Starting Skyrim for the first time can be somewhat intimidating. Even if you’re on your third or even fourth playthrough by the time Skyrim Nintendo Switch is out, sometimes it’s nice to pick and choose which quests are worth your time. To streamline your playthrough and make sure you get the best range of story Skyrim has on offer, I’ve hunted down the best quests for those of you who want to sample some tales that’ll take you on a trip along the entire emotional spectrum. All while you can see dragons gliding through the sky. What more could you want?
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A Night to Remember
How to trigger it: Get to level 14, then search the inns for Sam Guevenne
It’s The Hangover in quest format. That’s really all you need to know. You’ll meet the ale-loving mage in various inns around Skyrim, bent over his tankard and hellbent on getting into a drinking competition with you. It’s tempting to ignore him - you have bigger problems on your plate after all, like y’know, the destruction of humankind by an apocalyptic dragon - but indulge him. Once you’ve supped your fill, you’ll wake up in the temple of Dibella faced with certain accusations about your raucous behaviour. Tut tut tut. Simply follow the trail of clues to its conclusion to experience one of Skyrim’s funniest quests!
Dark Brotherhood main questline
How to trigger it: Find Aventus Aretino in Windhelm, then join the Dark Brotherhood (duh)
The Dark Brotherhood never does things by halves (they are dedicated to assassination, after all), and their main quest is no different. As you go up the ranks in the shady guild, deviously intriguing scenarios arise as you get tangled in both national politics and the delicate hierarchy of the Brotherhood. It’s got a depth to it that’s largely absent from the rest of the game, and you’ll come to genuinely care for the killers you associate with. With a conclusion to make you experience some extreme emotions - no spoilers here - it’s not one you’re going to forget in a hurry. Hail Sithis!
Blood on the Ice
How to trigger it: Travel to Windhelm and explore the graveyard between 7pm and 6am. You’ll find a group of people crowded around a corpse - talk to them
For those who have always wanted to be a detective, this quest will delight you. Well, if you love the sight of an innocent being murdered and their body left on nothing less than a grave. Morbid enough for you? Blood on the Ice is a proper whodunnit, with you as the detective. Hunting down leads and finding evidence is thrilling, and makes me wonder why there’s not more quests like it in Skyrim. Sneaking, charisma, a bit of good old-fashioned deduction: this quest uses a wide variety of both in-game skills and real life ones. So get that magnifying glass ready...
The Mind of Madness
How to trigger it: Go to the Winking Skeever in Solitude and listen to the rumour about the man wandering Solitude’s streets
Time to delve into the history of Tamriel’s emperors - but this lesson isn’t going to be nearly as boring as your schooldays. Instead once you talk to a rather confused man wandering the streets, you’ll be pulled into an almost combat-free quest that’ll take you places you have never visited before. That much I can guarantee. As well as a chance to meet a Daedric Prince in the flesh, this quest proves how creative the minds behind Skyrim can be when they’re given free reign, as you’ll have to experiment with some new rules and challenge your problem-solving abilities.
How to trigger it: Travel to the Frostflow Lighthouse, on the coast east of Dawnstar
Like Blood on the Ice, this quest is a bit of a mystery. Throw in a shocking scene in the lighthouse plus journals with increasingly chilling entries and you get Frostflow Abyss. Entering the lighthouse for the first time is a disturbing experience, and it doesn’t let up even when you’ve got some answers. Shudder. Beware, though: if you’re low-level you might want to wait before trying this quest, as the enemies in question don’t hold back. You’ll be delving deep into the earth too, so stock up on potions before entering Frostflow Lighthouse or you might end up regretting it.
Laid to Rest
How to trigger it: Travel to Morthal and speak to the innkeep about the house that burned down recently
A burned-down house. A dead child. And enough chills to last you a lifetime. That’s Laid to Rest summed up, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s the saddest quest in Skyrim. Talking to the townspeople about the shock they got from the house burning down is just the start, and you’ll get the usual smalltown gossip that’s often prevalent in real life too. But that’s where the similarities end, as the intrigue, horror, and devastation that come from the quest’s revelations are the stuff of nightmares.
Forgetting about Fjola
How to trigger it: Go to Mistwatch Fort, found between Eastmarch and the Rift, and enter the North tower, where you’ll run into Christer
After some twists and turns? Then Forgetting about Fjola is for you. What starts as the usual quest to clear a fort of bandits turns into a search and rescue mission, but I’m betting that you won’t be able to predict where it’s going. Look at Forgetting about Fjola through a certain lens and it’s a tale of empowerment, but however you think of it there’s the opportunity to fill bandits with a ton of arrows and dabble in a couple’s relationship. Don’t worry, though - this is no matchmaker quest. Cupid doesn’t exist in the Elder Scrolls...yet.