Skyrim’s 10th anniversary provided us with the perfect excuse to jump back into the game for another round of slaying dragons, exploring dungeons, and shouting at chickens. It also provided Bethesda with the perfect excuse to try and sell us the game once again. This time as Skyrim Anniversary Edition. But while the Anniversary Edition was a bit different compared to previous re-releases, we wouldn’t blame you for wanting to skip it in favor of playing some of the best Skyrim mods instead.
Despite including some interesting content from the Creation Club, the Anniversary Edition doesn’t even come close to the amount of content you can get by simply playing Skyrim with mods. And for free I might add. To prove that point, we came up with a list of the best Skyrim mods that put Bethesda’s Anniversary Edition to shame.
Before we begin, we just want to mention that this list will be primarily focused on mods that add new content or improve upon the existing content. So no graphical mods, bug fixes, or anything like that will be included. Right, let’s get started.
Summermyst – Enchantments of Skyrim
Enchanting is both one of the most overpowered and one of the most boring skills in Skyrim, especially in the late game. This mod tries to fix both those things by making improvements to vanilla enchantments while also adding plenty of new ones. And I do mean plenty.
Summerset introduces a grand total of 120 new enchantments and integrates them seamlessly into the game. An important thing to note here is that the new enchantments are not exclusive to the player. Enemies can and will use them against you.
Cutting Room Floor
It’s very common for content to be left on the cutting room floor during the development of a game. Whether due to time constraints, inability to properly integrate the content in the game or any number of other reasons. In many cases, this left-out content never sees the light of day but that’s not the case with Skyrim.
The Cutting Room Floor mod adds a bunch of official content that never made it into the game for one reason or another. We’re not talking anything major but you can expect to see more NPCs, settlements, items and even quests while playing Skyrim with this mod installed.
Achievements Mods Enabler
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Under normal circumstances, playing Skyrim with mods prevents you from earning any achievements. Not everybody cares about achievements but if you’re one of those players that do care, you’ll want to grab this mod asap.
Achievements Mods Enabler works with modded saves so no need to worry about having to start a new playthrough after you install it. The mod works with all versions of the game, including Skyrim Anniversary Edtion.
Wintersun – Faiths of Skyrim
Religion plays a major role in the world of Tamriel but you don’t really get to experience it much as the Dragonborn. Well, now you can. Wintersun adds a worshipping mechanic that lets you pray to the Nine Divines, Daedric Princes, and many other deities in an attempt to gain their favor. If you do, the gods will reward you with powerful boons and blessings.
Just be careful because the gods are a finicky bunch and you can lose their favor just as quickly as you can gain it. Wintersun is one of the top Skyrim mods for players who value immersion and role-playing.
Moonpath to Elsweyr
Moonpath to Elsweyr is among the oldest Skyrim quest mods ever created. But don’t let its age fool you because it’s still a very solid addition to any modding list. As you may have already guessed based on its name, Moonpath to Elsweyr takes you on a journey across the Khajiit homeland. Along the way, you’ll get to explore a variety of beautiful environments, meet interesting NPCs, encounter new enemies, and more.
Granted, you can now visit Elsweyr in all its glory in The Elder Scrolls Online MMORPG but there’s something special about being able to go there in a single-player game like Skyrim.
Inigo and Lucien
Inigo and Lucien are two of the best Skyrim mods you should consider downloading if you’re tired of the game’s boring companions. These two companions are miles better than anything you can find in the vanilla game, its DLCs, or most other mods. Both companions have professional voice acting with thousands of unique lines of dialogue.
Inigo is a blue-faced Khajjit that levels up alongside the Dragonborn, provides banter relevant to the situation at hand, and interacts with the environment and NPCs, including other companions.
Meanwhile, Lucien is an Imperial that arrives in Skyrim as a cowardly scholar and becomes gradually more confident and competent in combat the more he accompanies the Dragonborn on their adventures. Both companions are simply amazing, so make sure to get them both!
Ars Metallica + Complete Alchemy and Cooking Overhaul
These two are some of the best Skyrim mods for players who enjoy crafting and we’re bundling them together because they perform a similar function. Ars Metallica is a smithing overhaul that allows you to craft many more items than vanilla Skyrim. Including arrows, lockpicks, guild-specific gear, and more.
Meanwhile, CACO does the same thing but for alchemy and cooking, letting you create many new types of potions along with bombs, salves, and poultices. You don’t necessarily have to use both mods but they do complement each other nicely.
Skyrim introduced a number of changes that didn’t sit well with long-time fans of Elder Scrolls games. Among other things, it added leveled loot and enemies that scale with the player. Not only did this make the game easier than previous entries in the series, it also made exploration more boring. MorrowLoot Ultimate’s goal is to fix all that. Just as its name indicates, the mod gives Skyrim a loot system similar to the one found in Morrowind.
Most pieces of quality gear are now hand-placed in high-level dungeons and can be acquired early on if you know where to look. Certain types of loot appear more often in relevant locations or on relevant enemies. Orcs tend to carry Orchish equipment, Dwarven equipment tends to be found in Dwarven ruins, etc.
The mod also delevels enemies, making it harder or even impossible to complete some dungeons if you’re underleveled or undergeared.
Cloaks of Skyrim / Winter is Coming
Cloaks are a staple of fantasy RPGs so it’s a bit surprising that Skyrim didn’t have them at launch. Skyrim Anniversary Edition remedied this to some degree but there’s still a noticeable shortage of cloaks in the game if you’re playing without mods. If you’re planning to change that, there are a couple of good options to choose from.
The first one we would recommend is Cloaks of Skyrim, a mod that adds almost 100 new cloaks and capes of all shapes and sizes. Including unique cloaks with very powerful enchantments.
If you want even more cloaks, you can also grab the Winter is Coming mod. Just as its name suggests, the mod features cloaks inspired by Game of Thrones. There are fewer models to choose from here but all of them look amazing.
Armor and Clothing Extension
Armor and Clothing Extension is a must-have mod for anybody who appreciates immersion and diversity. The mod adds tons of new clothing options for the player while also giving NPCs more appropriate outfits to wear. Jarls, priests and mages, in particular, now stand out in a big way. Every school of magic gets its own special robes with unique textures, allowing you to easily recognize magic trainers a mile away just by their clothing.
Armor and Clothing Extension was designed to work in tandem with two other of the best Skyrim mods for clothing – Rustic Clothing and Weapons Armor Clothing and Clutter Fixes. Both of those mods are listed as dependencies so you’ll need to install them first before you can install Armor and Clothing Extension.
Thunderchild – Epic Shouts and Immersion
Shouting is a core gameplay mechanic but, just like a lot of other things in vanilla Skyrim, the system doesn’t have a lot of depth. Thunderchild attempts to fix that by adding close to 30 new Shouts that can be unlocked by meditating to Kyne and completing her tests of faith.
All the new Shouts are tied to the vanilla ones but provide much more interesting, and often devastating, effects. In addition to the Shouts themselves, the mod also adds three new abilities that make using your Thu’um more fun and engaging.
Andromeda – Unique Standing Stones of Skyrim
I don’t know about you but whenever I play Skyrim I tend to pick a Standing Stone near the start and stick with it until the end. Primarily because most Standing Stone powers are forgettable, so why even bother with them? The creator of Andromeda presumably thought the same and made a mod that vastly improves Skyrim’s Standing Stones.
Andromeda gives each Standing Stone not one but two new abilities, most of which are significantly more interesting than the vanilla ones. Upon discovering all Standing Stones, you will unlock a third power for each of them, giving you the opportunity to design entire builds around them. To top it all off, Standing Stones also get beautiful new visuals upon installing this mod.
True Storms is a complete weather overhaul mod for Skyrim. The mod not only adds realistic storms but also snow, heavy fog, dust storms, rain, and more. Appropriate new sound effects have been included as well, which can be heard both while indoors and while wandering around the open world.
The mod author made sure that weather patterns change in accordance with the region you’re currently visiting. For instance, you will experience plenty of rainfall near the coast and snow when you’re exploring mountainous areas. Despite adding tons of new visual and particle effects, True Storms has minimal impact on performance. Don’t hesitate to download it even if you’re running on older hardware.
Wildcat – Combat of Skyrim
We tried a bunch of the best Skyrim mods that overhaul combat before we decided to recommend this one. Primarily because Wildcat doesn’t have any dependencies and because it manages to do what it does with minimal scripting. If you’re planning to play Skyrim with dozens or even hundreds of mods you’ll want as little bloat as possible, trust me.
So what does Wildcat do? Well, this combat overhaul mod is configurable so that largely depends on you. But primarily, the mod makes combat more fast-paced, more dangerous, and ultimately more enjoyable.
The AI is a lot more aggressive in combat and will try to flank you or land attacks of opportunity. When you’re fighting multiple opponents, expect the AI to try to surround you at all times. The mod also adds injuries, staggering, timed blocking, and more.
Next up on our list of best Skyrim mods we have Project AHO. This is a fairly sizeable quest mod comparable to a medium-sized DLC that should be of particular interest to fans of Morrowind, the Dunmer, and the Dwemer.
Project AHO takes place in a hidden settlement of the Great House Telvanni known as Sandrith Kegran. There are plenty of quests to look forward to here as well as over 20 fully voiced NPCs and more than a few interesting pieces of gear.
Carved Brink is a large quest mod revolving around one of Skyrim’s most neglected Daedric princes, Peryite. The mod primarily centers around Peryte’s realm, known as The Pits, and a part of Oblivion known as the Faceted Stones. You’ll be able to explore both locations throughout this DLC-sized mod. The second of which is primarily inhabited by friendly, yet somewhat mischievous Goblins.
Carved Brink was developed by the same team that also brought us the excellent Project AHO. Just like their previous mod, Carved Brink is more about quality than quantity. Expect a lot of depth, interesting, fully-voiced characters, and beautiful music. Weapons, armor and all sorts of other collectibles can be found here as well but are not the main focus of the mod.
Immersive College of Winterhold
ICOW is a fantastic mod designed to make the Mages College of Winterhold a whole lot more interesting. The mod expands the College by adding a number of new rooms and rearranging elements in existing rooms to make them a bit nicer.
Among other things, the mod spices up the Arch-Mage’s Quarters, which now features mannequins, item racks, bookshelves, workbenches, and more. Also worth noting is the improved NPC AI and a new lengthy questline related to The Midden.
Zim’s Immersive Artifacts
After playing Skyrim for a few dozen hours, you quickly come to realize that most of the game’s artifacts are either underpowered or boring to use. Let’s face it, after you acquire the two or three artifacts that are actually good, you’ll probably end up ignoring all the other ones for the rest of the game.
But what if I told you there’s a mod that makes most artifacts interesting and fun to use? Introducing Zim’s Immersive Artifacts, one of the best Skyrim mods for treasure hunters and collectors.
The goal of this mod is to balance Skyrim’s most iconic artifacts in a lore-friendly way, with special attention given to the game’s underpowered artifacts. The mod adds improvements to more than 50 artifacts, including but not limited to all the Daedric ones. In addition to changes to stats and abilities, the mod also gives a bunch of artifacts new textures and alternate versions, all of which are optional to install.
Moonlight Tales + Sacrosanct
Playing as a Werewolf or Vampire in Skyrim is pretty fun. For about 20 minutes or so. Transforming into a creature of the night gets boring pretty quickly in vanilla but you can use these two mods to remedy that.
Moonlight Tales is a mod that completely overhauls how werewolves play by adding new perks, abilities, skins, and even werebear forms. Meanwhile, Sacrosanct does something similar but for vampires and vampire lords. Some of the main highlights here include racial vampire abilities, overhauled feeding system, and hemomancy spells, to name just a few.
Diverse Dragons Collection
Skyrim’s dragon encounters were pretty amazing back in 2011 when the game first launched. But I think we can all agree that they didn’t manage to stand the test of time. For starters, there’s only a handful of dragon types you can encounter throughout the game. Secondly, they all have pretty much the same attack patterns. Would be nice if Skyrim had cooler dragons, wouldn’t it? Oh wait, it does, thanks to this mod.
Diverse Dragons Collection adds no less than 28 new types of dragons, each with its own unique model and textures. There are also 16 new breath attacks and 19 new abilities to look forward to, ensuring that you’ll never get bored again while fighting the winged beasts.
The mod is fully customizable so feel free to pick and choose the dragons you want to see in-game. It’s also fully compatible with other creature mods, allowing you to add even more dragons if you want.
Imperious – Races of Skyrim
Imperious is easily among the best Skyrim mods when it comes to role-playing and immersion. Skyrim has a lot of interesting races but they play pretty much the same aside from some very minor abilities.
Imperious changes that and makes all the races unique by giving them not one but three passive abilities. Each race also gets a unique active ability that must be unlocked via a quest. In addition, the mod tweaks starting stats like health, Magicka, and carry weight to make the races more lore-friendly.
Ever wanted to play as a Vigilant of Stendarr and rid the land of Daedric corruption? Now you can, thanks to this mod. Vigilant is a very impressive quest mod unfolding across four chapters that will take you on an epic journey full of intrigue and mystery. Along the way, you’ll visit new locations, craft unique weapons and armor, meet interesting fully-voiced NPCs, and even wander the wastelands of Oblivion itself.
If that doesn’t sell you on it, it’s worth noting that Vigilant takes a good deal of inspiration from Dark Souls and Bloodborne. The mod gets even better if you’re also using Wintersun and choose Stendarr as your deity.
Falskaar is one of the best Skyrim mods for fans of new lands and exploration. This DLC-sized mod adds a new landmass full of interesting locations to explore, NPCs to meet, and quests to complete. Falkskaar is a 20–30-hour adventure but you can easily spend more time than that if you decide to explore every nook and cranny of this mod.
Falskaar isn’t quite as impressive as some of the new lands mods that came out in recent years, but it still holds up pretty well to this day. There are more than 30 quests to look forward to and a few new items to collect. All the quests are voiced and there are over a dozen original new tracks to listen to while you’re wandering around Falskaar.
The mod doesn’t put a huge emphasis on collectibles but that’s not a big problem because there are plenty of other mods designed specifically for that purpose.
Beyond Skyrim – Bruma
Beyond Skyrim – Bruma is an extremely ambitious mod that introduces a brand-new region to the game. The titular Bruma, which you should be familiar with if you’ve ever played TES: IV Oblivion. The region is absolutely massive, surpassing the likes of Solstheim from the Dragonborn DLC in terms of size, and is just as densely packed with new content.
We’re talking new dungeons, quests, voiced NPCs, creatures, weapons, armor, you name it. If you’re tired of wandering the Viking-themed lands of Skyrim and want to spend some quality time in Cyrodiil, you’ll definitely love what this mod has to offer.
Most NPCs in Skyrim are incredibly boring and the Anniversary Edition won’t change that. However, this mod will, and in a spectacular fashion to boot. Interesting NPCs adds over 250 fully-voiced non-playable characters along with more than 50 new quests. Many of the NPCs can become followers and a few of them are even potential candidates for marriage.
But what truly stands out about this mod is not the quantity but the quality. Just as its name suggests, the NPCs are truly interesting and more memorable than anything you can find in the vanilla game. And a lot better looking, too!
Ever wanted to play a soulslike game set in the world of Skyrim? That’s basically what you’re getting here. Darkend is a new lands mod heavily inspired by the likes of Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls. Prepare accordingly because this one is going to be challenging. Not quite as challenging as Dark Souls, of course, but definitely more challenging than most other Skyrim mods.
Darkend takes place on Pharos, a new island that can be accessed by visiting a shipwreck found in the far north of Skyrim. The island isn’t huge but it is very detailed, with ancient ruins, dilapidated buildings, and strange creatures littered everywhere. There’s no hand-holding, the narrative is vague, and you’ll run into a few epic boss fights along the way. The boss encounters even have fog gates!
Many of the best Skyrim mods add entirely new locations to explore. This one takes an iconic existing location and gives it a fresh coat of pain. Helgen Reborn is a mod that allows you to completely rebuild the first town you come across at the start of the game; the town destroyed by Alduin.
This isn’t just a simple matter of reconstructing a few buildings, though. Helgen Reborn takes you on a fantastic journey filled with quests to complete, dungeons to explore, mysteries to uncover, and shiny new loot to collect. By the end of it all, Helgen will become a bustling town capable of rivaling even some of the nine holds. And it will be your town to run as you see fit.
Apocalypse – Magic of Skyrim
Magic in Skyrim is pretty basic compared to previous games in the series. Especially TES III: Morrowind. Luckily, you can easily change that with these two mods. The first, Apocalypse, is one of the best Skyrim mods for magic users as it adds 155 new lore-friendly spells along with scrolls and staves.
If you want to take things one step further, you can also install Arcanum, which gives you access to more than 200 additional spells, with even more to come in the future. The spells are integrated seamlessly into the game and can be obtained from vendors, dungeons, and quests.
This is perhaps one of the most obscure but also one of the best Skyrim mods for magic users. Spell Research does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin and allows you to study the arcane arts in an immersive and realistic manner.
You start off with simple spells and get to improve your casting abilities and magic knowledge the more you practice while also discovering brand new spells along the way. The new magic crafting systems added by Spell Research are very complex and touch upon disciplines like alchemy, enchanting, scroll writing, magic artifacts, and more.
Spell Research comes complete with its own set of spells while also supporting all the popular spell mods out there. This includes Apocalypse, Elemental Destruction Magic, Lost Grimoire of Skyrim, and Forgotten Magic Redone, to name just a few examples. If you want to avoid getting completely overwhelmed, we recommend using only Spell Research and maybe just one other spell mod to start off with. Spell Research is a very complex mod and it will take you a while to wrap your head around all its intricacies.
Wyrmstooth is another great quest mod that has been around forever. This one takes you to the titular island of Wyrmstooth, located to the north of Solitude, to slay a dragon, explore a massive dungeon, and claim an imperial fort as your own.
You can expect tons of content here, from over a dozen fully-voiced quests to new spells, creatures, weapons, and more. Above all else, the mod focuses on exploration and there’s definitely a lot to see on the island of Wyrmstooth.
The Forgotten City
Some Skyrim mods are so good that they become standalone games. Enderal is probably the most famous example but earlier this year we got another great one in the form of The Forgotten City. While the standalone game is overall better, the Skyrim mod it was based on is still very solid as well.
The Forgotten City was the first mod to win a Writers’ Guild award for its script and it’s easy to see why. The narrative is absolutely fantastic and the voice acting, music and new gameplay mechanics aren’t too shabby either.
Immersive Armors + Immersive Weapons + Immersive Creatures
Skyrim lacks diversity in many areas. But especially when it comes to armors, weapons, and creatures. Don’t worry, though, because you can add a truly staggering amount of variety to all those categories thanks to these three mods.
All in all, you’re looking at 55 new armor sets, 230 new weapons and dozens of new creatures. And the best part is that all the new additions are lore-friendly. Just like their name suggests, these mods are indeed immersive.
Alternate Start – Live Another Life
Alternate Start is hands down one of the best Skyrim mods you should install if you’re tired of going through the game’s opening sequence. There are other mods that allow you to simply skip it, but Alternate Start gives you the option to play the game in a completely different way.
With this mod installed you can choose to start your adventures in a new location and role-play as a specific class or character archetype from the get-go. There is a lot of possible scenarios to choose from and you can access even more by also installing the New Beginnings extension.
Ordinator – Perks of Skyrim
Easily one of the most popular Skyrim mods of all time, Ordinator provides a complete overhaul to the game’s rather dull perk trees. There’s a grand total of 469 new perks to choose from right off the bat and you can increase that number even more by combining Ordinator with other mods.
The main selling point of this mod is that it allows you to play many builds that are simply not viable in vanilla. Thanks to Ordinator, you can create builds around things like Speech, Pickpocket, Block, or other skills that most players never bothered to improve before.
Legacy of the Dragonborn
We’re wrapping up our list of the best Skyrim mods with an absolute game-changer. Legacy of the Dragonborn is a massive mod that was initially designed for collectors but has since become much more than that.
First off, the mod adds a huge museum that contains displays for basically every item in Skyrim, as well as dozens of other mods. In addition, Legacy of the Dragonborn also lets you create and manage your own guild and experience dozens of new quests.
You can easily spend hundreds of hours playing the content introduced by this mod while barely touching the base game. Once you install Legacy of the Dragonborn, you’ll never look at Skyrim the same way again.
All the mods featured on this list, along with many others, can be found over at NexusMods.
Planning to mod other games? Check out the lists below for some ideas.