The 6 Absolute Best Nintendo DS Sandbox Games of All Time

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The 6 Absolute Best Nintendo DS Sandbox Games of All Time

Key Facts

  • When the Nintendo DS was released in 2004, the sandbox genre had only just become popular.
  • In spite of that, the developers were able to create games with considerable scope for exploration.
  • Spore Creatures is one such example and even provides you with the opportunity to build your own world up from scratch.

If you’re a fan of sandbox games, then the Nintendo DS is definitely worth checking out. These games let you explore and play in vast worlds. You can just focus on building things and interacting with other players, which is perfect for gamers that enjoy an immersive environment they can interact with.

The Nintendo DS has a lot of great games, including these awesome sandbox games. While your DS options are limited to purely sandbox-type games, there are some good open-world games. These games give you the freedom to build, roam, or play the way you like. From the moment you boot up your Nintendo DS and start exploring the world of these games, you’ll be hooked.

So, grab your DS and get ready to explore the best sandbox games!

What are Sandbox Games?

Simply put, sandbox video games give you a lot of freedom to roam and interact with the world. They are also usually open-world games and are sometimes characterized by how much you can interact with different tools and environments.

Was the Nintendo DS Known for Sandbox Games?

While the DS had a few open-world video games, it wasn’t a popular option for sandbox games. It did have quite a few games that had some exploration options, like Pokemon Sun.

This is partially because open-world games started to get popular in 2001 when Grand Theft Auto 3 came out. Since the Nintendo DS initially came out in 2004, they were a bit too early to get in on the rising popularity of open-world and sandbox games.

That said, there are still plenty of video games for the DS that will appeal to people who like sandbox and open-world games. To boot, there are more and more sandbox and open-world options with each new generation of video game consoles. Here are our top picks for the absolute best DS sandbox games of all time.

Spore Creatures - Nintendo DS (Creature) (Renewed)
  • Create your very own custom creatures
  • Explore environments on a quest to save the galaxy
  • Collect creatures, parts, and Bio-Powers
  • Evolve your creature to overcome challenges
  • Connect to share, show-off, and compete head-to-head with other Spore Creatures players.
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03/02/2024 03:50 pm GMT

emSpore Creatures/em puts you in charge of creating an entire world from scratch, including characters, buildings, monsters, and even plants.

You can also create your own unique creatures and share them with other players online. It places some emphasis on combat with the goal of creating things and upgrading your creature.

The game begins when the main character’s sibling, Little Oogie, gets stolen by a spaceship. You then chase after your stolen sibling through multiple different worlds, gaining new parts and tools to upgrade your character and survive. You can travel to new areas and there aren’t many limits on how you can interact with the environment. 

It has limited capabilities for playing with other people, plus it offers lots of fun opportunities for adventure. While the graphics in this game aren’t very good, it is a classic in its own right. This makes the game also fairly open-world. It also allows you to customize your character and explore.

Initially, you can travel and do almost anything on your home planet. But, after progressing a bit in the game, the galaxy is at your fingertips. You can travel to distant planets and interact with them in many different ways. While the plot gives the player opportunities for development and storyline, there is plenty of opportunity to play emSpore Creatures/em any way you want.

Dive into the world of emSpore Creatures/em on Amazon here.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars - Nintendo DS
  • Use the DS' touch screen as a PDA device to set GPS waypoints, change radio stations, communicate via e-mail with in-game characters and order weapons on the Internet.
  • Largest DS game ever, features include a world full of pedestrians, weather and traffic patterns, five different radio stations and four different sprawling boroughs to explore.
  • Endless gameplay, complete with mature storyline 70+ story missions, dozens of side quests, collectibles, contextual mini-games and the all new mission replay feature.
  • Nintendo Wi-Fi mode allowing for head-to-head and co-op multiplayer mayhem.
  • Free access to Rockstar Games Social Club where players can chat, trade items and commodities and compete in online tournaments and leaderboards.
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03/02/2024 04:54 am GMT

In emGrand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars/em, you play as Huang Lee — the son of an honorable Triad leader who has been murdered.

The game takes place in Liberty City as you try to find out who killed your father while also taking care of business around town (like working at a restaurant). It’s similar to other GTA titles, especially GTA V. Like the other titles, it is also rated M for mature and contains content from drug dealing to gang violence and, of course, carjacking.

emGrand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars/em has been described as “the best handheld version yet” of the popular series. It features open-world gameplay and many different activities for players to engage in, including robbery, car theft, racing, drug dealing, and more.

Players can also use codes to unlock new vehicles and weapons if they are unable to earn them through gameplay alone (though we recommend playing through without codes first).

If you enjoy other games in the GTA series and like sandbox-type video games, you are sure to like emGrand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars/em. If you are a little unsure of the mature content, it might be better to go for something like MySims or the next listed game, Fantasy Life.

Grab your copy of emGrand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars/em on Amazon here.

#4: Fantasy Life

Fantasy Life is a role-playing game that takes place in the world of Reveria where people live their daily lives as one of twelve possible professions (from blacksmithing to alchemy).

This game lets players switch between classes and customize their character any way they want. Fantasy Life falls in with sandbox-type games because it offers a ton of freedom. Players can choose to live life in any way they choose. They can also gain a ton of abilities and interact with the world in a ton of different ways — doing everything from gathering supplies to hunting treasure. 

The main plot of the game is set into motion when the player’s house is hit by a meteorite. Through deep worldbuilding and a crazy adventure, the player collects items and investigates strange events that have caused creatures to be filled with dark energy. Even as you complete the main storyline, there are many different ways to interact with the world and play things your way.

Tons of Fun!
Animal Crossing: Wild World (Renewed)
  • Cartridge only, no original case or manual; cartridge only
  • Renewed copy
  • Cleaned, tested, and in good condition
  • Collect stuff, interact with your neighbors, explore lands, and complete tasks
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03/02/2024 04:29 am GMT

If you like building while socializing with strange and entertaining characters, emAnimal Crossing Wild World/em is the game for you.

Like more recent Animal Crossing video games, emWild World/em is a social simulation game. In this version, you are a human that moves into a new town that is slowly populated with more animal characters as the story progresses. This game lets you build your own space and do things on your own terms (or with friends). 

You have a lot of freedom as you finish the main storyline and pay off your loans to the notorious Tom Nook. There are plenty of other things to do, like completing the museum, catching seasonal creatures, participating in holiday events, and customizing your town.

There isn’t a major central plot, so you can play the game any way you like. Is collecting your style? Then find items by doing everything from fishing to shaking trees. Do you like customizing and designing things? Then change up designs on buildings and decorate the town.

If socializing with other people is more your style, then you can travel to other people’s towns and play cooperatively. While the opportunities to play with others are a bit limited, they are still really fun to have, and the characters in this game also give it a social aspect.

Jump into the ever-entertaining Animal Crossing world with emWild World/em on Amazon here.

Animal Crossing switch
Animal Crossing is beloved by millions all over the world, and for good reason — it’s downright fun to play!
SimCity Creator - Nintendo DS
  • From the dawn of civilization to the future, your city will evolve through time, its growth dependant upon your decisions and achievements
  • Experience historic times like the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution
  • Take pictures of your city landscape and exchange with friends by using DS wireless communication. You can see exchanged photos in the menu screen of your game
  • Earn epic landmarks to enhance your city. You earn these monuments each time you progress to the next era of history
  • Explore two modes: Challenge Mode, where you guide your city through historic ages, and Free Play, where you can create cities within any time of history
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03/02/2024 02:49 pm GMT

While not a true sandbox game, emSimCity Creator/em has a lot of features that make it fun and easy to play.

Namely, it has a free play mode that lets you do whatever you want. You can also have a free play mode city going at the same time you play through the challenge mode. So, you can play things however you prefer.

This game doesn’t focus on Simlish and the humans in the game as much as it does the city building and infrastructure. In the challenge mode part of the game, you progress from the dawn of civilization all the way into a futuristic scenario. In free play, you can put your city in any time of history and enjoy building the town or wrecking havoc, whichever you prefer.

While the game doesn’t feature as much Simlish or funny civilians, it is still good for people who enjoy the classic Sims games and style. It’s also good for people who enjoy home decorating and design games. Plus, there is plenty of opportunity to wreak chaos and havoc if that is how you like to play Sims games. 

The standard SimCity game for DS came out a year earlier than the emCreator/em version. If you want the freedom to play and build your way, go with the emCreator/em version. SimCity is a good game with similar features but a bit less freedom since you can only have one city at a time. Since the challenge mode can progress a bit slowly, being able to have two cities and free play mode is a big perk. 

Build your emSimCity/em with emSimCity Creator/em on Amazon here.

MySims - Nintendo DS (Renewed)
  • Build and Customize an Entire Town-Your town is your own unique creation, from the flower shop to the mad scientist’s laboratory and beyond.
  • Shape the Community-It’s your call who lives there and who moves out! Who will you befriend? Who will you ignore?
  • Get to Know Your Town-Socialize with the locals and uncover all sorts of useful or surprising treasures hidden throughout the town.
  • Create Your Own Sim-It’s a cinch to personalize your Sim’s appearance from head to toe with the Wii and DS controls. Unlock cool new clothing and accessories as you befriend the neighbors.
  • Design Your Own Stuff-Decorate with your very own furniture and accessories, then customize your creations with things you can grow, harvest, or discover around town.
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03/02/2024 10:24 am GMT

emMySims/em is an open-world game available for the Wii and DS.

It’s also fairly different from classic Sims games in that the main goal is to solve puzzles and help out the various characters. In it, you can travel to different lands that have their own styles and acquire a wide array of items.

While the game doesn’t have a ton of room to roam, you have a lot of customization and design options, especially toward the end of the game. Initially, you are a bit limited by the tools and abilities you have access to, but there is still plenty of freedom to play how you want and customize things to your heart’s content.

Enter the emMySims/em universe on Amazon here.


While there aren’t a ton of video games for the DS that fall purely into the sandbox category, if you have a 3DS, you have a few more options. Even classics like Minecraft are available for download on the Nintendo store. However, there are still lots of good classic DS options for people who enjoy open-world gaming!

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