The best Skyrim mods in 2023

Some of these Skyrim mods overhaul and add to the game's item pool, while others add entirely new systems and ways to play. Want to go fishing? Become the king of Skyrim? Turn Skyrim into a survival game? It's all here.

Weapons & equipment

Cloaks of Skyrim  (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — the player character passes a Whiterun guard on the road. Both are wearing fashionable cloaks.

It's not real fantasy if people aren't wearing big flappy cloaks. Cloaks of Skyrim populates the world with a variety of new capes and cloaks, automatically adding them to the inventories of random guards and bandits and so on, which makes them look much more impressive. And then you can loot those impressive cloaks off their corpses. It's worth adding 360 Walk and Run Plus (opens in new tab) as well, which prevents some of the clipping issues that otherwise ruin the effect. There's nothing to be done about Argonian and Khajiit tails, however, so this mod simply removes them when cloaks are worn.

Fall of the Space Core (opens in new tab) 

Best Skyrim mods — Portal 2's Space Core, mid-plummet from atmosphere.

A collaboration between Valve and Bethesda to celebrate the opening of the Skyrim Steam Workshop, this mod adds the space core from Portal 2. Yeah, the little guy who is obsessed with space. He falls to earth when you're near Whiterun and can be picked up, then crafted into armor. Make sure to keep an eye on your skills screen for another effect added by this mod.

Zim's Immersive Artifacts (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a helmeted warrior prepares to strike from horseback with their handaxe.

Makes lore-friendly and balanced changes to many unique items in the game, including Auriel's Bow, the Gauldur Amulet, Harkon's Sword, the Jagged Crown, and plenty more, including artifacts from the Dawnguard and Dragonborn expansions. There are lots of customization options for the player in case they don't want all the items affected.

Books Books Books (opens in new tab)

There are plenty of books in Skyrim, but what if there were… more? Books Books Books adds more than 200 books, many from previous Elder Scrolls games, to the College of Winterhold's library as well as leveled lists, meaning they'll show up as random loot and being sold by merchants. If you want to read the 36 Sermons of Vivec from Morrowind while you're playing Skyrim, here you go. Books Books Books also includes some apocryphal texts from The Imperial Library website (opens in new tab) written by Elder Scrolls developers.

Immersive Weapons (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a Redguard warrior bears a curved saber in one hand, and a javelin in the other.

This mod provides a hefty selection of new weapons that fit in nicely with the existing look and feel of Skyrim. You'll find axes, daggers, maces, and any number of new swords, all beautifully designed and textured and suitable for veteran characters and those just starting out.

Belt Fastened Quivers (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a Skyrim archer knocks their next arrow, with their quiver hanging from their waist.

Belt Fastened Quivers moves all arrow quivers from the back, where they often clip through things like backpacks or cloaks, down to the waist, adding new animations for the new position. It was originally made as part of Frostfall, so if you're using that, you don't need the standalone mod. If you aren't, however, it's still well worth getting just to stop your arrows from clipping through the items from Immersive Amours and Wet and Cold.

Immersive Armors (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — three Riverrun NPCs, each wearing a full set of custom-made modded armor.

This mod brings you a huge collection of great-looking lore-friendly armor. And it's not just for you, either: the armors are assigned to various NPCs and randomized loot lists throughout the game. You can even turn individual armors on and off through SkyUI's configuration menu, giving you full control over what items actually appear in your game.

Warmonger Armory (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a Dunmer adventurer in conversation with a sitting Orc.

Warmonger Armory is another compilation mod. It adds a ton of great looking new armor, clothing and weapons to the game, including some using DLC equipment. Once again these items are carefully distributed around the world, given to specific NPCs, and added to randomized equipment lists.

Unique Uniques (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a hooded Dragonborn brandishes the Dragonbane katana and its mod-improved visuals.

Skyrim is full of unique items with fascinating lore behind them, but unfortunately very few of them have the looks to go with their backstory. InsanitySorrow's Unique Uniques adds new textures and meshes for several of the game's unique weapons, giving you a great excuse to bust out Dragonbane again.

Project Flintlock (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — Somebody gave a Skyrim guy a gun.

A lot of games have been called "Skyrim with guns" but now Skyrim fits that description too, thanks to this mod that lets you carry a blunderbuss, a flintlock rifle, and a grenade launcher. With custom sounds and bayonets, it's time to introduce those primitive Skyrim screwheads to your boomstick. We tried it out here.

Skyrim 40,000 (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Bethesda)

For the times when you feel like saying to hell with canon and just being a space marine from Warhammer 40,000. You get access to the full suite of transhuman abilities, able to hold your breath basically forever, see in the dark, and spit acid. There's a power for bumping your height up to proper space marine scale and then back down when you get sick of being humongous. To get a full suit of ceramite in your chosen legion's colors you'll need to craft it, though the only ingredient needed is money. Craftable weapons include plasma and bolt pistols, power swords, chainswords, and more. Save your game before you craft a chainsword, since they can cause crashes. The Dwemer Autoblade (opens in new tab) mod is a safer option. 

New systems

Simply Climb (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Bethesda)

"See that mountain? You can clumsily wallhack up it by hammering the space bar while you run directly into it and flick the mouse left and right." Skyrim doesn't really live up to the promise of its mountainous landscape, and as soon as you leave the path to go exploring you end up clacking away at the keyboard like a maniac. Simply Climb gives you a climb button, mapped to right-ctrl by default, that shifts you upwards and forwards at the cost of some stamina (the amount you climb is determined by your light armor skill). There's no animation for this so it's recommended for use in first-person.

Cleric (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods - three characters kneel in prayer.

(Image credit: Bethesda)

If only building a relationship with divinity in the real world was this simple. As you earn XP by interacting with shrines or spending time at temples, you'll be able to afford perks like the ability to turn undead or resurrect fallen allies. Access the Cleric mod via the Mod Configuration menu and you'll see your current level and number of unspent perks. A good first perk is Bless, a spell that buffs allies and earns clerical XP, which you can also use to reforge any god's amulet into a blessed amulet that earns clerical XP while you're wearing it. After that, you can diversify into a Crusader who gets bonuses when fighting chosen enemies or a Monk who specializes in martial arts or dragon shouts. Alternatively, become a Cultist of the Daedric Princes who curses those who offend you. Unlike some other religion mods, there's no guesswork in working out how to please your chosen deity or what they'll consider sins, with everything spelled out on the menu.

Fishing in Skyrim (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a Nord sits at riverside with their poles close at hand, prepared to engage in the unparalleled high of video game fishing.

A great addition to survival playthroughs. No more fishing with your bare hands! Adds fishing poles, fishing nets, a bait mechanic, spellbooks, and the explosive “Dwarven boomfishing” ability. You can also fish up new and exciting junk, some of which you can sell off for extra gold.

Moonlight Tales (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a close-up view of a roaring were-bear's fanged maw

Being a lycanthrope is so much better with this mod, which features new music, over 200 new beast skins, new enemies, and lots of customization through MCM. Also, who doesn't want to try being a werebear?

Perseid's Inns and Taverns (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a Nord rests in a very cozy bedroom.

Wandering into a tavern or inn on a cold and blustery night isn't the experience it really should be, and this mod makes inns a bit more realistic. Room rates widely vary, you can arrange for an extended say, and you can even arrange lodging for your followers so they're not just standing next to your bed all night while you sleep.

Become High King of Skyrim (opens in new tab)

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

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.

Tame the Beasts of Skyrim 2 (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a tamed dragon unleashes its flame breath on one of its hostile kin.

You don't just have to slaughter every creature in Skyrim: you can also tame them, keep them on a farm, and have them accompany you on quests. Whether you want a pet mammoth or a pet chicken, this mod will allow you to assemble an impressive bestiary of loyal creatures. You can even breed them to create more powerful animals. Here's our write-up.

Alchemy and Cooking Overhaul (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a selection of player-made mod explosives.

Spice up cooking and alchemy with this expansive mod that adds dozens of new ingredients, recipes, and effects. Portable alchemy stations mean you can craft on the go, potions can be sorted from weakest to strongest, and you'll even be able to cook up alchemical bombs to hurl at your enemies—even while on horseback.

Survival & Immersion

Frostfall (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a torch-wielding adventurer inspects their hide tent..

It's cold in Skyrim, and Frostfall lets you really feel it. An immersive survival system tracks weather, climate, time of day, and even the type of clothing you're wearing to determine how cold you are. It also allows you to gain experience in terms of camping and endurance skill, and a new ability helps you find the creatures and items you'll need to survive.

Realistic Needs and Diseases (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — the Realistic Needs and Diseases configuration menu, with a number of options for configuring the simulation of basic necessities.

In Skyrim you may contract a disease or two from time to time, but they're typically unchanging and you can deal with them at your leisure. This mod makes diseases progressive, meaning they get worse and worse until they're cured, though there's also a chance your might fight off the infection with bed rest. Hunger and thirst also have stages of severity, food can spoil, and getting enough sleep is important. It's entirely customizable as well.

Wet and Cold (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — screenshots showing NPCs equipping protective gear to ward off cold.

You're not the only one dealing with the harsh elements in Skyrim. Using this mod, NPCs will bundle up in the cold, move inside if its raining, and do their best to avoid blizzards. The mod also adds effects like wet-sounding footsteps, visible vapor from your breath when it's chilly, and reduced movement speed in heavy snow and strong wind.

Hunterborn (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a screenshot showing the harvesting options for your fresh kills with the Hunterborn mod.

This mod provides a more immersive experience for hunters. No longer do you simply yank loot or food out an animal's inventory, you can now dress the carcass, skin it, and butcher it. You can even carry the entire animal back to your camp or to a vendor. The mod comes with hunting knives, dozens of new ingredients that can be harvested, and new recipes.

Campfire (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — the Dragonborn sits before a campfire.

Intending to make outdoor living a robust experience, this mod lets you build several different kinds of fires, from a weak and flickering fire to a roaring blaze suitable for cooking. You can also buy or craft camping gear like tents and tanning racks, and backpacks that display your various cooking pots and waterskins. If you're married, your spouse can camp with you. Here's our piece about it (opens in new tab).

Combat & magic

The Dance of Death (opens in new tab) and VioLens (opens in new tab) 

Bethesda left several unassigned kill moves lurking in Skyrim's code when the game was released, including some very cool shield bash kills. The Dance of Death re-enables them and re-organises all kill moves so that they're gradually unlocked as you earn perks. It also includes a full menu that lets you control the rate of kill moves. Alternatively there's VioLens — A Killmove Mod, which features much of the same functionality but also works for ranged attacks. 

Immersive College of Winterhold (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — ritual magic swirls around a grimoire and a pair of soul gems.

Ever thought the College of Winterhold should better resemble an institution of higher learning? This mod adds awesome visuals, ongoing experiments, the ability to specialize in certain schools of magic, and even an option to refuse the title of Arch-Mage (and give it to Tolfdir instead). Custom options in MCM. 

Individualize Shout Cooldowns (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a screenshot showing the individual cooldown timers for different Dragon Shouts.

Another simple mod that just makes sense. This mod gives a separate cooldown for each Shout, allowing the player to use several Shouts at the same time. It also adds SkyUI-type Active Effects so that you can see how many Shouts are active. The actual time for the cooldowns has not been adjusted from vanilla, and no Shouts have been altered. 

Perkus Maximus (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a screenshot showing the expanded skill tree offerings of the Perkus Maximus mod.

Some of Skyrim's perks and skills are a wee bit drab. Enchantment, for example, is a useful skill but isn't much fun to put points into simply because most of its perks are simple increases in enhancement strength. Perkus Maximus overhauls a number of systems, keeping passive effects but adding powerful and interesting active effects as well. We covered this mod here.

Duel: Combat Realism (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — the player blocks an attack with their shield.

So long, hack-and-slash combat: you're going to need to be far more careful tackling foes to-to-toe. This functions due to some changes to AI and especially damage: getting hit with a sword or an axe is something you can't just shrug off anymore. As a result, combat is more tense, takes more patience, and is considerably more challenging.

Apocalypse—Magic of Skyrim (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — the Dragonborn sits astride a giant, purple, enchanted wolf.

Apocalypse adds 140 new spells to Skyrim, most of them pretty well balanced. These aren't just 'spray lightning/fire/cold until someone dies' spells either. There's a whole variety of cool summons, disabling effects, and unusual attacks available.

Lost Grimoire (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Steelfeathers)

Here's another 120+ spells, all seamlessly inserted into the vendor interfaces of Skyrim's wizards. Lost Grimoire's spells aren't super wacky, but a few are what you might call unusual. Sleight of Hand swaps your weapon for the one in your target's hand, while Infestation diseases the target and makes spiders explode from their corpse, which then spread the infection to others. There are spells to disguise yourself as a member of a faction while wearing their armor, walk on water, and give yourself claws. New, stealthy damage spells are heightened by a change that adds sneak attack damage to destruction magic, making magical assassin a valid playtype. Also, you can summon a ghost mammoth. 

Arcanum (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a Winterhold mage overflows with raw magicks.

(Image credit: Bethesda, modded by Kosorsomesaykosm)

Arcanum is another enormous quest mod that adds over 100 spells inspired by all sorts of fantasy settings. It includes spells from schools of Destruction, Restoration, Illusion, and Conjuration. When you're feeling experimental, you can also use its spell crafting system to throw together spell effects and visual effects to make your own combinations.

Way of the Monk (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a hooded Skyrim pugilist readies their fists for the fine art of fisticuffs.

You probably don't spend much time fighting unarmed: it's just not that much fun. Way of the Monk fixes this by giving you more combat options when taking on the world fist-first. There are new skills, perks, spiked gloves, and ways to enchant your fists to do different types of magic damage.

Sneak Tools (opens in new tab)

There should be more to stealth than just being invisible and gaining surprise damage bonuses. Now you can be a genuine slippery, filthy, sneaky type. Slit the throats of the unaware. Knock people unconscious from behind. Wear masks that hide your identity. Douse torches and lanterns to move through the shadows. Add an arsenal of trick arrows, including one that launches ropes that allows you to climb walls.

Thunderchild (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a Dragonborn yelling so hard that they've manifested a contained singularity field.

Skyrim's Dragon shouts are cool. Much cooler than regular magic. The best fighter/mage in Skyrim is frequently just an ordinary fighter who yells a lot. Thunderchild expands the Dovakhin's magic vocals with a bunch of cool new shouts. Yell until you teleport, shout ghosts into existence, holler until the earth quakes or just scream so hard you open up a black hole.

Gifts of the Outsider (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a first-person view of the player knocking two Solitude guards off their feet with a Wind Blast, added by the Gifts of the Outsider mod.

Bring a little Dishonored into Skyrim. Some of the powers like Blink, Possession, Devouring Swarm, Wind Blast, and Void Gaze are at your disposal once your read a mysterious book, meet the mysterious Outsider, and visit a series of shrines.

Convenient tweaks

SkyTweak (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Grimy Bunyip)

There are 14 pages of options in SkyTweak, letting you alter variables relating to experience point gain, stealth, how vendors work, combat, magic—a little bit of everything. It's guaranteed to contain options you won't be able to live without once you've started messing with them. Want to change how far away NPCs are before they greet you, or reduce the pause between lines? How about messing with the AI's search time or how much light affects your ability to hide? Want to change the time scale, adjust fall damage, or arrow recovery chance? Some of these options exist in other mods, or Skyrim console commands, but SkyTweak slaps them all into menus to bring up every time you're annoyed by something as minor as how frequently enemies dodge projectiles or the number of times you're allowed to hit a follower before they turn on you. 

Project Proteus (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Bethesda / Phenderix)

While you could switch to another savegame to play your Khajiit archer for a while, Project Proteus lets you import your characters into an existing world state—meaning you can switch to a character with their own items, skills, and spells, but keep your current quest progression. NPCs who have died remain dead, items left in storage can be retrieved, and so on. It also lets you edit NPCs and items, even the weather. Some of what Project Proteus makes possible is already doable with Skyrim's console commands (opens in new tab) and existing mods, but this brings it all together in a single pop-up menu. 

Long Conversations (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Most of Skyrim's conversations are over in a flash. People just aren't that chatty in the frozen north. Every now and then though, you have a longer chin-wag with a greybeard, or one of your fully voiced followers added by mods, and suddenly half a day's gone by. With this mod, time slows down while you're talking so you don't lose hours because you initiated the wrong convo.

Ish's Souls to Perks (opens in new tab)

How many spare dragon souls have you got? If you've been playing a while, probably tons. Now you can put your spare souls to use. This mod adds a Dragon Stone (look for it near the Guardian Stones) where you can exchange souls (the amount is configurable) for perks.

No NPC Greetings (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a player character stands in Whiterun's market, blissfully unassailed by NPC chatter.

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Sick of NPCs repeating the same catchphrase from across the street every time they see you? Sick of guards commenting on your best skills, which they somehow know all about just by looking at you—even Sneak? This mod has a few options for fixing the issue, whether you want to reduce the distance these barks trigger at, or get rid of them altogether.

Simply Knock (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — the different options for provided by the Simply Knock mod for interacting with an NPC through a locked door.

One of those small mods that just makes sense. Created by Chesko, author of Frostfall, this mod gives players the ability to knock on locked doors instead of having to break and enter. Someone might answer the door, or you can convince them to open up with your Speech skills. Customize options through MCM. 

Convenient Horses (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — four different angles showing off a horse's set of Dwemer horse armor.

Basically, it makes horses a million times better. Your followers can ride them, and fight while riding. You can conduct conversations and loot while on horseback. There are a variety of new saddles and armor types. Dismounting is quicker and automatically draws your weapon. You can auto-mount horses when they're called, and even dictate their AI in combat.

Unread Books Glow  (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — the three different glow intensities available in the Unread Books Glow mod.

Want to know which skill books you haven't read? Now they glow bright red. Spell tomes are green until you've learned their spells, and other books are different shades of blue depending on whether they trigger quests or not. The other advantage of this mod is that you can tell which books you need for that completionist library you're putting together at a glance.

Not So Fast (opens in new tab)

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.   

Realistic Humanoid Movement Speed (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — Humanoids moving at an exceedingly realistic speed across the plains of Whiterun.

(Image credit: Bethesda)

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. 

Honed Metal (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — smoke drifts out from the forge fire across the Riverrun blacksmith's sign.

Does your character have better things to do than learn smithing, or are they opposed to getting their hands dirty like a common peasant? With this mod, you can simply hire blacksmiths to craft, temper, and hone your gear for you. It's a fantastic gold dump, as they'll automatically craft everything to the very best of their ability and charge you for it. Also different blacksmiths have different skills—the smith in Solitude can craft up to Legendary, but not so much the smith in Riverwood. Eorlund Gray-Mane is basically a smithing god. MCM supported with lots of customization options.  

The Choice is Yours (opens in new tab)

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

Wearable Lanterns (opens in new tab)

Best Skyrim mods — a Nord carries a lit candle lantern in the nighttime streets of Whiterun.

If you're using some of the lighting mods you'll notice that nighttime in Skyrim has gotten much darker. Spells and torches can help, but warriors who want to use their off-hand are out of luck. Chesko's Wearable Lantern mod sorts out this problem, letting you clip a light source to your belt, front or rear. Companions can also carry the lanterns, and will automatically douse them when you enter sneak mode.

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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