Best Ever Single Player Sandbox’s

Yes, it’s one of thooose lists. Starting with a discussion on one of the Plus 10 Damage podcasts (which you totally should check out) lately it got me thinking more about these open world games of ours, then with all the talk of sandbox’s lately and my growing enthusiasm in the next generations awesomely amazing open world games I was kind of pushed into reminiscing about my past favourites. I’ve played a lot over the years yet it still feels like I have missed many amazing titles – Mass Effect for instance.

Open world games have always held a strong place in my gaming heart. I love a good linear story of course but there is something about being dumped in a virtual world and then just roaming around letting your interest and passing moods take you where they will. These are my favourites.

5. Grand Theft Auto 2

Out of all the Grand theft Auto Series, and I don’t know why but GTA2 was my absolute favourite. It didn’t need the best graphics, or even an in-depth story because it’s gameplay was some of the best in the series. Bold statement indeed.

It really had a nice collection of stories mixed throughout the game that you could run along with or choose to ignore. The mission types varied a lot and it never felt like I was replaying the same sort of mission over and over again. This was of course highlighted by the random lunacy at times which the game had placed throughout.

The world felt absolutely wonderful. Even with the top down isometric view the world was nicely detailed and I became immersed in the wonders of it. There was a lot to learn in how the different districts were designed, the hidden paths, garages and bonuses hidden around, and the many special features like the frenzy items and special cars.

The cars handled beautifully in the world too, going fast still felt as exhilarating as it is in the new games.. maybe more so. The way they slid around corners and all had their way of handling made each and every car a joy to drive. And the extra special blood smears left behind made it all the more fun.

gta genocide

It was just so much more fun when the game wasn’t trying to be some super serious gangster simulator. It was never as outlandish as Saints Row, but it didn’t need to be. It just induced a child like sense of destruction and glee in me. I’m not sure if this is just nostalgia talking but I had far more fun in this simplistic little crime simulator than I did in any of the others.

4. Red Dead Redemption

This was a western done to absolute perfection. The old west isn’t the most interesting of locations for a game but they somehow not only made it interesting to explore but absolutely beautiful to witness. Majestic peeks splintered throughout, the way the reds and browns of the land intertwined, the way the sun shone down setting the land on fire was like poetry to witness. It was beautiful but the nature of it, and the mystery surrounding you made it have that tinge of danger and apprehension. It highlighted you emotions on play every time you ventured out.


The sparse nature of it made traveling more meaningful, the land had a purpose this way. Getting to and from the locations was a journey in itself, and, often enough it is the journey that matters more than the destination. Riding around on your horse felt so natural it was more an extension of your character rather than only just a mount. And wow was riding extremely enjoyable. I wouldn’t have thought riding a horse could ever be as exhilarating as driving a car but it is, and much more.

The details in the buildings, characters, and even those little mini games you could play made it a world that is much more immersive. It became something more than a land you were just playing in, but one you wanted to live in.

3. Fallout New Vegas

Fall Out New Vegas absolutely amazed me in my first play. I had played Fallout 3 before it and, to be honest was a little bored with the setting, characters, and story. I came into this one with low expectations and was blown away.

Now I’m still not as interested in the environment, something about post apocalyptic wastelands just don’t do it for me. That mix of grey brown tones, and weathered locales is just boring, even the combat was rather average. It’s all the same as previous games in a way but this time the character stories, factions, customisation, politics, and the overall setting enthralled me.


It was the way it emphasised choice in how you play and your interactions with others that made it something special. The way you customised your character and the interactions you with others had long running ramifications with how you experienced the world. Every choice felt meaningful in a way, like I was creating a story around my character rather than it bring delivered.

I think my fondness for it also came down to my few long plays in survival mode. There is something about an emphasis on the scavenging side and struggle that makes the experience more meaningful. Completing my first play through in this mode really felt like I achieved something, before it was fun but this time it was special.

2. Civ 4 (actually, all of them)

I don’t know if Civilization would count as an open world game, it’s definitely strategy but I guess it could kind of considered open as it has a ridiculous large amount of customisation and choices involved in how you explore the world and build your Civilization. Every experience with it is different.. Plus screw it, my list my rules.

The amount of hours I have wasted in these turn based city management sims is truly astronomical and dwarfs every other game I have played, including mmo’s. Many days and nights were sent looking at this tiled paradise… Sometimes in tandem. A few times I completely lost track of how long I was playing and would have my partner if the time come in and alerted me to the fact that it was indeed morning.

I’m sure everyone who has played a civ game has had an experience like that which really us a testament to just how great these games are.

They are just so complex that they constantly require a lot of your attention, it has a simplicity to play yet a massive hidden depth to master. They encourage you to think and plan your cities, armies, and technology in advance, you’re thinking turns ahead and this keeps you saying “just one turn more”. I

1. Just Cause 2

In all the years since I bought it it has never left my side. It has always remained a permanent addition to my hard drive and even after swapping computers a few times it is one of the first games I download again. It is the epitome of the open world as there are just so many ways you can make an impact on the world. It is up to you to be imaginative and create experiences, and whatever you could think of is probably possible. The title is rather apt too as when your asking yourself why to do something, the answer is always “just (be)cause”

just cause 2

It is so many games rolled into one and just made Awesome. You drive, fly, and destroy based on your whims. It is the ultimate splosian simulator and so so much more. I’ve spent hours flying around, I’ve spent hours driving around, I’ve spent hours driving, flying, and then crashing into random things for hours at a time. Whatever you come up with is just so satisfying to those base carnal urges that so often go without fulfillment.

The world is truly massive – humongous even, so much so that your unlikely to see every single part. Yet it is just so detailed with interesting structures and hidden objects to amuse yourself with. You can trek through jungles, Waltz through the middle of a metropolis, race boats across the Atlantic, speed across a cloud filled sky in a jet or even rocket ship, or sky dive from the highest points of the world. There are all manor of buildings, settlements and city structures to destroy, terrorize or mold to your will. This world is a true sandbox.. but this time all the sandcastles were built-in advance and you just get to wreck the joint all the while cackling with a mad kind of glee.

Kind of funny but I don’t think I’ve ever completed the campaign for it. I mean too, and I’ve gotten reasonable far (I think) but never to the end. I haven’t ever needed to, the world is just too much fun to worry about that and once I start exploring, driving or blowing things up I just forget about it. If you haven’t bought this game yet for the measly few dollars it is on steam then well… you really have missed out.

The only problem with it all was that you were never able to enjoy this idiocy with your friends. This is set to change as a small group of friendly modders have been developing a multiplayer mod complete with an entire faction war system… it’s going to be AMAZING! It has been in development for several months but it should be ready in the near future. There are also rumours of a third addition to the franchise which has multi-player potential.. although that has also been debunked, apparently – who knows.

Well that’s it really. There are a lot of amazing open world games out there that are a joy to play and more on the way. An honourable mention also goes to Burnout: Paradise for being the best Open World Driving game out there if not the best driving game period. Huge world, lots of little details, hidden tracks and jumps… and the car crashes were freekin amazing to watch.

*what, no Skyrim… Boooo you hack*

Sorry but I find them all incredibly boring from Morrowind on.


4 thoughts on “Best Ever Single Player Sandbox’s

  1. Just Cause 2! I think I have spent more time NOT playing the “game” than I have following the plot. It makes me ask “is the story bad because I never follow it” or “is the game just so fun” that my own childish whimsy takes over? How many games can you say you just did your own thing all day? And what about the concept? When designing your own fun becomes your obsession then sandbox evolves to it’s highest form. If you are ADD do not play this game with any intention of finishing. You will find a thousand distractions just going somewhere. The game lets you play forever anyway so finish it up and go back to your life of deathstunts!

    • I don’t think it’s necessarily like the story was, or is bad it’s just that it could never compete with the amazing experiences you create for yourself.

      And yes you could never ever finish this game as the end point is always based on your imagination. Plus I could always just blow up one more building

      • I completely agree with Just Cause 2. It’s just so massively FUN. In many ways, it is what all other “sandbox” games attempt to be.

        The campaign does feel a bit thrown-in. I wonder if it was obligatory, for the slightly more narrative-driven sandbox-players. Do those exist? I’m sure they do.

        Also, thanks for the shoutout! I’m from Plus10.

      • I will always love it although disappointed there is probably not going to be a 3rd one. Maybe mad max will be the next.

        I don’t know about that, the campaign does fit in well and the territory control system is interesting. I am one of those players too who likes a little guide in my sandboxes. The campaign starts you off and gets you familiar with the world and then you feel comfortable going out and doing all that crazy stuff. It is a side mechanic for when you need a little story too and those urges do pop up from time to time.

        AHHHHHHHHH!!.. hello to you too and your welcome. You guys deserve more of an audience as you do an excellent podcast. enough but not too much rambling, interesting dialogue around games, mechanics and news, and you all work well together while adding your own interests.

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