How to Enhance Minecraft’s Core Mechanics with Mods Big and Small

Minecraft is a fantastic game but there is always room for improvement. Today we’re taking a look at mods big and small that tweak the user interface, biomes, villages and more in Minecraft for a more robust and feature rich place experience.

Modding the Mechanics

The modding community for Minecraft is absolutely enormous and you can find mods of all kinds with ease. Among them there are minor mods that alter single elements of the game or enhance them, and then there are overhaul mods that completely change the look and feel of Minecraft in significant ways. Any mod is going to change some element of the game but the mods we’re highlighting in today’s lesson either enhance and refine mechanics already found in the game or introduce small elements that improve the basic game play.

Whether or not you welcome that improvement is a personal choice but we think you’ll find that certain mods just make the game more convenient to play. It’s nice, for example, to not have to muddle through recipes (the combinations of Minecraft blocks used to create everything from sticks to advanced tools) by looking them up online or paging through your notes, but instead popping open an in-game recipe book. Other mods give you advanced mapping tools, better inventory management, and other game enhancements that don’t change the general theme of Minecraft but do improve the experience.

If you think the enhancement unbalances the game or changes Minecraft in a fashion that you believe veers too far from the vanilla experience (if it’s your goal to stick closely to it), by all means don’t use the mod.

Along with a description of each of the showcased mods, we’ve included the latest version number (as well as notation on the highest compatible version number) and any special installation instructions.

Finally, the sheer number of Minecraft mods is staggering and there is no way to do the variety and novelty of them all justice in a limited space. We’ve done our best to highlight significant mods that offer useful game enhancements but freely acknowledge we’re just scratching the surface of all the Minecraft modding community has to offer.

GUI Tweaks: Maps, Inventory Management, and More

After you’ve played Minecraft for a while there are certain elements of the game that can get a bit irritating. Wouldn’t it be nice if when your pickax broke for example, you just started using the brand new one sitting in your on-person inventory? Wouldn’t it be great to spend less time sorting junk in your inventories? Wouldn’t it be great to have a detailed map of the places you’ve been? There are more than a handful of things that, after you’ve logged some serious hours playing, are more tedious than they are fun. These GUI tweaks aim to fix some of the common annoyances.

Inventory Tweaks

Available for Minecraft Version: 1.7.10

Installation Process: Copy the mod .JAR into your mods folder and run Minecraft.

Description: Inventory Tweaks offers a sophisticated overhaul of the in-game inventory system. The mod is highly configurable and allows you to set up rules for how your on-person inventory and your chests are organized and sorted.

If you’ve grown tired of moving stacks of things around manually and taking breaks from mining and resource gathering to fiddle with your on-person inventory and load new tools, this is the mod for you. With a single click, for example, you can reorganize your  n-person inventory so that all your tools and carried resources are set in the exact inventory slots you want them.

By default there are simple sorting rules already setup, but the mod has an extensive configuration file you can tweak to set and automate the processes exactly how you want them. Refer to the mod’s documentation here for help.

CraftGuide

Available for Minecraft Version: 1.7.2 (compatible with 1.7.10)

Installation Process: Copy the mod .JAR into your mods folder and run Minecraft.

Description: CraftGuide is a fantastic little enhancement that gives you an in-game recipe book. Can’t remember how to make a hopper? Forgot how to craft a brewing stand? Rather than break your stride in the game to look up the recipe on your phone or tablet, you can press a button to pull up a searchable crafting book.

Our favorite feature of this clever little mod is that it not only includes the base recipes but automatically updates to include any recipes added by other mods too.

Not Enough Items (NEI)

Available for Minecraft Version: 1.7.10

Installation Process: Requires the ChickenBone mod support library. Copy both the appropriate version of the library .JAR and the NEI mod .JAR into your mods folder and run Minecraft.

Description: While CraftGuide is a handy tool for a largely vanilla survival mode game, Not Enough Items is a really handy enhancement for creative mode builders. The enhancements it offers are a bit overkill for a survival game as you won’t need such detailed inventory management, but its features are extremely handy if you’re a very active creative mode builder.

You can setup hot-keys for automatic inventory swapping, so you’ll never waste time digging through the inventory to swap out the limited number of toolbar slots again. It also includes an advanced search function and a recipe guide, hot keys for toggling day and night, weather states, and game modes.

VoxelMapMod

Available for Minecraft Version: 1.7.2 (compatible with 1.7.10) / Direct Download

Installation Process: Requires Liteloader; use the “Install LiteLoader” button in MultiMC to install it from your instance’s mod menu. Add the VoxelMap .JAR to your mod folder and run Minecraft.

Description: If you like the thrill of wandering and surviving in Minecraft on your wits and memory alone, then VoxelMap isn’t for you. If you find yourself frequently wishing Minecraft had a good map program or better yet, a good map program with a waypoint system, then VoxelMap is definitely for you.

VoxelMap is a feature packed map mod that not only offers an adjustable on-screen map but also offers a waypoint system, entity radars, and more.

Note: The Voxel team is currently doing some restructuring of repositories and links; use the Direct Download link above to grab the mod directly.

Backpacks

Available for Minecraft Version: 1.7.2 (compatible with 1.7.10)

Installation Process: Copy mod .JAR to your mods folder and run Minecraft.

Description: The simply named Backpacks mod does exactly what you’d expect it to do: add craftable backpacks into the game so you can carry your precious loot and resources more efficiently. Different size backpacks replicate the storage capacity of chests and double chests with the benefit of allowing you to sling them on your back and carry them with you.

One thing you might notice in the image above is that the Inventory Tweaks buttons appear on the backpack; that’s right, you can even automatically sort the contents of your backpack.

If you love the whole camping theme of the backpack mod and wish it had more camping elements, we’d encourage you to check out The Camping Mod. The Camping Mod adds in actual camping elements like tents, sleeping bags, camp fires, and more. Because the stable release is stuck back at Minecraft version 1.6.4, we opted not to include The Camping Mod as its own entry. If you’re adventurous, however, there’s a 1.7.x-compatible development release.

Environmental Tweaks: Better Trees, Bigger Biomes, and Interesting Villagers

One of the complaints we hear frequently (and that we’ve made ourselves) is that the Minecraft world is really empty. Once you’ve wandered long enough across the world, it starts to take on a sort of post-apocalyptic feel wherein there is a whole lot of space but not a whole lot in it. The following mods help enhance the environment by either making interactions with it more realistic or by filling up the environment with more stuff.

Treecapitator

Available for Minecraft Version: 1.7.10

Installation Process: Requires the bspkrsCore mod support library. Copy both the appropriate version of the library .JAR and the Treecapitator mod .JAR into your mods folder and run Minecraft.

Description: One of the weirder defying-physics-quirks in Minecraft is that you can chop the base of a tree out from under it and the tree just floats there in the air. If this little physics quirk is more than you can bear (or you just want to chop trees down faster) Treecapitator is the mod you crave. Chop down the bottom block of a tree with an ax and the whole things comes crashing down. You’ll be the most efficient logger around.

Biomes O’ Plenty

Available for Minecraft Version: 1.7.10

Installation Process: Copy the mod .JAR into your mods folder and run Minecraft.

Description: In our original Minecraft series you learned all about the biomes. If you’ve been playing a lot since then, you’ve likely seen most of them and their variants. Want to spice things up a bit? Install Biomes O’ Plenty and enjoy over 75 new biomes including bamboo forests, marshes, moorlands, rainforests, hidden springs, wastelands, wetlands, and more. It even adds new sub-biomes to the otherwise pretty monolithic Nether landscape.

In the screenshot above you can see one of our favorite new biomes: the Seasonal Forest. Not only does it offer a lovely splash of autumn colors, but the leaves actually change and drop off the trees like you’d experience in an actual autumn forest.

This mod adds in so many new biomes and interesting sub-biomes that you’ll play Minecraft on full-bore explorer mode just to experience them all. It does a wonderful job capturing that new-game awe where you can’t get enough of hiking over the next hill to see what’s new.

Mo’ Creatures

Available for Minecraft Version: 1.7.10

Installation Process: Copy the mod .ZIP into your mods folder along with the auxiliary file CustomMobSpawner.zip and run Minecraft.

Description: If you’re tired of the same old Minecraft mobs, well then do we have a treat for you. Mo’ Creatures adds in dozens of new mobs in a wide variety of flavors. More animals (like fish, raccoons, insects, snakes, custom horses, and more like the tiger seen below) as well as a wide variety of mythical creatures like golems, wyverns, and mummy-like skeletons.

Don’t worry, the mod comes with a highly customizable configuration file that allows you to easily remove mobs you feel break the theme (you might, for example, want to keep all the real-world animals but remove the mythological animals). We’ll admit that we always edit the configuration file to remove the Ogres. Those things like killing us with giant hammers way too much for our comfort.

Not only is Mo’ Creatures super awesome all on its own but the mod is so well established that other mod designers collaborate with the Mo’ Creatures team to provide enhanced creature support in their mods and world add-ons. Mo’ Creatures, for example, has a separate configuration file just for the previously recommended Biome O’ Plenty mod.

Mo’ Villages

Available for Minecraft Version: 1.7.10

Installation Process: Copy the mod .JAR into your mods folder and run Minecraft.

Description: It seems pretty odd that villages only spawn in vanilla Minecraft in a very small number of biomes. In the real world people spread out and live everywhere life can even be remotely sustained. If you want that kind of diversity in your game Mo’ Villages offers villages in not just the vanilla locations but in every biome. Extreme Hills, Forests, Mesas, and more each have their own unique village construction utilizing materials from the local biome.

The screenshot above showcases how Mo’ Villages works alongside Biomes O’ Plenty; the biome above is unique Biomes O’ Plenty biome and it still gets a new village type based on the local resources.

The mod configuration file allows you to adjust village frequency so, despite the potential for a village in all biome types, the number of villages doesn’t seem overwhelming. Conversely, you can use the same configuration file to crank the number up and spend all day and night stumbling over new villages.

Minecraft Comes Alive

Available for Minecraft Version: 1.7.10

Installation Process: Copy the mod .ZIP into your mods folder along with the auxiliary file RadixCore*.ZIP and run Minecraft.

Description: If you’re as puzzled by the bizarre creatures that are Minecraft villagers as we are, Minecraft Comes Alive will be a welcome change. The default villagers are, to say the least, odd. They all look alike (save for their robe/apron color), they all make the same weird grunting noise, and their just weird enough to kind of break the immersion of the game. After all what is the deal with their strange appearance and lack of language?

Minecraft Comes Alive is worth installing, at minimum, simply because it replaces all the alien-looking villagers with characters that look like you (200 unique characters in fact, and you can add in your own if you wish). These new Non-Player Characters (NPCs) act a whole lot more like you’d expect video game villagers to act. They talk to you, they have rudimentary personalities, and they wear different clothing. They even have different jobs (you’ll be shocked to see guards attack zombies that wander into the village).

Even if you never interact with them, those changes alone are worth the mod install. If you do interact with them, you’ll be very pleased to find out that not only is the old villager-trading mechanic preserved but that a whole new layer of mechanics is included. You can hire villagers to help you (the guards will guard you, the woodsmen will gather wood, etc.). You can marry a village and have children (or adopt a child from the local priest). Your kids will even do chores for you and eventually grow up to become handy companions.

If all of that breaks the core feel of Minecraft for you, then you certainly aren’t required to marry and have a little Minecraft family, but at minimum the villager overhaul alone is worth it. Goodbye grunting Squidworth-looking villagers, hello interesting and diverse village populations.


 

 

With very little effort you can quickly enhance the core game with better mechanics and GUI, expanded biomes, and more. Have a favorite mod you wish we’d have given a nod? Jump into the comments and share a link and the reason it’s your must-have favorite.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.