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The Best Sandbox Games for PC

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The Best Sandbox Games for PC

One of the most unique types of games that were originally created on the PC, were sandbox games.  This games differ greatly from the traditional level progression you see in many games.  These types of games often don’t even have an ending.  Instead, they allow you to choose how you play the game and exactly what you do.  Game designers that create these games believe in a player’s freedom to choose what they do and how they play, and they create the games so players can do just that.

Today, I want to take a look at some of my favorite sandbox games for pc so you can begin to explore some of the best games created in this genre.  Before I do, let’s take just a minute to examine exactly what a sandbox game is so, for those of you who have never played this type of game before, you can begin to understand what sets them apart from other, more traditional games.  That way you can decide if this style of game is right for you.

What Are Sandbox Games

To be fair, the games on this list fall into a couple of different categories that have become synonymous with the sandbox genre – Sandbox and Open World.  For now, let’s look at what a pure sandbox is.  A truly pure sandbox creates a gaming world for you to explore and then gives you the tools to mold and shape that world how you see fit.  The concept revolves around the gaming theory that the gamers create their own content and decide what to do, instead of being handheld through level after level of the game.

Sandbox Versus Open World

As I said, this list contains both sandbox and open world games.  An open world game is a game that still gives you set objectives and mission to progress through the game, but instead of set levels that you explore as you go, you are given one giant open world that you can explore and run these missions.  These games tend to be more open about when and how you do the missions, and some allow you to ignore them altogether and just run around the game world exploring.

Today, these types of games and true sandbox games have been somewhat blended.  Purists I’m sure will criticize this list because it contains both types of games, but the reason I chose to do include both types is that most gamers tend that like one tend to like the other.  Now this isn’t always the case, but I would say that a majority of the time this rings true.

Should I Play Them?

Now that you know what types of games sandbox and open world games are, you need to decide if they are right for you.  As I said before, they aren’t for everyone, but they can provide one of the most immersive experiences you will ever find in a video game.  If you enjoy building and creating your own objects and tools and you like to shape the world around you, these games will be perfect for you.  However, if you prefer a more linear style to your games with standard level progression, you may find these games boring and uninteresting.

When it comes to the open world games, they offer more types of traditional missions for you to enjoy.  Still, these missions take place in the vast open world that you have to explore and could feel overwhelming for players who prefer individual levels of play.

In the end, some of these games may offer something that you enjoy while others do not.  It is up to you to consider your playstyle before you invest your hard earned money in one of these games.  However, if you give each of these a fair chance, I believe you will find something that you love about all of them, regardless of the type of game that you usually prefer to play.

Our Favorite Sandbox/Open World Games

Now that we understand what sandbox and open world games are and if they are right for you, it is time for the fun part.  Let’s take a look at some of our favorite sandbox and open world games that can bring you hours of fun as you mold and shape the world or just explore for hours upon hours of gaming fun.


Official Minecraft Trailer

The quintessential sandbox game, Minecraft drops you into the world with nothing and leaves it up to you to create your own destiny.  Sure, there are dungeons to explore, other dark worlds to investigate and even a big dragon to slay, but how you get there and if you do it at all is up to you.  You could, for instance, decide to create a giant castle and create village of residents to help you along the way.  Or maybe you just want to spend hours mining and exploring the endless caverns buried deep underground.  Minecraft is one of the popular sandbox games of all time with players from around the world using the platform to create mini games and co-op servers and more.  If you want a game that truly gives you the freedom to create, Minecraft is the game for you.

Grand Theft Auto V

GTA V – PC Trailer – 1080p / 60 fps

Rockstar’s latest in the GTA series is definitely their most ambitious, with virtually every street offering something for you to explore or new characters to interact with even though it may require a slightly pricier gaming PC to run.  Like past games, the city is at your fingertips and you can steal a car and drive around to your hearts content.  Of course, it also offers an in-depth story and mission system as well that is every bit as engaging as the rest of the world.  Basically, you can’t create a sandbox/open world list that doesn’t include Grand Theft Auto.  To do so would simply be a crime that is every bit as bad as the ones Rockstar has you commit during your time in Grand Theft Auto.

Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2 – Official Trailer (No Ordinary Mission) [HQ]

If you want a truly insane experience blowing up cars, toppling statues, or even using a grappling hook to swing up to the top of buildings, Just Cause 2 is the game for you.  The whole point of the game is to sew chaos throughout the city as you attempt to overthrow a ruthless dictator, but how you go about it is totally up to you.  Sure there are missions you can undertake that will have you engaging in all types of mischief, but you don’t have to do them if you don’t want to.  Just go in and start destroying stuff if you want.  The best fun comes with the grappler, however, and you will find yourself performing all types of insane stunts that you may only see in your favorite action movie.  Just Cause 3 is on its way very soon, but until then, this one will help you get ready for it.

Eve Online

EVE Online: The Prophecy (Fanfest 2014 Trailer)

Have you ever wanted to explore deep space with other players?  In Eve Online, an entire universe is open for you to explore and conquer.  How you do it is totally up to you.  You can build ships, hunt pirates, or even become a pirate yourself and hunt other players that are just minding their own business.  The true power of Eve comes with its corporations, or groups of players who band together for common goals.  Corporations can build massive space stations and control and defend their own sectors of space.  Add to that the espionage factors and you have a truly compelling game.


Starbound: Winter Update Trailer

Another space based sandbox game, in Starbound your starship operates as your base as you explore both the universe and engage in unique story missions as well.  While you explore, you can use what you find to build and improve your starship and much more along the way.  The game itself has been in beta for some time but already contains a staggering amount of content and a very active modding community that helps you improve and customize your gaming experience as you play.

Kerbal Space Program

Kerbal Space Program 1.0 Launch

Have you ever wanted to build rockets that blast their way into space?  If so, then Kerbal Space Program is the game for you.  Of all the games in this list, Kerbal Space Program is the only one to truly have a realistic handle on the physics of the world.  Create rockets that blast into space, or build massive ships in space or even bases inside an asteroid.  Of course, where the true fun begins to firing up those rockets and crashing them into each other to watch how they are destroyed.

Garry’s Mod

Garry's Mod 2011 Trailer

Garry’s Mod is more just a big physics sandbox than it is a traditional video game.  In the strictest sense, Garry’s Mod is a true sandbox.  It gives you character models and the tools to build almost anything you can think of.  Almost anything can be strung together creating some interesting and sometimes humorous outcomes.  Using the platform, players have even created their very own video game inside a video game bringing players one of the most unique and hilarious gaming experiences.

The Sims 4

The Sims 4 is the latest incarnation of this digital dollhouse that has been loved by gamers of all ages and sexes for almost 15 years now.  The build tools allow you to create amazing houses, businesses, parks and pretty much anything you can imagine.  Create your dolls, otherwise known as sims and watch them grow up, age and even die all the while helping them improve their lives or just tormenting them until they go insane.  Whatever you want to do is totally up to you, making this game a truly unique simulation/sandbox that the whole family will love.

Second Life

Second Life Trailer 2013

So may call this the online version of the Sims, and it is in many ways.  Of course, there is way more to it than that.  In this game you can create anything you can possibly imagine using build tools within the game or even editing tools outside the game as well.  This online game has come under fire many times for its overly sexual content, but casting that aside everything you see and do in the game is completely player driven creating an online gaming experience that is truly unique from anything else on the market.

Burnout Paradise

Burnout Paradise The Ultimate Box Trailer HD

One of the few racing games to include sandbox qualities to it, in Burnout Paradise you are dropped into the world and told to go find races to win.  During the races, you can choose to win and advance your character or simply wreak havoc by causing crashes and pile ups that would impress even the best Hollywood blockbuster directors.  Admittedly, there aren’t as many sandbox features in this game as others, it is a racing game at its heart, but it is enough to give you the feeling of freedom as you seek the next challenge.


The sandbox and open world games offer a unique take on video gaming that isn’t often seen.  Often times instead of predefined goals and objectives or set levels you are simply left with a world to explore.  Some even give you the tools to shape your own adventure however you see fit.  While this type of game isn’t for everyone, they most definitely have their place in the world of PC gaming and continue to hold a very popular following.  Some have even risen to be some of the most popular games of all time as well, spawning multiple sequels that continue to evolve the genre today.

So, if you are looking for a PC game that gives you true freedom to create your own path or shape the world how you see fit, then a sandbox games like the ones in this list are most definitely for you.  To start your journey, I suggest you try some or all of the games in this article.  I think you will find that all of them offer their own unique take on the sandbox/open world genre of games and they will all bring you hours of fun as you explore and create your own destiny.

By Matt Garrett

Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing on our sister ShopNinja sites where he enjoys talking about anything and everything tech.

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