Best Open-World Games Set In Lost Civilizations


  • Games like
    Sunless Sea
    Assassin’s Creed Origins
    explore the concept of lost civilizations and ancient beings in unique and intriguing ways.
  • Outer Wilds
    Heaven’s Vault
    shift the narrative to focus on alien life and extinct alien species, presenting a different take on the concept.
  • Titles like
    Horizon: Zero Dawn
    Shadow of the Colossus
    delve into post-apocalyptic worlds where the downfall of modern humanity plays a central role, offering a blend of futuristic and ancient elements.

The need to constantly explore, discover, and invent is an innate human characteristic. It serves as the foundation of the past, present, and future trajectory of the world, and games that delve into lost civilizations emerge as a testament to this idea.


10 Best Games About Traveling

Sometimes, a game’s focus is on the journey itself. The following titles invoke that idea to the fullest.

The belief that there once existed other civilizations, societies, and species, that worked and lived just like modern humans before meeting their untimely end is such an expansive yet sentimental concept that offers endless avenues for fictional exploration if done right. Whether these lost civilizations are a technologically advanced alien species, an abandoned community of modern humans that brought about their own demise, or an ancient precursor of the human race wielding unimaginable magical abilities, it’s the essence of their culture and downfall that pokes at gamers’ endless curiosity.

6 Sunless Sea

Metacritic Score: 81

Sunless Sea is both the calmest and most terrifying sailing game around

Sunless Sea

February 6, 2015

Failbetter Games

Sunless Sea is centered on a fictional ‘lost civilization’ known as Fallen London. It’s based on a Victorian-era England and is heavily influenced by olden gothic elements that give it an aesthetically gritty and ancient feel. What’s particularly astounding about Sunless Sea is the fact that Fallen London, the city in question, exists on an underground plane, below the Earth’s surface, and is surrounded by a humongous ocean known as the Unterzee.


7 Roguelike Games With The Best Graphics

The Roguelike is primarily an indie genre, and rarely has graphics to write home about, but these games buck that trend with their excellent visuals.

The game’s “surface-level” setting is undeniably unique and edgy, but it’s the underlying themes of Leviathan monsters and cosmic dread that truly distinguish it from other games. As an indie RPG with roguelike elements, it tries to give the player as much freedom as a game of this type can. There are tons locations to explore on the randomly-generated map, and each location features a side quest/mission that can be completed by performing various delivery or discovery tasks out on the dangerous Zee.

5 Assassin’s Creed Origins

Metacritic Score: 81

Assassin's creed origins bayek on a camel in front of a building

Assassin’s Creed Origins

December 15, 2020

Similar to other non-open-world action franchises like Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed is a franchise that isn’t afraid to show its affinity for the days of yore. All of its installments feature different prominent periods in history, and even go as far as to showcase very detailed architecture from those times — Unity’s Notre Dame being the prime example of this. In fact, the basic premise of AC, in its entirety, is built upon “Those Who Came Before” or the “Isu” — an ancient yet highly advanced humanoid civilization with supernatural powers sealed in artifacts known as Pieces of Eden.

While all Assassin’s Creed games touch upon these advanced beings in some manner, Assassin’s Creed Origins provides a considerably detailed background into their existence and abilities. Also, being predominantly set in Ancient Egypt during the Ptolemaic period (Queen Cleopatra’s time), the game itself focuses so much on the culture, history, mythology, prominent figures, and buildings from that era that it easily ranks as one of the series’ best historical representations.

4 Outer Wilds

Metacritic Score: 85

Outer Wilds screenshot showing the Ash Twin Project

Outer Wilds

May 28, 2019

Mobius Digital


Outer Wilds sort of strays away from the conventional lost civilization concept, and completely shifts its narrative to alien life and extraterrestrial ruins. It’s a sci-fi adventure game that is not only set in outer space, but also has an alien main character known as the Hatchling. Despite being an indie game, Outer Wilds received massive acclaim from critics and was even labeled as the Game of The Year by BAFTA.

It has a very distinct gameplay style revolving around time loops and resetting. Players are given a 22-minute window in which they explore a small planet formation with a sun that’s about to go supernova. Players have to explore and survive the harsh conditions of the extraterrestrial system, and in the process, also investigate a ruined alien civilization identified as the “Nomai,” who may have discovered a way to break out of the time loop before their civilization all mysteriously perished.

3 Heaven’s Vault

Metacritic Score: 86

main character of Heaven’s Vault looking out onto mountains

  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Release Date: April 16, 2019
  • Developer: Inkle

Heaven’s Vault has a premise that’s quite similar to Outer Wilds, except that its main character is a human — a futuristic one, with a sentient robot companion accompanying her, but a human nevertheless. The lost civilization in this particular game, known as the “Ancients,” is another prehistoric alien species that has mysteriously gone extinct. The main character, Aliya Elasra, is an intergalactic archaeologist tasked with finding and bringing home a missing fellow academic and roboticist, Janniqi.


9 Best Open-World Games Where You Explore Multiple Planets

Players who love discovering new planets in games will love what these immersive open-world titles have to offer.

The game is a non-linear open-world title that follows no straightforward path. Its progress is completely up to the player’s discretion and can be completed in any order. Aliya and her robot companion, Six, traverse the Nebula moons in search of clues regarding the missing scientist. Along the way, they encounter and decipher various ancient alien puzzles and hieroglyphs — some by themselves, some with the help of other ambiguously trustworthy NPCs — to figure out more about the cryptic alien society.

2 Horizon: Zero Dawn

Metacritic Score: 89

Horizon zero dawn main character looking at monster from a cliff at sunset

Horizon: Zero Dawn

February 28, 2017

Horizon: Zero Dawn is the first installment of the hit Guerrilla Games franchise, and is an open-world action RPG that contains a handful of very futuristic sci-fi elements yet has a certain antiquity to it. The game presents a premise that showcases a hypothetical but catastrophic downfall of modern humanity thst perfectly explains its odd blend of genres. Humans are no longer the dominant race and have lost everything; the rare survivor in the new world has to start from scratch.

The world of Horizon: Zero Dawnpresents a post-apocalyptic Earth like no other; the world is overtaken by machines, and there are only a handful of primitive human survivors, divided into a handful of traditionalist tribes, that inhabit the planet. The ‘lost’ civilization in this particular game is none other than the technologically advanced humans of the modern era, aka. us. They’re referred to as the “Old Ones,” and are often depicted as an enigmatic group of people whose downfall was influenced by various factors stemming from the development of robotics and AI — each tracing back to human errors.

1 Shadow Of The Colossus

Metacritic Score: 91

Wander about to engage a Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus

October 18, 2005


The idea behind featuring lost civilizations and dead societies in games stems from the mystery and strangeness surrounding them. The act of linearly going through multiple steps and gradually uncovering entire stories, histories, cultures, and the demise of these societies gives players a profound sense of fulfillment and maybe even nostalgia. Shadow of the Colossus takes this concept a step further, deliberately offering little to no background story to its predominantly desolate landscape — a land that holds the ruins of a dead nation for as far as the eye can see — prompting its players’ curiosity at every turn.

The Forbidden Lands hold large structures of, what could be considered, remains of a once-thriving culture. The core focus of these lands is the massive temple known as the “Shrine of Worship,” guarded by sixteen gigantic humanoid creatures called the colossi. The protagonist of Shadow of the Colossus, Wander, traverses through these ruins, hunting down said colossi in an effort to save the life of someone he loves.


10 Best Open-World Games Set In Utopias

For players looking for a more perfect society to play in, these games fit the bill.