What are the best Minecraft mods? It's a question that's been asked for generations, since a young Plato attempted to tweak his game at the knee of Socrates. Or something. And having been steadily flowing out since the first public release, there are a whole heap to choose from. That's where we come in.
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The following list compiles some of the best Minecraft mods out there right now. They're divided up into sections, depending on what you want to do with the game - from simple changes to deep, intricate mods that you can get lost in for months.
How do I install Minecraft mods?
Every mod on this list comes with its own installation instructions that you should follow closely, and you'll likely also need to downgrade your Minecraft version for many of them - in most cases, version 1.7.10 works best. To help with that, you can try MultiMC - a useful bit of software that lets you manage multiple Minecraft installs.
Alternatively, if faffing around in obscure folders isn't really your cup of tea, then grab a modpack instead - which comes with everything preinstalled and preconfigured. We recommend either Feed The Beast's Direwolf20 1.7.10 pack (which comes with a YouTube series that'll teach you how to use many of the included mods), the Tekkit Pack, or making your own modpack with Curse Voice. If you have trouble with any of them, Google is probably a good bet.
Shall we dig in?
Minecraft interface mods
When you've got lots of mods installed, Minecraft's default UI just doesn't cut it anymore. The following downloads make playing modded Minecraft a more pleasant experience.
Optifine / Fastcraft
Got a beefy computer? Make Minecraft look incredible with Optifine, which adds support for HD textures, and much more control over graphical options. Alternatively, if you're playing on a potato, grab Fastcraft - it significantly improves performance on lower-end machines, particularly with lots of mods installed.
Everyone likes to know where they're going. Journeymap maps your world as you explore, lets you mark waypoints of interest, and can even warn when mobs are sneaking up behind you. View the resulting map in-game as a minimap or in full screen, or even in an external web browser.
Not Enough Items
If alt-tabbing to a wiki all the time is a pain, Not Enough Items (or NEI) is the antidote to that pain. It lets you look up the recipe for any item from any installed mod through a nifty interface on Minecraft's inventory screen.
WAILA stands for "What Am I Looking At", and it's a godsend when you've got loads of mods installed. Simply point your crosshair at a block, and it'll tell you what it is and which mod it comes from. With newer mods, it can also tell you about the state of that block - how full a tank of water is, for example, or the charge level on a battery. You'll need NEI to run it.
Install Inventory Tweaks and you'll soon wonder how you lived without it. Tools that run out of durability are automatically replaced in your hotbar, stacks of blocks are automatically refilled, and a simple middle-click will sort your chests and inventory. It's also endlessly customisable.
Creative Minecraft mods
For many people, crafting awe-inspiring structures is what Minecraft is all about. The following mods will dramatically expand your creative options, from new types of wood to proper furniture.
Minecraft only has one cobblestone texture. Chisel has 24. In fact, it adds alternative textures to a huge number of the game's default blocks as well as blocks that come with other mods in this list - letting you create any decor you desire in your in-game constructions.
Cubes are great and all, but occasionally you want a slope. Carpenter's blocks delivers those slopes, alongside beds, buttons, doors, flowerpots, torches and more that can be customised with the texture of any other block. Ever wanted a netherrack ladder? This is the mod that'll do it.
If you'd like a bit more variety when it comes to decorating your world, Decocraft is the mod for you. It adds craftable chairs, tables, bowls, bottles, lamps, stuffed toys, beer kegs and even a kitchen sink. The full list is almost endless, so dive in to the Wiki to see the full range of options.
Bibliocraft also offers a bunch of aesthetically-pleasing blocks, but these ones come with their own functionality. Display cases and shelves let you show off your trophies, while a printing press lets you copy in-game books. It even adds a monocle, for the distinguished gentlemen amongst you.
Bring some serious variation to your Minecraft diet with this produce-laden mod that adds over 1,100 new foods and items, including 60 crops, 17 types of fish, tofu for vegetarian and vegan dishes, and 36 fruit- or item-bearing trees. The end result is a Minecraft diet that’s equal parts lavish and balanced. If you want to make this a necessity rather than just a fun extension to vanilla Minecraft, use it alongside Hunger Overhaul and The Spice of Life, which both punish your poor eating habits.
Minecraft exploration mods
Some people prefer the life of a nomad to that of a builder. The following mods either spice up world generation, add new worlds to explore, or give you the tools you'll need to explore them. To the Far Lands, and beyond!
Let's start with the Overworld. Biomes O'Plenty adds a ridiculous 80 new biomes, and 12 sub-biomes to Minecraft - from Alps to Wasteland. It also adds a little more variance to tools, armour, food, colour and a few extra blocks to build with.
New world? You'll need new tools. Tinker's Construct includes a fantastic selection of easily-repairable early- and late-game swords, picks, axes and more. Most modpackers consider this one essential.
What's the opposite of the Nether? The Aether. Aether II is a huge mod that adds a portal to a dimension of floating islands in the sky. It adds new ores, items and dungeons packed with fearsome challenges. Just don't fall off.
Alternatively, visit the spooky Twilight Forest - its hollow hills, hedge mazes and lich towers are the perfect fit for wannabe adventurers. Just steer clear of the pitch-black Dark Forest if you want to make it out alive.
If none of those worlds sound like what you're looking for, then build your own. Like the early 90s videogame Myst, Mystcraft revolves around creating Linking Books to travel to new dimensions - some of which might be hazardous or unstable. Be warned.
Minecraft automation mods
There's nothing like a good factory setup in your Minecraft base - automatically mining and producing resources so you never run out. The following mods offer everything you need to fully automate almost every aspect of modded MInecraft, and work best in conjunction with some of the deeper mods in the final section.
Getting stuff from point A to point B - be it items, liquids or power, is the cornerstone of EnderIO. Its conduits are modular and expandable, and it also includes a few processing and energy tools. The Travel Anchor is a particularly useful tool for zipping around a large base.
Efficient automation often requires the use of redstone, and Project Red vastly increases your options for redstone circuitry - adding a bunch of wires and logic gates that turn huge chunks of redstone craziness into a single block. Endlessly useful.
This mod adds basic automated devices for everything from farming to forestry and everything inbetween. The best bit about Progressive Automation is that each machine can be upgraded as the players progresses, meaning fewer enormous rebuilds further down the line.
Applied Energistics 2
After a while in a large base, storage starts to become an issue. Applied Energistics lets you turn matter into energy, storing items on hard drives that can be accessed wirelessly from anywhere in your base. It's fantastically useful, especially for the hoarders amongst you.
Ever wanted to be a nuclear engineer without learning about physics and going through multiple years of higher education? Then Big Reactors is the mod for you! This allows you to build massive, fully configurable reactors in order to cope with the power demands of all those other industrial mods you’ve been tinkering with. Better still, it’s designed to interface with ComputerCraft, meaning you can monitor, regulate, and program your power station to your heart’s content.
ComputerCraft and RFTools
Finally, we'd be remiss not to mention ComputerCraft - which adds fully-programmable computers and assorted peripherals into the Minecraft world - and RFTools, which lets you monitor and maintain a complex power network. Both are vital tools for any kind of automated base.
Expansive Minecraft mods
That just leaves the largest mods - the ones that reward a significant time investment with substantial changes to vanilla Minecraft. We'd recommend tackling just one or two of these at a time, even if they're bundled together in a modpack, for your sanity more than anything else. By the time you reach their endgame, you'll be the master of all you survey.
Being a wizard is pretty awesome, and that's no different in the world of Minecraft. Thaumcraft lets you manipulate the magic energies found in every in-game item to create powerful wands, golems to do your bidding, and essence-infused items and tools. It hooks beautifully into several other mods.
Jetpacks make everything better. Everything. That’s why this humble mod isn’t looking to burden you with countless new systems and recipes to remember, it’s just trying to give ordinary Minecrafters the gift of instantaneous flight. Soar into the skies powered by Redstone Flux, letting you avoid hazards and move around the map much quicker. Higher level jetpacks will also act as armour and even negate fall damage, so there’s plenty of reason to invest a little time into this nifty add on.
Occasionally Minecraft is all a little too cute and fluffy. That’s where modders come in, introducing some ritualistic dark arts to give the vanilla game some edge. Blood Magic - that most heinous of all magics - introduces a few new systems and mechanics based around drawing power from the blood of mobs. Once you’ve harvested enough life essence, you can use it at a Blood Altar in order to craft new items like a Dagger of Sacrifice.
Some might have picked Buildcraft or IndustrialCraft 2 to fill this spot, but for our (lack of) money the best all-round technology mod is Minefactory Reloaded. It adds heaps of machines and devices that allow you to automate almost everything - from breeding cows to playing in-game records. Works particularly well with many of the mods in the previous section.
Mining by hand is a thing of the past, and everyone knows it. That's why there's BuildCraft, a hugely expansive mod that essentially allows you to put vanilla Minecraft through its own industrial revolution. From automated quarries to autocrafting tables that will pump out any desired crafted item with the right ingredients on tap, this mod let's you go full scale with your production lines.
From the ridiculous to the sublime, this cosmetic mod adds over 100 hats to Minecraft, ensuring you’ve always got some way of surprising and, in some cases, shocking your friends. You’ll have to spend some time hunting the hats down though as they’re programmed to randomly spawn on mobs around the world - expect to see a squid with a phone booth on its head or a creeper sporting a sombrero.
PneumaticCraft swaps out power for pressurized air making for a mod that’s both highly volatile and incredibly rewarding. Whether it’s air cannons, programmable drones or a range of assembly machines, this mod adds a host of mechanical and automated options to Minecraft.
What do you make of our list? Have we missed off your favourite mod? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Want more? Here's our Minecraft review.