The modding scene is practically the YouTube of gaming, with millions of players constantly curating an extensive library of user made content for almost any popular title on the market. It's so prevalent that the conceptual success and resulting popularity of a given modification can sometimes outgrow the game that it's based on, basically becoming a separate game in its own right.
Savvy developers take note of these successes and end up hiring the authors of these mods to develop them into fully fledged standalone titles often enough, but just as many end up falling by the wayside, never achieving the recognition they deserve. Below you'll find five of each! Here are five mods that became such successful standalone titles that people often forget they were originally just mods, alongside five that desperately need to do the same.
10 BASED ON A MOD: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (Half Life)
Iconic eSports cornerstone Counter-Strike is one of the most popular competitive shooters of all time, and is probably the most straightforward and successful example of a mod evolving into a standalone title.
The entire series began as a humble Half Life modification by college students Minh Le and Jess Cliffe. After attracting an impressive fan base, Valve would reach out to Le and Cliffe with job offers to continue working on an official, standalone version. The rest is history.
9 NEEDS TO BE A GAME: Operation Black Mesa (Half Life 2)
The absence of Half Life 3 might not sting so much if Valve would pick this one up. Operation Black Mesa is essentially a remake of the Opposing Force chapter for the original Half Life, rebuilding it using the updated and improved Source engine.
While the mod isn't yet complete, there seems to be an active and productive team at the helm, and the media released for the project thus far looks fantastic. It's looking pretty safe to expect great things from this remake of the oft-forgotten chapter in the Half Life saga, but it would be even better as an officially licensed title.
8 BASED ON A MOD: Dota 2 (Starcraft, Warcraft III)
The genre-defining MOBA DoTA, or Defense of the Ancients, can safely plant its roots in either Starcraft or Warcraft III, depending on how specific and deep you'd like to get into its background and genesis.
Starcraft's versatile custom map tool would eventually result in the creation of MOBA-like custom maps, one of the most notable being Aeon of Strife. Naturally, players would do the same with Warcraft III's map editor, and the resulting DotA would achieve runaway success, eventually leading to Valve's interest and subsequent acquisition of it.
7 NEEDS TO BE A GAME: Ashes 2063 (DOOM II)
Surprisingly, DOOM's modding community is still very much alive, and the things they've managed to do with its engine are nothing short of remarkable.
It completely changes DOOM into a post-apocalyptic adventure title, complete with interactive NPCs, a loot system, and sprawling level design. Its charmingly retro Mad Max aesthetic and accessible gameplay really work, and had this been released as a standalone title in the mid '90s, it'd be a modern classic.
6 BASED ON A MOD: PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (ARMA 2)
Military simulation and tactical shooter ARMA 2 is well known for its diverse catalog of ambitious modifications, a few of which have actually crossed over as standalone games. The most important and ridiculously successful, however, would have to be PUBG.
To be precise, PUBG actually originated as a spin off from the existing DayZ mod called DayZ: Battle Royale. The mod's creator, Brendan Greene, would be brought on to consult for Sony Online Entertainment on H1Z1 before being picked up by Bluehole to develop his own standalone title.
5 NEEDS TO BE A GAME: Skywind (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)
Given Bethesda's propensity for re-releasing Skyrim, it's a wonder that they haven't remastered any of their previous games. It seems like providing a remaster or remake of the title that really put The Elder Scrolls on the map would be a no-brainer for the big time developer, but at least the merit of that concept isn't lost on modders.
Skywind is a hugely ambitious total conversion project bringing Morrowind into Skyrim's much improved engine. Due to the scope of the project, it's currently unknown when it will reach total completion, but what we've seen out of the modding team so far looks fantastic.
4 BASED ON A MOD: Killing Floor (Unreal Tournament 2004)
Killing Floor released to immense initial popularity, with its unique and deliberately British flavor of cooperative zombie survival earning it a prolific cult following that it would capitalize on with a sequel in 2016.
It began life quite humbly as a modification for Unreal Tournament 2004 in 2005. After being repeatedly courted by Tripwire Interactive, author Alex Quick would eventually sign it over, with Tripwire announcing the full game's development in 2009.
3 NEEDS TO BE A GAME: Enderal (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)
The modding community for Skyrim is likely one of the most active and prolific in gaming today, and many of its more ambitious offerings have taken on a life of their own. Enderal: The Shards of Order is certainly one of the biggest.
It's obviously running on Skyrim's engine at a glance, and it shares a lot of the core mechanics. But virtually everything else is different, with unique lore, a new map, and full voice acting for the dialogue. Skyrim players that boot this mod up are in for an entirely new experience, and as its popularity would indicate, it'd do well as a property all its own.
2 BASED ON A MOD: Team Fortress 2 (Quake)
The team behind the mod was actually in the process of developing a standalone title when they were hired by Valve to write it as a port for its GldSrc engine in 1998. This would manifest as what would later become known as Team Fortress Classic, which would pave the way for its iconic sequel, Team Fortress 2.
1 NEEDS TO BE A GAME: Seven Kingdoms (Total War: Attila)
With its endless political intrigue and big set piece battles, the Game of Thrones universe is so ripe for a proper strategy adaptation that it's a true wonder that no one's managed to pull it off, outside of mobile cash-grab titles. The Seven Kingdoms mod for Total War: Attila brilliantly showcases what it should look and feel like.
The Total War engine provides the perfect blend of strategy, politics and combat to pull together a great Game of Thrones experience, but so far Creative Assembly hasn't stepped up to the plate themselves to take advantage of this seemingly obvious spin off opportunity.