Video games can be great outlets for creativity, but what if you want them to push you a little further? There are plenty of sandbox titles that have robust construction systems, in-depth mechanics and lots of tools to tip with to give you full control over complex mechanisms. So we searched for the best of the best in the genre.
Note! Some of the games on this list are in Steam Early Access ̵1; Steam’s game sales program that is still under development. We will make a special note about those who are in Early Access, along with how long they have been in Early Access and when they are expected to be released in 1.0 (if there is an estimated release date).
Trailmakers (PC / PS4 / Xbox One)
Tralmaker’s Robust construction system opens the door to all types of vehicles, and you need them to complete the game’s various competitions and missions. But when you are done with the structured content, you do not have to worry, because the sandbox in the open world is the perfect test site for your craziest creations.
And if you run out of ideas, you can always visit Steam Workshop or Xbox Gallery and download other players’ works to touch or take inspiration from. There is also multiplayer with four players – no crossplay, unfortunately.
Trailmakers available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
Kerbal Space Program (PC / PS4 / Xbox One)
Fly to the moon, or more likely, crash in the sun in your own rocket Kerbal space program. This realistic astrophysical game makes you fight gravity as you create spaceships and planes worth Kerbalkind.
Whether you’re moving in the sandbox, discovering new technology in science mode, managing all aspects of the space program in career mode, or playing with one of the many user-created modes and vehicles (PC only), you’re sure to have a great time. Although there is a sequel coming out at the end of next year, the original is still very worth playing if you are interested in this.
Kerbal space program available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
Factorio you have crash landed in an alien world, and it is your job to design the factory and the processes needed to create the tools for your escape. This game will test your logical thinking as you try to automate mining, crafts and of course the extinction of the local wildlife that is trying to ruin all your hard work. And now that Factorio is out of Early Access after four years, now it’s as good as any time to play this amazing factory builder.
Scrap Mechanic (PC)
Scrap mechanic mixes technology with survival as you try to build and maintain the perfect base among hordes of enemies. You have to make weapons, machines and detailed vehicles to get the job done. Do not worry, there is still a creative mode where you can move around with the game’s build system without such worries. Wrap all this in a stylized package that can be enjoyed with friends in online multiplayer and Scrap mechanic will surely deliver many hours of mechanical engineering fun.
Scrap mechanic is currently in Steam Early Access and has been updated regularly for the past four years – there is no estimated 1.0 release date.
Brick Rigs (PC)
This game has a simple but enticing premise – what if you can create operational LEGO cars that explode? It’s hard not to be drawn in by such a concept, and whether you’ve building your latest creation or seeing it torn to pieces, Brick Rigs is undeniably a great time. Whether you’re creating the fastest car to get to bricks or a destructive missile launcher, Brick Rigs supports it and makes sure you have a large sandbox to experiment with. There is even online multiplayer so you and friends can pit your creations against each other.
Brick Rigs is currently in Early Access and has been updated regularly for the past four years – there is no estimated 1.0 release date.
Besiege is about destruction through construction. With the 54 levels of the game, you destroy a variety of things from the castle walls to windmills, all with machines of your own design. You can add wheels, flamethrowers, explosives and more complex mechanisms like catapults to your vehicles to win the day. There are an infinite number of ways to deal with each step, and they all test your ability to design vehicles and weapons.
But the 54 structured levels of Besiege is just the beginning. These levels introduce nuclear mechanics in Siege building systems for you, and they are amazing in themselves. But once you have opened the sandbox and started to see how far you can push this game when the pieces really come together. Just a glance at Steam Workshop shows how deep the mechanics of this game go and shows that this medieval vehicle manufacturer is actually the perfect place to play as a transformer. There are also lots of custom scenes and mods to touch with as well.
TerraTech (PC / PS4 / Xbox One / Switch)
This open world adventure game lets you play as a robot who simply wants to explore the world and turn its natural resources into something that is truly useful. You start out as a little buggy but eventually expand to have a small army of other robots that make your bid. Discover new biomes, create new types of vehicles like airplanes and even fight AI opponents scattered across the map. There is also co-op mode where you can do all this with a friend and even fight against each other if the word “co-op” means a little to you – unfortunately there is no cross game.
buy TerraTech on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch.
Infinifactory (PC / PS4)
Infinifactory is much more structured than the rest of the games here, but still has plenty of freedom of player expression. With a series of puzzle steps available, you must build assembly lines that produce products and machines to complete the level. However, there are many ways to complete each step and as you get better at the game you will learn to complete levels with increasingly compact and efficient creations. When you are done with the bass game, you can also create your own puzzle steps and play the creation of other players via Steam Workshop (PC only).
Infinifactory available on PC and PS4.
Poly Bridge (PC / Android / iOS / Switch)
Not different from Infinifactory, Poly Bridge change things by creating bridges to close gaps and get cars and trucks safely to the other side. You need to choose the right materials and building style, while ensuring that the project stays below budget. It’s a delicate balance to make sure your bridge is efficient while carrying heavier vehicles, and the mechanics introduced later in the games as drawbridges only enhance complexity.
Poly Bridge is currently available on PC, Android, iOS and Switch. There is also another sequel Poly Bridge currently only available on PC.
Space Engineers (PC / Xbox One)
IN Space Engineers, you make it to the last frontier and explore planets, moon and space all in vehicles of your own design. You need to consider the terrain for ground vehicles and whether you are building ships with atmosphere or spaceflight, so there are many design challenges to overcome.
All this is done in a solar system that you can freely explore. You can also build bases on the planet’s surface, inside asteroids, or create entire space stations orbiting overhead. And you need a base to store all your materials in survival mode (but there is also a creative mode for more freeform construction). And the best part, of course, is that Space engineers has multiplayer online, which not only means you can play with friends but also fight against other players with your own patterns – however, there is no crossplay.
You can buy Space engineers on PC and Xbox One.
Astronaut (PC / PS4 / Xbox One)
To round off this list, we have another space game for you, though Astronauts trying to simplify things a bit. Although there is no in-depth physics or robust building system here, Astronaut keeps the core of the genre by allowing you to build multiple space bases on a variety of planets to produce new products and explore new locations. Whether you are smelting ore or creating an automated assembly line for rocket fuel, you will surely be fine Astronomer–it’s even fully playable in multiplayer. There is crossplay between Xbox and Windows 10 users, but it does not work if you buy the game on Steam.
Astronaut available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.