Customization can be found anywhere and be for almost everything. Some do it to change things for the better, some do it as a hobby, and there are some that do it for both. The spectrum of customizable material ranges from motor vehicle hobbyists that customize their cars to hungry restaurant patrons customizing their meals. In the video game community, creating modifications for games is a popular pastime for most gamers who want to change their favorite games.

With the flexibility of PC games for change and the encouragement of modding from the developers themselves, gamers can enjoy modifying their favorite games. Modifications include changing, adding, or removing content that was on the original game. Some basic forms of mods include palette switching, the inclusion of new game modes, bug fixes, and more. However, there have been “partial” conversion mods that changed a significant portion of the host game, and there are even “total” conversion mods that have created brand new games using the host game as a base. Conversion mods have affected the community in many ways, including creating brand new games, series, and even a whole new genre.

This list is dedicated to the partial and total conversion modifications that significantly changed their games.

Super Smash Brothers: Melee has garnered a favorable fanbase since its debut. Players who are familiar with fighting games or the original Super Smash Brothers find Melee’s dynamic and intricate gameplay to be addicting and fun. Melee also has been making appearances on the rosters of prominent competitive gaming organizations such as EVO and MLG.

Masahiro Sakurai considered Melee to be one of his best achievements. However, he felt that Melee was too inaccessible and difficult to those who don’t have any prior experiences with games. In response, he makes Melee’s successor, Super Smash Brothers: Brawl, into a more accessible game that’s friendly to newcomers. Most fans of the Smash series felt as if they were alienated when Brawl was introduced, and vocal complaints were heard about how Brawl was too different from Melee. The modding community took the matter into its own hands and started designing a modification that would replicate Melee’s gameplay onto Brawl. That modification is dubbed as “Project M”.

There are general universal changes which affected the gameplay by removing or altering some features that were present in Brawl. Some stages have been remodeled to be more tournament friendly, random tripping was removed, L-Canceling makes it back into the game, and more. The veteran and newcomer characters in the series have changes too. Some examples includes: Lucario’s Aura ability been revamped to promote more aggressive play, Falco’s Reflector changed to stay in place, Marth changed to resemble his Melee form, and much more. There are also aesthetics changes to the game that makes the look and feel resemble more like Melee.

The project is still undergoing development.

Id Software’s hit first person shooter, Quake, was a groundbreaking game for its genre at the time of its release. The success of the game cemented a legacy that consists of several sequels, its engine being used in future games, and a large fan following for the series. The community in particular had created several modifications for the original game, and “Quake: Team Fortress” was the first major modification that spawned its own series.

Quake’s multiplayer lets players face off against each other in Deathmatch modes in either a Free For All or team play style of competition. Players can collect weapons that are dispersed across the map and will lose the items that he/she acquired upon death. Quake: Team Fortress was created in 1996 and focused on the team based aspect of multiplayer and also radically changed the gameplay by introducing class based multiplayer. The player could assume the role of any of the nine classes, from the agile Scout to the stealthy Spy, to engage the other team in game modes such as Capture the Flag. Players use a set of pre-arranged weapons with some exclusive weapons for each class, and that’s different than having to actively search for weapons like in the original Quake.

Quake: Team Fortress’s popularity set off a chain of different versions that were inspired from the original, including “Fortress Forever”. When the mod caught the interest of Valve, the original creators created a mod based off of Half Life that followed the original formula named “Team Fortress Classic” in 1999. The cartoony rendition of the series titled “Team Fortress 2” was later released in 2007.

The 1986 science fiction movie, “Aliens”, inspired gamer Justin Fisher to develop the first ever conversion mod for the popular PC game, “Doom”. Fisher thought of the idea when he played Doom for the first time and tied the game to the science fiction setting of Aliens. Fisher made the mod himself with the exception of one level which was done by a friend of his. Fisher used the properties that were within Doom as the basis for his mod, but with a few modifications of his own to better fit the theme. This mod was named “Doom: Aliens Total Conversion”.

The mod faithfully reproduced the various aspects of the film that translated into the game. Players can find various replications of the movie in the playable story levels’ scenery. Some of the weapons in Doom were changed to reflect the names and properties of the weapons that were found in the movie. The monsters that were in the movie were inserted into the game. Finally, special effects from the movie were taken and used as a replacement for the original sound effects in the game.

Aliens: Total Conversion was highly discussed even when Doom II came out. The mod was the first to be a conversion mod, and it inspired new modders to attempt and create mods of their own. The mod’s popularity also inspired a game named “Trespasser” and also drew the attention of many prospective game companies who wanted to hire Fisher to work for them. Fisher declined many offers because he wanted to finish his college degree.

#7: Nehrim

The Elder Scrolls games have always been known for their expansive realms that are chuck full of their own inhabitants, settings, lores, and unique histories. It is sometimes easy lose hours to portray the lives of the player made characters as he/she explores the never ending landscape and affiliates him/herself with its populace. As if the worlds aren’t spacious enough already, the series has a following of modders who likes to add to the existing content through the use of their own modifications. For some games in particular there are construction sets that give players the opportunity to modify existing content or create new content from scratch. A German modding team named “SureAI” created an entire game named “Nehrim” from the usage of the Oblivion construction set.

Nehrim isn’t just another mod for Oblivion, but a total conversion of Oblivion itself. In fact, it is not related to the Elder Scrolls series except for a few similarities. The world, the lore, the races, and the gameplay are generally different than the rest of the series.
The world itself is the biggest difference. The continent of which the Elder Scrolls games take place on is named “Tamriel”. Nemriel is its own world with its own distinct populace and the three prevalent races: “Alemanne”, “Normanne”, and “Half Aeterna”. Other non-playable races and creatures are present, and they are also complemented with a set of their own unique lore that is deviant from the series. The main story also changed and made more extensive than Oblivion’s original story. The gameplay differences are also noticeable with features such as a revamped leveling and class system.

The game’s main development team consists of 12 members with various volunteers and voice actors also contributing to the mod. The developers also take advantage of several other existing mods to supplement their own work. The development of the mod took over four years and was released in German on June 9, 2010. The English version was released on September 11, 2010.

#6: DayZ

Arma 2 and its expansion, Operation Arrowhead, are tactical shooter games that focus on infantry combat. When Dean Hall took his experiences from the Army and incorporated them into designing a game, he modified Arma 2’s Operation Arrowhead expansion from a shooter to an entirely new different genre. That modification is “Dayz” which is an open world survival game.

Day Z puts players in the perspective of one of the few survivors of the zombie outbreak that’s occurring in the fictional location of Chernarus. Players could play solo or with a team to try and survive in this harsh environment that’s riddled with dangerous zombies. Throughout the game, players could survive by scavenging for resources such as food, water, medical supplies and weapons that’s dispersed throughout the land. The players must also be aware of their characters’ basic needs that must be nourished as well as how to stay healthy through medical treatment. The environment and also the players’ actions could affect the sustainability of the player characters. The weather could affect your character’s temperature, and your character could catch a cold or even be infected when the body temperature drops too low. When your character is injured, the character will suffer from ailments such as unconsciousness or immobility depending on the injury that occurred. The proper medical treatment must be applied or else the character could face serious consequences.

The zombies in this game are semi sentient beings that could detect sound and smell. Players could find zombies everywhere they go in this world and so they must take advantage of the numerous interactive objects around them to secure their own lives. Players must take up arms not only against zombies, but other survivors as well when survivors will attempt to compete with each other for supplies and shelter. With an arsenal of new weapons and vehicles that are introduced in this mod, the player will find what he/she is looking for to fight against the enemy.

The mod has garnered a vast fan base and also has won several accolades from different gaming sources. Dean Hall is currently working on a standalone version of the game with help from developer Bohemia Interactive.

Have you ever played a game from Valve and wanted to manipulate the content to your liking? Maybe you would want to have the characters reenact a scene from your favorite show, have a cross series meet up, or just do nonsensical things with the game’s contents. If you are a fan of any of Valve’s games that uses the Source engine, Garry’s Mod allows you manipulate them and satisfy your inner desires for a creative outlet.

Garry’s Mod is a sandbox physics game that uses a modified Source engine. The mod will find props from any of the installed Valve games that use the Source engine and allows the player to manipulate those props to his or her liking. Players can start up the game with a blank canvas and use the two given tools, the Physics Gun and the Tool Gun, to manipulate content. The Tool Gun is an all-purpose tool for creating and removing content as well as changing around the settings. The Physics Gun can move the props on the canvas around by dragging, rotating, and other forms of manipulating. The blank canvas could be populated with as many props as the player wants, and the player could do as he/she pleases with them.

A popular usage for Garry’s mod involves creating and recording scenarios with props for general amusement. Fan made videos for Source engine games, particularly Team Fortress 2, are widely watched on Youtube. Garry’s Mod also features multiplayer in which multiple players could design contraptions together on one server. Players can also use Garry’s Mod to create new game modes, like the popular “Trouble in Terrorist Town” mod. Overall, the most attractive feature of this mod is to allow the users to create player created content with mods and addons.

As of 2012, Garry’s Mod surpassed 2 million sales and had its 13th version released. The mod is still continuously updated.

The original Mount and Blade is a medieval single player sandbox game where the player has the option to align him/herself with one of five in game factions. If the player chooses not to align with a faction, he/she could assume the role of a mercenary, an outlaw, or even take a neutral stance. Although the game may take place in a medieval setting of a fictional land, there are no fantasy elements present. Modders have decided to unionize Mount and Blade with elements from the high fantasy series, “The Lord of the Rings”, into a strategy game that takes heavy influences from the series.

“The Last Days” modification allows players to create their own character and choose an alliance to side with in the War of the Ring. There are three alliances: the good side, Sauron’s side, and Saruman’s side; each alliance also has its own roster of individual factions and races. Upon choosing an alliance the player could choose the character’s designated race and faction, be it an Orc who serves Saruman or a Human from Rohan. The choice will assign the player to the perspective of the chosen faction.

The player’s role is to accumulate the currency named “resource points” in order to purchase soldiers, equipment and general supplies. The player can accumulate resource points by participating in battles and quests from within a faction’s geographical region. Players can also accumulate “influence points” which allows the player to acquire special items from faction leaders. The Last Days also features a selection of equipment and items that stay faithful to the books and the player can notice the distinctive equipment that each faction can equip from their design.

The combat mechanics in The Last Days is different than its base game. Players can only participate in a siege when the faction leader commands them to rather than being able to initiate sieges on the player’s own. The troops under the player’s command will only move when ordered as well. Players will have a chance to fight different factions across familiar lands that are present in the book series. At the end of each encounter, players can accumulate metal scraps of various qualities which could be sold for resource points. A faction can be demolished as well when an enemy takes over the faction’s respective capital once the faction’s weakness has been exposed.

The modification took years to create, but it paid off by garnering a respectable fan base in the modding scene.

Civilization is a historical fiction series in which players can represent any of the real world civilizations and help in its advancement from a small tribe to a great empire. The roster of playable civilizations has plenty of candidates, but the games themselves do not reflect an accurate representation of their actual historical counterparts. For Civilization IV, a modder named “Rhye” created a mod which would satisfy Civilization players and history enthusiasts alike. Rhye’s conversion mod, “Rhye’s and Fall of Civilization”, revamped the game to allow the player to fully experience the rise and fall of numerous civilizations as they course along the actual historical timeline of Earth’s history.


In the Civilization games, players compete with each other to be the first to develop a newly founded civilization into a flourishing empire. Players develop their own civilizations by building on each of its aspects: culture, technology, resources and trade, diplomacy, and military, in order to be competitive against others. Players who spend the time and resources to develop certain aspects of their civilization will find more options available for them based on their decisions. The game ends when a player has satisfied one of the following criteria: domination of land and populace, conquering all other civilizations, achieving excellence in culture and diplomacy, and winning the Space Race. Otherwise, the player with the highest accumulated score wins by default when the timer ends.

In Rhye’s and Fall of Civilization, the entire mod splits the game into different eras that ranges from the earliest in 3000BC to the modern day. Players cannot start as any Civilization except for the established ones that are present on certain given timelines. After a player chooses a civilization to represent, he/she must guide the civilization to power by achieving the main objectives that are historically related to the civilization. For example, one of the objectives while playing as the Indians is to found Buddhism and Hinduism. The players can witness the rise and fall of particular civilizations as they play through their lifespan until the Civilization would be replaced in the next era. Some of the future civilizations in the next era could be the result of the expansions made from the previous civilizations or the fall of civilizations in the past. For instance, Germany, France, Spain, and England would rise as the next prominent civilizations after the Classical Era if Rome had expanded to Western Europe. The mod takes in all of the influences that will determine the course of history, such as wars and corruption. In some cases, the game can even alter history itself by developing their own civilization in certain ways or history may be changed as a result of world events. The player can win through achieving historical victories as well as the standard victories that are in the core game.


The mod has received praise from critics that praised it for bringing new content and originality to the core game.
There have been further mods that were released by the community to supplement Rhye’s and Fall. Some of these mods expands on certain geographical regions, adds more content to civilizations, and more. The modification is playable on all versions of Civilization IV.

Half Life made its debut back to 1998 with welcoming results from gamers. The game garnered highly positive critical acclaim and a large following which solidified its legacy for Valve. Not only was Half-Life a successful game, but it also spawned numerous modification titles that later became successful thanks to their foundation being built from Half Life. Of the many modifications that existed, none truly could match the success and potency of Half Life’s most famous modification: Counter Strike.

A simple mod for a bigger game

Counter Strike began as a modification for Half Life that was created by Minh “Gooseman” Le and Jess “Cliffe” Cliffe using the software development kit that was associated with the game engine from Half Life. The first beta version of the game was released in 1999, and the popularity for the game ascended as sequential updates to the beta were released. Counter Strike caught Valve’s attention, and soon in the year 2000 Valve bought the rights to Counter Strike. Later that year, Valve published the first retail version of Counter Strike. In later years, Counter Strike became its own series with the following releases: Source, Condition Zero, Online, and Global Offensive.


The basic premise of the games is that there are two teams, the “Counter Terrorists (CT)” and the “Terrorists” that competes with each other in different scenarios over a span of different locations. There are numerous game modes with different objectives that are unique to each team. For example, the Counter Terrorists would have to prevent the Terrorists from planting the bomb in “Bomb Defusal”, and the Terrorists would have to stop the Counter Terrorists from rescuing all of the hostages in “Hostage rescue”. At the beginning of each round, each member of both teams will have the opportunity to purchase weapons and equipment with the in-game currency. During and after the round, players could both lose and win money depending on the actions that they take. The game modes go on a round by round basis, and the team that wins a certain number of rounds will win the game.

Success and legacy:

The Counter Strike series has enjoyed its success ever since its debut from the 90’s. Counter Strike influenced team based modern day shooters as well as created staples game content in the FPS games that we play today. One particular example is the “Bomb Defusal” game mode in Counter Strike being the influence for Call of Duty’s “Search and Destroy” game mode. Counter Strike also attracted an influx of gamers who seek to play it competitively, and the game was prominent at the competitive scene where it was featured at numerous competitive tournaments. With a combination of innovative gameplay and a massive following, Counter Strike went down in history as one of the most influential shooters that started out as a modification.

It started out as a mod with a small community that barely registered a bleep on the gaming world’s radar. Today, the game became an established entry on many competitive tournament rosters and it even created its own genre due to its popularity. Defense of the Ancients was a simple mod that evolved into something greater with the help of its community, and here is how it started.

From Aeon of Strife to DOTA All Stars:

Defense of the Ancients’ roots could be traced back to a modified scenario map for the original Starcraft named “Aeon of Strife”. Aeon of Strife’s gameplay deviates from Starcraft’s core game by narrowing the focus of the gameplay from commanding an army to commanding just a single powerful unit per player. Players form teams and choose a “Hero” unit to command in order to fulfill the objective of the mod: destroy the enemy team’s building. Each side will have computer player minions to provide support during combat, but there are no resources to spend in order to build units of your own. The mod was small and it didn’t make a lasting impression on the community. However, the gameplay in Aeon of Strife was like an early version of DOTA’s formula.

When Blizzard’s “Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos” game was released in 2003, Aeon of Strife fans decided to breathe new life into their forgotten mod. A Warcraft variant of the mod was created using Warcraft’s engine, and a particular modder named “Eul” dubbed the Warcraft variant “Defense of the Ancients”. Warcraft III helped the modders implement new features into the new mod such as hero levels and items which further helped to create a more customizable and dynamic feel for the game. Although DOTA gathered a dedicated audience, it was still a small community. There were numerous variations of DOTA before the mod was a uniformed game, and each variation had its own set of Hero characters. A modder named Steve "Guinsoo" Feak developed “DOTA All Stars” which collected all of the best Heroes from each variation and made them appear on a single compact modification. Guinsoo also revamped DOTA’s core gameplay and introduced the player vs player format for DOTA.

After its release, DOTA All Stars significantly enticed players to play it more than any other variation. And Guinsoo soon found himself to be the lead developer of the mod who had a following of loyal modders who wanted to help out on their own time for free. DOTA finally caught more of the public’s eye when Blizzard hosted a DOTA tournament at the very first Blizzcon event.


Defense of the Ancients features two vying sides, the Sentinel and the Scourge. The two sides must bring down the opposing team’s “Ancient” in order to win. The Ancient is an important building that sits in the heart of the base. There are multiple paths to advance to the Ancient, but the paths are protected by towers that strike at invaders in their proximity.

Hero characters must be called into battle in order to destroy the defenses that lead up to the Ancient. Heroes are powerful units with their own set of unique skills and attributes that determines a Hero’s specialization. Players can choose one from a roster of more than a hundred, and the players can also manage the Hero’s properties by allocating points to the Hero’s stats and abilities. The points come from leveling the Hero up through the experience that the Hero receives on the battlefield from killing enemies. The player could also provide the Hero with items that can be bought with gold to supplement the Hero’s attributes. However, no matter how strong an individual’s Hero is, he/she often cannot win by themselves. DOTA promotes team orientated play that allows the team to collaborate their individual Heroes’ talents and assets in order to attack the enemy and defend their own Ancient. The standard format for each match consists of five players per team, but some variations can occur.

There is a selection of different game modes featured in DOTA that allows the players to have flexible options on how they want their matches to be like.


DOTA started as a minuscule community that managed to build itself from the ground up through the extraordinary efforts of its accentuating community. It is currently still one of the most discussed free to play game modifications.

The modification community is still at large and is expanding thanks to the advancement in technology and the generosity of certain developers who want to see the potential of the gaming community. What this Top Ten have taught me is that I cannot underestimate the significance of a small project or change, the power of community effort, and even an inspiration that could someday make a difference.

It was really difficult for me to decide between Counter Strike and DOTA as the candidate for the number one spot. They both have strong merits, interesting history, and legendary influences in the gaming community. If I could I would’ve featured both of them at the number one spot.

Thank you for reading my Top Ten. If you have any comments or suggestions, please PM me or visit me on any of the following boards: Random Insanity, Current Events or the Top Ten board.

Honorable Mentions:

Half Life: Black Mesa
Unreal Tournament 2004: Red Orchestra: Combined Arms
Team Fortress 2: Randomizer and perhaps Vs Saxton Hale
Civilization IV: Fall from Heaven
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Jurassic Park: Operation Andreas
And others that I have not gotten a chance to talk about.

List by highwind07 (03/19/2013)

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