Lesser-known sandboxy games for Mac?
January 24, 2021 4:27 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for sandboxy, non-actiony, single-player games that will run on a mid-2015 iMac.

Mac games on Steam are few and far between, and I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel at this point. Perhaps you can suggest a game that I've overlooked?

My specs: Mojave; 3.3 GHz Intel Core i5; 24 GB RAM; AMD Radeon R9 M290 2 GB.

By "sandboxy", I mean: I'm not interested in games that come with a scripted narrative, where you "beat the game" by getting to the end of the narrative. Instead, I'm looking for some combination of:
  • open world
  • base building
  • survival/crafting
  • freedom to pursue your own goals (i.e., to ignore the "main quest", if there even is one)
  • lots of ways to progress: developing a base, collecting items, leveling up various abilities, unlocking new mechanics, researching new technologies, completing side quests, etc.
  • procedural generation (so there's something new to explore each time)
Games don't have to meet all of these criteria, but they should meet some of them.

And by "non-actiony", I basically mean no shooters. (Some shooting is OK, but it definitely shouldn't be the focus.)

Games that I've already played (organized roughly by genre):
  • Colony sims: Rimworld, Oxygen Not Included, Prison Architect, Gnomoria, Colony Survival, Dawn of Man
  • Factory sims: Factorio, Factory Town (these are theoretically right up my alley, but neither of these really clicked for me)
  • Open-world RPGs: the Elders Scrolls series, the Fallout series
  • Open-world survival/craft: No Man's Sky, Subnautica, Minecraft, Terraria, Starbound, Don't Starve, TerraTech, Project Zomboid, Rising World, The Long Dark, Stranded Deep, probably more that I'm forgetting
  • Relax-em-ups: Stardew Valley, Graveyard Keeper, Slime Rancher, Cattails ("Stardew Valley, except you're a cat")
  • 4X: The Civilization series
  • Roguelikes and roguelites: FTL, Rogue Legacy, Spelunky, every traditional roguelike ever made
I'm certainly open to suggestions from other genres, as long as they're in the spirit of the question.

posted by escape from the potato planet to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
(I should add that I'm not interested in walking simulators or "art games" that are more of a virtual environment than a game.)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:30 AM on January 24

Have you tried Unreal World? It appears to be available for Mac, I can't verify, but it is definitely low resource.
posted by cobaltnine at 5:25 AM on January 24

You may have already tried Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead, but if not I unreservedly recommend it. There is pretty much nothing as open world as this game, and you can mod it to suit if you don't like the way it works out of the box.
posted by Alensin at 8:19 AM on January 24

Sid Meier's Pirates! had a 2004 edition that should be playable and was a fun sandboxy game.
posted by rikschell at 8:37 AM on January 24

Check out Caves of Qud.
posted by rodlymight at 10:26 AM on January 24

i bounced off caves of qud a couple of times before i clicked with it.

now, like a child, i have to monitor my playtime. i have real, pressing, pandemic, grown folk problems but a quick perusal of my recent search history reveals this nonsense:

caves of qud ganglionic teleprojector
caves of qud gaslight chisel
caves of qud displacer mod?

posted by Time To Sharpen Our Knives at 2:40 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]

Mindustry may fail to pull you in for the same reasons the highly-similar Factorio did. But it's $6 on Steam and a great game (like Factorio) so I'd say it's worth a shot. If you want to try it first, it's pay-what-you-want on itch.io.
posted by commander_fancypants at 4:28 PM on January 24

Spiritfarer or Sheltered, maybe?
posted by stormyteal at 5:41 PM on January 24

I'm surprised you haven't played Dwarf Fortress. Has pretty much everything you like, and two distinct game modes (colony builder vs rpg). Known for intricate procedural generation and emergent gameplay.
posted by 3FLryan at 7:06 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]

And you say you played pretty much every traditional roguelike, but just in case you haven't played Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup (my favorite): https://crawl.develz.org/
posted by 3FLryan at 7:10 PM on January 24

Oh sorry, I just realized Dwarf Fortress is not available on mac.
posted by 3FLryan at 7:12 PM on January 24

Maybe Prison Architect?
posted by aeighty at 7:38 AM on January 25

Mount & Blade: Warband. Build your reputation in totally-not-medieval-Europe by any means necessary. Raise and command armies, annoy lords, besiege castles, corner the butter market. One of those janky kitchen-sink games that shouldn't work as well as it does.
posted by neckro23 at 4:35 PM on January 25

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