The term "sandbox style" gameplay refers to Grand Theft Auto's style of open world, unrestricted roaming. Grand Theft Auto III, released in 2001, is credited with defining the genre. In sandbox style games, such as the Grand Theft Auto series and Grand Theft Auto clone Saints Row, players are free to roam through the city unimpeded by physical or virtual barriers. Activities include, but are not limited to:
- Killing pedestrians, civilians, police officers, law enforcement, criminals, and gang members at will.
- Stealing or highjacking cars for a number of purposes.
- Visiting in-game fast food establishments to purchase food that replenishes player health.
- Visiting "safe houses"; living spaces for the player to relax and save game progress.
- Walking into markers that trigger "missions"; tasks that the player must complete to progress story line.
- Driving into paint garages, often carrying the name "Pay N Spray" to restore damaged vehicles to mint condition and remove wanted levels.
- Visiting gun stores often carrying the name Ammu Nation (a pun on the term "ammunition") for the purpose of purchasing a wide range of firearms with specific references made to criminal intent, such as "They all lost their serial numbers!", "Works well in a crowded area" "It's best not to ask where you got that OK?" or "If the cops ask, you didn't get a deal OK?".