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Minecraft‘s debut was a revolutionary moment in gaming. Was it the first game to do what it did? Not at all. Was it an instrumental title that reinvigorated the survival sandbox genre? You bet. It’s one of the main reasons why “sandbox” is so popular these days.
But perhaps Minecraft has grown stale for you over the past few years. The good news is that there are plenty of other games like Minecraft that provide a compelling survive-in-a-sandbox environment.
What counts as “like Minecraft“? For us, it means a sharp focus on creativity, survival, and freedom. All of the games in this list fulfill at least two of those three criteria. For fans of Minecraft who haven’t yet tried these titles, you really ought to give them a shot.
Produced by Endnight Games, The Forest is an open-world sandbox game with a closed premise: you’re alone, you’re in the wilderness of an island, and your only goal is to survive. It was made available on Steam Early Access (and it definitely feels early) back in May 2014 and is currently available for $14.99 USD.
Like in Minecraft, you start with nothing and make progress by collecting resources, fashioning weapons, building structures, all the while contending with mutant humanoid predators that are native to the island and fearful of fire.
The graphics are beautiful, the environments feel realistic, and the day-night cycle is a boost to immersion. Plus, it truly is free form: you won’t find any built-in quests, missions, or other forms of guided content.
While the game is partially classified as horror, it’s not the kind that will give you nightmares. It’s more atmospheric than a jump-scare or graphic horror, though startling moments are definitely possible.
At first glance, Rust will probably remind you of that other popular sandbox game (hint: DayZ). While the game is openly inspired by its sandbox predecessors, it does try to distance itself in terms of theme and content. For example, zombies were removed early on and won’t be coming back.
Rust is currently available on Steam Early Access for $19.99 USD. Despite the risky nature of Early Access, I think Rust has shown itself to be a serious endeavor. It has already sold over 1.6 million copies and people love it.
Unlike Minecraft, Rust is a multiplayer-only game. While player vs. player combat can be toggled depending on a Minecraft server’s options, Rust forces this sort of inter-player conflict at all times. Who are your friends? Who are your enemies? You’re always kept on your toes, which is key for a thrilling experience.
Unturned is the endearing little game that you’d get if DayZ and Minecraft had a child. It’s an open-world survival sandbox with zombies and can be played in singleplayer and multiplayer modes. It’s not just a hybrid, though; there are a lot of cool features that set it apart.
Unturned is currently available on Steam as a free-to-play game. It’s technically an Early Access game in beta phase, so don’t expect it to be completely polished. That being said, there’s plenty to enjoy so far.
There are three difficulty levels. In Easy mode, you start off with a couple of items and loot spawns more frequently. Normal mode is the standard mode. For those who want a challenge, Hardcore mode increases difficulty by limiting the user interface, reducing loot spawn rate, increasing the danger throughout.
For $4.99, you can upgrade to a paid account that unlocks Gold mode, which doubles experience gain and loot spawn rates.
This game is constantly updated and often sits in the rankings for the top 10 most played games on Steam. Worth a try? You bet it is.
There are few games that reward creativity as much as Kerbal Space Program. For those who were drawn into Minecraft by its gathering-and-building aspects and didn’t care for its adventure-survival side,Kerbal Space Program might just be the perfect step up.
Kerbal Space Program is available on Steam Early Access for $29.99 and it’s worth every penny.
The core of this game is a spaceflight simulator: you build rockets and vehicles from a number of provided components, then attempt to complete missions using what you’ve built. Due to the wide array of possible choices and combinations, there’s a whole lot of room for freedom and creativity.
And don’t be put off by the graphics. Just like in Minecraft, the gameplay more than makes up for it.
Ultimately, it’s a tough game. There’s a lot of information to digest, so the learning curve can be a bit steep at first, particularly because the game tries its best to model orbital mechanics as realistically as possible, but it’s an absolute blast (no pun intended) once you get the hang of it.
Looking for a hardcore survival sandbox MMORPG? If so, you don’t have many choices to pick from. There’s EVE Online, which is the current standard for sandbox MMORPGs, followed by several lackluster titles like Darkfall and Mortal Online. The landscape is depressing for sandbox enthusiasts.
However, with Life Is Feudal, there may be light at the end of the MMORPG tunnel. It’s another Steam Early Access game—the trend is really catching on—and the price tag is rather hefty at $39.99.
Is it worth the price? That depends on what you’re looking for. The gameplay of Life Is Feudal does live up to its name by being repetitive, dangerous, and challenging. There’s heavy emphasis on the nitty-gritty (including the rich crafting system) and it’s certainly not as nice or forgiving as Minecraft.
One thing is for sure: it’s different in a niche sort of way. There’s a good chance you won’t like it, but there’s also a chance that you’ll love it. Check out a few YouTube videos and Twitch streams to get an idea before you drop any cash on it.
Any Other Sandbox Games?
There are several Minecraft-like titles that deserve an honorable mention, including Starbound, Edge of Space, and Terraria, which is available for cheap on Steam. Don’t Starve is a wonderful survival game while Garry’s Mod is the quintessential sandbox game. Give all of these a try if you can.
What other games are close to Minecraft? Which are your favorites? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
Image Credit: Minecraft Screenshot Via Kongregate