The Must-Have Mods of Skyrim

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It's only been five months since Skyrim hit store shelves, but the amount of work done on the game by both Bethesda and an army of modders has been enormous. With the Creation Kit now in the wild for several months, we've rounded up some of the best mods available and brought them for your consideration. We'll also walk you through the modding process and how to get started.

ProTip: If you re-map the "F" key in Skyrim's key bindings, the new key to assign a favorite is "A." This isn't explained or listed anywhere in game; we found it by accident.

What Makes a Mod 'Must-Have?

There are literally thousands of Skyrim mods available, ranging from small adjustments to NPC dialog or tone of voice, to expansive projects that alter core gameplay and introduce new spells and visual effects. We've prioritized mods that showcase the technical capabilities of the PC, provide a more balanced game experience, fix bugs, and improve Skyrim's UI. In some cases, particularly when it comes to customized post-processing filters, there is no definable "best" -- just the question of what players prefer.

The mods in each section are listed by the scope of their changes rather than being ordered from best to worst. A mod that changes the behavior of one NPC would be farther down the page than a mod that lets you play as Pinkie Pie, from My Little Pony. We've also noted which mods change gameplay and which do not.

Admit it: You thought we were kidding.

How To Get Started:

There are two basic ways to get started with Skyrim mods, and two main websites devoted to user-created content. If you bought the game through Steam, you can use the Steam Workshop. Login, Click on "Community," then "Workshop," and you'll see two games listed: Team Fortress 2 and Skyrim. Installing mods is as simple as clicking on "Subscribe" to a product that you want to download. Steam offers mods both individually and in collections.

The other method is to use the Skyrim Nexus website and the Nexus Mod Manager it offers. The Mod Manager offers players more control over how and when mods are loaded, as well as an organization function that automatically arranges mods in the order necessary for them to load properly. This last option is extremely useful for play testing and bug-fixing and it's what we primarily used for our own evaluation.

Skyrim Nexus has more mods available than Steam's Workshop as of this writing; a number of the projects we recommend aren't yet available on Steam. If you're interested in trying our recommendations via Steam, we've collected all of the available mods into a single package; available here. For the moment, Skyrim Nexus is a better option, though Steam's one-stop-updating is rather handy.

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Drake_McNasty 2 years ago

I'm lmfao at that video!!!! I just picked this game up, can't wait to play it!

3vi1 2 years ago

From now on, any time anyone asks me what Skyrim is, I'm just going to point them to the Pinkie Pie video.

digitaldd 2 years ago

[quote user="3vi1"]

From now on, any time anyone asks me what Skyrim is, I'm just going to point them to the Pinkie Pie video.




Thanks for not posting any of the nude mods/texture packs. 

Joel H 2 years ago

I considered some of the mods that added geometry and allowed for a wider range of body types. Such work isn't automatically a bad thing. Ultimately, I decided not to include it for two reasons: 

1)  Nudity is enabled by default. While I don't have a problem with that, it changes Skyrim's rating and could thereby create problems with parents who are unhappy with such content. 

2)  The mods, without exception that I could find, are exclusively female. Combined with #1, this was enough to tilt my verdict on the merits of including such work. There are mods available that improve character geometry or allow for taller/heavier/curvier women than the vanilla models. Players who want such mods can find them. They are not just "nude" patches of the sort that existed for classic Tomb Raider games. Ultimately, however, they are aimed more at providing sexual eye candy than a more generic mod that seeks to improve the rendering of in-game content. 

If there was a mod that included such options for both male and female characters, and kept to the ESRB's rating, I'd have recommended it (assuming it was worth recommending).

JMcBride 2 years ago

when my daughter goes back to middle school and start playing Skyrim i'll use Pinkie Pie

sackyhack 2 years ago

This is one of my favorite ones:

It improves the water, turning it from the weird gel of the original into...water.

Joel H 2 years ago



I also looked at that mod, but ran into a few too many issues with other mods that impact water textures to feel comfortable recommending it. I've also had a problem recently with water rendering on the NV card I used while writing the article (specifically, with water turning opaque). 

Still, it's a good project. Thanks for contributing. :) 

omegadraco 2 years ago

I must get a copy of this game :P

LBowen 2 years ago

Been awhile since I played. Going to get back in when school slows down abit.

OSunday 2 years ago

I applied a majority of all these mods over the weekend in combination with the recommended mods from Kotaku on how to get its looking as best as visually possible.

That combined with the gameplay fixes and improvements from this have resulted in a refreshed Skyrim experience (I left out harder dragons and the difficulty adjustment mods as I'm low level and at the moment haven't felt things to be too easy)

This is an awesome post, thanks for taking such an in depth review and analysis of not only a game but its mods and troubleshooting the ones that work best together.

Earlier in the year when the game first out I dabbled in modding and screwed up my save games from incompatible mods.

ZTimpson 2 years ago

this game is a must have for all those who are into single-player rpg games!

ZTimpson 2 years ago

some of the extra mods are awesome!!!!

NICKIEISIS30 2 years ago

Thanks for the mods. My husband loves Skyrim therefore he is always on the look out for new ones. Espically Mods that help his vampire character more relastic.

JMcBride 2 years ago

Nexus - the same site where we got mods for Morrowind and Oblivion remains the best place for Skyrim

InsideSin 2 years ago

I've gotten way over my money worth putting in over 500 hours into the game through exploration of mods and glitches. It's hilarious how immature some of these mods are.

Joel H 2 years ago

And yet somehow, you've kept enjoying them. ;) 

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