How to Switch a Minecraft World from Survival to Creative to Hardcore

Key Takeaways

You can change some Minecraft game mode settings in the game, but permanently changing them for the whole world save, and all the players require you to edit some game files manually.

When you create a Minecraft world, you select your game mode, and that mode is fixed for the lifetime of the world. Or is it? Read on as we show you how to sidestep the game mode lock to temporarily or permanently change your game’s mode.


Why Change Between Survival, Creative, and Hardcore?

When you create a new world, you select your game mode. You can choose from creative, survival, and hardcore modes. Under normal circumstances, this selection is fixed, and a permanent flag is set within the world file.

Minecraft lends itself to creativity and changing playstyles, however, and you may find that the map you intended to make a creative map feels like it would be a perfect survival map or vice versa. Or perhaps you want to start in creative mode to build your home base and then switch to survival mode to take on the world from the comfort of your freshly built castle. Or perhaps you’re doing so well in your hardcore mode world that you’re now anxious at the thought of losing it should you die.

Whatever your motivation for changing the world type, it’s a pretty straightforward process. Let’s look at two techniques you can use to change the game modes: first a temporary one for those times you need a quick fix, and then a permanent one.

How to Change Game Modes with the Open LAN Trick

This technique might be old hat to some Minecraft players, but it’s worth noting as a very hasty and simple technique you can use without any advanced editing or secondary programs required at all.

A minecraft player, standing on a village dock, in survival mode.

Here we are in a test survival world we created for this tutorial. You can see the hearts and hunger meter above the experience and item bar.

The world was flagged as survival when we made it, and it will stay survival. However, we can temporarily skirt those rules by opening the game to the LAN for network play (even if we have no intention of playing it with other players).

Press the ESC key to open the game menu. Click “Open to LAN.”

The Minecraft game menu.

If you have never used the “Open to LAN” function before, don’t be surprised if you get a firewall popup. On Windows you’ll get a “Windows Security Alert” box, indicating that Windows Defender Firewall has blocked Minecraft (or, more specifically, the Java platform binary Minecraft runs on) from accessing the network. Click “Allow access” to save yourself from future Minecraft multiplayer troubleshooting headaches.

In the LAN World menu, the only important option for our purposes is to toggle Allow Cheats to “On.”

The Minecraft LAN World settings menu.

As the header implies, these are the settings for other players, and if you change the game mode here it only changes the game mode for incoming players to your LAN world. If you toggled the cheats on, however, it applies to all players in the game (including you). Click “Start LAN World” when you have toggled the cheats on.

Back in the game, press the “t” key to bring up the in-game command console box. Now you can use the /gamemode command to toggle the game mode for your player character. You can use the following flags:

  • survival
  • creative
  • adventure
  • spectator

The motivation for switching between survival and creative mode (or vice versa) is pretty self evident. There’s no practical reason for someone outside of a specialy map to use adventure mode. And spectator mode, in a single-player game or small group play setting, is really only useful if you want to fly around like a ghost and take a peek underground or sneak up on your friends.

Let’s use the creative flag now to switch from survival to creative mode. Enter the command: 

 /gamemode creative 
A player entering a command to change their game mode to creative.

After you enter the command, you’ll get a text box notification the game mode change is in effect, and you’ll see GUI changes related to the mode change.

Notice the hearts, hunger, and experience meter are gone leaving only the item bar. Despite the world’s survival mode flag, we’re now in creative mode.

A player in creative move.

You can use this trick to temporarily alter the game mode of both survival and creative mode games. This trick can also be used to turn a hardcore mode game into a creative mode game. What’s interesting about this trick and hardcore mode, however, is that hardcore mode (even though we refer to it as a game mode) is actually a separate game flag.

Hardcore mode is just survival mode wherein death leads to world deletion (in the older versions of Minecraft) and permanent spectator mode (in the newer versions). So you have only one life to live in your hardcore world.

Turning a hardcore game into a creative game creates a weird sort of hybrid wherein you get all the powers that come with creative mode, but if you were to die in creative mode (either by falling into the void or using the /kill command on yourself) you’d lose your world just like you would in regular hardcore mode. We’ll show you how to toggle this later in the tutorial.

When you use this trick, you toggle your game mode, but you don’t permanently toggle the state of the entire world save (and using the multiplayer command /defaultgamemode doesn’t work correctly on single-player worlds).

How to Permanently Change Your Minecraft Game Mode

In order to make permanent changes to the game mode state, you need to edit the game file, the level.dat, and use the same formatting Minecraft uses: Named Binary Tag (NBT). Here’s how to do that and which flags are important for our game mode/hardcore mode edits.

Select an NBT Editor

Because of the NBT formatting, unfortunately, you can’t just pop the level.dat file into a text editor and make a quick edit (the way you might edit the server.properties of your Minecraft server to disable PVP damage).

To edit the level.dat and related files without corrupting them, we’ll need to use one of the available Minecraft-friendly NBT editors to do so. For the purposes of this tutorial, we’re using NBT Studio on a Windows PC, but we’ll list other options here in case you’re using a different operating system or don’t want to install an app at all.

  • NBTExplorer — Windows (MacOS and Linux compatible with Mono runtimes) — One of the original Minecraft NBT editing tools. Great program, but hasn’t been updated since 2017. We’re including it here for posterity and as a backup option if you need it.
  • NBT Studio — Windows — It looks similar to NBTExplorer and is the spiritual successor of the previous app, but it is a total rewrite with frequent updates. It also supports Minecraft Bedrock NBT files.
  • webNBT — Web-based — If just need to toggle a flag or two and don’t want the hassle of installing an application, WebNBT will get the job done. It’s lean and doesn’t have the extra features you’ll find in NBT Studio, but it works with any modern web browser.

Editing Your Level.dat with NBT Studio

For this tutorial, we’re using NBT Studio. The data structure of the Minecraft level.dat file will be the same regardless of what tool you load the level.dat file into, however, so feel free to follow along using webNBT or other tools.

Back up your Minecraft worlds before editing them. Copy the entire save file directory to a safe place just in case your editing and subsequent world load goes awry.

To begin editing and follow along with any of the following steps, run NBT Studio, open the location of your Minecraft save files using File > Open Folder, and navigate to the location of your Minecraft save files. For Windows users, the default location is:

C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\.minecraft\saves

While you can load just an individual level.dat file if you wish, doing it this way allows you to easily navigate through the directory structure of all the relevant data files.

Once loaded, you should see your save files, just like the screenshot below. You can click on the + symbol beside each world to expand it.

A screenshot of NBT Editor showing a Minecraft save file loaded.

There are tons of NBT tags inside the level.dat file, and it’s best to leave things alone unless you know exactly what the tag you’re looking at is and what values you can change it to. If you’re curious about what they all do, you can check out the tag breakdown at the official Minecraft wiki to learn more.

Changing the Game Mode

First, let’s look at changing the game mode of a given Minecraft game save. Select the name of your world, in our case “Test World I” and expand it. Within the directory you’ll see multiple entries. The on which contains the world rules, including the game mode, is the level.dat entry at the bottom of the list.

Expand the level.dat entry and click on “Data.” Within that data list, you’ll find an entry labeled “GameType.”

A screenshot of NBT Editor showing the GameType tag.

Although you can use keywords like “creative” to change modes when using the /gamemode command in the game, the GameType value must be set using a numeric value. Here are the values you can use:

0 – Survival

1 – Creative

2 – Adventure

3 – Spectator

Our goal is to switch the world we created from survival to creative, so we would switch the 0 to a 1. Double-click on the value and replace it with the game mode value you desire from the list above. Press CTRL+S or the save icon to save your edited tags.

Changing the Player Mode

If you’ve never logged into the world you’re editing, you can skip this step. If you have logged into the world before, you must make one more edit. The save file remembers the state your player was in, so even if you change the world to a different mode, your player will stay in the old mode.

You can fix this issue by using the Open-to-LAN trick we outlined above and using the cheats to /gamemode yourself one last time to fix it, or you can make a quick edit in NBT Studio.

Navigate in NBT Studio to your world save and then to the sub-category of “playerdata.” Select the UUID of your player. If you’re the only one that plays on your world, it will be the only entry. If there are multiple players you’ll need to know your UUID (or you can edit all the player files to the new game mode).

The fastest way to check your UUID is to use Mojang’s UUID API. Simply copy and paste this URL into your web browser, replacing the USERNAME portion with your actual Minecraft username:


UUID in hand, expand the player data entry in NBT studio

A screenshot of NBT Editor showing the playerGameType tag.

Change the value in “playerGame Type” using the same 0-4 values outlined in the previous section. To switch our player mode to creative without using the in-game workaround, we need to edit the “playerGame Type” value to 1. Again, make sure to CTRL+S or click the save icon to save your work.

Toggling Hardcore Mode

In the earlier section focused on using the Open-to-LAN workaround, we noted that if you used the survival-to-creative mode trick on a world that had been created with hardcore mode turned on, you’d end up in a sort of strange limbo where you had creative powers but would still lose your world if you died.

Let’s take a look at how you can toggle hardcore mode off (if you want to turn that world into a regular survival or creative world) or on (if you want to add a little thrill to your life and turn a becoming-dull survival world into a one-life-to-live thrill ride).

If we open up the world’s level.dat file in NBT Studio and scroll down, we see the “hardcore” tag on our hardcore test world is set to “1” indicating that the world is in hardcore mode even though we set our player’s game mode (using the Open-to-LAN cheat) to creative.

A screenshot of NBT Editor showing hardcore game mode tag.

We can leave this setting as it is (and opt to switch the player back to survival mode, recreating the experience of hardcore mode), or we can toggle this setting from a “1” to a “0” at which point the game will not be deleted or set to spectator mode upon the death of the player (regardless of whether the player dies in survival or creative mode).

Although the point of hardcore mode is that, well, it’s hardcore, we certainly understand if you’ve grown so attached to a world that you can’t stand the thought of losing it and want to convert it to a regular survival or creative world.

Armed with a little know-how (and a very handy editor), you can control the game modes of your world saves without resorting to starting over or continually fiddling with the Open-to-LAN trick to get your settings just so.

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