Frequently called “2D Minecraft” by fans, it’s an open-world sandbox where you can explore, go on quests, build a base, and collect a menagerie of NPCs to populate your village. Admittedly it does borrow a few ideas from Minecraft, but it is still its own stand-alone game with plenty of its own ideas.
It is also blessed with one of the most complete and well-maintained wikis of any game. This is necessary, because Terraria has an impressive level of depth, with tons of items to discover, craft, and build. Beginners to the game will feel quite lost, even with the Wiki. There’s so much to do and so many items to collect! But for those who just want to beat the game in reasonable time, a lot of the items are red herrings.
That’s where we’re going to come in with this guide. Use this list as a “greatest hits” item list: the things you will want to acquire as fast as possible to make your progress easier, from a raw start all the way up until about Moon Lord levels. We’re going to list items to watch out for in order from your first in-game day all the way through late hardmode.
As soon as you chop down your first few trees with your starting equipment, you have the resources to make a bow already. If a snow biome is handy, a boreal wood bow is a bit better. Regardless, your starting stats are way too vulnerable to even consider melee fighting. Bows give you a ranged weapon to use right away. Since arrows are one of the most common enemy drops in the game and also a common drop from surface chests and pots, you’ll nearly never have to worry about ammo.
The Magic Mirror (or Ice Mirror, identical counterpart found in snow biomes) is easy to find in near-surface level chests, as soon as you start exploring underground or down to the cavern layer. Until you do find it, Recall Potions are a poor substitute, but drop frequently enough that you’ll likely have a few to get by. Once you get a Magic Mirror, you’ll probably want to equip it in a hotkey slot. Having unlimited teleports back to base saves you from dying a lot. Use it whenever you find yourself in over your head in a situation.
Hang out near your base long enough after acquiring your first few NPCs, and you’ll eventually encounter the “Slime Rain” event. It is worth your while to get busy and start hacking through slimes to trigger King Slime. He’s not that difficult to defeat once you have a bit of armor and the Nurse nearby to heal you. He has a 25% chance of dropping the Slimy Saddle, likely to be your earliest available rideable mount. Once you get the Slimy Saddle, you might as well ignore the other mounted rides in the game. The Slimy Saddle gives you a faster ground speed and an incredible boost to your jump height, also stacking with later double-jumping equipment. It also makes a great boat, floating on water. This effect is so strong that if you activate it while underwater, you’ll immediately bob to the surface faster than you’ll be able to swim. On top of that, it also lets you goomba-stomp on enemy’s heads, dealing damage while keeping you safe. It’s just so crazy-useful in so many situations, you might hang onto it the entire game.
While you’re at it, another drop worth farming from King Slime is the Slime Hook. It’s one of the best hooks in the game, allowing three points of attachment. Its only downside is that the range isn’t very far, but it’s still adequate for early cavern exploration and is the best hook you’ll have access to before hardmode.
It’s worth it to spend some time in the caverns until you encounter the Skeleton Merchant. He’s quite common to encounter, but the key time to look for him is at night. Buy at least a few spelunker glowsticks in case you accidentally toss one. You don’t want to toss them; instead, equip them in your hotbar and switch to them to illuminate all forms of treasure underground. This underrated item will help you find ore, gems, crystal hearts, chests, and pots, giving you a substitute for much later and rarer item info accessories. If you use them this way, they never expire, so you can forget about hording Spelunker Potions. Forget going for the Metal Detector; those underground Nymphs are rare and surprisingly deadly.
Most items you can craft out of pre-hardmode metals and gems quickly become useless as better gear comes along. The gem staves are worth it though, if you’ve already acquired an Extractinator. The only one it makes sense to go for is the diamond one, with the best speed, range, and damage. The bonus to gem staves is that they produce light, so they’re also handy for underground exploration. Being a ranged weapon, they also clear out cobwebs, vines, and whatnot. They’re just a handy utility that doesn’t consume ammo – mana regenerates fast enough not to sweat it. But don’t worry you can’t get the resources together. The gem staves quickly get outclassed by later equipment anyway.
The Queen Bee drops
Most guides will advise you to put off going for Queen Bee until later. Go for it as soon as you can explore the Underground Jungle in reasonable safety. Count on dying (hopefully you have the Piggy Bank and Money Trough already so you don’t lose money). The Queen Bee has a special behavior: unlike most bosses, she respawns back at your base when you do to continue attacking. Only now you have the other NPCs to help you fight, and she’s really not that hard to beat if you keep at her. You can’t lose this fight! It is so worth it for the great item drops at this point:
The Bee Gun is one of the few homing weapons in the game, allowing you to fire away from behind cover while clearing out enemies. It’s great crowd control for those emergency Blood Moon events and any time you’re getting swarmed. The only downside is that the damage is too puny to be useful by late hardmode.
The Hornet Staff is likely to be your first viable summon weapon in the game (forget going for the Slime Staff, it’s stupidly rare). The hornet summon is a great little flying bodyguard, keeping those pesky enemies away and helping alert you to new danger.
The Bee Keeper is an otherwise unexceptional sword except that it inflicts the “confused” debuff on enemies. Keep those rushing enemies out of your face so you can compose your thoughts, while your summoned hornet finishes them off.
The Bees Knees isn’t that remarkable except as a serious upgrade to any bow you likely have up until now.
One more note about Queen Bee is that you’re liekly to have plenty of material to craft several Abeemination, so you can farm Queen Bee through several battles until you’ve obtained enough drops to craft everything you want. Once you’re set up with Queen Bee gear, you need fear almost nothing until the late pre-hardmode game.
The Cobalt Shield is important for one thing only: It cancels knockback. Until you get shielding, your most dangerous enemy in the game is ironically the pesky little bats, who find you in high places underground and tend to knock you down to your doom. Get into the Dungeon as soon as you can to find your first shield, and eliminate this annoying quirk. Of course, later you will be upgrading this through the various stages, so its unlikely you’ll pass over this one anyway.
Shadow Orb / Crimson Heart
What else can you say about these items but “FINALLY a light pet!” You get them mainly from breaking Crimson Hearts / Shadow Orbs depending on your world’s chosen evil biome. They have a 20% chance to drop and every three you find and break summons the biome boss, so be prepared to fight a couple times. Do not move on without your light pet, because the next time you get a shot at one is somewhere mid-hardmore.
Starting in hardmode seems unfairly difficult. Enemies ramp up to insanely tough and infuriatingly persistent, and the growing evil biomes can wreck your whole base if you weren’t careful in construction. Early on, the Magic Dagger is a weapon worth farming from mimics. They have a decent drop rate so they’re worth seeking out. The Magic Dagger is a ranged weapon that doesn’t use ammo, multi-fires as fast as you can click, and does a lot more damage than almost any other weapon you can find by now. It will quickly be outclassed by later equipment, but it’s crucial to get you through early hardmode.
Another early-Hardmode option, this is one of the few decent magic weapons you can get without having to kill a hardmode boss. You can craft it as soon as you can survive a couple fights in the Underground Hallow. While it does use mana and isn’t the fastest ranged attack in the game, the three swords it fires do meaty damage, and it’s a light source as well. The accessibility of this one makes it useful during this part of the game, but it will of course be left behind by later weapons.
Your first Solar Eclipse is… terrifying! It’s like a Blood Moon on PMS. You will want to have something like a special fort built just to survive these, but a sweet consolation prize to this hectic occasion is the Death Sickle. It’s one of the only weapons in the game that fires an ammo-less, mana-less projectile. But wait, there’s much more! The projectile travels right through solid walls! It also casts a decent amount of light, making the rest of your exploration a breeze. Not only does it do decent damage, but the projectile whirls in place for a few beats dealing more damage to slow-moving or pinned enemies.
Of course there are other flying accessories that will beat the jetpack. Notably, the Hoverboard is one classy rig as soon as you can swing it. But the Jetpack is accessible the minute you land the Steampunker, and it’s a serviceable way to fly as long as nothing better comes along. Not only does this open up the entire sky, but you need never again fear fall damage nor traversing the craggiest underground grotto.
The Ice Rod is an often-overlooked item you can purchase from the Wizard early on in hardmode. As a weapon, it’s not much to write home about. However, as a utility, it can be indispensable. Its ability to make ice blocks in the middle of thin air comes in handy for all kinds of tricks. If you have any kind of flying / gliding / high-jumping gear, you can sail into the air and place some ice blocks to land on, then continue from there and thus conquer all the vertical space left on the map. You can also use it to create temporary bridges over caverns, save yourself from nasty falls, create temporary stairs out of hazardous pits, and throw up a fast, emergency wall against a charging melee enemy.
This one depends on if you have access to the Crimson in your map. If you do, make for a Crimson Chest in the Dungeon as soon as you can and equip some Vampire Knives, because these babies will stay useful for the rest of the game. They’re a melee weapon which shoots a fan of projectiles, using no mana. But true to their name, they’re the only weapon in the game with life leech, keeping your health bar nice and full even in the middle of the most hectic battle. You almost can’t lose as long as you keep firing.
By late hardmode, all you need is a really big weapon that deals massive damage through walls and everything. The Solar Eruption is crafted from fragments dropped by the Solar Pillar, which means we’re well into Lunatic Cultist territory by the time we’re even seeing this. While the weapon weaves around drunkenly, it smites dead everything it touches in a hit or two. It beats the pop cans out of nearly every weapon you can get up to this point.
Of course, feel free to try out any gizmo you happen to come across or can craft with materials in Terraria. You’ll need many things not on this list, but they’re given or obvious. There’s the notorious long crafting recipes leading up to the Cell Phone and Ankh Shield, plus the armor sets.
There is also a lot that isn’t worth chasing down. This game turns into “massive inventory management simulator” since there’s a zillion of everything to sort out. You can have a nervous breakdown trying to sort out all the items in all the chests in all the rooms you have to build, only to find out half of it wasn’t worth bothering with.
The items we’ve named here are simply the ones that present a sharp power boost to your progress. At least keep an eye out for these on your first run-through. But beyond that, just enjoy Terraria the way you want to, because it’s an epic 2D adventure that never runs out of new things to try!