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The best Skyrim mods

The best Skyrim mods are once again those for the original, vanilla, legendary Oldrim, thanks to the Anniversary Edition breaking one or two of our favorite mods in the newer version of Bethesda's classic open-world mountain-humping fantasy RPG.

Skyrim Console Commands

Skyrim Mod: Santa

(Image credit: Bethesda)

There's no need to play Skyrim as a humble warrior. Become a giant, fly, walk through walls, spawn any item you want, and even become Santa Claus with Skyrim console commands.

There are over 67,000 Skyrim mods available to download from NexusMods, and over 28,000 on the Steam Workshop. At this point if you can imagine it chances are there's a mod for it—as well as plenty of things you would rather not imagine. From interface tweaks to entirely new campaigns, fully voiced companions, and of course ridiculous memes, it's all out there. Some of it is very out there.

It can be overwhelming to sort through all those mods, and installing a pre-canned list usually means adding a bunch of things you don't actually want, then not being able to get rid of them without messing up a bunch of dependencies. That's why our guide assumes a manual pick-and-choose style of modding, and is sorted into categories so you can find a selection of individual mods that are compatible and suit your playstyle.

The first thing you'll need to know if you're playing Skyrim on a modern PC in 2022 is that it's going to have problems running at a framerate higher than 60fps. The physics engine wasn't designed for it, and you'll end up hearing loud, repeated sound effects as things like water splashes loop continually, as well as seeing horses float into the air, bodies bounce around, and so on. Go into your GPU software's control panel and make sure Skyrim is capped at 60fps to fix all that.

Now we'll cover how to get started with Skyrim mods, as well as recommending some essential improvements. Check the subsequent pages for all the best Skyrim quest mods, new spells, equipment, followers, combat changes, and more.

If you're looking for Skyrim Special Edition mods, follow that link to our separate collection. Mods added in the latest update of this list have been marked with a ⭐.

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, magic, systems, and tweaks

How to install Skyrim mods

How to install Skyrim mods

Once you've found some mods you'd like to try, here are the tools you can use to get them working. Make sure you read the description page for each of your mods: many of them require specific steps and instructions.

Vortex

Replacing the Nexus Mod Manager is Vortex, a newer program for organizing your mod loadout. Available from the Nexus Mods website, just like most of the mods on our list, it will handle everything for you. It's easy to use and makes downloading, activating, and deactivating mods a breeze. It's also useful in that it supports tons of other games, like The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, and many more. 

Skyrim Script Extender

Skyrim Script Exstender (SKSE) is a utility that's required for some of the more complex mods to work. Not every mod on this list requires it, but many do, including the essential SkyUI, so you're best off just installing it up front. SKSE is now available directly through Steam, but you can still find it here if you prefer manual installation. 

Steam Workshop

You can also browse and use Skyrim mods via the Steam Workshop. It's easy to navigate and adding them to your roster is accomplish by simply clicking the subscribe button. Keep in mind, more complex mods usually require a few more steps to install, and even if they appear in the Workshop they may require more steps to get running.

Patches

(Image credit: Bethesda)

It's no secret Bethesda's RPGs can be more than a bit buggy. Thankfully, long after the official patches stopped rolling out, modders remained devoted to making the game more stable and usable. Here are some mods that will improve your overall experience.

Unofficial Skyrim Patch, Unofficial High Resolution Patch

Created by the same modders as the Unofficial Oblivion patches, the Unofficial Skyrim patches catch a huge amount of bugs the official patches don't. A lot of them are things you might never notice, like objects that were placed slightly wrong so they clip through each other or quests that break if you do something unusual, but it's still better to have them than not. There's one for the Legendary Edition and one for the official High Resolution textures patch.

Fix Lip Sync

If you've ever seen a delay between an NPC's spoken dialogue and when their lips start moving, it's a long-running bug apparently caused by an optimization patch in Skyrim version 1.9. This mod fixes it.

User Interface mods

SkyUI

Skyrim's original UI is, well, terrible. SkyUI makes it easier to use, more pleasant to read, and much more useful for sorting through your loot and menus. Most importantly, SkyUI adds a mod configuration menu to the pause screen, letting you tweak and adjust compatible mods (including many on this list). A lot of mods don't require SkyUI and will run just fine without it, but you'll get much more out of your mods if you have it.

In other words, it's highly recommended.

RaceMenu

An improved character creation menu, with numeric displays for all sliders, and the ability to choose any color for your hair, skin, or other tints rather than being limited based on race. There's a sculpt mode if you want to get right into messing with the geometry of your head, and you can turn the light illuminating your face on and off to see how your features will look in different situations, which is a blessing.

Better Dialogue Controls

Skyrim Mods Better Dialogue

Using a keyboard and mouse for Skyrim means sometimes the game gets confused when you're selecting a dialogue option. You've noticed, surely, that sometimes when you choose a response the game thinks you've chosen a different one. Skyrim's dialogue controls are weird and clunky, and this mod completely and thankfully fixes that. The same modder also created one for message boxes.

A Quality World Map

Skyrim's map is functional but boring. A Quality World Map offers multiple ways to fix it. You can replace the map with a much more detailed world texture, with colors that help delineate the separate areas much more obviously, but there's also an option to have a paper map with a more Oblivion look if that's your thing. 

Better Free Camera

(Image credit: Utopium)

To get the perfect screenshot, normally you have to use Skyrim console commands. Better free camera instead lets you set hotkeys for free camera mode, toggling the HUD, clipping, pausing time or adjusting its speed, and everything else a dedicated screenshot hunter needs. Well, almost everything. Combine it with Puppeteer Master to pose NPCs, override their AI, and select animations.

Immersive HUD

the best skyrim mods: immersive hud

You don't need your HUD onscreen all the time. This mod hides the crosshairs and status bars when you're not actively using them, such as outside combat. You can also toggle the compass and quest markers on and off with a keypress, and adjust their opacity.

Vendor Sale Delay - GONE

This is a small mod, but it makes the game much less frustrating. Now instead of having to listen to the vendor dialogue before they’ll trade with you, the trade window opens up immediately while they give their speech about their junk—I mean "treasures."

HUD Clock

the best skyrim mods: hud clock

On the other hand, sometimes you want a little more info on-screen. This widget adds a clock to your screen—with several different elegant and unobtrusive faces you can choose through SkyUI's mod configuration menu—so you can keep track of the time and date. The Dovahkiin's got a smartwatch.

Textures & Lighting mods

Skyrim, frankly, wasn't really that fantastic looking to begin with, so there have naturally been a lot—a lot—of visual improvement mods over the years. Here's how to squeeze improved visuals out of the aging RPG.

Total Character Makeover 

the best skyrim mods: total character makeover

A compilation of existing changes to NPC appearances, the Total Character Makeover makes everyone in Skyrim look better without making them better-looking, if you catch our drift. No nudity, no anime hair, no glamazon makeup, just a suite of new textures and tweaks to everything from beards to vampire fangs. 

Enhanced Lights and FX

the best skyrim mods: enhanced lights and FX

You may have noticed some things in Skyrim that should be sources of light don't actually cast any, while in other places things are brightly lit for no real reason. Enhanced Lights and FX fixes that, making light shine where it should. There are options for just how dark you want interiors to be, and enabling those will mean torches and spells like candlelight are vital. It also makes some nice tweaks to the appearance of smoke.

2K Textures

the best skyrim mods: 2k textures

Does what it says: replaces Skyrim's textures: sky, water, architecture, clothing, clutter, reflections, and so on, of the cities, towns, dungeons, and landscapes. There's a full version if your PC can handle it, but there's also a lite version that should make things look nicer without killing your performance.

Climates of Tamriel

the best skyrim mods: climates of tamriel

This comprehensive mod adds hundreds of new weather systems, a huge library of new cloud systems, a new sun, improved lighting for both fans of a fantasy look and realistic visuals, and even audio improvements. With all of these systems combining, each day in Skyrim will feel different from the last.

Book of Silence

the best skyrim mods: book of silence

A pretty hefty collection of high-quality replacements for Skyrim textures, covering everything from equipment, landscapes, dungeons, and architecture. While they look much nicer, the textures are the same resolution as Bethesda's high-res DLC pack so it shouldn't slow you down.

Make sure you read the notes on the mod's page. There are hotfixes required to get everything working.

Static Mesh Improvement

the best skyrim mods: static mesh improvement

This mod edits a number of 3D models in the game, and with over 700 meshes placed in over 15,000 locations in the world, it's a welcome difference. You'll notice better looking architectural elements, furniture, objects in the landscape, and all sorts of other models that didn't get much attention from Bethesda.

Immersive Animations

the best skyrim mods: immersive animations

Immersive Animations adds dozens of little touch-ups to Skyrim's existing animations, plus a few nifty new ones. It's also compatible with Dual Sheath Redux, allowing for all sorts of nice animations for having your shield on your back, or sheathing two weapons at once.

YY Anim Replacer — Zweihander

the best skyrim mods: yy anim replacer - zweihander

Zweihander is a set of new animations for two handed weapons in Skyrim. The big selling point is the idle animation, which sees you resting your sword/axe/hammer on your shoulder. There's lots more than that though, with animations for running, turning and even a leaping overhead strike included. It's all customizable too, so you can mix and match new and old animations.

Sounds of Skyrim

the best skyrim mods: sounds of skyrim

Get immersed in new audio: tons of it. Hundreds of new sounds effects are included to make dungeons and sewers spookier, enhance the wilderness and wildlife, and make cities and villages more lively and real. This mod is a treat for your ears, and has customizable modules for each type of area.

FXAA Injector

the best skyrim mods: fxaa injector

Enhances your graphics with FXAA and other post effects, such as sharpen and bloom, creating crisper visuals and more vibrant colors. Conveniently, you can adjust these settings while you play by alt-tabbing out and moving the sliders on the mod's desktop utility.

Skyrim Flora Overhaul

the best skyrim mods: skyrim flora overhaul

This mod comes in three different versions, depending on how drastically you want to change your game. All versions promise more luxurious trees and bark, taller grass, and prettier plant life. The heavier versions completely replace the trees altogether and give you lusher greens for a summery feel.

Realistic Water Two

the best skyrim mods: realistic water two

Realistic Water Two, drawing and expanding on the work of some earlier water mods, adds better ripples, larger splashes, re-textured foam and faster water flow in streams, bobbing chunks of ice, and even murky, stagnant-looking water in dungeons. It's the next best thing to getting wet.

True Vision ENB

the best skyrim mods: true vision ENB

If you're looking to get closer to reality with crisp visuals, this ENB configuration is one to try. With hyper-realistic color corrections, realistic specular highlights and reflections, improved spell effects, and tons of other adjustments, it makes Skyrim look like a real-world place.

Enhanced Camera

the best skyrim mods: enhanced camera

Remaining in first-person mode helps a game feel immersive, and this mod does that in spades. Not only can you look down and see your entire body while playing, but other activities such as crafting, cooking, riding horses and even riding dragons won't break you out of first-person mode.

Book Covers

the best skyrim players: book covers

It may not seem like that big of a deal, but these little high-res book covers do make for an extremely pleasant upgrade over the standard, muddily-textured ones. When you're relaxing at home or perusing (or robbing) a bookstore or library, make sure you've installed this lovely cover mod.

Hearthfire Dolls Are Ugly 

Because they are! What self-respecting parent wants to give their kid a dirty, beat-up naked doll? Instead, give them an actual cute dolly, or an adorable teddy bear in a variety of different colours.

Jump to page 2: Content 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 2 for the best content mods for Skyrim.