How Skyrim Special Edition works (and doesn't) with your existing saved games and mods

If you already own The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and are thinking of trying Skyrim Special Edition, you may have questions about how the improved version of Bethesda's RPG will work in terms of mods, saved games, and most importantly, modded saved games.

Here's what we know, and it's not all good news. We'll update this post with any additional information we discover.

Skyrim and Skyrim Special Edition are two separate games

You probably know this one, but just in case: if you own Skyrim and its expansions, you'll get Skyrim Special Edition for free, and you don't need to worry about Skyrim SE overwriting or replacing your original copy of Skyrim.

They are two completely separate games. If you have saved games and installed mods for Skyrim, you will still be able to play them with your original copy of Skyrim after the Special Edition appears.

Existing unmodified saved games can be used with Skyrim SE

If you've got saved games from the original Skyrim, you can use them with Skyrim SE. According to an email from Bethesda, it's just a matter of copying and pasting the files:

"Existing save games from the original PC game will work in the PC version of Skyrim Special Edition. Simply copy your old saves from My Games/Skyrim to My Games/Skyrim Special Edition."

So, you'll be able to pick up in the Special Edition right where you left off in the original. This is only for unmodded saved games, though, and here comes the bad news.

Modded saved games won't work at all with Skyrim SE

We've tested this a bit, and can confirm that saved games in which you used mods for the original Skyrim don't work with Skyrim SE.

Bethesda told us this in their email:

"Only use original saves that have never been used with mods. Do not use your original saved game if this error appears when you load it in Skyrim Special Edition: This save relies on content that is no longer present."

Dave Talamas, Community Manager of Nexus Mods, had this to say:

"Though there is a remote chance that very particular save files which only depend on mods which have a SSE equivalent installed may work, this will not be relevant to the vast majority of mod users because their modded files will have one or more dependencies with a currently incompatible mod.

"Our advice for mod users is to expect to start fresh when it comes to playing SSE."

Skyrim SE versions of SkyUI and Skyrim Script Extender are in the works

Skyrim Script Extender is a tool many mods rely on, as it expands both scripting capabilities and functionality for mods. Thing is, SKSE was created for the 32 bit Skyrim, and Skyrim Special Edition is 64 bit, meaning the current version of SKSE won't work with the Special Edition. There is now an alpha being tested for the SSE, however.

SkyUI, one of the best and most popular mods for Skyrim, and a mod that many other mods require for configuration, depends on SKSE to work. So, until there's a version of SKSE for the 64 bit version, there won't be a completely workable version of SkyUI for Skyrim SE (though there's an alpha version available for testing).

There are plenty of mods for Skyrim SE already

Since Skyrim and Skyrim SE are two different games, modders who post their Skyrim Mods on Nexus Mods need to essentially create duplicates of their work. Many have done this already—and Nexus Mods is making this process as easy as possible for them.

The Nexus Mods page for Skyrim SE is right here, so you can see what's currently available. Thankfully, prolific modder Arthmoor has a number of his mods ready to go, including an Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch, which like its predecessor, will fix a number of bugs that were present in the original Skyrim and have been carried over to the Special Edition.

Nexus Mod Manager now supports Skyrim SE

If, like me, you use Nexus Mod Manager, the Nexus Mods tool for managing your mods, it now supports Skyrim Special Edition.

You can download the new version of Nexus Mod Manager here.

We'll update this post with any additional information we come across.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

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.