Not many games get the chance to become synonymous with gaming. Not many games even get the chance to become fads. Minecraft is the definition of the little engine that could. What began as a small project by one indie developer bloomed into a cornerstone of gaming that has defined a generation of players. Microsoft, in their purchase of Mojang, valued the game at just about half of what Disney paid for Lucasfilm. Imagine being on the level of Star Wars.
Minecraft defined my childhood. It is the game I’ve spent the most time playing, and I can always go back to it. Just the concept of this review was dreadful. How do I review an infinite game? Which version do I select? I’ve selected the Java Edition. The game was originally coded in Java, but Mojang has since introduced a new engine dubbed “Bedrock” that runs across every major system. I’m sticking with Java because it’s what I’ve always known. At the time of writing, 1.16.3 is the current version of Minecraft, and it’s the version I’ll be playing with.
As a fan of action games, survival Minecraft has always been my favorite. You’re plopped into a randomly generated world with only a tutorial book and achievement list. What you do is up to you. It can be daunting to begin a new adventure, but I’ve grown a familiarity as if attempting another run in a roguelike. More as a roguelite, Minecraft has a lot of tools to ease new players into the game. Once you acquire an item, your recipe book will make clear what can be done with it.
Survival Minecraft has two basic systems. Exploration sees you mining through thousands of blocks for the best materials. Some like to hunt for exactly enough diamonds for armor, but others like to search out iron blocks for golems or building. Combat, in Java Edition, is pretty expansive. You have a main hand and a free hand. Your main hand will carry your weapon, and your free hand can carry any secondary item. Food, blocks, a bow, a shield, and everything in between. After conquering the Nether, you can even brew potions to kill enemies quicker or tip your arrows. A lot of people are indifferent to this combat, but I’ve gotten used to it.
Minecraft doesn’t have an end as typical games do. You can travel to the end dimension, beat the Ender Dragon, and roll the credits, but your adventure only begins. Once you overcome the first hurdles, Minecraft opens the floodgates. Some call it post-game, but I call it a majority of the experience. You never have to quit, and you’ll never run out of new things to play with.
I find Minecraft can feel a little too bloated. The constant updates are certainly beloved, but many changes can be controversial or unnecessary. Such as the combat system introduced in 1.9 or the changes to the Nether in 1.16. To beat the game, you’ll need to hunt and kill a monster known as the Blaze. They’re only found in Nether Fortresses. Being in hell, Fortresses were always hard to find, and difficult to get to. Now that the Nether has multiple biomes, you could travel thousands of blocks before finding the one biome a Fortress can spawn in. Every time, I had hoped one would be there. More often than not, there was nothing to be found.
For hardened players, there are tons of challenges. You can take on one of the games many optional bosses, craft your own challenge, or play in hardcore mode. Hardcore means you only get one life, and it’s often what I’ll play now. It’s uncommon that a game can keep starkly different audiences engaged for so long, but Minecraft has this magic to it.
I’ve given you the “Mine” and now I should talk about the “Craft.” Creative mode isn’t a game, but it’s what most players fall in love with. A tool to pick an infinite amount of any block and build freely. Everyone can express themselves in ways impossible in other titles. It’s not just about having hundred of options that look nice either.
Minecraft has many deep systems that run through it. The most notable is the item known as Redstone. Players from all across the world have figured out how to make incredibly advanced systems and even emulate entire games within Minecraft. So long as you’re fine with 1 frame per second, you can do just about anything!
The magic of creative mode is vast, but I’ve almost never touched it! My memories of creative mode are often with family who rarely play video games, friends online, or younger children who just happened to ask if I wanted to play Minecraft with them. It’s the beauty of this game to me. While I can’t comment much on creative, Minecraft wouldn’t be Minecraft without it.
Minecraft doesn’t stop at creative and survival. Minecraft doesn’t stop at what Mojang has developed! There are hundreds of thousands of maps the community has built for us to explore. Including recreations of cities and an entire library of texts being banned in less fortunate parts of the world! When any game becomes popular, especially one with an online component, mods are certain. Mojang has done well to support these communities over the years.
There are thousands of servers anyone can join or host for free. A few will just be the basics, but most revolve around modded minigames. While survival is my taste alone, my taste isn’t to be alone. Gaming is always better together, and Minecraft is what sparked my interest in online gaming. I’m always up for a round of TNT Run or Trouble in Mineville!
If server offerings aren’t to your liking, you can install a great number of other more complex mods to play alone or in a private server among friends. Developers of these projects have often been recognized and hired by Mojang themselves. You can do anything from add simple new tools or completely reshape what Minecraft is.
There will never be another title like Minecraft. The simplicity to attract the most inexperienced and the depth to keep the most hardened veteran was the perfect storm to create the most iconic game of all time. Mario and Pac-Man are recognized by all, Tetris is so easy to get absorbed that monkeys play, and everyone can quote “Shoryuken,” but there has never been a game as large as Minecraft. I doubt there ever will be again.
Minecraft has defined an entire generation of gamers. It’s defined me, my peers, and friends 10 years older than me, and anyone else who has been along for the ride. Before I wrote this, I asked myself “what separates Minecraft from everything else?” You don’t need experience or skill, all you need is creativity and a spark. That’s something everyone has.
When thinking about Super Smash Bros., the biggest celebration of gaming, there are some things that just make sense. The uniting of such prominent figures like Nintendo and Microsoft is one of them. The inclusion of Banjo in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate sparked hope in me dormant since 2014. What if Steve was in Smash? He was my dream character. That dream was fulfilled with Ultimate’s second wave of DLC newcomers. An earth-shattering revelation to the gaming community.
Up until Ultimate, most fighters felt like they were bent to conform to the rules of Smash. Characters like Inkling and Min Min have begun to bend Smash around them, but Steve takes it to another level. With the unique ability to mine materials, build around the stage, and upgrade tools, Steve feels like playing a game of Minecraft within Smash Ultimate. Minecraft is so expansive that a dozen people could all come up with a unique moveset to represent Steve in Smash, but the team has come up with the perfect representation of Minecraft in Smash.