( Want to know what Skyrim looks like when you install 200 mods at random? Find out in our eye-opening, eye-bleaching diary: Skyrim: Week of Madness . )
Skyrim mods are amazing. In the two months since release, thousands of mods have been released, some of them quite spectacular. It's not like Skyrim was an ugly game to begin with, but with new high resolution textures and post processing it becomes truly stunning. Then there are the new items, expanded crafting and full UI overhauls.
With so many mods available, choosing them can be a little daunting, which is why we've rounded up the 25 best here for you to enjoy. Check inside for the full list.
Remember, this list will be updated as more mods are released, so if you have any particular favourites you'd like to be included, mention them in the comments and I'll test them out before the next update.
If you're the tweaking type, you'll also want to check our personalised picks of the Steam Workshop . Or maybe you'd like to create your own mod. Thanks to the Skyrim Creation Kit it's a lot easier than you think. Our Skyrim Creation Kit Video Tutorial is all you need to get started.
Oh, and don't worry if you'd rather sit back and read about someone else's Skyrim adventures. Christopher Livingston's Elder Strolls diary will see you right.
Ask any PC gamer what Skyrim's biggest flaw is and you'll get one answer: the inventory. The default UI is inelegant, slow and features far too much scrolling. Which is why Sky UI is so essential. It doesn't merely fix the problems with Bethesda's interface, it improves it on every level. Icons are now used to easily distinguish items while using less space. Additional information, such as if an item is stolen or poisoned, is clearly displayed. The inventory can even be sorted by value and weight, while a text search lets you find the correct item in a hurry. There is simply no reason not to install Sky UI, even those few who don't mind the original interface will find their Skyrim experience improved immeasurably as a result.
Midas Magic was a fantastic magic overhaul mod for Oblivion, which added flashy, powerful new spells to make high level mages even better at setting people on fire with their minds. The Skyrim version is shaping up to be just as good, with spells that summon mini dragons and call down meteor strikes. It also features a brand new way to learn spells, by using 'aurum reactors' dotted around Skyrim.
The ENBSeries mods are famous for adding improved post processing and lighting effects to make games like GTA4 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution look amazing. Now, creator Boris Vorontsov has turned his hand to Skyrim. The result is unsual, but is nonetheless beautiful using brighter, more striking colours than previous ENB mods. Those who don't care for the style should check out the the more muted Confident ENB settings instead.
Like Quarl's Texture mod for Oblivion or NeilMC's for Fallout 3, Skyrim HD is an ambitious project to replace the majority of in game textures with new, high resolution versions. Clocking in at a hefty 1.29GB, this mod already contains huge amounts of textures, and is getting updated all the time. Alternatively there's Chris's Whiterun Texture pack , less comprehensive, but just as good.
There's a lot of post processing mods for Skyrim, but FXAA has emerged as the best. It layers on several handy effects like sharpening, technicolour, sepia and saturation, but the best part is that it's all totally customisable. Modifying the settings file will let you turn settings on and off or adjust them to your preferences, giving you full control over the look and feel of your Skyrim game.
Xenius has rapidly carved himself a niche as Skyrim's premier character enhancement modder, producing a whole series of texture improving mods at a tremendous rate before packaging them together as Xenius Character Enhancement . While so many other modders have spent their time making characters that look more like fashion models than medieval peasants, Xenius stays true to the original art style of Skyrim, and for that we salute him.
Playing Skyrim inevitably results in picking up a lot of items you don't necessarily need. Weapons or armour you aren't properly trained with, or just useless pots and pans, every Dovahkiin ends up with a lot of clutter in their inventory. Val's Crafting Meltdown , has an ingenious solution to that problem, giving players the ability to melt down weapons, armour and junk into raw materials like iron and steel. It also provides an invaluable service for archers, letting them use smithing to create arrows, an ability inexplicably missing from the original game. Val's Crafting Meltdown is built to be compatible with other crafting mods, so if want to expand your crafting options, be sure to check out The Lost Art of the Blacksmith and More Craftables , which let you craft faction specific items like Thieves Guild armour or Skyforge Steel weapons. Alternatively Craftable Staffs lets mages get in on the smithing action too.
The creator of Tytanis bills it as 'The Ultimate Mod', and it's certainly comprehensive. The mod adds a whole bundle of crazy new items, powers, spells and perks, each more ridiculous than the last. If you've ever wanted to ride a bear, summon an undead dragon or dual wield two handed weapons then this is the mod for you. Future plans are even more ambitious, with farming, fishing and carpentry in the works.
You spend an awful lot of time in Skyrim looking at swords, either because you're holding one in your hand or because a bandit is enthusiastically trying to insert his into your eyes. Modder Millenia understands this, so he launched his Weapon Retexture Project to ensure you get to see the prettiest, highest resolution blade possible in those brief moments before it takes off your head.
Dragons? Wimps I tell you! I eat 'em for breakfast! So goes the cry of the high level Dragonborn. Spectacular though Skyrim's flying lizards are, they can sometimes be a bit of a pushover in the late game. Thankfully, there's a mod for that. Deadly Dragons tweaks Skyrim's biggest monsters to be even more terrifying, including adding all new Dragon types like Storm and Magma to threaten even the hardiest of adventures.
Ever get lost trying to navigate the world map in Skyrim? Then Quality World Map is the mod for you. It not only upgrades the textures, but hand drawn roads to the map for easy navigation . It also includes the option for a 'classic style' map for those who prefer Oblivion's hand drawn look to Skyrim's flashy 3D. This last feature is a work in progress, but it looks so lovely it's worth trying anyway.
Pre-Skyrim most Elder Scrolls fans would tell you Morrowind was the highlight of the series and, despite the excellence of Bethesda's latest entry, Vvardenfell still has a special place in gamers' hearts. Weapons of the Third Era aims to bring a little bit of the Dunmer Isle to Skyrim, adding over 50 new weapons with a Morrowind theme. Let's hope this is the first of many mods to recapture the exotic flavour of Vvardenfell.
For a more general weapons package, look no further than Jaysus Swords . Master smith Jaysus has forged 38 lovingly designed weapons for you to craft and wield. The pack offers everything from katanas to cavalry sabres, letting you pick a weapon that fits the look of your Dragonborn.
Skyrim is full of adorable, cuddly animals, most of which will attempt to eat your face at some point. Bellyache's excellent Animal Pack contains a variety of different skins to improve and customise your furry friends. Whether you're just improving the default textures, or turning grizzlies into polar bears, this is the mod for you.
Proudspire Manor is the most expensive house in Skyrim, but it doesn't feel that much better than starting house Breezehome, which next door to a blacksmiths. Enter Proudspire Manor - Dragonborn Edition , which expands and renovates your property, adding a built in smithy, along with extra mannequins and weapon plaques, turning your humble abode into the mansion it was meant to be.
A work in progress, but an exciting one. Skyrim Online aims to turn Skyrim into a pseudo MMO, letting players connect to a server where they can see and interact with each other. So far it's pretty simple, with other players appearing only as undressed prisoners, unable to do anything but chat with each other, but it's still a great technical achievement. We can't wait to see where this mod goes once the creation kit has been released.
Another neat little improvement to Skyrim's effects, Realistic Smoke and Embers completely overhauls the appearance of fire in the game, improving it greatly. It's the mod that screenshotmancer Duncan ' Dead End Thrills ' Harris used to create this stunning image (along with plenty of other mods and tweaks). If you're playing Skyrim as a fire throwing destruction mage, you have to install this mod.
The water in Skyrim already looks pretty lovely, but Realistic Water pushes it that little bit further. Based on high resolution photography, Realistic Water makes Skyrim's streams foam and bubble in a beautiful and convincing way.
If you like lovely sunlight effects Skyrim Sunglare is the mod for you. It makes the game's sun produce delicious rays of beamy goodness, including optional lens flare effects for those who favour the 'cinematic' look. There's something special about cresting a mountain and watching the sunbeams break through over the horizon, and this mod makes it even better. If this version isn't to your tastes, try Alternate Sunglare from Isoku, the creator of the Realistic Water and Smoke mods.
A nice little mod I've enjoyed in previous Bethesda games. Enhanced Night Sky replaces the Skyrim's stars with a high resolution texture taken from starfield photography. This version is so seamless it doesn't even effect the in game constallations, and looks simply beautiful.
If you're like me, you probably played several hours of Skyrim before even realising mining was in the game. The problem is that ore veins don't actually look that different from the surrounding rock. Thankfully, Glowing Ore Veins solves that problem, tweaking mineable rocks to make them stand out more from the background. As an added bonus it'll fade back to normal once you've extracted all the ore, once again blending harmlessly into the background.
There's a lot of snow in Skyrim, so it's a shame it's mostly represented by vague white blobs floating past. Nicer Snowflakes fixes that problem completely, replacing the default snow with beautiful, high resolution flakes. There's several flavours to choose from, from realistic to stylised. I like the 'Whimsical' version best, it might not be what snow really looks like, but it's what we all wish it did.
Not so much a mod as a set of tweaks, Map in full 3D shows you how to modify Skyrim's ini file to make it possible to zoom the in game map right down to the ground. The result is essentially a free camera mode that lets you roam anywhere in the world. It's like the google street view team was let loose in the frozen north.
This is going to be one to keep an eye on. Vurt's Skyrim flora overhaul is dedicated to improving the quality of the vegetation in Skyrim, starting with trees. It even offers several different colour schemes to let you tailor your foliage to your own desires.
Arachnophobes like PC Gamer contributor Richard Cobbett have a hard time with games like Skyrim. Which is why No Spiders patches, which remove the offending beasties from the game, are so useful. This first attempt at a spider free Skyrim is particularly hilarious, as it replaces the models of the spiders with completely out of place bears. Honestly, we mostly included this because it's hilarious, if you want a more sensible anti-spider solution, try the Arachnophobia mod.
Once again, we're going to keep updating this list with new and interesting mods, so if you know of any good ones we've missed please let us know in the comments.