It says a lot about what gamers want that one of the most popular genres around is open-world; a broad category within which many games can have almost nothing in common, yet are bound by the fact that they give us the freedom to spin around, pick a random direction to walk in, and find some kind of adventure wherever we go. Considering that the whole open-world style of games have been around for some time now, you'd think that heading into 2016 we'd be a bit less excitable by the idea of exploring more sandboxes. But while ordinary game genres evolve slowly over time through updated mechanics and the occasional new gameplay gimmick, open-worlds are seemingly hyper-expanding - getting bigger and more richly-detailed at a meteoric rate. Today, open-world cities are brimming with life, adeptly capturing the spirit of whatever era they're set in, free-form galaxies are filled with thousands of stars to explore, and developers have more freedom than ever to realise strange, new visions that we'd never have thought possible several years ago. Here is the wave of open-world games that will shape 2016.
10. Sea Of Thieves (PC, XBO)Once-great developer Rare has really lived up to its name since the turn of the millennium, having hardly released a game since its N64 glory days, and having been reduced by Microsoft to making Kinect games (presumably at gunpoint) in recent years. Sea of Thieves could be Rare's triumphant return to the gaming mainstream; a pirate-themed seafaring adventure that you play cooperatively online with a crew of buddies. The teasing footage we've seen so far doesn't reveal too much, except that the game will involve plenty of island-hopping, naval battles and treasure-hunting. It has a vibrant, colourful visual style that says to us "wholesome fun for the whole family", and looks set to tap into the pirate fantasies in all of us that have been explored all too rarely in games. With so little revealed, it's hard to tell whether this will be a hit, or indeed whether Rare still have their mojo after all this time. But the idea of a causing piratical mayhem in the caribbean with your hearty band of mateys is something Black Flag totally nailed in 2013.