The best Skyrim Special Edition mods
Now that it’s been out for several years, Skyrim Special Edition’s modding community has caught up with Oldrim modding. Many of our favorite mods from the original have now been ported, so you may recognize some of those on this list. But there are plenty of new mods as well—nearly a decade into its life, Skyrim and this better-performing Special Edition are still fertile ground for new mods. Boot up your mod manager of choice, because Skyrim SE modding hasn’tt slowed down in 2021.
Looking for mods for the original version of Skyrim? We’ve selected over 100 of the best mods for improved visuals and optimization, new quests and locations, roleplaying and immersion, creatures and NPCs, and much more. These are the best Skyrim mods.
In a big win for Skyrim modding, Skyrim Script Extender has now been made compatible with Skyrim: Special Edition. You can download it here (it’ll be labelled “Current SE build”). Turn off automatic updates for Skyrim Special Edition once it’s installed, as the creation club still receives patches which routinely break the Script Extender until modders update it.
With the Script Extender, modders can now alter this version of Bethesda’s RPG as drastically as Oldrim. Essentials like SkyUI are now available in this slightly prettier (it does have nicer shadows), and more stable (you can alt-tab as much as you like) version of Skyrim. To be fair, there were other changes as well, like these.
Some of these Skyrim Special Edition mods can be found on Bethesda’s site and downloaded while in-game, but the links we’ll post all point to our go-to, NexusMods.
Mods added in the latest update of this list have been marked with a ⭐. And if you’re looking to have even more fun in Skyrim, check out our list of Skyrim console commands.
It’s easy to get carried away modding Skyrim Special Edition very quickly. To help you keep track of all your various additions, be sure to use a mod manager of some sort. Here are the ones we suggest you try out.
For downloading, installing, and managing these Skyrim Special Edition mods and others, we recommend Vortex. It’s an extremely useful utility, and it works with a number of other games like Fallout 3 and 4, The Witcher series, the Darks Souls games, XCOM 2, and lots more.
Mod Organizer 2
As an alternative to Vortex, Mod Organizer 2 is meant for modders who plan to do a lot of experimenting with installing and uninstalling various mods. It handles a bunch of Bethesda games, so you can use it to manage things other than just Skyrim SE if you’d like.
Patches, optimization, and UI
We all know the reputation that Bethesda’s games have. Plenty of fans have taken it upon themselves to fix bugs, optimize systems, and changes the game’s user interface more to their liking.
Unofficial Skyrim Patch
This mod is a compendium of hundreds of fixes for bugs, text, objects, items, quests, and gameplay elements assembled by prolific modder Arthmoor. The patch is designed to be as compatible as possible with other mods. If you’ve got a few hours, you can read through the patch notes.
The heavens parted, golden saints sang, and SkyUI was finally supported by Skyrim Special Edition. This interface replacer makes Skyrim feel like it was designed for mouse controls, and lets you filter and sort inventory based on weight, value, damage and the like. Also adds an in-game mod configuration menu several other mods rely on.
A Quality World Map
Skyrim’s map is functional but boring. A Quality World Map offers multiple ways to fix it. It can replace the map with a much more detailed world texture, with colors that help delineate the separate areas much more obviously, but there’s also an option to have a paper map, with a more Oblivion look, if that’s your thing.
Achievements Mod Enabler
Just because you’re modding doesn’t mean you’re cheating (necessarily). So why does the SSE disable achievements if you’ve got mods running? Stick it to ’em by using this plugin from xSHADOWMANx that allows you to earn achievements even while using mods.
It’s more than a little immersion-breaking in Skyrim to enter a city through a gate and encounter a loading screen. Open Cities, by Arthmoor, aims for more of a Morrowind feel: the cities aren’t instances, they’re part of the larger world. Stroll right in—or ride in on horseback—without a break in your experience, and these cities will feel more like real places than loaded-in maps.
True 3D Sound for Headphones
“This mod enables true 3D sound for Skyrim SE by using a so called HRTF to simulate binaural hearing using normal stereo headphones. You will hear exactly from which direction a sound is coming from.” I don’t know exactly what that first sentence means, but I understand the second one. Make the SSE more realistic for your ears with this mod from CptYouaredead.
You’ll also definitely want to check out Immersive Sounds for a huge overhaul of Skyrim’s sound effects.
Quests and Locations
Skyrim may be a huge place, but modders are always finding ways to make it bigger. We’ve collected some really impressive location overhauls to expand your Skyrim experience along with some huge quest mods to take you on new adventures.
⭐ Vigilant SE
Vigilant is a four-part quest mod that adds some fitting Dark Souls flair to Tamriel. After getting stuck in Oblivion, you’ll face off against otherworldly monsters and big, Souls-style bosses while exploring areas filled with special items and keys. Beyond that, the ‘Anvil of Zenithar’ allows players to craft their own wares after finishing objectives, besting bosses and reaching new areas.
You can also snag the same modder’s Bloodborne-themed adventure called Glenmoril.
Moonpath to Elsweyr
Moonpath to Elsweyr was one of the first quest mods for Oldrim back in the day. It’s made its way to SSE now with its two new regions and custom quests. In Jody’s Moonpath spotlight he talks to its original creator.
Who’s going to rebuild Helgen after it got toasted by a dragon at the beginning of the game? You are, of course. It’s a huge, full-voiced quest mod where you’ll restore the town, choose a faction, and fight in the new arena. Chris wrote about Helgen Reborn years ago for Oldrim, so we’re psyched to see it for SSE.
Cutting Room Floor
Another big mod from Arthmoor restores loads of content that exists in SSE’s data files but wasn’t implemented in the game. Numerous locations, NPCs, dialogue, quests, and items have been brought into the light, and the game is richer for it.
The Forgotten City
Skyrim’s got lots of adventure, but here’s about 10 hours more courtesy of writer and developer Nick Pearce. Play detective and solve a murder mystery while exploring a massive, ancient city. It’s got excellent, award-winning writing, a non-linear story, fantastic voice acting by a large cast, an enjoyable original soundtrack, and even a touch of time travel. Here’s our write-up of the Forgotten City Skyrim mod.
⭐ JK’s Skyrim
This big construction overhaul mod redesigns all of Skyrim’s major cities and some settlements as well. Every city has been reimagined to more distinctly fit its own theme with new buildings and vendors. It doubles as an immersion mod as well, with local banners and guards changing allegiance as Skyrim’s civil war develops.
Legacy of the Dragonborn
Adds a gallery you can fill with unique items, a museum to your achievements that is also a library, a storage facility, a questline of its own, and a place to learn archaeology complete with its own perks. While there is a version of Legacy of the Dragonborn for Oldrim, the v5 update specifically for Special Edition remaps the building to make it larger and more like a real museum.
The Asteria Dwemer Airship
There are player home mods to suit all tastes, but the Asteria is a particularly nice one—a flying ship with all mod cons, by which I mean storage space and crafting tables. It’s permanently docked, however, and can’t be moved around, though it does have a teleporter for a more immersive alternative to fast-travel. Flyable skyship mods still haven’t made the jump over from vanilla Skyrim, unfortunately.
Even after Skyrim Special Edition, there’s still plenty of room to make Tamriel prettier. Modders have updated how characters look and added higher resolution textures, among other things, to put a new shine on the game.
Climates of Tamriel
Climates of Tamriel is a huge overhaul adding new weather types, new lighting, and clouds. It can make nighttime darker as well for a more immersive adventuring experience. There’s even a winter version that turns all of Skyrim into a snowy landscape.
Realistic Water Two
Realistic Water Two, drawing and expanding on the work of some earlier water mods, adds better ripples, larger splashes, re-textured foam and faster water flow in streams, bobbing chunks of ice, and even murky, stagnant-looking water in dungeons. For all your extremely realistic screenshot-taking needs.
Total Character Makeover
Skyrim’s NPCs already looked dated when the game was first released, and they certainly haven’t aged well. The SSE might improve the looks of the world, but it doesn’t touch its citizens, so this mod from Scaria should be on your list. It gives everyone in the game (including your avatar) a facelift with more detailed textures that won’t kneecap your framerate, and without making characters look out of place.
⭐ Vanilla Hair Replacer
We can all agree that Bethesda’s RPGs aren’t often stunners in the hair department. So many hair mods get carried away turning characters into models though. Vanilla Hair Replacer aims for a bit more lore friendly changes for Skyrim’s default hair choices so NPCs look a little less scraggly but still hail from the world of Skyrim. Be sure to check the “recommended mods” section of the page to get your characters looking exactly like the ones in the screenshots.
⭐ Glorious Doors of Skyrim
Hear me out. Aside from NPC’s faces, what are you going to have your nose up against in Skyrim most often? Well yeah, enemies, but also doors! Modder “Hype1” has created lots of new door meshes with glorious 4k textures so you’ll never be stuck picking the lock on a low res door again.
One of our other favorite beautiful object mods Book Covers now has a Special Edition version too.
Static Mesh Improvements
While the SSE adds plenty of enhanced visuals, it doesn’t do a thing to improve the original game’s low-poly meshes. This mod edits hundreds of 3D models placed in thousands of different locations for items like furniture, clutter, architectural elements, and landscape objects to make them look nicer and more realistic.
Companions and Creatures
Skyrim is an even more beautiful place thanks to all the visual mods and new locations on this list, but you’ll want to populate it with interesting people too. These mods add some of our favorite companion characters and some cool creatures for them to fight too.
Maybe you don’t think a blue Khajiit who follows you around commenting on everything and being sarcastic about Lydia is what Skyrim needs, but trust us on this. Inigo is a follower with tons of dialogue, some tied to his own questline and more that crops up at appropriate times depending on the location you’re at. He can be told where to go and what to do by whistling, and will follow you even if you’ve got an existing companion, chatting away with them thanks to skilfully repurposed voice lines.
A sequel to a much-loved Oblivion mod (which Terry Pratchett contributed to), Vilja in Skyrim adds the great-granddaughter of the original Vilja as a follower. She’s an alchemist with her own questline to follow and a unique system to give her orders, essentially spells bound to hotkeys that can be used to co-ordinate attacks. Like Inigo she doesn’t count toward your follower limit, and if introduced to each other Inigo and Vilja will even chat amongst themselves.
Will we ever tire of crossovers between our favorite big RPGs? No, we definitely will not. This follower mod adds a custom-made Yennefer that re-purposes her lines of dialogue from The Witcher 3. She dual wields magic, of course. Sadly, she isn’t eligible for marriage.
⭐ Amazing Follower Tweaks
This extremely popular mod for Oldrim is one you’ll want to grab the Special Edition version of too. It lets you micromanage a lot of details about your companions like their gear, how to fight, and which of your many houses to live in.
This mod makes having a horse much less of a headache. You can have conversations from horseback. You can loot and gather herbs while mounted. Your followers can even buy and ride their own horses instead of sprinting helplessly behind you.
Diverse Dragons Collection
Despite the Special Edition’s visual overhaul, its dragons are still a bit ho-hum. This mod, contributed to by a large collection of modders, adds 28 new and unique dragons with different models and textures, and capable of over a dozen new breath attacks and abilities. The dragons come in different ranks as well, to ensure you have a challenge no matter what your level.
Why is it always spiders in RPGs? Well, it doesn’t have to be. Insects Begone replaces all the spiders and chaurus insects with bears and skeevers instead. It also removes decorative spider webs and other spider-related decor. If you can’t deal with all the giant spiders plaguing Skyrim, this mod will squash them.
Magic, combat, and skills
If being the dragonborn just isn’t enough, these mods give you new abilities to tinker with. Some are mundane skills like additional crafting abilities, others are new shouts and spells to play with.
Arcanum: A New Age of Magic
Arcanum is a huge addition to Skyrim’s magic system. It lets you summon tornados and summon meteors among many other feats. It doesn’t just throw all these new skills at you as soon as it’s installed though. Arcanum is great for starting a new playthrough of Skyrim SE because unlocking spells is a more lore-friendly journey or custom quests, crafting, and adventuring.
Phenderix Magic World
This impressively robust magic mod adds new locations like The School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the magical town of Manantis, and even a new magical dimension to explore. It also adds hundreds of new spells from all schools of magic, plus lots of magic weapons, over a dozen new followers, and a quest to get you started.
⭐ Combat Gameplay Overhaul
CGO is a newer overhaul mod that really strikes a great balance for those wanting a bit more out Skyrim’s combat without turning into a super fast-paced action game. It adds the ability to dodge roll, which surprisingly looks pretty decent in first person. There’s also the ability to switch between one and two-handed grips for your weapons to change how attacks land. Oh, and you can attack in midair, along with lots of other smaller tweaks.
Modder “DServant” also created the Archery Gameplay Overhaul which takes a similarly even handed approach to improving bow use.
Wildcat is a much heavier combat overhaul, and an extremely popular one. It makes combat more deadly with increased damage and stamina use, but that’s not all. It also adds an injury system where taking enough damage has a chance to give you a serious injury that could knock you down, unequip your weapon, or give you other dangerous effects. It rewards you for properly timed blocks and for attacks of opportunity while enemies are performing other actions too.
For the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood members among us, Sneak Tools adds extra functionality to being good at hiding. Instead of just a damage bonus, you can kill NPCs from behind with daggers, knock them out with fists, and assassinate them while they’re sleeping. You can douse torches and arrows to better sneak through the shadows and have a bunch of new arrow types with sneaky benefits.
Unless you’re playing as a metal-plated tank who swings an enormous two-handed sword around, there’s not a lot of use for smithing. Archers, thieves, and other stealthy characters have no issues finding light armor on their adventures, so there’s never been much reason to make it themselves. This mod by Arthmoor gives slippery sorts reasons to learn smithing, by letting them forge arrows, lockpicks, and guild-specific armor, as well as melt down bulkier armor they’d never actually wear into ingots.
Roleplaying, survival, and immersion
Roleplaying and immersion mods are all aimed at making Skyrim Special Edition feel just a bit more real.
Simply Knock SE
Sometimes you don’t want to break into someone’s home and have the local guard after you. Instead of lockpicking, this mod gives you the option to just, you know, knock on the door. If someone is home they might answer, giving you the option to earn entry with your speech abilities. If they don’t answer, then get your lockpicks out.
Skyrim Fishing SE
Hear us out, fishing in Skyrim is good. It’s a great addition for survival playthroughs. No more fishing with your hands—there are fishing poles, nets, bait, and even Dwarven “explosive” fishing. You can even catch some junk to sell.
Alternate Start—Live Another Life
If you’re playing Special Edition, you’re starting from scratch whether you’re a newcomer to Skyrim or a veteran. Why not start your new game as someone other than the Dragonborn? Alternate Start—again, by Arthmoor—is a roleplaying mod that gives you choices on how you’d like to begin your next playthrough. Are you a patron at in inn, a visitor arriving by boat, a prisoner in a jail cell, or the member of a guild? You can start as a soldier, an outlaw, a hunter, or even a vampire. It’s a great way to re-experience Skyrim from a different perspective.
Opening Scene Overhaul
This mod, by elderscrolliangamer, changes and enhances Skyrim’s opening sequence by restoring dialogue that Bethesda chose to cut, but which is still present in the game files. With that content restored, you’ll learn more about the world you’re preparing to inhabit by listening in on additional conversations and seeing full sequences that were snipped before release. Best of all, if you choose to side with the Stormcloaks, you’ll actually be able to escape Helgen with Ulfric himself at your side.
Relationship Dialogue Overhaul
This mod by cloudedtruth adds thousands of lines of voiced dialogue for NPCs, directed at making you feel as if you have a closer and more personal relationship with followers and friends. Your spouse, if you have one, will no longer sound like a random follower, but address you in a more personal manner, and those you’ve angered will have a host of new insults to hurl your way.
Frostfall and Campfire
Skyrim Console Commands
Looking to turn SSE into a survival experience? Then bundle up and look no further. These mods from Chesko make the frosty world of Skyrim more dangerous yet more immersive and enjoyable with a system that makes you manage your temperature in the cold climate. Hypothermia is an issue, especially if you swim through icy water, so you’ll have to dress warmly, and camping elements include craftable tents, torches, and other gear. There’s even a crafting skill system.
Also, check out Wet and Cold, which adds weather-dependent visual effects and sounds.
⭐ Positive Undressed Reactions
What could possibly be more immersive than walking around in your underclothes and being lavished with compliments by strangers? Okay, maybe it’s not that immersive but it is a fun one. On top of that, this mod also uses a very cool new AI-based voice synthesis tool called SKVA Synth to create some of its voice lines.