The 5 Best Sandbox Games on Xbox 360

In the last generation of consoles, thanks to the technical progress of both the original Xbox and the PlayStation 2, developers were able to come up with a new concept for games: 3D games in a fully, open world, where players don’t have to follow the story or play by the rules, but have the freedom to just explore and try things. Everyone remembers how special it felt to play their first ‘sandbox’ type game, with some of the most remembered being Shenmue, Deus EX, GTA 3 or GTA: San Andreas. When developers moved to the next generation of consoles, not only did the graphics get better; the worlds got huge, the character reactions improved, and things to do simply multiplied.

sandbox

"What's so special about sandboxes, anyways?"

Thanks to the poweful beast the Xbox 360 turned out to be, some incredible games have taken advantage of these new features and incorporated them in order to create some of the most complex in-game worlds we’ve ever seen. Get ready to do things your way: this list is comprised of the 5 Best Sandbox Games on Xbox 360.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Oblivion, a technical masterpiece for its time, provided the player with an open world many times bigger than all of San Andreas, the biggest game of the previous generation. Based on the classic Dungeons & Dragons system for creating characters, with many races and attributes to choose from, and system that was a fine mixture of FPS/Action Game/RPG, Oblivion was a unique game where the player could do anything and go anywhere, any time.

Being that Oblivion wasn’t a sequel to any of the other Elder Scrolls games, players had an easy time just jumping in and exploring and manipulating the world in any ways they wanted. The game received some criticism from more experienced players for being too easy (enemies leveling along with the player was the main complaint) or because some dialog was cliché-ish, yet none of those criticisms could remove the sense of pure wonder and awe from the player as they first stepped into Cyrodiil, the province of Tamriel.

Red Dead Redemption

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If for any particular reason you are not too fond of medieval/fantasy settings, something more modern might cut it for you. The creators of the GTA series, Rockstar Games, released Red Dead Redemption and took everyone by surprise: the game did not have much of the characteristic humor from GTA! RDR was much more than just moving GTA to the Wild West and changing cars for horses, the game is an epic title, with a story that felt awesome on its own and didn’t need to be associated with any title to be proven as a must-play.

The game follows the story of John Marston at the Mexican-American border, in 1911. Marston is a former bandit who gets sent by the FBI to track down and capture two of his old colleagues. In order to coerce him into doing as he’s told, the FBI holds hostage his wife and child, with the promise of letting them go as soon as he fulfills his duties.

Assassin’s Creed

Assassins Creed X360

Ubisoft released Assassin’s Creed as sort of a spiritual successor of their Prince of Persia franchise, but without any of the fantastic elements and more of a sci-fi edge. But what matters the most is that the annoying Prince is not the main character! Gone with the prince are also the path restrictions, and the awesome world of the Crusades comes to life in a spectacular way for the player to explore. Altair’s (the main character) moves are based on a discipline called ‘parkour’, where someone has to reach certain point in a line as straight as possible, overcoming any obstacle, which makes Altair a very interesting character to control.

In the game, the player sees the story of two enemy factions, the Templars, and the Hashshaa-Shin, during the Crusades. Both factions are trying to obtain the  “pieces of Eden”.  Being that the Hashshaa-Shin don’t have as much manpower nor resources as the Templars, stealth, intelligence, and wits will be their main tools in order to achieve their goals.

GTA 4

GTA 4 needs no introduction: acclaimed by fans and critics alike, it’s one of the games that defined the current generation, and what every other sandbox game immediately competes with. This gem of  the world of gaming was programmed by Rockstar, and is the 9th title in the series, the true successor of GTA: San Andreas. In the game, the player controls Niko Belic, a Russian immigrant who has just reached Liberty City (a fictional American city based in New York) after hearing the stories of success of his cousin. Upon arriving, he finds out his cousin was lying all along, and his life couldn’t be further away from the American dream. Niko sets out to fix the situation, by whatever means the player considers necessary.

The game improves over everything that was broken in the previous games: combat with guns now requires real tactic thought and skill, and is not just a matter of luck, while the driving is greatly improved. Now the character can shoot while driving, and not only to the sides, and it is also possible to launch grenades from the car. Also, the world is huge and you can spends lots of time just walking around, listening to the radios in the game, or watching TV. The motto of the game seems to be “if you can think about it, you can do it”. A definite must play, whether you’re a fan of Sandbox or not.

Fallout 3

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Fallout 3, the action RPG and third game in the series, couldn’t be any more different from Fallout 1 and 2. While this might bother purists and fans of the original, it’s great to see a franchise willing to evolve and step out of its comfort zone to try something new; Fallout 3 is a true sandbox FPS, with a lot of RPG elements, but above all, a fantastic gaming experience. Set in 2277, in a post-apocalyptic world, it tells the story of a nameless main character, and his struggle once he decides to come out of the Vault he was using as a refuge.

Fallout 3, thanks to it’s reto-future aesthetics, ads inspired in the 50s, and caustic sense of humor captivated fans across the globe, and by now brands like Nuka Cola don’t sound as foreign as they used to. Also, the change in style from previous Fallout games, which had an isometric view like Diablo, to FPS with RPG ingredients (similar to Deus EX) was a smooth transition that enhanced the sense of immersion. The game worked so well that Bethesda couldn’t help themselves and released Fallout: New Vegas shortly after, inspired in the same universe, but with a whole new set of characters.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our Portal 2 and Brink hands-on reviews.

7 thoughts on “The 5 Best Sandbox Games on Xbox 360

  1. games with a Mission or Horror - xbox 360 .

    an evil feeling enters the room . . . a force that starts to peel the paint off the walls but you don’t see anything doing it, it slows your breathing. BAM! you hear something in the next room but you know your the only one there. you can’t see it but you feel it. horror games on xbox 360 . .

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  6. JPalto .

    Niko is possibly from the Balkans because unknown serial killer Eddie Low (on GTA IV’s internet news, several killings are reported throughout) asks Niko where he’s from and Eddie starts guessing. When Eddie says “Balkan

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