Custom maps were never an intended feature of Minecraft, but it's not surprising that a game about creation would spark the ambition of its players. Mojang caught on to the trend, and between their recent updates and the support of YouTube, the adventure map scene has become a massive part of the game. A whole sub-community of mapmakers has emerged, using Minecraft not as a game, but more as a tool for the creation of games.
Today, you can find truly unbelievable works, ranging from skill challenges, to narrative adventures, to breathtaking builds. Even better, they're easy to install—much more so than the game's many great mods. You'll can install most maps in this list by searching for %appdata% in your Start bar, opening the '.minecraft' folder, and placing the unzipped file into the 'Saves' folder. Be sure to check the installation instructions of each download, as some maps require additional mods or updated resource packs.
There's an unwritten rule in gaming that goes something like, "if it can be built, there'll be a Game of Thrones mod of it." Clearly Minecraft was going to have its own version of George R. R. Martin's oft-fatal fantasy. Luckily that version is breathtaking in its size and scope. If you need convincing, here's just a small example: the map's recreation of King's Landing features over 2,000 houses.
WesterosCraft can be accessed through a custom launcher that will do everything needed to get you into its immense map. Once there, you can visit a small town that acts as the central hub, imparting server news, setting build rules, and letting tourists portal to a multitude of the book/show's most notable places. You can even sit on the Iron Throne. Well, squat on the Iron Throne. Download WesterosCraft here.
Why is Diversity such an impressive map? Because of how diver–, er, varied it is. It's a CTM—or 'Complete the Monument'—map, in which you add missing blocks to a central statue. In Diversity, those blocks are coloured wool, and each is found at the end of a self-contained level.
Those levels are fully realised challenges, and each takes the form of a different style of custom map. You'll find a "Dropper" challenge, a parkour course, a survival puzzle, and more besides. While none are as detailed as a good map tuned for a single style, the sheer breadth and variety is staggering. Not only that, but it's a great sampler of the different map types favoured by the Minecraft community. Download Diversity here.
3. Zelda Adventure
Zelda Adventure uses the AdventureCraft mod, allowing the creators to utilise cutscenes, music, custom UI elements and brand new weapons. As such, it's probably one of the most detailed and unique adventure maps available, completely overhauling the game while still taking place in a world that is recognisably Minecraftian.
Your quest (as always) is to rescue Princess Zelda by fighting through six dungeons pulled from Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time. It's a fantastic piece of mapmaking, both as an homage and as an example of the flexibility of Minecraft as a launching pad for custom projects. Download Zelda Adventure and Adventurecraft here.
4. Hunger Games V2
When it comes to Minecraft multiplayer, it's hard to ignore the phenomenon that is Hunger Games. The blocky battle royale manages to take the best aspects of survival, exploration and hacking each other up with swords. Spawning in the centre of a glass dome, players are set loose to fight, run and scavenge from the chests hidden around the arena.
If you just want to play Hunger Games, you'll need to find an existing server running the map. If you'd rather host your own version, Wasted49's Hunger Games V2 map is one of the best. It supports up to 24 players, and contains booby-trapped chests, hidden puzzles and an automated countdown timer. Download Hunger Games V2 here.
5. Kingdom of the Sky
An absolutely beautifully crafted map, both in terms of the sculpting of the floating world you're adventuring across and the effort put into creating an interesting story to experience along the way. Instead of the usual sign heavy text dump, map creator Blame The Controller has created a series of YouTube videos to play in the background, narrating along to you as you play.
It's also one of the tougher maps available. You'll face plenty of mobs as you're dungeoneering, and exploration is encouraged because the secrets hidden around the map actually help to keep you alive. Download Kingdom of the Sky here.