It's been around for the best part of a decade, so to inject some life into Bethesda's fantasy epic, you need to download some of the best Skyrim mods. The Elder Scrolls Skyrim hasn't aged particularly well, but you can transform it into a stellar RPG with these best Skyrim mods, from graphic enhancements and quality of life improvements to huge new quest lines and even brand new companions. In our list of the best Skyrim mods below, we've listed what platform each mod is available on, along with a respective link to either the NexusMods page for PC or the Bethesda mod site for console.
- Looking for help with the best Skyrim mods on consoles? Here's How to install Skyrim Special Edition mods on PS4 and Xbox One
- Also check out our picks for the best MMORPGs to play right now, including Elder Scrolls Online
- If you're playing on Xbox, don't miss our best Xbox One accessories roundup
Elder Scrolls 6: release date, trailer, news, and everything else we know
Those of you who have finished Skyrim should head immediately to Falskaar. Considering it's the size of a DLC and that it landed its creator a job at Bungie, the fact that it's on this list shouldn't be that surprising. As the harbinger of an ancient prophecy (minus any special powers), you have to bring peace back to Falskaar - but nothing is ever as simple as it seems...
This is the best story mod out there, in my honest opinion. Stuck in an underground town overseen by old automated Dwemer moral police system, you just have to find a way out. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Oh, just you wait...
The Dwemer don't really get enough time dedicated to them in Skyrim, despite being the most enigmatic race to ever grace Nirn. Yet this strange mansion you stumble upon is run by two of their contraptions...and their master is missing. Guess you'd better find out what's gone on!
Moonpath to Elsweyr
Moonpath to Elsweyr connects Skyrim to the vast deserts of the feline Khajiit. Here, you can bask under azure skies and hunt ferocious raptors in wild tangles of bush and jungle. This was actually one of the first quest mods ever made for Skyrim, but has recently started receiving regular updates again, making it one of the best mods around at the moment.
Do you remember the days you spent wandering around Bruma back when Mehrunes Dagon threatened to destroy Tamriel in Oblivion? Well, now you can go back to Bruma from Skyrim. With over 70 residents, Bruma looks better and feels more alive than ever before.
Markers: No more wandering aimlessly
The bloody Stones of Barenziah. This quest sat in my tray for the time it took me to complete all the major quests and a chunk of the sidequests, and I had only found about six. This mod is essential if you want to get all of the stones and find out what mysterious item they make in the end.
I was running around the hellish Soul Cairn in circles for a good hour trying to find all of the pages to Jiub’s opus, and this mod cut that time down to about ten minutes. Completely worth it.
Travelling around Skyrim
My god, I cannot emphasise enough how much better this mod made Skyrim. If you’re like me and you don’t like to fast-travel the vanilla map, whilst pretty, is almost useless when you’re trying to find a road which will take you from Riften to Solitude. This mod overhauls the map so it’s easy to find routes between cities and picks out most of the paths you could easily miss otherwise.
As soon as you unlock your dragonborn blood, appearances of these winged reptiles will start becoming as regular as rain. So why not spice up the sight of them appearing on the horizon with this mod, which introduces 28 news dragons, each with a different model and texture. As well as the typical frost and fire breath, some even have a drain vitality attack, and thanks to their unmistakable appearances you'll be able to tell which one is swooping towards you on the horizon. Gnarly.
A small addition but one that makes a bucketload of difference: makes you look wet in rain, and frost tints you body when you’re walking through a blizzard.
Note: The PC link leads to the 'Wet and Cold' mod, which has a very similar effect.
Among other things, this equine mod has a new horse AI so your mount will flee combat, more stamina (so more galloping), invulnerability (especially useful for me as I tend to Leeroy Jenkins in every fight), plus they’re faster.
Note: The PC link leads to the Bethesda.net website, as the NexusMods file is no longer supported.
This means that you don’t have to endure loading screens when you enter cities, which makes for a beautifully seamless transition between shooting deer in the wilds and selling your haul from raiding dungeons to merchants.
For those bloodsuckers amongst you this mod is sure to be a favourite, as it turns Castle Volkihar into a small town, finally making it feel like you’re really part of the night-walking, bat-loving elite.
Note: The PC link leads to the Bethesda.net website.
Really useful dragons
Available on: PC
Have you ever gotten bored of dragons? Although the diverse dragons mod makes the colossal beasts far more interesting, they’re still the same serpentine monsters you’ve been slaying since 2011. Cue really useful dragons, which changes all the dragons in Skyrim into Thomas the Tank Engine trains. You’re welcome.
I’ll keep this brief: download it. It fixes a ton of bugs and is compatible with the vast majority of mods. Win-win.
Have you ever been seriously annoyed about the fact that unfinished quests just sit in your journal forever? Well, thanks to The Choice is Yours, you can just straight up reject quests. Sorry, I’m the Dragonborn. I haven’t got time to fetch you a mammoth’s tusk.
This mod adds vast, very visible improvements to the 3D models for most objects in Skyrim. It replaces the low-polygon meshes for most banal objects in the game, and trust me - you'll notice the difference. If you're still unconvinced, head over to their page on Bethesda or Nexus and see the screenshots for yourself.
It’s simple: this mod makes Skyrim look a ton better. It adds textures to objects in-game such as more plants and grasses, fur looks like fur and not sheets of grey, as well as smoke. Expect in-game immersion to shoot up after installing this mod.
Note: The PC link leads to Osmodius' SSE Texture pack, which livens up the textures to the same degree as the mod on Bethesda's site.
Fed up with being the Dragonborn? I don’t blame you, and this mod lets you start as almost anything from a necromancer’s assistant to a shipwrecked sailor. For those of you who love to replay Skyrim, it lets you roleplay to your heart’s content.
As if the title wasn’t self-explanatory enough, I’ll spell it out for you: this mod lets you become a proper bard, not just a travelling Dragonborn who occasionally helps out the Bard College in Solitude. You can pick your preferred instrument, decide which songbooks you want to specialise in, choose bard followers, and play songs anywhere including in taverns where you’ll earn tips for your musical endeavours. Become a Bard gives the Bard’s College a purpose, letting it stand tall alongside the Thieves’ Guild, the Companions and the College of Winterhold.
By the time you’ve sunken about 50 hours into Skyrim, you’ve probably got a heap of dragon souls sitting beside your Thu’ums, useless. If you don’t use shouts particularly often, this mod makes sure the souls don’t go to waste. They let you ‘buy’ perks, with the ones higher up the skill trees costing more souls to purchase. Get out there and slay some dragons!
An almighty overhaul of Skyrim's perk tree, this adds 400 new perks, bulking out each basic skill to give a ton more options to spend your precious perk points on. From 'Fog of War' in the stealth tree to 'Flee Fool' in the two-handed tree, there's plenty of new abilities to master!
Pretty simple, but somehow overlooked by Bethesda - after all, rings aren’t restricted to your right hand in real life, so why should they be in Skyrim?
Sounds of Skyrim: Civilisation; Dungeons; The Wilds
Available on: PC
The immersion will jump once you install this mod, as it means that dungeons, towns, and the countryside will sound different each time you venture out. That means no more hearing the same birdsong no matter where you are, no more repetitive dripping from Ancient Norse obelisks, or certainly a rediction in that dratted clanging sound of the blacksmith’s hammer in every city you go to.
The completionist in me loves this mod. Make sure to make this one of the first mods you download though, as if you download it mid-game all the books you’ve read to that point will be marked as unread. The feeling of reading the last glowing book before you add it to your collection is so satisfying.
Newmiller’s spell books retextures 2
Available on: PC
To build on that last mod, you can actually download a texture pack that turns Skyrim’s ordinary spell books into leather-bound tomes that look as if they’d smell musty. These are arcane texts, after all — they’ve probably been around for hundreds of years!
This mod will change your life. Although Alteration is often seen as the ugly duckling of the arcane arts, installing Useful Alteration will provide the College of Winterhold’s Tolfdir with a whole new range of Alteration tomes. Described by the modder as “annoyance removal” spells, these are generally used to make playing Skyrim less mundane. “Solve” solves a nearby pillar puzzle immediately, while “Unlock” automatically unlocks a locked chest or door. Who knew that Alteration was the best magic school?
Ever been walking through one of Skyrim's cities when five citizens are suddenly simultaneously clamouring for your attention? Of course you have. The people roaming through Windhelm, Riften, and Falkreath just love to chat and this mod lets them do it to their heart's content. Just, to other NPCs - not you. This means strolling through a village is suddenly much more immersive with its inhabitants having a chat outside the Inn or as a break from harvesting wheat. Small change, but a big difference.
NPCs in Skyrim are interesting beings to say the least, as they’ll try to pick a fight with any dragons swooping around their village. This mod means that they won’t try to fight you (or any other overpowered creature) if you’re a higher level than them; instead they’ll run and hide in a hideout, which will be assigned randomly and could be a home, temple, Jarl’s stronghold, or anything similar.
If the sight of golden skin of the Thalmor looming over the horizon, or the sound of the self-righteous Stormcloaks as they tramp by deafens you, this mod is what you're looking for. No longer do just the two civil war factions patrol round Skyrim: Immersive Patrols adds scheduled Dawnguard, caravan, and guard patrols to Skyrim and Reaver, Skaal, Redoran, and Riekling patrols to Solstheim, as well as making existing patrols regular. It also adds moderately-sized civil war fort battles so you can sink your axe, arrow, or destruction magic of choice into even more heads.
Run for your lives
Available on: PC
NPCs in Skyrim are surprisingly ballsy. They’ll take on bandits and even dragons. That’s fun to watch, but it will sometimes result in quest-givers getting roasted a bit too badly, and expiring before your very eyes. This mod changes that, and makes NPCs run for cover when enemies approach, which saves you the trouble of running around trying to save the brave, valiant idiots.
Relationship dialogue overhaul
Available on: PC
No more hearing about arrows in knees. NPCs get more dialogue options with this mod, and they even address you with over 50 different voice times. There’s nothing like the thousandth hearing of not-Schwarzenegger’s ‘Let me guess. Somebody stole your sweetroll?’ for breaking immersion.
I got quite irritated at the quest Delphine gives you to kill Paarthurnax, as there’s no option to quite simply say no. If you decline, the quest has to litter your journal for eternity. That’s all changed in this mod, so you can spare your scaly friend and let him fly free.
Combat: make things more deader
For those who love the sight of lightning crackling from their fingertips, you’re spoilt for choice with this mod as it adds over 370 new spells. There are new spell archetypes, including bombs, growth, and plus you can summon any creature in Skyrim!
With this mod NPCs fighting styles drastically change. Now they’ll try to block, bash, and stagger, as well as disengage from melee combat when they get too far away from ranged characters. Genius!
Note: the PC link leads to 'Combat Evolved' mod, which does a very similar thing.
I love seeing my character execute a badass kill-move to take down enemies, and this mod makes fighting a joy. Flourishes when you’re about to kill somewhen while dual-wielding, brutal finishers, executions for dragons - it really has it all.
Available on: PC
So you’ve been absolutely wrecked by a Draugr Deathlord, barely escaping with your life. However, all you have to do is down a health potion or two before you’re back to normal. With Wounds, you can actually pick up debilitating injuries that take days, weeks, or even months to heal properly. Smashed femur? That’s going to be an issue for two whole months.
Voice of Madness: A Wabbajack Shout
Available on: PS4
Unfortunately, this mod is only on PS4 at the moment. However, if you’re lucky enough to own a copy of Skyrim on PS4, and unlucky enough to have yet to experience the wonder of this mod, you should download it immediately. Everybody knows Sheogorath is the Daedric Prince of Madness, but what happens when you harness his chaotic energy and channel it into your Thu’um? Prepare to Wabbajack enemies into Oblivion and rain explosive cheese from darkened skies!
Cross and Jab
Available on: PC
In some games, hand-to-hand combat is a joy. Just think of all the Fists of Fury quests in The Witcher 3! However, it’s pretty mundane in Skyrim. Cross and Jab changes that by adding in faster, more diverse punching animations, to the extent that you’ll likely start taking on dungeons as a bare-knuckle boxer just because of how satisfying it feels. It’s time to become Skyrim’s world heavyweight champion.
Dovahbit is a rabbit who carries your stuff, comes with its own little saddlebags, and can wear helmets. You haven’t enjoyed Skyrim at its fullest until you’ve looked behind you and seen a small brown bunny wearing a horned helmet hopping after you.
Note: The PC link takes you to Bethesda's mod page where you can find the fluffy, loyal companion. Aww.
Although the Dwemer ruins of Skyrim are mostly abandoned, this mod adds three Dwemer doggos to Salvius Farm. They won’t actually fight for you, but they’ll follow you around and bark, which is incredibly wholesome and makes Skyrim about fifty times more enjoyable. You can also conjure these dwarven doggos if you buy the spell tome from Farengar in Whiterun. It’s amazing.
Available on: PC
Vilja is a Nord alchemist that’s been helping players fulfil their destinies since way back in the days of Oblivion. Now she’s made her way to Skyrim to help the Dragonborn on their quest to prevent the apocalypse at the hands of Alduin, the World-Eater. However, perhaps the most interesting thing about Vilja is that Sir Terry Pratchett himself helped to develop her character. Now all we need is a full-blown Discworld mod!
Available on: PC
This mod can only be downloaded directly from Steam. It’s pretty self-explanatory — it allows you to travel with a lute-bearing bear minstrel. Bring it to the Bard’s College so that it can fulfil its wildest dreams.
Related Skyrim articles: