Tough choice. We recommend Paper for most Minecraft: Java Edition servers.
Mojang (the developer of Minecraft) provides Realms, a pre-configured space to play with friends, as well as a free program to create multiplayer servers. However, neither option allows for plugins (also known as “server-side mods”) nor much optimization. To fill this gap, the Minecraft community has created a number of custom server software offerings, which we’ll explain here.
The original Minecraft server software, the story of Bukkit is filled with huge triumphs and great conflict. These days, the standalone Bukkit—more accurately, CraftBukkit—software is no longer being developed, but it created the foundation for much of what is available today. Some plugins from that era may still work on newer, “Bukkit-based” software, but results will vary.
Spigot has reigned supreme in the developer community for a long time. Based on Bukkit, this software is very stable and is often used as the basis for more specialized software. While it has fallen behind in terms of innovation, the resource community is still thriving. Although not technically a marketplace, you will find many popular plugins are available exclusively in their website’s Resource section.
Paper quickly gained notoriety for being well-optimized and easy to create plugins for around the release of Minecraft 1.18. Being fully compatible with all Spigot plugins, the majority of Java Edition servers run on Paper at time of writing. Another server software known as Tuinity was merged into Paper in late 2021, showing just how dedicated the project is to innovation.
Based on Paper, this software offers a few performance optimizations such as faster map rendering and improved CPU performance. However, many find this project to be a half-step, and either stick with Paper for better support, or Purpur for additional enhancements. Regardless, the Pufferfish project is backed by a registered business that provides Minecraft server hosting, which speaks to its stability. They also offer Pufferfish+, a paid version supposedly similar to Purpur, which we have not reviewed.
Billed as a drop-in replacement for Paper, the Purpur project offers a number of quality of life improvements such as finer behavior controls and addition of missing API components for developers. Note that these tweaks need to manually enabled; otherwise running Purpur is no different than using Pufferfish. On that note, public opinion is divided—some view Purpur as the next big thing, while others feel the added features are already well-addressed by resources like EssentialsX and AnvilGUI. Either way, the support team for Paper is much larger, which is one reason many server hosts seem slow to adopt Purpur.
SpongeVanilla is a perfectly good option for a typical Java Edition experience, while SpongeForge is unqiue choice for playing with client modifications (“mods”). However, both implementations have a smaller development team and selection of server plugins compared to other software out there, which may be why most large servers avoid Sponge.
Server owners running Forge will have access to modpacks which take the game beyond the “vanilla” experience. However, Bukkit plugins will not work with Forge—competing software is available that combines these technologies, but stability may suffer.
Magma is one software which combines the ability to use Bukkit plugins with Forge. Development has steadily improved over time and a number of well-known partners are sponsoring this project.
Similar to Forge, but not compatible, Fabric quickly became a popular platform upon its release. Their client makes mods easy, while their servers boast a number of established plugins. Unfortunately, there is no official way to use Bukkit plugins on Fabric servers—a mod known as Cardboard does exist for this purpose, but it has a high number of issues reported and development is slow. Although it can be run without mods, we do not recommend a Fabric server for vanilla gameplay.
Currently in beta at time of writing, Quilt is based on Fabric and excels in several areas where its origin is lacking. Objectively better community support and an improved API has some developers creating mods for Quilt only. However, it is possible to use most existing Fabric mods with Quilt, meaning there are technically more mods available to Quilt users than those of Fabric. There does not appear to be a major performance difference between the two platforms.
A number of other choices for server software exist, including tools to link multiple servers together (Bungeecord, Velocity, et al.), but we feel these are something to consider later on with an established player base. One tool you may want to check out is Geyser (usually paired with Floodgate), which allows Minecraft: Bedrock Edition players to join Bukkit-based Java Edition servers. That said, for prospective server owners looking to appeal to the widest audience, the Paper project is likely to be the best bet.
Browsit, LLC is not directly affiliated with any of the software or tools listed above. If you have questions about a particular product or service, please reach out to its development team. Thanks!
This post was last updated July 16, 2023 5:36 pm EDT