Sandbox games offer gamers absolute freedom to explore new worlds and craft their own story. If you’ve never played one before, they’re a lot of fun.
There are buckets of sandbox games on the eShop, to suit all genres and play styles. Whether you like sci-fi, fantasy or slice-of-life style games, there’ll be a sandbox game to suit your own individual preferences.
In this article, you’ll find the 12 best sandbox games on Nintendo Switch based on my extensive interest and experience in the genre. I’ve tried to include a variety of styles, with my personal favorite coming in at number 9.
As with most open-ended genres, the term ‘sandbox’ is up for interpretation. For this article, I’ve taken it to mean an open-world/expansive game with limited or no narrative that gives the player ultimate freedom, and Terraria is a great example of this.
If you’ve not played Terraria, it’s a sandbox game with an adventure and survival theme to it.
You’re dropped into a vibrant, randomly generated world and have to survive, explore and craft, while dealing with monsters and other threats.
Terraria is a beautiful game, with an iconic pixel art style. The game plays well on Nintendo Switch, with no notable performance issues. It is worth noting that the controls are a little finicky and take a while to pick up, though.
Terraria is a huge game with heaps of content to unpack and explore. The world is vast and it feels alive, and the gameplay itself is satisfying. It’s one of the best sandbox games on the Nintendo Switch, hands down.
Dragon Quest Builders
Offering an interesting mix between a sandbox building game and a classic RPG title, Dragon Quest Builders is one of the best adventure games that offers players an immense amount of freedom.
While this is certainly not an outright sandbox title, it would have felt wrong leaving it out. There’s an immense crafting system in this game, with heaps of building opportunities and chances to be creative.
Aside from the crafting in the main campaign, there’s a purely creative sandbox mode called Terra Incognita.
There are four key chapters in the story campaign, each of which introduce new monsters, blueprints and challenges to overcome. You’ll have to work through each chapter, building up a fortress to survive each wave of monsters and developing your skills as you go.
Dragon Quest Builders is a great example of how to fuse a sandbox game with another genre without losing any space for creativity. While some areas of the game are a little clunky (the combat system isn’t perfect), it performs well and looks great on the console, too.
Minecraft is one of the most iconic sandbox games in the world. Whilst you’ve almost certainly already heard of it, it would remiss of me to not include it in a list of the best sandbox games on Switch.
This game offers a true sandbox experience, throwing players into the middle of a brand new, randomly generated world and leaving them to fight, craft and explore on their own. There’s no immediate story to Minecraft, although there’s lore and whatnot if you look for it.
Minecraft has an instantly recognizable aesthetic, and it looks brilliant on the Nintendo Switch. It’s one of the most iconic survival games in history, and it plays very well.
The controls are intuitive for the most part, and it’s easy to pick up.
Multiplayer is decent enough in Minecraft on the Nintendo Switch, although I would have loved to see the addition of voice chat. You can play in both local or online multiplayer, and there are no notable performance issues for either.
This is one sandbox game that you can’t miss out on. Whether you’re looking for a sandbox to craft new worlds in or an intriguing survival experience, Minecraft is an absolute gem.
This is one of the most charming indie games on the Nintendo Switch, and it’s a shining example of how Switch titles can be more of a creative outlet than an actual game.
In Townscaper, you can build a beautiful town from the ground up, using the simplest of controls to design and organize your little utopia. You’ll have access to a series of color swatches, minimal buttons and the ability to add or take away from your town.
This isn’t a sandbox game with any story elements. In fact, there’s no story at all. It’s a purely creative sandbox tool to sink a few hours into, with a soothing art style and minimalist style of play.
I see it being especially useful for people looking to wind down after a difficult day or folk who like to keep their hands busy when watching TV or listening to a podcast. It’s simple and enchanting, but not too distracting or consuming.
Townscaper is one of the most unique game concepts on the Nintendo Switch. While it isn’t the best pick if you’re looking for an immersive, story-driven title, it is an ideal sandbox game for people who are looking to build new worlds and relax with some beautiful imagery.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda franchise is famous for crafting beautiful, immersive worlds, and Breath of the Wild is one of the best examples of a sandbox-action game hybrid title.
Breath of the Wild presents an incredibly well crafted story with loveable characters and detailed environments, packed with challenges, fights and puzzles. Unlike most RPG titles though, you can’t just run through the game in a linear fashion. It requires time, patience and exploration to get there.
Some folk may disagree with calling this a sandbox game, which is fair as it does have a chunky narrative element to it. The reason I included it in this list is the sheer amount of freedom you have as a player, and the clear effort that Nintendo has gone to in order to make you explore the game fully.
Visually, Breath of the Wild is a gem. The Legend of Zelda franchise has some truly iconic imagery, and I think it’s fair to say that Breath of the Wild is one of the most beautiful. It plays well on the Switch, with detailed graphics and a smooth user experience.
If you’ve never played a Zelda game before, I encourage you to make this your first one. It’s beautiful and rich, and offers the player an immense amount of freedom and creative space.
Don’t Starve: Nintendo Switch Edition
Changing the tone completely for a moment, this title is a shining example of how sandbox mechanics can work incredibly well when fused with spooky titles and survival games.
Don’t Starve: Nintendo Switch Edition is a creepy survival sandbox game which throws your character into the middle of a vast procedurally generated world and demands that you instantly figure out how to survive. You’ll have to craft, fight and explore to survive.
There are a lot of challenges to deal with in Don’t Starve, as almost every element and character in the world is out to get you. There’s a truly steep difficulty curve with this game, as it frequently swoops in and knocks you off balance.
If you’re a survival game fan, this is the perfect sandbox title for you. It has a beautifully eerie art style and plays well on the console, with two expansions and heaps of replay value.
In a similar vein to Dragon Quest Builders, Crashlands is a neat sandbox game that has elements of an action-adventure and RPG title. It’s incredibly fun, and comes with a whole host of interesting characters.
The story follows an intergalactic delivery driver, Flux, as she ends up on an unfamiliar planet after being attacked. You’ll need to help Flux collect her lost parcels and survive, using the game’s intricate crafting system to build whatever you need for the task at hand.
While this may sound very much unlike a sandbox game, the reason that I’ve included it in this list is that there’s a detailed sandbox mode to enjoy once you complete the main campaign. Creative mode becomes available once you beat the main storyline, opening up a whole new world of crafting and exploration.
Crashlands has a cheerful, colorful aesthetic that looks great on the Nintendo Switch. It plays well, with no notable performance issues or quirks, and the controls are intuitive as well.
Crashlands offers the best of both worlds if you’re someone that’s looking for the best Switch sandbox games with adventure elements. The creative mode offers one of the best sandbox experiences on the console, and the campaign is great too.
Astroneer is a star-studded treasure.
This game puts you in the shoes of an astronaut who has just landed on a planet called Sylva. It’s very similar to Earth, and there’s lots to explore and learn more about. From here, you can craft and discover to your heart’s content, following the Mission Log if desired.
The low-poly art style is charming, and fits the vibe of the game incredibly well. This is a game that feels at home on the Nintendo Switch, with logical controls and a pleasant user experience.
The only notable issue is that the physics system is a little broken in places, which can be frustrating but not game-breaking. Aside from a few visual glitches and camera quirks, this game plays decently on the Switch and I feel that the pros outweigh the cons by a mile.
Something that I love about Astroneer is that there’s a decent multiplayer on offer, as well as a solid solo experience. There are lots of different ways to play Astroneer, and it’s suitable for all sorts of gamers.
I’d highly recommend checking this game out. It’s fun and lighthearted, and it offers players an immense amount of freedom.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is one of the most soothing, immersive sandbox games on the Nintendo Switch, and it’s my personal favorite. There’s no overarching storyline to this game, but there’s heaps to do and it’ll keep you busy for hours.
At the start of the game, you’ll get to pick out your very own deserted island and begin the process of starting a new community on it. From here, you can fish, explore, grow plants, catch bugs, craft, collect cute clothes, meet villagers and take part in events.
The best thing about Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the level of freedom it gives you.
Do you prefer collecting items and unlocking cool things? Great, focus on completing your museum. Do you want to play with friends and travel to new islands? Wonderful, there’s a solid multiplayer option in the game too.
This game is an absolute delight, and it looks gorgeous in both docked and handheld mode. The soundtrack is beautiful, the graphics are charming and there are no notable performance issues. The controls are easy to pick up and get the hang of, too.
If you’re looking for a game with loveable characters and an immersive world, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the perfect pick for you. It’s calming, cute and incredibly cozy.
Untitled Goose Game
Have you ever wanted to be a horrible goose? If so, this is the perfect game to help you realize your fowl ambitions.
Untitled Goose Game is a shining example of a Switch sandbox game that doesn’t revolve around mining, exploration or farming. Complete with a dedicated honk button, this is a puzzle-sandbox hybrid where you play as a nasty goose causing chaos in a quaint English town.
This game is a sandbox title in that it offers a vast, detailed world and puzzles with minimal guidance and plenty of possible solutions.
While it is possible to just follow the puzzles and tasks to the letter, you can explore and cause chaos in a number of different ways, choosing to be a stealth goose, or just a regular, loud goose.
There’s even a great co-op mode, where you and a friend can play as two horrible geese. The co-op mode covers the whole game, giving you and your pal plenty of space to run around breaking things and honking together.
It’s important to remember that sandbox games can fit neatly into any genre, theoretically, and Untitled Goose Game is a wonderful example of a puzzle sandbox game. It’s a riot to play through, and performs incredibly well on the console too.
Taking place in a fractured universe full of portals, monsters and castles, Portal Knights is one of the most enjoyable sandbox-RPG hybrids on the Nintendo Switch.
In Portal Knights, you get to use portals to travel between worlds and explore various levels, each of which is full of villages, mines and other interesting locations. You have complete freedom to tear down these worlds and start anew, or to build on top of them and create something extravagant.
There’s a decent levelling system in place in Portal Knights, encouraging you to gain experience in order to be able to tackle the various bosses and monsters dotted around the world. Some battles are compulsory in order to move throughout the game, but not all.
Portal Knights is equally enjoyable as a solo player or as part of a group. The game itself plays very well on the Nintendo Switch, offering seamless experiences for all.
With an intricate crafting experience, vast series of worlds and host of colorful characters, Portal Knights is an absolute diamond of a game.
If you’ve played Terraria or Animal Crossing: New Horizons, I’m sure you’ll love Stardew Valley if you haven’t played it already. I personally think of these three games as the ideal trinity of cozy, soothing sandbox games.
Stardew Valley is a simulation-meets-RPG title with sandbox elements. In this game, you inherit a farm and have to live off the land. You can customize your farm completely, build and enhance relationships with a whole host of interesting villagers, and explore the world around you to your heart’s content.
It’s fair to say that Stardew Valley isn’t entirely a sandbox game as there are specific narrative elements and stories to follow. It does, however, offer the player an immense amount of freedom to control the way that they play and their personal preferences.
You can play it as a general life sim, a mining game, an achievement-hunting collection game, a fishing game and much more. There’s heaps to focus on in this game.
Stardew Valley plays well on the Nintendo Switch, with a cute aesthetic, beautiful backing soundtrack and decent controls. This is one of my favorite games of all time on the Nintendo Switch, and I highly encourage you to check it out for yourself.