One of my favorite genres of video games is the sandbox, which let you build your own digital world. They allow for the freedom of expression and are a great channel for creativity. Moreover, they’ve been around for decades, and have gotten better and better with age. Here are my top five favorite sandbox games:
5. The Sims
Featuring the ability to build a house, build a life, and simulate in rather fine detail the life of a character you yourself create is what sets The Sims apart from many games of its era. There are a few different ways to play The Sims, with most everyone fitting into one of them. There are builders, who enjoy nothing more than taking an empty plot of land and building an intricate home from the ground up, furnishing it, and then tearing it down and doing it again.
There are the story makers, which was a huge group during the late 00s. These people would put their Sims through specific events while taking screenshots and writing out stories. The stories would usually be focused around relationships or careers, but sometimes acted as a fiction memoir about their extremely detailed and well thought-out characters.
The way I played, however, was taking a character from rags to riches. From just having the starting cash each Sim gets to buy their home or land, to rolling in money. This took quite a bit of finesse as the economy in The Sims was rather unforgiving. Buying too good of a fridge from your budget could mean you can’t afford to eat from it.
4. Prison Architect
Somewhat similar to The Sims, Prison Architect starts you off on a blank piece of land with a road running by it, a few bare essential supplies, and a small crew of workers. It’s then your job to build your prison as you see fit. Money in this game is a hugely sought-after resource that you never seem to have quite enough of. Taking care of your inmates costs money, and you get money for each inmate. Those figures usually balance out, but all the while you’re only a few hours away from another truckload of inmates coming in and needing you to build more accommodation for them.
3. Sims 3
While The Sims is a great game, there were some things that it fell short on, mostly due to when it came out and the technology available at the time. Most of those are taken care of by the time you get to Sims 3. Having a progressive age system for your Sims, a plethora of new ways to earn money (even earning money from home), and an open world for you to explore, the Sims 3 is a solid game that is still loved by many despite its age.
2. Roller Coaster Tycoon 3
It’s this entry that makes me wish I’d done a Top 6 for this, as Roller Coaster Tycoon 1 should really be mentioned in a spot, but there just isn’t room. Nevertheless, Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 makes vast improvements over it, the most apparent being it’s 3D graphics. This game allows you to build a theme park from the ground up, going so far as letting you build every piece of enormous roller coasters. Expanding on previous installments, Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 adds several new types of attractions such as animals and water entertainment via its expansion packs.
You can’t have a top sandbox games list without the top dog, and that is Minecraft. Allowing you to play the game exactly how you want to rather than any set mission or objective, Minecraft allows you to build, fight zombies, fish, and even go mining for diamonds if you so desire. It’s hard explaining what exactly Minecraft is, to be honest, because there is just so much you can do. What’s more, the entire digital world you enter into can be changed by you, or even destroyed by you.
What’s more, Minecraft maintains a thriving modding community which adds even more to do, can make the graphics fit whatever you like, and even add more features. To put this game into prospective, there is a YouTube personality that has been walking in one direction in a Minecraft world for over three years now, making it a digital walk-a-thon. kurjmac asks his viewers to donate to charity, usually the gaming charity Child’s Play Charity, and has so far collected well over $250,000 for them.
Another Minecraft user has tested the limits of building in Minecraft by building a to-scale replica of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s iconic ship the Enterprise NCC-1701-D, a ship that canonically carries about 1,500 crew members comfortably. In fact, for that matter, you can probably find someone who has built just about any kind of famous landmark, vehicle, ship, spaceship, and more. A group out of Europe, for instance, has been building a to-scale replica of England. Minecraft is, and should be, the very definition of ‘sandbox gaming’.