These content mods for Skyrim can keep you playing for years. From the full-sized Enderal fan expansion to new cities and factions, there's so much you can add to the world of Skyrim. Get adventurin'.
Quests and Expansions
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-voice 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. You can read about the opening hours of Enderal here.
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. (The Forgotten City has also been made into a standalone game.)
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.
Vigilant is a four-part quest mod that adds some fitting Dark Souls flair to Tamriel. After getting stuck in Oblivion, you'll face off against otherworldly monsters and big, Souls-style bosses while exploring areas filled with special items and keys. Beyond that, the 'Anvil of Zenithar' allows players to craft their own wares after finishing objectives, besting bosses and reaching new areas. An additional mod gives Vigilant voice-acting too.
The same modder has also created a Bloodborne adventure called Glenmoril.
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.
Falksaar is a massive 'DLC sized' continent created by a young modder as an audition piece for Bethesda. The island itself is impressive, comparable in size and scope to Dragonborn's Solstheim, though a bit more linear. Still, the continent itself is well-worth exploring.
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.
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, and make sure to read the notes on that page to get the voices working.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
If you want to begin a new game of Skyrim as someone other than the Dragonborn, this is one of several mods that give you a fresh start. Skip the opening sequence and begin life as someone arriving by boat, locked in a jail cell, a visitor at an inn, an outlaw in the wilderness, and many more.
Looking for more ways to start a new playthrough? This mod expands on the original Live Another Life by Arthmoor with over a dozen new beginnings, including the option to start as a vampire, a werewolf, or even a skooma addict. And just like the original mod, there’s a good mix of safe options along with those that are downright deadly.
Another great mod that lets you begin a new game as a random, no-name adventurer. You can quickly choose your starting gear and pick your arrival spot from dozens of different camps, inns. You can toggle dragons off completely and participate in the civil war despite not being the Dragonborn. You can even choose to begin as a vampire or werewolf. Our coverage is here.
Companions and NPCs
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.
A sequel to a much-loved Oblivion mod (which Terry Pratchett contributed to), 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Winterhold used to be the capital of Skyrim, but it sure doesn't look like it when you show up. This mod solves that problem, adding in the remnants of a once great city with walls and ruins that really show its history. The same modder has overhauled other Skyrim cities like Dragonbridge and even Solitude.
This mod adds ten new cities to Skyrim, all drawn from The Elder Scrolls: Arena, like Amol, Black Moor, Granite Hall, and others. Respectful of game lore, the cities have been added as close to their original locations as possible, and fit in with Skyrim's aesthetic nicely. They've even been populated with NPCs. We explored it here.
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).
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
You've got two 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, and Macho Dragons 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.
Arachnophobes might appreciate the mod that replaces the spider textures with Spider-Man, although it still looks freaky as all get-out to me. Insects Begone is a more lore-friendly attempt at getting rid of the bugs, swapping spiders for bears and chaurus for skeevers as well as deleting spiderwebs and other arachnid clutter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jump to page 3: Gameplay 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 3 for the best gameplay mods for Skyrim.