The best Skyrim mods in 2023

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

These content mods for Skyrim can keep you playing for years. From the full-sized fan expansion Enderal to new cities and factions, there's so much you can add to the world of Skyrim. Get adventurin'.

Quests and expansions

The Forgotten City

Best Skyrim mods — A Dwemer-armored adventurer looks out at a subterranean ruin in the Forgotten City mod.

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

This extensive mod not only gives you a new city to explore, but a murder mystery to solve, NPCs to interrogate, secrets to uncover, and, oh yeah, a chance to do some time travel. Voiced by over a dozen actors, this mod took years of development time and is recommended for characters over level five. We tried it out here (opens in new tab). (The Forgotten City has also been made into a standalone game.) 

Enderal: Forgotten Stories

A follower in Enderal, one of the best Skyrim mods

(Image credit: SureAI)

Download from: Steam (opens in new tab)

This total conversion mod creates an entirely new world, very nearly the size of Skyrim itself, and populates it with new dungeons, quests, monsters, and fully voiced NPCs. Some of Skyrim's systems have also been tweaked, there's a new custom story to enjoy, and a good 50+ hours of new adventures to be hard. Read our impressions of the opening hours of Enderal

⭐Brynjolf and the Riften Guild – Birthright

(Image credit: Elizabeth Jackson Hall)

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

When you wrap up the Thieves Guild questline, the lack of an epilogue feels a bit jarring. Even your mentor Brynjolf doesn't have anything to say or offer you after you've saved the guild together. This fully voiced quest mod, which splices together existing dialogue to make new lines, finally gives us closure. Brynjolf's new quests make him romanceable too, but you can also finally unlock the guild's vault, and solve the mystery of the orphan thief Rune's mysterious backstory.

Pirates of Skyrim – The Northern Cardinal Under the Black Flag 

(Image credit: BigBizkit)

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Become captain of your own ship, then commit acts of piracy or do battle with pirates. The only thing missing is being able to sail in real-time, though that was unlikely to ever be an option. Instead, once you've completed a short questline to unlock your upgradeable ship and recruited at least three crew by giving sailors' journals to your followers, you can fast travel out into the Sea of Ghosts, then either dive for treasure or look through the telescopes for ships to board. You can raid pirate ships if you'd rather pretend to be a pirate hunter, or faction warships if you're playing privateer. After every victory, line your ship's trophy room with the booty.

Moonpath to Elsweyr

A Khajiit stands on the deck of an airship in Moonpath to Elsweyr, one of the best Skyrim mods

(Image credit: Tomas Sala)

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

For those who are sick of snowy mountains, Moonpath to Elsweyr offers two brand new environments: lush jungle and barren desert. This quest mod takes you to the Khajit homeland of Elsweyr, which you can travel across in your airship. Did I mention you get an airship? You get an airship. We spoke to its creator about making one of the first Skyrim quest mods (opens in new tab)


Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Wyrmstooth adds a fully voiced new questline, set after the events of Skyrim's main story, in which the Dragonborn is hired to defeat a dragon that is harassing the ships of the East Empire Company. Your job is to assemble a team of mercenary companions and travel to the island of Wyrmstooth, which features a variety of side quests and a gigantic dungeon. It also has a new home—an Imperial fort that can be repaired and expanded—as well as an animal companion recruited via one of its 15 sidequests, new spells, a new dragon shout, and a puzzle that apparently involves possessing a draugr. 

Legacy of the Dragonborn 

In Legacy of the Dragonborn, one of the best Skyrim mods, a museum in Solitude chronicles the Dragonborn's adventures.

(Image credit: icecreamassassin)

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Legacy of the Dragonborn adds a gallery in Solitude where you can keep mementos of your time in Skyrim. It's a museum about you, with space for almost every unique item in the game. All those quest rewards and Daedric artifacts you went to so much trouble to earn but don't use can be displayed in a beautiful building with its own library, store room and more. The curator hands out quests to help fill it, there's an entire archeology system with its own perks, and Legacy is compatible with several major quest mods like Moonpath, Moon and Star, and Undeath so you can display items from those as well. The only downside is that it won't recognize items received before installing it, so it's worth starting a fresh save.  

Become High King of Skyrim

Best Skyrim mods — a Dragon Priest faces the camera while Parthuurnax is yoked in the background.

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

With great power comes great responsibility. But what about great rewards? With all of your accomplishments and deadly abilities, it would make sense for you to become King of Skyrim, don't you think? Move into a huge castle, have your own army follow you everywhere, and throw citizens in prison or have them beheaded. It's good to be the king.

Imperial Mail 

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Post offices may not sound like an exciting addition to Skyrim, but Imperial Mail adds a heck of a lot of convenience. Once you open an account at either the central office in Solitude or any of the marked taverns, you can forward equipment between them for a fee—meaning you can send a bunch of heavy gear back home after a quest, then carry on. There are also quests on offer if you want to help the Imperial Mail out by delivering messages, and it's compatible with Legacy of the Dragbonborn so you can send items direct to the gallery.

Faction: Pit Fighter

Best Skyrim mods — the player character faces a cave bear in a modded pit fight.

Download from: Steam Workshop (opens in new tab)

Miss the arena? This quest mod adds a group of pit fighters you can join to the Gray Quarter of Windhelm, each of them voice-acted. The bouts take place in bespoke arenas outside the bounds of the map, and you can choose to fight one-on-one, against teams, or against wild animals. You'll have to wait between fights, so it's a good faction to visit in between other questlines. If you use the Open Cities mod download this version instead (opens in new tab), and make sure to read the notes on that page to get the voices working.

The Paarthurnax Dilemma 

Best Skyrim mods — a gathering of animated dragon skeletons.

Download from: AFK Mods (opens in new tab)

Ever wanted to tell the Blades to get bent when they tell you to kill your dragon bro? Well, now you can! With this mod from Arthmoor, you now have the option to explain matters to the Blades and make them see reason (although you might have to get a bit forceful—darn).

Cutting Room Floor

Best Skyrim mods — fur-clad NPCs gather around their campsite's cookfire at a location added by the Cutting Room Floor mod.

Download from: AFK Mods (opens in new tab)

Adds in a lot of content that Bethesda cut before release, including NPCs, dialogue, items, quests, and locations like villages, towers, farms, mills, and more. The mod author, Arthmoor, also organized and cleaned up the code so that everything would make sense and run smoothly. 

Heljarchen Farm

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Have a burning desire to beat Nazeem at his own career? This mod adds a Hearthfire-style farm to Skyrim. Check out the notices posted at some of the inns, buy the property, and rebuild the ruined farm in Dawnstar into a model of agriculture with livestock and several farm fields. You can even upgrade it to include a guardhouse and your own meadery.

Sea of Ghosts

Download from: Steam Workshop (opens in new tab)

Ahoy, matey! Fancy yourself a ship captain? This mod lets you acquire a ship, hire a crew, and set sail for a number of quests on the Sea of Ghosts. There are seven quests scattered over a number of new islands, and the mod features professional voice acting to boot.

Enhanced Skyrim Factions - The Companions

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Ever thought it was pretty stupid that you got into the Circle after only doing a few minor quests, or that you were railroaded into becoming a werewolf? With this mod, you get a lot more quests, becoming a werewolf is your choice, and you can battle the Silver Hand with members other than Farkas or Aela.


Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

As the saying goes: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Alternately, you can beat 'em and join 'em. I'm talking about necromancers, in this case. Undeath is a custom quest in which you're tasked with wiping out an evil cabal of necromancers, with the twist that you can choose to continue their dark unholy work. You can even perform a ritual that will allow you to become a powerful Lich and command an army of the undead. It's meant for players over level 30. We covered it here.

Moon and Star

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

A dangerous criminal from Morrowind has arrived in Skyrim, and your quest to track him down will take you to a new town and an inventive, puzzle-filled dungeon, introduce you to several new NPCs including merchants and traders, and outfit you with new weapons and spells.

Helgen Reborn

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

A huge and fantastic quest mod that centres around rebuilding and ruling the town of Helgen, also known as “that place that got burnt down at the start of the game." Following the quest will lead you to creating a ragtag bunch of misfits to act as the town guard, while the city itself slowly expands around you.

You also wind up with the coolest player home ever designed: read our article about it.

Descent into Madness

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Descent into Madness was one of the highlights of Richard Cobbett's Week of Madness diary. Take a nap in your bed in Breezehome and you'll be transported into the realm of Sheogorath, where two nations called Madness and Dementia are engaged in an eternal clash of the crazies. Each side offers a different, hour-long questline full of puzzles and riddles, all set within a bizarre, dreamlike landscape.

The Notice Board

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Taking a page from The Witcher, this mod adds a notice board outside inns in every city in Skyrim. There you can collect radiant missions, some to gather materials or ingredients, some to fetch a specific item, others to hunt down bandits for a bounty or rescue a citizen. It's a good way to keep yourself busy when you're not saving the world.

Companions and NPCs


Inigo, a Khajiit companion and one of the best Skyrim mods

(Image credit: Smartbluecat)

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Maybe you don't think a blue Khajiit who follows you around commenting on everything and being sarcastic about Lydia is what Skyrim needs, but trust us on this. Inigo is a follower with tons of dialogue, some tied to his own questline and more that crops up at appropriate times depending on the location you're at. He can be told where to go and what to do by whistling, and will follow you even if you've got an existing companion, chatting away with them thanks to skilfully repurposed voice lines. 

Vilja in Skyrim

(Image credit: Emma Amgepo Lycanthrops)

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

A sequel to a much-loved Oblivion mod (which Terry Pratchett contributed to (opens in new tab)), Vilja in Skyrim adds the great-granddaughter of the original Vilja as a follower. She's an alchemist with her own questline to follow and a unique system to give her orders, essentially spells bound to hotkeys that can be used to co-ordinate attacks. Like Inigo she doesn't count toward your follower limit, and if introduced to each other Inigo and Vilja will even chat amongst themselves. 

Citizens of Tamriel

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Citizens of Tamriel adds new NPCs to Skyrim with some much-needed personality. Skyrim's larger characters have interesting things to say but average folks? Not so much. Citizens of Tamriel is a fully voice acted mod that adds new minor characters with personalities and branching conversations that go beyond simple quest directives or one-liners.

Immersive Citizens - AI Overhaul

Best Skyrim mods — a beggar flees indoors with a newfound survival instinct granted by the Immersive Citizens mod.

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

This AI overhaul makes citizen react more sensibly to attacks, running away to secure locations when dragons or the like attack their settlements. It also changes the way combatants act, with some sensibly backing off to regroup at low health or making judgements about whether an opponent's worth taking on based on their level and equipment. Also makes changes to NPC schedules, their responses to weather conditions and more, making all Skyrim's citizens behave more believably.

Guard Dialogue Overhaul

Best Skyrim mods — characters converse on the streets of Whiterun.

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Guards in Skyrim are total arseholes. They constantly belittle you, even when you've saved the world several times over. This mod helps fix that. As you climb the ladder of respectability, more common phrases (arrow to the knee, etc.) will become less common and they'll start being more respectful.

Interesting NPCs

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

If you'd like your companions to be a bit more fun to have around, this mod adds a ton of new followers with custom voices and tons of location-based commentary, their own quest lines, and some interesting and unique appearances. If you find one you particularly like, great news—you can marry them.

Diverse Guards

Best Skyrim mods — a female guard on duty in Whiterun.

Download from: AFK Mods (opens in new tab)

Ever noticed that Skyrim's Imperial army is a no-girls-allowed club? Oh sure, there are female named characters like Legate Rikke, but the actual rank and file soldiers, with the exception of Windhelm and Riften, are always male. This mod edits the list of models that town guards and Imperial soldiers are randomly drawn from, adding some women into the mix, and also adds in several different faces for the male guards.

Immersive Patrols

Best Skyrim mods — Nord warriors confront a bloodied werewolf on a road in the Rift.

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Immersive Patrols creates a series of patrols for Skyrim's different factions: Stormcloak, Imperial, Thalmor, Dawnguard, Bandits, and so on. Occasionally these routes intersect, resulting in two opposed factions fighting to the death. Imperials and Stormcloaks regularly clash at designated warzones, with the survivors either reinforcing or taking control of the nearest fort. It adds a tremendous amount of life to Skyrim's conflict, and generates far more of those emergent clashes we all love to watch.

Amazing Follower Tweaks

Best Skyrim mods — a number of NPCs gather for the night around their roadside campfire.

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Want multiple followers? Want to micromanage them, pick their outfits, tell them which spells to use, how to fight, where to live, and how to level up? This mod allows that, and more, including making them smart enough to avoid traps, ignore friendly fire, and ride horses.

Travelers of Skyrim

Best Skyrim mods — a mass of fellow travelers mill around the Whiterun stables.

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

The roads of Skyrim are typically pretty empty, except for you and the occasional bandit who is forced to make his living trying to rob you since you're the only person on the roads of Skyrim. This mod adds dozens of fellow travelers who move between the cities and towns. Now you'll encounter traveling merchants, alchemists, mercenaries, and mages when you hit the road.

Cats of the Jarls

Best Skyrim mods — Jarl Ulfric's booted and eyepatched feline friend.

(Image credit: gg77, Bethesda)

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

The Jarls all have cats. The cats all have little outfits. Is it lore-friendly? Heck, who cares? I mean, look at the little boots. You might want to go with the version without purring because these little house cats can start sounding like a parade of classic cars if you listen long enough. If you don't want cats for Jarls, perhaps you just want the Creatures of Nirn - Khajit Alfiq mod that it's based off of, which adds the tiny Khajiit species to they game. Remember, they do not like being mistaken for house cats.


Daedric Shrines

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Sure, Azura gets a huge statue because she's the one Daedric Prince with a decent PR department, but worshippers of the other Demon Lords of Misrule have to hide their devotion away in dungeons or modest shrines that only appear if you complete certain quests. Sheogorath and Sanguine get nothing even if you do finish their sidequests (which are two of the best in the whole game). This mod fixes that by adding shrine statues for them, while replacing the statues of those who do appear with newer models. Going above and beyond, it also replaces the statues of Dibella, both big and small, even though the goddess of love is technically one of the Nine Divines. Comes in 2K and 4K versions.

Bigger Dragon Bridge

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

There's no way you could fit a dragon on Dragon Bridge. It looks like it should have a warning sign that says "no more than three sheep abreast". If you think the feature that the town of Dragon Bridge in Haafingar Hold derives its name from should be a little more impressively scaled, this mod bumps it up. Now it looks like something you could get at least six sheep across in a row.

Airship Dev Aveza

Best Skyrim mods — the player-added airship in flight over Skyrim's snowy woodland.

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Want your own flying ship? Yeah, course you do. This takes the airship model from the Moonpath to Elsweyr quest mod and combines it with the interactions from a separate skyship mod to make the best flying fantasy you'll get. The Dev Aveza is docked behind Solitude, and once it's yours can be flown all over the map. It's a much easier way to get to the top of the Throat of the World than walking, and it's got room on board for all your belongings.

Hidden Hideouts of Skyrim

Best Skyrim mods — a ruined tower, with its (potentially usable) entrance half-buried in a snowdrift.

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Puts a ton of hidden shelters in the game, dotted all over the landscape. They're great fun to stumble upon and perfect for outlaws to stash their stuff or just disappear from the law. The mod is customizable depending on how easily players want to find these places (you can turn map markers off).

Ranger Cabins

Best Skyrim mods — a woodland cabin beside a waterfall-fed stream.

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Paired with Corners of Skyrim (opens in new tab), these mods work together to enhance a survival playthrough. The first puts a hunter cabin in each Hold, which can be used as a basic starting player home. Also includes some lore-friendly weapons and arrows for ranger characters, including a "secret stash" of better weapons out in the woods of Falkreath. Corners of Skyrim puts even smaller shelters in the game, great as emergency shelters that offer a few basic necessities. They both feature creative architecture and are lore-friendly. Player can decide if they want to see NPCs living in the shelters or not.  

Creatures & Enemies

The Sinister Seven

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

If you enjoy the feeling of being hunted, The Sinister Seven delivers. As you level up you'll be pursued by more and more challenging assassins, including seven bosses who wear unique magical masks. The first of those appears when you reach level 12, with another every even-numbered level after that. Though sometimes they'll attack you in a settlement and get mobbed by guards, they can also appear while you're weakened from a previous fight or slogging through the wilderness, resulting in a tough duel you might have to give up and run away from.

Really Useful Dragons

Best Skyrim mods — a dragon assumes its newer, more terrible shape: the grinning, locomotive death-mask of Thomas the Tank Engine.

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

You've got options for replacing Skyrim's dragons with something goofy-looking. The "Really Useful Dragons mod" adds Thomas the Tank Engine, who seems to make it into even more games via mods than Shrek these days. For another replacement route, Macho Dragons (opens in new tab) turns them into 'Macho Man' Randy Savage. Both are hilarious and creepy in their own way. Note that the first actually adds a variety of characters from Thomas the Tank Engine, if that's a selling point for you.

No Spiders

Best Skyrim mods — the No Spiders mod replaces all in-game spiders with Spider-Man models that are only mildly disjointed and horrifying.

(Image credit: FancyPantz)

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Arachnophobes might appreciate the mod that replaces the spider textures with Spider-Man, although it still looks freaky as all get-out to me. For a more lore-friendly  attempt at getting rid of the bugs, Insects Begone (opens in new tab) swaps spiders for bears and chaurus for skeevers as well as deleting spiderwebs and other arachnid clutter.

Enhanced Mighty Dragons Reborn

Best Skyrim mods — an ice-white dragon breathes a jet of frost.

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Guess what? You're not the only one who can shout, Dragonborn. This mod gives dragons a whole new toolbox of spells and shouts, new abilities like disarming attacks and the power to summon animals or other monsters. One can raise the dead, another can't fly—it's a skeleton—but uses deadly physical attacks. It's completely customizable as well, in terms of difficulty, frequency, and loot. We tried out these new dragons here.

Automatic Variants

Best Skyrim mods — a Falmer warband. Each Falmer has its own appearance variation.

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

There are a lot of excellent retexture mods available for Skyrim, but the sad thing is that you can only ever use one at a time. Automatic Variants exists to correct that problem. It allows Skyrim to randomly choose different skins from a pool of variants. Pick a bunch you like, and the mod will distribute those textures for you in the game.

Bellyache's Animal and Creature Pack

Best skyrim mods — a mudcrab, with the typical muddy-green hues of its shell gradually shifting to a orange-red.

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

While it doesn't add new species, this mod does add around 100 recolored or touched-up textures for Skyrim's animals, everything from goats to bears to werewolves to the oft-discussed mudcrabs. You can choose from high or medium resolutions.

Immersive Creatures

Best Skyrim mods — an insectoid foe arrives in Skyrim, presumably having buzzed over from Morrowind.

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

If you're tired of fighting vanilla creatures and don't mind digressing from the lore, check out Immersive Creatures. A huge collection of modders contributed to assemble an astonishing 2,500+ new creatures to populate Skyrim. From goblins to crocodile demons to dragon-people—and even a mechanical dragon.

High Level Enemies

Best Skyrim mods — a dragon unleathes a cone of fire breath on a group of humanoid attackers as they charge down a staircase.

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Play Skyrim long enough and you'll notice that the difficulty drops off sharply at later levels. The problem is that a lot of standard enemy types don't have high level variants. The toughest Bandit, for example, is level 25, not much of a challenge when your Dovakhin gets past level 30. High Level Enemies contains hundreds of new enemy types, ensuring that basic enemies remain a challenge well into the endgame.

Realistic Animals and Predators

Best Skyrim mods — a sabrecat with its cub.

Download from: Nexus Mods (opens in new tab)

Animals have been revamped with better AI and more realistic behavior. Bears will hibernate in winter, animals will travel to water to drink each day, and predators not only hunt but whatever they consume will remain in their inventory (belly) for a while. Instead of always attacking, they may flee, or simply just watch you. Plus, you won't just see full-grown animals but also their young following them around.

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

Christopher Livingston
Staff Writer

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.

With contributions from