The best Skyrim mods Skyrim mod – Arcanum


If you can imagine it, chances are there's a Skyrim mod for it. Skyrim is one of the most modded games of all time, with over 65,000 submissions on Nexus Mods and 28,000 in the Steam Workshop. Modders have created everything from tiny tweaks to silly memes to entirely new campaigns for Skyrim since its release in 2011. 

Skyrim Console Commands

Skyrim Mod: Santa

(Image credit: Bethesda)

There's no need to play Skyrim as a humble warrior. Become a giant, fly, walk through walls, spawn any item you want, and even become Santa Claus with Skyrim console commands.

Even with the Special Edition released, modding Skyrim's original release is still getting plenty of new mods all the time. It's an overwhelming number to sort through, which is why we're here to help find and install the Skyrim mods you should use in 2021.

This is our guide to the best Skyrim mods, sorted into categories that will make it easy for you to find what you're looking for. And if you're looking for Skyrim Special Edition mods, follow that link to our separate collection. Mods added in the latest update of this list have been marked with a ⭐. 

First up we'll cover how to get started modding your game along with some essential improvements. Check our other pages for all the best quest mods, new skills, and everything else you can imagine.

Table of contents

Page 1: Getting started – How to install mods, patches, interface, and textures
Page 2: Content mods quests, characters, creatures, and places
Page 3: Gameplay mods weapons, skills, systems, and tweaks

How to install Skyrim mods

How to install Skyrim mods

Now that you’ve found some mods you’d like to try, here are the tools you can use to get them working. Again, make sure you read the pages for each of your mods: many of them require specific steps and instructions.

Vortex

Replacing the Nexus Mod Manager is Vortex, a newer program for organizing your mod loadout. Available from the Nexus Mods website, just like most of the mods on our list, it will handle everything for you. It's easy to use and makes downloading, activating, and deactivating mods a breeze. It's also useful in that it supports tons of other games, like The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, and many more. 

Skyrim Script Extender

Skyrim Script Exstender (SKSE) is a utility that's required for some of the more complex mods to work. Not every mod on this list requires it, but many do, including the essential SkyUI, so you're best off just installing it up front. SKSE is now available directly through Steam, but you can still find it here if you prefer manual installation. 

Load Order Optimization Tool

Load order is often very important when using multiple mods, and sometimes if mods aren't loaded in the correct order they won't work properly. LOOT is a great tool for automating and customizing your load order, and will detect problems and attempt to repair them.

Steam Workshop

You can also browse and use Skyrim mods via the Steam Workshop. It’s easy to navigate and adding them to your roster is accomplish by simply clicking the subscribe button. Keep in mind, more complex mods usually require a few more steps to install, and even if they appear in the Workshop they may require more steps to get running.

Patches & Optimization mods

Skyrim Mods Project Optimisation

It's no secret Bethesda's RPGs can be more than a bit buggy. There are glitches, optimization problems, and in Skyrim's case, a UI designed for consoles. Thankfully, long after the official patches stopped rolling out modders remain devoted to making the game more stable and usable. Here are some mods that will improve your overall experience.

Unofficial Skyrim Patch, Unofficial High Resolution Patch

Created by the same modders as the Unofficial Oblivion patches, the Unofficial Skyrim patches catch a huge amount of bugs the official patches don't. A lot of them are things you might never notice, like objects that were placed slightly wrong so they clip through each other or quests that break if you do something unusual, but it's still better to have them than not. There's one for the Legendary Edition and one for the official High Resolution textures patch.

Not So Fast

Dragons returning is a pretty big deal, but the main questline feels like you’re on a runaway train at times. This mod helps you modify the order of events to a more reasonable pace. Not only can you get Breezehome when you hand in the Dragonstone, but you can also ignore the Civil War part altogether! Fully customizable through MCM.   

Project Optimization

Project Optimization improves Skyrim performance by occlusion culling, which means not rendering effects you can't see. If you use a lot of serious lighting mods, like ENB and Realistic Lighting, then this mod can save you several frames per second.

Realistic Humanoid Movement Speed 

Sick of walking like a turtle and sprinting like a cheetah? This mod fixes the problem. Your movement speed is adjusted to more reasonable levels, from a brisk walk that lets you keep up with NPCs, to slower run speeds that make it challenging to escape from that cranky troll. Also eliminates “skating” from sneak running. 

Vendor Sale Delay – GONE

This is a small mod, but it makes the game much less frustrating. Now instead of having to listen to the vendor dialogue before they’ll trade with you, the trade window opens up immediately while they give their speech about their junk—I mean “treasures.”

Performance Textures

This mod rezises and enhances the textures for armor, clothes, and weapons, making them both better looking while simultaneously making the file sizes smaller for improved performance. This is useful for users with low-end machines who still want to improve their graphics. The modder has done the same for animals and creatures.

Performance Plus

Falling leaves and snow are pretty, but can sometimes cause FPS drops on older GPUs due to the size of the textures. Performance Plus decreases the fidelity of particles, which provides an FPS boost. In most cases, such as snow, it's barely noticeable, and the slight degrading of particle textures is more than made up for by an increase in performance.

The Choice is Yours

Lets the player be way more in charge of what quests they want. Stops random auto-quest greetings from NPCs, stops books from giving auto-quests, and lets the player customize when they want to see certain quests become available. Full MCM support. Optimal experience paired with Timing Is Everything.

User Interface mods

A Quality World Map

the best skyrim mods: a quality world map

Skyrim's map is functional but boring. A Quality World Map offers multiple ways to fix it. You can replace the map with a much more detailed world texture, with colors that help delineate the separate areas much more obviously, but there's also an option to have a paper map with a more Oblivion look if that's your thing. 

Sky UI

Skyrim's original UI is, well, terrible. SkyUI makes it easier to use, more pleasant to read, and much more useful for sorting through your loot and menus. Most importantly, SkyUI adds a mod configuration menu to the pause screen, letting you tweak and adjust compatible mods (including many on this list). A lot of mods don't require SkyUI and will run just fine without it, but you'll get much more out of your mods if you have it.

In other words, it's highly recommended.

Better Dialogue Controls

Skyrim Mods Better Dialogue

Using a keyboard and mouse for Skyrim means sometimes the game gets confused when you're selecting a dialogue option. You've noticed, surely, that sometimes when you choose a response the game thinks you've chosen a different one. Skyrim's dialogue controls are weird and clunky, and this mod completely and thankfully fixes that. The same modder also created one for message boxes.

Immersive HUD

the best skyrim mods: immersive hud

You don't need your HUD onscreen all the time. This mod hides the crosshairs and status bars when you're not actively using them, such as outside combat. You can also toggle the compass and quest markers on and off with a keypress, and adjust their opacity.

HUD Clock

the best skyrim mods: hud clock

On the other hand, sometimes you want a little more info on-screen. This widget adds a clock to your screen—with several different elegant and unobtrusive faces you can choose through SkyUI's mod configuration menu—so you can keep track of the time and date. The Dovahkiin's got a smartwatch.

Textures & Lighting mods

Skyrim, frankly, wasn't really that fantastic looking to begin with, so there have naturally been a lot—a lot—of visual improvement mods over the years. Here's how to squeeze improved visuals out of the aging RPG.

Total Character Makeover 

the best skyrim mods: total character makeover

A compilation of existing changes to NPC appearances, the Total Character Makeover makes everyone in Skyrim look better without making them better-looking, if you catch our drift. No nudity, no anime hair, no glamazon makeup, just a suite of new textures and tweaks to everything from beards to vampire fangs. 

Enhanced Lights and FX

the best skyrim mods: enhanced lights and FX

You may have noticed some things in Skyrim that should be sources of light don't actually cast any, while in other places things are brightly lit for no real reason. Enhanced Lights and FX fixes that, making light shine where it should. There are options for just how dark you want interiors to be, and enabling those will mean torches and spells like candlelight are vital. It also makes some nice tweaks to the appearance of smoke.

2K Textures

the best skyrim mods: 2k textures

Does what it says: replaces Skyrim's textures: sky, water, architecture, clothing, clutter, reflections, and so on, of the cities, towns, dungeons, and landscapes. There's a full version if your PC can handle it, but there's also a lite version that should make things look nicer without killing your performance.

Climates of Tamriel

the best skyrim mods: climates of tamriel

This comprehensive mod adds hundreds of new weather systems, a huge library of new cloud systems, a new sun, improved lighting for both fans of a fantasy look and realistic visuals, and even audio improvements. With all of these systems combining, each day in Skyrim will feel different from the last.

Book of Silence

the best skyrim mods: book of silence

A pretty hefty collection of high-quality replacements for Skyrim textures, covering everything from equipment, landscapes, dungeons, and architecture. While they look much nicer, the textures are the same resolution as Bethesda's high-res DLC pack so it shouldn't slow you down.

Make sure you read the notes on the mod's page. There are hotfixes required to get everything working.

Static Mesh Improvement

the best skyrim mods: static mesh improvement

This mod edits a number of 3D models in the game, and with over 700 meshes placed in over 15,000 locations in the world, it's a welcome difference. You'll notice better looking architectural elements, furniture, objects in the landscape, and all sorts of other models that didn't get much attention from Bethesda.

Sounds of Skyrim

the best skyrim mods: sounds of skyrim

Get immersed in new audio: tons of it. Hundreds of new sounds effects are included to make dungeons and sewers spookier, enhance the wilderness and wildlife, and make cities and villages more lively and real. This mod is a treat for your ears, and has customizable modules for each type of area.

FXAA Injector

the best skyrim mods: fxaa injector

Enhances your graphics with FXAA and other post effects, such as sharpen and bloom, creating crisper visuals and more vibrant colors. Conveniently, you can adjust these settings while you play by alt-tabbing out and moving the sliders on the mod's desktop utility.

Skyrim Flora Overhaul

the best skyrim mods: skyrim flora overhaul

This mod comes in three different versions, depending on how drastically you want to change your game. All versions promise more luxurious trees and bark, taller grass, and prettier plant life. The heavier versions completely replace the trees altogether and give you lusher greens for a summery feel.

Realistic Water Two

the best skyrim mods: realistic water two

Realistic Water Two, drawing and expanding on the work of some earlier water mods, adds better ripples, larger splashes, re-textured foam and faster water flow in streams, bobbing chunks of ice, and even murky, stagnant-looking water in dungeons. It's the next best thing to getting wet.

True Vision ENB

the best skyrim mods: true vision ENB

If you're looking to get closer to reality with crisp visuals, this ENB configuration is one to try. With hyper-realistic color corrections, realistic specular highlights and reflections, improved spell effects, and tons of other adjustments, it makes Skyrim look like a real-world place.

Enhanced Camera

the best skyrim mods: enhanced camera

Remaining in first-person mode helps a game feel immersive, and this mod does that in spades. Not only can you look down and see your entire body while playing, but other activities such as crafting, cooking, riding horses and even riding dragons won't break you out of first-person mode.

Book Covers

the best skyrim players: book covers

It may not seem like that big of a deal, but these little high-res book covers do make for an extremely pleasant upgrade over the standard, muddily-textured ones. When you're relaxing at home or perusing (or robbing) a bookstore or library, make sure you've installed this lovely cover mod.

Hearthfire Dolls Are Ugly 

the best skyrim mods: hearthfire dolls are ugly

Because they are! What self-respecting parent wants to give their kid a dirty, beat-up naked doll? Instead, give them an actual cute dolly, or an adorable teddy bear in a variety of different colours.

Jump to page 2: Content mods

Table of contents

Page 1: Getting started – How to install mods, patches, interface, and textures
Page 2: Content mods quests, characters, creatures, and places
Page 3: Gameplay mods weapons, skills, systems, and tweaks

Head to page 2 for the best content mods for Skyrim.

These content mods for Skyrim can keep you playing for years. From the full-sized Enderal fan expansion to new cities and factions, there's so much you can add to the world of Skyrim. Get adventurin'.

Quests and Expansions

Enderal: The Shards of Order

the best skyrim mods: enderal: the shards of order

This total conversion mod creates an entirely new world, very nearly the size of Skyrim itself, and populates it with new dungeons, quests, monsters, and fully-voice NPCs. Some of Skyrim's systems have also been tweaked, there's a new custom story to enjoy, and a good 50+ hours of new adventures to be hard. You can read about the opening hours of Enderal here

The Forgotten City

the best skyrim mods: the forgotten city

This extensive mod not only gives you a new city to explore, but a murder mystery to solve, NPCs to interrogate, secrets to uncover, and, oh yeah, a chance to do some time travel. Voiced by over a dozen actors, this mod took years of development time and is recommended for characters over level five. We tried it out here. (The Forgotten City has also been made into a standalone game.) 

Moonpath to Elsewyr

the best skyrim mods: moonpath to elsewyr

For those who are sick of snowy mountains, Moonpath to Elsweyr offers two brand new environments: lush jungle and barren desert. This quest mod takes you to the Khajit homeland of Elsweyr, which you can travel across in your airship. Did I mention you get an airship? You get an airship. We spoke to its creator about making one of the first Skyrim quest mods

Vigilant

Vigilant is a four-part quest mod that adds some fitting Dark Souls flair to Tamriel. After getting stuck in Oblivion, you'll face off against otherworldly monsters and big, Souls-style bosses while exploring areas filled with special items and keys. Beyond that, the 'Anvil of Zenithar' allows players to craft their own wares after finishing objectives, besting bosses and reaching new areas. An additional mod gives Vigilant voice-acting too.

The same modder has also created a Bloodborne adventure called Glenmoril.

Wyrmstooth

Download on Nexus or Steam

Wyrmstooth adds a fully voiced new questline, set after the events of Skyrim's main story, in which the Dragonborn is hired to defeat a dragon that is harassing the ships of the East Empire Company. Your job is to assemble a team of mercenary companions and travel to the island of Wyrmstooth, which features a variety of side quests and a gigantic dungeon. It also has a new home—an Imperial fort that can be repaired and expanded—as well as an animal companion recruited via one of its 15 sidequests, new spells, a new dragon shout, and a puzzle that apparently involves possessing a draugr. 

Falskaar

the best skyrim mods: falskaar

Falksaar is a massive 'DLC sized' continent created by a young modder as an audition piece for Bethesda. The island itself is impressive, comparable in size and scope to Dragonborn's Solstheim, though a bit more linear. Still, the continent itself is well-worth exploring.

Legacy of the Dragonborn 

the best skyrim mods: legacy of the dragonborn

Legacy of the Dragonborn adds a gallery in Solitude where you can keep mementos of your time in Skyrim. It's a museum about you, with space for almost every unique item in the game. All those quest rewards and Daedric artifacts you went to so much trouble to earn but don't use can be displayed in a beautiful building with its own library, store room and more. The curator hands out quests to help fill it, there's an entire archeology system with its own perks, and Legacy is compatible with several major quest mods like Moonpath, Moon and Star, and Undeath so you can display items from those as well. The only downside is that it won't recognize items received before installing it, so it's worth starting a fresh save.  

Faction: Pit Fighter

the best skyrim mods: faction: pit fighter

Miss the arena? This quest mod adds a group of pit fighters you can join to the Gray Quarter of Windhelm, each of them voice-acted. The bouts take place in bespoke arenas outside the bounds of the map, and you can choose to fight one-on-one, against teams, or against wild animals. You'll have to wait between fights, so it's a good faction to visit in between other questlines. If you use the Open Cities mod download this version instead, and make sure to read the notes on that page to get the voices working.

The Paarthurnax Dilemma 

the best skyrim mods: the paarthurnax dilemma

Ever wanted to tell the Blades to get bent when they tell you to kill your dragon bro? Well, now you can! With this mod from Arthmoor, you now have the option to explain matters to the Blades and make them see reason (although you might have to get a bit forceful—darn).

Cutting Room Floor

the best skyrim mods: cutting room floor

Adds in a lot of content that Bethesda cut before release, including NPCs, dialogue, items, quests, and locations like villages, towers, farms, mills, and more. The mod author, Arthmoor, also organized and cleaned up the code so that everything would make sense and run smoothly. 

Heljarchen Farm

the best skyrim mods: heljarchen farm

Have a burning desire to beat Nazeem at his own career? This mod adds a Hearthfire-style farm to Skyrim. Check out the notices posted at some of the inns, buy the property, and rebuild the ruined farm in Dawnstar into a model of agriculture with livestock and several farm fields. You can even upgrade it to include a guardhouse and your own meadery.

Sea of Ghosts

the best skyrim mods: sea of ghosts

Ahoy, matey! Fancy yourself a ship captain? This mod lets you acquire a ship, hire a crew, and set sail for a number of quests on the Sea of Ghosts. There are seven quests scattered over a number of new islands, and the mod features professional voice acting to boot.

Enhanced Skyrim Factions – The Companions

the best skyrim mods: enhanced skyrim factions - the companions

Ever thought it was pretty stupid that you got into the Circle after only doing a few minor quests, or that you were railroaded into becoming a werewolf? With this mod, you get a lot more quests, becoming a werewolf is your choice, and you can battle the Silver Hand with members other than Farkas or Aela.

Undeath

the best skyrim mods: undeath

As the saying goes: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Alternately, you can beat 'em and join 'em. I'm talking about necromancers, in this case. Undeath is a custom quest in which you're tasked with wiping out an evil cabal of necromancers, with the twist that you can choose to continue their dark unholy work. You can even perform a ritual that will allow you to become a powerful Lich and command an army of the undead. It's meant for players over level 30. We covered it here.

Moon and Star

the best skyrim mods: moon and star

A dangerous criminal from Morrowind has arrived in Skyrim, and your quest to track him down will take you to a new town and an inventive, puzzle-filled dungeon, introduce you to several new NPCs including merchants and traders, and outfit you with new weapons and spells.

Helgen Reborn

the best skyrim mods: helgen reborn

A huge and fantastic quest mod that centres around rebuilding and ruling the town of Helgen, also known as “that place that got burnt down at the start of the game.” Following the quest will lead you to creating a ragtag bunch of misfits to act as the town guard, while the city itself slowly expands around you.

You also wind up with the coolest player home ever designed: read our article about it.

Descent into Madness

the best skyrim mods: descent into madness

Descent into Madness was one of the highlights of Richard Cobbett's Week of Madness diary. Take a nap in your bed in Breezehome and you'll be transported into the realm of Sheogorath, where two nations called Madness and Dementia are engaged in an eternal clash of the crazies. Each side offers a different, hour-long questline full of puzzles and riddles, all set within a bizarre, dreamlike landscape.

The Notice Board

the best skyrim mods: the notice board

Taking a page from The Witcher, this mod adds a notice board outside inns in every city in Skyrim. There you can collect radiant missions, some to gather materials or ingredients, some to fetch a specific item, others to hunt down bandits for a bounty or rescue a citizen. It's a good way to keep yourself busy when you're not saving the world.

Alternate Start – Live Another Life

the best skyrim mods: alternate start

If you want to begin a new game of Skyrim as someone other than the Dragonborn, this is one of several mods that give you a fresh start. Skip the opening sequence and begin life as someone arriving by boat, locked in a jail cell, a visitor at an inn, an outlaw in the wilderness, and many more.

New Beginnings

the best skyrim mods: new beginnings

Looking for more ways to start a new playthrough? This mod expands on the original Live Another Life by Arthmoor with over a dozen new beginnings, including the option to start as a vampire, a werewolf, or even a skooma addict.  And just like the original mod, there’s a good mix of safe options along with those that are downright deadly. 

Skyrim Unbound

the best skyrim mods: skyrim unbound

Another great mod that lets you begin a new game as a random, no-name adventurer. You can quickly choose your starting gear and pick your arrival spot from dozens of different camps, inns. You can toggle dragons off completely and participate in the civil war despite not being the Dragonborn. You can even choose to begin as a vampire or werewolf. Our coverage is here.

Companions and NPCs

Inigo

the best skyrim mods: inigo

Maybe you don't think a blue Khajiit who follows you around commenting on everything and being sarcastic about Lydia is what Skyrim needs, but trust us on this. Inigo is a follower with tons of dialogue, some tied to his own questline and more that crops up at appropriate times depending on the location you're at. He can be told where to go and what to do by whistling, and will follow you even if you've got an existing companion, chatting away with them thanks to skilfully repurposed voice lines. 

Vilja in Skyrim

the best skyrim mods: vilja in skyrim

A sequel to a much-loved Oblivion mod (which Terry Pratchett contributed to), Vilja in Skyrim adds the great-granddaughter of the original Vilja as a follower. She's an alchemist with her own questline to follow and a unique system to give her orders, essentially spells bound to hotkeys that can be used to co-ordinate attacks. Like Inigo she doesn't count toward your follower limit, and if introduced to each other Inigo and Vilja will even chat amongst themselves. 

Citizens of Tamriel

Citizens of Tamriel adds new NPCs to Skyrim with some much-needed personality. Skyrim's larger characters have interesting things to say but average folks? Not so much. Citizens of Tamriel is a fully voice acted mod that adds new minor characters with personalities and branching conversations that go beyond simple quest directives or one-liners.

Immersive Citizens – AI Overhaul

the best skyrim mods: immersive citizens

This AI overhaul makes citizen react more sensibly to attacks, running away to secure locations when dragons or the like attack their settlements. It also changes the way combatants act, with some sensibly backing off to regroup at low health or making judgements about whether an opponent's worth taking on based on their level and equipment. Also makes changes to NPC schedules, their responses to weather conditions and more, making all Skyrim's citizens behave more believably.

Guard Dialogue Overhaul

the best skyrim mods: guard dialogue overhaul

Guards in Skyrim are total arseholes. They constantly belittle you, even when you've saved the world several times over. This mod helps fix that. As you climb the ladder of respectability, more common phrases (arrow to the knee, etc.) will become less common and they'll start being more respectful.

Interesting NPCs

the best skyrim mods: interesting npcs

If you'd like your companions to be a bit more fun to have around, this mod adds a ton of new followers with custom voices and tons of location-based commentary, their own quest lines, and some interesting and unique appearances. If you find one you particularly like, great news—you can marry them.

Diverse Guards

the best skyrim mods: diverse guards

Ever noticed that Skyrim's Imperial army is a no-girls-allowed club? Oh sure, there are female named characters like Legate Rikke, but the actual rank and file soldiers, with the exception of Windhelm and Riften, are always male. This mod edits the list of models that town guards and Imperial soldiers are randomly drawn from, adding some women into the mix, and also adds in several different faces for the male guards.

Immersive Patrols

the best skyrim mods: immersive patrols

Immersive Patrols creates a series of patrols for Skyrim's different factions: Stormcloak, Imperial, Thalmor, Dawnguard, Bandits, and so on. Occasionally these routes intersect, resulting in two opposed factions fighting to the death. Imperials and Stormcloaks regularly clash at designated warzones, with the survivors either reinforcing or taking control of the nearest fort. It adds a tremendous amount of life to Skyrim's conflict, and generates far more of those emergent clashes we all love to watch.

Amazing Follower Tweaks

the best skyrim mods: amazing follower tweaks

Want multiple followers? Want to micromanage them, pick their outfits, tell them which spells to use, how to fight, where to live, and how to level up? This mod allows that, and more, including making them smart enough to avoid traps, ignore friendly fire, and ride horses.

Travelers of Skyrim

the best skyrim mods: travelers of skryim

The roads of Skyrim are typically pretty empty, except for you and the occasional bandit who is forced to make his living trying to rob you since you're the only person on the roads of Skyrim. This mod adds dozens of fellow travelers who move between the cities and towns. Now you'll encounter traveling merchants, alchemists, mercenaries, and mages when you hit the road.

Cats of the Jarls

Cats of the Jarls

(Image credit: gg77, Bethesda)

Download on Steam or Nexus

The Jarls all have cats. The cats all have little outfits. Is it lore-friendly? Heck, who cares? I mean, look at the little boots. You might want to go with the version without purring because these little house cats can start sounding like a parade of classic cars if you listen long enough. If you don't want cats for Jarls, perhaps you just want the Creatures of Nirn – Khajit Alfiq mod that it's based off of, which adds the tiny Khajiit species to they game. Remember, they do not like being mistaken for house cats.

Locations

Airship Dev Aveza

the best skyrim mods: airship dev aveza

Want your own flying ship? Yeah, course you do. This takes the airship model from the Moonpath to Elsweyr quest mod and combines it with the interactions from a separate skyship mod to make the best flying fantasy you'll get. The Dev Aveza is docked behind Solitude, and once it's yours can be flown all over the map. It's a much easier way to get to the top of the Throat of the World than walking, and it's got room on board for all your belongings.

The Great City of Winterhold

The Great City of Winterhold

(Image credit: Bethesda, soldierofwar)

Winterhold used to be the capital of Skyrim, but it sure doesn't look like it when you show up. This mod solves that problem, adding in the remnants of a once great city with walls and ruins that really show its history. The same modder has overhauled other Skyrim cities like Dragonbridge and even Solitude.

Legendary Cities

the best skyrim mods: legendary cities

This mod adds ten new cities to Skyrim, all drawn from The Elder Scrolls: Arena, like Amol, Black Moor, Granite Hall, and others. Respectful of game lore, the cities have been added as close to their original locations as possible, and fit in with Skyrim's aesthetic nicely. They've even been populated with NPCs. We explored it here.

Hidden Hideouts of Skyrim

the best skyrim mods: hidden hideouts of skyrim

Puts a ton of hidden shelters in the game, dotted all over the landscape. They're great fun to stumble upon and perfect for outlaws to stash their stuff or just disappear from the law. The mod is customizable depending on how easily players want to find these places (you can turn map markers off).

Ranger Cabins and Corners of Skyrim

the best skyrim mods: ranger cabins and corners of skyrim

These mods work together to enhance a survival playthrough. The first puts a hunter cabin in each Hold, which can be used as a basic starting player home. Also includes some lore-friendly weapons and arrows for ranger characters, including a “secret stash” of better weapons out in the woods of Falkreath. Corners of Skyrim puts even smaller shelters in the game, great as emergency shelters that offer a few basic necessities. They both feature creative architecture and are lore-friendly. Player can decide if they want to see NPCs living in the shelters or not.  

Creatures & Enemies

Really Useful Dragons and Macho Dragons

the best skyrim mods: really useful dragons, macho dragons

You've got two options for replacing Skyrim's dragons with something goofy-looking. The “Really Useful Dragons mod” adds Thomas the Tank Engine, who seems to make it into even more games via mods than Shrek these days, and Macho Dragons turns them into 'Macho Man' Randy Savage. Both are hilarious and creepy in their own way. Note that the first actually adds a variety of characters from Thomas the Tank Engine, if that's a selling point for you.

No Spiders and Insects Begone

the best skyrim mods: no spiders, insects be gone

Arachnophobes might appreciate the mod that replaces the spider textures with Spider-Man, although it still looks freaky as all get-out to me. Insects Begone is a more lore-friendly attempt at getting rid of the bugs, swapping spiders for bears and chaurus for skeevers as well as deleting spiderwebs and other arachnid clutter.

Enhanced Mighty Dragons Reborn

the best skyrim mods: enhanced mighty dragons reborn

Guess what? You're not the only one who can shout, Dragonborn. This mod gives dragons a whole new toolbox of spells and shouts, new abilities like disarming attacks and the power to summon animals or other monsters. One can raise the dead, another can't fly—it's a skeleton—but uses deadly physical attacks. It's completely customizable as well, in terms of difficulty, frequency, and loot. We tried out these new dragons here.

Automatic Variants

the best skyrim mods: automatic variants

There are a lot of excellent retexture mods available for Skyrim, but the sad thing is that you can only ever use one at a time. Automatic Variants exists to correct that problem. It allows Skyrim to randomly choose different skins from a pool of variants. Pick a bunch you like, and the mod will distribute those textures for you in the game.

Bellyache's Animal and Creature Pack

the best skyrim mods: bellyache's animal and creature pack

While it doesn't add new species, this mod does add around 100 recolored or touched-up textures for Skyrim's animals, everything from goats to bears to werewolves to the oft-discussed mudcrabs. You can choose from high or medium resolutions.

Immersive Creatures

the best skyrim mods: immersive creatures

If you're tired of fighting vanilla creatures and don't mind digressing from the lore, check out Immersive Creatures. A huge collection of modders contributed to assemble an astonishing 2,500+ new creatures to populate Skyrim. From goblins to crocodile demons to dragon-people—and even a mechanical dragon.

High Level Enemies

the best skyrim mods: high level enemies

Play Skyrim long enough and you'll notice that the difficulty drops off sharply at later levels. The problem is that a lot of standard enemy types don't have high level variants. The toughest Bandit, for example, is level 25, not much of a challenge when your Dovakhin gets past level 30. High Level Enemies contains hundreds of new enemy types, ensuring that basic enemies remain a challenge well into the endgame.

Realistic Animals and Predators

the best skyrim mods: realistic animals and predators

Animals have been revamped with better AI and more realistic behavior. Bears will hibernate in winter, animals will travel to water to drink each day, and predators not only hunt but whatever they consume will remain in their inventory (belly) for a while. Instead of always attacking, they may flee, or simply just watch you. Plus, you won't just see full-grown animals but also their young following them around.

Jump to page 3: Gameplay mods

Table of Contents

Page 1: Getting started How to install mods, patches, interface, and textures
Page 2: Content mods – quests, characters, creatures, and places
Page 3: Gameplay mods weapons, skills, systems, and tweaks

Head to page 3 for the best gameplay mods for Skyrim.

Some of these Skyrim mods overhaul and add to the game's item pool, while others add entirely new systems and ways to play. Want to go fishing? Become the king of Skyrim? Turn Skyrim into a survival game? It's all here.

Weapons & Equipment

Cloaks of Skyrim 

the best skyrim mods: cloaks of skyrim

It's not real fantasy if people aren't wearing big flappy cloaks. Cloaks of Skyrim populates the world with a variety of new capes and cloaks, automatically adding them to the inventories of random guards and bandits and so on, which makes them look much more impressive. And then you can loot those impressive cloaks off their corpses. It's worth adding 360 Walk and Run Plus as well, which prevents some of the clipping issues that otherwise ruin the effect. There's nothing to be done about Argonian and Khajiit tails, however, so this mod simply removes them when cloaks are worn.

Fall of the Space Core 

the best skyrim mods: fall of the space core

A collaboration between Valve and Bethesda to celebrate the opening of the Skyrim Steam Workshop, this mod adds the space core from Portal 2. Yeah, the little guy who is obsessed with space. He falls to earth when you're near Whiterun and can be picked up, then crafted into armor. Make sure to keep an eye on your skills screen for another effect added by this mod.

The Dance of Death and VioLens 

Bethesda left several unassigned kill moves lurking in Skyrim's code when the game was released, including some very cool shield bash kills. The Dance of Death re-enables them and re-organises all kill moves so that they're gradually unlocked as you earn perks. It also includes a full menu that lets you control the rate of kill moves. Alternatively there's VioLens — A Killmove Mod, which features much of the same functionality but also works for ranged attacks. 

Immersive Animations

the best skyrim mods: immersive animations

Immersive Animations adds dozens of little touch-ups to Skyrim's existing animations, plus a few nifty new ones. It's also compatible with Dual Sheath Redux, allowing for all sorts of nice animations for having your shield on your back, or sheathing two weapons at once.

Zim's Immersive Artifacts

the best skyrim mods: zim's immersive artifacts

Makes lore-friendly and balanced changes to many unique items in the game, including Auriel's Bow, the Gauldur Amulet, Harkon's Sword, the Jagged Crown, and plenty more, including artifacts from the Dawnguard and Dragonborn expansions. There are lots of customization options for the player in case they don't want all the items affected.

Immersive Weapons

the best skyrim mods: immersive weapons

This mod provides a hefty selection of new weapons that fit in nicely with the existing look and feel of Skyrim. You'll find axes, daggers, maces, and any number of new swords, all beautifully designed and textured and suitable for veteran characters and those just starting out.

YY Anim Replacer — Zweihander

the best skyrim mods: yy anim replacer - zweihander

Zweihander is a set of new animations for two handed weapons in Skyrim. The big selling point is the idle animation, which sees you resting your sword/axe/hammer on your shoulder. There's lots more than that though, with animations for running, turning and even a leaping overhead strike included. It's all customizable too, so you can mix and match new and old animations.

Belt Fastened Quivers

the best skyrim mods: belt fastened quivers

Belt Fastened Quivers moves all arrow quivers from the back, where they often clip through things like backpacks or cloaks, down to the waist, adding new animations for the new position. It was originally made as part of Frostfall, so if you're using that, you don't need the standalone mod. If you aren't, however, it's still well worth getting just to stop your arrows from clipping through the items from Immersive Amours and Wet and Cold.

Immersive Armors

the best skyrim mods: immersive armour

This mod brings you a huge collection of great-looking lore-friendly armor. And it's not just for you, either: the armors are assigned to various NPCs and randomized loot lists throughout the game. You can even turn individual armors on and off through SkyUI's configuration menu, giving you full control over what items actually appear in your game.

Warmonger Armory

the best skyrim mods: warmonger armory

Warmonger Armory is another compilation mod. It adds a ton of great looking new armor, clothing and weapons to the game, including some using DLC equipment. Once again these items are carefully distributed around the world, given to specific NPCs, and added to randomized equipment lists.

Unique Uniques

the best skyrim mods: unique uniques

Skyrim is full of unique items with fascinating lore behind them, but unfortunately very few of them have the looks to go with their backstory. InsanitySorrow's Unique Uniques adds new textures and meshes for several of the game's unique weapons, giving you a great excuse to bust out Dragonbane again.

Project Flintlock

the best skyrim mods: project flintlock

A lot of games have been called “Skyrim with guns” but now Skyrim fits that description too, thanks to this mod that lets you carry a blunderbuss, a flintlock rifle, and a grenade launcher. With custom sounds and bayonets, it's time to introduce those primitive Skyrim screwheads to your boomstick. We tried it out here.

New Systems

Fishing in Skyrim

the best skyrim mods: fishing in skyrim

A great addition to survival playthroughs. No more fishing with your bare hands! Adds fishing poles, fishing nets, a bait mechanic, spellbooks, and the explosive “Dwarven boomfishing” ability. You can also fish up new and exciting junk, some of which you can sell off for extra gold.

Religion – Prayer Meditation Workshop

the best skyrim mods: religion - prayer meditation workshop

For immersive roleplayers, religion in Skyrim may feel a bit lackluster. This mod makes several significant changes, including the ability to build an actual relationship with one of the Divines (or with a Daedra). You can expect blessings or curses depending on your character’s actions, and praying at a shrine may gain you divine favor. You can also meditate for inner strength if you’d rather not deal with a deity. 

Moonlight Tales

the best skyrim mods: moonlight tales

Being a lycanthrope is so much better with this mod, which features new music, over 200 new beast skins, new enemies, and lots of customization through MCM. Also, who doesn't want to try being a werebear?

Perseid's Inns and Taverns

the best skyrim mods: perseid's inns and taverns

Wandering into a tavern or inn on a cold and blustery night isn't the experience it really should be, and this mod makes inns a bit more realistic. Room rates widely vary, you can arrange for an extended say, and you can even arrange lodging for your followers so they're not just standing next to your bed all night while you sleep.

Become High King of Skyrim

the best skyrim mods: high king of skyrim

With great power comes great responsibility. But what about great rewards? With all of your accomplishments and deadly abilities, it would make sense for you to become King of Skyrim, don't you think? Move into a huge castle, have your own army follow you everywhere, and throw citizens in prison or have them beheaded. It's good to be the king.

Tame the Beasts of Skyrim 2

the best skyrim mods: tame the beasts of skyrim 2

You don't just have to slaughter every creature in Skyrim: you can also tame them, keep them on a farm, and have them accompany you on quests. Whether you want a pet mammoth or a pet chicken, this mod will allow you to assemble an impressive bestiary of loyal creatures. You can even breed them to create more powerful animals. Here's our write-up.

Alchemy and Cooking Overhaul

the best skyrim mods: alechemy and cooking overhaul

Spice up cooking and alchemy with this expansive mod that adds dozens of new ingredients, recipes, and effects. Portable alchemy stations mean you can craft on the go, potions can be sorted from weakest to strongest, and you'll even be able to cook up alchemical bombs to hurl at your enemies—even while on horseback.

Survival & Immersion

Frostfall

the best skyrim mods: frostfall

It's cold in Skyrim, and Frostfall lets you really feel it. An immersive survival system tracks weather, climate, time of day, and even the type of clothing you're wearing to determine how cold you are. It also allows you to gain experience in terms of camping and endurance skill, and a new ability helps you find the creatures and items you'll need to survive.

Realistic Needs and Diseases

the best skyrim mods: realistic needs and diseases

In Skyrim you may contract a disease or two from time to time, but they're typically unchanging and you can deal with them at your leisure. This mod makes diseases progressive, meaning they get worse and worse until they're cured, though there's also a chance your might fight off the infection with bed rest. Hunger and thirst also have stages of severity, food can spoil, and getting enough sleep is important. It's entirely customizable as well.

Wet and Cold

the best skyrim mods: wet and cold

You're not the only one dealing with the harsh elements in Skyrim. Using this mod, NPCs will bundle up in the cold, move inside if its raining, and do their best to avoid blizzards. The mod also adds effects like wet-sounding footsteps, visible vapor from your breath when it's chilly, and reduced movement speed in heavy snow and strong wind.

Hunterborn

the best skyrim mods: hunterborn

This mod provides a more immersive experience for hunters. No longer do you simply yank loot or food out an animal's inventory, you can now dress the carcass, skin it, and butcher it. You can even carry the entire animal back to your camp or to a vendor. The mod comes with hunting knives, dozens of new ingredients that can be harvested, and new recipes.

Campfire

the best skyrim mods: campfire

Intending to make outdoor living a robust experience, this mod lets you build several different kinds of fires, from a weak and flickering fire to a roaring blaze suitable for cooking. You can also buy or craft camping gear like tents and tanning racks, and backpacks that display your various cooking pots and waterskins. If you're married, your spouse can camp with you. Here's our piece about it.

Skills & Abilities

Immersive College of Winterhold

the best skyrim mods: immersive college of winterhold

Ever thought the College of Winterhold should better resemble an institution of higher learning? This mod adds awesome visuals, ongoing experiments, the ability to specialize in certain schools of magic, and even an option to refuse the title of Arch-Mage (and give it to Tolfdir instead). Custom options in MCM. 

Individualize Shout Cooldowns

the best skyrim mods: individualize shout cooldowns

Another simple mod that just makes sense. This mod gives a separate cooldown for each Shout, allowing the player to use several Shouts at the same time. It also adds SkyUI-type Active Effects so that you can see how many Shouts are active. The actual time for the cooldowns has not been adjusted from vanilla, and no Shouts have been altered. 

Perkus Maximus

the best skyrim mods: perkus maximus

Some of Skyrim's perks and skills are a wee bit drab. Enchantment, for example, is a useful skill but isn't much fun to put points into simply because most of its perks are simple increases in enhancement strength. Perkus Maximus overhauls a number of systems, keeping passive effects but adding powerful and interesting active effects as well. We covered this mod here.

Duel: Combat Realism

the best skyrim mods: duel: combat realism

So long, hack-and-slash combat: you're going to need to be far more careful tackling foes to-to-toe. This functions due to some changes to AI and especially damage: getting hit with a sword or an axe is something you can't just shrug off anymore. As a result, combat is more tense, takes more patience, and is considerably more challenging.

Apocalypse—Magic of Skyrim

the best skyrim mods: apocalypse - magic of skyrim

Apocalypse adds 140 new spells to Skyrim, most of them pretty well balanced. These aren't just 'spray lightning/fire/cold until someone dies' spells either. There's a whole variety of cool summons, disabling effects, and unusual attacks available.

Arcanum

Skyrim mod - Arcanum

(Image credit: Bethesda, modded by Kosorsomesaykosm)

Arcanum is another enormous quest mod that adds over 100 spells inspired by all sorts of fantasy settings. It includes spells from schools of Destruction, Restoration, Illusion, and Conjuration. When you're feeling experimental, you can also use its spell crafting system to throw together spell effects and visual effects to make your own combinations.

Way of the Monk

the best skyrim mods: way of the monk

You probably don't spend much time fighting unarmed: it's just not that much fun. Way of the Monk fixes this by giving you more combat options when taking on the world fist-first. There are new skills, perks, spiked gloves, and ways to enchant your fists to do different types of magic damage.

Sneak Tools

the best skyrim mods: sneak tools

There should be more to stealth than just being invisible and gaining surprise damage bonuses. Now you can be a genuine slippery, filthy, sneaky type. Slit the throats of the unaware. Knock people unconscious from behind. Wear masks that hide your identity. Douse torches and lanterns to move through the shadows. Add an arsenal of trick arrows, including one that launches ropes that allows you to climb walls.

Thunderchild

the best skyrim mods: thunderchild

Skyrim's Dragon shouts are cool. Much cooler than regular magic. The best fighter/mage in Skyrim is frequently just an ordinary fighter who yells a lot. Thunderchild expands the Dovakhin's magic vocals with a bunch of cool new shouts. Yell until you teleport, shout ghosts into existence, holler until the earth quakes or just scream so hard you open up a black hole.

Gifts of the Outsider

the best skyrim mods: gifts of the outsider

Bring a little Dishonored into Skyrim. Some of the powers like Blink, Possession, Devouring Swarm, Wind Blast, and Void Gaze are at your disposal once your read a mysterious book, meet the mysterious Outsider, and visit a series of shrines.

Ish's Souls to Perks

the best skyrim mods: ish's souls to perks

How many spare dragon souls have you got? If you've been playing a while, probably tons. Now you can put your spare souls to use. This mod adds a Dragon Stone (look for it near the Guardian Stones) where you can exchange souls (the amount is configurable) for perks.

Imperial Mail 

the best skyrim mods: imperial mail

Post offices may not sound like an exciting addition to Skyrim, but Imperial Mail adds a heck of a lot of convenience. Once you open an account at either the central office in Solitude or any of the marked taverns, you can forward equipment between them for a fee—meaning you can send a bunch of heavy gear back home after a quest, then carry on. There are also quests on offer if you want to help the Imperial Mail out by delivering messages, and it's compatible with Legacy of the Dragbonborn so you can send items direct to the gallery.

Convenient Tweaks

Project Proteus

(Image credit: Bethesda / Phenderix)

While you could switch to another savegame to play your Khajiit archer for a while, Project Proteus lets you import your characters into an existing world state—meaning you can switch to a character with their own items, skills, and spells, but keep your current quest progression. NPCs who have died remain dead, items left in storage can be retrieved, and so on. It also lets you edit NPCs and items, even the weather. Some of what Project Proteus makes possible is already doable with Skyrim's console commands and existing mods, but this brings it all together in a single pop-up menu. 

No NPC Greetings

Sick of NPCs repeating the same catchphrase from across the street every time they see you? Sick of guards commenting on your best skills, which they somehow know all about just by looking at you—even Sneak? This mod has a few options for fixing the issue, whether you want to reduce the distance these barks trigger at, or get rid of them altogether.

Simply Knock

the best skyrim mods: simply knock

One of those small mods that just makes sense. Created by Chesko, author of Frostfall, this mod gives players the ability to knock on locked doors instead of having to break and enter. Someone might answer the door, or you can convince them to open up with your Speech skills. Customize options through MCM. 

Convenient Horses

the best skyrim mods: convenient horses

Basically, it makes horses a million times better. Your followers can ride them, and fight while riding. You can conduct conversations and loot while on horseback. There are a variety of new saddles and armor types. Dismounting is quicker and automatically draws your weapon. You can auto-mount horses when they're called, and even dictate their AI in combat.

Unread Books Glow 

the best skyrim mods: unread books glow

Want to know which skill books you haven't read? Now they glow bright red. Spell tomes are green until you've learned their spells, and other books are different shades of blue depending on whether they trigger quests or not. The other advantage of this mod is that you can tell which books you need for that completionist library you're putting together at a glance.

Honed Metal

the best skyrim mods: honed metal

Does your character have better things to do than learn smithing, or are they opposed to getting their hands dirty like a common peasant? With this mod, you can simply hire blacksmiths to craft, temper, and hone your gear for you. It's a fantastic gold dump, as they'll automatically craft everything to the very best of their ability and charge you for it. Also different blacksmiths have different skills—the smith in Solitude can craft up to Legendary, but not so much the smith in Riverwood. Eorlund Gray-Mane is basically a smithing god. MCM supported with lots of customization options.  

Wearable Lanterns

the best skyrim mods: wearable lanterns

If you're using some of the lighting mods you'll notice that nighttime in Skyrim has gotten much darker. Spells and torches can help, but warriors who want to use their off-hand are out of luck. Chesko's Wearable Lantern mod sorts out this problem, letting you clip a light source to your belt, front or rear. Companions can also carry the lanterns, and will automatically douse them when you enter sneak mode.

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Table of Contents

Page 1: Getting started How to install mods, patches, interface, and textures
Page 2: Content mods quests, characters, creatures, and places
Page 3: Gameplay mods – weapons, skills, systems, and tweaks

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