There are few franchises as venerable as the Elder Scrolls. Today, we’re going to be ranking all Elder Scrolls games from worst to best. Debuting in 1994, the Elder Scrolls has blessed gamers with some of the best titles in the history of gaming. It’s been a long, long wait since the most recent release, aside from Elder Scrolls Online expansions. To help with that long wait, we’re taking a trip down memory lane.
Please keep in mind that this is an opinion piece. You may agree with my rankings, but you’ll probably disagree with them. That’s fine! Be sure to sound off in the comments below with your thoughts.
Let’s not waste any time and get right to it.
The Elder Scrolls Travels
The Travels series was a set of Elder Scrolls games released for the N-Gage. It went about as well as you’d expect.
I worked as a manager at GameStop when the N-Gage was a thing. I have zero recollection of these games. That tells you all you need to know.
The Elder Scrolls: Blades
Elder Scrolls: Blades is a free-to-play mobile spin-off of the franchise. It contains everything you’d expect from a free-to-play mobile spin-off of a popular gaming franchise. None of it is good. If it wasn’t for the N-Gage titles, this would be the worst game in the series.
The Elder Scrolls: Arena
Sadly, the first Elder Scrolls title is the worst when it comes to the “traditional” games. Arena was an ambitious, larger-than-life game upon its release. It’s still playable today via a free download, too! Unfortunately, the game has aged like a warm glass of milk.
Arena did a lot to innovate the RPG genre. Its large, procedurally-generated world featured an intimidating level of content, a day/night cycle, and a seemingly endless amount of things to do. Out of all Elder Scrolls games, it might be the most unforgiving.
Feel free to give it a shot to see what was revolutionary nearly 30 years ago. Beyond that, you’re on your own. There are plenty of better games available on this list.
The Elder Scrolls: Battlespire
Battlespire is what you’d get if you took Daggerfall and removed what makes it a good game. I know that that’s a blunt explanation, but it’s an honest one. If Battlespire feels more like an expansion than a standalone game, that’s because it originally was designed as a Daggerfall expansion.
The original Elder Scrolls titles struggled, hence why I’m being so harsh early on in this list.
The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard
Redguard is a spin-off that’s unlike the other Elder Scrolls games. This isn’t a good thing, sadly. The game feels more like a linear dungeon crawler action/adventure than a traditional Elder Scrolls title. It’s a neat idea that can’t hold up to the high standards of all Elder Scrolls games.
The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall
Daggerfall expands on Arena in every possible way. It’s developed a cult following whose fans rank it amongst the best of all Elder Scrolls games. Daggerfall felt more focused than its predecessor, delivering an engaging open-world RPG experience. It is a title you can get lost in, exploring every nook and cranny the world has to offer.
Unlike Arena, Daggerfall has aged well for a game released back in 1996. Today it’s worth giving it a spin to see how you think it stacks up amongst all Elder Scrolls games.
The Elder Scrolls Online
Elder Scrolls Online is one of the best single-player experiences I’ve ever encountered in an MMO. I was nervous before its release to see how the authentic Elder Scrolls experience would translate. My fears were unwarranted; the base game is an enjoyable, albeit flawed, title. Since then, and with each subsequent expansion and release, that experience has continued to get better and better.
Often referred to as the “darkhorse sleeper” MMO on the market, Elder Scrolls Online is one of the best MMORPGs out there and a fantastic experience that’s worth checking out. The only reason it’s so low on this list is a testament to the quality of the remaining Elder Scrolls games. I almost put it above the next game.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Is it blasphemous to put Skyrim this “low?” Possibly, but these are my opinions!
Let’s get this out of the way first: Skryim is a fantastic game with an incredible experience. The natural moment-to-moment interactions in the open world are some of the best the franchise has to offer. Skyrim itself is a world worth exploring, featuring seemingly endless quests, towns, characters, and enemies. So why is it so low on this list? It failed to resonate with me in ways the other two games did.
Again, Skyrim is a fantastic game, but it feels like it’s missing something. It lacks a certain je ne sais quoi to hook me in. I’m someone who still owns the collector’s edition Alduin statue. I wanted to be hooked! If we were to include Skyrim mods, the game would probably top the list. But as far as the base version is concerned, it’s not quite as good as the next ones.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
For many, Morrowind is the best of all Elder Scrolls games. For me, it’s a solid second best.
Please hear me out.
Back in high school, I was working at GameStop when I first heard about Morrowind. A co-worker described it as a fantasy-style Grand Theft Auto where we could do whatever we wanted. Naturally, we were intrigued by the premise. Within the next couple of weeks, the entire store staff played Morrowind. We spent our shifts talking about what we did in-game. It was something that blew our minds. We didn’t know this was possible in a video game.
Morrowind deserves all the love and acclaim it has. Parts haven’t aged well, like every game on this list, but it’s a crowning achievement in open-world design. Yet personally, there’s one game that resonated with me in a way no other has.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
I was still working at that same GameStop when Oblivion was released. I planned to take the day off for release because marathoning a highly anticipated video game release is exciting. My boss called me the day before, saying that we could pick up and sell pre-ordered copies a day early. Naturally, I jumped at the bit to come in on my off day, pick up our store’s copies, and then go home and spend the next 48 hours playing Oblivion. I made my store manager proud. I upset another store manager who wanted their shift covered.
Anyway, let’s talk about my favorite of all Elder Scrolls games. Oblivion was unlike anything I had experienced before. The freedom of Morrowind was still there, only more refined.
Well, as refined as a Bethesda game can be.
The narrative had me hooked the second Patrick Stewart’s voice echoed through my television. Closing shut the jaws of Oblivion is something that never gets old for me, as repetitive as it is in reality. Oblivion is one of the few games where I purposefully seek out every side quest the game has to offer.
I love this game, and I’m not afraid to scream it from the rooftops.