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The Absolute Best PlayStation Sandbox Games of All Time

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The Absolute Best PlayStation Sandbox Games of All Time

The PlayStation One came out in North America in 1995, putting it in the same generation as the Nintendo 64. But unlike games from other consoles, ones from the PlayStation One aren’t necessarily as fondly remembered. The graphics were really good for their time, and the CD capabilities allowed for plenty of detail. But the PlayStation One’s graphics haven’t aged well, and sandbox games fared poorly.

Sandbox games on the PlayStation One were some of the first of the genre. The 3D graphics made it possible to explore open worlds in either first or third-person. Despite the poor graphics, several of the sandbox games released on the console are still worth playing today. Even if you don’t like the graphics, the historical value alone makes them worth giving a try.

Grand Theft Auto

Best PlayStation Sandbox Games
Grand Theft Auto for PlayStation is the first title in the long-running franchise.

Arguably the most well-known and controversial game franchise ever created is Grand Theft Auto. But before the realistic graphics we have today, there was the original on PlayStation One. The premise of the game is actually pretty similar to the newer ones. You go around completing missions that revolve around committing some type of crime.

Of course, where the PlayStation One game differs is its graphics. The worst thing about the game is that it is a top-down viewpoint, and it just doesn’t look great. Additionally, it is a little clunky to play if you aren’t used to it. However, it was great to have multiple characters to choose from, even back then. The world of Grand Theft Auto is absolutely massive and partially makes up for its sparsity.

Just like in the newer titles, you can steal cars and assault people walking on the sidewalks. But committing these crimes will get the police called on you. Grand Theft Auto is one of the most transformative games, but you will probably be a bit underwhelmed if you haven’t played the original before. Regardless, you should still give the original a chance since it was so important.

Best Multiple Character Game
Grand Theft Auto - PlayStation (Renewed)
$55.80
  • First Grand Theft Auto title
  • Absolutely massive world
  • Multiple characters to choose from
  • Complete missions to progress through the game
  • Top-down view
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/28/2024 07:32 am GMT

Sequels

After playing Grand Theft Auto, you may want to give Grand Theft Auto 2 and the London: 1969 Mission Pack a try. These were made in a similar style to the original but did have some improvements. London: 1969 acted as an expansion to the original game, much like DLC today. However, it was contained on a separate disc for the PlayStation One.

Grand Theft Auto 2, on the other hand, was completely redesigned and fixed some of the original’s flaws. The graphics were better, but driving was still clunky, and it still used a top-down perspective. The game also used full-motion video, which was a little rough but added some comedic relief. Rockstar even released the Grand Theft Auto PSone bundle, which included the original three games.

Best Sequels
Grand Theft Auto: Collector's Edition - PlayStation
  • Includes Grand Theft Auto, the Grand Theft Auto London Mission Pack, and Grand Theft Auto 2
  • Graphics and music have been redone in the London Mission Pack and GTA 2
  • Experience the slang and accents you'd expect to find in London around 1969
  • Complete missions to rise through the ranks of the organizations
  • Top-down perspective
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Driver 2: The Wheelman is Back

Best PlayStation Sandbox Games
Explore the cities of Chicago, Havana, Las Vegas, and Rio de Janeiro in 3D in Driver 2.

Driver 2 is a great sequel to the original game and stays fairly true to it while also getting many improvements. If you’re unfamiliar with the Driver series, it is in many ways similar to the Grand Theft Auto games with wacky action, but unlike the Grand Theft Auto games from the PlayStation One, Driver takes place in a 3D world.

The most dramatic addition to Driver 2 was the fact that you can now get out of your car and explore the world on foot. Not to mention Driver 2 has some of the best graphics from the PlayStation One era, especially for being an open-world game. The game does have a pretty good story that sees you trying to protect a man who witnessed a murder.

However, as the name implies, most of the gameplay centers around driving. There are plenty of missions that require racing, chasing down other cars, and even destroying other vehicles. Driver 2 also has a “Take a Ride” mode where you can leisurely explore. Not only does the game have a unique world, but it actually has four, as you can explore the cities of Chicago, Havana, Las Vegas, and Rio de Janeiro.

Best Driving Game
Driver 2 - PlayStation
$12.98
  • Most gameplay centers around driving
  • Some of the best graphics from the PlayStation One era
  • Explore the cities of Chicago, Havana, Las Vegas, and Rio de Janeiro
  • Takes place in a 3D world
  • Engaging storyline
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/28/2024 07:32 am GMT

Batman and Robin

Best PlayStation Sandbox Games
The Batman & Robin tie-in game stays faithful to the movie with its storyline.

In the days of the PlayStation One, nearly every movie that went into theaters seemed to receive a video game tie-in. Most of them were very bad and bore little resemblance to the movie they were based on. But Batman & Robin was actually a good game that was based on a pretty bad movie. Because of the movie’s poor ratings and the fact it was released a year later, the video game was largely ignored.

You start the game in the Bat Cave, playing as the caped crusader himself. This essentially functions as your home base and also where you will go just to save. In the game, you get to play as Batman, Robin, or Batgirl. There are a number of vehicles you can choose from, which is convenient because Gotham City is quite large.

Batman & Robin stays pretty close to the movie with its story. In addition to the Batcave and all of Gotham, you get to explore Wayne Manor, which has quite a bit to do. As you make your way through the game, you pick up clues about the whereabouts of Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze. As a Batman game, it obviously focuses heavily on combat and special devices, but you also get to fly around and explore.

Riven: The Sequel to Myst

Best PlayStation Sandbox Games
Explore an immersive world filled with strange creatures and dangerous secrets in Riven: The Myst Sequel.

Ask anyone in the 1990s what Myst was, and they would instantly know. It was and still remains one of the most iconic video games ever made. Since then, several remasters and sequels have been released. One of those is Riven which has the unique title of Riven: “The Myst Sequel.” If you haven’t gotten a chance to play the original Myst game, then you should also pick that up, as it’s also available on the PlayStation One.

As the name implies, it is a direct sequel to the first game, and it sees you start out much the same way, dropped on a mysterious island. In front of you is an object with no explanation that you clearly have to figure out its purpose. What you don’t realize when you start is that you need to complete a good portion of the game to actually make this piece usable.

What makes Riven unique and stand out is that it’s so much more refined than the original. The puzzles are much more in-depth and the world is more explorable than just the static pictures. However, what’s possibly the best part of the game is that there are actually multiple islands you can explore and that all of the puzzles that you complete intertwine.

Best Puzzle Adventure Game
Riven: The Sequel To Myst
$13.45
  • A direct sequel to the iconic Myst game
  • The second game in the series but the fourth chronologically
  • More refined than the original
  • In-depth, intertwined puzzles
  • Multiple islands to explore


We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/28/2024 07:37 am GMT

Urban Chaos

Best PlaySation Sandbox Games
Players take on the role of a police officer in Urban Chaos.

Urban Chaos was originally a PC game that received PlayStation One port the year after release. Despite being an action-adventure game, it was very much an open-world sandbox. The world is not completely open and free due to the limitations of the PlayStation One console. Instead, it is broken up into different sections.

However, the game does have quite a bit of exploration, not to mention side missions. Urban Chaos also takes on a unique perspective of playing as a police officer. Essentially making this the antithesis of Grand Theft Auto. Nonetheless, the gameplay still features quite a bit of fighting and shooting. Although the game is a bit sluggish, the combat surprisingly works well, considering the underpowered console.

The graphics of the game aren’t the best, as it tries to create a 3D environment with sometimes very two-dimensional characters. Therefore characters can’t really exhibit much emotion, but the voice acting helps make up for it. Additionally, the day-night cycles, as well as the weather, do add another level of detail to this uniquely created world.

Best Combat Game
Urban Chaos- PS1
$22.95
  • Day-night cycles and weather add another level of detail to the world
  • Players take on the role of a police officer
  • Good combat mechanics
  • Originally a PC game that received PlayStation One port
  • Voice acting enhances the characters


We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/28/2024 07:36 am GMT

Lego Island 2: The Brickster’s Revenge

Best PlayStation Sandbox Games
Foil the Brickster’s plans by collecting blueprints to put the city back together in Lego Island 2: The Brickster’s Revenge.

Today, Lego has many popular games based on hit movie franchises like Star Wars. However, it all started in the late 90s with a little-known Lego Island game on PC. The world was relatively small, and the gameplay was targeted toward younger audiences. However, it did receive a sequel titled Lego Island 2: The Brickster’s Revenge which was a major upgrade in both graphics and gameplay.

The Brickster’s Revenge sees many of the same characters as the original, and you play as Pepper. The world is relatively small, but it feels just right considering the speed at which you travel. Speaking of getting around, your main mode of transportation is a skateboard, but there are also vehicles, helicopters, and jet skis to get around on.

Much of the gameplay consists of collecting objects, solving puzzles, and playing mini-games. The overarching story is that the Brickster has escaped again, and you need to collect blueprints to put the city back together. One downside is that the game isn’t challenging since you can’t die. Also, the PlayStation One version is not the best way to experience Lego Island 2, as the PC graphics are better.

Best Game for Younger Audiences
Lego Island 2: Revenge Of The Brickster
  • Gameplay consists of collecting objects and solving puzzles
  • The main mode of transportation is a skateboard
  • Fun mini-games
  • Designed for younger audiences
  • Major upgrade from the prequel in both graphics and gameplay
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Mizzurna Falls

Best PlayStation Sandbox Games
Although Mizzurna Falls was not released outside of Japan, there is a translation of the subtitles online.

Mizzurna Falls was an often overlooked title on the PlayStation One that truly pioneered the sandbox and open-world genres. Most remarkable is the fact that this game uses a 3D world which was very rare for sandbox games of the time. For being 25 years old and coming out on very limited hardware, the game still looks pretty decent today.

If you’ve never heard of the game, don’t worry; it was never released outside of Japan, and despite a few copies making their way to North America, there’s never been an English port. Fortunately, there is a translation of the subtitles that you can find online, which helps better understand the game’s story. The story focuses on a young girl’s disappearance and her classmate who seeks to uncover the mystery.

Strangely enough, the game isn’t some murder mystery; instead, it takes a supernatural turn. The gameplay consists of exploring the town and trying to solve mysteries within a 7-day time window. In addition to exploring, there is some combat, and you can explore the world with your Volkswagen Beetle and motorboat. While not perfect, it is definitely part of video game history that is worth playing.

  1. Grand Theft Auto - PlayStation (Renewed)
    $55.80
    • First Grand Theft Auto title
    • Absolutely massive world
    • Multiple characters to choose from
    • Complete missions to progress through the game
    • Top-down view
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    02/28/2024 07:32 am GMT
  2. Grand Theft Auto: Collector's Edition - PlayStation
    • Includes Grand Theft Auto, the Grand Theft Auto London Mission Pack, and Grand Theft Auto 2
    • Graphics and music have been redone in the London Mission Pack and GTA 2
    • Experience the slang and accents you'd expect to find in London around 1969
    • Complete missions to rise through the ranks of the organizations
    • Top-down perspective
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

  3. Driver 2 - PlayStation
    $12.98
    • Most gameplay centers around driving
    • Some of the best graphics from the PlayStation One era
    • Explore the cities of Chicago, Havana, Las Vegas, and Rio de Janeiro
    • Takes place in a 3D world
    • Engaging storyline
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    02/28/2024 07:32 am GMT
  4. Riven: The Sequel To Myst
    $13.45
    • A direct sequel to the iconic Myst game
    • The second game in the series but the fourth chronologically
    • More refined than the original
    • In-depth, intertwined puzzles
    • Multiple islands to explore


    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    02/28/2024 07:37 am GMT
  5. Urban Chaos- PS1
    $22.95
    • Day-night cycles and weather add another level of detail to the world
    • Players take on the role of a police officer
    • Good combat mechanics
    • Originally a PC game that received PlayStation One port
    • Voice acting enhances the characters


    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    02/28/2024 07:36 am GMT
  6. Lego Island 2: Revenge Of The Brickster
    • Gameplay consists of collecting objects and solving puzzles
    • The main mode of transportation is a skateboard
    • Fun mini-games
    • Designed for younger audiences
    • Major upgrade from the prequel in both graphics and gameplay
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What defines a sandbox game?

A sandbox game provides the player with a world that they can explore and create their own experience in. Meaning you don’t have to follow a preset routine or set missions.

Are sandbox games the same as open-world ones?

The genres of sandbox and open-world commonly overlap. However, a true sandbox game gives you the freedom to create your own adventure.

What's the best way to play PlayStation One games today?

The best way to experience a PlayStation One game is through a remaster, if available. Otherwise, some PlayStation One games are on PlayStation Plus Premium. Worst case scenario, you can always play the games on a PlayStation 2 or a backwards compatible PlayStation 3.

Can you use an emulator for PlayStation One games?

Yes, you can use an emulator like ePSXe. However, not all games run well on an emulator, even with a powerful computer.

Why do sandbox games on the PlayStation One look worse than other games?

PlayStation One games look notoriously bad today, even compared to games on older consoles. But sandbox games look especially bad, which is likely because developers used more of the finite power on rendering the world than they did on better graphics.

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