How To Make Minecraft A Survival Game

There are lots of survival games, but there are also lots of games which could be survival games with the right mods installed. Over the course of Survival Week we’ll highlight a few of those games and i) write a diary of our experience playing with it ii) explain how to do it yourself.

“Survival mode”. Pah. Vanilla Minecraft’s survival mode is for the flimsy and infirm. Do you find yourself settling down to quiet retirement once you’ve got four walls – hell, a fence – around you? Too much time spent managing your diamond portfolio when you should be living the escapist dream? Well read on, Ray Mears; I’ve crafted a collection of Minecraft’s most savage survival mods and volunteered as guinea pig.

I’ve steered clear of total conversions like Better Than Wolves. They do things with style, and if you’re after an authentic Middle Ages farmhand simulator then you’re set, but overhauls don’t play well with other mods. What I want is flexibility – modular components which can be tweaked to reinforce my place as nature’s downtrodden underdog.

Know your way around Minecraft modding? Skim the subtitles and get to work. If you can’t tell a mod from a META-INF, this next part is for you.

Prep Work

Minecraft has more versions than a Ubisoft pre-order, and to keep everything civil you’ll want to stick to v1.7.10. Pull up the launcher, and hit “Edit Profile” in the bottom left. Browse the drop-down list under “Version Selection” and choose “release 1.7.10”. Save it, then fire up the game to force the download. You can quit once it’s done.

Everything you install must be 1.7.10 compatible. Mess this one up and you won’t get the chance to die cold and alone.

Most mods rely on the Forge modloader. Thankfully, a trained monkey could install it. Train yours quickly before continuing. Download it, run it, and switch your launcher profile to “Forge”. That’s it. Now the brutality begins.


This mod by Funwayguy and TimbuckTato provides the functionality essential to any wilderness sim, and then it provides some more. EnviroMine tracks thirst, salinity, external temperature, body temperature, sanity and air quality. Those last two set it apart. Sanity depletes in the darkness, applying a plethora of unsettling effects as you lose your marbles. But the presence of nice, bright torches lowers air quality, as does delving too greedily. EnviroMine really wants you dead.

Whack the whole download into C:\Users\[YourName]\AppData\Roaming\.minecraft\mods. Plugging “%APPDATA%” into the Start menu’s Run bar will get you there faster. Perhaps make a .minecraft shortcut while you’re at it.

Hunger Overhaul with AppleCore

Minecraft has an array of cooked meals that a master craftsman’s meat lockers make redundant. Iguanaman’s Hunger Overhaul brings scurvy back to the mainstream. Raw meats restore only half a hunger shank, while cooked meats replenish one. Soups and toast do two, baked potatoes, three. When your life is on the line, haute cuisine is worth the Hassle. That’s ‘Hassle’ with a capital – hoes can only be forged from iron upwards.

Stick it in your mods folder along with its AppleCore dependency. Keep reading; the next bit is crucial.

ProgWML6, Squeek502, and Parker8283 have updated the mod for Minecraft 1.7.10, but you’ll need to weed out some quirks of the beta build. Navigate to .minecraft/config and open “HungerOverhaul.cfg” in Notepad (you may need to launch the game once beforehand). Scroll down to “getting seeds”. Set “modifyHoeUse” and “removeTallGrassSeeds” to false.

The first change stops Minecraft crashing when hoes hoe too far from water. The second enables grass to drop seeds as it should, provided that you smash the supporting block and not the grass itself. It’s a bizarre bug, but the survival functions Hunger Overhaul serves are too juicy to pass up.

Infernal Mobs

It’s not enough that the ground beneath your feet should want blood, survival needs savage beasties. Minecraft’s default mob roster are practising pacifists.

Never fear! Well, actually, fear – AtomicStryker’s Infernal Mobs slaps enchantments on a smattering of monsters each night, placing you at the mercy of natural selection’s random number generator. Zombies don’t kill people, 1UP Sticky Sprint Ghastly Bulwark zombies do.

Bung it in with the rest.

Localized Weather & Stormfronts

Corosus’ mod exists to remind you that nature is an uncaring sod. Sure, it has cool breeze effects with falling leaves and splashing water, and sure there are neat weather patterns based on the arrangement of biomes, but every so often it drops a tornado on your head. And they threaten more than your mortal soul – Stormfront’s tornados devour the landscape, hoovering up your buildings and livestock and vomiting them out elsewhere. You can’t out-learn a tornado; it must be survived. Or not. Change your pants, then extract both folders to your mods directory.

Funeral Arrangements

Before I let you rest in peace, there’s one last touch to be added. Launch the game, and spawn a new world. On hardcore, naturally. Hit Esc, and open the game to LAN, switching “Allow Cheats” on. Don’t get excited.

Type “/gamerule naturalRegeneration 0” and press Enter with trepidation. Ta dah! A full stomach is no longer substitute for medical attention. Exit the world to close the LAN server and draft your last words.

Congratulations, you are now a masochist.

You can read more Survival Week articles over here.


  1. Mandabar says:

    Another mod you could of tried would of been Advanced Health Options (from copygirl). It allows you alot of control over health, health regen (or no regen) and food interact. Requires copycore to work.

    Also, Since you already have applecore, Spice of Life would of been a good choice. Forces you to eat different foods. Variety. Food starts losing nutritional value as you eat it too much. Need something other then pork chops man! :D

  2. SquareWheel says:

    You may want to stay clear of total conversions, but TerraFirmaCraft is *the* survival mod for Minecraft. It replaces almost every system to fit a survival theme. Farming, animal husbandry, combat, metal forging, even cooking. Every system is redesigned with a focus on survival, and it definitely deserves a shout out.

    No affiliation etc etc. Just a really well built mod and worth recommending.

    • rexx.sabotage says:

      Yup, you want to play Minecraft as a survival game, just get you some TerraFirmaCraft. No amalgam of mods cobbled together can compare to TFC’s complete survival experience.

      • hotmaildidntwork says:

        What if I want to play minecraft as a survival game that includes advanced machinery and esoteric magicks for me to wield?

        But still kicks the shit out of me?

        • SquareWheel says:

          I’ve heard Gregtech includes TerraFirmaCraft support. That offers you early and late-game machines, and is very unforgiving. TFC is also built entirely on Forge, and should be compatible with most other survival-esque mods. They’re just largely unnecessary now.

          As for magic, Thaumcraft is the go-to. Ars Magicka 2 is semi-updated to 1.7.10, but the dev recently quit and there isn’t a successor yet as far as I know. There’s also Witchery and Blood Magic. Just realize that these mods often depend on crafting items that may not exist any more with TFC, and they also really hurt the careful balance that TFC is based around. You generally need to choose between total conversion mods and the more free-for-all sandbox packs.

        • Sc0r says:

          Yea the issue with TFC is.. It gets boring after you have figured out how stuff works.
          I’m one of the biggest survival nerds ever and I LOVE complexity so TFC looked perfect. The issue is, it relies on a very old MC version, cutting off much of the interesting stuff.
          After playing a while you notice.. yea, it gave more variety, it added more to the survival aspect but thats it. None of the bigger mods work with TFC.
          If you like exploring, if you like finding interesting places and so on- too bad. You won’t find it here and you won’t be able to add it. The only reason to explore is to find different kinds of ore and flux stone, by traversing extremely generic no-surprises landscape.
          Yes, after MONTHS of work you can forge awesome armor and swords and so on… only to kill generic mobs that stopped being a danger weeks ago. You feel like fighting the challenges first hour of Diablo III for Weeks and months and at some point you are so geared up and are so sick of the boring environment you ask yourself why you did it in the first place.

          Basically, after playing for a week, the game stops being a callenge, you upgrade for nothing, TFC has no surprises, it did not find a way to justify the upgrading and it prevents you from modding it in.

          • SquareWheel says:

            “The issue is, it relies on a very old MC version, cutting off much of the interesting stuff.”

            It’s updated to MC 1.7, which is the latest of Forge (though not FML). Very very few mods support 1.8 yet.

        • Niyu says:

          Maybe you should take a look into Better than wolves. The early game it’s really challenging, being away from renewable food sources until you get enough iron to build a hoe. And getting that much iron it’s not easy, since you need to find nine times more ore to make and ingot. But if you manage to survive until you can come back from the nether with some blaze rods you will be compensated with a way to recicle your metals by smelting yor tools. But getting on the nether it’s not an easy task. The stone is stratified and the lowest level can only be mined with diamond or better materials and diamonds apear at this level. So you will have to explore the dark caves in order to find diamons.

          Did I mention food? food it’ more scarce and not only all base food has less nutrition power. But Monster will actively hunt in the nigth the animals you didn’t have time to kill.

          And for the machines and the magic. Better than Wolves includes a tech tree involving harnesing the power of the forces of naure to create mecanical power that run your machines. Not enougth power. Why don’t you try to enslave the souls of the nether for your own purposes. You will be able to botle the dead suls of the nether to make Soulforged steel and even more complicated machines.

          And how those machines work? you migth ask. In better than wolves there are not one block machines. All the blocks are simple and easy to understand, but once you start convining them and using redstone to control them you wll be able to make complex machines from a simple windmill that uses a water stream to collect the result in a single spot to a complex atuomated steel factory.

          An all this elements create a cohesive whole that, for me, it’s the best voxel survival experience out there. Every aspect of the game has a purpose. For example those ussually useles villagers are now really valuable, since only villages will have potatoes carrots and wheat. and only by trading with them you can turn your ender pearls into ender eyes.

          If what you want it’s a more explcit presence of modern tecnology and magic, then Better than wolves it’s not probably what you are looking for though. But if you wan’t to give it a try forget al you now about minecraft and start your new adventure.

  3. geldonyetich says:

    I can attest for the nastiness of Infernal Mobs. You can end up with randomly-generated mobs nasty enough to take down whole servers of players. Sometimes, you just have to run away. Combine that with Battle Towers, by the same modder, and you have a hardcore mode for the truly masochistic.

    Yet, even with all these mods, I’m not sure I’d call it a survival game, per se. Minecraft lacks a fundamental in the core game mechanic. It’s too easy when you don’t take any risks, and instant death when you do. “I think I’ll dig down this one block, what are the odds it’s over a shaft that drops into a lava pool?”

    • Xyvik says:

      Infernal Mobs gave me nightmares, but glad to see another user who liked Battle Towers! Well, not sure if you liked it or just mentioning how masochistic it is.

  4. padger says:

    This actually sounds super-great. I’ve not touched MC in years, but I think that’s because I’d not bothered to dabble much with mods. Time to change that!

  5. Jalan says:

    Boo on the measure of sanity. Takes the game-y aspect of it way too far. Willem Dafoe’s character didn’t have a magic sanity tracker in The Hunter.

  6. Niyu says:

    I don’t think the sentence “authentic Middle Ages farmhand simulator ” doesn’t really fit better than wolves. Better than wolves is more about exploring a tech tree in a very hostile environment. Didn’t you mean Terrafirmacraft? That mod really fits better with that description.

    • Sleepy Will says:

      I think you need to read up on your history more, all middle ages farmhands were required to develop proficiency in creating giant wind powered “sort and murder machines” to automate the process of creating soulforged steel.

      How else do you explain 3rd Century so called Damascus Blades?

      • Benaaasaaas says:

        Well he asks for “survival” so I couldn’t think of anything better than BTW for this particular task, since it is so focused on risk management and you have to work really hard to get to high level tech and even then one slip up could mean a lot.

  7. Haborym says:

    “Congratulations, you are now a masochist.”