The best mods for Ark: Survival Evolved

Ark: Survival Evolved has finally grown beyond early access and woken up, naked and shivering, on the beach of the wider world. It’s a hard game to really love, but its community and adaptability make it a haven for impressive mods. Fortunately, Ark’s years in the early access jungles have given modders plenty of time to gin up some baffling, hilarious, and ingenious additions. Some mods add new features, others tweak the interminable grind, and there are already a few full conversion mods that transform Ark into a pirate island or a Pokemon wilderness.

Here are the best mods for Ark: Survival Evolved.

Grind elimination mods

These mods cut down on the tedium, make building and crafting easier and more interesting, and give you cool new fast travel options.

Structures Plus

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For a game that’s all about building and crafting, Ark has some really heinous building mechanics. Structures Plus overhauls Ark’s building and crafting systems, fixing all kinds of weird snap points and silly limitations: add water pipes to your raft, add electrical wires to your walls, build ceilings that sit on top of your walls instead of clipping through them.

Best of all, Structures Plus gives you the ability to pick up things and move them instead of destroying and replacing them. The mod also includes master crafting stations that can craft every technology and pull materials from nearby containers, so you don’t have to run all over your house micromanaging supplies and building ingredients at three different tables. 

Upgrade Station

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A lot of the gear in Ark comes in multiple qualities, from primitive to master-crafted. The trouble is, high-quality gear only shows up randomly in loot drops or beacons. But why? You’ve got a workbench, you’ve got tools, you’ve got all the time in the world. The Upgrade Station mod adds a workbench where you can improve the quality of your weapons, tools, and armor yourself.

You can also use the upgrade station workbench to tear down extra items for materials, which is a nice alternative to chucking them in the river like I do.

Stargate Worlds

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The islands on Ark are big, and they’re full of things that will eat you. If you want to skip the long, dangerous dino rides, it’s easy: just walk like an Egyptian through the glowing event horizon of a wormhole connecting two points in subspace.

Using a Stargate in Ark isn’t a cheat. It will take you some serious time to build Stargates and power up their zero-point modules. Once you do, though, you can connect a network of Stargates and give yourself fast access to different parts of the island. It’s a powerful shortcut that you’ll have to earn, and that makes it more fun and more rewarding than walking or driving a boat ever could be.

Automated Ark

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The bigger your base gets, the more of a chore it is to keep it running. Especially if you’re farming, cooking, breeding dinos, you can spend a lot of time collecting poop and refilling troughs and pulling cooked meat off the fire. Automated Ark takes care of all of those kinds of things for you, with items that harvest crops, pull spoiled meat out of carnivores’ inventories, and many more.

There is some overlap between Automated Ark and Structures Plus, especially regarding auto-pulling items between storage chests and crafting tables. If you want to dive deep into farming and animal husbandry, through, you’re going to want to add Automated Ark to your kit.

Inventory Cleaner

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Flint! I hate flint. I’m up to my damn neck in flint. When you’ve got two storage chests full of flint at home and you’re out mining for metal ore, stopping every few minutes to dump a ton of flint and stone on the ground is just one more tedious part of the grind. With Inventory Cleaner, you can auto-purge your inventory and drop (or destroy) any type of item you don’t want to pick up. 

It works for anything: if you’re hunting for narcoberries, you can ditch plant fiber and other berries; if you’re hunting with raptors, you can leave behind heavy hides while you stock up on meat. A huge aggravation-saver for players who still want to grind and forage but aren’t opposed to working smart..

Carts and Wagons

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If you want to carry tons and tons of materials but carrying a backpack with six tons of obsidian feels like a game-breaker, embrace the primitive island setting and go old-school: hitch a wagon to your butt and start pulling. Carts and Wagons is in development, but I haven’t come across any bugs hitching the basic wagons to myself or to common dinos. Now my raptors can pull enough weight to make my Stego obsolete, and solo farming runs don’t have to be limited by my own personal carry weight.

Reusable Plus

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It takes so much work to craft items that it’s a real shame when a simple tool breaks after a single use. A flare gun that can’t be reloaded? A parachute that evaporates when you land? Come on, Ark. Thankfully, Reusable Plus adds blueprints for reusable versions of the bola, grappling hook, and spear. Now you can devote the time and resources to making these things once, then move on with your day.

New experience mods

These mods add totally new features to Ark: Survival Evolved to make the island a more varied place.

NPC Bush People

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Official servers can be a grind and PvP can be a Hobbesian horror show, so what's a lonely survivor supposed to do? If you want to hunt two-legged creatures on your singleplayer island, NPC Bush People adds tribes of humans and scatters primitive NPC settlements across the land. You still won't have any friends, but battling humans is a nice change of pace.

Like any other creature, you can train NPC humans and ride on their backs, but we should note here that slavery is absolutely not endorsed by PC Gamer.

Advanced Architecture

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Even after you break free from the all-right-angles and wonky restrictions of Ark's vanilla building system, your options for sweeping architectural masterpieces are somewhat limited. Advanced Architecture goes all Pillars of the Earth on the basic thatch huts you're used to with drawbridges, ceilings, braziers, and even a throne upon which to plant your royal butt.

Pimp My Dino

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Formerly known as Pimp My Rex, Pimp My Dino refuses to discriminate and adds armor and customization options for all dinos, regardless of age, gender, or culinary preference. Several different armor and clothing sets are available for your dinos, making them dangerous and stylish and dangerously stylish.

Dino Trackers

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It only takes a moment. An unlocked gate or an open door, and suddenly your dino is lost. Every year, millions of domesticated dinos escape, and some of them are never seen again. Keep your dinos safe with the Dino Tracker, a combo of two items: collar and tracker. Craft them and outfit your animals with them, and you'll always be able to track Fido down—whether he really did get lost or if that big idiot got stuck on a tree and you didn’t notice until you were miles down the road.

Armored Storage Stands

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You can craft and store so many different things in Ark, but there are surprisingly few ways to store or showcase the products of your hard work. Armored Storage Stands adds special shelves, gun racks, and armor stands so you don’t have to throw everything you own into a box and close the lid. You can showcase saddles, armor, swords, rifles, and clothes while keeping things organized and secure.

Steampunk Modtacular

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A book of blueprints from the late, great Dr. Rubeus Oswald reveals a lot of possibilities for survivors with a penchant for bronze and leather. The Steampunk Index includes plans for steampunk-style stuff including buildings, lights, gates, statues, and hot air balloons. If your low-tech survivor needs a steam-powered upgrade and a fancy set of goggles that look nice with a top hat, this is your mod.

Call of the Wild

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Sometimes, even an island covered in dinosaurs and killer bees and piranhas can get a little boring. Especially for singleplayer or PvE players, the act of building up a formidable castle is a little hollow, since no one is ever going to come around and attack it. With Call of the Wild, dinos will come and attack it.

This mod adds a control unit that lets you customize the size, frequency, and distance of your attackers. Dial in your preferences and hit go, and waves of pissed off dinosaurs will start to fling themselves at your walls. Especially with a group of friends on a PvE server, screaming defensive strategies and frantic repairs and make for a very fun, and very different, Ark experience.

Strange new land mods

When Ark's current landmass is no longer enough, these mods will take you to whole new worlds. Or new islands, anyway.

Valhalla

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This custom map won Ark’s first worldwide mod contest, and it’s a remarkable work of art for community creators to release for free. Valhalla contains about three times more landmass than the standard Ark map, and it supports all of the things that Ark does: all the mods, all the dinos and grinding. Basically, if you want to keep playing Ark but you’d like a change of scenery and some new places to build and fight and survive, Valhalla is Ark, but newer and better. It can be a refreshing start for players who have already spent years on Ark’s original island.

Skies of Nazca

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If floating obelisks undulating on pillars of otherworldly light isn’t weird enough for you, try Skies of Nazca. According to the creator’s lore notes, an alien war messed up Nazca real good, and broken islands, floating land masses, and monstrous animal experiments now spice up the traditional Ark experience of punching trees and clubbing dinos. 

Thieves Island

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Unlike the other island mods, Thieves Island doesn’t try to overwhelm you with sheer scale and size: it’s about half the size of the vanilla Ark island. It’s densely packed with caves, underground tunnels, floating islands, and the ruins of a once-vigorous den of pirates and sunken shipwrecks. For a new map experience that is less about size and more about depth, Thieves Island is a good place where you can wake up naked and start fresh.

Total conversion mods

These mods turn Ark into a whole new beast. Sorry.

Play as Dino!

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It’s a hard world out there for a leech. You squinch around, doing your leech thing, and the highlight of your day is latching on to something full of blood and hopefully getting away with it.

Play as Dino takes the survival game to a ridiculous extreme, letting you play as a dinosaur on Ark’s island. If you’ve spent any time at all watching from the bushes as packs of dinos tear each other apart, you know that life as a dino is only slightly worse than life as a human. You can play as land-, air-, and sea-based dinosaurs, explore the world, eat, mate, and get eaten by something bigger than you. You can also play as a useless fish, dragonfly, or leech, if for some reason that sounds like fun to you.

Primitive+

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Primitive Plus has been so popular for so long in the Ark community that the developers brought it on as an official piece of free DLC. There’s a good reason for that: this mod is great. It adds a lot of depth and complexity to Ark’s primitive technology options and strips out all the sci-fi high-tech electronics and various bloated nonsense. The result is a nuanced, well-balanced game the focuses on surviving in a primitive world with primitive technology. If you really work at it, you can build your technology up to black-powder muskets, but that’s as advanced as it gets.

In my opinion, this is the game that Ark itself should have been all along. It’s that good.

Pokemon Allstars

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Today I played a game where I track down high-level animals, capture and tame them, then train them up and take them into battle against players and other wild animals. But enough about Pokemon, everybody, let’s talk about Ark. Pokemon mods have been a natural fit for Ark for years, and the best example running right now is Pokemon Allstars. If you’ve got a love for those iconic cartoonish critters, this mod lets you replace dinosaurs with Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and the rest. Grab a Pokeball instead of your hunting bola, and go collect them all.

Multiplayer mods

These mods will help you change up the Ark multiplayer experience.

Survival Plus

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Much like Primitive Plus, this mod restricts the sci-fi and high-tech parts of Ark to focus on the low-tech survival part of the experience. Unlike Primitive, Survival devotes a ton of time to survival minutiae: sleep and exhaustion, hunger and cooking, hot and cold. This mod is best played on a big server full of people, since the survival experience can be pretty harrowing on your own. This is why humans formed tribes in the first place, after all.

Survival of the Fittest

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Everybody buckle in, we’re in for quite a few takes on the central premise behind PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Survival of the Fittest may be a remix on an increasingly common theme, but it’s still a pretty great way to spend your Ark time. This mode supports 72 players at once as they’re dropped onto an island filled with loot and a shrinking play area, and the last team alive wins the game. Unlike PUBG, though, you can theoretically tame a T-Rex and use it to chomp your way to the finish line, and that sounds pretty cool.

Ark Postal Service

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Ark wants to be all about the multiplayer experience, but there’s nothing in the game that helps plays communicate, network, and organize. Enter: the postal service. Adding this mod to a server creates a network of inboxes and delivery addresses so you can leave messages for offline players and send love notes to that good looking cave-person you shot arrows at that one time.

Capitalism Currency

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Sorry, socialists. The Capitalism Currency series of mods brings currency standards to the survivors on the Ark. Gold coins form the basis for an economic infrastructure on the ark: you can trade for goods and ingredients, keep your life savings in a bank vault, and offer bounties to hire players to whack your enemies. Sure, it’s nice to be able to offload that stone you don’t want anymore and find a convenient way to buy rare ingredients, but now we’ve got bounty hunters and haggling over prices on this once-idyllic jungle island? It’s true what they say: more money, more problems.