How to make your own Skyrim Special Edition with mods

Sunday during Bethesda's E3 press conference one of the many pre-show rumors floating around was confirmed: a remastered edition of Skyrim is headed our way. It's called the Skyrim Special Edition, and it'll be out for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 in October. During a post-show interview, Todd Howard also said that the Special Edition would be free for those who own "all the Skyrim" stuff on PC, and by "stuff" we assume he means the three official DLC expansions: Hearthfire, Dawnguard, and Dragonborn.

For console gamers, the Special Edition is good news, because it will provide remastered art, improved lighting, new shaders, and other graphical upgrades. For PC gamers, there's also good news—though not exactly breaking news—because modders have been hard at work improving Skyrim's looks from the moment it launched in 2011.

So, if you don't want to wait for your copy of Skyrim Special Edition to arrive, I've put together a list of existing mods based on the improved features showcased in the Special Edition trailer.

Remastered art and effects

There's a heck of a lot to choose from if you want Skyrim to be a prettier place. The Special Edition trailer focuses on trees, so I'd recommend the Skyrim Flora Overhaul, which provides new textures, lusher colors, better trees and bark, lovelier plants, and taller grass.

Volumetric God Rays

If you want to bring some God rays into Skyrim, there are a number of ENB presets you can use, but RealLike ENB is one of the best, and though it first appeared in 2012 it's been updated as recently as June of this year.

Dynamic depth of field

Dynavision's got you covered here. It works like a camera's auto-focus. If you look at something in the foreground, objects in background will lose focus. It's highly customizable as well, and you can even activate and deactivate is while you're playing.

Screen-space reflections

In the video above you can see real-time reflections similar to those shown in the Special Edition trailer. Skyrim Enhanced Shaders NLA is an adaptation of the Natural Lighting and Atmospherics for ENB preset, and adjusts reflection parameters, enables reflections for interiors, and makes lots of other tweaks.

New snow shaders

If you're looking for better snow, Real Skyrim Snowflakes, also called Vivid Snow, adds a particle system so the snowflakes are hit by light sources. No more flat, fake flakes—you really feel like you're standing in a snowfall.

New water shaders

There's just something about nice-looking water that can completely change a game's world. I'd recommend the latest version of the Purity mod, which in addition to overhauling Skyrim's exteriors, gives you some sparkling and lovely looking water.

And, if you're looking for more mods to improve Skyrim's looks, we've got a whole page dedicated to visual overhauls on our list of the best Skyrim mods.

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.