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Change YoY: =   My Rating: 9.2 / 10

Proof positive that open world games don't have to be obscenely massive to be great or memorable. Yakuza 0 presented the player with a much more compact open world compared to most other modern games in the genre, and then simply filled its concise and intricately designed world with a wide variety of different engaging things to do, from absolutely ridiculous side quests to activities that have no reason to be as deep or elaborate as they are. And yet they are, and the game is all the better for it. It also features two protagonists, who have impressively different gameplay styles, both having their own fighting styles and side quests. Both characters also have their own side business they can run, Kiryu with his real estate company, and Majima running a cabaret club.

Yakuza 0 balances the ridiculous with the serious amazingly well, as the player might go from a life and death battle with a yakuza boss to a side quest about teaching a dominatrix how to be better at her job. It's quite the balancing act, and the game somehow pulls it off near perfectly. It's this strange mix of tones that have no problem jumping from one extreme to another seemingly on a moment's notice that gives the game its unique charm and style. There's just nothing else quite like this series, and I would take Yakuza 0's well-designed, compact world over most of the massive and repetitive open worlds filled with hundreds of indistinct markers denoting another pointless collectible which have crowded much of the video game industry for the last decade and a half. Some do it well, and there are a few examples of that coming up on my list as well, but as Yakuza 0 shows, the constant rush by certain developers to create increasingly massive worlds for their otherwise bland settings isn't the only way to do open world games well.