Sandbox games, the virtual universes with no hand-holding from the developers or on-rails progression. You're plopped into a world and told, "go do something, whatever you want!" Do you want to build a house? Go for it. You want to spend your days fishing? Sure. Want to sneak up on another players and steal all their stuff? It’s foolhardy but it might work. Welcome to sandbox games, where there's no strings dictating how you play.
It’s the game for those of you who grin at your family Coat of Arms when not researching Charlemagne: Wurm Online, one of the first Notch creations before Minecraft. Wurm is a game that drops you in a forest and says, “go do something.” It epitomizes radical freedom, even the roads linking settlements have to be forged by players. If you love inhabiting a world entirely dependent on you and others then Wurm is your game.
If you like Wurm but want a world with more structure then take a trip to Mortal Online: a gritty medieval atmosphere where you carve out your own place as a politician, merchant, combatant, whatever. The world is expansive and will appeal to players looking to explore, just make sure you know how to wield a sword or a bow or you might become some creatures next meal.
While still in development, Albion Online promises players who love crafting—in-between murdering one another—a good time. The entire economy is player driven. You need lumber? Players. You need a weapon? Players. To immerse yourself completely in the top-down world you’ll have to become part of an interdependent guild fulfilling whatever roles are needed (take that Marx), before waging a massive battle against a neighbor.
Tree of Life
If you ever wanted to build a city and rule over its single-person population with an iron fist then look no further then Tree of Life. The Korean developed sandbox game is all about building your village to stave off adorable monsters that creep about at night. Or, if you can get enough comrades, form an army and knock down the walls of another player's town.
While some joke EVE Online is “Excel in space,” those jesters always forget to add “where you can do anything:” mine, fight, infiltrate, explore, sabotage, represent, anything. Do anything, but you’ll have to work for it, and to learn to embed yourself with a universe brimming with players. While EVE Online doesn’t appeal to everyone, it does have one of the strongest core communities of any multiplayer game.
Can your eyes not handle 3D? Do you like a fantasy universe that’s hungry for your imagination? Terraria, the game that’s been around for a while and I really shouldn’t be the one breaking the news to you. Terraria provides a zen-like experience as you harvest resources and fight cute monsters, or sit back and relax while staring at your creations.
Like Terraria but wish it was sci-fi? Okay, Starbound. Starbound follows the same premise as Terraria but with its own twists, like two restaurants with in-house curry recipes. Hop from planet to planet, digging your way towards the planet’s core and defend yourself against xenoforms. Then build yourself a home, or fortress, and invite your friends to marvel at your creativity.
It's the game I used to play during school, when we were supposed to be learning how to cite sources during library hours: Runescape. It's one of the OG do-whatever-you-want games: tear down a forest, mine for ore, hunt newbie players with your sword. The best part? You can still play classic Runescape for all the nostalgic feels or try your luck in the overhauled Runescape 3 servers.