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The difference between The Outer Worlds and Outer Wilds

It’s easy to confuse the two, so let’s tell them apart

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A first-person view of an alien planet from The Outer Worlds
This is The Outer Worlds, by the way.
Obsidian Entertainment/Private Division
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

The Outer Worlds is out today. The first-person, open-world, spacefaring role-playing game is one of the year’s best, and it’s easy to confuse with another first-person, open-world, spacefaring game with a very similar title, Outer Wilds, also one of the year’s best.

Every video game-focused podcast I listen to and many stories I read about The Outer Worlds and Outer Wilds are tinged with some sort of confusion, with writers and gaming personalities carefully reciting the name of each title when discussing them, double-checking that they’ve said the right thing. Each game’s respective Wikipedia entry even starts with the line “Not to be confused with [the other game name].”

It also doesn’t help that both games have some Epic Games Store exclusivity (though The Outer Worlds is available from Microsoft’s Windows Store on PC). Oh, and both games have orange logos, with capital Os that evoke moons or planets.

So, in an attempt to alleviate some of that confusion, especially as end-of-year game debates kick in — and the fact that Outer Wilds just recently came out on PlayStation 4 (PC and Xbox One versions debuted in May) — here’s a guide to telling the difference between The Outer Worlds and Outer Wilds.

The Outer Worlds

Developed by Obsidian Entertainment (Fallout: New Vegas, Alpha Protocol, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2), The Outer Worlds is a planet-hopping first-person RPG in the vein of Bethesda’s Fallout franchise. In fact, Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, the creators of the Fallout series, are the game’s directors.

In The Outer Worlds, player choice matters, and you can customize your character to suit your play style. You’re forced to make hard decisions about whom to help or betray, and you battle capitalist megacorporate interests as part of a well-written and tightly realized story. The game is not the sprawling, hundred-hour Fallout RPG of the kind Bethesda makes these days; it’s more focused.

“Obsidian has pulled off the delicate task of creating an RPG that feels big while still keeping control of the overall scope of the game itself,” we said in our review of The Outer Worlds.

Here’s what The Outer Worlds looks like (it’s much more photorealistic than Outer Wilds):

The Outer Worlds is available on PlayStation 4, Windows PC (through the Epic Games Store and Windows 10 Store), and Xbox One for $59.99. It’s also available through Xbox Game Pass.

Outer Wilds

An open-world, first-person mystery adventure about a solar system trapped in an endless time loop, Outer Wilds plays nothing like The Outer Worlds. Instead, Outer Wilds is a nonviolent game of exploration set in a 22-minute Groundhog Day-esque cycle, where an anomalous region of space resets — but changes over time — as the player explores its worlds and secrets.

Outer Wilds started out as a student project at the University of Southern California’s Interactive Media and Games Division (unlike The Outer Worlds’ development at veteran studio Obsidian, with backing from Take-Two Interactive). It was the very first game to go up on the Fig crowdfunding platform. The studio behind it is actually owned by that guy with the sword from Heroes.

“Outer Wilds is a game of intense originality, charm, and beauty,” we said in our review of the game. “It’s an escape pod to strange new experiences, where great stories are to be found, deep in the bellies of ancient worlds.”

Here’s what Outer Wilds looks like:

Outer Wilds is out on PlayStation 4, Windows PC (through the Epic Games Store), and Xbox One for $24.99. It too is available through Xbox Game Pass.

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