To mod Minecraft properly you’ll need a couple of base mods that other mods can build upon. Don't worry, these are easy to get hold of. You'll want Modloader and Audiomod, as they're required by several of the mods below, and Forge is also needed for one. If you plan on heavily modding your game, a launcher is also a really handy tool. Magic Launcher is very easy to use will let you set up different mod builds, so you can have one set for Creative, one for Survival and so on.
All these mods should work with the latest version of the game, 1.5.1, though they may not work inside any newer snapshots and not all of them are designed to work with one another That said, do check out the note about MCMap and, as you should with all mods, be sure to read the instructions carefully and always stay well back from creepers.
So, how shall we start? Let's begin by tweaking the game's graphics.
1. Sonic Ether's Unbelievable Shaders
If there’s one thing that’s obviously missing from the blocky worlds that Minecraft generates, it’s a sense of motion. Vanilla Minecraft’s cubes are static. The Unbelievable Shaders Mod makes the grass sway, the trees rustle and it adds slightly rendered look and depth to the world that makes a huge difference if you’re a bit of a graphics snob. Shadows are cast, the lighting is improved, and you can fiddle with the settings to discover just where between ‘subtle’ and ‘extreme’ you want the effects to settle. My top tip: tone the motion blur right down.
2. Water Shader
Alternatively, if you'd rather keep a more traditional look, but still want to do something a little special with your water, then this might be the mod for you. A water shader used to be part of the original shaders mod, but now it's a separate addition that makes the water flow, adding a moving surface that reflects the surrounding world and makes quite a remarkable difference. Functional graphics are part of Minecraft’s charm, but, if your PC can handle it, the Water Shader turns the blocky vistas into glimmering, shimmering works of art.
Casual players might not know it, but Minecraft's architecture is less than perfect. Its renderer is in need of a few tweaks, which is exactly what Optifine does. It has several versions, all with the goal of allowing you to claw back dropped frames from the nether of Minecraft’s java depths. It’s an invaluable add-on if you’re stretching an older machine with Notch’s huge worlds, or if you have large, complex builds. Either will benefit from whatever flavour of Optifine you select. Note that a few of Optifine's features aren't confirmed to work with Minecraft 1.5.1 yet, namely anisotropic filtering and antialiasing.
Now that you've given the graphics a good going over, it's time to get more ambitious. In fact, it's time to get about as ambitious as you possibly can, so it's time for Technic. Technic is an enormous mod that adds a host of new tools, machinery and natural resources to the game, making the tech tree ten times more complex. Now you have the chance to build reactors, program strip-mining robots and even dabble in magic. Really, Technic is a selection of mods brought together in one great big collection, with its own launcher to boot, and we covered it in detail here.
Millénaire has been around for ages and it's grown from strength to strength. Originally it was a small village-building mod, something that made slightly more elaborate towns for the game's villagers to live in, but now it includes a bunch of different cultures, including the Mayans and medieval Europeans, and all these people actually go about their business, getting on with day-to-day chores like crafting and construction. Much like Technic, this mod has become so established and so involved that it now has its own wiki.
If you don't fancy trying all of Technic, then you should at least grab one of the mods that's included, this one. REI’s minimap sits in the top corner of the screen and shows you the surrounding area, which is handy to scope the world out, but you can also use it to store waypoints for specific servers, which means you’ll never be lost on any multiplayer world you visit. The handiest waypoint it saves is where you died, ingallow you to loot your own corpse in the event of your death. There are lots of zoom, position and style options as well. I suspect that if Mojang did make a minimap, it wouldn’t be half as useful as REI’s.
7. Death Chest
This puts and end to what is one of the biggest and also one of the most fundamental problems that Minecraft players have: when you die, your corpse drops everything. If you’re unable to scramble across the landscape to retrieve the loot you’ve lost it forever, Death Chest creates a chest where you’re killed, neatly boxing all your possessions up. Anything that won’t fit in a chest will still be dropped, but most of what you carry will survive. All you need to do is return to where your ghost haunts and retrieve the goods from your past self, trying to ignore the feeling that you're walking over your own grave. Which you are. The link above will take you to a master list of mods, where you'll find Death Chest halfway down.
There are those who believe that using item and block mods in a game that's all about hard labour and reward is cheating. Well, they're right, and considering the fact that this mod bypasses both mining and crafting, these claims are easy to understand. That aside, Too Many Items mod definitely falls into the ‘must-have’ category. It enables you to dodge all of the laborious mining that you’re ‘supposed’ to be doing, by providing you with six pages of items, including blocks that you don’t get in creative mode. You’re also given God-like abilities in that you can turn day to night and vice versa, have full control of rain and snow, change the difficulty right from the inventory screen and toggle creative mode on and off. This mod is top-class fun, but once in a while you have to go back to basics, craft a wooden sword and try to survive the night.
Minecraft's dungeons have always been a little underdeveloped and while exploring underground does yeild all sorts of surprises, once you've seen a couple of dungeon complexes, you've really seen them all. The DungeonPack mod changes all this by turning Minecraft into a world of adventure, a land of dark temples, soaring pyramids and sprawling labyrinths.
10. Matmos Sound Mod:
The stock sounds that Mojang have provided us with really aren’t bad at all, but if you want something a little more realistic you should absolutely have a look at the Matmos sound mod. The mod adds some wicked atmospheric sounds like birdsong in the day and crickets at night, as well as weapon sounds, like the eargasm-inducing metallic sword swing. Underwater sounds have been dramatically enhanced, and there’s an added ‘altitude’ sound when you head toward the upper block limit. The magic really happens when you head into the Nether; the unnerving, howling wind sounds fill the aurul spectrum with a real sense of emptiness and despair, which is exactly what you want when you’re playing fireball tennis with Ghasts.
11. The X-Ray mod:
Ever wondered what it would be like to have Superman’s X-Ray vision in Minecraft? No? Well anyway, here’s a mod that allows you to do just that... sort of. The X-Ray mod, just like it says on the tin, gives you the ability to see through blocks in a variety of different ways. While one mode lets you see in the dark, another allows you to see the whereabouts of any underground caves you might be standing above.The most useful tool has to be the basic X-Ray feature, as when switched on, you can see straight through blocks that conceal the ores you’ve been up all night looking for, including the ever elusive diamond. You cheat, you.
The odd thing about Minecraft is that server owners have more control over their world than you have in the single-player game. They can warp, swap game modes, change the time, whereas you’re left relatively powerless in SP. Single Player Commands addresses that. Yep, they're also rather cheaty, and there are way too many additions to list here, but for starters you can teleport, turn damage off and on, kill everything. You can even set the time to stay in one specific zone. Why use it when you have creative mode? It can be a good thing to have if you need a quick fix for a small error, and it adds a lot more than creative mode.
13. Chat Bubbles
Some Minecraft mods are impressively complex, incredibly detailed things, while others are brilliant in how simple they are. The Chat Bubbles mod creates cartoon-style clouds of chat above players when they speak and not only does it look very neat, it's also incredibly practical on busy servers where chat flies by. Here's a video from a previous version that shows how cool it is:
Sometimes you just want to rearrange things. Sometimes you want to rearrange things very nicely. Sometimes you're up all night trying to very precisely arrange absolutely everything in your house because there must be patterns or symmetry or a theme, but we don't talk about those nights. Sometimes you need Bibliocraft, because you want new storage and display possibilities for your home, from bookcases to armour racks. Basically, it's a mod about shelves, and what's wrong with that?
15. Dragon Mounts
Riding Ender dragons was never going to be boring, so when we heard about this mod, we had to try it. Placing a dragon egg on the ground and right clicking will spawn a dragon. If you’re holding a saddle whilst doing this, it will automatically appear on the Dragon’s back, making it far easier to control. Once you’ve equipped yourself with blaze powder and a glistening watermelon, right-clicking the dragon with blaze powder causes it to spit hellfire, while doing the same with the glistening watermelon grants it the ability to fly through things. The villagers will be in for quite a shock.
16. Weather and Tornadoes
What’s that in the sky? A bird? A plane? No, it’s... a chicken. So a type of bird, as was previously stated. What else is up there is the bedrock, bits of buildings, water, and anything else that got caught up in the tornado that this mod lets you spawn in the world. The twisters can be a natural occurrence or, if you fashion the right tool, something you can call up. It’s probably best to not install this on a world that means something to you, as it’s bloody devastating on the landscape. Along with the terrifying twisters, it also adds ambient wind to the the game that can gust and move your character just a little.
Yes, that's right, this is a guns mod for Minecraft. Is it in the spirit of the game? Not really. Is it very silly? Yes. Do you get grenades? But of course, you'll want to use those alongside your flamethrower. Then there's the scoped rifles, the machineguns, the assault rifles, the pistols and more. Ferullo's Guns Mod is listed as working with Minecraft 1.5.0, but it should also work with 1.5.1 just fine. So, what exactly do you do with all these incongruous insertions? Anything you want, I suppose. Here's a video of someone massacring all their animals.
Ground-level screenshots can’t convey just how impressive Minecraft builds are: for that you need an overview of the world, which is something Minecraft’s view distance and scrappy rendering makes incredibly difficult. MCmap is a tool that can generate an amazing image of your Minecraft world. You can choose to convert all of it, or just a slice that you’re proud of, and it’ll create an isometric map. Builds viewed from this angle are beautiful, allowing you to really appreciate your vast, building-sized Nyan Cats. It can pick up everything from stadia to the torches you laid down to stop the Creepers. It takes some processing power, but the results are gorgeous. (Do bear in mind that MCMap will work in the latest versions of Minecraft, but may not render all the newest custom blocks. It doesn't look like it will be updated any time soon, but it's still a functional and very useful mod, so it can keep its place in this list. For now.)
If you'd prefer something a little simpler, then Unmined creates wonderful, shaded top-down maps of your world, maps that look a lot sharper (and arguably better) than the in-game ones that are gathering creases in your backpack. Also, you should check out this excellent Google Maps-style functionality.
20. The Wars
This spectacular mod transforms Minecraft into a medieval, high fantasy experience, adding all sorts of class options, prefabricated buildgs (which you can summon at the click of a button) and even a bunch of minigames. The Wars is really a team-based, multiplayer game, but you can also enjoy it on your own as it adds a bunch of new items, blocks and even dungeons.
This list has also featured a bunch of other exciting mods that, unfortunately, haven't yet been updated to work with Minecraft 1.5.1, but it's well worth you either keeping an eye on them to see when they are updated or even firing up an older version of the game so you can try them. There's Biomes O' Plenty, which features sixty unique biomes, like marshes and glaciers, and a bunch of new blocks. Then there's the elaborate Better than Wolves, with all its milk and machinery. Mo’ Creatures waves a feathery magic wand and adds goats, kitties, turtles, deer, and so many more that listing them would just be obnoxious at this point, but you can swell the ocean with fish and swarm the lands with fowl, and each species acts accordingly: Crocs will grab you and attempt a death roll, where Ostriches will hide their head in the sand. Sadly, it's stuck at version 1.4.7 right now.