List of the best sandbox games

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Elia Tabuenca GarcĂ­a
@eliatabuencagarcia

From the voxel world of Minecraft to the depths of space in Universe Sandbox, there are many different types of sandbox games. The genre has changed over the years, especially as open world and Minecraft-like games have become more popular, offering unique experiences no matter what type of gamer you are.



With so many options, however, it's hard to find the best sandbox games. We've rounded up 11 of our favorite titles that give players complete freedom to explore, create and play.

Minecraft

Source: Official game page on Microsoft's website

Minecraft is the quintessential sandbox game and is largely responsible for the construction game craze. As one of the best-selling games of all time, Minecraft needs little introduction. It's the voxel-based builder where anything that can fit into a 1 meter cube is possible, and players are still discovering new ways to combine and build.

You can have a lot of fun just playing around with a random world, especially if you set up your own Minecraft server. But you can take the game much further. With one of the best Minecraft seeds, you can choose the world you want to build or set up a unique survival experience, and with the best Minecraft mods, you can do everything from flying a jetpack to exploring an industrial-age version of the game. Minecraft. There are also several Minecraft shaders available if you want to beautify the game a bit.



Minecraft is a huge game and this is great for a sandbox experience. There are so many different ways to play Minecraft, and if that's not what sandbox games are, we don't know what is.

Hitman 3

Source: Official game page on the PlayStation website

Hitman's levels have always been a playground, and the latest entry features some of the best levels in the entire franchise. As a cap on the Hitman trilogy, Hitman 3 plays everything in five of its six locations. While there's a certain level without much to do, the other five levels are packed with so much detail that they more than make up for any shortcomings that Hitman 3 has.

The highlight level is Berlin, where you are tasked with taking down a group of ICA agents without any story missions or clear paths. It's classic Hitman, giving you a giant sandbox filled with lethal toys to play with. There's also Dartmoor, where you have several options for dispatching a villain back from Hitman 2, including dressing up as a detective in a traditional cop.

The entire Hitman trilogy is excellent, so we recommend giving them all a chance. As Hitman 3 has the best levels, it earns this spot on our list.

Garry's Mod

Source: Official game page on Steam

Garry's Mod is a sandbox. no goals, no story and nothing to get in the way of the game. It was originally a mod for Half-Life 2, based on the Source game engine and available for free. However, the developer ended up signing a publishing deal with Valve in 2006 for an exclusive release on Steam, and even after 15 years it remains one of the most popular games on the platform. And it's easy to see why.



In the game, you generate all the items you want and play with them. That's it, and that's all it needs to be. With a huge community and an endless stream of mods, the game has grown beyond a sandbox to experience the Source engine. It was the breeding ground for the Trouble in Terrorist Town and Prop Hunt game modes, which still appear in games like Fortnite.

Kerbal Space Program

Source: Official game page on Steam

Most games in this roundup are "physics-based" in one way or another, but the Kerbal Space Program takes physics to the next level. Specifically, the Kerbal Space Program has an orbital physics engine and precise aerodynamics. You are in charge of a space program for an alien race known as the Kerbals and it is your job to design and build rockets, spaceships and vehicles to break the atmosphere and reach space. The issue is the physical system, which makes designing a vehicle much more complicated than putting a few pieces together.

While there are objectives and guided builds at the start of the game, you can still play around with the Kerbal Space Program's build features and physics engine to see what works and what doesn't. Dedicated sandbox mode offers all game components and technologies, so you can get started right away.

Grand Theft Auto 5

Source: Official game page on Steam

While Grand Theft Auto Online has stolen some of the post-game spotlight, Grand Theft Auto 5 is still a massive, crime-ridden sandbox. After a short intro mission, you're set free on the streets of Los Santos to organize your crime syndicate, raise your wanted rating as much as possible, or just cause as much chaos as you can. True to form, Grand Theft Auto 5 includes a long list of cheat codes so you can play as you please.



Rockstar hasn't shied away from ridiculous cheating either. There's the basics, like increasing or decreasing your wanted level, as well as max health and armor, but also some wacky ones. Superhero Punch offers an explosive melee attack, for example, and Dead Eye offers three levels of slow-motion aiming for Red Dead Redemption. The Grand Theft Auto franchise has always offered huge and ridiculous sandboxes, and GTA 5 is the series at its best.

Starbound

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Source: Official game page on Steam

Starbound has a pretty basic setup: you've escaped your home planet to reach the stars, but after finding yourself lost in space with a damaged ship, you're forced to transport yourself to the nearest planet to survive. From there, it's up to you what comes next. Starbound is similar to Terraria and, by extension, Minecraft. There is a complete unique game story, but you are free to ignore it and forge your own path.

In addition to building your ship, you can also explore new planets to colonize them, gather materials to craft thousands of different items, and capture monsters to help you fight.

You will never run out of things to do. Starbound features procedurally generated worlds, and each planet is unique, with several distinct biomes within it. Exploring, creating and playing in Starbound are all fun, even if you ignore the quests, bosses and story. Put the two together, and Starbound is a must buy.

Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord

Source: Official game page on Steam

Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is currently in early access and needs this development time. It's a great open world game that delivers on the promise of allowing players to truly do what they want. For the game, it's an Action RPG, Grand Strategy, and Life Simulation mashup. You control your own character that you can equip with armor, weapons, and perks, but you can also zoom out to get a Civilization-like view of the region as the AI-controlled factions move around you. Outside of battle, Bannerlord has a robust in-game economy that you need to maintain to keep your troops fed and profitable.

It's not a sandbox game in the traditional sense, but Bannerlord offers very little in the way of guidance. You are thrown into a huge world and it's up to you to figure out what to do. Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is a game you can almost live in. There is never a shortage of things to do and you are free to tackle tasks in the order or way you want.

That said, Bannerlord is still in early access and needs a little more time in the oven. If you want a more complete experience and don't mind outdated visuals, you can choose the first game, Mount & Blade: Warband.

Universe Sandbox

Source: Official game page on Steam

Universe Sandbox tells you everything you need to know about the name. It's a good part of the observable universe in a huge sandbox where you can play. Universe Sandbox is both a game and an educational tool. In addition to representations of solar systems and galaxies, it features accurate systems of weather, gravity, collision, and material interaction. With it, you can run accurate simulations to do everything from seeing the effects of climate change on Earth to seeing how the collision of the Andromeda and Milky Way galaxies will play out about 4 billion years later.

In addition, you can map solar and lunar eclipses to see them from space, and you can even create your own systems and simulate them on a scale of millions of years. The original Universe Sandbox was for Windows only, but developer Giant Army has released an updated version (basically a sequel) with support for MacOS and Linux. The new version also supports AR and VR headsets, so you can literally hold the whole world in your hands.

Dreams

Source: Official game page on the PlayStation website

Calling Dreams a “sandbox game” is reductive. It's a game creation system that offers much more than most game creation games, with players recreating titles like Sonic Adventure, Fallout 4 and Final Fantasy VII Remake with a surprising amount of accuracy. It's also not very difficult to get started. You can use elements from other users, including 3D models, and there are a number of Gadgets – essentially game logic – available to you.

Once you understand the game better, you can go deeper. You can create animated effects, manipulate sound effects and music, and adjust the various assets that make up your game. Dreams is an excellent game creation tool and will likely be the starting point for a handful of games in the future. It's robust, easy to use, and most of all, fun to play.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Source: Official game page on Steam

Red Dead Redemption 2 is just a sandbox game. The main story is engaging and worth the investment of time, but Rockstar keeps players on track during story missions. Other than that, Red Dead Redemption 2 feels like a completely different game. The vibrant western world attracts you with its details and life. From the first industrial cities to the bleak plains, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a breathtaking game that begs you to explore.

You can also have a lot of fun. While the game doesn't lean towards the absurd as much as Grand Theft Auto 5, you're still free to do as you please and ignore the objectives set in front of you. You can head into the forest to hunt and camp, ride around the world on your horse looking for NPCs to mess with, hunt for treasure using map fragments, and much more.

Totally Accurate Battle Simulator

Source: Official game page on Steam

Totally Accurate Battle Simulator is, well, a rather accurate battle simulator. You set the stage for each battle, choosing the troops that will be on either side before letting the simulation take place. Watching the chaos that follows is what Totally Accurate Battle Simulator is all about. You can set up accurate skirmishes, sure, but Totally Accurate Battle Simulator is at its best when you create hordes of unique fighters to tackle physics-based mayhem.

And there are many unique fighters to choose from. The Totally Accurate Battle Simulator has over 100 unique “wobblers”, including everything from spearmen to furry mammoths, and you can also create your own units. Also, Totally Accurate Battle Simulator features a sandbox mode where you can play with the different units, as well as a campaign and battle creator so you can organize your own fights.

That was our list of the best Sandbox games. Comment below if you liked it or if you think we left a game off this list. Take care and until next time!

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