The latest non-sadistic open world game is here in the form of Horizon Forbidden West, and with it comes a huge batch of side quests. With 28 full-fledged quests along with 20 more “errands,” not to mention all of the collectibles, dungeons, puzzles and combat challenges, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of “stuff” to do. While we definitely recommend you do all the Tallneck and Cauldron missions, easily the most fun with the best rewards, a lot of the other optional objectives can be pretty hit or miss. That’s why we played through all of Horizon Forbidden West’s side quests so you don’t have to, listing the 10 best side quests the game has to offer in order of their recommended levels.
Recommended level: 15
This quest isn’t that involved, but we selected it because it’s one of the only times you make a choice that has a direct impact on the story. You unlock this quest after doing a series of quests where you get to know two competing members of the Tenakth tribe, Drakka and Yarra. Drakka is a passionate fighter who distrusts his tribe’s commander, Yarra, as she hides the fact that her tribe is running out of water and refuses to ask for help. Drakka challenges Yarra to a battle, gathering support from other people dissatisfied with Yarra’s leadership.
When you meet up with them, you are forced to choose which side to support, which becomes the death of the opposing side. Neither of the two are clearly good or evil and the reward at the end is the same, so the only deciding factor is who you like better. Having the other character die because of your choice adds some personal flavor to the mission, and you’ll get one final errand with the survivor as they contend with their continued or new leadership.
Recommended level: 15
Although climbing up and along ledges was common in Horizon Zero Dawn and just about every other modern first-party PlayStation title, Forbidden West incorporates it a lot more thoughtfully, encouraging the player to plan how they navigate through tricky segments instead of blindly pushing the analog stick in a direction while they watch the character make impossible jumps.
This is evident in a few quests in particular, especially “The Roots That Bind,” where Aloy helps out a small village that’s been under attack from Tenakth raiders. The quest has you navigate a cave where progress isn’t immediately obvious, which makes the feeling of finally reaching the top more satisfying.
Recommended level: 16
One of Forbidden West’s longer quests, “Signal Spike” has Aloy meet up with a similarly curious tinkerer named Silga, who finds a broadcast message from the Old Ones (humans before the apocalypse that caused humanity to reset) that’s too garbled to decipher. Thus, you have to go to three high-up points in order to triangulate the message’s origin. The quest has you travel around quite a bit and climb to some of the game’s tallest points, which gives a good excuse to see some of the game’s most impressive vistas and then glide down from them with the Shieldwing Glider.
Recommended level: 18
Another quest where there’s a lot of climbing, this one has you chase after a scrawny Tenakth member who attempts a brutal climb as part of a ritual after years of being viewed as inferior due to his stature. The set-up is similar to Aloy’s origins in Zero Dawn, where she is viewed as an outcast and has to prove herself through a deadly trial. Helping out someone in a position similar to Aloy’s in the original game reminds her of her roots, and the quick bond between the two is just really sweet.
Recommended level: 20
This one isn’t too involved but also provides a sad but sweet storyline. After meeting someone who said her father attacked her out of a fit of madness, Aloy tracks him down and finds him seeking out a group of rebels. She follows him to the location and finds that the rebel group had actually attacked decades ago, killing many of his friends, and that in his old age the man is having flashbacks to the event. Aloy helps ground him in the present and reunite him with his daughter, who vows to take care of him in his old age. It’s a bittersweet story that touches on the effects of dementia and PTSD in a caring way.
Recommended level: 24
This quest features more time with Morlund, one of the main story’s funniest and most charming new characters who helps Aloy find a way to breathe underwater. It also has you go back to the underwater city of ancient Las Vegas, one of the game’s most beautiful locations, and fly in a hot-air balloon. What more could you want?!
Recommended level: 25
Some of Forbidden West’s most important side quests are the ones that feature three of the members who join you in the mountain base and tag along during the main quests, of which this is the first. This one features Zo, a member of the peaceful, vegetarian Utaru, as she and Aloy attempt to find a way to stop the famine that is killing her people by repairing the land-gods, peaceful machines that tend to the Utarus’ crops. The quest also spans multiple locations and offers more opportunities to learn about Zo and her tribe.
Recommended level: 28
Unlike a lot of the other side quests we’ve selected, this one isn’t too heavy on story, but offers some of the most challenging battles along with additional detail about the game’s villains and where the final conflict will take place. It also offers a chance to fight against some of the Specters, advanced machines that rarely appear in missions outside the main story.
Recommended level: 30
The second of the three “side character missions,” this one follows Alva, who comes from the Quen, a tribe that traveled to the Forbidden West from Asia and has gained knowledge about the Old Ones through use of less advanced Focuses. Alva is my favorite of the new main characters thanks to her bubbly personality and intense interest in the Old Ones, and this mission offers more opportunities to let her personality shine while offering more information about that era, which is usually reserved for main story quests.
Recommended level: 30
The final of the missions focusing on Aloy’s allies, this one focuses on the Tenakth warrior Kotallo as he searches through technology left by the old ones in order to make a prosthetic arm to replace his missing one. The mission has you go back to one of the Old Ones sites first explored in a story mission, which is just a really cool and well-designed place I was happy to see again. It also provides some positive disabled representation and adds more depth to a character I was initially lukewarm on during his main story mission.
Joseph Stanichar is a freelance writer who specializes in videogames and pop culture. He’s written for publications such as Game Informer, Twinfinite and Looper. He’s on Twitter @JosephStanichar.