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The best Skyrim mods

If you can imagine it, chances are there's a Skyrim mod for it. Skyrim is one of the most modded games of all time, with over 65,000 submissions on Nexus Mods and 28,000 in the Steam Workshop. Modders have created everything from tiny tweaks to silly memes to entirely new campaigns for Skyrim since its release in 2011. 

Even with the Special Edition released, modding Skyrim's original release is still getting plenty of new mods all the time. It's an overwhelming number to sort through, which is why we're here to help find and install the Skyrim mods you should use in 2021.

This is our guide to the best Skyrim mods, sorted into categories that will make it easy for you to find what you're looking for. And if you're looking for Skyrim Special Edition mods, follow that link to our separate collection. Mods added in the latest update of this list have been marked with a ⭐. 

First up we'll cover how to get started modding your game along with some essential improvements. Check our other pages for all the best quest mods, new skills, and everything else you can imagine.

Table of contents

Page 1: Getting started - How to install mods, patches, interface, and textures
Page 2: Content mods - quests, characters, creatures, and places
Page 3: Gameplay mods - weapons, skills, systems, and tweaks

How to install Skyrim mods

How to install Skyrim mods

Now that you've found some mods you'd like to try, here are the tools you can use to get them working. Again, make sure you read the pages for each of your mods: many of them require specific steps and instructions.

Skyrim Console Commands

Skyrim Mod: Santa

(Image credit: Bethesda)

There's no need to play Skyrim as a humble warrior. Become a giant, fly, walk through walls, spawn any item you want, and even become Santa Claus with Skyrim console commands.

Vortex

Replacing the Nexus Mod Manager is Vortex, a newer program for organizing your mod loadout. Available from the Nexus Mods website, just like most of the mods on our list, it will handle everything for you. It's easy to use and makes downloading, activating, and deactivating mods a breeze. It's also useful in that it supports tons of other games, like The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, and many more. 

Skyrim Script Extender

Skyrim Script Exstender (SKSE) is a utility that's required for some of the more complex mods to work. Not every mod on this list requires it, but many do, including the essential SkyUI, so you're best off just installing it up front. SKSE is now available directly through Steam, but you can still find it here if you prefer manual installation. 

Load Order Optimization Tool

Load order is often very important when using multiple mods, and sometimes if mods aren't loaded in the correct order they won't work properly. LOOT is a great tool for automating and customizing your load order, and will detect problems and attempt to repair them.

Steam Workshop

You can also browse and use Skyrim mods via the Steam Workshop. It's easy to navigate and adding them to your roster is accomplish by simply clicking the subscribe button. Keep in mind, more complex mods usually require a few more steps to install, and even if they appear in the Workshop they may require more steps to get running.

Patches & Optimization mods

Skyrim Mods Project Optimisation

It's no secret Bethesda's RPGs can be more than a bit buggy. There are glitches, optimization problems, and in Skyrim's case, a UI designed for consoles. Thankfully, long after the official patches stopped rolling out modders remain devoted to making the game more stable and usable. Here are some mods that will improve your overall experience.

Unofficial Skyrim Patches: Legendary, HD-DLC. 

Created by the same modders as the Unofficial Oblivion patches, the Unofficial Skyrim patches catch a huge amount of bugs the official patches don't. A lot of them are things you might never notice, like objects that were placed slightly wrong so they clip through each other or quests that break if you do something unusual, but it's still better to have them than not. There's one for the Legendary Edition and one for the official High Resolution textures patch.

Not So Fast: Download link 

Dragons returning is a pretty big deal, but the main questline feels like you’re on a runaway train at times. This mod helps you modify the order of events to a more reasonable pace. Not only can you get Breezehome when you hand in the Dragonstone, but you can also ignore the Civil War part altogether! Fully customizable through MCM.   

Project Optimization: Download link

Project Optimization improves Skyrim performance by occlusion culling, which means not rendering effects you can't see. If you use a lot of serious lighting mods, like ENB and Realistic Lighting, then this mod can save you several frames per second.

Realistic Humanoid Movement Speed: Download link 

Sick of walking like a turtle and sprinting like a cheetah? This mod fixes the problem. Your movement speed is adjusted to more reasonable levels, from a brisk walk that lets you keep up with NPCs, to slower run speeds that make it challenging to escape from that cranky troll. Also eliminates “skating” from sneak running. 

Vendor Sale Delay - GONE: Download link

This is a small mod, but it makes the game much less frustrating. Now instead of having to listen to the vendor dialogue before they’ll trade with you, the trade window opens up immediately while they give their speech about their junk—I mean “treasures.”

Performance Textures: Download link 

This mod rezises and enhances the textures for armor, clothes, and weapons, making them both better looking while simultaneously making the file sizes smaller for improved performance. This is useful for users with low-end machines who still want to improve their graphics. The modder has done the same for animals and creatures.

Performance Plus: Download link

Falling leaves and snow are pretty, but can sometimes cause FPS drops on older GPUs due to the size of the textures. Performance Plus decreases the fidelity of particles, which provides an FPS boost. In most cases, such as snow, it's barely noticeable, and the slight degrading of particle textures is more than made up for by an increase in performance.

The Choice is Yours: Download link

Lets the player be way more in charge of what quests they want. Stops random auto-quest greetings from NPCs, stops books from giving auto-quests, and lets the player customize when they want to see certain quests become available. Full MCM support. Optimal experience paired with Timing Is Everything.

User Interface mods

A Quality World Map

the best skyrim mods: a quality world map

Download link

Skyrim's map is functional but boring. A Quality World Map offers multiple ways to fix it. You can replace the map with a much more detailed world texture, with colors that help delineate the separate areas much more obviously, but there's also an option to have a paper map with a more Oblivion look if that's your thing. 

Sky UI

Download link 

Skyrim's original UI is, well, terrible. SkyUI makes it easier to use, more pleasant to read, and much more useful for sorting through your loot and menus. Most importantly, SkyUI adds a mod configuration menu to the pause screen, letting you tweak and adjust compatible mods (including many on this list). A lot of mods don't require SkyUI and will run just fine without it, but you'll get much more out of your mods if you have it.

In other words, it's highly recommended.

Better Dialogue Controls

Skyrim Mods Better Dialogue

Download link 

Using a keyboard and mouse for Skyrim means sometimes the game gets confused when you're selecting a dialogue option. You've noticed, surely, that sometimes when you choose a response the game thinks you've chosen a different one. Skyrim's dialogue controls are weird and clunky, and this mod completely and thankfully fixes that. The same modder also created one for message boxes.

Immersive HUD

the best skyrim mods: immersive hud

Download link 

You don't need your HUD onscreen all the time. This mod hides the crosshairs and status bars when you're not actively using them, such as outside combat. You can also toggle the compass and quest markers on and off with a keypress, and adjust their opacity.

HUD Clock

the best skyrim mods: hud clock

Download link 

On the other hand, sometimes you want a little more info on-screen. This widget adds a clock to your screen—with several different elegant and unobtrusive faces you can choose through SkyUI's mod configuration menu—so you can keep track of the time and date. The Dovahkiin's got a smartwatch.

Textures & Lighting mods

Skyrim, frankly, wasn't really that fantastic looking to begin with, so there have naturally been a lot—a lot—of visual improvement mods over the years. Here's how to squeeze improved visuals out of the aging RPG.

Total Character Makeover 

the best skyrim mods: total character makeover

Download link

A compilation of existing changes to NPC appearances, the Total Character Makeover makes everyone in Skyrim look better without making them better-looking, if you catch our drift. No nudity, no anime hair, no glamazon makeup, just a suite of new textures and tweaks to everything from beards to vampire fangs. 

Enhanced Lights and FX

the best skyrim mods: enhanced lights and FX

Download link

You may have noticed some things in Skyrim that should be sources of light don't actually cast any, while in other places things are brightly lit for no real reason. Enhanced Lights and FX fixes that, making light shine where it should. There are options for just how dark you want interiors to be, and enabling those will mean torches and spells like candlelight are vital. It also makes some nice tweaks to the appearance of smoke.

2K Textures

the best skyrim mods: 2k textures

Download link 

Does what it says: replaces Skyrim's textures: sky, water, architecture, clothing, clutter, reflections, and so on, of the cities, towns, dungeons, and landscapes. There's a full version if your PC can handle it, but there's also a lite version that should make things look nicer without killing your performance.

Climates of Tamriel

the best skyrim mods: climates of tamriel

Download link 

This comprehensive mod adds hundreds of new weather systems, a huge library of new cloud systems, a new sun, improved lighting for both fans of a fantasy look and realistic visuals, and even audio improvements. With all of these systems combining, each day in Skyrim will feel different from the last.

Book of Silence

the best skyrim mods: book of silence

Download link

A pretty hefty collection of high-quality replacements for Skyrim textures, covering everything from equipment, landscapes, dungeons, and architecture. While they look much nicer, the textures are the same resolution as Bethesda's high-res DLC pack so it shouldn't slow you down.

Make sure you read the notes on the mod's page. There are hotfixes required to get everything working.

Static Mesh Improvement

the best skyrim mods: static mesh improvement

Download link 

This mod edits a number of 3D models in the game, and with over 700 meshes placed in over 15,000 locations in the world, it's a welcome difference. You'll notice better looking architectural elements, furniture, objects in the landscape, and all sorts of other models that didn't get much attention from Bethesda.

Sounds of Skyrim

the best skyrim mods: sounds of skyrim

Download link 

Get immersed in new audio: tons of it. Hundreds of new sounds effects are included to make dungeons and sewers spookier, enhance the wilderness and wildlife, and make cities and villages more lively and real. This mod is a treat for your ears, and has customizable modules for each type of area.

FXAA Injector

the best skyrim mods: fxaa injector

Download link 

Enhances your graphics with FXAA and other post effects, such as sharpen and bloom, creating crisper visuals and more vibrant colors. Conveniently, you can adjust these settings while you play by alt-tabbing out and moving the sliders on the mod's desktop utility.

Skyrim Flora Overhaul

the best skyrim mods: skyrim flora overhaul

Download link 

This mod comes in three different versions, depending on how drastically you want to change your game. All versions promise more luxurious trees and bark, taller grass, and prettier plant life. The heavier versions completely replace the trees altogether and give you lusher greens for a summery feel.

Realistic Water Two

the best skyrim mods: realistic water two

Download link 

Realistic Water Two, drawing and expanding on the work of some earlier water mods, adds better ripples, larger splashes, re-textured foam and faster water flow in streams, bobbing chunks of ice, and even murky, stagnant-looking water in dungeons. It's the next best thing to getting wet.

True Vision ENB

the best skyrim mods: true vision ENB

Download link 

If you're looking to get closer to reality with crisp visuals, this ENB configuration is one to try. With hyper-realistic color corrections, realistic specular highlights and reflections, improved spell effects, and tons of other adjustments, it makes Skyrim look like a real-world place.

Enhanced Camera

the best skyrim mods: enhanced camera

Download link 

Remaining in first-person mode helps a game feel immersive, and this mod does that in spades. Not only can you look down and see your entire body while playing, but other activities such as crafting, cooking, riding horses and even riding dragons won't break you out of first-person mode.

Book Covers

the best skyrim players: book covers

Download link 

It may not seem like that big of a deal, but these little high-res book covers do make for an extremely pleasant upgrade over the standard, muddily-textured ones. When you're relaxing at home or perusing (or robbing) a bookstore or library, make sure you've installed this lovely cover mod.

Hearthfire Dolls Are Ugly 

the best skyrim mods: hearthfire dolls are ugly

Download link

Because they are! What self-respecting parent wants to give their kid a dirty, beat-up naked doll? Instead, give them an actual cute dolly, or an adorable teddy bear in a variety of different colours.

Jump to page 2: Content mods

Table of contents

Page 1: Getting started - How to install mods, patches, interface, and textures
Page 2: Content mods - quests, characters, creatures, and places
Page 3: Gameplay mods - weapons, skills, systems, and tweaks

Head to page 2 for the best content mods for Skyrim.