Mods are an essential part of gaming, especially (but not exclusively) on PC. You can find mods for just about every game these days, and plenty of them to boot. These range from small tweaks that add minor quality of life features to very ambitious projects like the Skyrim multiplayer mod.
Every once in a while, you’ll come across mods that are so awesome that they’ll eventually become standalone games. Not only that, but in some cases the resulting games end up being better and/or more popular than the titles they were originally crafted into. Here are some fantastic examples of mods that have become standalone sensations.
ten Heroes of the Storm (Starcraft II: Wings of Freedom)
Blizzard missed a huge opportunity by not capitalizing on the popularity of Defense of the Ancients (DotA) back when it was still a Warcraft III mod. But the company eventually launched its own MOBA in the form of Heroes of the Storm, which initially started out as a Starcraft II custom map known as Blizzard DOTA.
The game has seen some success over the years, but has never been able to compete with DOTA 2 or League of Legends. This is likely why Blizzard announced in July 2022 that Heroes of the Storm would no longer receive any future major updates. But even though Heroes of the Storm was hit or miss for Blizzard, it was ultimately a trailblazer.
9 Team Fortress Classic (Earthquake)
Originally developed as a Quake mod, Team Fortress captured the hearts and minds of many PC gamers in the mid-90s. The mod also impressed the folks at Valve who released it as a game. standalone called Team Fortress Classic a few years later. While Quake can be credited with popularizing multiplayer FPS games in general, fans have Team Fortress to thank for inventing the hero shooter subgenre.
Team Fortress Classic is still holding up pretty well, but there’s no reason to play it these days since the player base is almost non-existent. Outdated gameplay mechanics and the lack of a strong community naturally hold Team Fortress Classic back today.
8 Stanley’s Parable (Half-Life 2)
The Stanley Parable is a unique narrative game that started out as a Half-Life 2 mod. It’s basically the poster boy for breaking the fourth wall in games. Stanley’s parable is filled with thought-provoking and entertaining commentary on video games and what it means to be the protagonist.
The “meta” nature of The Stanley Parable is both its biggest selling point and one of the main reasons why it won’t appeal to everyone. Those who love self-awareness and self-reference will definitely love this one. It’s just a shame it’s so short.
seven Chivalry: Medieval Warfare (Half-Life 2)
Games that start out as mods usually still have at least some resemblance to the original titles. However, there are some exceptions. Case in point: Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, a multiplayer hack-and-slash based on the Age of Chivalry mod for Half-Life 2. Age of Chivalry did a great job of showcasing the power of the Source Engine and remains an incredible feat of modding to date.
This total conversion mod was so good that it only took about a year to turn it into a standalone game. Then it took another decade for Chivalry: Medieval Warfare to get a much-needed sequel. Medieval Warfare still has some life left in it, but its rapidly shrinking player base limits its appeal.
6 PUBG (ArmA 3)
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) was the most popular game, despite all its technical issues, during its early access phase. While still enjoyable, especially if you’re playing with friends, PUBG is now just a shadow of its former self.
Widely known as the game that popularized the Battle Royale genre, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds couldn’t keep up with more dynamic competitors like Fortnite in terms of updates. To make matters worse, when developers started releasing updates, they may have opted for quantity over quality. That said, PUBG’s player base is still very respectable.
5 Black Mesa (Half-Life 2)
Half-Life 2 was the first title developed from the ground up for Source, but the game engine debuted a few months prior with a port of the original Half-Life. The aptly named Half-Life: Source was a decent upgrade at the time, but years later modders decided to take things to the next level with Black Mesa.
What started out as a mod aimed at remaking Half-Life for a modern audience eventually turned into a standalone version of Black Mesa. The wait was worth it, however, as the game ended up being bigger and better than Half-Life in almost every way. It’s definitely showing its age now, though.
4 Garry’s Mod (Half-Life 2)
Yet another game that started in Half-Life 2, Garry’s Mod is the ultimate physics sandbox. Well, for starters. The truth is, this game can be anything gamers want it to be. Sandbox mode is the default, and it lets you create entire worlds using thousands of assets from a wide variety of other games – mostly Source -. .
Arguably the most enjoyable part of Garry’s Mod is the multiplayer. There are countless weird and wonderful game modes to find that will keep fans busy for potentially thousands of hours. Jumping into Garry’s Mod random multiplayer modes is like stepping into a wormhole not knowing what’s on the other side. For some, Garry’s Mod is going to be a life-changing experience. For others, a total waste of time.
When it comes to raw numbers, no other game can compete with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. There are tens of thousands of mods up for grabs for the game, and it’s not uncommon to see people rocking 300-400 or more mods at a time. In fact, over the years, adding mods to Skyrim has become as much fun as playing it. Surprisingly, however, very few Skyrim mods have made it into standalone games. The biggest and best example right now is The Forgotten City.
Much like Skyrim, The Forgotten City is an intriguing open-world RPG focused on exploration. It’s set in ancient Rome, has a time-loop mechanic, and features a narrative that blasts Skyrim out of the water. The Forgotten City was the first mod to win a Writers’ Guild award for storytelling, and the standalone game has won countless other accolades since its release. It’s hands down the best single player game that started out as a mod, but there are two multiplayer ones that are even better.
2 Counter-Strike (half-life)
Counter-Strike has a long and storied history dating back to the late 90s. Originally developed as a Half-Life mod, Counter-Strike quickly took on a life of its own. To say that the first standalone version of Counter-Strike, the famous 1.6, overshadowed Half-Life would be an understatement. More than 20 years after its initial launch, it remains a contender for the best online shooter ever made.
Counter-Strike has evolved over time. The most recent iteration, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, regularly sits at the top of SteamCharts in terms of competing players. It’s easy to love Counter-Strike, warts and all, but there’s another Valve game that just puts it right on the post.
1 Dota 2 (Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos)
DOTA 2 is perhaps the absolute best game that started out as a mod. Not only that, but it’s also one of the best competitive multiplayer games ever made and continues to have one of the most impressive eSports scenes. The DOTA 2 International completely eclipses other esports tournaments in terms of prize pools.
The massive success of this MOBA can be attributed in large part to the popularity of Defense of the Ancients, the same Warcraft III mod that spawned the likes of League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth. However, Dota 2 is the closest to the original formula and is arguably the most intricate and difficult game in the genre. This also makes DOTA 2 the most rewarding or the most frustrating MOBA, depending on player preference, but there’s no doubt that it has an extremely dedicated global following.
NEXT: The Best Stray Mods For Dig Your Paws