The 15 Best Games Since 2000, Number 6: Minecraft

Mojang's masterpiece is all about bringing creativity to everyone.

Retrospective by Mike Williams, .

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Even within our small team here at USgamer, not everyone has played Minecraft. Not everyone has time to play every game; there's simply too much good stuff out there. Many older gamers have completely skipped over Minecraft, whereas most of our children, younger siblings, nieces, and nephews can't get enough of the game.

The latter audience has fed into Minecraft's overall impact in the industry. Minecraft is the best-selling PC game of all-time with 20 million copies sold on the PC and Mac versions alone. The game has low system requirements, meaning it can run on anything. If you want to play Minecraft, you can do so on almost any platform available to modern consumers: PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, PS4, PS3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Windows Phone. (Yeah, Nintendo and Mojang never got it together.) The game has created a cottage industry of modders and streamers. Microsoft ended up buying Mojang for $2.5 billion, mostly on the strength of Minecraft.

... now we're here. [Via Imgur]

Minecraft is popular, which is enough for some people to write it off. It's a simple title, lacking any narrative or win condition. It can run on anything, but that's because its graphics are comprised of textured boxes and not much else. Despite all that, Minecraft is a great game.

"Minecraft has no point!" you may say. As I said before, Minecraft has no real win condition. There's never going to be a moment where an ending screen will pop up and you can put the controller down. But it does have a point. It's a game about survival, in the same way Day Z or Rust explore the concept. Minecraft drops you into a randomly-generated world and says "Here are your basic tools, try to survive the first night." Without help, you'll probably end up dying when night falls.

Then you try again. Now you know you need to build a shelter and torches by dusk. You learn how to build picks, axes, and other tools. You start to see the hierarchy of materials. Sand or wooden walls are a decent start, but they're not as sturdy as stone. You can smelt items to make them harder. You begin to explore farther from the small home base you've built.

This was made out of 4 million blocks. [Via Reddit]

After a few games, you'll look out from the tiny fortress you call home and you'll feel the faint stirrings of pride. There's still more out there though. More materials to find, more monsters to fight, more caves to explore, more things to build. Minecraft doesn't force you forward though. It doesn't summon a larger boss to destroy your home after you've played for a certain amount of time. It doesn't endlessly prod you to move on. Minecraft succeeds because it gives you real options and then respects your agency.

A game of Minecraft extends for as long or short as you want. It doesn't make you do anything. It does teach consequences and decision-making though. If you've never seen a child cry after they've set their first wooden hut on fire, then I'll assume you don't know any kids who play Minecraft. But after each setback, they get better. Their tools gets stronger. They survive longer. They build cooler stuff. (Sometimes they build stupid stuff, because kids are dumb sometimes.) There's very few games that allow the kind of freedom Minecraft does, but can also be played by someone of nearly any age.

And that's just the base game, vanilla Minecraft. That's before all the mods and skins you can add to your game. That's all before you dive into the community and see what they can do. If you have the time and effort to put into Minecraft, it pays off. People have built marvels from within Minecraft. Settings from novels and television shows, including Game of Thrones, World of Warcraft, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and Battlestar Galactica, recreated in pain-staking detail. One player built Sonic-style platforming levels in the game. Hell, someone even built a working CPU that can do simple math inside of Minecraft.

Minecraft is a great survival game where the only real limits to what you can do are time, effort, and imagination. There were similar games before Minecraft, and there will be similar games after Minecraft, but none have the unique combination of features that have captivated over 20 million people. It's a game that started off small and spread person-to-person via word-of-mouth because it was compelling. And over the years, it's only gotten better and more robust.

Kids these days. [Via Planet Minecraft]

Minecraft gives you what you put into it. It doesn't hand-hold you. You will fail. When you look over the horizon and ask yourself "I wonder what's over there?" you can go find out. When you survive another night or build something amazing, the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment is worth it. That's why Minecraft is amazing.

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Comments 9

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  • Avatar for floydferrera #1 floydferrera 3 years ago
    The first paragraph pretty much sums it up for me: I will have a go once my daughter starts playing it.

    A bit like the Euro crisis - it's there, it's important, I don't quite understand it.
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  • Avatar for internisus #2 internisus 3 years ago
    It's an incredible toy and sandbox, but unfortunately it's not half the game it should be. All of the pieces are in place for it to be an excellent experience, but far too much of the game is completely unknowable without a wiki, from crafting recipes to what a great many items do in and of themselves to game progression (there's just no way that players would know that The Nether and The End even exist, let alone how they can reach them).

    That's not an inconvenience; it's a serious game design flaw. But it's not one that's terribly hard to correct! Mojang just doesn't seem interested in addressing it. Perhaps five years from now when they consider the survival mode to be feature complete they'll work on this, but in the meantime Minecraft just isn't a good video game. I think that's sad.
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  • Avatar for CK20XX #3 CK20XX 3 years ago
    @internisus I kinda disagree. Minecraft has always been a game in the loosest sense of the word, so the standards we apply to other games, especially those with definitive beginnings and endings, don't really apply. People seem to get turned off by it the most when they walk into it expecting some sort of RPG quest and instead are told to wander off and do whatever they feel like, so it tends to be a big creativity litmus test more than anything. Some people even argue that it's more of a game creation studio rather than a proper video game. Download some adventure maps and see if you agree.

    Besides, Mojang has taken steps to correct its obtuseness. There's an achievement system that works as a rough guide, walking you from beginning to the end, and if you grew up during the 8-bit era, that's probably all you'll need. If not, the console versions even come with a full-blown tutorial world. In fact, I suspect that Mojang's ultimate goal is to have the console versions absorb all of the PC version's features, including mod support, then replace the PC version entirely, because it's a lot friendlier to new players and Java is infamous as a horrible programming language.

    We see this happening already with the Windows 10 version of Minecraft, which is coded in C++. Meanwhile, the incoming 1.9 update is gaining items previously exclusive to the Pocket edition and the Ender Dragon boss battle is being revamped to resemble how it is in the console versions. The pieces are coming together for a single, unified edition of Minecraft for every platform.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #4 brionfoulke91 3 years ago
    @internisus I don't agree. I don't think the fact that there are obtuse game elements is a flaw. I don't even think that requiring the player to look at a guide is a flaw. I'd say that's part of the fun!

    Minecraft is one of the only western games, and the only indie game besides Cave Story that I would personally put on a list like this. It really deserves it, it's one of the most innovative games of all time, and it has a lot to offer. I think people will be playing Minecraft for a long time to come, and for good reason.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #5 SatelliteOfLove 3 years ago
    Spent a year and change with this, solo vanilla, modded vanilla, a few communities helping make whole cities. It is easily the most revolutionary and perhaps the greatest game of last generation. It's a brilliant game that begats more brilliance, and more games.

    It, along with Demon's Souls and installing the Steam client, cured me of the malaise that the state of gaming was in during 2010 had put me in. I cannot sing its praises enough.

    Minecraft: It's the Dark Souls of Building Games!Edited August 2015 by SatelliteOfLove
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  • Avatar for Mithrandir-Earendur #6 Mithrandir-Earendur 3 years ago
    I Love this but I just wanted to add, it's not just for kids. Many adults play minecraft, many more than you would think!

    Anyway, just don't label it as a kid only game.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #7 Kuni-Nino 3 years ago
    I've never played it mostly because I don't play PC games. I've seen it being played but it doesn't catch my attention. I get why people and kids like it though. It's sort of like a blank canvas where you're allowed to use whatever you want to make picture. Sure, you might not be a painter or know anything about painting, but it wouldn't hurt to try, right? What if you could do something amazing? What if you can come up with something cool? In all likelihood, you might come up with something crappy something but at least it's your crappy something and that's a pretty neat thing.

    Who doesn't enjoy using their imagination for a little while? Minecraft is probably the game that drives your imagination the most. I wouldn't know though. I've never played it.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #8 VotesForCows 3 years ago
    This is the most convincing argument for playing it that I've seen... just reluctant to sink any more time into video games at the moment (especially an endless game).
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  • Avatar for grappler51 #9 grappler51 3 years ago
    Well it's hard to argue with this, though I never got into Minecraft that much, I don't think any game has been quite as influential in the past decade (Maybe COD4?).
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