Open world and sandbox games are everywhere. Take a look at some of today’s most popular video games. Notice any trend? For the keen observer, you may see that these games are almost always of those two genres. Expansive maps, choose-your-own-adventure storylines–these are common features in these games.
But understand this: sandbox games nowadays are a dime a dozen. Developers seem to keep riding this trend so far. Maps are larger than ever, there is more content than before–but critics seem to grow tired of it all. A world might be massive but devoid of interesting content. This is why out of all the ones out there, only a select number stand out as amazing titles.
In this list, we compile 25 of the best open world and sandbox games of all time on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. These are the titles that we recommend with all our hearts. No kidding. Play them all when you can. You won’t regret it. Buying a reliable budget PC can help in maximizing your gaming experience.
1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Even eight years after its initial release, Skyrim still has one of the most loyal player bases in gaming. This is due to its customization potential. Players can create whatever character they want, and go do whatever they want. Damn the main story. And the customization doesn’t end there. Skyrim’s thriving community of modders keep the game updated to modern standards. And at times, some mods are born out of pure nonsense. For instance: replacing the dragon at the beginning of the game with Thomas the Tank Engine.
2. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Morrowind did what Skyrim does best 17 years ago. You read that right: seventeen years. The game is that old and still has its legion of fans. Morrowind was a game ahead of its time, especially when it comes to player freedom. You get to explore the world as soon as a quick tutorial and cinematic is over. There is also an all-encompassing story full of social, magical, and political intrigue. This makes a classic game that keeps on surviving the test of time.
3. GTA V
Grand Theft Auto V’s open world is a fun-filled representation of rural and modern America. Every single street, avenue, and even backwoods can be home to an interesting activity. Upon release, critics praised it as one of the best sandbox games PC, PS4, and Xbox One players can get their hands on. You can even play with your friends with GTA Online and partake in epic rampages together. Play this game on Playstation 4 Pro to experience this masterpiece in all its glory.
If we’re talking a literal do-whatever-you-want game, this is it. You can create anything, do anything, and go anywhere. That’s the main focus of Minecraft. There is an almost endless amount of gameplay possibilities to explore. Heck, you can even create a working computer inside the game. Yes, that’s a real thing. Its popularity seems never-ending these days. Don’t believe us? Hop onto YouTube and see hundreds of Let’s Play series featuring this game.
5. Just Cause 2
Just Cause 2 is like the Michael Bay film of video games. Or perhaps the entire Just Cause franchise is a Bay flick in itself. The second installment of this popular franchise has a simple goal: wreak havoc in a vast open world. Make eardrum-splitting explosions with plumes that reach to the sky. Soar through the air like a man unleashed from gravity. Everywhere you go, make everything explode. It’s mind-numbing fun packed in a canister full of TNT.
6. Arma 3
Tired of all the mindless, strategically-lacking shoot-em-up first-person shooters? Arma 3 is your go-to game. According to hardcore military sandbox fans, this is the shooter to play. Partake in military operations and command squads, tanks, and even planes on vast maps. If the same old maps aren’t exciting anymore, you can create your own with its meaty map editor. Arma 3 is so good as a shoot-em-up simulator that it inspired some of the biggest games of today. PUBG and DayZ can trace their roots to this gem of a game.
7. Hitman (2016)
Fans of the Hitman series adore the games for their free-rein assassination mechanics. The missions give you a target, and that’s it. It’s up to you how to take them out. You can use the environment however you want, as long as you kill the target. The 2016 release of Hitman takes this freedom to a whole new level. You can use disguises, sneak around, or lure an unsuspecting target to an “accidental” death. Or just go in guns blazing. It’s free-form murder at its best.
8. Garry’s Mod
As a so-called physics sandbox, this game doesn’t have any goal. Nope. Nada. You have a world where you can do everything and anything, at any time. Put a silly face on an NPC? Cool. Put them in a box and make the box explode? Sure. Garrys Mod is an odd game, but odd isn’t a bad thing. Imagine a real-life sandbox that you can play with any way you see fit. That’s Garrys Mod for you. This is the literal definition of what sandbox games should be, and nothing else comes close.
9. Red Dead Redemption
Live the life of a rough rider with Rockstar’s most popular title since the GTA games. Hop on your horse and explore the world to find interesting side content, set within the classic old west. Also, some may say that it’s not only the story and the unique gameplay that draws them in. The world itself acts like the game’s main character, and it sure delivers on the promise of an amazing ambiance.
10. Fallout: New Vegas
Fans of the Fallout series love them some New Vegas. Here’s why. Developers often throw out the “play your way” buzz phrase out there, when the games they release aren’t. New Vegas still has a story, but you’re often free to play as you see fit. You can even fail missions and not worry about losing progress and reloading a save file. New Vegas has none of those shenanigans. This makes New Vegas’ sandbox as free-rein as any game world there is.
11. Marvel’s Spiderman On PS4
Insomniac Games’ take on Spidey is the best Spiderman game yet. Critics and fans consider it as one of the best PS4 sandbox games, and for good reason. Its sprawling open world is full of interesting content and stories. And zipping from one mission to another is a blast with the revamped web-slinging system. Seeing Spiderman bolt whip through buildings shooting his webs is an exhilarating experience. Furthermore, its layered combat system elevates the gameplay to a whole new level.
12. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The third game of the Witcher series, Wild Hunt set the standard for most open-world sandboxes to come. 251 Game of the Year awards? That’s no small feat. That’s thanks in large part to CD Projekt Red’s knack for telling amazing stories every single chance they get. Each side quest is as interesting as the main one–a hard quality to emulate for games of a similar style. Not to mention, the world is as beautiful as it is dangerous. No wonder players can clock in hundreds of hours on this game. Interested in playing one of the greatest games of all time? Get the Witcher 3 Game of The Year edition and play base game with all the downloadable contents included.
13. Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild
Some gamers consider this as the best open-world game ever. Big claim, but let’s see why. Its open world is unlike any other because there are no quest markers. The game offers pure exploration. It begs you to pick a direction and see what secrets are out there. Add the power of nostalgia from past Zelda titles, and you have a title you can enjoy with childlike glee. Furthermore, BOTW’s original release on the Wii U and Nintendo Switch didn’t stop fans from making emulators. As such, it’s now playable on PC (albeit unofficial).
14. Kerbal Space Program
KSP’s main goal makes the players design the space program for a race called Kerbals. It’s a true sandbox where you have free rein of almost anything. Design a landing rover that will withstand atmospheric entry. Explore uncharted planets. And if you have a grasp of astronomy and physics, you will have an absolute blast. It’s also an indie game–none of those big AAA developer shenanigans here.
You like 2D retro stuff? Terraria is right up your alley. You can build stuff, battle pesky enemies, or explore the pixelated world to find valuable loot. Or mine stuff from the ground and craft new weapons. The gameplay possibilities are expansive, too. And there’s no predetermined goal like most games out there. You have your tools, a world to explore, go out there and play. Make sure to stick around until you discover the game’s deeper mechanics, and you’ll enjoy it like no other. Consider it like Minecraft but in 2D.
16. L.A. Noire
L.A. Noire captures the essence of the film noir genre, unlike any other game. Set in 1940s Los Angeles, the game makes you investigate and solve a slew of crimes ranging from theft to murder. Each case features a gripping story that unfolds with every clue you uncover. But the most amazing feature of the game must be the interrogation sequences. You sit down with a suspect to ask questions and try to see if they’re lying. Be on the lookout for body movements, and even the slightest eyebrow twitches so you don’t miss a hint.
17. Scrap Mechanic
Online sandbox games are a dime a dozen. But they’re not like Scrap Mechanic. In other games, you build stationary objects: fortresses, houses, even entire cities. In Scrap Mechanic, you can build stuff that works. You can make anything from moving houses to hovercraft, and then some. Only your imagination is the limit. Find the parts you need, let your creativity run wild, and start building.
18. Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Imagine a medieval game without dragons, wizards, elves, and magic. That’s the gist of Kingdom Come: Deliverance. This game focuses on realistic role-playing mechanics and expansive player choices. You also have the freedom to interact with anything in any way you see fit. Aside from the story, there’s not much hand-holding. Another thing that sets this game apart is it’s not the same old “chosen one” story. You’re no longer the lone savior of worlds. You’re a regular guy out to interact with the world, and it moves with or without you.
19. No Man’s Sky
A constant stream of updates now puts the game closer to its pre-release promise. Choose one of three game modes: normal (exploration), survival, and creative. The world–nay, universe–in No Man’s Sky also never ends. Every planet, star, comet, and galaxy is unique because of procedural generation technology. So wherever you might end up, you might be the first person to discover it. It’s the “do what you want, go wherever you want” game on a universal scale.
20. Elite Dangerous
Not everyone likes the colorful imagery of No Man’s Sky. If you’re not a fan, you can go for Elite Dangerous instead. It’s almost the same as the former, but with a darker, grittier tone. Be a space pirate, trader, political kingpin, or warlord. The potential for customization is immense. You can engage with different factions in any way you like, or go off into one direction and explore. But remember to stock up on supplies before traipsing around the cosmos. This is one of those multiplayer sandbox games that you have to try.
21. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
This game stands out from most Assassin’s Creed titles because both fans and non-fans of the series can enjoy it. It features old-timey pirates, for Pete’s sake. There is nothing as amazing as sailing from island to island, hearing your crew sing sea shanties. Hop from island to island and see the beautiful sights of the Caribbean unfold. Black Flag is among the best sandbox games, and for good reason.
22. Mount And Blade: Warband
This game is a medieval sandbox that ticks all the right boxes. It’s both a sandbox and a simulator that does little if any, handholding. You can pick and choose a specific career path for your character, then do whatever you want. Fancy raising an army to lay siege to cities? Sure. Or you might like to be a wealthy merchant that wields the undeniable power of gold? The choice is yours. Be sure to master the skill-based combat as well, and you will be the most powerful person in the realm.
23. Horizon: Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn’s popularity spans the fact that it’s a PS4 exclusive. Glorious setpieces populate its vast open world. You can see the spires of ancient skyscrapers, which connect to the game’s main story about the so-called “Old Ones.” There are also gigantic robot animals that you can hunt. With your array of tech weapons (including a super tricked-out bow), bringing them down is a blast. It’s hard to describe the wonders of this game so go play it and see for yourself.
24. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Odyssey is the best-received Assassin’s Creed game since Black Flag. This is due to the game introducing player choice. For the first time in the franchise, players have dialogue choices that impact the world in both subtle and grand ways. Ubisoft’s rendition of Ancient Greece is full of things to do that it seems never-ending. But that’s not bad at all. Almost every quest will make you think about your choices and leave your head spinning. It also has romance options and features the return of the much-beloved naval combat.
25. Ark: Survival Evolved
Fancy a modern, different take on the classic Turok: Dinosaur Hunter? Ark: Survival Evolved is your jam. It’s a survival sandbox title–that’s one thing you should remember. You can build all the bases and outposts you want, but if you don’t survive continuous enemy attacks, it’s pointless. Taming animals is among the key features of this game. And by animals, we mean dinosaurs, dragons, and all manner of fierce beasts. Tame them, make them work for you. All while keeping yourself alive.