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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

The best Skyrim mods in 2023

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The best Skyrim mods can be tough to find when there are over 69,000 of them on NexusMods and 28,000 on the Steam Workshop. At this point if you can imagine it chances are there’s a mod for it—as well as plenty of things you would rather not imagine. From interface tweaks to entirely new campaigns, fully voiced companions, and of course ridiculous memes, it’s all out there. Some of it is very out there.

Skyrim Console Commands

There’s no need to play Skyrim as a humble warrior. Become a giant, fly, walk through walls, spawn any item you want, and even become Santa Claus with Skyrim console commands.

It can be overwhelming to sort through all those mods, and installing a pre-canned list usually means adding a bunch of things you don’t actually want, then not being able to get rid of them without messing up various dependencies. That’s why our guide assumes a manual pick-and-choose style of modding, and is sorted into categories so you can find a selection of individual mods that are compatible and suit your playstyle.

The first thing you’ll need to know if you’re playing Skyrim on a modern PC in 2023 is that it’s going to have problems running at a framerate higher than 60fps. The physics engine wasn’t designed for it, and you’ll end up seeing horses float into the air and bodies bounce around, as well as hearing loud, repeated sound effects as things like water splashes loop continually. Go into your GPU software’s control panel and make sure Skyrim is capped at 60fps to fix all that.

Now we’ll cover how to get started with Skyrim mods, as well as recommending some essential improvements. Check the subsequent pages for all the best Skyrim quest mods, new spells, equipment, followers, combat changes, and more.

If you’re looking for Skyrim Special Edition mods, follow that link to our separate collection. These mods are for vanilla Skyrim, AKA Oldrim or Skyrim Legendary Edition. Mods added in the latest update of this list have been marked with a ⭐.

Table of contents

Page 1: Getting started – how to install, patches, interface, quality of life, and textures
Page 2: Content mods quests, characters, creatures, and places
Page 3: Gameplay mods equipment, combat, magic, systems, and tweaks

How to install Skyrim mods

Once you’ve found some mods you’d like to try, here are the tools you can use to get them working. Make sure you read the description page for each of your mods: many of them require specific steps and instructions.


Replacing the old Nexus Mod Manager is Vortex, a newer program for organizing your mod loadout. Available from the NexusMods website, like most of the mods on our list, it will handle everything for you. It’s easy to use and makes downloading, activating, and deactivating mods a breeze. It’s also useful in that it supports tons of other games, like The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, and many more. 

Skyrim Script Extender

Skyrim Script Extender (SKSE) is a utility that’s required for many of the more complex mods to work. Not every mod on this list requires it, but plenty do, including the essential SkyUI, so you’re best off just installing it up front. SKSE is now available directly through Steam, but you can still find it on the SKSE website if you prefer manual installation. 

Steam Workshop

You can also browse and use Skyrim mods via the Steam Workshop. It’s easy to navigate and adding them to your roster is accomplish by simply clicking the subscribe button. Keep in mind that more complex mods may require a few more steps to install. Always read the description.


Unofficial Skyrim Patch

Download from: Nexus Mods

Created by the same modders as the Unofficial Oblivion patches, the Unofficial Skyrim patches catch a huge amount of bugs the official patches don’t. A lot of them are things you might never notice, like objects that were placed slightly wrong so they clip through each other or quests that break if you do something unusual, but it’s still better to have them than not. There’s one for the Legendary Edition, but you might need the one for the official High Resolution textures patch if you’re using the High Resolution DLC.

Fix Lip Sync

Download from: Nexus Mods

If you’ve ever seen a delay between an NPC’s spoken dialogue and when their lips start moving, it’s a long-running bug apparently caused by an optimization patch in Skyrim version 1.9. This mod fixes it.

User Interface mods


Download from: Nexus Mods

Skyrim’s original UI is, well, terrible. SkyUI makes it easier to use, letting you sort your loot by value or weight, and your weapons by damage rating. Most importantly, SkyUI adds a mod configuration menu, letting you tweak and adjust compatible mods (including many on this list). A lot of mods don’t require SkyUI and will run just fine without it, but you’ll get much more out of your mods if you have it.

In other words, it’s highly recommended.


Download from: Nexus Mods

An improved character creation menu, with numeric displays for all sliders, and the ability to choose any color for your hair, skin, or other tints rather than being limited based on race. There’s a sculpt mode if you want to get right into messing with the geometry of your head, and you can turn the light illuminating your face on and off to see how your features will look in different situations, which is a blessing.

Better Dialogue Controls

Download from: Nexus Mods

Using a keyboard and mouse for Skyrim means sometimes the game gets confused when you’re selecting a dialogue option. You’ve noticed, surely, that sometimes when you choose a response the game thinks you’ve chosen a different one. Skyrim’s dialogue controls are weird and clunky, and this mod completely and thankfully fixes that. The same modder also gave us better message box controls.

A Quality World Map

Download from: Nexus Mods

Skyrim’s map is functional but boring. A Quality World Map offers multiple ways to fix it. You 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. 

Better Free Camera

Download from: Nexus Mods

To get the perfect screenshot, normally you have to use Skyrim console commands. Better Free Camera lets you set hotkeys instead for free camera mode, toggling the HUD, clipping, pausing time or adjusting its speed, and everything else a dedicated screenshot hunter needs. Well, almost everything. Combine it with Project Proteus to pose NPCs, override their AI, and select animations.

Immersive HUD

Download from: Nexus Mods

You don’t need your HUD onscreen all the time. This mod hides the crosshairs and status bars when you’re not actively using them, such as outside combat. You can also toggle the compass and quest markers on and off with a keypress, and adjust their opacity.

⭐Courier Shows Delivery

Download from: Nexus Mods

A courier runs up to you on the street. “I’ve been looking for you,” they say. “Got something I’m supposed to deliver. Your hands only.” And then they slip it into your backpack, where you have to hunt for it to read this urgent letter. Courier Shows Delivery makes the simple fix of having the courier’s inventory appear when they hand you a communique so you can read it immediately. (There seems to be an issue with the pamphlet about Dawnstar’s museum that begins a quest, and that one will still be slid straight into your pocket.)

Vendor Sale Delay – GONE

Download from: Nexus Mods

This is a small mod, but it makes the game much less frustrating. Now instead of having to listen to the vendor dialogue before they’ll trade with you, the trade window opens up immediately while they give their speech about their junk—I mean “treasures.”

Quality of life mods

Alternate Start – Live Another Life

Download from: AFK Mods

If you want to begin a new game of Skyrim as someone other than the Dragonborn, this is one of several mods that give you a fresh start. Skip the opening sequence and begin life as someone arriving by boat, locked in a jail cell, a visitor at an inn, an outlaw in the wilderness, and many more. Expand the options even further with New Beginnings, which adds over a dozen choices, including the option to start as a vampire, a werewolf, or even a skooma addict.  Just like the original mod, there’s a good mix of safe options along with those that are downright deadly.  

Skyrim Unbound Reborn [Alternate Start]

Download from: Nexus Mods

An alternative to Alternate Start – Live Another Life, this is a more freeform way of deciding how your adventure begins. Rather than choosing from preset options like bandit or necromancer, when you create a new character you open the Mod Configuration menu and toggle a ton of individual options. Select your equipment and spells, how much money you own, where you begin, and whether you’re the Dragonborn. You can also customize when the main questline starts, whether dragons appear, if you start with a bounty on your head, and what time of day it is. You can even set some options to random for a surprise. Once you’re done, go back to the first page and click Begin Your Adventure to set off. We liked Skyrim Unbound Reborn so much, we declared it one of our mods of the week.

⭐Skip Bleak Falls Barrow

Download from: Nexus Mods

Alternate start mods let you skip the Helgen tutorial, but if you want to be the Dragonborn you’ll still have to go through baby’s first dungeon, Bleak Falls Barrow, to get the Dragonstone and unlock the Fus shout. This mod lets you skip that too, putting the Dragonstone, the Golden Claw, and a fragment of the Word Wall on a table upstairs at Dragonreach in Whiterun. For extra convenience, walk a little further and you’ll find a standing stone that teleports you to High Hrothgar to meet the Greybeards rather than having to climb the mountain again. (Though you might have to walk out of their monastery and back in again if you hit a bug where they won’t talk to you and progress the quest.)

⭐Remember Lockpick Angle

Download from: Nexus Mods

The lockpick jiggles. You adjust the angle slightly. One more notch. Nocturnal laughs at you, and the lockpick snaps. You slide the next lockpick in, completely vertical rather than anywhere near the previous position. What are you thinking, Dragonborn? This mod puts each new lockpick in the previous one’s position, making it easier to adjust from there.


Download from: Nexus Mods

There are 14 pages of options in SkyTweak, letting you alter variables relating to experience point gain, stealth, how vendors work, combat, magic—a little bit of everything. It’s guaranteed to contain options you won’t be able to live without once you’ve started messing with them. Want to change how far away NPCs are before they greet you, or reduce the pause between lines? How about messing with the AI’s search time or how much light affects your ability to hide? Want to change the time scale, adjust fall damage, or arrow recovery chance? Some of these options exist in other mods, or Skyrim console commands, but SkyTweak slaps them all into menus to bring up every time you’re annoyed by something as minor as how frequently enemies dodge projectiles or the number of times you’re allowed to hit a follower before they turn on you.  

Textures & Lighting mods

⭐The Eyes of Beauty

Download from: Nexus Mods

Eyes are hard to get right. If you’ve ever played an elf you’ll know the special agony of Skyrim’s alien eyeball options, which guarantee you’ll end up looking like you’ve come to abduct and probe the residents of Tamriel rather than live among them. The Eyes of Beauty gives some more attractive options, and comes in two versions: one just for you, and another that automatically gives NPCs attractive, shimmering orbs of sight.

⭐Rustic Clothing

Download from: Nexus Mods

Rustic Clothing doesn’t mean “rustic” in the sense of crude or unfinished, but simply rural, and unaffected. This high-resolution replacer gives NPCs clothes that don’t look smeary when viewed up close, meaning that you won’t wince every time you have a conversation with someone in first-person. Instead, you’ll be able to make out patterns and recognize different fabrics. It goes beyond regular clothes to improve the look of bandages, fur armor, the Masque of Clavicus Vile, and a handful of other wearable but arguably not “clothing” items.

Total Character Makeover 

Download from: Nexus Mods

A compilation of changes to existing NPC appearances, the Total Character Makeover makes everyone in Skyrim look better without making them too much better-looking, if you catch our drift. No nudity, no anime hair, no glamazon makeup, just a suite of new textures and tweaks to everything from beards to vampire fangs. 

Enhanced Lights and FX

Download from: Nexus Mods

You may have noticed some things in Skyrim that should be sources of light don’t actually cast any, while in other places things are brightly lit for no real reason. Enhanced Lights and FX fixes that, making light shine where it should. There are options for just how dark you want interiors to be, and enabling those will mean torches and spells like candlelight are vital. It also makes some nice tweaks to the appearance of smoke.

2K Textures

Download from: Nexus Mods

Does what it says: replaces Skyrim’s textures: sky, water, architecture, clothing, clutter, reflections, and so on, of the cities, towns, dungeons, and landscapes. There’s a full version if your PC can handle it, but there’s also a lite version that should make things look nicer without killing your performance.

Climates of Tamriel

Download from: Nexus Mods

This comprehensive mod adds hundreds of new weather systems, a huge library of new cloud systems, a new sun, improved lighting for both fans of a fantasy look and realistic visuals, and even audio improvements. With all of these systems combining, each day in Skyrim will feel different from the last.

Real Clouds

Download from: Nexus Mods

Designed to be compatible with weather mods like Climates of Tamriel, Real Clouds adds “pseudo-volumetric” clouds that look three-dimensional. You’ll be able to see sheets of distant rain falling, and clouds at varying heights that react to the current weather. Even if you’re not using a mod that alters the way weather works, this provides some nice and diverse cloud cover. You can even fly through these fluffy sky friends.

aMidianBorn Book of Silence

Download from: Nexus Mods

A pretty hefty collection of high-quality replacements for Skyrim textures, covering creatures, weapons, armor, unique items, and the Dragonborn DLC, all as separate files. Consider combining with Rustic Armor and Weapons, which plugs a few gaps relating to Dark Brotherhood, Forsworn, and Daedric gear.

Static Mesh Improvement

Download from: Nexus Mods

This mod edits a number of 3D models in the game, and with over 700 meshes placed in over 15,000 locations in the world, it’s a welcome difference. You’ll notice better looking architectural elements, furniture, objects in the landscape, and all sorts of other models that didn’t get much attention from Bethesda.

⭐Glorious Doors of Skyrim

Download from: Nexus Mods

You’re going to spend a lot of time looking at doors, whether you barrel through city streets on the way to the next NPC you need to find for a quest, or sneak through dungeons at a cautious crawl. Glorious Doors of Skyrim adds new meshes for some of the methods of ingress you’ll see repeated over and over in ruins and forts, as well as some of specific ones that should look particularly fancy, like the gate of Whiterun, and the doors of Dragonsreach and Mistveil Keep. It also animates dwemer doors so you can see the gears turn as these mechanical marvels open. 

Immersive Animations

Download from: Nexus Mods

Immersive Animations adds dozens of little touch-ups to Skyrim’s existing animations, plus a few nifty new ones. It’s also compatible with Dual Sheath Redux, allowing for all sorts of nice animations for having your shield on your back, or sheathing two weapons at once.

YY Anim Replacer — Zweihander

Download from: Nexus Mods

Zweihander is a set of new animations for two handed weapons in Skyrim. The big selling point is the idle animation, which sees you resting your sword/axe/hammer on your shoulder. There’s lots more than that though, with animations for running, turning and even a leaping overhead strike included. It’s all customizable too, so you can mix and match new and old animations.

Sounds of Skyrim

Download from: Nexus Mods

Get immersed in new audio: tons of it. Hundreds of new sounds effects are included to make dungeons and sewers spookier, enhance the wilderness and wildlife, and make cities and villages more lively and real. This mod is a treat for your ears, and has customizable modules for each type of area.

FXAA Injector

Download from: Nexus Mods

Enhances your graphics with FXAA and other post effects, such as sharpen and bloom, creating crisper visuals and more vibrant colors. Conveniently, you can adjust these settings while you play by alt-tabbing out and moving the sliders on the mod’s desktop utility.

Skyrim Flora Overhaul

Download from: Nexus Mods

This mod comes in three different versions, depending on how drastically you want to change your game. All versions promise more luxurious trees and bark, taller grass, and prettier plant life. The heavier versions completely replace the trees altogether and give you lusher greens for a summery feel.

Realistic Water Two

Download from: Nexus Mods

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. It’s the next best thing to getting wet.

Enhanced Camera

Download from: Nexus Mods

Remaining in first-person mode helps a game feel immersive, and this mod does that in spades. Not only can you look down and see your entire body while playing, but other activities such as crafting, cooking, riding horses and even riding dragons won’t break you out of first-person mode.

⭐JS Lockpicking UI

Download from: Nexus Mods

When you’re sick of staring at that low-res circular lock every time you want to open something the man doesn’t want you to open, try the JS Lockpicking UI. Now those locks look shiny and new. Also comes with a remade version of Nocturnal’s Skeleton Key, should you hang onto that particular Daedric artifact.

Book Covers

Download from: Nexus Mods

It may not seem like that big of a deal, but these little high-res book covers do make for an extremely pleasant upgrade over the standard, muddily-textured ones. When you’re relaxing at home or perusing (or robbing) a bookstore or library, make sure you’ve installed this lovely cover mod. Unless you’ve got Legacy of the Dragonborn installed already, that is. Legacy of the Dragonborn includes Book Covers, and will cause bugs if you have it installed separately as well.

Hearthfire Dolls Are Ugly 

Download from: Nexus Mods

Because they are! What self-respecting parent wants to give their kid a dirty, beat-up naked doll? Instead, give them an actual cute dolly, or an adorable teddy bear in a variety of different colours.

Content & gameplay mods

Table of contents

Page 1: Getting started – how to install mods, patches, interface, and textures
Page 2: Content mods quests, characters, creatures, and places
Page 3: Gameplay mods weapons, skills, systems, and tweaks

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The best Skyrim mods: Getting started

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