12 open world “free roaming” video games for the PC. This is my list of very large 3D game worlds which allow the player to roam freely. As these are PC games, you can and should mod them if possible. Fallout 3, Morrowind, and S.t.a.l.k.e.r. have been especially heavily modded and bug-stomped by (quite literally) armies of fans.
The Hunter (Online; Superb photorealistic hunting sim. Very much a calm ‘Zen’ game.)
Fuel (PC; Off-road racing, road-trips. Fun to try, but not great.)
Fallout 3 (PC; Post-apocalyptic role-playing. Vast, superb quality – but the setting is a bit depressing)
Oblivion – Game of the Year Edition (PC. One of the top five games for the PC, ever. Skyrim will the next installment, in 2011)
Burnout Paradise (PC; City street-racing. Good reviews.)
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PC. Awesome reviews, but rather grim in tone.)
Just Cause (PC. Just Cause 2 is even more fun, but gave me strong motion-sickness.)
Test Drive Unlimited (PC).
Crazy Taxi – Reloaded (PC. Apparently an offshoot from Grand Theft Auto.)
Grand Theft Auto IV (PC).
Other open world / free-ranging AAA videogames of minor note, because of poor reviews, are: Far Cry 2 and Spider-Man 2. The well-reviewed pioneer Outcast (2000) is limited to a tiny 640 x 480 view-port today, so is probably one to run on your Windows netbook. Forthcoming big-budget PC releases Assassin’s Creed II and The Saboteur promise to be the most worthwhile free-roaming game worlds of 2010. Further out, we can expect good things of Risen and Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.