Which Open World Is Actually Best

Is The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom the best open world RPG, or does that honor belong to Elden Ring? In many ways, this is an “apples to oranges” comparison that can never be fully answered, since developers at Nintendo and FromSoftware had different design goals and aesthetic ideas in mind when they built their respective RPGs. Separate aspects of each game will appeal more to different kinds of players, and while both are certainly in the upper echelon of open worlds created in recent years, one still stands above the other.


The Lands Between setting of Elden Ring and the Hyrule of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom are both fantasy lands on the brink. In Elden Ring, the shattering of the titular golden rune and the vanishing of Queen Marika triggered a civil war between the Demigods, their wars destroying the Golden Order they each sought to reform. In Tears of the Kingdom, the already fragmented Hyrule is further devastated by Ganondorf’s resurrection, flooding the land with monsters and hurling ancient ruins into the sky. The charm of both games lies in their beautifully post-apocalyptic landscapes, though they have different ideas of what that beauty entails.

Related: Tears Of The Kingdom Learned A Game-Changing Lesson From Elden Ring

Tears of the Kingdom’s Open World Is Prettier & More Relaxing

Link skydiving in TOTK, with some land formations visible below.

Some players aren’t looking for a game that’s brutal, grotesque, or horrifying all the time, as Elden Ring‘s open world often is. Instead, they seek out a game with a relaxing ambiance, full of simulated light and life they can wander through and fool around in to their heart’s content. Players like these will probably prefer Tears of the Kingdom over Elden Ring, thanks to the former’s verdant world of rivers, lakes, plains, mountains, forests, and sky islands (plus the Depths for when players do want to be scared). Hyrule’s many thriving villages of friendly NPCs also make the open world in Tears of the Kingdom feel more welcoming than Elden Ring‘s omnipresent desolation.

Elden Ring’s Open World Is More Shocking & Mysterious

Elden Ring: Every Optional Boss In Liurnia

By adapting the punishing combat and exploration mechanics of Dark Souls to a non-linear sandbox game environment, FromSoftware created in Elden Ring an open world RPG where players can never take the sights they see for granted. On one hand, players who are careless will stumble into ambushes by creatively grotesque and varied enemies. On the other hand, players who look carefully and listen for audio cues will spot dangers in advance, find new gear, or identify beautiful landmarks they can travel towards. The distinct look of each region in Elden Ring, from the crystal-covered Liurnia to the Scarlet Rot-infested horror of Caelid, gives players further reasons to mind their surroundings.

Zelda: TOTK’s Traversal Systems Blow Elden Ring’s Out Of The Water

Link piloting a flying vehicle in the skies of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom

Even Breath of the Wild, the Zelda game that preceded Tears of the Kingdom, gave players more mobility options than Elden Ring did. The core form of transportation in both games was for players to mount and ride a horse across the open world (with players being able to summon a spectral steed in Elden Ring). Breath of the Wild, however, also let players ascend slopes like rock climbers and fly from high vantage points using a glider. Elden Ring, in contrast, adhered to FromSoftware RPG tradition and made both gravity and cliffs the bane of the player (unless they find a useful Spirit Spring in the open world).

Tears of the Kingdom retains all the mobility options from Breath of the Wild, then adds a plethora of new transportation methods for players through an extraordinarily versatile crafting system. Using the Ultrahand and Fuse ability on random objects and machine parts found throughout the open world, Tears of the Kingdom players can build vehicles such as cars, boats, hot air balloons, gliders, helicopters, or hoverecraft, while also equipping them with a control station and various mounted weapons. Combine these crafting mechanics with the Ascend and Recall abilities, and Tears of the Kingdom players can reach places Elden Ring players can only dream of.

Elden Ring Does A Better Job At Making Side Quests Feel Optional

Elden Ring has a questline surrounding Ranni the Witch

Both Elden Ring and Tears of the Kingdom use side quests to spice up their open world RPG experiences. As players explore the environments of the Lands Between or the realms of Hyrule, they can encounter NPCs both grand and humble who assist the player and request their help with tasks of their own. Successfully aiding these NPCs typically nets players of these games a material reward (weapon, spell, upgrade resource, and so on) and may even unlock a new story path or piece of narrative lore. Sometimes, though, the myriad side quests in these RPGs pressures players to rush through the game in an un-fun way.

Between these two open world RPGs, Elden Ring does a better job of making its side quests feel truly optional, rather than a chore players must complete. Unlike Tears of the Kingdom, players don’t have to worry about weapon durability or stocking up on copies of their favorite weapon type. Additionally, the various side-quests of Elden Ring typically rewards players with weapons and spells designed for very specific character builds. This incentivizes Elden Ring players to check out specific side quests in one playthrough, then investigate other side-quests in a different playthrough.

Elden Ring (Just Barely) Has A More Vivid Open World Than Tears Of The Kingdom

A black and white picture of Elden Ring's Tarnished kneeled holding a sword into the ground.

Generally, those who are interested in exploring a colorful, beautiful open world, want to be able to visit every location on the map, and love crafting tools with bizarre configurations should check out The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. In contrast, players who want to be kept on their toes with an open world full of wildly different environments, creatively grotesque enemies and traps, and side quests they can tackle at their own pace will probably enjoy Elden Ring more. There’s a good chance, however, that those who enjoy The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdoms open world experience will also enjoy Elden Ring’s open world for the same reasons.

The question still remains: does Elden Ring or Tears Of The Kingdom have the better open world? Discounting factors such as gameplay or world navigation mechanics, Elden Ring’s Lands Between open world barely (and just barely) beats out Tears Of The Kingdom in terms of variety and visual design. The main area of Elden Ring, both above and below ground, are more distinctive in terms of color, terrain, and creatures; additionally, FromSoftware has a great track record of arranging in-game terrain to draw player eyes toward key locations and astound them with the sudden discovery of beautiful landmarks. One can only hope that the best of both worlds is eventually created – a detailed, varied, and repeatedly breathtaking game like Elden Ring, with the manueverabiltiy and crafting of Tears of the Kingdom.

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