What are the best Skyrim mods for PC? Gosh, there’s a lot of them, isn’t there? More than 22,000 Skrim mods to download on the Steam Workshop, and countless more on Skyrim Nexus. They’re the work of a thriving and diverse scene; an army of fans and bedroom coders determined to make the game a photorealistic fantasy utopia. Or just transforming farmyard animals into deadly explosives. But when you’re looking for Skyrim mods, just where do you start?
Here, actually. That’s where we come in. These are the 100 mods we think are essential to improving Skyrim above and beyond the out-the-box experience. And best of all everyone of these Skyrim mods is free!
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Mods come and go, so we've had a good sort-out of this list for January 2016. Old favourites that have ceased to be have been replaced with some truly excellent new additions from Skyrim's modding community.
How do I install Skyrim mods?
Skyrim is one of the easiest games on PC to mod thanks to its deep integration with the Steam Workshop. All you need to do is follow the links we've provided to the Workshop pages, and 'subscribe' to the mod. This will download and apply the mod to your game with no fuss at all.
Some mods are not on the Steam Workshop. For those, we've linked to the Skyrim Nexus. Each mod will have slightly different instructions for installing, so be sure to follow the steps the creator has provided carefully. You'll likely be adding things to the Skyrim 'Data' file, which can typically be found at:
Windows will alert you that you’re overwriting files, so press ‘OK’ to accept the changes. It’s best to make a backup of your Data folder before you start modding in case you need to return Skyrim to its original form.
Essential Skyrim Mods
Skyrim Script Extender
As the years have gone on, mods for Skyrim have become ever more ambitious and complicated. In order for some mods to run correctly, the scripting capabilities of Skyrim have to be increased to allow the game to handle more complicated commands. It’s advised that you have Skyrim Script Extender installed when modding, just in case it’s needed by any mods that catch your eye.
Unofficial Skyrim Patch
Like everyone of Bethesda’s games, Skyrim is a bit on the buggy side. Despite heavy patching, the official development team have never quite got everything smooth. The Unofficial Skyrim Patch is a constantly updated mod that aims to fix hundreds of gameplay, quest, NPC, object, item, text, and placement bugs. For just basic performance, this mod is essential.
Relighting Skyrim mod
Have you ever looked at where the light shines from in Skyrim? All too frequently it’s from an illogical source (Doors that shine? Really, Bethesda?). Relighting Skyrim entirely reprograms the game’s light sources, ensuring light beams out from only fires and stars, and not from planks of wood.
Static Mesh Improvement mod
A massive mod comprised of numerous Workshop files, Static Mesh Improvement works absolute wonders in removing all those horrible niggles from the objects of the world. Edges have their angles worked away so stones are finally smooth and bowls made round. Textures now run smoothly and those unsightly seams when two textures meet are eradicated. The extra polygons will impact performance slightly, but this really should be at the top of your priorities when it comes to making Skyrim beautiful.
FXAA Injector mod
The tool of choice for Dead End Thrills, FXAA Injector pumps a variety of anti-aliasing techniques into your Skyrim system to help create a much more sharp and vibrant image. Post-processing effects like bloom, technicolor, sharpen, and tonemap can be cranked up or down on a slider system to alter the visual quality to your own personal preference.
2K Textures actually provides textures up to 4K in resolution, a whopping eight times the resolution of vanilla Skyrim, and four times that of the official HD patch. The mod applies new textures to almost everything in Skyrim, from the floors to the skies and everything inbetween. The effect is understandably astonishing, as is the requirement (4GB RAM and 1GB video memory). A ‘lite’ version can be used on less-powerful systems, or even a mix of full and lite elements for a good balance.
Skyrim is a very solid PC game, but there are telltale signs that the game wasn’t solely designed to be played on a computer. The user interface is the leading clue; wholly built to be navigated with a controller. SkyUI completely rebuilds the HUD and interface of Skyrim, making it much more friendly for keyboard and mouse users.
A massive mod made up of three packages, Sounds of Skyrim adds 450 new sound effects to create a realistically noisy world. It eliminates moments of unnatural silence with birdsong and wind out in the wilderness, and the hussle of human life in cities. Walk by doors and windows to overhear what’s going on inside, approach cave entrances to listen to the drip and echoes within. Effects change depending on the time of day too, with nocturnal animals sounding out at night and children shrieking during the day.
Moonpath to Elsweyr mod
Travel to Elsweyr, a tropical region inhabited by a great variety of new creatures. Hunt hyenas in the desert and stalk raptors in the jungle as you complete the six-quest long storyline revealing wonders of the area. The jungle areas are particularly impressive, and there’s a notable amount of care taken with creating the characters of Elsweyr, who are all voice-acted for a little extra immersion. It’s worth grabbing the HD Texture Pack too, which boosts the mods visuals to 2K quality.
The Dwemer left Tamriel years ago, but a small council of scientists stayed behind and are now planning to bring the Dwemer back to the world. A powerful mage is required to help them, and the rewards will be plentiful if they succeed. You’ll need a character with a skill level of 40 in Destruction, Alteration, or Restoration to start this quest, which will take you to an elaborate Dwemer base on Masser. 42 new spells make up part of the mix, but rather than being traditional magic these are Dwemer ‘bionics’, allowing you to tap into the technology of the dwarves. There’s an unusual sci-fi feel to the environments and props, making Dwemertech a exceptionally fresh experience within Skyrim.
Bear Musician Skyrim mod
The most gallant heroes always have a minstrel in tow to sing of their noble deeds and tremendous victories. Make your minstrel something the townsfolk will never forget with this lute-playing bear.