We all know there are RPGs that can suck up hundreds of hours of your gaming time, as anyone who's ploughed their way through the White Knight Chronicles or Final Fantasy series will testify.
However, there are plenty of open world games that are full of side missions and other activities to tempt you away from progressing the main story, and upcoming releases such as
Grand Theft Auto V and Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag look like they will be expanding this tradition even further.
We've taken a look back and hand-picked ten games that stood out for having a large number of distractions and activities to keep you busy. Have you lost yourself in any other open world games? Let us know about it in the comments...
GRAND THEFT AUTO: SAN ANDREAS (2004) The scope of San Andreas was nothing short of jaw-dropping, set in a huge area covering the three cities of Los Santos, San Fierro and Las Venturas, and on top of the 100-odd main story missions there are a whole host of activities to keep you busy. You can recruit members to your Grove Street gang and fight in turf wars with rivals, or find vans to commit break-ins and home invasions. Taxis and emergency service vehicles all open up side-jobs to complete, and by purchasing certain property assets you can become a truck driver or a quarry worker. Pool, basketball and various arcade games are all playable, but if you want to be more active you can head to the top of Mount Chiliad and take part in high paced bike races from the summit to the base.
JUST CAUSE 2 (2010) The island of Panau features 400 square miles of open world terrain to explore, and with only a handful of main story missions the main emphasis is on destroying government property and other items to increase your chaos level. As well as a wide range of weapons, you are also armed with a grappling hook that can be used to perform all sorts of attacks and stunts. There are tough strongholds that can be attacked and taken over, which opens up new sets of missions from the three main factions in the game, plus over 350 settlements to discover and complete to 100 per cent by destroying strategic items and finding collectibles. And if that wasn't enough to keep you occupied, there are still Colonels to assassinate and 75 checkpoint races across land, sea and air to beat.
RED DEAD REDEMPTION (2010) In Red Dead Redemption Rockstar created a living, breathing world that was full of activities to keep players interested as they explored the Old West. Four sets of challenges (hunting, shooting, finding treasure and collecting herbs) give you plenty of tasks to work on, and outside of these you can hunt animals for their pelts and gather herbs to sell to merchants. Employment is available as a bounty hunter, tracking down wanted criminals to bring them in dead or alive, and you can even attack hideouts to eliminate outlaw gangs. Random encounters with strangers open up interesting new side missions, and if you want to indulge in a spot of gambling then a quick trip to the saloon offers up games of Blackjack, Poker, Liar's Dice and the often painful knife trick Five Finger Fillet.
FRONTIER: ELITE II (1993) David Braben's epic space trading game doesn't have much of a plot; instead it gives you a modest ship and one hundred credits, then sets you free to do whatever you want in a vast procedurally generated universe. Trading goods (both legal and contraband) and ferrying passengers between systems is the usual starting point, but the bulletin boards in ports provide more interesting tasks such as missing person searches and even assassinations. Then there are the two military factions, The Federation and The Empire, for whom you could deliver sensitive messages, take reconnaissance photographs and performing bombing missions to increase your rank, and many hours of exploring and fighting are required to get your combat rating to the coveted "Elite" status.
YAKUZA 4 (2011) The Yakuza games are well known for the large number of distractions available to players, and this most recent main entry in the series is no different. Players are free to explore the fictional district of Kamurocho, where they can dine in over a dozen restaurants, sing karaoke and go on dates with hostesses from three different clubs. A casino offers up Roulette, Blackjack, Poker and a number of other Japanese gambling games, and a Club SEGA arcade features several playable machines. Sporting types can enjoy games of golf, bowling and table tennis, hit the batting cage and whack some baseballs or take a taxi down to the docks and indulge in a spot of fishing - where you can catch anything from prawns and goby to sharks and giant crabs!
THE ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM (2011) Away from Skyrim's main quest line that dealt with the return of the dragon threat to Tamriel, there are almost 200 dungeons, caves and ruins that can be raided for loot and cleared of enemies. Players are free to join factions that offered a variety of roles - learning magic at the College of Winterhold, committing robberies with the Thieves Guild and carrying out assassinations for the Dark Brotherhood, among others. If you want, you can simply while away your days on mundane jobs such as mining or farming, but if your aspirations are loftier you can complete heroic deeds and rise to power by becoming Thane of any of the nine main cities. If that wasn't enough, the Hearthfire DLC lets players build and furnish their own homes from scratch, and adopt children to start their own families.
SLEEPING DOGS (2012) When you not sending Wei Shen to complete story missions, there are plenty of additional activities to keep the undercover cop busy. From the police side you have drug busts and open-world events such as chasing down shoplifters and rescuing people from the trunks of cars (seriously), while Triad tasks involve collecting debts and stealing vehicles to order. After finding collectible jade statues you can attend the martial arts academy to learn new combat moves, with several martial arts clubs providing waves of enemies to try these out on. Away from the fighting you can sing karaoke in a couple of the bars, go on dates, enter street races and shop for new clothes.
ASSASSIN'S CREED III (2012) Assassin's Creed III introduced the Frontier, a huge expanse of wilderness containing various animals, both predator and prey, which could be hunted and sold for profit. The Davenport Homestead was found close by, and there you could complete missions for displaced craftspeople to help them out and recruit them as settlers. Once they'd moved into the area you could use their skills to craft new items, setting up trade routes with caravans to sell them, as well as scanning them performing different tasks in order to build up The Encyclopedia of the Common Man. Boarding your ship the Aquila allowed you to engage in naval combat on privateer missions, and by finding and returning trinkets to Peg Leg at the docks you could engage in quests to track down the legendary Captain Kidd's treasure.
FAR CRY 3 (2012) The Rook Islands setting of Far Cry 3 provides an open world playground full of activities to distract you from the main story missions. A wide variety of animals inhabit the islands, which can be hunted and their pelts either sold or used to craft new equipment. Over 30 enemy outposts could be attacked and liberated, which then unlocks Wanted Dead assassination missions where your target had to be eliminated with a machete or takedown. Supply Drops and the Island Racing League featured checkpoint races against the clock with different types of vehicles, and sharpshooting and knife throwing challenges could be bet on as well as that perennial favourite - a game of Poker with the pirates.
ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW LEAF (2013) In this latest instalment in the long-running Animal Crossing series players take on the role of Mayor for the first time, allowing more control and customisation over their towns. You can pass Ordinances to change town laws and fund Public Works Projects to build services such as a police station and a coffee shop, where you can then take a part-time job. There are over 70 different bugs to be discovered through fishing, diving and hunting as well as fossils to be dug up, all of which can be donated to the Museum to build up your collection. Away from your town, a boat can be taken to Tortimer Island where a wide selection of minigame 'tours' were playable, unlocking medals that were exchangeable for souvenirs and rare furniture items.