The term “sandbox game” is used to describe any game that has a large open world with endless possibilities for interaction and exploration. While all sandbox games are open-world, not every open-world game is a sandbox. A true sandbox has no clearly defined endpoint or objective and the player decides what they want to do.
What a good sandbox game will do is provide you with countless tools that you can use to interact with and change the environment around you. Crafting upgrades, exploring new locations, improving your player character, creating new structures- these are just some of the things you can do. Some sandbox games are based around building cities and factories while others are about space exploration and colonization.
No matter your preferences, this list is sure to contain some excellent sandbox games that will keep you engaged for several months on end. Here are the top 40 sandbox games of all time (PC, PS, Android, Xbox). Without further ado, let’s begin.
Top 10 Sandbox Games Of All Time For PC
This game can be a fun and relaxing activity, or a full-time job. It all depends on how you choose to play. Basically, you have a gigantic space-sim with its own economy and political system.
A persistent world means that events will continue to unfold even after your character logs off. Eve Online is famous for its unscripted coalition and war systems in which thousands of players fight PvP battles against each other. Eve Online also holds the record for the largest PvP battle ever in gaming.
Tired of people running around like caffeinated mole rats in call of duty, 360 noscoping you from across the map? Check out Arma 3, it’s like Battlefield but with a lot more focus on realism and tactics. In Arma, you can’t play as a lone wolf.
Communications and strategy are just as important as aim and reflexes. You have an endlessly customizable arsenal of small arms to play with on massive battlefields filled with all kinds of vehicles. Not to mention the massive library of user-created content in the form of mods that significantly change how the game plays.
if you are interested to check out more all-time best games from different genres, check out my other post Top 30 RTS Games Of All Time That You Must Play
Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord
An action role-playing military sim in which you form your own army and siege castles. If you like realistic depictions of battle and historically accurate representations of ancient factions, you’ll love this game. The setting is during the Migration Period.
This is a time during which the Western Roman Empire was invaded by outsider factions (comprised of Huns, Goths, Franks, etc.). Their migration and invasion played a key role in the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The game lets you choose from several factions, each of these factions has several clans with unique weaponry and culture.
The Sims 4
Being the latest Sims game, this one should need no introduction. There is no well-defined goal or objective to progress towards, although you are expected to interact with everything and everyone around you. Characters have a new personality system with the ability to show emotions.
And since it’s an EA game, there are at least two dozen DLCs and expansion packs that add new content in the form of locations and mechanics. In the Sims, you experience life- interacting with friends and family, going out for dates, building houses, buying vehicles, etc.
You can also shift from one neighborhood to another, choose careers, and customize everything about your Sim. In the game, your Sim goes through 7 life stages- baby, toddler, child, teenager, young adult, adult, and elder.
One of the first true sandbox games, Garry’s Mod was initially released in 2006. The game was created by Garry Newman and is based on a mod for Valve’s Source engine. Players and developers create freely available mods for this game that can be downloaded from the Steam workshop.
The entire game revolves around manipulating objects in your environment, and all of this is possible thanks to a solid physics engine. You can design your own characters and props to interact with. Individual parts of each limb can be manipulated, and you can add your own scripts written in Lua to create events within the game.
if you are interested to check out more all-time best games from different genres, check out my other post Top 30 Platformer Games Of All Time That You Must Play
Dyson Sphere Program
Go on a journey in space as you build your very own industrial empire with strategic planning and resource management. Dyson Sphere is one of the biggest indie hits of 2021, and it’s a truly amazing experience. You start out as a small independent shop and expand into a galaxy-spanning conglomerate of companies.
The game depicts humanity as an extremely advanced spacefaring civilization. We have constructed giant energy-harvesting megastructures that orbit around stars to harness their energy. Procedural environment generation makes sure that each playthrough is different.
It’s an urban planning simulator in which you build your very own city from scratch. But it’s not as simple as designing buildings and placing a build order only to wait till they get completed. You have to consider things like pollution, taxation, economy, etc. since the city you build is a living, breathing place inhabited by people.
In a way, your character combines 3 major roles into one- mayor, construction contractor, and police commissioner. You have to pay close attention to how you allocate space to avoid traffic congestion. If you don’t build police stations and fire departments, crime and accident rates will skyrocket causing citizens to leave.
What originally started as a crowdfunded indie title has become one of the most enjoyable experiences in all of gaming. In Factorio you don’t have a rulebook or set goal. You are a master engineer on an alien planet with one job- harvesting resources and building your own network of factories.
There is so much content apart from the main storyline in which you must construct a rocket to get off the planet. You have to explore the planet and its various biomes while defending yourself from the local wildlife. Starting out with basic hand tools, you eventually upgrade to fully automated facilities that can build tanks and turrets.
if you are interested to check out more all-time best games from different genres, check out my other post Top 40 Stealth Games Of All Time (PS, Xbox, PC, Switch)
If you like tinkering with random stuff and creating your own contraptions, this game is perfect for you. It’s a multiplayer building sandbox in which you engineer your very own machines. From vehicles to weapons and houses, there are infinite possibilities.
Once you build something, you can share the blueprint online for others to use. You can even team up with your friends and build stuff together. At the start, you crash land in uncharted territory, with only a small craft bot at your side.
Eventually, you collect materials by exploring the land and creating more powerful tools. These tools help you create bigger and more advanced machines. You will be attacked by hostile robots of various kinds as you explore different parts of the map.
The ultimate Viking survival simulator. You play as a Norse warrior slain in battle, put into a world where you’ll be tested to see if you’re fit for Valhalla. In Valheim you will start from nothing, and build your strengths so you can fight the various evil forces that plague this world.
Logging, crafting clothes and weapons, building houses, sieging enemy settlements- you will do all of this and more. Within Valheim there are various biomes, each with its own environmental hazards and unique resources/ enemies. There is a skill tree that teaches you new techniques and improves existing ones.
Top 10 Sandbox Games Of All Time For PS (Playstation)
Horizon Zero Dawn
On the surface, it seems like another Sony open-world 3rd person action-adventure game. You have a woman with a bow and arrow exploring an alien world populated by giant machine creatures to unravel the mysteries of her past. There are basic stealth mechanics, collectibles, crafting systems, and various skills to learn.
However, once you dive a bit deeper Horizon Zero Dawn starts showing its true genius. From the minute details to the incredible soundtrack and visuals, everything in this game is crafted to perfection. You can hunt down the mechanical creatures roaming this planet with traps or direct combat, and use their parts to craft tools for your survival.
if you are interested to check out more all-time best games from different genres, check out my other post Top 40 JRPG Games Of All Time (PC, PS, PSP, Switch)
The Forest combines two of my favorite genres- survival, and horror into one exceptionally crafted sandbox game. You are the sole survivor of a plane crash, awakening on an uninhabited island out in the middle of nowhere. You need to get off this place, so you start looking for materials to craft tools.
However, you soon find out that you’re not alone on the island. Unfortunately for you, it’s populated with a group of cannibals who have never made contact with the civilized world. They have their own barbaric culture and are on the hunt for you.
The Long Dark
Unlike some other survival games in which you’re fighting zombies or robots, this one is just you against a hostile environment. And sometimes, just existing in a world like this is enough of a struggle to keep you engaged. In The Long Dark, a global geomagnetic accident has brought a new ice age.
And your goal is just to survive. This is a single-player adventure with a storyline and various supporting characters, but you’ll often find yourself roaming around in the world following no particular objective. As you venture deeper into the frozen landscape that used to be a town, you’ll feel increasingly isolated with dwindling resources and no hope in sight.
It’s a virtual Lego sandbox that’s procedurally generated. You can build anything your heart desires, while also customizing the looks of your player character and doing cool stunts with vehicles. There is so much more you can do in this game, that listing them all would require an entire article.
From snow-covered mountains to urban cityscapes, the game world has everything. You can participate in various events like motorsports, treasure hunting, crafting, etc. There are hidden treasures to unlock and blueprints that you can use to rapidly create structures/ vehicles.
ARK: Survival Evolved
It’s a game in which you can hunt, capture, tame, and breed dinosaurs. You can even ride a velociraptor into battle while wielding an automatic rifle that you crafted yourself on a workbench. The possibilities are endless, and sometimes you will run into other players looking to steal your stuff.
There is base building, resource gathering, taming of animals, etc. You can even join tribes to be part of a community and gain access to their resources/ protection. Both PvP and PvE modes exist, along with a ton of expansion packs and community-created mods.
It’s like No Man’s Sky mixed with Factorio. You explore the vast expanse of space, travel to new galaxies, and visit different planets. Each planet has its own unique habitat and wildlife, along with special resources that you can mine.
There is no set goal, you just colonize whichever planet you want and build all sorts of structures. Each planet has a set of challenges that you can complete. You also get a terrain tool that lets you reshape the landscape into whatever you want it to be.
Ever wanted a game where you could roleplay as a barbarian? Well, you can do just that in Conan Exiles. Starting out with nothing but sticks and rocks, you build your way up to commanding massive armies and having your very own fortress. This game doesn’t shy away from the reality of barbarian history, going so far as allowing players to capture slaves from defeated enemy lands.
You can bring these slaves back to your home base and put them to work on water wheels. And the crafting system is just amazing. Say you want to make a sword. First, you will have to mine the metal ore.
Then, you need to construct a forge that can melt this ore and shape it into a weapon. You even have a workbench where you can craft small tools and accessories.
Combat is sometimes janky and enemy AI can be dumb. But if you overlook those issues this game is extremely interesting from beginning to end.
Originally released on Windows and macOS, this sandbox multiplayer survival eventually found its way onto consoles. Rust started out as a DayZ clone, which itself was an Arma mod. It’s a sandbox survival with deep crafting systems and a variety of hostile creatures native to each environment.
You start out naked with no tools and eventually scrounge together enough materials to build basic stuff. It’s tough to survive in the open all by yourself, so joining a clan or building a base is highly recommended. Hunger, heat, dehydration, and carnivorous creatures are just some of the threats you must fight against.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
With Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the game went down a completely different path from its predecessors. It went from an open-world stealth sim to a pseudo-action RPG with crafting and base building. Now with Valhalla, you’re thrust into the harsh and action-packed world of Viking warriors.
You get on a rowboat packed with your fellow Viking buddies and lay waste to any rival who threatens your land. Or any place that has treasures you can plunder and people to enslave. You also get a raven companion animal who acts as a drone, providing you with information.
This is a game about everything or nothing in particular. You can become anything, play as everything. From dust mites to giant whales, there are millions of playable creatures and objects in the universe for you to become.
You can take over a shoe and walk around a house, or become a cow and roam the skies. There is nothing stopping you from interacting with and becoming literally anything you want in this game. Background narration is provided by Alan Watts, accompanied by an incredible soundtrack that fills your ears as you explore one world after another.
Top 10 Sandbox Games Of All Time For Android
Minecraft is the most sold game ever, beating out juggernauts such as GTA V and Tetris. While you can play it on just about any platform, the core gameplay doesn’t change much on mobile. It’s the original sandbox game, allowing players to craft anything their creative minds can come up with.
You can modify game rules, team up with other players in survival mode, or fight rival clans. You can even set up your own city or live your life as a rancher on a farm. The possibilities are endless, Minecraft provides you with building blocks and you decide what to do with them.
If we talk popularity, few other games match up to Roblox. Despite being an indie project developed in 2004, Roblox has been played by half of all children under the age of 16 in the United States. It reportedly had over 160 million unique players in 2020, and that number doesn’t seem to decline anytime soon thanks to the constant influx of user-generated content.
Originally, the game started out as a virtual platform for developers to post their own game projects written in Lua. Basically, a game inside which you could write and post your very own game. Eventually, it grew into a massive open-world sandbox filled with extremely diverse activities and events.
It’s like a 2D Minecraft clone with its own unique take on a sandbox world. Terraria features all the mechanics you expect from a standard sandbox- exploration, mining, crafting, building, etc. But its unique 2D sprite-based graphics inspired by SNES-era games make it stand out from the rest of the crowd.
Just like Minecraft, the world of Terraria is procedurally generated so in theory there’s no endpoint. You will face off against various hostile NPC creatures and craft your way from basic tools to advanced weaponry. There are friendly NPCs in the game world who provide you with valuable services, you can ally with these NPCs by defeating certain bosses.
It’s like City Skylines, but for a mobile gamer. In Pocket City you plan and design your very own urban utopia complete with skyscrapers and highways. Mismanage your development, and you could ruin the city’s economy or increase crime.
You must manage the placement of manufacturing facilities to ensure that they aren’t too close to housing projects, while also constructing emergency services to battle crime. Pocket City has no microtransactions which is extremely rare for a mobile game with this much depth and replayability. Every new building or location is unlocked via gameplay.
Much like WorldBox, this game lets you play God as you create and destroy worlds on a whim. You start out with just 2 humans- a man and a woman (like Adam and Eve). From these 2, the entire human race is spawned.
You watch your civilization advance from the stone age to the information age. Countless wars are waged, innovations made, and civilizations toppled overnight. You can reshape the terrain in real-time to affect how groups of people travel around the world, which will change the course of history.
If you ever wanted to create your very own amusement park and design outlandish rides, this is the perfect game for you. You can start from scratch with a barren plot of land, or manage an old park with outdated equipment that is failing to bring in profits. The goal is to draw more customers and provide everyone with a happy time while also making sure that your rides don’t blow up.
Managing your resources is crucial to succeeding in Rollercoaster Tycoon since you will lose money on bad investments. You can install new food trucks, side activities, rides, and decorative equipment. While designing a new ride, you don’t want it to be too aggressive as it cause your customers to become sick or scared.
In this game, you create your very own world and populate it things- both living and non-living. Depending on how you plan out your approach, civilizations of various kinds will grow and perish in front of your eyes. If you want, you can destroy parts of the world as you please or add new stuff along the way.
You have 4 main races in the game, all of them are programmed to create their own kingdoms. The leaders of these kingdoms have different personalities and will act accordingly. You can choose which group you want to help, and even create natural disasters with the press of a button.
A story-driven open-world RPG in which you craft weaponry, tame wild beasts, and build up your forces to defeat an evil supervillain. Crashlands has an art style that is funky and creative with bright colors and character designs that look like they belong in a wacky children’s cartoon. The narrative is witty and tongue in cheek, with just the right ratio of humor and sarcasm.
You start out as a humble trucker who gets abducted by an evil alien overlord and trapped in a different world. As you try to retrieve your cargo you learn various skills from the native population, while crafting tools and weapons to defeat this alien villain. You gradually unlock new parts of the map as your character gets progressively more powerful, and you can even build your own base.
The Escapists 2
Imagine if the TV series Prison Break was turned into a top-down strategy game with cartoonish 2D graphics. That’s The Escapists 2 in a nutshell- you carefully scheme your way to break out of prison. Each day you blend in with the rest of your inmates doing regular prisoner stuff.
But on the inside, you’re coming up with plans to break through the security. You craft makeshift escape tools and set up traps/ decoys to bait guards. Every time you arouse suspicion or get caught, you are placed in solitary confinement, and your window of escape narrows.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
A timeless classic remade for the mobile platform. San Andreas was a pioneering achievement in the realm of open-world game design when it first launched. It introduced a massive city based on a mix of Los Angeles and San Francisco, with unique zones that each had its own subculture and gangs.
In San Andreas, you play as CJ. He is a former gangster who returns to the city after his mother’s death, only to find himself caught in a war between rival gangs and corrupt police officials. Shooting, driving, character customization, side activities, destruction- things we take for granted in open-world games these days were popularized by games like San Andreas.
Top 10 Sandbox Games Of All Time For Xbox
Grand Theft Auto Online
Well, it’s literally one of the most profitable entertainment products in mankind’s history. Rockstar has probably made enough money selling cosmetics and in-game currency in GTA Online to buy off the entirety of Zimbabwe. And people love this game because it’s one of the most entertaining sandbox games ever.
You have people roleplaying in all sorts of ways. Organizing in-game charity fests, racing events, vaccination drives, gang wars, and much more. GTA Online is always evolving, with players finding out new and creative ways to blow stuff up or do stunts in extremely expensive vehicles.
No Man’s Sky
What started out as an example of overhyping and failing to deliver on promised features has now turned into the best redemption story in all of gaming. No Man’s Sky used to be boring and empty, but now it’s teeming with activities and content. You can explore an endlessly expanding procedurally generated universe filled with hundreds of galaxies, each containing its own star systems and unique planets.
Each planet has resources you can mine and dozens of biomes that are as different from each other as they are beautiful. You’ll even find unique flora and fauna on each planet, which you can hunt or tame. Multiplayer lets you compete with other players to see who can explore and colonize the most planets across the universe.
Imagine a virtual 1:1 copy of the Milky Way galaxy. Now, put yourself inside this simulation with thousands of other players, participating in a persistent open-world with events that can be changed on the basis of your actions. That’s Elite Dangerous, a space MMO in which you pilot your very own ship.
You start out as a lone wolf with little money and a tiny spacecraft. Over time, you increase your bank balance and reputation by doing various quests that include assassinations, mining, piracy, etc. You can use the money to upgrade and customize your personal spaceship to your heart’s content.
The Witcher 3
One of the most immersive open-world action RPGs ever made, the Witcher 3 is one of those games whose legacy will live on forever. It is praised by pretty much every gamer, and all that praise doesn’t feel one bit undeserved. Yes, the combat system can feel clunky and unintuitive.
However, the core of the game lies in its massively diverse open world and rich storytelling. Every single quest is crafted with love, and you actually care about what happens to the side characters. Your actions throughout the game affect the type of ending you get, and there are free expansions that each provide more content than full AAA games.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Probably Rockstar’s greatest achievement to date. While GTA Online is raking in the money, Red Dead Redemption 2 will forever be remembered as an artistic masterpiece. On a technical level, few games can hope to match the attention to detail showcased in this cowboy action simulator.
Its story is set before the events of the original Red Dead Redemption, with most of the events taking place in the year 1899. You play as Arthur Morgan, an outlaw riding with the Van Der Linde gang. From exceptionally well-written dialogue to memorable soundtracks Red Dead Redemption is a testament to the fact that video games can indeed be art.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
This game was released back in 2011 and it seems like it isn’t going out of popularity anytime soon. There are probably more versions of Skyrim at this point than there are FIFA games. And that’s saying a lot, considering the fact that EA sells us the same game every year with a new coat of paint.
Skyrim has tons of mods and community-created expansions that keep the game fresh and interesting for both old and new players. If you want an excellent action RPG with a vast open-world set in high fantasy, few games beat Skyrim. You have a wide variety of races and classes to choose from, plus the combat system feels very intuitive and enjoyable.
Kerbal Space Program
Imagine running your very own space program like NASA or SpaceX. Except, you play as a race of tiny green alien creatures called Kerbals. The game lets you plan, design, test, and manufacture your very own spacecraft.
In addition to spacecraft, you can also make rockets, rovers, airplanes, and much more. It has an extremely realistic orbital physics engine that allows players to do real-life orbital maneuvers. Some aspects of this game are so accurate to real life that orgs such as NASA and the European Space Agency have invested in it.
Just Cause 3
I’ll be honest here; you are likely to spend more time goofing around and playing with gadgets in this game than completing the main story. In Just Cause 3 you play Rico Rodriguez, a character who wouldn’t seem out of place in an over-the-top 80s action movie. He is a one-man army, capable of taking down entire platoons of soldiers and armored vehicles with nothing but his guts and combat skills.
The story is about overthrowing a barbaric dictator who rules over a fictional Mediterranean island. You get a wingsuit, grapple hook, and parachute. Combine these 3 items with a jetpack, and you’ll basically fly around the island like ironman while gunning down dozens of interchangeable bad guys.
Don’t Starve Together
The original Don’t Starve was a masterpiece in wilderness survival, and Don’t Starve Together builds upon that foundation by introducing multiplayer. Now, you can explore the vast and scary world of Don’t Starve with your friends. The unique art style makes this game look like hand-drawn 2D animation.
And it has an amazing soundtrack that builds up a sense of adventure and tension at the same time. The world is procedurally generated, and you can do everything from hunting to crafting. There are caves, islands, grassy plains, a hellish underworld, and several other unique biomes- each with its own hazardous wildlife.
Fallout 4 was criticized by many for veering away from the more open-ended nature of previous Fallout titles in exchange for a linear watered-down role-playing experience. It was buggy on launch (like every Fallout game ever) and wasn’t exactly a good-looking game, even by 2015 standards.
What Fallout 4 sacrificed in terms of role-playing, it made up for with new features. Like the building system that lets you create your own settlements and break down structures to gather raw materials. The character progression and stats system has been simplified compared to previous Fallout titles, but fit perfectly into an action-oriented shooter like Fallout 4.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of every good sandbox game out there, but it sure is representative of the best ones for each platform. Games on this list were chosen on the basis of their design and popularity. I’ve included something for everyone.
Some of these games are indie titles (Factorio), others are big-budget AAA (Horizon Zero Dawn) blockbusters. Some are survival simulators while others are more like grand theft auto. Whether you want to goof around with jetpacks and parachutes on an island or start your own civilization in space, you’ll find something in here that interests you.
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