First things first, I think we should get in the spirit of things. Remembering that APB, GTA, and Saints Row are all sandbox games based on committing a massive amount of violent crimes, go punch your neighbor in his crotch. When he falls to the ground in excruciating pain, several hundred dollars will appear floating above his body. Don’t worry if this seems strange to those of you living in countries other than the U.S.A. Violence always results in the generation of American money.

After you’ve squatted on your neighbors face a few times for effect, you should hop in his car and take the nearest sidewalk to the nearest game store, so you can spend your hard earned cash on a nice relaxing sandbox crime game. “But which one?”, I literally hear you asking from my hiding place under your bed, “they all seem the same”. True, it’s hard to distinguish one graphic, unnecessary, morally unjustified violent act from another, but there are ways of doing it. Luckily there are experts to help us make those distinctions. Most of those experts are criminal psychologists or forensics specialists, but there are also less trained, somewhat full of crap experts like myself who can help out.

And even though you are using your much quieter, somewhat nervous voice this time, I can still hear you saying, “which game should I choose, Clayton? Which game?” Don’t worry. I’ve used my lack of training to help you figure out which cathartic experience works best for you by devising a system of measuring enjoyment that I call the “Dead Civilian” system. See, I’ll try to equate how much fun each part of each game is to an activity I know you sick puppies enjoy, killing the innocent bystanders in games. Therefore, the more dead civilians, the more fun it must be!!! Let’s get started.

The Contenders:

1) Grand Theft Auto – the biggest and baddest of all sandbox games, Grand Theft Auto pioneered the genre. Sure, there were some predecessors (none fun), but nothing like GTA had ever been seen before. It, in effect, created a new genre. Since the days of top down running and gunning, the GTA series has done a lot of growing up, and a lot of blowing up. But it remains one of the most profitable game series out there and one of the most famous.

2) Saint’s Row – If GTA is the father of sandbox games, Saint’s Row is the slightly awkwardly drunk eldest child, that never really gets invited to family events, but somehow always knows when they’re happening. Saint’s Row came out in a time when realism was the most important word in gaming, and Saint’s Row did not give two halves of a rat’s ass about being realistic. The cartoonish violence and lack of anything resembling the real world made Saint’s Row an instant hit with gamers who wanted a return to the glory days.

3) All Points Bulletin (APB) – A newer, different kind of sandbox game, APB is an MMO based in a cops and robbers world on meth. Rather than tooling around town building an empire, players tool around completing long, multi-point missions in large groups, while other players try to hunt them down in the streets. In effect, it’s a team deathmatch in the center of a living, breathing city.

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This article was first posted on August 21, 2012