Eh. I had game since early official release 1.0. So I have a lot of memories, and I still sometimes do things the old school way, because that was way I learned it. I knew about this game when it still was in alpha, but it really didn't catch my attention much later, even I played the free demos an awful awful lot.
For me as someone that started with 1.4.5 and has played the game since on newer versions to 1.16.3 or gone back to 1.2.5 (for certain mods/how different it feels to play) and alpha/beta to see what they were like, with a mix of Vanilla, Datapacks, Mods & Building Maps it's a tough one for me.
As a modded player mostly I enjoy 1.10.2 the most when it was relevant and when I've gone back to it with mods I've never used before and reviewed, and 1.14+ mods have been a lot of fun alongside Datapacks and Modpack/Map Making or reviewing such content I find or create myself. 1.12.2 & 1.7.10 are alright but nothing amazing to me as I see a lot of the same (tools and armour, blocks, the usual for the end of a version I find, at least for 1.14.4 it feel that way even while 1.15.2 still feel interesting even with 1.16 versions being relevant) besides the cool I want to see stuff popping up. And other versions are fine, nothing that I feel excited about though.
But for Vanilla it's a tough one. 1.2.5 is interesting to go back to for how different it feel with it's still old Mob AI and other aspects while 1.4+ does feel new and 1.13+ I feel is the versions where without the new blocks and swimming it's hard to find things I want to do due to how much I use them now. Each time I see threads like these (nostalgic versions or what update was best) my answers end up somewhat similar or somewhat change the more I look at the features of them. I don't really know. Mods are why I play the game obviously but if they never excited I don't know for sure. I'd say maybe 1.5 (hoppers, redstone blocks for storage) or 1.13+ versions (1.14 blocks, swimming) still I guess.
I'm getting back into the game after a haitus for a couple of years, and I think there's so much new stuff that I'm hitting my nostalgia as I play.
What I mean by this is, I went from not knowing how to craft a crafting table to beating the Ender Dragon when it came out. That was a journey.
After years of having nowhere to go in the game, and doing whatever I wanted, that feeling of progression and getting better and learning was gone.
Now? I'm looking up recipes, I'm playing with people who only started playing recently that have all sorts of newfangled tricks to doing things, and it's just a blast. It's like I'm playing the game for the first time again. That's what I am nostalgic for, that feeling of awe when you learn something or get better at something, and this game delivers that every day for me.
THAT BEING SAID. I sure miss the alpha/pre-alpha days of art servers and flat worlds full of crazy designs and sculptures. That's something I'd like to be able to capture again, that living museum of people creating together. Learning how to create a realistic sphere or dome, exploring giant servers filled to the brick with designs and creations.
There's never anything again like the first time, no matter when that occurred. I didn't discover Minecraft first hand until relatively late, (Dec 2018). I was well aware of the game before then, by name at least, but otherwise didn't know anything other than it was popular game. It was this brilliant article which piqued my interest and launched my passion for the game.
As such, my nostalgia is associated with version 1.13, because that was the current version when I first began playing. But truthfully, most of my nostalgia could be tied to most any version; establishing my first base in the side of a mountain; finding a village and then hanging out, day and night, until zombie's killed all the villagers but one; falling to my death after being hit by a phantom while working on a construction project; shooting an arrow at a strangely tall 'skeleton', only to discover it was something called an enderman; experiencing vertigo while navigating high places (I've since got over that, fortunately); many, many hours spent navigating the terrain using only markers and dead reckoning, before I discovered paper or maps.
The most notable thing about that first(*) world was how much time I spent in a relatively small area, without maps, horse or boat, carefully analyzing EVERY BLOCK AND EVERY DETAIL as I slowly pieced together what could be accomplished in game. Sometimes I wish I could relive that experience and have even tried to simulate it, but the truth is I now know too much and that nostalgic feeling of >discovery< is mostly long, long gone.
There was only one event I feel nostalgic about which is directly tied to version 1.13; finding my first shipwreck. I had only just built my first boat and had only just begun exploring the coast. I still hadn't discovered maps, (indeed, the shipwreck would supply my first), so was already keenly aware of how far I had travelled away from my base and had the first sense of how 'big' my sandbox really was. And then there on the shore was a shipwreck, partially submerged. It was upright, with the upper decks above water but the rest of the ship submerged. I was SO excited to find that first treasure chest and ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED to dive the mere 3 blocks underwater to retrieve it. Of course, I drowned, not once by twice. But in the end I conquered that shipwreck and found my first treasure map, (also my first map of any kind).
* - I say 'first' because it was the first world I established beyond early jitters and several false starts.
Anything in the Alpha era to be honest. Although I started Alpha v1.1.2_01, I'd probablly say version 1.20 of Alpha as that's when I started my main survival world that's still active today and has been continuously played since, no long breaks. Also around the 1,7X version of Beta due to the terrain generation, esecially the mountains, floaty mountains and huge overhangs. I once found one that looked like an apple core once!
For me the most nostalgic version would be 1.8 or the Adventure Update on Java edition. As a kid, I remember hearing about a game called Minecraft. I searched for Minecraft and one of the first things I saw on the old Minecraft.net was the official Minecraft trailer by Vareide. I was immediately interested in the game. I didn't have many friends as a kid and I felt kinda trapped, so Minecraft felt like a completely new open world. The trailer even said the journey is up to you (or something like that). After watching the trailer I saw Hat Film's 1.8 trailer and later on I found the Yogscast who I watched for years.
Another nostagic version for me is 1.8.9. Not only is it the version I played on the most with my brother but I believe it's also the last version Rhodox worked on the customizable Painterly Pack.
The first PC/Mac version of the game I played on was 1.5.2 and I remember building a large box house made of pure diamond blocks back then,Unfortunately my laptop had to be fixed and all memory of it was lost and my world with it.And it was actually a cracked version of the game,I only bought premium when it was just after it's tenth anniversary sale.
1.7.10 was also a pretty nostalgic version for me,probably because of mods like Orespawn.
With no hunger mechanic, basic lighting and crafting, it was still good, especially when i liked to spam diamond blocks. It was a very nostalgic experience to imagine my second-grade self going on the bus and a friends' iPod, to mess around with brick blocks.
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For me, it would be either Beta 1.5 (my first version) or Beta 1.7.3...the last version dividing what I'd call the "Old Era" and the "New Era". The "Old Era" was everything before the terrain and biome generation was completely overhauled and increasing layers of complexity as well as an "end objective" was added, changing the feel and scope of everything forever. Before, things were simple - there were about a dozen biomes, oceans were small, caves and even the nether were fairly straightforward, you ate either bread or pork, and pretty much the most exciting thing you could stumble across besides janky terrain was a dungeon. There was a certain charm to this simplicity, and I do miss it a bit, but the "New Era" revolutionized this by making biomes and oceans actually feel as large as they should be, and steadily adding major feature after feature per update instead of some items and bugfixes; starting with ravines, strongholds, and sprinting.
After a decade of adding things, I think we can all agree that Minecraft being more complex and with far more things to explore, discover, build with, is a far more enjoyable and dynamic game than the days of old. I couldn't imagine life without the new nether (where there's actually a point to exploring), the new end, better combat, ocean monuments, temples of all sorts, villages/villagers/illagers, and probably over a couple hundred new building materials. But, every so often, I get a slight longing for the days when there were no fancy bosses or structures or biomes or even running - just you, your basic building blocks, some caves and mountains, and a world simple to the point of being unrecognizable, yet so strangely fulfilling all the same, especially to a 12-year-old such as me.