The world of Minecraft mods has never been richer. From tech, to magic, to nature, there's so many ways to expand your in-game experience in exciting ways. Below, you'll find what I reckon are the best Minecraft mods available today. Almost all of them require an older version of the game to play—usually version 188.8.131.52, and quite a few also require the Forge modloader or other files. Follow the installation instructions carefully, and you'll be fine.
They're all brilliant on their own, of course, but it's worth noting that they might conflict with each other a bit if you try and install several at once. If you do struggle with that or other issues, consider trying a preconfigured modpack out instead—the launchers provided by Feed the Beast and the Technic Platform are one of the easiest ways to quickly and cleanly get playing modded Minecraft.
Now, without further ado, let's get started.
Minecraft doesn't scale too well to the power of fast or slow machines. It runs surprisingly poorly on low-end laptops, and a high-end rig can't do much with its extra oomph. Enter Optifine—a mod that not only makes Minecraft run faster but also look far better. It supports HD textures, smooth lighting, and more, and framerate doubling is not uncommon. It's one of the first things I usually add when installing Minecraft. Grab it here.
Love adventuring? This mod adds a new, densely-forested dimension shrouded in perpetual twilight that hides both valuable treasures and dangerous monsters. Throw a diamond into a pool of water surrounded by flowers to create a portal there, then spend a while roaming around. You'll find hedge mazes, hollow hills, enchanted groves, glaciers, lich towers and more with rich rewards for those that delve the deepest. Grab it here.
Since the 'Update That Changed The World' in late 2013, there's been a bit more diversity in Minecraft worlds. But Biomes O'Plenty adds vastly more—75 to be exact—from brushland and coral reefs, through lavender fields and ominous woods, to tundra and wasteland. You'll need to create a new world to use it (make sure to select the 'Biomes O'Plenty' world generation option), but it's worth it to see corners of Minecraft that you've never seen before. Grab it here.
Some mods add powerful magical items. Others add intricate machinery. Botania just adds flowers—but wow, what flowers. Flowers that heal you. Flowers that feed animals. Flowers that turn hostile mobs against each other. Flowers that eat cake. Oh, and did I mention that you've can also use flowers to create a magical portal to a world of elves? If you want to try something wildly different from most other mods, Botania is it. Grab it here.
This trio of mods are essential quality-of-life improvements, especially when you've got loads of mods installed at the same time. Inventory Tweaks allows you to sort your chests with a single click and automatically replace tools when they break. NotEnoughItems provides you with a searchable list of all the blocks available in the game, and the recipes for crafting them, and Waila lets you point your cursor at an unfamiliar blocks to find out what it is. Grab them here, here and here respectively.
Being a sorcerer is awesome, and the most awesome way to be a sorcerer in Minecraft is with Thaumcraft. It's a vast mod that revolves around drawing the magical essence out of physical objects in the Minecraft world and reshaping it into new forms. In the process, you'll create altars, wands, golems and fill dozens of jars of coloured goo. There's even a puzzle game you'll have to complete to research new spells. Grab it here.
Another great mod for spicing up world-generation is Natura. It adds a wide variety of new tree types, and therefore different-coloured woods to make your home more aesthetically pleasing. It also adds a few extra crops for early-game food and resource production, and makes the Nether a little more dangerous. Natura is a nice first step into Minecraft modding, because it sticks close to the themes of the regular game. Grab it here.
Minecraft's default maps are a bit rubbish. They don't offer much detail, have to be pulled out and looked down at to use, and don't display anything other than where you are. JourneyMap fixes all that—it maps your world in real-time as you explore, can be displayed in the corner of your screen, and even lets you set waypoints to return to later. If you have a habit of getting lost in the wilderness, JourneyMap will get you home safe and sound. Grab it here.
Tools are the backbone of everything you do in Minecraft, and Tinker's Construct lets you make far better tools out of a much wider range of materials. They're upgradable, modular, and can be repaired if they break. Oh, and the mod also adds a smeltery to make high-end tools and increase ore processing efficiency. If you love having the best possible equipment to work with, grab Tinker's Construct from here.
If you like the agricultural aspects of Minecraft, you're going to love Forestry. It's a huge mod, which adds a bunch of new items, machines and blocks, but it's best known for its bees. You can become an apiarist, capturing wild bees and cross-breeding them using real genetic principles to create masses of different useful resources. If I were teaching biology, I'd be using this in the classroom. Grab it here.
While we're learning biology, let's learn some programming too! ComputerCraft adds programmable computers and turtles into Minecraft, which you can write code to control. It's based on the easy-to-learn Lua programming language, and with it you can make passworded doors, private chatrooms, automated mining turtles, and even in-game videogames. The possibilities are endless. Grab it here.
These titans are two of the most important technology mods in the game. Thermal Expansion focuses on power generation and storage, as well as adding a bunch of new metals that have become standard components of several other mods. Minefactory Reloaded is where you're going to use that power—in automating farming, animal husbandry, mining, enchanting, potion-brewing and more. Install it for the 'raw meat block' alone. Grab both mods, and a couple of extras that they need to run, here.
After a while with lots of tech mods installed, you'll find that your power needs are growing faster than you can add more generator capacity. Big Reactors is the answer. It lets you build highly-configurable customised nuclear reactors that output huge amounts of power and won't melt down spectacularly if things go wrong. It even interfaces with ComputerCraft, so you can build programs to control your reactors. Budding nuclear engineers can grab it here.
Making your base pretty is an afterthought to some players, but to others it's a vital part of the game. These two mods give you the tools you need to customise almost every aspect of your base design. Chisel provides loads of new texture options for many of the most common blocks in the game, while Carpenter's Blocks adds slopes and loads of aesthetic options for doors, switches, torches, ladders, fences and more. Grab them here and here, respectively.
You can probably guess what these mods do. That's right—they both substantially upgrade the capabilities of Minecraft's minecarts. RailCraft adds a bunch of new types of track, including sophisticated redstone-controlled junctions and signals, while Steve's Carts pumps up the capabilities of the carts themselves—adding brakes, shields, drills and more. You can even make an attachment that launches fireworks. Grab RailCraft here, and Steve's Carts 2 here.
Getting stuff to where it needs to be is often a problem in Minecraft. EnderIO solves that problem impressively elegantly, by adding compact conduits that carry fluid, items, power and redstone signals. It also has a few machines that enhance your ore processing capabilities, too. When your base starts getting complicated, EnderIO is one of the best ways to sort it out. Grab it here.
Storage can also become an issue when you start automating more and more aspects of Minecraft. Applied Energistics solves the problem by turning the matter in your chests into energy, which is then stored on disk drives, accessible wirelessly from anywhere in your base. You can even use it to autocraft anything you need by interfacing directly with your machines. If that sounds a bit magical, you wouldn't be wrong. It uses vast amounts of power, of course, but once properly configured you'll come to see wooden chests as hopelessly primitive relics of the past. Grab it here.
More storage mods, but this time focused on the early-game. JABBA adds easy-to-craft, upgradable barrels that can hold hundreds of stacks of a single item, while Iron Chests lets you upgrade wooden chests to hold more stuff. In the long run, you'll probably still want an Applied Energistics system, but these mods make the early part of the game so much more pleasant. Get hold of them here and here.
This pair of mods are a grab bag of immensely useful utilities with no real theme running through them. Extra Utilities adds a golden lasso for transporting friendly mobs, blackout curtains for keeping places dark, conveyor belts to move mobs around, and sound mufflers to quieten down your stables. OpenBlocks, on the other hand, adds sleeping bags, hang gliders, elevators, gravestones, rope ladders and building guides. Both are essential. Grab them here and here, respectively.
It's always refreshing seeing mods that try something a bit different. PneumatiCraft is a tech mod, but instead of power it uses air pressure. You'll need to build compression chambers, pipes and valves to make sure you balance the flow of air, and if you get things wrong an explosion is inevitable. If you get it right, though, the nifty gadgets that PneumatiCraft brings to the table, like air cannons and configurable helmets, are well worth the time investment. Grab it here.
Feeling hungry? You will be after you install Hunger Overhaul. It makes hunger more of a challenge, rather than a mild annoyance, reducing the amount of hunger each food item refills. Then, The Spice of Life means that you get diminishing returns from eating the same foodstuffs over and over again. So what do you do to get some dietary variation? Install Pam's HarvestCraft, of course. It adds 58 new crops, 35 fruit trees, 12 bushes and 16 fish for you to track down, including—vegetarians rejoice—the ability to use tofu in place of meat for any recipe. It's a veritable culinary explosion, and your mouth will thank you. Grab Hunger Overhaul here, the Spice of Life here, and Pam's HarvestCraft here.
Bibliocraft began as a way to store books in bookcases. but has expanded wildly since into a bunch of blocks and items that are both useful and aesthetically pleasing to have in your base. There are armour stands, potion shelves, cookie jars, clocks, lanterns, display cases, nifty multipart chairs, and even tables and tablecloths. Once you're done with Bibliocraft, your home base might actually start to look like a home. Grab it here.
Those of you that work frequently with redstone will know what a pain it can sometimes be. Project Red changes all that, bringing vastly improved control over what you're doing and allowing you to make your circuits much more compact. It also adds integrated logic gates, making task automation way easier. Worth having around if you ever might want to work with redstone. Grab it here.
Another incredibly useful automation tool is Steve's Factory Manager. Like ComputerCraft, it's a little on the fiddly side and requires a bit of knowledge of programming concepts to get going. Once you've got the hang of the drag-and-drop interface however, you'll be amazed by the possibilities. For automating a factory, there's no better solution. Grab the download and learn about it here.
Have you grown bored of your world but don't want to lose your progress? Conjure up a new dimension with Mystcraft. It lets you create 'Linking Books' that allow you to travel around the multiverse—with the contents of the book dictating the kind of worlds you'll discover. You might find a series of snow-covered floating islands, or an endless ocean with giant trees sprouting from the water. But be careful, some of the new dimensions could be unstable, falling apart around you. Downloading Mystcraft here for a bit of exploring. I hope you make it back.