Skyrim mods

Bethesda Softworks/YouTube

The best Skyrim mods to enhance your ‘Elder Scrolls V’ experience

Change up your 'Skyrim' experience and make this playthrough feel like the first.

May 13, 2020, 1:49 pm

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Nahila Bonfiglio

Regardless of political affiliation, gender, or occupation, we can all agree on one thing: quarantine is boring.

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Thousands of people all over the world have been holed up for weeks, slowly running out of things to keep themselves entertained. For gamers, that usually means returning to an old favorite for another play through. Many have turned to the expansive world of Skyrim for their quarantainment. If you’re among them, you might consider downloading some Skyrim mods before take yet another jaunt through Tamriel. There are heaps of brilliant mods out there to change up the experience, and make this play through feel like the first.

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The best Skyrim mods

Background mods

  • Cutting Room Floor
  • Achivements Mods Enabler

Gameplay overhauls

  • Ordinator
  • Alternate maps
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Graphics mods

  • Skyrim HD
  • Enhanced Lights and FX

Weather mods

  • Supreme storms
  • Climates of Tamriel

Player NPC mods

  • Interesting NPCs
  • Immersive Creatures
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Weapon and Combat mods

  • Immersive Armor
  • Immersive Weapons
  • Apocalypse – Magic of Skyrim

Home mods

  • Legend of the Eagle’s Nest
  • The Dev Avesza and Asteria
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Special mentions

  • Alternate Start – Live Another Life
  • Finally find the Stones of Barenziah
  • Diverse Dragons Collection
  • Moonlight Tales

How to install Skyrim mods

Unrecorded

To begin with, you’ll need to know how to find and install mods. It’s advisable that you start a new game, as mods can clash with existing files. To install mods on any system, you’ll need an account at Bethesda.net.

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Mods on PS4 and Xbox One

Once you’ve got an account and a fresh game, head down to the “mods” tab on your title screen. From there, you can browse the options. Mods that you choose can be downloaded, then sorted as well as activated and deactivated for individual games. You’ll want to peruse the creator notes on each mod to figure out where they should fall in your load order.

Mods on PC

Things work a bit differently if you’re enjoying Skyrim on your PC. PC users will need to install Nexus Mod Manager, which will give you access to a broad range of Skyrim mods.

Once the mod manager is installed, it will allow you to select which game you would like to mod. Select Skyrim and the folder you’d like files to end up in, and you can begin downloading mods. Once you’ve chosen all your mods, go to your ‘files’ folder in the top left corner and you should see an “install” option next to each of your new mods. Install any you want to run before you start up your game. As with consoles, load order can be very important when it comes to running mods on PC. Make sure to check the creator notes to see where each mod should fall on your list.

Skyrim mods

Depending on your play style, you might find a wide variety of mods appealing. Every person enjoys games like Skyrim for different reasons, after all, so if you find my selections lacking don’t worry. There are plenty more where these came from.

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Background mods

You might not actively see these mods working as you play, but you will notice a difference. There are loads of mods to make your game look prettier, run more smoothly, and enhance a million tiny aspects of the game.

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Cutting Room Floor

This mod is an absolute must-have for Skyrim lovers. Many of us have replayed most of Skyrim‘s main quests several dozen times, which can make even this brilliant, rich game feel like a slog.

Skyrim mods - cutting room floor
Bethesda Softworks/YouTube

Cutting Room Floor introduces a huge compilation of cut content. Quests, NPCs, villages and more that ended up on Bethesda’s cutting room floor (get it?) are all re-added into the game to allow for a whole new version of Skyrim.

Achievements Mods Enabler

One of the most frustrating things about playing with mods is the inability to earn achievements. We get it, mods change up the way the game was initially intended to be played, but sometimes they make it so much better.

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Skyrim mods - achivements
Bethesda Softworks/YouTube

With this mod enabled, you’ll be able to rack up those hard-to-earn achievements while still enjoying all the mods your game can handle.

 

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Gameplay overhauls

For anyone unfamiliar with modding, the variety of options out there can be overwhelming. There are mods that change up your character, your gameplay mechanics, the appearance of the game, or those that add new content to be enjoyed. Overhaul mods change a huge aspect of the base mechanics of the game, allowing for a replay that feels uniquely different from other play-throughs. There are far too many great ones out there for me to list, but here are a few favorites.

Ordinator

Working your way through a skill tree is one of the most addicting parts of Skyrim. Each new level invites all new gameplay and combat options, as you gradually transform your player into a force to be reckoned with.

Skyrim mods - Ordinator
Enai Siaion/Nexus Mods
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For players who’ve become bored with the expected, perpetually stagnant perk options in the vanilla game, Ordinator provides a complete overhaul of the existing perk trees.

Skyrim mods - Ordinator
Enai Siaion/Nexus Mods

This mod provides around 400 new perks, sometimes switching them out with their less-enjoyable originals, to completely change up the way your character will level up. Ordinator allows for several completely new player builds, and the mod works like a well-oiled machine. No annoying glitches here.

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Alternate maps

That’s right, there are even mods that will change up the map in Skyrim. Once you’ve traveled every road, visited every city, and spoken to seemingly every NPC in the vanilla game, you might think you’ve gotten everything you can from this expansive title. Isn’t that exactly why modders exist? A few immensely talented people created two entirely new locations that you can visit, complete with new quests, characters, and even shouts.

Skyrim mods - Moonpath
Tomas Sala/Nexus Mods

If you’re looking for a completely new Skyrim experience, consider downloading Falskaar or Moonpath to Elsweyr. You won’t be disappointed.

 

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Graphics mods

Skyrim is a visually stunning masterpiece. Considering the original game came out in 2011, it still looks remarkably good. Unless you’re running the special addition, however, you can definitely see the age of this game. Throw a graphics mod or two into the mix, and suddenly even the 2011 version of the game can look as gorgeous as a 2020 release.

Skyrim HD

This high resolution texture mod replaces over 600 textures throughout the world. Some of the improvements will slip right past you—the reflections and rain ripples can be hard to catch—but each one will add immensely to the world.

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Skyrim mods - Skyrim HD
NebuLa from AHBmods/Nexus Mods

This mod improves absolutely everything about Skyrim‘s look. Everything from the contents of cities to caves, Dwemer ruins, workbenches, and even the skies are improved. You’ll find yourself lost in the renewed beauty of Bethesda’s stunning world.

Enhanced Lights and FX

For a far more eye-catching and stylized look, consider Enhanced Lights and FX. This mod aims to “create a more dramatic and realistic mood to the Skyrim lighting,” and pulls it off flawlessly.

Skyrim mods - Enhanced mods and FX
NebuLa from AHBmods/Nexus Mods
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Any light without a source is removed, and all existing sources are given appropriate light. That means sun shines through the windows and candles give off a quiet, inconsistent flicker. Everything feels more moody and dramatic with this mod, so it pairs perfectly with Skyrim‘s wondrous feel.

 


 

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Weather mods

The vast world of Tamriel can feel quite genuine and immersive, with its diverse maps, fleshed-out characters, and changing weather. The simple changes in the vanilla game are a wonderful addition, but don’t do a great job at mimicking real weather. That’s where modders come in.

Supreme Storms

For a truly staggering change to the way you experience storms in Skyrim, consider the Supreme Storms mod. This will shift all of the simple, fun weather changes—like rain, snow, and fog—into violent, blindingly intense storms.

Skyrim mods - Supreme storms
MannyGT/Nexus Mods
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You won’t even want to head into the world in weather like this. Visibility might get so bad—not to mention your ability to hear over that thunderous rain—players are likely to retreat to the nearest cave, town or stronghold to wait out the storm.

Climates of Tamriel

The “most endorsed and downloaded weather and lighting overhaul” for Skyrim comes to us from modder jjc71. Rather than just focus on the storms, this mod changes everything about Tamriel’s vanilla climate.

Skyrim mods - Climates of Tamriel
JJC71/Nexus Mods

A vast increase to weather variations, from sunny or overcast to foggy and stormy, make the world feel intensely more rich. The breathtaking sunsets, included audio to really enhance the feel of storms and darker evenings only add to what makes this mod great.

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Player/NPC mods

Once you’ve worked your way through Skyrim‘s main storylines a few times, the character interactions start to get pretty tired. We get it Brynjolf, you have an “errand” for us to perform. With a few mods installed, you can switch up the typical NPC interactions all through the world. Some of these even change up the dialogue options and creatures found throughout Tamriel.

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Interesting NPCs

This mod does a lot more than make the existing NPCs more interesting.

Skyrim mods - Interesting NPCs
Kris Takahashi/Nexus Mods

With Interesting NPCs installed, you’ll gain far more extensive dialogue and gameplay options. On top of those, this mod works in more than 200 fully voiced NPCs complete with backstories, dozens of followers, and even additional marriage options. The icing on the cake? This mod comes included with more than 50 additional quests.

Immersive Creatures

Tamriel is home to all kinds of interesting beasties. Werewolves, Falmer, giants, and Hagravens all make this fantasy world feel far more rich and full. If you’ve gotten tired of all the Ice Wraiths and Spriggans the vanilla game has to offer, there are plenty more to be obtained through mods.

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Skyrim mods - Immersive creatures
lifestorock and jackstarr/Nexus Mods

Adding Immersive Creatures to your game will provide a slew of brand-new creatures to interact with in the world. Dozens of new beasts will wander Tamriel, adding diversity and challenge to the gameplay.

 

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Weapon and combat mods

Even players with a few hundred hours under their belts have likely not managed to track down each and every weapon, spell, and piece of armor Skyrim has to offer. Still, the equipment you gain through the main quest, along with most of the faction storylines, has gotten pretty old. This playthrough, maybe you’d like to try out some diverse, interesting, and powerful armor, weapon, and combat expansions.

Hothtrooper44’s Immersive Armor and Immersive Weapons mods

For a great change up on the traditional attire in Skyrim, check out Hothtrooper44’s brilliant additions.

Skyrim mods - Immersive Armor
Hothtrooper44/Nexus Mods

Each pack comes with a number of beautiful new pieces. They fit into Skyrim‘s aesthetic perfectly, making them feel like a natural part of the game.

Apocalypse – Magic of Skyrim

For anyone more interested in magic than swordplay, the Apocalypse expansion is a dream come true. Combine this with Magical College of Winterhold—which adds more decor, items, and skill books—and your mage character will overpower a barbarian in no time.

Skyrim mods - Apocalypse
Hothtrooper44/Nexus Mods

The magical expansion adds more skills to your skill tree along with a slew of new spells. It is a must-have for any magically orientated player. If you are using it in conjunction with the Ordinator skill overhaul, make sure to look into a patch to prevent the two mods from glitching.

 


 

Home mods

If you’re anything like me, you’ve already bought up and fully decorated every home available in the vanilla Skyrim game a few times over. Home options are wonderfully diverse, and players can own a home in almost every city in the game.

Still, the same old structure gets boring eventually. The next character you create might be looking for something a bit more unique, and they’ll have plenty to choose from among home mods. You can choose to live just about anywhere, thanks to brilliant Skyrim modders. Some of these mods even come pre-loaded with quests and bosses, so buckle up.

Legend of the Eagle’s Nest

For a home that feels very much like it belongs in the world of Skyrim, look no further than Legend of the Eagles Nest.

Skyrim mods - Legend of Eagles Nest
Flaho Shi/Nexus Mods

This home is situated on the summit of a mountain between Riverwood and Whiterun. It’s simple stony appeal, combined with its wintery location, make it feel like an original feature of the game. In order to obtain this home, you’ll need to complete a quest to fix it up. You’ll also need to hire a guard and steward for your new home. A few additional fun features, which you won’t find at any vanilla base, help to make this home a must-have.

The Dev Avesza and Asteria

Skyrim allows players to momentarily ditch their boring, stressful lives and take a stroll as a sword-wielding, dragon-slaying badass. What more could you ask for?

Skyrim mods - Dev Avesta
Flaho Shi/Nexus Mods

How about being a sword-wielding, dragon-slaying SHIP-FLYING badass? Yeah, that’s what I thought. These two house mods will essentially allow players to traverse Tamriel as the world’s only Dragonborn pirate, and its honestly an unforgettable experience. The Dev Avesta will actually fly through the skies of Tamriel, whereas the Aseria stays fixed in place but offers a far more rich and detailed interior. The Dev Avesta is located near Solitude—behind the Blue Palace—and the Asteria can be found west of Riverwood.

 


 

Special mentions

There are so many great mods out there, it was intensely difficult to narrow them down for this still-expansive list. A few particularly great ones that I feel deserve a special mention are below. Some of these are big, game-changing mods, while others are tiny and seemingly quite simple. Regardless of their size or complexity, these Skyrim mods will improve anyone’s game.

Alternate Start – Live Another Life

If you’ve already played Skyrim a few dozen times, chances are good you’d rather avoid repeating the beginning sequence again.

Skyrim mods - Alternate Start
Arthmoor/Nexus Mods

That’s where this mod comes in. Alternate Start does exactly what its title claims: allows alternate starting options. You can begin your game at a faction’s base, in a random city, or out in the world. It also allows you to begin as a certain type of character—think thief, necromancer, or soldier—and gives better stats and gear toward that character type. It’s not as impressive as Fallout 4‘s similar mod, but if it avoids the scene at Helgen yet again, it’s worth it.

Finally find the Stones of Barenziah

THANK TALOS. This mod is self-explanatory and oh-so-very needed.

Anyone who’s played more than a few hours of Skyrim has come across their first Stone of Barenziah. These funky pink stones are scattered throughout Tamriel, and can be collected by the player.

Skyrim mods - Stones of Barenziah
toaDime/Nexus Mods

There’s a catch. Two, actually. You can’t sell these valuable-looking stones individually. The solo person who will purchase them, Vex of the Thieves Guild, will only buy up these stones as an entire set. Of 24. So you’ll need to track down each and every one of them before you can offload a single stone. Oh, and to top it off, there are no quest markers. You’ll just have to stumble across each stone where it sits on a bedside table, alchemy lab, or in a Falmer-infested cave. With this mod, one simple, beautiful thing is changed. You can tell where the damn things are. With quest markers, you can track down every stone in a few hours of gameplay and finally be rid of that pesky quest.

Diverse Dragons Collection

Dragons. When you boil it down, the main attraction in Skyrim, in many ways, is the dragons. These winged beasties are a constant threat as you make your way through Tamriel, but eventually taking them down becomes a pretty simple task. Once you’ve fought every type of dragon, after all, what more can they throw at you?

Skyrim mods - Diverse Dragons
Zero Period Productions/YouTube

Modders noticed this issue, and responded with a mod that completely changes how dragons work in the game. With 28 diverse new dragon types, new breath attacks and abilities, and a level system that will challenge even veteran players, this mod feels perfectly at home in the vanilla game.

Moonlight Tales

If you like drinking, fighting, and getting paid to do it, you’ve probably already tried out the Companions in previous playthroughs. The option to gain lycanthropy through this organization is one of the more intriguing parts of the game but unfortunately doesn’t have much payoff. Sure, you can slaughter innocents wantonly and feast on their flesh, but after a few times, it tends to feel mostly unfair.

Skyrim mods - Moonlight Tales
Zero Period Productions/YouTube

With the Moonlight Tales mod, you can make your experience as a werewolf far more interesting. The mod shakes up the typical formula, adding in forced lunar transformations (kind of comes hand-in-hand with a were-diagnosis), new abilities, and even the option to transform into a werebear. And, since the skill tree and perks are completely overhauled, you’ll feel like you’re playing as a werebeast for the very first time.

Find your favorite

If none of these options appealed to you, or you are way ahead of the game and already tried them all out, don’t worry. I barely scratched the surface of all the great mods out there. Head to Nexus mods’ Top Mods page, where the site compiles the top 30 files of the last two weeks. It is consistently updated, so you shouldn’t end up with outdated mods.

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*First Published: May 13, 2020, 1:49 pm