The best Mass Effect mods were treated as a baseline for graphical improvements by BioWare when remastering the games to make the Legendary Edition. The studio also worked with several modders to ensure the new versions of the classic space opera trilogy about the dangers of dating a coworker would be just as tweakable, if not more so.
Thanks to modding tools and mod management software, they finally are.
To install most of these mods, you'll need the ME3Tweaks Mod Manager. It'll let you modify all three games in the Legendary Edition, and you can use it to mod the original versions as well, though all the links here will be to mods for the remasters. The mod manager also lets you back up each game's important files, and each mod you download can be imported into a library before being applied.
That makes it easy to enable and disable most mods, but note that texture mods work differently—once they're installed to any of the Mass Effect games, you won't be able to mod it any further. If it's graphical enhancements you're after, make sure you're happy with your loadout before you add a mod like ALOT. Apart from that, load order doesn't have an impact on Mass Effect mods. That sound you just heard is Skyrim modders breathing a sigh of relief.
Not everyone noticed it, but in the original Mass Effect games sprinting only made you move faster during combat. The rest of the time, holding down that button simply zoomed the camera out in a dramatic fashion to make it seem like you were going faster while you trundled across the Citadel one more time. (Speedrunners used to drop grenades at their feet so Shepard would take damage, tricking the game into thinking they were in combat to enable the version of sprinting that actually let them actually move faster.)
The Legendary Edition fixes this, and sprinting really does make you go faster. However, it keeps the first two games' absurdly short limit on how far you can run before getting fatigued. The Unlimited Sprint mod extends this duration—it's not really unlimited, but it's such a huge increase to Shepard's stamina you'll rarely hit the end. It also removes the limit on the Mako's boost in ME1.
After downloading gigabytes of enhancements for all three games, I can say with confidence that being able to run further is genuinely the most significant improvement an impatient player can make.
Pinnacle Station was an expansion for the first game developed by an external studio, and thanks to corrupted source code it had to be left out of the Legendary Edition—restoring it would have delayed release by six months. For DLC that was never as beloved as Lair of the Shadow Broker or Citadel, that wasn't worth it. Modders have no such concerns, and Pinnacle Station was rescued from the cutting-room floor by the ME3Tweaks team.
This DLC adds a training facility Shepard can visit to hone their skills while hunting Saren. Inside its simulator you fight virtual enemies in four different modes across several maps, working your way up a ranked ladder. There's a small sidequest involving a soldier accused of hacking the simulator, and an apartment for Shepard to hang out in.
The modded version actually fixes some bugs present in the original, and enhances it with music and rebalanced fights to suit the Legendary Edition's altered combat. It's quite an achievement.
In ME1, bouncing back and forth between your journal and the galaxy map to figure out where you're supposed to go for various sidequests is just a part of the game. A really tedious part of the game. Galaxy Map Trackers takes away that frustration, putting labels for all those UNC assignments on the map screen. Even ones you haven't triggered yet are on there, marked 'Anomaly'.
The one downside is that if an assignment happens to be in the same cluster as a main mission, the label for the sidequest takes precedence. You'll have to click around to find out where, say, Feros is. Still, that's probably a lesser annoyance given there are only a handful of story missions in ME1, and they're easier to keep track of than the rest of the game, which is an explosion at the sidequest factory.
During your final confrontation with Saren he boasts about how Sovereign upgraded him following your fight on Virmire, yet he looks exactly the same throughout the entire game. In retrospect, it's a little odd the Council were so trustful of him when he had a geth arm bolted on. Concept art makes it seem like the intent was for Saren to only look the way he does during the finale, becoming more inhuman each time he appears, and that's what Saren Stages does.
It comes with an option to give Saren black robes and look more like the concept art in his first scenes, or an option to keep his armored, military look but tone down the mechanical elements.
A major overhaul of the Normandy and the things you can do on it in ME3, Expanded Galaxy adds a firing range to the ship, lets you assign secondary officer positions as well as medics, marines, and engineers, gives squadmates extra casual outfits to wear, and more. (The complimentary EGM Armors, as the name suggests, adds additional armors.)
EGM's quality-of-life improvements include one that lets you choose whether you have to slow down every time you pass through the scanner or not, and that alone makes it essential for me. The tweak that makes Shepard hold the right weapon in cutscenes is compatible with ME2 as well.
If you're annoyed by having to play Circle Frogger in ME1 whenever you're examining an alien artifact or hacking a door, this mod removes it. When you open a locked container you'll get the option to play the game or bypass it with omni-gel as normal, except the omni-gel cost will be reduced to zero. You still get XP though, so you won't be under-leveled just because you're lazy.
Minigames that are mission-related remain, so you'll still have to do the Towers of Hanoi puzzle on Noveria, and it'll cost omni-gel to bypass the minigames when activating the transmission tower and deactivating fusion torches in Bring Down the Sky. But most of the time, you'll be able to ignore them.
There's Skip Minigames for LE2 as well, if ME2's hacking games are the ones you want to do away with. You can get rid of them entirely, or have the hacking screen pop up as normal but defeat it with a single click if you find that more satisfying.
In a similar vein, One Probe All Resources trivializes Mass Effect 2's planet-scanning. I once met a couple who played ME2 together, passing the controls back and forth because one of them enjoyed the combat while the other enjoyed the meditative planet-scanning. If it's not your thing though, this mod lets you deplete every resource on a planet as well as bring up any anomalies on its surface with a single probe. The heightened graphs showing every resource you'll receive all at once, peaking so high they kind of break the UI, are pretty great.
Photo mode is neat, but it sure would be nice to be able to move the camera further away. With this mod for ME1, you can. There's also Improved Photo Mode (LE2) and Improved Photo Mode (LE3) for the sequels. All three disable collision, and let you speed up the camera with the number pad: pressing 2 sets it to double speed, 3 to triple, and 1 returns it to default.
Being able to turn off Mass Effect's vignetting in the photo mode—that's the thing that darkens the corners of the screen to draw your eyes to the center—makes it plain how aggressively the effect is deployed in these games. If it bugs you the way lens flare, chromatic aberration, motion blur, depth of field, and all the other cinematic graphical effects seem to bug people, Vignette Remover does away with it.
(Spoilers for ME3 ahead.) The Happy Ending mod is kind of misnamed, given that it reinstates cut dialogue to extend Admiral Anderson's dying words and make that scene even sadder than it already was—there's a standalone mod called Anderson's Final Conversation Restored if that's the only change you want.
As well as that, this mod snips out the Catalyst, aka the Starchild, simply having Shepard press a button to initiate the ending where all the reapers are destroyed (you know, the red one) as it plays out if you have a high enough Effective Military Strength score to see the epilogue where Shepard survives.
The mod also deletes the scenes of the Normandy crashing on a random garden world, and any suggestion that the mass relays were damaged. It gets rid of the more controversial elements of the ending, but if your beef was that so much went unexplained then The Unofficial Mass Effect 3 Epilogue Slides may be for you. It's not a mod, just a website that asks for some details on your playthrough and then presents page after page of fan-written follow-ups to fill in the blanks regarding the state of the galaxy and all your companions following the finale.
The community patch compiles a huge number of bugfixes for ME1. Did you know the Legendary Edition got rid of the twinkIing on the galaxy map that guided you toward unmarked points of interest in the asteroid belts? With this mod, it's back. It also sets a flag for Conrad Verner to correctly remember which option you chose when talking to him, though it'll take an equivalent patch for ME2 to have that flag trigger the unused dialogue Paragon players otherwise never got to see. In the meantime there's Conrad Verner Remembers, a workaround that adds a picture of him to your cabin you look at to set the flag, and Conrad No Apology for ME3.
There's an LE3 Community Patch for the third game as well, and one for the second game is in the works.
If the Legendary Edition's graphics aren't improved enough for you, these mods push them even further. To install A Lot of Textures, you'll need a separate program called MassEffectModder. It'll take a while to install both the textures and the upscaled static lighting, which are available as a separate file for each game. Thanks to the way these games work, once you're done that'll be it for mods—you won't be able to install any more for whichever games you've retextured unless you first delete the game folder and reinstall it from scratch.
A Lot of Videos is an easier installation, working through ME3Tweaks like the other mods in this list. It swaps the pre-rendered cutscenes for 4K versions, which run at 60fps instead of 30. Even if you don't have a 4K monitor, the increased framerate's a nice bonus.
Commander Shepard as Green Lantern? It just makes sense. Captain Marvel too. I'm not so convinced about the Harley Quinn outfit, however. This mod for ME2 and ME3 includes heaps of new outfits for FemShep to wear, mostly based on superheroes, some of them bordering on the NSFW. If you want to look like Samus from Metroid, here you go. You'll need to install Invisible Vanilla Armor Parts (LE2) and Invisible Vanilla Armor Parts (LE3) first.
While we're at the sillier end of the modding spectrum, here's one that replaces ME3's reapers with imposters from Among Us. If you'd prefer something more classic, here's a mod to swap them for Thomas the Tank Engine. While you're at it, why not replace the font for all ME2's text with comic sans, you absolute monster? OK, we're done here.