Block out some time in your schedule for these
Be honest – you haven't played Minecraft in years, have you? After hitting the bottom of the game's rather shallow tech tree, there's only so much fun to be had building things out of blocks.
But there's another way to enjoy Minecraft – with mods. Mods that'll let you build up enormous factories in the sky, survive a shuttle crash on an alien world, become a powerful sorcerer, live with nature in the tranquility of the forest, or all of the above at the same time.
Most articles promising the best Minecraft mods will give you an endless list of incompatible downloads to grab off questionable websites, but we're going to be doing things a different way. We'll give you a selection of five custom-curated packs of mods that work together to deliver a particular experience.
All the modpacks below come with a video or in-game guide that'll teach you how things work – though you may at some points have to resort to Google to figure a few things out.
To download them, all you need is the Twitch Desktop App, which will guide you through the installation process. Just click the Minecraft tab, hit ‘Browse All Modpacks’, and use the search box to find each one.
Oh, and one hardware note – you'll need the desktop version of Minecraft to run these, and a reasonably capable computer. Minecraft is not exactly what you'd call a well-optimized game, and the extra load that mods place on it means lower-end laptops might struggle with some of the bigger packs.
Now, let's get onto that list…
The best place to start with modded Minecraft is with a guide, and YouTuber Direwolf20 is the best guide around. He's curated his own pack of mods, with a few custom configurations to make them work nicely together, and records a YouTube series where he plays through them in turn.
The experience leans more towards technology and automation than exploration and survival. But watching the YouTube videos between play sessions, and roughly keeping up with his progress, allows newcomers to modded Minecraft to quickly get a handle on even the most complicated mods, and understand where they fit into the tech tree.
For years, Minecrafters have been playing 'skyblocks' – a type of map where you begin with a small dirt island and a tree floating in the void, and have to make the most of those extremely limited resources.
In Feed the Beast's Sky Factory 3, you'll slowly build up an enormous base filled with complex machines, powered by nuclear reactors or enormous solar panels, growing the supplies you need and automating the creation of everything you might want.
There's an achievement book that you can go through to give you some sense of direction, but it's quite fun just to poke around and see what you can build with the different resources available to you at any given point. With the inclusion of several purely aesthetic mods you'll be able to create the home of your dreams, untroubled by creepers, floating in the endless void.
There's even a challenge version of the map, called Sky Factory Challenges, where you need to reach specific milestones in as rapid a time as possible, complete with online leaderboards. If you're into speedrunning, then this is what you'll want to try out.
Once you've got yourself a handle on several of the more common mods and want to ramp up the difficulty, then try GWSheridan's Forever Stranded. Inspired by an older modpack named Crash Landing, it casts you as the sole survivor of a shuttle crash in a hostile desert bereft of resources.
Like Sky Factory, that means building up a resource ecosystem from nothing. Unlike Sky Factory, however, you'll have to battle with hunger, overheating and legions of angry zombies that'll appear in the night – early on you'll spend the hours of darkness boarded up inside your ship listening to the moans of the beasts outside.
Once you've built up some defences, however, you'll find things begin to get easier, with a fantastic blend of technology and survival challenges to tackle.
If you love games like Stardew Valley, Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing, you're going to love Farming Valley. It's a modpack created by Kehaan that lets you build your own house, then build up a small village around it, farming your way to profit and a better life.
With NPCs inhabiting the village it's a less lonely experience than vanilla Minecraft, and you'll need to save up money to buy machinery and decorations for your home. You'll also need to carefully plan when you plant and harvest crops, and work in harmony with the seasons. You'll also be challenged to grow a diversity of food to eat yourself, with the inclusion of the Spice of Life mod.
More of a fighter? You'll encounter caves full of aggressive, high-level enemies below the ground. If technology and automation aren't your thing, you'll find a lot to like here.
If farming your way to success sounds a little dull, then tackle the last entry in this list at your own risk. Invasion, created by Darkosto, is a relatively new modpack at the time of writing, and it's hard.
The backstory is that the world has been stripped of resources, and you're tasked with surviving among the savage remnants of past civilisations – and what that means in practice is a seriously hardcore experience.
Water is finite. Crafting tables can't be crafted – they have to be found in the landscape. Most supplies can only be obtained from airdrops, which attract rival players and beasts who'll fight you for their contents, or just run screaming at you. Torches cause fires, and you can't even pick items up off the ground without right-clicking them.
To survive, you'll need to be on your toes constantly, moving from place to place and regularly discarding what you don't need. "Will you rise above the rest, or will you fall like so many before you?" asks pack creator Darkosto. There's only one way to find out.