18 of the most iconic mods in gaming

By Manish Rajesh | Updated 7 Jun 2019
18 of the most iconic mods in gaming

Restoring lost content, adding cool stuff, making life easier, or completely overhauling the game, we've got a lot to thank modders for. You might easily recognise most of the mods on this list, simply for the reason that they were so good they've gone on to become stand-alone games in their own right. Here are 18 of the most iconic mods in gaming.

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Counter Strike - Half Life

Do we really need to say more? Starting out as a fun mod for Half Life, Counter-Strike has gone on to become one of the most played PC games in the world and a global esports sensation. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a very polished version of the very same game many of us played back in the day. There’s only one other genre of game that comes close to Counter-Strike and even that happens to have spawned from mods.
Check it out here.

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DotA - Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne

Defence of the Ancients, the mod that marked the beginning of an era in the world of gaming you could say. It actually is that big a deal, DotA sparked widespread interest in the MOBA genre, which would, in turn, lead to the colossal success of games like DotA 2 and League of Legends, which lead the esports industry. To give you an idea of how big these giants are, The International, an annual DotA 2 tournament, pulled over a whopping 25 million last year for its prize money. League of Legends is the largest revenue earner in the entire PC gaming industry.
Check it out here.

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Black Mesa - Half Life 2

Black Mesa is a retelling of Half Life 2, albeit, a much modern looking, reskinned, retextured retelling. It also adds more content to the game in the form of missing dialogue that was initially intended to be in the game in the first place. The game, initially a mod for Half Life 2, has gone to become a stand-alone game, endorsed by Valve as well. Black Mesa has its own Steam page now, and it’s been in early access for ages, but it’s definitely worth a go, especially if you loved Half Life 2. 
Check it out here.

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Enderal, Nehrim: At Fate’s Edge - Skyrim

Both Enderal and Nehrim are total conversion mods (you’ll be seeing a lot more of these in the list) for Skyrim created by SureAI. By total conversion, we mean that while the engine is still the same as Skyrim, you’re playing a completely different game. So the controls and environment might feel familiar, but it’s not. SureAI have rebuilt the world from scratch, with plenty of new assets, a whole new story and campaign, and voice acting to boot. For BOTH of these mods. Enderal is also the first mod to get its own Steam Page while still a mod. Nehrim will have its own page in 2020, but it’s still downloadable and playable the good old way.
Check it out here.

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Garry's Mod

Garry Newman’s GMod definitely belongs on this list, you can’t have an iconic mods lister without the GMod. So what exactly is Garry’s Mod? Well, it was pretty much a sandbox where you could do a lot of stuff. Spawn NPCs or objects, mess around with them, create funky game modes, invite your friends, play said funky game mode with them, among other things. One of those funky game modes is the famous prophunt game, where players disguise themselves as props and hide.
Check it out here.

The Dark Mod - Doom III

The Dark Mod is a total conversion mod for Doom 3 and would go on to have a standalone version, later on, built in id Tech 4. If you’re a fan of the Thief franchise, then you’ve probably heard of, and even played the mod. If the name didn’t give it away, this is basically Thief, now you’ve got to sneak around and pick your way into houses and steal stuff. The lockpicking system was actually really good too. Definitely worth checking out.
Check it out here.

DayZ - Arma II

DayZ, like DotA before it, sparked a new era in the gaming industry of sorts. It’s what we gamers call the four horsemen of the Steam apocalypse (just kidding): survival, horror, sandbox, and early access. The mod would go on to become immensely popular, and thanks to DayZ we’d see several similar games crop up, some of which would eventually overshadow DayZ, but we haven’t forgotten what started it all.
Check it out here.

Falskaar - Skyrim

Falskaar is an iconic mod, a whole new expansion to Skyrim featuring hours and hours of new content, complete with a huge new location, new NPCs (fully voice-acted) and a new quest for players to dive into. It was an ambitious project, one which creator Alexander hoped would get Bethesda to notice him. They did notice him, but so did Bungie, who would hire him to work on Destiny.
Check it out here.

The Stanley Parable - Half Life 2

You will not play this game. You will play this game. If you have played The Stanley Parable, you know what we’re talking about. Initially a brilliant mod for Half Life 2, The Stanley Parable is currently a standalone game and one you definitely need to play. The game will leave your mind in a bender and leave you with an existential crisis. Or it won’t. Don’t take our word for it, try the game out.
Check it out here.

Natural Selection - Half Life 2

Natural Selection is another game on this list that went on to have its own stand-alone game, it's Natural Selection 2 now actually and it looks purty fancy. The game was initially a mod for Half Life and combined RTS and FPS mechanics, where you had a commander who issued orders and players on the field who had to follow through. The objective was to defeat the aliens and clear the spaceships/stations of them. There's a lot of strategy involved when team building, give it a whirl if that's your thang.
Check it out here.

Team Fortress - Quake

Team Fortress is the first objective-based team shooter to gain widespread popularity. While some might say it’s Overwatch, it’s not. Initially a mod for Quake, Team Fortress had quite a journey before it reached where it is today at Team Fortress 2. Valve was interested in TF when it was a quake mod and hired people over to work on a TF mod on the Source Engine. This would be Team Fortress Classic or TFC, and eventually, we’d see Team Fortress 2, the wildly popular team shooter for those obsessed with hats.
Check it out here.

Eastern Front - Company of Heroes

Company of Heroes is a critically acclaimed game and lauded for its representation of the Allies (Americans) and Axis Powers (Germans), however, there were no Russians, there was no Russian side of the story, which was an integral part of World War 2. Eastern Front aimed to fix that, and they did so fantastically. Some would say, even better than the sequel, which added the Soviets in Company of Heroes 2. Sure it didn’t look as pretty, but it was definitely a better experience.
Check it out here.

The Sith Lords Restored - KotOR 2

The sequel to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, KotOR 2 was disappointing. Not necessarily because it was a bad game, but because it was rushed and a buggy mess. There was content messing and after the success of the first KotOR, this was quite disheartening. Thankfully, The Sith Lords Restored addresses this problem and restores a large chunk of the missing end-game. If you’re a fan of Star Wars, the KotOR storyline is not one you want to miss out on.
Check it out here.

Crusader Kings 2: A Game of Thrones

A full conversion mod for Crusader Kings 2, "A Game of Thrones" converts the world of Crusader Kings 2 into George R. R. Martin's Westeros. The game follows the events of the books and a lot of changes have been incorporated to make it work, and it works really well. Players can start playing from any time in the 300 years before Aegon's Conquest to the beginning of the fourth book in the series, "A Feast for Crows".
Check it out here.

Sins of a Galactic Empire - Sins of a Solar Empire

A total conversion mod for the sci-fi RTS Sins of a Solar Empire, “Sins of a Galactic Empire” features the events of the Galactic Civil War, the Clone Wars and the Yuuzhan Vong War. There are plenty of Star Wars mods out there that are similar to Star Wars: Battlefront in their offerings, but RTS mods for Star Wars are rare, and RTS mods this good, even more so.
Check it out here.

Killing Floor - Unreal Tournament 2004

Killing Floor, yet another mod on this list that is now a standalone game, started life as a mod for the popular Unreal Tournament 2004. This total conversion mod for UT2004 was of the survival horror theme, with its own story. Killing Floor got its name from "Killing Floor" mode, where you'd face waves of zombies, with the final wave being the boss or the Patriarch. You could probably thank Killing Floor for inspiring the games and game modes where you face off against waves of zombies.
Check it out here.

PUBG - Arma III

Like DayZ before it, PUBG was also first born as a mod for Arma. Arma 3 to be specific. Arma mods seem to have a thing for starting gaming trends it would seem. Arma is known to have massive maps, so the idea to put dozens of players on a map without any gear and making them scrounge around for randomly generated loot to be the last one standing was great. Makes you wonder why nobody thought of it sooner. The idea to have a shrinking play zone was also pretty smart. The mod was so successful, Daybreak games hired creator Brendan Greene (PlayerUknown himself) to work on H1Z1: King of the Kill, which quickly rose to fame. Eventually, he would go ahead and release the standalone PUBG, and the rest as you know, is history.
Check it out here.

The Nameless Mod - Deus Ex

Deus Ex is an old game now, there’s no denying it. Definitely, a bit dated for the gamers of today, however, there’s no denying that it was a great game, and a good RPG. Despite that, The Nameless Mod managed to add to even more content to Deus Ex and managed to make the already complex and intricate story even more complex and intricate. The good kind of more. The Nameless Mod features plenty of new content, voice acting, and plotlines worth of a Deus Ex. If you’re a nostalgic gamer, and one who has played Deus Ex, you might want to consider going back and playing it with this mod installed.
Check it out here.

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Manish Rajesh
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