The universe is bigger and more beautiful than we can comprehend through the naked eye. Fortunately, thanks to Dan Dixon and the other creative minds at Giant Army, beholding the majesty of said cosmos is now as simple as clicking your mouse.
Well, maybe not that simple…
Universe Sandbox is an interactive space gravity simulator. Through various controls, you can simulate planetary motion, the Solar System, and even whole galaxies across time and space at a rate of your choosing.
For the most part, the program is designed for educational purposes and is free for schools to download for their science courses. That said, the sandbox encourages learning by doing, so you have an absurd amount of control over how you want to run a given simulation. Want to create your own solar system? You can do it here. Want to see what Earth looks like with the rings of Saturn? You can do that, too. Want to blow up every moon around Jupiter just for the hell of it? Well, too bad, because I already beat you to it! (but in my defense, it really is quite beautiful).
I’ll admit that this isn’t so much of a video game as it is a piece of educational software. It is also only available for Windows PC, limiting its reach to the whole simulator market. But it is a very innovative piece of software and deserves a look by students and space junkies alike.
Bibliography: Universe Sandbox. Designed by Dan Dixon. Developed by Giant Army. Windows PC (platform). Original release date: May 2008. Stable release date: October 1, 2012.