Licensed LEGO sets tend to reflect some kind of cultural zeitgeist or relevant property that fits within the LEGO Group’s brand. As a runaway success – and literal blockbuster – Minecraft is one of the most natural fits in LEGO history.
LEGO fans have enjoyed a slow yet steady trickle of Minecraft creations since 2012. While these models have settled into a groove design-wise, new Minecraft updates and game releases constantly provide new source material. This in turn has allowed LEGO Minecraft to mix old favourites with fresh concepts, to apparent success.
LEGO Minecraft history
Minecraft is an open-world sandbox game, created by Markus Persson and developed by Mojang Studios. It was released properly in 2011 on PC, with console ports swiftly following in 2012 and the years after. Today it is the best-selling video game of all time – over 238 million copies have been sold globally.
Minecraft has much in common with LEGO itself. It appeals to multiple age groups (though perhaps young fans most of all) and it allows us to create detailed structures and complex mechanisms with relative ease. It has also found an audience outside conventional gaming circles. Certain schools have used Minecraft for educational purposes, while the Danish Geodata Agency has recreated the entire country of Denmark – to scale – in Minecraft form.
The first Minecraft LEGO set appeared in 2012, one year after the wide release of the game itself. However, it didn’t warrant its own theme at this time. It was an early release in the LEGO Ideas – then CUUSOO – theme, which turns fan-made models into official LEGO builds. This microscale creation was soon joined by others in a proper Minecraft range, which recreated the various biomes and realms of the Minecraft universe.
Minifigure-scale sets debuted in 2014, depicting familiar scenes for anyone who has played the game. Early examples included mines, caves, farmland and even the End, a mysterious dimension that hosts the Ender Dragon. The range quickly expanded to depict other areas of Minecraft’s universe – hot and cold biomes made their first appearance, as did the deadly, lava-filled Nether.
The success of Minecraft allowed prices and part counts to mushroom (and actual mushrooms to appear in the range). Particularly interesting builds included 21127 The Fortress, which allowed for easy reconfiguration of its castle model. The range also continued to facilitate more open-ended construction with the debut of the Crafting Box series. 21116 Crafting Box was an early release; debuting in 2014, it offered many different pieces to build freely with. A direct successor – 21135 The Crafting Box 2.0 – would offer similar potential for Minecraft fans in 2017.
By 2018, LEGO Minecraft had started to explore new approaches to set design. Creations such as 21138 The Melon farm offered much smaller, cheaper vignettes than what was previously available. In 2019, models like 21148 Minecraft Steve BigFig with Parrot allowed us to recreate Minecraft characters at a much larger scale than before. The blocky nature of LEGO made it a perfect fit for Minecraft’s boxy characters.
As Minecraft receives new features, new LEGO sets appear to depict them. 2020 brought us 21165 The Bee Farm, which includes several block-based bees; these first appeared in Minecraft in 2019. Elsewhere, creations like 21168 The Warped Forest depict strange new areas in the game world.
The Minecraft theme has also recreated characters from spinoff titles. Minecraft Dungeons introduced top-down, dungeon-crawling gameplay, as well as new characters like the Redstone Abomination. This friendly fellow made an appearance in 21163 The Redstone Battle in 2020.
LEGO Minecraft sets
Minecraft LEGO sets present an interesting design challenge. Like all video games, Minecraft depends upon a rigid set of rules which players must (typically) abide by. To ensure accuracy to the source material, LEGO Minecraft can’t just recreate the game’s building blocks. It also has to consider how players interact with them… as well as how they interact with each other.
21113 The Cave illustrates this idea very well. It’s a small slice of Minecraft’s world, but it captures many features from the game itself. Stone blocks are interspersed with ore blocks, and can be easily separated from the wider model – just as a player might mine them for their own use. Similarly, black bricks (which represent obsidian) can be found at the intersection of water and lava using blue and orange tiles respectively – a feature that 21118 The Mine would replicate.
An Iron Golem is a powerful mechanical defender within the world of Minecraft and 21123 The Iron Golem mimics this idea, allowing a fully-formed Iron Golem to materialise. Other models like 21169 The First Adventure recreate the game’s minecarts and even use a sliding platform to mimic swimming up a waterfall. This demonstrates how gameplay is an intrinsic part of LEGO Minecraft, even if the theme by definition has none.
Many Minecraft models tend to emphasise visual accuracy over mechanical detail. Sometimes though, a few creative liberties are needed. For instance, you can trade in-game items with friendly Villagers. Since this process doesn’t involve objects in the game world itself, 21128 The Village adds a market stall to symbolise the trading process.
A particularly useful feature of LEGO Minecraft models is their modular design. Sections of most builds are slightly raised, allowing them to be connected with 2×4 bricks. In addition to creating a coherent game world, this allows for plenty of customisation on the part of LEGO fans.
To better convey how the LEGO world mimics the game world, 21116 The Crafting Box included a ‘Block Translator’. This was a diagram showing how its bricks corresponded to Minecraft’s elements. Since Minecraft has steadily added new elements to its world, a revised edition may be in order.
LEGO Minecraft minifigures
The standard LEGO minifigure has been able to convey dozens of characters from popular culture. That said, several have posed a design challenge, necessitating new head, leg and even arm pieces.
LEGO Minecraft was no different. The range introduced a boxy new head piece, offering a better portrayal of the game’s blockhead brethren. This element has found multiple uses inside and out of the Minecraft theme; it recently starred as the Tesseract in 76201 Captain Carter & the Hydra Stomper.
With his blue top and purple trousers, Steve has become an icon for Minecraft as a whole. He’s the game’s default avatar and a natural choice for early Minecraft LEGO sets. In addition to bespoke tools and weapons, Steve has also received custom armour pieces, including two new helmets for his square head.
Of course, in a world built upon creativity, LEGO fans needed more than one main character. Alex was introduced as a female counterpart to Steve in-game and first appeared as a minifigure in 21121 The Desert Outpost. Later models would greatly expand the player character roster – 853609 Skin Pack and 853610 Skin Pack introduced eight new characters to spice up play. Many recent sets have also moved beyond Steve, adding more varied skin designs for you to collect.
Minecraft players must battle numerous enemies, which have necessitated some new pieces to depict. Creatures like the Zombie (and Zombie Pigman) aren’t too exotic in their parts usage, but others like the Creeper demanded new body parts. The mysterious Endermen also demanded tall, single-piece bodies, while their long arms use familiar LEGO tiles.
The Witch features a new, single-piece torso that better represents her folded arms. The Villagers also use it in a variety of colours to denote their different jobs.
With their distinctive shapes and bright, pixel-like printing, Minecraft minifigures are some of LEGO’s most charming characters. As the theme continues, it’s hoped that the minifigure variety continues apace.
LEGO Minecraft Mountain Cave
Released in 2017, 21137 The Mountain Cave remains Minecraft’s most ambitious model. It depicts a sprawling, hollow mountainside, and offered plenty of play features to discover. With 2,863 pieces, it dwarfs other Minecraft LEGO sets by a considerable margin. It measures 53cm wide, 29cm deep and 31cm high.
An immediate draw of the set was its intricate minecart track. 21137 The Mountain Cave includes multiple slopes to supply autonomous movement, while a working elevator let you raise it to the top of the mountain again.
The interior offers plenty of space for play, with numerous block types to mine. Pools of lava also provided hazards for Steve and Alex to evade. To aid play, several sections of the model can be detached – either to better access the bedroom, re-configure the track or just blow up some walls.
Another unique feature of the set was its use of a light brick. It was designed to be plugged into specific parts of the cave, mimicking glowing lava, torches and Redstone in the process.
Minifigures were in relatively short supply in 21137 The Mountain Cave, although there are still some interesting features. They sport a variety of armour pieces in different colours, and the Charged Creeper made its minifigure debut too. With its transparent blue elements, this minifigure represents a deadlier, more explosive version of the standard Creeper. It’s a sensible addition to one of LEGO Minecraft’s boldest models and has featured in models since, with the most recent appearance being in 21174 The Modern Treehouse.
LEGO Minecraft village
21128 The Village – released in 2016 – offers a more bucolic setting for Minecraft fans. Villages are procedurally generated in Minecraft worlds, offering various buildings for Villagers to live in. They’re a handy source of food, shelter and other essentials for explorers.
While player-built houses appeared in early Minecraft sets, The Village marked the debut of its subject matter in LEGO form. 1600 pieces went into the finished model, which measured 49cm wide and 44cm deep.
Since village buildings in Minecraft are a bit cramped, The Village got creative with its building designs. The front of the blacksmith’s shop could hinge upwards; this allowed better access to its furnaces and seating. The library and butcher’s shop, meanwhile, each opened up like a doll’s house. This enables fans to see details like removable bookshelves more easily.
Other features of the set were simpler but offered added detail. The watchtower let you spot incoming enemies (including an unfortunate Zombie Villager, which remains exclusive to this set). The garden offered wheat, carrots and potatoes in various stages of growth, and a brick-built well provided water. Just be careful not to fall in yourself.
Similar structures would appear in future models; 21169 The Illager Raid includes a garden, house and market stall, for instance. In terms of scale, though, The Village remains essentially unsurpassed in the Minecraft theme.
LEGO Minecraft dungeons and mines
21119 The Dungeon seems an obvious starting point. It’s one of the smaller models in the Minecraft range, but it comes with several desirable features. Highlights include Zombie minifigures, a treasure chest, and a rotating Zombie Spawner. In the game, this object generates a constant stream of zombies until it’s destroyed.
As previously mentioned, Minecraft’s modular nature lets you combine several underground scenes. 21124 The End Portal was one of the more elaborate underground models. In addition to various enemies, it features ‘transportation’ to the bleak End realm. 12 printed Eye of Ender tiles were included for accuracy, while sections of the model were hinged for visual interest.
Underground scenes continue to appear in the Minecraft theme, with new features accompanying the releases. 21147 The Bedrock Adventures was an excellent starting point; multiple blocks, ladders and creatures offered fertile ground for play. 21155 The Creeper Mine features a colossal, brick-built Creeper (although regular Creepers were in short supply, ironically).
21169 The First Adventure is a 2021 release. While it’s lacking some features of older sets, the overall design is arguably more elegant than its predecessors. Steve, Alex, two skeletons and various animals provide a reasonable cross-section of Minecraft’s inhabitants. The set also replicates falling sand and flowing lava, in faithful tribute to the game.