Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Some highlights:
- Is there a game only you seem to remember?
- What do you drink while gaming?
- Which horror movie would make a great videogame?
Obvious answer: Skyrim. How can you enjoy replaying Skyrim without being able to bypass the intro, sort your inventory by weight or value, or fly the paraglider from Breath of the Wild? OK, the last one is optional, but Skyrim is the number one game I would only suggest playing unmodded your first time through. (The number two game is every other Bethesda open-world RPG.) I guess if you count unofficial patches as mods the same goes for Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, but I'm thinking more of full-blown modifications rather than fixes.
What game would you never play without mods?
Here are our answers, plus some from our forum.
Wes Fenlon, Senior Editor: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2. Somewhere in the pages of PC Gamer I'm pretty sure I've called KotOR 2 the buggiest game I've ever beaten. I made it to the end, surviving a healthy scoop of bugs, outright crashes, and even a corrupted save file. And that was all with the vital TSLRCM, aka The Sith Lords Restored Content Modification, installed. TSLRCM is an essential add-on that restores chunks of KotOR2 that developer Obsidian didn't have time to finish, and also fixes bugs that made some stuff that actually was in the game inaccessible. Considering how buggy The Sith Lords still was when I played it in 2013, I can't imagine how bad it was before fans swooped in to fix it up.
TSLRCM debuted in 2009 and was most recently updated in December 2020, so maybe all the problems I ran into in 2013 have since been ironed out. I sure hope so, because this is my pick for the best Star Wars game. Just... use a lot of save slots.
Chris Livingston, Features Producer: Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl is one of my favorite games of all time, but gosh. It has bugs. To be fair, some of them are pretty darn amusing and only deepen my affection for the game, but I don't imagine I'd ever play it unmodded again. It's been ages since I've revisited it so I'm not sure what the best mods are for it these days, but I recall the Zone Reclamation Project did a good job of squashing bugs, improving stability, and adding some new optional features without feeling like an altogether different experience.
Ted Litchfield, Associate Editor: I have practically sworn off mods that aren't reconstructive or standalone because of my experience with Oblivion and Fallout 3 in the eighth grade. I was blown away by the possibilities, and loaded up a ludicrous amount of mods on our family PC: Midas Magic for Oblivion, tacticool Call of Duty stuff in Fallout. I picked up NPCs from other gaming franchises, a custom race of weird anime elves, mods to expand cities and settlements and bring them into the same loading zone as the overworld, and I brought that computer to its knees.
After a certain point, something broke and the ground texture on the overworld in Oblivion was just a repeating pattern of a map of the Imperial City for some reason, and I couldn't pinpoint what did it. The problem somehow even persisted on a fresh install (I'm sure there was something I could have figured out, but I was 13). I'd loaded that PC up with so many weird, tasteless mods that it was permanently haunted, and I didn't play Oblivion again for over 10 years. These days, I try to "respect the developers' vision."
Andy Chalk, NA News Lead: I don't usually play with mods, and I generally don't replay games once I've finished with them. But if I ever succumb to the temptation to return to Morrowind, I will absolutely not do so without the Passive Cliff Racers mod, or something like it. It might seem like a minor thing but man, those birds are just a non-stop pain in the ass. The Nerevarine don't need that.
I am changing my answer, because I completely forgot about this. One game I have replayed (and may replay again) is System Shock 2. It's brilliant, but graphically very dated. (Frankly, it was graphically dated when it was new.) There are two mods essential to addressing that shortcoming: System Shock 2 Rebirth and SHTUP, the Shock Texture Upgrade Project. They're a bit of a hassle to use, but collectively they give the game a serious and much-needed visual upgrade. It's been a long time since I played SS2 so there may be other options out there now, but Rebirth and SHTUP have always been the "big ones," and they're the two I would not go without.
(You shouldn't, either.)
From our forum
Brian Boru: Far Cry 5. Another of Ubisoft's drawn-out boring FC intros, which I only want to see once. Then there are the hated-by-many capture sequences which made me stop playing for nearly a year until the excellent Resistance mod took care of both of those problems.
Civilization. I played Civ4 for ~a year vanilla—wonderful game, but the UI tedium eventually got to me. BUG/BAT mod made it playable again, to the extent I play it every year. Started Civ6 recently and went straight for mods, have ~30 installed—no point suffering UI deficiencies when I don't have to.
With games good enough to warrant replaying, I'll usually look for an 'unlock' mod, so I can have access to most of the good stuff from the get-go.
ZedClampet: Welp, I have 285 mods currently going in Farming Simulator 22 (by the time I finished playing Farming Simulator 19 I had over 800 mods), but this would only be a close second to Satisfactory, where I only have 48 mods, but they are incredibly significant to how I want to play the game; for instance, the mod that makes the game peaceful, removing all enemies, both plants and animals, and the mods that allow access to vehicles earlier in the game.
I've played this game over and over. Unlocking trains, drones and jetpacks later was cool the first couple of times. Now I just want them as soon as possible. Same goes for enemies. They were fun at first, but now they are just a nuisance. Also, the mods that replace the highly annoying bio-energy in the early game are a must have. So, yeah, it's Satisfactory for me.
mainer: Outside of the obvious answer that you already listed, my next most modded game would be Fallout 4. I'd never play that game without mods (outside of the first playthrough when it released). Make your settlements bigger and fancier, make your settlers smarter, improve the factions, additional quests, additional crafting options, and there's even a FallUI mod now that's based on the SkyUI, and a Photo Mode mod that's the best Photo Mode I've ever used. Your choices in mods are nearly as endless as they are for Skyrim.
DXCHASE: None, I play games mostly vanilla and if there's some feature I want, I'll go download it.
Frindis: Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. Don't get me wrong, the game is absolutely amazing with some of the coolest side quests, classes, and skills. It is a fantastic game from the get-go, but it also has one of the most heartbreaking moments in video game history: The god damn Elizabeth Dane quest where you have to use a boat which is for the majority of the time: bugged! Bugged you say, YES! It means you can't move on with the main story because you can't get the prompt that says you can enter the god damn boat! It was insanely frustrating if you did not back your saves, managed to get a save from a friend, OR got the unofficial patch that fixed this.
Zloth: Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries. The game is certainly playable with no mods at all, but, assuming you've got the PC to power to spare, why would you? Some graphics mods to make the explosions look fierier, leave smoke trails behind the missiles, and maybe give yourself some cockpit glass makes the game look better. TTRulez's AI mod makes allies and enemies act smarter. The Pilot Overhaul makes your mechwarriors more interesting and lets you edit their portraits and voices (very handy for avoiding duplicates in your lance), and vonBiomes add some interesting new places to do battle.
Slasken: I would never play Cities Skylines without mods. Thankfully, the game has had great mod support since the beginning. I don't use only a assets, as it really halts the performance, but I do use a lot of other mods for traffic and other QOL mods. I went crazy with assets before, and it halts the performance down to single digit fps when you get a big city.
Sarafan: It will be a little controversial, but I can't imagine myself returning to Deus Ex without the Revision mod. It fixes some bugs that were left in the original game and this alone is very good, but its main advantage is the new content. A lot of the locations underwent a major overhaul and the new areas are hardly distinguishable in quality from the original content. They fit ideally.
What more the mod improves graphics in a meaningful way, proposes a remixed version of the soundtrack and a new approach to skill points and augmentations (there are few options of this feature to choose from). The big advantage is that all of these changes are optional and you can disable certain parts of the mod in the menu. You don't like the new soundtrack? No problem, you can use the original one. Don't like the skill-tree changes? Pick the standard one. Same goes for new character models and some other aspects of the mod.
Revision is highly configurable. I can only recommend to try it. Not everyone likes it, but there are chances that you'll never return to the original game without this mod.