Sandbox games are all the rage in 2023, and their popularity is only increasing. Some of the most successful games in herstory are sandbox games, inspiring developers to put even more effort into expanding the category.
Since sandbox games can come in a wide range of genres, they can be considered as a subgenre of other ones. For example, some of the world’s top MMOs fit into the category, even if not all MMOs are sandbox games.
Minecraft first hit the market in 2009 and was released in full in 2011 and is perhaps one of the most popular sandbox titles of all time, on top of being the most successful in terms of sales. The title from Mojang Studios was a global phenomenon, with countless sales across a range of platforms. Players can take part in a range of activities in the procedurally generated block-filled world. It also offers a social experience, allowing players to collaborate in different gameplay modes.
Grand Theft Auto V was simply an open world game upon its release in 2013. It later went on to become one of the most successful games of all time when Grand Theft Auto Online provided players with a completely new way to experience the virtual world of San Andreas. The game from Rockstar North has sold more than 110 million copies and is one of the most critically praised games ever made.
Though not technically a game on its own, Roblox is one of the oldest sandbox titles and it's still hugely popular in 2023, being one of the biggest platforms for game creations to date. The title from Roblox Corporation first dropped in 2006 and has gone from strength to strength since then. It has millions of monthly active users thanks to the regular updates and the limitless possibilities within the game world. The community of players helps to keep the game moving forward, as these people contribute to developing new activities within the Roblox sandbox.
Terraria has been one of the leading sandbox games since its release in 2011, and it’s unique in the fact that it offers a 2D experience. It’s like Minecraft as it involves digging, mining, and crafting. The aim of the game in the Re-Logic title is to build powerful settlements and protect them from powerful bosses. There are various ways to play the game, with players having the choice of collaborating or competing with one another.
No Man’s Sky is one of the most ambitious sci-fi games of recent years, and it displays the overwhelming potential of procedurally generated sandboxes. The 2016 offering from Hello Games has billions of planets for players to explore, and they all offer unique experiences. It faced some criticism when it was first released but thanks to updates and improvements No Man’s Sky has become one of the leading sandbox games on the market.
2016 was a huge year for sandbox titles, with Factorio another worthy installment to the genre. The title from Wube Software puts players in charge of complex factories. The aim of the game is to research technology and expand an industrial empire. This is a complicated game with a lot of intricacies and appeals to players in search of challenging sandbox games.
Stardew Valley also dropped in 2016 and has been captivating players ever since. The ConcernedApe title offers a relaxing gameplay experience for players who want to discover what it’s like to run a farm. There’s an immersive world to explore with plenty of hidden features, which is why the game has shipped more than 10 million copies across multiple platforms since its release.
For players in search of recent games that have gone on to become instant hits, RimWorld is one of the best options. The offering from Ludeon Studios came out in 2017 and was praised for offering an immersive sci-fi experience. The game is set on a distant planet, with players having to scavenge and build a functioning colony.
Subnautica is another 2018 title that takes players on a journey to a distant world. This one isn’t a traditional space offering, though. Instead, players have the chance to explore vast underwater realms on an alien ocean planet. It’s a tough environment that will appeal to anyone in search of a slightly different playing experience.
Garry’s Mod from Facepunch Studios is one of the games that kickstarted the whole genre. The 2004 title built a strong player base, and this allowed the game to grow and develop through various mods in the years since its release. There are endless possibilities for players to have fun within the game world, which is why it’s still popular to this day.
The basic premise of these games is that they emphasize player freedom and creativity. Developers create a vast virtual world in which players can move about however they want. Usually, you have the chance to shape the world to your own preferences, and the focus is on player-driven experiences. This means that there are almost endless possibilities! That's right - these games can carry on for a very long time.
Since sandbox games can be part of virtually any genre, many are PC games, as they need high specifications to run on max quality. They can be anything from sci-fi offerings to action-adventure games, with the key feature being that players can travel around the playable landscape at their leisure.
Sandbox titles differ from open world games in that players usually have complete control over their actions in the former. In the latter, there is a vast playing area, but - and it's an important difference - players are led by a central narrative that features main quests along with side missions. Some titles can cross between the two game categories depending on the mode you play. For instance, Grand Theft Auto V is an open world game in its single player mode. Grand Theft Auto V Online, on the other hand, is a sandbox game in which players are free to do what they want.
The most successful of all time is Minecraft - so it could also be named the ultimate game since basing this title on other factors might be difficult, verging on not being possible. Minecraft is still the best-selling video game in history, with more than 238 million sales. The title from Mojang Studios has also been lauded by critics and is regarded as the benchmark for other games in this genre to follow.