Universe Sandbox




Space sandbox turns our solar system into a playground.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

There's no story or narrative; it's only a simulation.

Positive role models

No characters.

Ease of play

Many tutorials are provided to introduce players to the controls and features.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Universe Sandbox is not necessarily a game. It's more a sophisticated visualization and simulation tool that helps players understand astronomy and astrophysics by letting them manipulate planetary and stellar objects in a variety of ways.

What kids can learn



  • astronomy
  • gravity
  • motion
  • physics


Thinking & Reasoning

  • hypothesis-testing
  • part-whole relationships

Tech Skills

  • using and applying technology

Engagement, Approach, Support


Pre-set scenarios initially engage players, but after they complete them, there's no inherent incentive to keep playing.

Learning Approach

It's an exemplary visualization tool, allowing kids to see multiple variables in action and how they interact. There are no specific objectives, however, other than to observe causes and effects.


Includes very well-scripted tutorials and a relatively active online community. It could use color-blind options for some of the visualization tools that rely on color (for example, color-coding velocity).

What kids can learn



  • astronomy
  • gravity
  • motion
  • physics


Thinking & Reasoning

  • hypothesis-testing
  • part-whole relationships

Tech Skills

  • using and applying technology

Universe Sandbox gives players an amazing set of controls to experiment with our universe, letting them learn how mass, size, gravity, and velocity, among other things, all are interconnected and allowing them to play around, testing different ideas on the fly. Players can observe objects in motion in space, comparing moons to planets to stars, and experience physics in action, tweaking conditions and introducing new variables.

This Learning Rating review was written by Mark Chen

Kids say

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What's it about?

UNIVERSE SANDBOX is not a game with a story or characters. Rather, it's a 3-D simulation of our universe, accurately modeling it on many levels, from whole galaxies down to individual planets and even comets. Players are given sliders and other controls for any object they select and can change its size, mass, velocity, and orbit, among other things. This lets players quickly see how changing different properties of an object affects both its own other properties and the properties of other objects. Want to throw some asteroids at the moon? You can do that! Want to see two galaxies collide? Go for it! Ever wonder why Pluto was downgraded from a planet? Well, now you can check out how different it is from the other planets in our system.

Is it any good?


The game is very effective at what it does: allowing players to experiment in a massive open laboratory and discovering what would happen in response to any number of astronomy-related "what if" questions. The simulation is visually stunning, and the visualization tools are diverse and interesting. Universe Sandbox comes with a variety of optional scenarios and tests whether players want more direction in their sandbox play. Ultimately, however, it's just a tool, and some players may find it difficult to stay engaged for an extended period.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can explore some of the tool's preset scenarios/simulations.

  • Discuss the delicate balance of our solar system by introducing different objects into it and seeing what happens.

  • Extend learning by having kids make their own handmade models of the solar system or planets.

Game details

Price:$9.99 individual; free for schools
Pricing structure:Free
Available online?Available online
Developer:Giant Army
Release date:October 1, 2012
Topics:Space and aliens
ESRB rating:NR

This review of Universe Sandbox was written by

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

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Parent Written bynickthenooddle July 13, 2015

it is math and science

it is awesome game
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Easy to play/use
Safety and privacy concerns


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