9 Best Sandbox Games of All Time

Greatest sandbox games to get your creative juices flowing

The 9 best sandbox games of all time

As avid gamers, we all appreciate the allure of diving headfirst into an immersive world where creativity knows no bounds. This is the essence of a sandbox game – a genre defined by its open-world design, where ‘freedom’ isn’t just a buzzword, but the core gameplay principle. In these expansive virtual realms, players are handed the keys to a universe of endless possibilities, shaping their experiences with every choice and every interaction.

From unleashing your architectural prowess in city builders to surviving in the ruthless landscapes of MMO survival games, the range of sandbox games is truly astonishing. In this roundup, we’ve handpicked nine of the most iconic sandbox games of all time. These are games that have not only dominated the genre but have also defined generations of gamers. They’ve pushed boundaries, rewritten rules, and in doing so, have secured their place in the annals of gaming history. So, without further ado, let’s journey through the realms of creativity and explore the best sandbox games of all time.

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Universe Sandbox

Universe Sandbox

With “sandbox” in the name, we couldn’t resist including Universe Sandbox in our list. Universe Sandbox is a compelling simulation of the universe. While playing, you have control over virtually everything, enabling you to experiment limitlessly. Want to witness the cataclysm of two suns colliding? No problem! Fancy putting multiple asteroids in Earth’s orbit and observing the outcome?

Gameplay for Universe Sandbox
The universe is your sandbox

Universe Sandbox allows you to manipulate the elements of the universe to your liking. As limitless as the imagination, this game rightly earns a place on our list. Developers at Giant Army report sales exceeding 750,000 copies of this amazing universe simulator.

Buy Universe Sandbox

Kerbal Space Program

Kerbal Space Program

Making its official debut in 2015 with the release of version 1.0, Kerbal Space Program has come a long way since its early access development stages in 2011. This game hands you the reins of your very own space program, letting you build it from the ground up. The goal is to conduct missions and, with a bit of luck, rack up scientific points with each trip.

Launching a rocket in Kerbal Space Program
The first step is to launch into space

Using these science points enables you to unlock more technology and expand your space program. Eventually, you’ll find yourself building space stations, chartering flights, designing space planes, and launching missions all around the Kerbal solar system. Behind its fun and cartoonish characters, Kerbal Space Program harbors a complex and realistic game. With a peak of over 19,000 active users on Steam and around 2,000 at any given moment, it’s clear that this game’s appeal is wide-reaching. At the time of writing, Kerbal Space Program 2 is also available for early access.

Buy Kerbal Space Program

Ark: Survival Evolved

ark survival evolved

Ark: Survival Evolved is a sandbox MMO survival game that combines prehistoric dinosaurs and mythical beasts into one immersive world. As a new player, you start the game empty-handed, with the goal to craft items, survive, and eventually thrive. Along the way, you’ll face battles and eventually even tame beasts for personal use.

Aiming a bow at a TRex in Ark Survival Evolves
Take down mighty creatures in Ark

Whether you choose to play solo or on a private server, you’re bound to run into other players. Nothing holds you back from engaging in conflict with other players or forming alliances with them. Ark has secured a spot on this list thanks to its creative elements and extensive popularity in the gaming community. In May alone, there were over 69,000 players actively playing the game on Steam.

Buy Ark Survival Evolved

Garry’s Mod

Garry's Mod

Garry’s Mod is a game familiar to nearly every Steam user, with many having had the pleasure of playing it. Built off of Valve’s Source Engine, Garry’s Mod is a creative sandbox game, empowering players to craft a range of vehicles, buildings, and more using both in-game and community-modded resources.

Holding up a car over a person in Garry's Mod
Arguably one of the greatest games of all time

If creativity isn’t your forte, you can still engage with other players’ creations in your own game through the dupes tab. The possibilities are virtually endless, and players can enjoy countless hours of entertainment with various machinery. As of 2021, Garry’s Mod had sold over 20 million copies.

Buy Garry’s Mod

Cities Skylines

Cities Skyline

Taking the genre by storm, Cities Skylines is a city builder where you are at the helm of creating your dream city. Managing everything from roadways to utilities and all other infrastructures you’d find in a city, the level of detail found in this game is truly unparalleled.

Looking over a city in Cities Skylines
Build your city into the sky

With as many as 30,000 active players at a time and over 12 million copies sold as of 2022, Cities Skylines has become a standout in the city-building genre and set a benchmark for all that follows.

Buy Cities Skylines

Rust

Rust

In a similar vein to Ark: Survival Evolved, Rust is a survival MMO set in a ruthless world. In the developers’ own words, the only aim of Rust is to survive. To do this, you’ll need to contend with the elements, wildlife, and other players who are likely after your resources.

Gameplay for Rust
Try to survive in the brutal world of Rust

Much like Ark, Rust encourages players to form alliances with others to build colossal bases and gather substantial resources. With an impressive 155,000 active users at any given time, Rust stakes its claim as one of the most popular sandbox games around.

Buy Rust

Eve Online

EVE Online

Set in a sprawling universe, EVE Online is an MMORPG that gives players the freedom to explore, gather resources, and build impressive crafts. The game stands out for its largely player-run economy. Most items you buy in-game will be harvested or crafted by a player.

Astero in Space in EVE Online

EVE Online is known for its epic battles between in-game corporations, some costing thousands of real-world dollars. As a testament to its hardcore player base, EVE Online boasts 184,000 daily users and over 9.7 million subscribers.

Play EVE Online

Roblox

Roblox

Roblox is one of the most popular online games globally, and a name almost every gamer will recognize. In Roblox, players can create an endless array of worlds, games, and more. The only limit is your imagination.

Gameplay of Roblox

Its staggering daily user count of over 66 million globally makes Roblox a hard act to follow and earns it the number two spot on our list.

Play Roblox

Minecraft

Minecraft

Requiring no introduction, Minecraft has defined a generation of gamers. As one of the most popular games ever made, with over 200 million copies sold, Minecraft lets players survive in a procedurally generated world with endless creative opportunities.

Desert gameplay for Minecraft
Minecraft is the true GOAT of sandbox games

The limitless creative power found in Minecraft defines the sandbox genre and serves as a benchmark for success. Without a doubt, Minecraft takes the number one spot on our list.

Buy Minecraft


Summary

And there you have it – our picks for the 9 best sandbox games of all time. From the cosmic expanses of Universe Sandbox to the blocky realms of Minecraft, these games have revolutionized the concept of free-form, player-driven gaming. They continue to ignite our imaginations, proving that the only limit truly is the one we set for ourselves. As we look to the future, we can only anticipate what new sandbox wonders will be conjured up by the ever-evolving world of gaming. Keep crafting, keep exploring, and above all, keep playing!

For more great gaming tips, news, and reviews, check us out at Shark Games.

Avatar of Tyler Vareski
Tyler has over 11 years of experience playing strategy games. He has a particular fondness for Europa Universalis IV, of which he has logged over 900 hours. Despite the challenges that come with playing a complex game like EU4, Tyler finds it incredibly rewarding and loves sharing his knowledge and strategies with fellow gamers. On top of this, Tyler is a massive Star Wars junkie. He also likes 2K too much and doesn't eat enough vegetables.