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The twenty best Minecraft mods

Ahhh, graphics.

Minecraft is almost perfect. Minecraft with mods: well, it’s even better. Nearly four years since Minecraft’s first public release, it might be starting to feel a little built same-y. If you feel that way, it’s time to fall head over heels in love all over again. Here's a list of the twenty most creative, time-saving and useful mods for Minecraft.

We're still waiting for full internal support for mods within Minecraft, and until that arrives there are a few downloads that will make things much easier for you if you're not keen on fiddling around in folders. Some mods come with auto-installers, which make them very easy to handle, but many don't, so it's best to follow the instructions in the links provided very closely.

All these mods have been checked to work with with Minecraft 1.5.2, but if you do a lot of swapping mods around then you might find Magic Launcher a useful tool - it makes the whole process much simpler and easier.

Finally, it goes without saying that if you've got a Minecraft world that you're incredibly attached to, then back it up before you fiddle around with mods too much. It's unlikely, but just like taking your first diamond pickaxe through a nether portal, there's always a risk that something terrible might happen.

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Optifine

Despite Minecraft's rudimentary looks it can still prove taxing on older computers. Optifine adds many more options to make the game run both faster and prettier. On slow machines, gains of 20fps or more are common, and on more modern equipment you get support for antialiasing, random mob textures, better grass and snow, HD textures and fonts, among other things. It even adds a configurable autosave interval. Probably the best mod on this list. 

Mo'Creatures

Minecraft's small stable of creatures is pretty good, but if you want to populate your world with a bit more ecological diversity then this is the mod for you. Mo'Creatures adds a long list of new animals, from turkeys, bunnies and snails to elephants, wyverns and werewolves. Be careful, though - many of the creatures are aggressive. Some can even destroy blocks.

Complex

Complex is one of the best puzzle maps available for Minecraft. It puts you in a three-dimensional maze, and you're tasked with finding "the answer" without breaking any blocks. There are many different paths to take, and it should take most players at least a few hours to complete. There's also an experimental two-player edition if you've got a friend to co-op with.

Skyblock 

Five million people can't be wrong, can they? That's how many people have downloaded SkyBlock - a map where you wake up on a tiny island in the sky, with just a tree and a chest for company. From there, it's up to you to build as much as you can - a bed! A house! A pumpkin farm! A scale model of the Starship Enterprise! Starting with almost nothing really makes you value every single block.

Botany

Botany adds a bunch of new flowers into Minecraft that can be used to both decorate your home but also to circumvent some of the more annoying resource requirements in the game. Instead of delving into the nether for Glowstone, for example, you can harvest Glowflowers instead. It also makes it rather easier to craft dyes, and with a bit of experimentation you might find one or two other recipes too.

Rei's Minimap

You'll never be lost again with Rei's Minimap. Unlike the in-game maps, Rei's edition is active from the moment you start the game, doesn't require a hotbar slot and - even though it's not wholly within the spirit of Minecraft - will even map caves for you, place waypoints, and let you spot creatures if you like. Tremendously useful. You'll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Biomes O'Plenty

Sure, the twelve biomes in Vanilla Minecraft are great and all, but wouldn't you like 70 more? Alps, badlands, bamboo forest, dead swamps, dunes, fen, mangrove, mesas, moors, prairie, steppe, volcano, and wasteland are among the inclusions that'll make your world a far more interesting place to be. Go exploring, and chart your new world.

Computercraft

Perhaps you're not really very interested in the natural world. Perhaps you want to subjugate nature beneath your industrial boot. ComputerCraft lets you build machines that'll automate mining and tree-felling, password doors, play games (Mineception!), generate cobblestone and control TNT cannons. The only catch is that you'll need to learn a bit of programming to put them together.

Millenaire

Alternatively, there's Millenaire. It's an attempt to fill up the "emptiness" of Minecraft worlds with a bit more civilisation - 11th century Norman, Japanese and Mayan villages, populated with men, women and children who'll trade, build buildings, grow crops, and craft tools and amulets. By helping towns grow, you'll be rewarded with special items. One day, they might even build you a house of your own there.

Inventory Tweaks

On a simpler note, Inventory Tweaks delivers just that - a series of little adjustments to Minecraft's inventory system that make it much easier to keep track of your stuff - automatically replacing tools as they break, adding shortcuts to move things around and customising how your inventory is sorted. Like Rei's Minimap, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Death Chest

You're going to want to start carrying around a chest in your inventory with this mod. When you do, if you die, it'll put as many of the items in your inventory as possible in a chest at the point that you died. No more hunting around in poorly-lit caves trying to see if you picked up all your things, and no losing them down big dark holes. 

The Flashlight

Enthusiastic spelunkers will know how much of a pain it is to run out of torches half-way through the exploration of an enormous cave. Instead, how about a Flashlight mod? This simple addition lets you turn glowstone and redstone into a lamp, and then turn that lamp into a torch that you can carry around to illuminate your world. Of course, you can't hold a sword and a torch at the same time...

Better World Generation

The default world generator does a pretty good job, but there's always room for improvement. Enter the Better World Generation mod, which lets you opt for larger biomes, huge floating islands and even isolated desert isles with dramatically limited resources. It also lets you access older versions of the normal terrain generator.

Weather & Tornadoes

Vanilla Minecraft's rain and storms are atmospheric but have little real effect on the game. Weather & Tornadoes changes that, extending the storm system to five stages of increasing intensity with naturally spawning waterspouts, terrifying tornadoes and hurricanes that tear up the terrain and toss it around, along with craftable tornado sirens to give you some warning that they're coming. It also adds particles for leaves, waterfalls and adds waves to water, making the world that little bit more alive. Highly recommended - the tornadoes are utterly terrifying.

Buildcraft

Buildcraft is one of the better-known Minecraft mods, and with good reason. It adds pipes, auto-crafting, quarries, engines, lasers, pumps and all sorts to the game, allowing you to automatically sort and move objects between chests and containers. There's no better option if you want to pursue the creation of huge automatic factories.

Better Breeding

Better Breeding tweaks a little-appreciated aspect of Vanilla Minecraft - animal husbandry. It gives animals stats that can be improved over time by selectively breeding them with other animals with good stats, allowing you to boost an animal's drop rate and even the amount of health or hunger that their food heals. Create a master-race of all-powerful pigs, then unleash them on your world for the best bacon you've ever had.

Treecapitator

Another simple one. With Treecapitator installed, you only need to chop out one block from a treetrunk for the whole lot to fall to the ground, leaves and all, in a deeply-satisfying cascade of logs. Much easier on your axe, your mouse and your finger. Your orthopedic surgeon can thank us later.

The Dropper 2

This is a slightly more unusual mod - The Dropper 2 is a puzzle map that drops you. In a variety of interesting and creative ways. In pursuit of crystals. In most cases, however, your goal is simply to survive to the bottom. The presentation is phenomenal, as is the construction - packed with optical illusions and interesting architecture. A fantastic example of the creativity of Minecraft's mod community.

Matmos

Matmos is another mod that attempts to address the "emptiness" of Vanilla Minecraft. It looks at your surroundings and generates natural soundscapes based on them - birds tweeting in a forest, wind gusts on a mountaintop and rumbling near lava lakes. It's a little heavy-handed occasionally, but mostly it fits inconspicuously in the background, making the game feel a little less lonely.

Technic Platform

Finally, it wouldn't be a list of amazing mods without a mention of the remarkable Technic Platform - a pack of mods that work perfectly together, including many of those mentioned above. It's also incredibly simple to use, and comes with its own launcher. If you can't be bothered to fiddle around too much with things, and just want to try something new, then the Technic Platform gives you the best experience for the least effort.

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