A user-created sandbox in the video game The Powder Toy
A user-created sandbox in the video game The Powder Toy

A falling-sand game is a genre of video game and subgenre of sandbox games using a two-dimensional particle game engine or a cellular automaton.

In falling-sand games, the user can interact with (e.g. place and remove) particles on a canvas which can interact with other particles in various ways, which can lead to complex emergent behaviour.[1] As sandbox games, they generally have an emphasis on free-form gameplay, relaxed rules, and minimal goals.[2]

Despite the name, falling-sand games typically contain a multitude of materials besides sand, often called "elements".


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Title Year Platform Details
Falling sand game 2005 Java Also called "Hell of Sand" or "World of sand". May be the first game of its type[3][4][5][6]
wxSand 2006 Windows The first standalone version[7]
Powder Game 2007 Java, HTML5, Android, iOS Multi-platform with liquid simulation[8]
This is Sand 2008 Flash Added changing the colour of the sand[9]
The Powder Toy 2010 Windows, Linux, OS X, Android Has liquid simulation and Newtonian gravity[10][8]
Powder Game 2 2011 HTML5 Sequel to Powder Game, rewritten to include many new elements
The Sandbox 2012 Flash, Windows, Android, iOS A series of games, including some 3D versions[11][12]
Sandspiel 2019 HTML5 Popular web-based version[13]
Noita 2020 Windows A hybrid of "falling sand" style game with a Roguelike[8][14]

The first known popular example in the "falling-sand" genre was a web-based Java applet on the Japanese Dofi-Blog in 2005[3][4] which was later expanded and rehosted as the "Falling sand game",[4] which kick-started the genre as a trend and gave it its name.[15][5]

The genre is not limited to free play canvas-style games; games such as the Powder Game contain additional mechanics, such as pressure based fluid simulation[citation needed] allowing for example water equalisation, and RPG elements such as controllable characters.

Noita blends the traditional sandbox physics with Roguelike RPG mechanics, with sophisticated playable characters and enemies.[16][17][14]


  1. ^ bittker, max. "making sandspiel". maxbittker.com.
  2. ^ "The History and Theory of Sandbox Gameplay". www.gamasutra.com. 16 July 2009.
  3. ^ a b "DOFI-BLOG どふぃぶろぐ". ishi.blog2.fc2.com.
  4. ^ a b c "Overview". Falling Sand Game. Archived from the original on 2009-04-23.
  5. ^ a b "Falling Sand Game". boredhumans.com.
  6. ^ Carless, Simon (2005-12-24). "Welcome to the World of Sand". GameSetWatch. Retrieved 2011-06-21.
  7. ^ Quilty-Harper, Conrad (2006-02-15). "Falling Sand: The Sequel". Joystiq. Retrieved 2011-06-21.
  8. ^ a b c Cox, Matt (10 October 2019). "From falling sand to Falling Everything: the simulation games that inspired Noita". Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
  9. ^ Donahoo, Daniel. "Digital Play: This Is Sand". Wired.
  10. ^ "Explosive fun for students". edgalaxy.com.
  11. ^ "the sandbox". metacritic.com.
  12. ^ "The Sandbox gaming platform receives $2.5m investment". finance.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2019-10-06.
  13. ^ "SandSpiel by max bittker - Experiments with Google". experiments.withgoogle.com. Retrieved 2022-05-22.
  14. ^ a b "Sand Physics Go Wild in Noita". techraptor.net. 14 December 2019.
  15. ^ "Time Killer: The Sand Game (It's Great Fun)". PC World. Archived from the original on 2008-10-28.
  16. ^ "Noita: a Game Based on Falling Sand Simulation". 80.lv. 5 April 2019.
  17. ^ "Noita wiki - Falling Sand Game". gamepedia.com.