Skyrim mods are a great way to expand or tweak your experience of an already classic title, and happily for Skyrim players, there’s a wide variety of options to choose from. The incredibly popular game supports a large and devoted modding community made up of fellow gamers focused on keeping the RPG interesting for both new and experienced players.
Some offer small tweaks, others major changes. In this article, we’ll take a look at the 10 best Skyrim mods to explore in 2020:
- Moonpath to Elsweyr
- Helgen Reborn
- Sounds of Skyrim: Complete
- Apocalypse: Magic of Skyrim
- Diverse Dragons Collection
- Enderal: The Shards of Order
- A Quality World Map and Solstheim Map with Roads
- Vivid Weathers Definitive Edition: A Complete Weather & Visual Overhaul
- UFO: Ultimate Follower Overhaul
But before we get started on our review of Skyrim mods, let’s take a closer look at the fundamentals of Skyrim modding and answer some questions you may have.
Skyrim and the world of modding
Like its predecessors in Bethesda’s long-running Elder Scrolls series, this game takes place in the country of Skyrim on the continent of Tamriel. First united by the empire of Tiber Septim, the country is in a crisis as a rebellion grows in the north and a long-disappeared dragon returns to cause trouble.
Set more than 200 years after the events of Elder Scrolls IV, Skyrim tasks you with exploring the area’s eponymous northern reaches. Choosing between the empire’s legions and the rebelling locals, known as Stormcloaks, you fight and explore your way across a vast area of gameplay.
While the game’s three official DLCs offer a lot of extra content, they aren’t the only way you can expand your Skyrim experience after the main campaign. Mods, short for modifications, are typically presented as bundles of tweaks, updates, or larger changes to a game. Some change up the story, others focus on mechanics, while some bring another level of quality and scale.
Each offers a range of new features and content, whether it’s new areas and storylines or alternative ways to play and experience the game. Curious to jump right into the latest options? To take a look at the most popular Nexus mods for Skyrim
right now, you can check out their constantly updated list of the top-performing recent mods
Are you playing the original or special edition of Skyrim?
The mods for the original Skyrim
and the more heavily updated Skyrim: Special Edition
are maintained separately on Nexus at the Skyrim mods
and Skyrim: SE mods
For the purpose of our list, we’re primarily focusing on mods for the special edition because they’re the most plentiful as well as the most often updated. However, both versions have their own active modding communities and overlap in terms of what’s available.
If you don’t have the special edition, you can skip ahead to our write-up for number 7 on our list, Enderal: The Shards of Order. For more classic edition mods, consider searching the classic Skyrim index at Nexus for similar versions. Most of what we cover here can also be used with older versions of Skyrim when you download the correct version.
The 10 best Skyrim mods for 2020
1. Moonpath to Elsweyr
“Only the Khajiit know the secret paths of the moon that lead the followers of the Mane back to Elsweyr.” If you’re a big fan of Skyrim’s feline race, the Khajiit, then you’ll love Moonpath to Elsweyr. It was one of the first mods to add serious quest content after the original Skyrim Creation Kit was released, and it adds new locations and stories to enjoy.
In Moonpath, the protagonist known as Dragonborn escorts a Khajiit caravan back to their homeland of Elsweyr. Like a few other mods we’ll cover, this is a great option for expanding your playtime if you’ve already finished Skyrim’s main campaign. You’ll find new settings, characters, and monsters to fight, and it’s all done seamlessly.
It’s been downloaded nearly 1 million times across the original and special editions of the game. Its creator, Tomas Sala, actually has an upcoming game in development as well, The Falconeer
, that you can add to your Steam wish list.
Falskaar is another high-quality mod that adds a ton of new content to the game by building out the campaign even more. It adds an entirely new landmass, called Falskaar, and boasts 2-plus hours of additional gameplay through a new questline and side quests.
Gamers and critics alike have praised Falskaar, often comparing its breadth and quality to what you’d expect from an expansion from the actual developers. A big reason for that is the amount of content, since it contains new characters voiced by a mix of professional and non-professional actors, a slate of new items, and a 14-track soundtrack. Unsurprisingly, it’s been downloaded nearly 2 million times.
3. Helgen Reborn
The introduction to Skyrim is now almost iconic. As you and the leader of the local Stormcloak rebellion are delivered to Helgen for execution, the dragon Alduin destroys the town, freeing the imperial prisoners in the process.
Helgen Reborn introduces a new story arc with fresh, fully-voiced quests that allow you to help the city as it rebuilds following the dragon attack.
The new quests include learning about the “legend of the Keepers of Hattu,” which boasts its own intriguing narrative and lore. You can also choose to work with the Stormcloaks, seek protection for the town elsewhere, and find a new arena to play with after the town is rebuilt.
4. Sounds of Skyrim: Complete
The environments and incidental sound effects play a big part in making Skyrim so immersive, and that remains true nearly a decade after its release. The Sounds of Skyrim mod is a long-running series of overhauls to the game’s audio experience, and it adds hundreds of new effects.
The complete version of this mod adds more audio effects to the game’s three major spaces: urban environments, the wilderness, and dungeons. With several million downloads spread across each installment and the new compilation version, Sounds of Skyrim remains wildly popular.
5. Apocalypse: Magic of Skyrim
Not all mods are designed to add new story or environmental content. Apocalypse: Magic of Skyrim doesn’t provide additional quests or characters, but it does offer a huge expansion to your options as a practitioner of magic.
Apocalypse adds dozens of new spells for each school of magic, with high-quality animations and seamless integration with the game’s base magic system. It’s the perfect mod if you love casting spells in Skyrim and want the absolute most from your next mage playthrough.
6. Diverse Dragons Collection
If you loved your encounters with dragons in Skyrim, the Diverse Dragons Collection is a must-have. In addition to being very popular with players, the mod brings a wealth of new dragon-based content by adding 28 new dragons.
As if these uniquely modeled and textured dragons weren’t enough, the mod adds new powers and attacks as well.
That’s a big boost to the game’s existing pool of dragon fights and interactions. Also, each of the new dragon abilities scales across 7 tiers, so they won’t feel out of place in your playthrough.
7. Enderal: The Shards of Order
Many of the mods on our list focus on major overhauls and adjustments to user experience. Some improve or tweak different combat and play systems, or they add new audio to beef up the experience.
Others, like Enderal: The Shards of Order, offer what modders usually call a “total conversion.” That means once the mod is installed, you’re essentially playing an all-new game.
For users accustomed to the breadth and detail of the core Skyrim campaign and DLCs, Enderal brings its own compelling story in a world of comparable scale. It’s so big that the team even released their own DLC for it called Forgotten Stories.
One of the earliest and most successful mods for Skyrim, it can provide as much as 100 hours of additional playtime.
8. A Quality World Map and Solstheim Map with Roads
One of the most popular user interface mods for Skyrim addresses a common fan complaint: the map and its lack of detail. It’s safe to say the Quality World Map mod fixes that issue given the 3 million downloads and all the positive feedback from players.
This mod from IcePenguin makes the map more vivid and immersive by adding detail to natural features. It also adds highly accurate roads to both the standard world map and the Solstheim landmass from Skyrim’s DLC.
9. Vivid Weathers Definitive Edition: A Complete Weather & Visual Overhaul
The most popular and up-to-date climate mod for Skyrim, Vivid Weathers Definitive Edition offers a substantial overhaul the game’s sounds and visuals. It adds tons of new weather animations and a whole slate of expanded audio that includes 150 new cloud textures and 16 new thunder sounds.
The mod also introduces an additional layer of customization that allows players to personalize the interior and exterior lighting scheme for their playthrough. This is a great way to tailor your in-game lighting to your own living situation and environmental constraints, with the results being less eye strain and increased immersion.
10. UFO: Ultimate Follower Overhaul
By far the most popular mod focused on upgrading follower content, UFO: Ultimate Follower Overhaul delivers a pack of new companions. In addition to adding new characters and related content, UFO also provides new options to control your followers’ behavior and actions. You can even turn your companions into vampires or werewolves if you’re using the official Dawnguard expansion.
UFO initially gained massive popularity when it was created for Skyrim classic, but in late 2019 it unexpectedly hit Skyrim: SE as well. It has the advantage of vast language accessibility as well, with fully-fleshed-out versions in French, Japanese, and Polish, among others.
How to get started with Skyrim mods
For PC gamers using Steam, remember the Skyrim and Skyrim: Special Edition pages are your main hubs for mods. They’re also huge resources if you ever want to experiment with making your own changes. From edits to your interface and environment to massive conversion mods, there are so many options to explore at Nexus.
Most mods aren’t very big compared to the actual game files, and some are actually quite small because they only impact basic gameplay mechanics. If you do want to pack in loads of extra content to your game build, however, make sure you have some storage space available
Vortex: the updated Nexus mod manager
Older mods required a more hands-on approach to implementation. Downloading was easy, but getting everything to work was a headache. More recently, mods have become an accepted and appreciated part of many game communities, leading to improved management systems for users.
stands out because it has such an accessible approach to modding. To install and use your mods without creating conflicts, you’ll work with Vortex
(formerly known as Nexus Mod Manager). When using Vortex, you can download the mods and then choose which to activate and when. That means you won’t struggle to get bigger or more complex mods up and running.
Installing Nexus mods is fairly simple if you’re running Skyrim
on Steam but the process can seem daunting at first. When you’re ready, Nexus offers a complete guide on how to install Skyrim mods
and manage them.
Watch out for new and updated mods
While you may find different options if you’re looking for Skyrim
PS4 mods or the latest Skyrim
Xbox One mods, the mods on our list are a great place to start for PC players
. Most still receive semi-regular updates and even have their own communities of users as a secondary resource.
Fortunately for devoted players, Skyrim modding remains an active space. Interest continues even with the long-awaited sequel, The Elder Scrolls VI, potentially being revealed sometime soon - or at least once Bethesda’s next project, Starfield, launches.
About the Author: Dwight Pavlovic is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Dwight is a music and technology writer based out of West Virginia.