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.
9 Best Sandbox Games of All Time
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Buy Cities Skylines
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!