6. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
This game is spooky, and we all know it. Whether you’ve played the game or not, you’re more than likely aware of how big of an effect this game has had on both survival horror games and the industry in general. I believe that while Amnesia has an excellent atmosphere, the real crux of its horrific nature comes from exploration.
Discovery is a key component of exploration, and the horrors you’ll unearth while delving through the castle are, well, horrific. These almost became too much to bear in my opinion, but my need to explore more of this world made me press on. The progression of discovery is almost unbelievable, as it starts out like a typical ghost story in a castle then ends up being more of something from an H.P. Lovecraft book.
What could be a better embodiment of exploration? The whole game is about you learning how Rapture became the living hell-hole it is when you arrive, and exploration is the key component of that. We all know that Bioshock falls off hard toward the end of the game, and I think that comes down to exploration as well.
For most of the game you’re discovering Rapture. Then after a big revelation, you suddenly have seen everything there is to offer in the game world and it turns into a stock action-FPS. I think that this falling off point for the quality of the game reflects strongly on just how important discovery was to Bioshock and Rapture. The exploration of this game world is incredibly rewarding and is a classic example of how important world-building is.
8. Prince of Persia
The 2008 iteration of this storied franchise is controversial to say the least. It was a major reboot of the series and the protagonist was no longer even a real prince, so you could imagine why people were upset. While their complaints may have been justified in the changes they made to the series, there’s no doubting how incredible the world was to explore.
Not only was the world gorgeous enough to warrant exploration, there was an active reason to explore the acrobatic world of Prince of Persia. The light seeds gave you a reason to explore the environment, so if you like to explore and be rewarded, this game does exactly that.
9. The Legend of Zelda
While modern iterations have tried to capture the wonder of exploration found in the original Legend of Zelda, none can compete with the original. The later Zeldas followed a near concrete progression system. Unlock access to dungeon, acquire weapon within dungeon, use weapon to beat dungeon, repeat. Not only that but they require you to do that in a very specific order.
The original didn’t give you any direction of any kind. You get a sword and are sent off into the world to explore and eventually save the princess by getting the three magical triangles. This means that the player is then forced to explore and find out what lies in wait by themselves, without anyone telling them to. If you have a natural urge to explore, you’ll need it in this game.
This series practically created a genre that almost every gamer is familiar with. When deciding on which Metroid game I wanted to include in this list, it took a lot of deliberation but I ended up with the original, although what I’m saying about it will apply to every game in the series.
In Metroid, you progress through the world based on what equipment and upgrades you have access to. How do you get those upgrades? You guessed it, exploring. This allows the player to try new things and discover the world on their own terms while progressing through the game. If that isn’t a formula that any explorer would love then I don’t know what the world has come to.