much time, and after that it's a true WideOpenSandbox. Of course, it's also not hard to completely max out your ride and have the entire map explored, at which point [[VictoryIsBoring it becomes hard to set compelling goals]].
* In ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyTacticsA2'' literally only 20 of 301 missions (more if you count non-mission encounters with monsters or other clans and [[BonusDungeon Brightmoon Tor]]) are main-story missions. Completing them all without ''any'' of the experience, unlocked classes, or [[ItemCrafting loot (and thus gear)]] from non-story missions is nearly impossible but even then you can easily make it with only a very small fraction of missions completed if you have a small clan.
* Remarkably, ''[[LordOfTheRings A Spy in Isengard]]'' managed to reach a high level five, maybe even a low six, with a [[ChooseYourOwnAdventure gamebook]]. You could go anywhere on the map, at your own pace and schedule, and return to locations you had previously visited if you wanted. There was an overarching quest, with a time limit, but if you didn't finish in time, that was merely a suboptimal ending, not a total defeat. Also, you could choose one of three different possible end points, although you did have to choose at the beginning. Some of the other books in the series had similar mechanics, although few would rank as high on the scale, but some, like ''Treason at Helm's Deep'', which would probably constitute a level two, were much more linear. Since your typical gamebook was a level two or three, this was a pretty impressive feat. The first book in the series, ''Night of the Nazgûl'', was also about a five technically, but since a ''lot'' of the location passages referred to the same encounter passages, it was like playing in a WideOpenSandbox where you could go anywhere, but almost everywhere was identical to at least several other locations.
* Similarly, although many ''Literature/FightingFantasy'' books were only level 1 or 2, some authors (in particular Jonathan Green and Keith Martin) managed to reach level 5 by keeping track of events with a system of codewords, reference modifiers and alphanumeric codes to keep track of events, as well as including a large number of optional encounters that give you various different ways of fighting the endgame.
* ''[[VideoGame/{{STALKER}} S.T.A.L.K.E.R.]]''. In all three games, until a few hours before the end of the game there is literally nothing stopping you from turning around and hiking all the way back to the starting area.
* The original ''VideoGame/KingsBounty'' was either a very high five or a low six. There is a time-limited quest that drives the game, and, in theory, the way to complete the quest is to go fight the enemy bosses, which you are encouraged to do in order, since they get tougher as you go. But you don't have to fight the bosses in order, or at all: a PacifistRun is possible. There are some other limitations, mind you. You start out in the first continent and cannot travel to any of the others until you find the maps, but once you find the maps to open up each continent, you can sail back and forth at will. Also, you have access to a limited number of warrants at a time, so if you go after a later boss before catching at least some of the earlier bosses, you'll have to let him go, since you won't have the legal authority to arrest him. Within those limitations, however, you have a lot of freedom to explore and do what you feel like.


[[folder: Level 6 ]]

* ''VideoGame/AnimalCrossing'': While the game does give you the initial goal of paying off the mortgage on your house, that doesn't last long, and is only the very tip of the iceberg of what there is to do in this game. (You are also in no way forced to ever pay it off.)
* ''VideoGame/DwarfFortress'', true to its nature, has no win condition, only a neverending series of lose conditions, all of which can be suspended indefinitely with relative ease. Adventure mode is even more wide open, but the lack of options that goes alongside the lack of limitations makes it more of a Level 2 in practice.
* ''Franchise/TheElderScrolls'':
** The series in general falls ''far'' on the "Openness" side of the spectrum, mostly at a level 6 with certain sequences of specific games toning it down toward level 5. All the games in the main series have main quests which you are directed toward in the early going, but as soon as the [[OpeningTheSandbox sandbox is opened]], you are perfectly free to forgo the main quest entirely to do whatever you want to do instead. This includes exploring the wide open game world, engaging in the [[SidequestSidestory Sidequest Sidestories]] (some of which are nearly as expansive as the main quests of the games), and the [[LoadsAndLoadsOfSidequests Loads and Loads]] of other side quests offered.
** In ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIIDaggerfall Daggerfall]]'', it's very easy to forgo the main quest, especially since there is a time limit respond to a plot-important [=NPC's=] letter. (If you fail to report during the time limit, you literally cannot complete the main quest but can still engage in everything else the game has to offer.) Beyond that, you are on your own to explore and seek out sidequests.
** ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIIIMorrowind Morrowind]]'':
*** ''Morrowind'' follows in the same vein. There is a lengthy and detailed main quest, and you are pointed toward it the game's very early going. However, you can skip it entirely and still play the game for hundreds of hours with everything else there is to do.
*** The expansions, ''Tribunal'' and ''Bloodmoon'', turn it down a bit to level 5. Each is far more structured and has less non-main-quest content available. Both are still far more open than typical [=RPGs=], however.
** ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIVOblivion Oblivion]]'' and ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim Skyrim]]'' take a step backwards toward level 5 as well. In each game, there are far more locations that inaccessible unless you are taking part in a related quest. ''Skyrim'' in particular does a lot of "carrot dangling" to try to get you to do the main story content. For example, while the game opens up immediately after Helgen, you have to keep playing the main quest for a little while if you want access to the powerful [[MakeMeWannaShout dragon shouts]], while some of the other quests and expansion material steer you back to the main quest. This is why about a third of those who play ''Skyrim'' do end up completing the main quest, which is high for such an open game.
* ''VideoGame/{{Elona}}'': Like ''VideoGame/DwarfFortress's'' Adventure Mode, except more pretty. You can do the main quest, but you're not forced into it, you can take as long as you like, and you can even turn it off.
* ''VideoGame/TheSims'' In Sims 3, 'story mode' alludes to often dichotomous plotlines for the initial housesholds when you start a new game, in true soap opera fashion, but there's little chance of any of these storylines proceeding without direct player intervention, and player-created families aren't included. There's no 'sandbox mode', but there are options to make the game even more open than the ostensible 'story mode' is. The earlier games are similar, although there are console versions that are somwhat more linear.
* ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'':
** While there are plenty of quests to give your character something to do, there is no overarching motivation or plot for your character beyond the eternal pursuit of loot.
** Cataclysm brings it down a notch - now there is a defined quest path through each specific zone and skipping parts of the zone is mostly impossible. But it still stays open in ''choosing'' the zone - this is only limited by character's level.
* ''VideoGame/{{Creatures}}''
* ''VideoGame/{{Spore}}'''s Space Stage. Your homeworld gives you storyline missions, but you're free to ignore all but the introduction before going off to play with your tools in the celestial sandbox. You just have to watch out for your homeworld getting destroyed by aliens, as they never defend themselves.
* ''VideoGame/VivaPinata'' (at least ''Trouble in Paradise'')
* ''VideoGame/{{Minecraft}}'' lets you do virtually ''anything'' whenever, wherever and however you want, with no plot at all. There's only one "climax" in the game, and that's reaching and fighting The Ender Dragon, which takes you to the game's credits, but even this is completely optional.[[note]]Another boss you can battle is The Wither, but this one doesn't take you to the credits.[[/note]] However, default ''Minecraft'' is not the only way you can play this game:
** Most custom Adventure maps tend towards 1 or 2 if they have an actual plot. Wool collection maps are usually 3 or 4.
** There are Survival Maps made which basically follow the basic rules of ''Minecraft'', but add some theme or twist, like being stranded on an island, or being stuck in the sky, or something along those lines. These maps tend to be anywhere from level 3 to 5.
* ''VideoGame/SimCity'' will let you build anything from a tiny mountain village to a huge metropolis, and from a dystopian wasteland to a paradise. As long as you avoid bankruptcy, the game goes on. Even if you burn the whole city to the ground.
* Most early simulation games are like that. You just get thrown into the game world with a hinted goal of "get rich". If there ''is'' a back story, it's AllThereInTheManual. This is probably the only genre that tends to go ''down'' the scale in sequels.
* ''VideoGame/EveOnline'' has player-run corporations, with all the various positions and routes for advancement that entails, and this economic system also allows for many forms of criminal activity and freelance work.
* ''VideoGame/LSDDreamEmulator'' has no plot besides the fact that it's supposedly a dream in one constant world (and it's pretty big) that changes the longer you play.
* ''VideoGame/StarControlII''. It has a main quest. But even finding out what that ''is'' has to be done via exploration, let alone completing it. You're given the rather vague goal of "destroy the Ur-Quan", which is a tall order, considering that they have thousands of ships and you have... one. No, wait; two. You have to fly around a galaxy with hundreds of star systems and look for other civilizations who might be convinced to help in the fight against the Ur-Quan.
* ''VideoGame/{{Elite}}'', its sequels, and its FanRemake ''VideoGame/{{Oolite}}'' are all prime examples, with the player being able to do almost ''anything'' they want to. The former is even the TropeCodifier for the WideOpenSandbox genre.
* ''VideoGame/GarrysMod''. Again, not so much a ''game'' as it is a way to mess around with just about everything ever made by Valve (but mostly ''VideoGame/TeamFortress2'', ''Counter-Strike'' and the ''Half-Life'' series). Many {{Machinima}} are made using this "game".
* Egosoft's ''VideoGame/{{X}}-Universe'' series started as a level 5 (''Beyond the Frontier'' gave you fairly clear indications on what to do next, and trading/building was finalized to doing the final quest), but quickly evolved into a type 6. In the later games, the player is given the choice of starting an entirely plotless game, where mission scripting is completely disabled, just so they can exploit the game's universe to their heart's content.
* The ''VideoGame/SaintsRow'' series, because there are so many diversions from the main missions.
* The Russian FPS/RPG hybrids ''Xenus'' series (In America/Western Europe, the first game is known as ''Boiling Point: Road to Hell'' and the second ''White Gold: War in Paradise''), which feature a rather open Main Quest with different ways to progress plus lots of sidequests for different factions in a [[WideOpenSandbox large, open world.]]
* ''VideoGame/YumeNikki'' technically has player objectives and an ending, but you'd never know it unless you read a [[GuideDangIt walkthrough]]. Most of the gameplay simply involves aimlessly wandering around the protagonist's DreamWorld, and soaking in all the deliciously creepy atmosphere along the way.
* ''VideoGame/{{Terraria}}''. You spawn with some basic tools and a Guide who tells you what you can build with any materials you have on hand and gives you tips on how to survive in the long term. Otherwise, it's up to you. Later patches to the game focus on boss-hunting, which bumps this game down closer to Level 5.
* ''VideoGame/SecondLife''. It's not really even a game. You can design your own objects (even importing designs from sophisticated real world 3D design tools such as Blender and Maya) you can write scripts in an actual scripting language, you can even code your own Viewer for the world. The game's content is mostly generated by the players based on a real economy. But what really puts it at the extreme end of the spectrum is that you can build your own games and/or play games built by other "players." In fact, for the first 6 or 7 years, the only actual games to play were created by users. The only sandbox more extreme than this is ''OpenSim'' which is the open source code released by ''Second Life''[='=]s creators. Its doesn't even feature the Linden's regulations.
* ''VideoGame/BurnoutParadise'' and its 2012 SpiritualSuccessor ''VideoGame/NeedForSpeedMostWanted'' (both developed by Creator/CriterionGames) are among the most nonlinear racing games ever, with multiple cars to drive in to do several events strewn across their open and well-detailed cities (Paradise City and Fairhaven, respectively). They both have a means of progress (''Paradise''[='=]s licenses and the Most Wanted list in the ''[[VideoGame/NeedForSpeed NFS]]'' game), but they have several events and collectables that will make you almost forget about them, and they can be completed in any order you please. Their multiplayer modes stretch them even further by having challenges and other unique events thrown into the mix, without taking you away from their locales to put you in waiting lobbies.
* ''VideoGame/XenobladeChroniclesX'', in comparison to its [[VideoGame/XenobladeChronicles predecessor]], has a massive planet to explore. After Chapter 3, the game allows you to go anywhere you want, the main story won't even progress until you accept the corresponding "story mission". Once players obtain the ability to fly in their skells, the entire world opens up: no place is out of reach.