The term sandbox refers to games that allow players the freedom to traverse an open world environment, and do as they please without much limitation to where you can go. Many know of this genre as open world games and encourage you to venture out into the vast world in search of items, enemy encounters and more. MMORPGs do share resemblance to sandbox titles such as Blade and Soul or Phantasy Star Online, but the more commonly known sandbox titles are Elder Scrolls: Online and Fallout. These games are extremely fun to immerse yourself in because there’s almost an infinite amount of ways you can approach the game, along with a ton of questing to keep things interesting.
10. Metal Gear Solid: Phantom Pain
- System/Platform: Multi Platform
- Publisher: Konami
- Developer: Kojima Productions
- Release Date: September 1, 2015
Metal Gear Solid has always provided players with a tantalizing feeling for decades, and when Phantom Pain released pretty much every MGS fan wet themselves with excitement. The story was set nine years after Ground Zeroes and a decade after Metal Gear, and you follow Venom Snake on his path to seek revenge on those who destroyed his forces and almost killed him in the process. The tactical espionage approach to the game is what makes it such a thrill to play, because unlike in other MGS games where you could just run and gun your way through, you get punished heavily in this one.
Whether you’re slithering across the grassy plains to avoid being detected by security, or sniping unsuspecting guards atop buildings, Phantom Pain was so satisfying not only to play but to watch as well. The cutscenes are legendary, as expected by the god Kojima himself, but everything felt very organic and full of emotion. You really felt a connection with Snake and didn’t want him dead, so you’d always do your very best to avoid danger at all costs. You could take to the skies in a copter or just grab a horse and gallop around to the next destination, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg in this action packed open world thrill ride.
9. Story of Seasons
- System/Platform: Nintendo 3DS
- Publisher: Nintendo | Marvelous USA
- Developer: Marvelous
- Release Date: February 17, 2014
We have all dreamed someday of owning our own little farm in the prairies, tending to our livestock and enjoying the peaceful rural life. Maybe that’s only just us, but for those who aren’t ready for that type of lifestyle can at least jump into the world of Story of Seasons. Much like Harvest Moon titles, you control the main character and you must go around in search for materials to ensure your farm stays well maintained, and there’s always some surprises waiting for you. They’re not huge surprises by any means, but enough to keep you coming back for more to check up on your farm and see that things are in order.
There’s really no level of difficulty other than the fact that if you’re a lazy farmer your crops will die, but if you dedicate yourself to always making sure everything is taken care of, the game rewards you dearly. Mind you Story of Seasons will not appeal to everyone, but one thing is for certain, you’ll never find this farming simulation experience anywhere else. At least not of this quality because it’ll always deliver in almost every way, ensuring that you get the best out of your farm life and that when you ever do return to visit, there’s plenty of responsibilities waiting for you.
8. Blade and Soul
- System/Platform: Windows
- Publisher: NCsoft
- Developer: NCsoft
- Release Date: June 30, 2012
Blade and Soul comes with a lot of perks such as a deep character customization system, and very versatile battle system that allows you to dish out the damage in style and freedom. Exploration is seamless as well, with there being an enormous amount of quests to take part in. The beginning sections of the game is just you wandering around getting the hang of things, but once you’ve mastered all the techniques it’s the PvP section that you’ll want to jump right into.
While in PvP you can either work alongside other players to secure victory in vicious battles, or you can be that dastardly villain and kill people at will. While we don’t recommend the latter, it’s certainly a choice you have in this very fun and immersive game.Like most MMORPGs, Blade and Soul is honestly most enjoyed with friends because you can wander the world together and summon your mounts at anytime to make traveling smooth. Filled with a plethora of magic spells and powerful weapons, Blade and Soul is satisfying in every way and there’s just an endless amount of ways to play the game, since you can always create a new character if you ever grow bored.
7. Dragon’s Dogma Online
- System/Platform: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 3, Windows
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Date: August 31, 2015
Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma Online truly delivers in the sandbox category and takes notes from the likes of Monster Hunter and also other prominent ARPGs out there. Dragon’s Dogma Online incorporates various elements such as hack and slash, then combines that with everything you love about action titles to create a fantastic online gaming experience. Another plus is that it’s free to play so all you need to do is make an account, log in and slay dragons at will. Over two million people downloaded the game at its release, and the community is still growing by the hundreds daily.
It’s very common nowadays to see games take on a hybrid style in terms of gameplay, so it’s nothing revolutionary when it comes to Dragon’s Dogma Online. However what truly helps it stand out among the rest is that it incorporates innovative gameplay aspects such as the pawn system, where you can control three of your other party members by giving them orders on the fly. One member is your own while the other members actually come from other players online, allowing the opportunity to borrow them for your long journey. With other cool options such as being able to grab onto objects, monsters and NPCs around the world, Dragon’s Dogma Online is one online experience you definitely need to dive into.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
- System/Platform: Wii, Wii U, Nintendo Gamecube
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release Date: November 19, 2006
Taking notes from its predecessors along with the likes of Super Mario 64, known for its revolutionary 3D open world experience, Twilight Princess provides you with an open world experience like no other. Once you venture through the beautifully crafted worlds either as a wolf or as Link, you realize just how breathtaking this game is. The versatility in Twilight Princess is remarkable because while you could easily just breeze through the incredibly riveting main story, you don’t feel the need to rush because there’s a lot more other things to look for.
Nintendo truly understands sandbox quite well and you can see that in the level design and freedom you feel while playing. Load times are minimal, gameplay is fantastic, and the story is emotionally gripping. This shouldn’t come as a surprise though because this is The Legend of Zelda we’re talking about, and this game has yet to release a game that truly disappoints. Now with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild dropping in less than a month from now, we can only expect there to be an even more open world filled with mystery and jaw dropping adventures.
5. Phantasy Star Online 2
- System/Platform: PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Windows, Mobile
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Sega
- Release Date: July 4, 2012
Phantasy Star Online is the series that brought MMO into the spotlight ever since its debut on the Dreamcast back in 2000. Players were thrown into this futuristic sci-fi fantasy world where you could choose from a variety of classes, all with their own unique characteristics. Before the surge in popularity for Monster Hunter, fans would flock to the online servers for PSO to get their fix. Phantasy Star Online 2 takes all of the brilliance from the original and stacks on so much more in terms of gameplay, pertaining to quests. Main quests feel a lot more fleshed out, while side missions are abundant in selection and feel fresh everytime especially when you do them with other players.
The battles are another selling point too because it’s all lightning fast, with lasers and bullets flying across the screen as if you were watching an action film. PSO2 is so popular that many fans in the west are still begging Sega to make an official western release, because as of now, it’s only available in Japan and South East Asia. A lot of MMORPGs take a lot from Phantasy Star Online and for good reason, because there’s an endless array of things to collect, along with meeting new friends online which is a huge plus.
4. Dragon Quest Builders
- System/Platform: PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Square Enix
- Release Date: January 28, 2016
Minecraft definitely ignited the torch when it came to sandbox gaming, but it was Square Enix who then took that torch and ran with it all the way to the bank. Dragon Quest Builders took everything you enjoyed about Minecraft and injected so much more options, along with a great story to create a uniquely beautiful RPG for anyone to enjoy. All of the wonderful things you were enamored by in Dragon Quest are all there for you to take advantage of, from its quirky dialogue to the well written narrative that just keeps you hungry for more.
Everything felt a lot more seamless in Dragon Quest Builders from the exploration side all the way to the battle section, where you had to defend your village from random enemies who try to infiltrate it. All of this glued together truly made Dragon Quest Builders an unforgettable experience because there was never a shortage of things to do. The only issue is that we wish the story lasted a little bit longer just to provide us with something to cling onto after our scavenging is completed. Nevertheless, Dragon Quest Builders is one sandbox anime game you don’t want to sleep on, then again you probably won’t get much sleep while playing it.
3. Monster Hunter Generations
- System/Platform: Nintendo 3DS
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Date: November 28, 2015
Monster Hunter is a huge franchise and most of its popularity comes from the fact that you can band together with other heroes, travel the vast land in search for huge creatures, taking it down for items and bragging rights. While it hasn’t built up a lot of traction as Capcom would like it to in the west, Japan is where you’ll find a lot of hunters playing just about everywhere. Whether it be on the train to school or on the way back home from work, Monster Hunter is a game that’s immersive and constantly evolving. Monster Hunter Generations takes everything you loved from the previous iterations and simply beefs up the exploration way beyond what we’re normally used to, always adding new monsters as well to conquer.
Perhaps the greatest aspect behind Monster Hunter’s glorious success is that it can be enjoyed with multiple people from just about anywhere. With various weapon types to choose from such as the powerful Lance or the more ranged weapon such as the Bow, the game gives you the ability to do things your way and that’s an amazing feeling. The game isn’t a walk in the park also as there’s a lot of hunting and gathering that you’ll need to do in order to level up weapons, etc. So with all of the exploration along with all of the battling you have to do, Monster Hunter Generations is a game you can play limitlessly.
2. Final Fantasy XV
- System/Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Square Enix
- Release Date: November 29, 2016
Fans eagerly waited for years to finally get their hands on Final Fantasy XV and when they did, it was like waking up in an entirely new world booming with life. Final Fantasy XV is the latest title from Square Enix that features main protagonist Noctis and his crew, as they band together to save the kingdom from ruin and restore security to the people. The game is filled with a cornucopia of things to do, such as just free riding in your Regalia or just hopping on your Chocobo in search for items in the vast desert.
Whatever you felt like doing Final Fantasy XV allowed you to do it, with very little loading times in between with the exception of entering certain cutscenes. FFXV is breathtaking to look at and the intense battles keep you on the edge of your seat for hours. While the main story isn’t as long as many would’ve liked it to be, there’s just a plethora of side missions to partake in that you often forget there’s a main plot to begin with. Square Enix promised to deliver and they not only delivered in a big way, but they made sure to throw some extra icing on an already delicious cake.
1. Xenoblade Chronicles X
- System/Platform: Wii U
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Monolith Soft
- Release Date: April 29, 2005
Xenoblade Chronicles X may have arrived on the Wii U at a time when the system was really struggling to keep up, but the game truly blew everyone’s mind and became one of the Wii U’s strongest selling titles of 2015. Xenoblade Chronicles X took a different direction from Wii’s original, and threw players into a vast world filled with enormous monsters, incredibly beautiful environments all with their own unique habitats, and the powerful mecha that you can take along with you to explore unknown areas on the map.
You could either take to the skies in your mecha or just wander around on foot which gave the game so much more depth than its Wii counterpart, along with very enticing missions that kept you coming back for more. The world felt alive as civilians would be attending to their own personal endeavors, and you could interact with them for specific missions. Xenoblade Chronicles X is massive, so massive that if you truly want the best experience out of the entire game, you’ll need to spend around 200+ hours to get the true feel of it all. While that sounds like a ton of hours to spend on a game, Xenoblade Chronicles X is worth every minute, hour, and day of your life because every battle you encounter is magnificent.
It seems that more and more companies are starting to take the more open world approach to their games, and we’re all down for that because we need more freedom. Linear games are that of the past and now more hardcore fans are looking for something genuine and rich in exploration to take part in. With classics like Grand Theft Auto V, the unforgettable Super Mario 64 and the spectacular Red Dead Redemption, we’re praying that 2017 will reward us with something more thrilling to sink our teeth into. Let us know what sandbox RPG anime games you loved the most in the comments section below, and be sure to follow us on social media for more!
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