• The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim supports hundreds of thousands of fan-made mods, with more being added every day.
  • Some of the best Skyrim mods overhaul the game’s engine, while others add new enemies.
  • Here are 23 of the best Skyrim mods out there, with links and a short description for each.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

There are few PC games out there with more mods than The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim. It’s been more than a decade since the game’s original release, giving fans more than enough time to design thousands of unique mods. And like with most games, you can download all of these mods for free and start playing right away.

But with so many mods out there, it can be difficult to figure out which ones are worth your time and which are just filler. That’s where this guide comes in.

We’ve gathered up 23 of the best, most fun, and most useful mods for any Skyrim fan. Each one comes with a link to the page that you can download it from, and a short primer on what it offers.

The essential Skyrim modding apps

Before you install any mods, you’ll need to prepare your copy of Skyrim to work with them. There are two programs in particular that you should install before adding new mods.

Skyrim Script Extender

The Skyrim Script Extender (SKSE for short) helps Skyrim understand and use mod files, which it wouldn’t be able to do normally. This add-on is mandatory for most Skyrim mods.

You can download SKSE from its official website. You’ll want to use the “classic build” download links. Follow the instructions inside the README file to install it into your computer’s main Skyrim directory.

Vortex

The best place on the internet to find Skyrim mods is Nexus Mods, and for years they offered their own app called Nexus Mod Manager (NMM) to help users organize and keep track of their downloads. NMM is still available, but the Nexus team recently released a heavily upgraded version called Vortex.

Vortex can help manage which order your mods load in (very important for Skyrim), quickly download or delete mods, and even set up “profiles” so you can run different sets of mods at different times.

You can download Vortex from its Nexus Mods page here. If you scroll down you’ll find links to NMM too, if you prefer to go old-school.

The Nexus Mods information and download page for Vortex.

Vortex is a complete mod manager for Skyrim, along with other games like Fallout and Dark Souls.

Nexus Mods


LOOT (optional)

If you’re not going to use a mod manager like Vortex, then you’ll still need a way to manage your mods’ load order. The best standalone app for that is LOOT, the Load Order Optimization Tool.

LOOT will automatically sort your mods for you, making sure that they don’t cause any errors when they run. If the app finds any issues, it’ll tell you what they are and how to fix them.

You can get LOOT from its official Github page here.

The best Skyrim mods

You can find Skyrim mods for almost any occasion on Nexus Mods or from the Steam Workshop. Some will add new enemies or weapons, but others just help the game run smoother. Here are our favorites from across the spectrum.

Mods that make Skyrim run better

It’s no secret that Skyrim is an incredibly buggy game. These mods squash most of those bugs, as well as make the game look better.

Unofficial Skyrim Legendary Edition Patch (USLEEP)

Even if you’re not interested in mods, you should install USLEEP. This mod fixes hundreds of bugs and glitches from the original release, both minor and game-breaking. It’s also designed to run smoothly with most other mods, meaning that it’s a great place to start your modding journey.

Just note that you’ll either need to be playing Legendary Edition or have all of the DLC installed to run this one.

SkyUI

The gold standard for Skyrim mods, SkyUI totally revamps the game’s menus, world map, inventories, and more. It includes a full-text search bar for sorting through your items, a favorites menu for quickly accessing your best tools, and even a HUD that shows and tracks all the magical effects you’re currently under.

A comparison between Skyrim's "vanilla" menus (left) and the upgraded menus with SkyUI (right).

A comparison between Skyrim’s “vanilla” menus (left) and the upgraded menus with SkyUI (right).

Bethesda; SkyUI Team


There are a lot of mods that will require SkyUI to be installed before they’ll work, and that’s because one of the new menus offered lets you customize your mods while in-game. If you ever see a mod description refer to something called the “MCM,” it’s SkyUI’s “Mod Configuration Menu.”

SkyUI is easier to use for mouse-and-keyboard players, and takes up less space on the screen than Skyrim’s standard UI. Check it out before you start your next playthrough.

BethINI

On a Windows computer, .INI files help applications run correctly. Without them, your favorite apps might not know what fonts to use, what size to make the windows, or even how to launch. Unfortunately, Skyrim’s .INI files are messy and complicated, which can lead to worse graphics and sometimes even game crashes. 

BethINI scans Skyrim’s .INI files and organizes them in a more coherent fashion. This not only improves the graphics, but can also boost the framerate and keep your game running when it would normally crash.

Skyrim HD

Back in 2011, Skyrim was a pretty good looking game. But it hasn’t aged well in the decade since — something that the Skyrim HD mod seeks to fix.

Skyrim HD redesigns nearly every texture in the game, along with all the lighting and weather effects. The result is a vastly prettier and more immersive world to run around in.

A comparison between textures in the original Skyrim (left) and the new textures with Skyrim HD (right).

A comparison between textures in the original Skyrim (left) and the new textures with Skyrim HD (right).

Bethesda; NebuLa


The authors of the mod also offer a “Lite” version, which has less upgrades but is designed to run on slower PCs. Download whichever version will run best for your setup.

Quality of life mods

These mods reinvent some of Skyrim’s more frustrating design choices, making any playthrough much more enjoyable.

A Quality World Map

The world map in vanilla Skyrim is pretty barebones. All you get is a cloudy overview of the land with 2D icons to mark fast travel spots — not exactly a cartographer’s dream.

The Quality World Map mod fixes this by giving you three options for how the map should look, along with an option to remove the clouds overhead. It also draws out every road in the game so you’ll always stay on track.

The Skyrim world map when rendered with the Quality World Map mod.

You’ll see every road in Skyrim clearly laid out on the map.

Bethesda; NebuLa


Just note that if you’re playing the standard version of Skyrim, you’ll need to have at least the Dragonborn DLC installed to use this one.

Optional Quick Start

Skyrim’s opening scene, which features your character waking up in the back of a prison wagon, has become an incredibly popular meme over the past few years. But if you’re tired of walking through the same scripted cutscene and dungeon, you can skip it.

The Optional Quick Start mod lets you skip the game’s prologue, dropping you at the end of Helgen Keep. In place of all the gear and weapons you’d usually find by looting, it’ll give you a chest with some items instead.

Unread Books Glow

There are 337 unique books to read in Skyrim. Almost none of them are mandatory to find, but reading them is a great way to learn more about the game’s world and lore.

The Unread Books Glow mod keeps track of which books you’ve read and which ones you still need to check out. Any book that you haven’t opened yet will glow blue. It also includes a SkyUI menu that lets you change how bright the glow is.

Three screenshots showing how brightly or dimly Skyrim's Unread Books Glow mod can make books shine.

There are three brightness settings for unread books in this mod.

Bethesda; duggelz


Simply Knock

If you’re trying to get past a locked door in Skyrim, you’ll need to pick the lock. But why can’t you just ask someone else to let you in?

The Simply Knock mod adds a special menu to most locked doors that gives you the option to knock instead of breaking in. Every house and some businesses will have an NPC inside that can open the door for you — if you’re able to convince them. And if the person living there is your friend, they’ll always let you in.

Immersive HUD

Want to get a better look at the world around you? Immersive HUD is a simple mod that automatically hides the HUD (your health, magic, compass, etc.) when you don’t need it. As soon as you enter combat, the HUD will reappear.

Mods that improve the AI and NPCs

Between animals, civilians, and enemies, there are hundreds of NPCs in Skyrim. And like in most Elder Scrolls games, they tend to act pretty robotic. These mods make NPCs smarter and stronger, giving your game a bit more realism.

Immersive Citizens

The Immersive Citizens mod revamps how Skyrim’s citizens react to the world around them. This includes sensible daily schedules, a “Survival Instinct” that keeps them out of danger, the chance to comment on the daily weather, and more. It even tracks which NPCs are family members, making sure they sit down for a meal together each day. 

A screenshot from the game Skyrim, showing a family sitting down at a table for dinner.

Every citizen has a schedule, and different NPCs might cross paths as the day goes on.

Bethesda; Arnaud d’Orchymont


Every citizen is assigned a personality and job which decides how they react to you, and what you might find them doing at any given moment. The mod also adds more citizen-to-citizen conversations for you to eavesdrop on. It might sound mundane, but this is one of the best mods for bringing realism to Skyrim. 

Interesting NPCs

Similarly, the Interesting NPCs mod adds hundreds of fully voiced NPCs, along with over 50 new quests. More than two dozen of these NPCs can be recruited as followers, and you can even marry a few.

The mod also comes with its own custom soundtrack, with almost two-dozen “bard songs” composed and performed by members of the modding community. It’s like its own miniature DLC pack.

Immersive Patrols

Skyrim’s open world environment can sometimes feel empty. The Immersive Patrols mod spawns patrolling soldiers around the world, giving you more chances to chat or fight.

Every type of soldier also comes with their own set of alliances and enemies. This means that if you’re a member of the wrong faction, a patrolling group might attack you on sight — or you might walk into a battle that’s already started between two groups.

Immersive Creatures

Humans aren’t the only ones who deserve mods. The Immersive Creatures mod adds angry goblins, horrible bugmen, wild skeletons, and more to your world. All of these creatures have their own AI, as well as strengths and weaknesses. They’re also tougher than the game’s standard enemies, making this mod great for anyone who wants a challenge. 

A screenshot from the game Skyrim with the Immersive Creatures mod, showing a large bug-like monster.

This monster, called an Ash Hunter, is exclusive to the Immersive Creatures mod.

Bethesda; lifestorock


Ultimate Follower Overhaul

The Ultimate Follower Overhaul (UFO) mod upgrades the follower system in a variety of ways. Not only can you now have up to 15 followers, but they’ve all got more dialogue, can ride horses, and are easier to control. And depending on when you install the mod, you can remove their level caps too.

Alongside a few other quality of life improvements — your followers won’t start fights while you’re sneaking anymore, for example — this mod is essential for any player who’s looking to lead a group of followers.

My Home is Your Home

Another mod for followers, My Home is Your Home lets you give each follower a daily schedule. You can set when they eat, when they work, where they live, and more. You can also create “groups” of followers that will always stick together and follow the same schedules. It works for most pets and horses, too.

Convenient Horses

Speaking of horses, the Convenient Horses mod is a must for any player who prefers to ride on horseback. 

The mod adds horseback combat to the game, lets you buy armor and equipment for your horses, and adds an “instant horse call” that will get you riding in seconds. It also lets you choose how your horse will act when in combat as well as customize its health and stamina.

High Level Enemies

Once you play Skyrim for long enough, most enemies go from threats to mere annoyances. It’s not that their AI is bad — it’s just that you’re too strong for them to even scratch.

The High Level Enemies mod adds special new foes to Skyrim that level up alongside you, meaning that they’ll never be outclassed. They won’t stop growing until you do.

If you’re finding Skyrim’s late game too easy, check this one out.

Mods that add new features or weapons

Some of the best mods for any game are the ones that make you feel like you’re playing something entirely new. These mods run the gamut from adding important new items to completely reinventing how you play.

Immersive Weapons

To start, Immersive Weapons adds over 200 new melee weapons to Skyrim. You can find these weapons scattered around the world, or just craft and upgrade them like vanilla ones. 

The mod’s author puts a big emphasis on immersion, so the items fit perfectly into Skyrim’s world and lore. If you’re just playing for the first time, chances are you won’t be able to tell which weapons are new and which ones were always there.

A screenshot from the game Skyrim showing a man carrying an intricate battle ax.

The weapons added in this mod are incredibly detailed.

Bethesda; Hothtrooper44, Ironman5000, Eckss


Immersive Armors

A companion to Immersive Weapons, the Immersive Armors mod adds dozens of new armor pieces to the game, nearly 400 new shields, and a wealth of cosmetic items like capes. You can craft or buy them like normal, or earn them through quests.

VioLens

In Skyrim, your character has a variety of “killmoves,” which are special animations they might perform when killing the last enemy in a battle. The VioLens mod is one of several that lets you customize your killmoves, as well as change how often they occur. 

If you’ve got a favorite killmove — Who doesn’t love the German Suplex? — choose it in the mod so it always triggers. It’ll even let you perform your killmoves on dragons.

iNeed – Food Water and Sleep

iNeed turns Skyrim from a simple RPG into a survival game. The mod gives your character hunger, thirst, and rest meters which need to be managed daily. 

Ignoring your character’s needs will debuff you, while keeping the meters full helps you. And drinking too much alcohol in a short time will get you drunk, which effects your stats and graphics. 

If you want to get even more extreme, you can change the mod’s settings so letting your meters drop will harm and eventually kill you. And installing two other mods — Wet and Cold and Dangerous Diseases — will add food spoilage and illness too.

Trade and Barter

Skyrim is a massive country. And yet, most shops offer similar products for the same prices.

The Trade and Barter mod adds a new layer to Skyrim’s economy by letting you haggle with merchants. Depending on your relationships, you might earn discounts or be forced to overpay. Big cities will charge more than small towns, and the more you spend in one place, the more items they’ll offer.

Be careful when you approach the merchant too. If you have a weapon drawn, they might get mad and charge you more — or charge you less out of fear.

Really Useful Dragons

Possibly the most famous Skyrim mod of all time, Really Useful Dragons changes every dragon in the game into a Thomas the Tank Engine character. That’s it.

Happy modding!

A screenshot from the game Skyrim, showing the Troublesome Truck characters from Thomas the Tank Engine falling from the sky.

The dragon roars are replaced with train whistles, too.

Bethesda; Trainwiz


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