There's no time limit. No restraints, other than the occasional Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence. No compulsory objectives, no requirements. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want. Well, okay, there are goals if you actually want to, you know, finish the game, but why bother when there's so much to do beforehand?
As computer technology evolves, video games gradually move away from the traditional sequential level design towards letting their players loose onto a vast virtual world devoid of designated transition choke-points and loading screens. The terms "open world" and "sandbox" are applied interchangeably to such design, but they are actually two separate aspects of a Wide Open Sandbox that have to be distinguished:
- Open world design is a level design paradigm characterized by the lack of artificial constraints to the player's movement within the game world, typically ranking high on the Sliding Scale of Linearity vs. Openness. This is in contrast to games featuring No Sidepaths, No Exploration, No Freedom (like Half-Life).
- Sandbox gameplay is a type of gameplay that offers a large variety of mechanics and game systems for the player to explore and toy with, from Sidequests to Mini Games. This is in contrast to games revolving around a few core gameplay mechanics (like Portal).
Although these two aspects often go hand in hand, there is a large number of games that have open worlds but no sandbox gameplay (e.g. the Metroidvania game genre). Conversely, there are sandbox games with a wide variety of gameplay systems but little effective freedom of movement (ex: most of the Immersive Sim game genre). Only when the two aspects come together in a single game does it count as a proper Wide Open Sandbox.
The appeal of an open-world sandbox lies in its massive Replay Value potential, as the players are theoretically free to set and pursue their own goals and experiment with various gameplay systems indefinitely. The flip side is that many developers fall (and lead their players) into the Quicksand Box trap, where the sheer wealth of non-linear content, without a driving storyline or a clear overarching goal, results in players losing interest in the game, especially if it doesn't keep track of their objectives and progress. Additionally, player freedom is often difficult to reconcile with a dramatically paced narrative, resulting in underwhelming plots and characterization in many open-world sandbox games.
Historically, open-world sandboxes took many cues from Action-Adventure and role-playing video games, which have traditionally implemented an assortment of subsystems and are often driven by exploration. An RPG player, however, is rarely expected to be Sidetracked by the Gold Saucer, which is the bread-and-butter of sandbox games. MMORPGs and MUDs tend to be designed like this, as well, since they don't have an ending in the usual sense, being sandboxes that expand as new content is added. Traditionally, the "distractions" all involve some kind of combat or another, but newer games in the genre have increasing focus on professions and gear tweaking. Long-runners even end up with multiple main narratives to choose from but as with offline games following this trope, they tend to be relatively weak.
Early role-playing games typically used an open Overworld concept, presented as a Fantasy World Map with the Overworld Not to Scale, such as Ultima. On the other hand, Action-Adventure and Action RPG titles typically use a fully-scaled open world, with Courageous Perseus and Hydlide being the Ur Examples, The Legend of Zelda being the Trope Maker, and Grand Theft Auto being the Trope Codifier.
Not to be confused with the Wiki Sandbox, or software sandboxes for untrusted code like browser-based Java games, or the OTHER kind of sandboxes. The one with sand. In a box.
Games in this genre:
- 7 Days to Die
- AI Dungeon 2
- An Airport For Aliens Currently Run By Dogs
- Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed
- Alba: A Wildlife Adventure
- The Amazing Frog?
- Animal Crossing
- Animal Crossing (2001)
- Animal Crossing: Wild World
- Animal Crossing: City Folk/Let's Go to the City
- Animal Crossing: New Leaf
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons
- <!—/index—>Assassin's Creed:<!—index—>
- Assassin's Creed
- Assassin's Creed II
- Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
- Assassin's Creed: Revelations
- Assassin's Creed III
- Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
- Assassin's Creed Rogue
- Assassin's Creed: Unity
- Assassin's Creed Syndicate
- Assassin's Creed Origins
- Assassin's Creed: Odyssey
- Assassin's Creed: Valhalla
- Art Academy features the "Free Paint" mode in all entries. Art Academy: SketchPad is only this mode.
- While the Atelier series is mostly linear JRPGs, a few games take a more open-world approach:
- Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey is the series' first foray into the genre, with large, open-ended maps and non-linear objectives.
- Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key is a downplayed case: while the main story is linear, its maps are even bigger than those in Atelier Firis, and there's an abundance of side-quests.
- Batman: Arkham Series
- Black & White
- Bloody West
- Bloody Spell
- Body Harvest
- Boiling Point: Road to Hell
- As well as its sequel, White Gold: War in Paradise (originally released under the titles of Xenus 2: War in Paradise).
- Bravely Default
- Brütal Legend
- Burnout Paradise
- Cantr II
- Caravaneer 2
- Cereal Soup
- Chibi-Robo! (Well, a house is wide open when you are 4 inches tall)
- Cortex Command
- Cosmic Osmo
- Courageous Perseus
- The Crew
- Cube World
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Dark Souls Trilogy
- Days Gone
- Deadly Premonition
- The Dead Linger
- Dead Rising
- Destroy All Humans!
- <!—/index—>Deus Ex Universe:<!—index—>
- Dino System
- Disney Infinity
- Dog's Life
- Dragon's Dogma
- Dragon Quest
- Dragon Quest II
- Dragon Quest III
- Dragon Quest VIII
- Dragon Quest IX (approaches this, mostly in the post-game)
- Dragon Quest X
- Dragon Quest XI
- Dragon Quest Builders
- Dragon Quest Builders 2
- Dragon Quest Treasures
- Dragon Slayer
- Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu
- Legacy of the Wizard
- Dreams in the Witch House (2023) (albeit downplayed a bit, in that the game features a time limit of 60 in-games)
- Driver 2: The Wheelman is Back
- Driver: Parallel Lines
- Driver: 76
- Driver: San Francisco
- Drox Operative
- Dwarf Fortress
- Dynasty Warriors 9 is the first entry in the series to go open world.
- Eastshade, a combat-free sandbox where the player is a painter.
- Elden Ring
- <!—/index—>The Elder Scrolls:<!—index—>
- Endless Ocean
- Endless Sky
- Ephemeral Fantasia
- Escape Velocity, and several Game Mods:
- EVE Online
- Everybody Edits is this in some worlds, while others are not open.
- The Evil Within 2
- Fading Afternoon
- From Dust
- Faery Tale Online
- Far Cry (from part 2 onward)
- Feral Heart
- Final Fantasy
- Final Fantasy
- Final Fantasy II (you can travel to places before you are supposed to, provided the over-leveled monsters don't kill you first)
- Final Fantasy III
- Final Fantasy IV
- Final Fantasy V
- Final Fantasy VI
- Final Fantasy VII
- Final Fantasy VIII (When the gang travel to the Time Compressed world version of their world, cities and Gardens that were accessessible would be blocked off by a barrier)
- Final Fantasy IX (although as you progress further into the final bit of the story on disc 3/begin the start of disc 4, you'll notice that some places that were once accessible have now become inaccessible since the tree's roots now prevent entrance)
- Final Fantasy XI
- Final Fantasy XII
- Final Fantasy XIII-2
- Final Fantasy XIV
- Final Fantasy XV
- Final Fantasy Type-0
- Final Fantasy Dimensions
- Fireworks Mania - An Explosive Simulator
- The First Tree, with you playing as a fox exploring nature
- Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise
- The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa
- Football Manager
- The Forest
- Forza Horizon series<!—/index—>
- Forza Horizon
- Forza Horizon 2
- Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious
- Forza Horizon 3
- Forza Horizon 4
- Forza Horizon 5
- Freedroid RPG
- Genshin Impact
- The Getaway
- Ghost of Tsushima
- Ghost Recon Wildlands — A first for the Ghost Recon series
- The Godfather
- Grand Theft Auto
- Grand Theft Auto
- Grand Theft Auto 2
- Grand Theft Auto III
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
- Grand Theft Auto Advance
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
- Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
- Grand Theft Auto IV
- Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
- Grand Theft Auto V
- Grand Theft Pizza Delivery
- Graveyard Keeper
- Gravity Rush
- Green Hell
- GTI Club
- Harry Potter
- Harvest Moon
- Harvest Town
- Heat Signature
- Hogwarts Legacy
- Homefront: The Revolution
- Horizon Zero Dawn
- House Party (2017)
- Immortals Fenyx Rising
- Imp of the Sun
- Instruments Of Destruction
- Jak II: Renegade
- Jaws Unleashed
- Junk Jack
- Just Cause
- Just Die Already
- Kenka Banchō 2: Full Throttle
- Kerbal Space Program
- Kerbal Space Program 2
- Kinect: Disneyland Adventures: Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California circa 2011. The only open world game for the Kinect sensor peripheral; an Xbox One/Microsoft Windows re-release makes the sensor optional.
- Kingdom Come: Deliverance
- Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
- Kirby Air Ride (City Trial Mode)
- L.A. Noire
- Legend of Mana
- The Legend of Zelda
- The newer LEGO Adaptation Games such as
- LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes: Gotham City.
- LEGO The Lord of the Rings: Most of Middle-earth.
- <!—/index—>LEGO The Hobbit: The rest of Middle-earth.<!—index—>
- LEGO City Undercover
- LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Marvel-ized Manhattan.
- LEGO Marvel Avengers: Slightly different Marvel-ized Manhattan, with smaller Asgard, South Africa, Los Angeles coastline and Washington, D.C.
- LEGO Marvel Superheroes 2
- LEGO Worlds
- Mad Max (2015)
- Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven
- The Manhole
- Mario Paint
- Metal Gear Solid V
- Metal Saga (Metal Max)
- Microsoft Flight Simulator: The entire planet Earth in free mode. However, much of that series' core fandom demand that all players must strictly follow real life flight laws, down to needing to make and follow a flight plan, on their multiplayer servers.
- Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
- Might and Magic
- Mist Survival
- Mizzurna Falls
- Mount & Blade
- Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord
- My Time at Portia
- Need for Speed (select titles)
- Neo Scavenger
- Nobunaga's Ambition
- No Man's Sky
- No More Heroes
- People Playground
- Phoning Home
- Planet Explorers
- Pokémon Scarlet and Violet
- Portal Knights
- Postal 2
- The Powder Toy
- PowerWash Simulator has a Free Play Mode.
- The Precursors
- Radiation Island
- Rage (2011)
- Rebel Galaxy
- Red Dead Redemption
- Red Faction: Guerrilla
- Retro City Rampage
- Rigid Chips
- River City Ransom
- River City Girls
- Roadwar 2000
- Romance of the Three Kingdoms
- Rune Factory
- The Saboteur
- Saints Row
- Scarface: The World Is Yours
- Scooby-Doo! and the Spooky Swamp
- Scrap Mechanic
- Sea of Thieves
- Second Life
- Open Simulator: Open source version of Second Life.
- Secrets of Rćtikon
- Serpent In The Staglands
- Shakedown: Hawaii
- Shinjuku no Okami
- Shores of Hazeron
- Sid Meier's Pirates!
- The Simpsons Hit & Run
- The Sims series
- Sleeping Dogs
- Sneaky Sasquatch
- Sonic Frontiers
- Space Engine
- Space Rangers
- Space Travel (most probably the Ur-Example, as it was written in 1969)
- Shadow of Chernobyl
- Clear Sky
- Call of Pripyat
- Star Cruiser
- Star Traders: Frontiers
- Stardew Valley
- Starflight The Lost Colony
- State of Decay
- Steambot Chronicles
- SunDog: Frozen Legacy
- Superman Returns
- Survival Crisis Z
- Tales of Zestiria
- Tail of the Sun
- Test Drive Unlimited (a sub-series of Test Drive)
- Test Drive Unlimited
- Test Drive Unlimited 2
- Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown
- Thief Simulator
- Timothy vs. the Aliens
- The Tomorrow Children
- Tower of Fantasy
- Toy Story 3 (the game)
- True Crime: Streets of LA
- True Crime: New York City
- Sleeping Dogs (previously True Crime: Hong Kong)
- Ultima VII: The Black Gate
- Uncharted Waters
- Universe Sandbox
- UnReal World
- Vendetta Online
- Way of the Samurai
- Wi LD
- Wild Metal Country
- The Wind Road
- The Witcher
- XCar: Experimental Racing
- Xenoblade Chronicles
- X: Beyond the Frontier
- X: Tension
- X2: The Threat
- X3: Reunion
- X3: Terran Conflict
- X: Rebirth (2013)
- Like a Dragon (a.k.a. Yakuza')
- Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
- Yume Nikki
- Zombie Driver
- The gamebook series The Fabled Lands (Fabled Quest in the US) was based around this idea, with hundreds of different side quests, some stretching across multiple books each of which represented a geographical area. If your character walked (or sailed) to edge of the map in one book he would end up in another, and there was no need to start the books in any order. Unfortunately, only six of the planned twelve books were published, leaving the world incomplete. Rumors of a Project Aon-style online revival with all twelve books remain unconfirmed. What has been confirmed however, is that the first 6 books are being re-released on the iPhone sometime in 2010, and if interest is high enough, the other twelve will also be written and released.
- Some of the Middle-Earth Quest gamebooks also managed this. Notably, A Spy in Isengard let you go anywhere on the map, and let you revisit the same location as many times as you liked (although, granted, there were a finite number of events that could happen at any location. There was a time limit, but only if you used the advanced rules, and even if you blew it, you didn't lose, you just got a less optimal ending; in the basic rules, Take Your Time was in full effect (that could actually be a minor problem, since it forced you to show up early for certain critical events). There was a goal, of course, but you could choose among multiple possible ways of accomplishing it. All in all, this was a very high degree of openness for a gamebook. Some of the other books in the series managed comparable levels of openness, but at least one, Treason at Helm's Deep, thoroughly averted this trope.
The first book in the series, Night of the Nazgûl, used the same game mechanics to achieve a similar Wide Open Sandbox feel, although with some wrinkles. As with Spy, there was a time limit in the advanced rules, although that again only determined the optimality of the ending. More peculiarly, many locations were functionally identical to other locations. For example, almost every map hex within the Barrow-Downs contained tombs that you could explore and loot. Each location text entry for the Barrow-Downs, however, referred you to one of maybe two or three encounter text passages, so if you thoroughly explored the entire Barrow-Downs, you would run into effectively the same monsters and the same loot, and the same text passages describing them, over and over again. So in effect, you were playing in a Wide Open Sandbox in which many places were completely identical to many other places.
- This is waaaaaay Older Than the NES, having been a widely accepted style of play in the early days of Dungeons & Dragons. The "Wilderlands" series of third-party supplements by Judge's Guild, now considered classics, were particularly good at supporting this style of play. Many recent products that have come out of the "Old School Renaissance" revive this approach to the game, including at least two updated versions of the Wilderlands themselves. Most of these products are for older versions of the game or newer "retro-clones" thereof, but the "Kingmaker" adventure path for Pathfinder has elements of it too.
- Stars Without Number is intended to support this play style. However, Word of God has it that since normal sandbox play is less than easy on the GM due to the necessity of designing potentially very many locations the players might never go, the rules were designed to make it easy to graft in modules from other games, especially second-edition D&D, with a little re-skinning.
- The Dracula Dossier: The Director (GM) may set some of the ground rules, but the course of the campaign depends on which notes in the titular dossier the players decide to follow up on.
- One of the complaints against early editions of Blue Planet was that it was this - a fantastic setting with a lot of options, but not much guidance for game masters on how to create a campaign.
- The highly successful Half-Life 2 mod Garry's Mod is nothing but the sandbox. While there are game modes included, they came later.
- Shadow of the Colossus subverts this sort of game: there's a giant, open world and nothing in it at first glance (and not much at second, actually).
- Steambot Chronicles is a Japanese video game take on this. Piloting a mecha, riding a bicycle, playing music or pool for money are just a few of the things you can do.
- Betrayal at Krondor has an example of this type of gameplay done well—while you can literally explore nearly all of the available game world as early as the first chapter, the side material does not actually outweigh the central story, because you keep bumping into it wherever you go, and an incredibly strong central narrative is hailed as one of the game's greatest achievements. Also, the world map has the chapter number and current main objective on it.
- No More Heroes subverts this by seemingly giving you a world to play in, but nothing to do there. You can't use any attacks in the over-world, you slide harmlessly off of people you run into, and your bike can't even cause the lousiest bit of collateral damage. It would seem like unintentionally poor design if the game's creators weren't so Genre Savvy. Not that there isn't still treasure to dig up and dumpsters to dive into for those who want to explore every nook and cranny of the game world.
- The Civilization games avoid this (except when your starship is ready to make the trip from Earth to Planet) by declaring that you will retire sometime in the 21st century. After doing fine for several thousand years, it's hard to see why you step down now. After raising a civilization out of the Stone Age, gardening leave is hardly going to cut it, is it?
- The game sort of addresses this by saying in the end-message that it's your dynasty which is retiring, not one person who's been ruling right from the start.
- Also, all the Civilization games offer an "extended play", which allows you to play indefinitely after a victory condition is met, albeit without any additional scoring.
- The game sort of addresses this by saying in the end-message that it's your dynasty which is retiring, not one person who's been ruling right from the start.
- Most Paradox Interactive games are like this. You start out in a more-or-less historical situation (say, the world in January, 1936), then let you make your own decisions and set your own goals. Each has a "victory" condition, but these are often ignored by the fanbase. Playing as an especially hard country (say Serbia), it may feel like victory just to finish the game intact.
- The unexpectedly good The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is exactly what it sounds like. You're given a few different locations to pretty much smash up as you see fit when you don't feel like progressing the story. Among other things, depending on what your whim is at the moment, you could surf around on flattened buses, play a home run derby with people as the baseballs, or just have fun running and leaping around a city or desert, enjoying how fun it is to control the Hulk.
- In RollerCoaster Tycoon II, after careful selection of objectives ("build 10 fancy coasters") and money ("none needed"), you can pretty much ignore the game and spend hours designing the perfect shrubbery. In Classic and Open, you can make a scenario with "Have Fun!" as its objective alongside the aforementioned free money.
- RCT3 finally added an actual Sandbox mode with no constraints but the boundaries of the park, the game's physics limitations (which can mostly be circumvented with cheats), and your own creativity. Well... that, and the size of your computer's memory/processing power (it's quite possible to overwhelm average machines with too complex a park after building too much).
- The entire trade-simulation genre (notably the Patrician and Port Royale series) is all about this trope. The only requirement is "don't go broke".
- Sid Meier's Pirates! (and its remake...and the remake of the remake), sorta. They're extremely open-ended, almost to a fault, but they also have what amounts to a time limit in that your pirate ages over time and eventually has to retire. Many critics believe that this aging feature is the game's biggest flaw.
- The games based on the 2007 Transformers movie have Wide Open Sandbox worlds for the player to roam in-between missions, which are incidentally optional, but recommended to unlock content. It's somewhat like Grand Theft Auto... except that you happen to be the vehicle.
- The Genesis version of Shadowrun is an example. There is an overarching plot stuck somewhere in there, but messing about in the gameworld is too much fun to care.
- else Heart.Break() has a plot, which you are generally meant to follow, but that doesn't stop you from deciding to instead spend your time programming in Sprak (the in-game programming language), or exploring Dorisburg, or programming computers in Sprak to help you explore Dorisburg.
- The only mandatory levels in the second half of Final Fantasy VI are Figaro Cave/Castle, Darill's Tomb, and Kefka's Tower. Everything else—and there's a ton of stuff—is an optional sidequest.
- Assassin's Creed II appears to be becoming this, with secret areas, numerous sidequests, a notoriety system, three full cities and the freedom to kill any and everyone.
- The surprisingly good Spider-Man 2 movie tie-in game gives you free rein in Manhattan after the tutorial. You can go anywhere, do anything, and generally do whatever a spider can, enjoying how fun it is to control Spider-Man in the process. Want to set the record time for crossing the island end to end? Sure! Want to perform some epic-level Le Parkour? It's almost required! Want to swan dive from the Empire State Building or Statue of Liberty, only to save yourself at the last moment? (Or not save yourself at all?) As many times as you want! Oh, sure, you have a little white marker pointing you toward the plot, but you can go there any time. Besides, to finish chapters, you need Hero Points, which are earned doing just about everything you do wandering about the city: beating up thugs, solving crimes (which involve beating up thugs half the time), locating Hint Markers to contact the snarky narrator (Bruce Campbell), completing speed challenges, and... delivering pizzas.
- Likewise with Ultimate Spider-Man (which is based off the comic book series of the same name) which includes an original story and a more comic book feel of its predecessor.
- Most of the Jak and Daxter games permit you to keep wandering around as long as you like, completing the little optional missions, beating up enemies, or just picking up the "Unlimited Ammo" cheat and blowing up everything everywhere.
- Jaws Unleashed for the PS2 and Xbox was set in the wide open ocean, based off of the Jaws film series. You played as the shark. Unfortunately, the idiotic controls made it a lot less satisfying than it should've been. Still, you get to fight an Orca Whale. In the middle of an ocean park. And tear it in half. And there's a fight with a giant squid inside of an oil rig. And the swimmers are all Made of Plasticine.
- The Sims. The game manual itself mocks the reader for asking how to win! You can't win. There is no "win", just endless torment of your immortal pixel people. In the later installments of the series, however, the introduction of aging and Lifetime Wants allowed the players to create goals for themselves and their Sims. You still can't actually win, though. Just play forever.
- inFAMOUS for the PS3 is a superhero game that casts the player as a bicycle courier who develops electrical powers after being caught in a bomb blast. There are mandatory Story Missions as well as optional missions, but you can take as long as you want to work your way through the story. Your actions determine how the civilians view you and what new powers you can unlock. It's like the mutant offspring of a three-way between Grand Theft Auto, Assassin's Creed, and Fable.
- Infinity: The Quest for Earth fits here like a glove. It has over 200 billion star systems and everything (stars, planets, moons, asteroids...) is life-sized.
- The Original MechWarrior PC game had a storyline about restoring your family to a throne. But the rest of the game was so open ended many players never even knew there was a storyline in the first place. Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries and Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries allow the player to take missions as they please, such as entering themselves in the Solaris Arena matches in Mechwarrior 4 for extra money and fame with one of the two factions in the civil war. Once your fame is high enough with one side, you'll unlock their plot missions and ultimately the endgame mission.
- Red Faction: Guerrilla takes place on Mars: a literal and figurative sandbox. There are numerous side missions to help in the liberation of Mars. Interestingly, the game will actively start optional side missions when you are out driving through the badlands and settlements, as well as allowing the player to choose specific missions. Completing side missions provides resources which help in the unlockable core story missions. The story missions are generally more elaborate and spectacular.
- The Legend of Zelda is considered to be a very early interpretation of the genre, being that you can access (almost) any dungeon from the start (on the proviso that you can find it) whether you have the new weapon/Plot Coupon from the prior dungeon or not—later titles are much more restrictive and linear by comparison, despite still allowing you to bomb around the overworld more or less at will.
- The licensed video game of Toy Story 3 features a Toy Box mode, which basically lets you mess around with the characters however you want. It's intended to simulate playing with toys in Real Life. In fact, the success of the game's Toy Box mode actually led to the creation of the Disney Infinity series.
- EA's Skate series gives you a city and a skateboard. Especially improved after the first, with the addition of on-foot controls to Skate 2 and improvement of said controls in Skate 3. You can get some amazing footage for Skate.Reel just messing around. Not to mention the Film/Team Film and Hall Of Meat challenges, which you can do by skating up to any location and just pulling off the requirements. It becomes a challenge of seeing where and how the challenges can be done.
- The first Midnight Club game and its first sequel had a "Joyride" mode where you could simply drive all over town, exploring, with no time limit or objectives - even with a friend in split screen! All later games in the series also have worlds to explore, especially Midnight Club: Los Angeles.
- The Animal Crossing series has TONS of stuff for players to do, such as paying off the price for the house to expand it, collecting all fossils/bugs/fish/paintings, collecting every single item or piece of fruit as possible, etc. Yet, the player can choose to not do any of those things and just spend time wandering around town or go online and visit a friend's town.
- The Falling Sand Game, in which sand falls and you...draw things for it to fall on or into. Among other things. Also a literal example. It being a Wide Open Sandbox is mocked in the song ("Don't know how to win at all...")
- Mabinogi, a free Korean MMORPG is far more of a sandbox type game than is typical for the genre. There is an overarching story, and several major side stories; but the majority of the game's content can be accessed outside of the storyline.
- The ARMA series sets its missions on "islands", which are huge yet fully rendered terrains (in the style of games like Grand Theft Auto or Assassin's Creed) with no separate loading times, but in turn the editor allows for an incredible variety of what the player is actually to do within these 'islands', and there are several player-created missions that are essentially Grand Theft Auto: The MMORPG.
- The mainland in Ryzom is so exceedingly huge that some new players, upon completing the tutorial, will delete their character, make a new one, and stay on the tutorial continent for a while longer this time.
- Spectrum Holobyte's Vette! may have been the very first open sandbox driving game, and was one of the first true 3D driving games. The Tour mode allowed you to freely roam the city and quick-travel between landmarks.
- Xenoblade Chronicles is a JRPG that borrows a few of elements from their western counterparts. Despite the linearity of the story, it has a copious amount of overarching sidequests to be done, and lots powerful unique monsters and secret areas to found at one's pleasure. In fact, one can lose a lot of gameplay hours just exploring the vast world and staring at the game's beautiful scenery.
- The Warrior Cats fan game Warrior Cats: Untold Tales is nothing but this. There is no plot or set objective. You can explore the map, hunt, find a mate, train an apprentice, and more.
- Kenshi is similar to the above example—there's nothing but the sandbox, and it's up to you to thrive in it or die trying.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition aims to combine the traditional narrative focus of the Dragon Age series with an open world design, by tying the story progress to exploration and particularly to the growing power of the title organization. Story decisions and combat still form the gameplay core, however, so the sandbox aspect is minimized.
- Cantr II: As the terrible intro trailer stated, be the most famous politician, feared village idiot, lovable rogue, etc. Truth is while these are possible, they are very very difficult, simply because of player inertia. But so much more worthwhile when they happen, because of that.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RimL7HchBxU - An updated version of the trailer, a lot prettier and more interesting Warning - Game looks and plays nothing like this. Also doesn't have music.
- Impressive Title started as a Simulation Game due to its focus on playing as Mix-and-Match Critters Disneyesque lions and big cats, but after its shutdown, fans have added several mechanics such as a trading system, quests, Player Versus Player combat, shops, and more rewards for exploration.
- The World Tour mode of Street Fighter 6 features multiple fully explorable overworld maps, full of NPC fighters for the player to take on in the series’ traditional gameplay.
- ZanZarah: The Hidden Portal: While you have to advance the main plot to access more areas, there is no time limit, and you can wholeheartedly devote yourself to exploration, fairy gathering, and training the moment you leave Endeva for the first time.
- Parodied in an episode of South Park where the boys loafed around playing World of Warcraft and a majority of the episode was even made up of actual gameplay. After they spent most of the episode working towards stopping a "griefer" who kept slaughtering other people's characters, the episode ended like this:
Cartman: We did it you guys! We're totally heroes!
Kyle: That was such uber pwnage.
Stan: I can't believe it's all over. What do we do now?
Cartman: What do you mean? Now we can finally play the game.
Kyle: Oh, yeah.
- The King of the Hill episode "Grand Theft Arlen" has a couple of community college game programmers make a GTA clone called Pro-Pain!, starring a copy of Hank mainly because they thought he was funny. Initially, Hank is disgusted by the violent content ("Where's the button to turn myself in?"), but he starts getting into it when he discovers that the sandbox element lets you do good deeds like stopping purse-snatchers and robbers.