The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is nothing short of legendary. Skyrim, as its often called, sold more than 23 million copies since its release, and, with the remastered Skyrim: Special Edition that launched in October, sales are likely to continue climbing.
The title’s long lifespan can be attributed largely to one thing: its massive modding community. From simple modifications that upgrade graphics and textures to extravagant additions that transform Tamriel into a nightmarish version of the Mushroom Kingdom, there’s an enormous number of mods that have preserved and expanded the Skyrim experience. Though many of the game’s most popular mods have yet to receive updates for Skyrim: Special Edition — or aren’t going to at all –there are still plenty of mods that have received overhauls and bug fixes since the game’s release. Read on to find out which mods are our favorites.
Author’s Note: Please keep in mind that not all mods are available for all platforms. The PlayStation 4 version of Skyrim: Special Edition, in particular, has an extremely limited selection, since it lacks the ability to import external assets or mods larger than 1GB. Though both consoles boast a sizable mod pool, there are far more mods available for PC gamers. Many of these mods (especially the graphics mods) can also have a significant effect on your game performance.
These mods, which are all available for Skyrim: Special Edition, are built to make the world of Skyrim even more beautiful. Though the remastered edition included several upgrades to Bethesda’s Creation Engine — including improvements to snow and water shaders — the modding community will stop at nothing to make Tamriel’s northernmost province a photorealistic paradise, even if they have to sacrifice frame rates along the way.
Total Character Makeover
Skyrim is full of beautiful vistas, lush forests, and eerie swamps that draw you in and make you feel like you’re really in the world of the Elder Scrolls. Unfortunately, the game’s character models do not look quite as stunning. In particular, many characters’ faces just look terrible and unrealistic (we’re looking at you, Hilde). Luckily, “Total Character Makeover” fixes all that! The mod improves textures and skin meshes for NPCs and playable characters, so people look more like people and everyone’s bone structure isn’t so messed up.
Skyrim Flora Overhaul
The trees and bushes in Skyrim look great from afar, but if you step too close and you’ll notice that the textures lack precise detail. Enter “Skyrim Flora Overhaul,” which replaces most of the game’s trees, grasses, and plants with original models, including 16 new trees and more than 180 new textures for plants and ground cover.
Vivid Weathers SE
It’s tough to feel “in the moment” when a storm front rolls through Winterhold, but it consists of 10 droplets of water and a few measly snowflakes. “Vivid Weathers” corrects the issue by adding a ton of new weather effects, complete with both visual and aural cues to let you know when a fierce thunderstorm or a blanket of fog is headed your way. This mod also replaces the default snow texture, and new cloud textures make for some truly spectacular sunsets. Keep in mind, though; it may not work well with other weather mods.
Where most graphics-targeted mods zig, “Surreal Lighting” zags. Instead of enhancing textures or reshading drops of water, this mod aims to make Skyrim feel like more of a fantasy world than some sort of ancient version of Canada. The mod simply alters brightness, contrast, and color in outdoor settings, resulting in gorgeous skyboxes filled with shades of pink and blue. “Surreal Lighting” isn’t a dramatic add-on, but it helps bring a little color to Tamriel’s often-dreary landscapes.