The Mod Couple x 10: 20 Unmissable Mods

By Kieron Gillen on April 19th, 2010 at 3:45 pm.

For the last month, UserCreated have been presenting a series of short essays about their 20 (count ‘em!) unmissable mods. It leans towards the last decade, but bar one ludicrous failure of judgment, it’s a credible look at the entire width of possibilities inherent in mods, both in the hyper-popular and the artcore. Go see what you think. And, rather than just shouting THEY’VE MISSED ACTION-FACE-BIFF-VIII!, why not lob up your own short list of unmissable mods in the comments? 20 would be overkill, I suspect, but I’d be interested to read what your own selection of essential mods would be.

, , .

81 Comments »

Sponsored links by Taboola
  1. Ricc says:

    Not following mods as closely these days, but I sure remember playing a lot of Zombie Master back in the day. I assume the creators of Left 4 Dead played that one once or twice as well.

  2. Ian says:

    Action-Face-Biff-VIII was crap, and you know it Kieron.

    After VI they went downhill.

  3. Sobric says:

    Many of those listed I’d agree with (such as Counter-Strike and Dear Esther), but I struggle to come up with my own definitive list. I’ve played a lot of mods, but no one sticks out. I’ll throw some sorta-mods & there game though:

    Morrowind’s multiple mods: So, nothing absolutely specific, just a series of overhauls and addons that extended the life of this game to a ridiculous extent.

    Operation Flashpoint: Like Morrowind, a huge collection of mods and addons had me absorbed in this game for years – I literally used to come home from school and browse the latest uploads, d/l them and play with them.

    FO3 Wanderer’s Edition: Not actually played much of the original, but recently bought the GOTY version just to mod the fuck out of it. My first experience of the WE found me out of caps, out of stims and out of ammo somewhere in the wasteland. Needless to say, I was pretty screwed at this point – but I was so happy that the game had caught me out like this.

    Europa Barbarorum (for R:TW): Sunk soooo much time into this epic modification. Truely a masterpiece.

    Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory: Fantastic shooter, and the first game in which I joined a clan.

    Can’t think of anymore, but I’m sure there’s a few I’m missing.

    • qx says:

      “Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory: Fantastic shooter, and the first game in which I joined a clan.”

      That’s not a mod.

    • Senethro says:

      It was free content that was an evolution rather than a whole new thing. It was even made by a modding team that made Q3F. That comes pretty close to being a mod, right?

    • qx says:

      There’s nothing about it that is a mod. It was suppose to be an expansion to RTCW, but they released the multiplayer for free instead of scrapping the whole project. That something is free has nothing to do with a being a mod. However, there were many mods made for ET, like ETPro, which is my all-time favorite mod.

  4. bleeters says:

    Hrmm. The majority of mods I’d consider personally essential these days tend to be small tweaks rather than full blown re-workings. Bashing open locked chests in Dragon Age to escape having to drag that preachy red-head along, for example, or altering the suit powers in Crysis to make switching between them a bit more fluid.

  5. LukeE says:

    Fall From Heaven

    In fact… I might have to reinstall Civ IV again now. Dammit.

    • Uskglass says:

      Seconded. I would also recommend adding one of the ‘modmods’ from here, the main three being Orbis, Rise From Erebus and Wildmana.

      I’d like to nominate Magna Mundi for EU3 as well, although sadly they’re having compatibility issues with the newest patch for the latest expansion (Heir to the Throne).

    • Premium User Badge

      Sagan says:

      Yes @ Fall From Heaven II

      I played it for the first time this year, and it is completely brilliant. It was a game that I could play all day and all night without pause. And then after waking up the next day I already had ten plans for what I would like to try today. And that is an experience that I hadn’t had in years. Recently, I never play games for more than a couple of hours before I want to take a break. Fall From Heaven II was different, and it made me realize how much I missed that feeling of being completely entranced by a game. Where all you want to do all day long is play it, and when you are not playing it you are thinking about it all the time.

      If you are like I were, and you haven’t had that experience in a long time, then play Fall From Heaven II.
      … Maybe wait for a long weekend before you do, though.

  6. Unaco says:

    Dystopia was included… It’s my all time favourite mod. Been playing it for the last 4 or 5 years I reckon, and still find time to play a few rounds a week. Competitive play is also pretty good… solid league currently, and occasional shoutcasts from myself.

    Also, OOO… I did some bug-hunting and a little testing for that back when I was modding for Ob. It really went a long way to making Oblivion the game it should have been.

    I was a huge fan of the Rome Total Realism mod, for Rome Total War. I probably played RTW for around 12 months before tiring of it… I got RTR and played for a further 24 months. Even then I hadn’t tired of it. Fantastic mod, made the excellent RTW almost perfect in my opinion.

  7. Gassalasca says:

    Wow. I had no idea Kieron wrote a mod for Deus Ex. I gots to get me some of that.

  8. AbyssUK says:

    Battlefield Pirates 2…. YARR!

  9. Senethro says:

    Huh, I’m surprised but I’ve played about three quarters of these already. Welp, back to being complacent about amateur produced content again.

  10. Sobric says:

    It was a mod for Return to Castle Wolfenstein.

    Splash Damage where then hired to make Q:ET.

  11. SuperBladesman says:

    Rise and Rule for Civilization 3 >>>>> Any other mod for any game.

    Just added so much, and was such a complete mod. Pure gaming gold.

  12. Turin Turambar says:

    Infiltration, a realism mod done for UT. Like Americas Army or Insurgency… but good. More realistic, more balanced, more poslihed, lots of never seen features.

    • sinister agent says:

      This.

      I only ever install up to 0.8, or something like that, though – the later updates lost something for me, it became far too serious.

      I still can’t believe that the ‘vectorised aiming’ system it used (which predated the ‘aim down the sights’ system that’s now the norm by yeeaaars) doesn’t show up in other games. It’s just vastly better than having a crosshair and the sights permanently rooted to the centre of the screen.

  13. Smeghammer says:

    I miss playing Deathball for UT2K4.

    http://www.deathball.net/

  14. l1ddl3monkey says:

    My favourite and the one I’ve played the most is already on the list (Oblivion Lost for STALKER) but I’d also include:

    Out Of Hell (Single Player, UT2004)

    Poke646 (Single Player, Half Life)

    Neither of these do anything particularly ground breaking but they are probably the most expert mods I played for either game.

    • Lewis says:

      Poke646 got poked out of the list fairly late on when we had to free up some room. It was a close contender.

    • airtekh says:

      @l1ddl3monkey

      Ooooh Poke646, I remember that. Without a doubt, THE most polished single-player mod I have played for HL1. It looked and played great.

  15. Caddy says:

    wake of the gods for heroes 3 and the big picture for baldurs still have me playing those games

  16. Jaz says:

    Xodarap’s Fallout Overhaul for Fallout 3.

    What does XFO do?

    Bullets. Murder. Things.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Jaz

      I’m partial to Fallout Wanderer’s Edition, myself, but the great thing about Bethesda games is how easily they support a wide diversity of reworkings.

    • Marcin says:

      Oh? Tell me more. I got tired around level 11 when it seemed like the bandits were leveling up with me and it was now taking an entire magazine of precious rifle ammo to kill things that used to take a couple of laser bolts only a few levels back.

      It’s probably just a short span where the auto-leveling (and don’t tell me it doesn’t exist in Fallout because it certainly does, just more subtle than Oblivion), but it soured me on the whole game. If I could get back to some of that bullet murdering thing … that’d be nice.

  17. Mark says:

    These are all great:

    Dystopia for HL2
    Natural Selection for HL1 (definitely unmissable)
    Forgotten Hope 1 for BF1942
    Forgotten Hope 2 for BF2 (very very good)

  18. Vinraith says:

    Interesting list. I particularly appreciate that it clearly labels single player and multiplayer mods, so I can be saved the trouble of bothering with the latter. It’s also nice to see Oscuro’s get some love, it seems like so often these lists are 100% shooters when most of the mods I care about are those for RPG and strategy titles.

  19. Mistabashi says:

    Not quite sure how I feel about Oblivion Lost being on this list, since it’s essentially a (fairly minor) modification of AMK mod. Pretty much all the cool features in OL such as NPC looting, driveable vehicles, artifact transformation etc. came directly from that mod, so it seems a bit of an oversight to give credit to OL without even mentioning AMK in the blurb.

  20. wcaypahwat says:

    I don’t really fiddle with mods all that much. usually just small ones that tweak the gameplay a little (someone mention the BG2 ones, earlier)

    Shockwave for C&C generals is a personal favourite, though.

    Glad to see ol’ cassie getting some attention though.

  21. Tim James says:

    Dear Esther is quite missable. There’s a chance it will grab you, and a chance you’ll be wasting your time. Too many other good mods out there.

  22. Marcin says:

    GWX, the Grey Wolves overhaul for Silent Hunter III. Also SH3 Commander, adding a ton of personality to the game.

    http://www.thegreywolves.com

    I think I’m into the hundreds of hours with this game thanks to those two.

    • RedFred says:

      Was scrolling through the comments to see if anyone had mentioned this.

      GWX for SH3, Stainless Steel for M:TW2 and Stalker Complete 2009 are probably my most played mods recently.

      Should maybe include Oblivion but the whole game pretty much ends up as a mod. I think I got bored about 5 hours in after spending a week installing and configuring numerous mods for it.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Marcin

      Yeah, GWX is another unforgivable oversight. I think the problem is transparent enough, though. The people compiling this list don’t play strategy or sim games, so they simply aren’t aware of TW mods, SH mods, Civ mods and the like. Niche genres make for niche mods. It’s a shame, so many folks don’t know what they’re missing.

  23. Schmung says:

    Urgh, counterstrike. I played a lot of it, but I can’t help thinking it had a lot of damage to the mod scene.

  24. durr says:

    Well, here’s an unmissable mod that actually is missed repeatedly as one of the best teamplay mods ever created: Science & Industry

    And I already see it fade again, like tears… in the rain.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      It was indeed, but no one plays it anymore, and the HL2 version released was not fit for a release, thus killing interest in it.

  25. cjlr says:

    Yeah, decent choices, yeah, blah, blah…

    But where’s the EB? Greatest mods lists must by definition include Europa Barbarorum for Rome Total War!

    • Vinraith says:

      @cjlr

      It is conspicuous in its absence, isn’t it? It’s very surprising that there’s not a single TW mod in that list.

    • cjlr says:

      @Vinraith
      Indeed, and I’d have settled for a Rome Total Realism, Deus lo Vult, Broken Crescent, Fourth Age…

    • Vinraith says:

      @cjlr

      Deus lo Vult

      Oooh, I don’t know that one. It’s a Dark Age mod for Medieval 2, I assume? Or maybe for Rome?

    • RedFred says:

      Or even Stainless Steel like I mentioned above.

  26. Kevlar says:

    What about Capture The Flag (CTF)? That was originally a mod for Quake / QW known as Capture The Key (CTK). Once they figured out how to put in the flag models, then came grappling hooks… And, oh, the rest is history.

  27. sbs says:

    #1 MINERVA
    #1 MINERVA
    #1 MINERVA

  28. Mr_Day says:

    Considering how nuts everyone on here went for Air Buccaneers a while ago, I am surprised no one has mentioned it.

    Also, Thievery for UT had me pissing my pants – but only when I played a guard, strangely.

  29. Heliocentric says:

    Hidden source and ALIEN “M@£@$” SWARM WHICH SHOULD BE IN EVERY LIST EVER.

  30. Heliocentric says:

    Alien swarm, hidden source. Both classics which stand unmatched by even retail games.

  31. Viperion says:

    Kinda disappointing to me that 19 of their 20 unmissable mods are for FPS-style games (I’m lumping Oblivion in, seeing as how it’s a relatively combat-oriented, first-person RPG), with only one RTS, and no TBS. Others have pointed out the lack of Civ-related mods, but I also point to a lack of RTS mods, specifically no Total Annihilation mods. Far smaller community, and few over-arching TCs, but still, over 12 years after the game was released, there’s still a fairly active modding community. You don’t see that for Dark Reign, Z, or RA2. (I’m not sure you even see as active of a community for RA3!) The community hub is TAUniverse.com, and there are some pretty impressive gameplay-extending mods, TA:Escalation and TA:Excess among them, still under active development.

    Then there’s CoH mods, Men at War mods, and a slew of AoE mods that don’t get a mention. Wish more ‘mainstream mod’ attention got paid to strategy. That doesn’t even mention the impressive simulator mods that exist, especially in the racing community.

    The Hyper Viper

    • d. says:

      Exactly. They seem to be heavily FPS oriented and forgot to mention id. I know I’ll sound like a fan-boy, but how did not Fall from Heaven get mentioned?

  32. Premium User Badge

    Sagan says:

    A Dance with Rogues. I have mentioned it multiple times in the comments already, and I will continue doing so until one of the hivemind plays it. (probably John or Kieron)
    It was Mod of the Year 2006 on the nwvault, and it is porn. “But,” I hear you say, “how can that be? Everyone knows there are no good porn games.” Yes there are, and it is called A Dance with Rogues. It won Mod of the Year because it is actually a really good RPG. Like, better than a lot of BioWare stuff. Better than Neverwinter Nights and it’s first addon for example.
    I haven’t played it in a while, but if I had fresh memories of it, I could probably tell you examples of several things that big RPG developers can learn from this one woman project. (like rewarding exploration, and how the characters in your group should voice their opinion in conversations more often)
    And it is porn.
     
    Anyway, why is this an unmissable mod? Well if you care about the medium, you should probably have a rough idea of what is out there, and should probably have experienced most genres at least once. So you probably also should have played a porn game, and since A Dance with Rogues is the only one good one, you should play it. (There are porn games that are better porn. This is made in the Neverwinter Nights engine after all. But there are no porn games which are better porn games, as in good porn and good game)

  33. CMaster says:

    Natural Selection (HL) – Probably the unmissable mod. What it does with technology, atmosphere, cooperation, etc is very impressive.
    The Opera (HL)
    Heart of Evil (HL) – Yes, it doesn’t have quite the professionalism of other HL1SP mods. But it is epic in length and makes some real, significant changes to the game.
    Minerva:Metastasis (HL2)
    Synergy (HL2)
    Air Buccaneers (UT2K4)

    Yes, very FPS orientated. Never really got into mods for stratergy games/RPGs

    • airtekh says:

      @CMaster

      RE: Natural Selection – seconded. NS had an awesome atmosphere and unique gameplay for a HL1 mod. I remember playing it for the first time and the sheer weight of fresh ideas blew my mind.

  34. Bassism says:

    What about that Thief 2 mod that came out not very long ago? Admittedly I haven’t played it yet, but it sounded pretty full of greatness.

    • airtekh says:

      @Bassism

      Do you mean T2X: Shadows of the Metal Age? I played it: it’s excellent. I think it’s unofficially referred to as Thief 2.5!

    • malkav11 says:

      That’s certainly the major Thief II mod I can think of, but it came out years and years ago, so either that’s not the one or someone’s confused.

    • KillahMate says:

      He might be thinking about The Circle of Stone and Shadow.

  35. moonbeam jones says:

    Goldeneye Source. Most polished mod I’ve ever played, and not even finished yet.

  36. cheal says:

    Alien Swarm is still one of the most polished and best conceived mods I have ever played. Surprised it didn’t feature here.

  37. Hurion says:

    No mention of the original Day of Defeat or Sven COOP? Someone already talked Science and Industry. These were the big 3 for me back when HL was still young.

    • Hurion says:

      Oh, also, Empires Mod and Eternal Silence for HL2 are pretty damn good, but probably not award winners (the creators seemed to have gotten burned out on both before they could be really polished).

  38. Batolemaeus says:

    Looks like we need a top 100 list.

    Mine, in no particular order:

    Civ IV: Bat Mod. So many interface changes, and they’re great.
    Civ IV: Techslow, Batolemaeus edition. I made that one myself, tweaking tech gain rate. It means that there will be at least 200 rounds where the strongest unit is an archer. One complete game takes me a month to complete, and it’s awesome. So much more time for scheming.

    Battlefield 1942: Desert Combat. Oh, DC with ridiculously hard to fly helicopters. Once you got the hang out of it, however, everything was possible. Then there was battle of 73 eastings, the only huge tank battle there was to that date in a multiplayer game. Having 64 tanks blow each other up was great. No air to worry about, but a lot of artillery. It was also a million times better than BF2.
    BF2: Realism mod, obviously. And Desert Conflict, for bringing back dumbfire missiles and useful sniping. Also, CTF with 64 players on a huge map is incredibly fun.

    Sim City 4: Network Addon Mod. Not only fixing a few pathfinding issues, but also adding a lot of useful things. New tiles, new Highways etc.

    CnC3: Tiberium Essence. It’s basically a retro-mod, bringing back the good ol’ Tiberium Sun. Basically what i hoped CnC3 would be, but never was.

    Uplink: I forgot the name of the mod. It added a few more useful tools, like an expensive log nuke to get rid of lots of logs without having to click a few gazillion times.

    Fallout 3: Fose and the Fallout Stutter Remover. It made the game playable, finally, so it’s pretty damn important.

    • Lewis says:

      “Looks like we need a top 100 list.”

      Sure. That’s the thing. 20 mods is a tiny number to pick. When we were first compiling the feature, we ended up with a total of 36 that absolutely, definitely had to make the list. Which is why a lot of the stuff suggested here and over on the UC thread didn’t end up making it.

    • jRides says:

      woah Batolemaeus — where would I go about getting hold of such a mod to arrest the eras a bit?

      There is nothing worse than finally getting together a navy including first rates and frigates, only to have them obsoleted a turn or two down the line.

    • Batolemaeus says:

      jRides: http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?p=4222547 is similar.

      It’s really simple. You create a new mod that only changes the speeds file. Then you modify research speed however you want.

      There are a few caveats, though. If you spawn on a continent alone, for example, you can get to the point where you can’t build settlers anymore since the continent is full, but you don’t have anything else to produce either. It leads to building warriors for 500+ rounds just to get to the alphabet. The Ai doesn’t deal well with it. I prefer starting in medieval, or granting every single civ the alphabet from the start.

  39. Muzman says:

    They’re dead wrong putting Oblivion Lost over AMK, as I feel obliged to repeat ad nauseum. As is fairly typical, all the pointless “Cool” frippery like cars and loads of guns gets OL votes. But the fact that AMK thought better of including them is exactly why it’s superior.
    I bitch therefore I am.

    Lessee, what else…
    Probably no one cares anymore but I always think Action Quake 2 needs to be mentioned on this sort of thing, if only for being the grandaddy of AHL and Counterstrike etc. It’s a lot of fun though, even though it looks pretty clunky. Probably a bit too hokey for today’s standards

    Others have already mentioned Forgotten Hope for BF 1942, which is a pretty awesome effort all around. So vast it kinda steamrolled most of the other mods, I seem to recall.

    T2X could always do with another mention. Massive add-ons like that are always worthy of note. Biggest fan add-ons is probably a good topic for a list in fact. I suspect this would be near the top.

    Operation Na Pali for the original Unreal Tournament is very good in most respects. I remember it being a great example of that space base level design era. Big maps lots to do etc. I’d prefer not to mention the voice acting, but it’s so bad it requires a health warning. I defy anyone to find worse. Still some great design though.

    That’s all I got right now. Wow, all my shit is old school.

  40. Urthman says:

    The Strangers Mod for Freedom Force.

    http://www.fundamentzero.com/

    1. It’s a full-length campaign that adds so much new stuff to the original FF gameplay that it feels like a true sequel and makes FF vs. the Third Reich feel like an expansion pack.

    2. It has a great story that is crammed full of homages to classic Marvel and DC characters and storylines, yet with all original characters in a hugely fleshed-out world that feels as big and cosmic (and as small and streetwise) as Marvel or DC at their best. It reminds me of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City that way.

    3. It’s fun. Fantastic, inventive level design, powers, characters. Scary oh-shit-not-that-guy villains. Maybe the best boss battle in any video game ever.

    It starts a little slow. I found the art and costume design a little offputting, and it can be difficult (play it on easy if you haven’t played FF in a while). But if you liked Freedom Force and you like superhero comics, I swear on Alan Moore’s Supreme you’ll like the Strangers.

  41. malkav11 says:

    You know, there’s an awful lot of mod coverage around various places, but I can’t help but feel that there’s a niche not yet being filled: specifically, a site that would collate and describe singleplayer mods, currently released and playable, with a certain threshold of content required for the most part (i.e., would cover something like Fallout 3 Wanderer’s Edition or GNR Extended but would not cover a mod that adds one gun to Fallout 3, although if there are minor tweak mods that are essentially required, hey, go for it).

    Because the big mod sites like moddb tend to have way more multiplayer content and unfinished crap than actual playable, released singleplayer content, and even when it’s there, documentation often fails to assist me in determining what exactly the mod is meant to do. Furthermore, modding efforts for some games tend to center around particular sites (Civ modding at Civfanatics, Total War modding somewhere else, L4D maps at a couple of different spots, etc) which I may not be aware of to begin with and may not be especially navigable even if I manage to find them. Documentation is again a problem – for example, 2 of the 3 Fall From Heaven modmods linked above have helpful introductory material that lists their features. But if Rise from Erebus has anything equivalent, I couldn’t find it.

    I want to play this stuff. Don’t make finding mods into its own minigame. :P

    • Lewis says:

      This is something we’re really looking to incorporate into UserCreated’s remit.

    • CMaster says:

      That sort of thing is what I used to love Ten Four Maps for.

    • malkav11 says:

      You’d need either a site redesign or a spinoff site. A blog format is notnotnot useful as a database.

  42. Grunt says:

    I’m a huge fan of the Stalker Mods – Oblivion Lost was a very special experience on top of an already special experience – but my favourite Mod is for creaky old RTS, Star Trek: Armada 2.

    It’s hard to summarise in a paragraph or two what the Mod does but suffice to say it’s a Trekker’s wet-dream in terms of updating the gameplay, visuals and features to accurately recreate fleet battles in the Star Trek universe.

    I enjoyed the Unmissable list but agree with comments above that the focus was very FPS heavy, to its detriment. So come on, lads, how about another list of twenty focusing this time on great Mods we’ve probably never played?

  43. Mister Yuck says:

    I miss 10david.com and everything on it. SWAT 3 was the first PC game I ever loved.

    I miss BBE real element.

  44. np says:

    Any idea how to get The Cassandra Project working with Windows 7?

  45. a-b says:

    I’m still trying to get it to work with Windows 95.