Editor’s Note: If you’re looking to dress up a familiar game, why not try one of these amazing total conversion mods this weekend?
Total conversion mods are a pretty awesome thing. When a modder takes the tools they have and creates what amounts to an entirely new game within the framework of an existing game, the results can be pretty cool. While there are hundreds of examples of great mods that fit this mold, these eight stand out as shining examples of just how awesome total conversion mods can be.
Don’t see your favorite? Tell us what it is in the comments!
Natural Selection (Half-Life 2)
Natural Selection melded two genres that haven’t always gone together so well: real-time strategy and first-person shooters. It added the idea of a commander in a shooter – someone who could see the battlefield, assign objectives, and handle supplying soldiers, just like in an RTS title. The other thing it did so well was to balance two asymmetrical teams. The marines have the commander and the firepower, but the aliens have movement advantages and the ability to evolve into more, like wall-running and even flying. The sequel is a standalone game, but the original Half-Life mod was a masterpiece indeed.
The Dark Mod (Doom 3)
Before the release of the most recent installment in 2014, there was really only one way for fans of the Thief series to get their fix in a modern game: The Dark Mod for Doom 3. Not only did it include the things that fans of the series loved about it, it actually made improvements, among them a new lockpicking system and a mission editor. Thanks to the latter, there are a number of missions that you can download and play in the now-standalone game.
A Game of Thrones (Crusader Kings 2)
We’ve talked about this Game of Thrones mod before, but it bears repeating: If you’re a fan of the show or the books, and you want to try to grab the Iron Throne for yourself, you need to play this Crusader Kings 2 mod. It’s not a note for note retelling of the books or the show. Instead, it drops you into the world of Westeros and lets you forge the future however you like.
Defense of the Ancients (Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos)
If you’ve somehow managed to never hear of Defense of the Ancients (seriously, where the hell have you been?), it’s the mod that birthed the MOBA genre. Developed using the World Editor for Warcraft 3, DotA quickly became more than just a mod. It was featured at the first Blizzcon in 2005 and tournaments around the world since then. Not only was the game extremely popular, it spawned many of the MOBA titles we see today. In fact, the author of DotA Allstars, Guinsoo, went on to help create League of Legends. If you’re into MOBAs, you should certainly go back and see where it all stared, with Defense of the Ancients (and also its predecessor, Aeon of Strife for StarCraft).
Third Age Total War (Medieval II: Total War)
If there’s ever been a series that embodied battles on a truly epic scale, it’s Total War. It should come as no surprise that one of the best mods for a game in that series is for another world worthy of an epic scale: The Lord of the Rings. Third Age includes over one hundred locations and twelve factions right from Tolkien’s work. Not only can you assault (or defend) Minas Tirith, you can play as both the heroes and the bad guys as well, be they the men of Gondor or the Orcs of the Misty Mountains. If you want to head to Middle-Earth, this is a great way to do it.
Day Z (Arma 2)
Day Z built on the solid framework of Arma 2 to create one of the most popular mods of all time. It dropped players into Chernarus, a large open-world area in the post-Soviet world. What made Day Z unique wasn’t the world, it was the fact that it was a fully online multiplayer title that pit players against each other. Not only did you have to scrounge for weapons, food and water, you had to defend yourself against both zombies and other players who wanted your hard-earned stuff. While there is a standalone version, many people still prefer the original mod.
If you’re rating total conversion mods by their impact, there’s none higher than Counter-Strike. The little team-based multiplayer shooter mod for Half-Life became so popular that its creators were hired by Valve. Since its launch, Counter-Strike spawned sequels, imitators, parodies, and more. There are still people who argue over the definitive version of the mod (Is it 1.6? Is it alpha? The world may never know.), but no matter which version you like, you can’t deny the influence CShad on not just the genre, but gaming as a whole.
Nehrim: At Fate’s Edge (The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion)
Quite possibly the most elaborate total conversion mod of all is Nehrim: At Fate’s Edge. This Oblivion mod not only adds a whole new world to explore (the titular Nehrim) that is comparable in size to the world of the base game, it also has a main story that is comprised of 35 quests, and over 30 side quests. Add in the new XP-based skill system, and you’ve got a mod that is completely separate from the base game. It’s a testament to what a total conversion mod can be. If you enjoy it, there’s even a Skyrim-based sequel in the works.