Skyrim Special Edition is ultimately the same old Skyrim under the hood. While the game has had extensive work done to its textures (something which we covered in a separate comparison article), the game is ultimately the same old content.
That's no bad thing - Skyrim is one of the best RPGs of the last ten years or so. With that said, what happens when you feel you've seen all that the land of Skyrim has to offer? Skyrim Special Edition has you covered in an all-new way thanks to its addition of mod support on consoles. PC players have had access to this stuff all along, of course, but the remastered visuals are prompting many to revisit the game.
Here's everything you need to know to get cracking on Skyrim mods, plus our picks for some of the very best mods available for all three platforms.
Skyrim Special Edition: Where to find the mods list and how to get downloading
Okay, first thing's first: in order to get mods, you're going to need to know exactly how to download them. There's of course that juicy 'mods' option on the game's main menu, but you've more options than that - and it all starts at Bethesda.net, Bethesda's proprietary service that, lucky for them, they need you to sign up for and hang your information over to in order to make the most of Skyrim Special Edition.
To get started you'll want to head to the Skyrim Mods section of the site. Once there you'll notice handy filtering options in the top right of the mod list.. This'll let you filter out what platform you want to look at. There's different restrictions on mods on each platform with PS4 being heavily restricted and PC a glorious and terrifying lawless land of horrors - Xbox One sits in between. As such, not all mods are available for all platforms.
PS4 mods are limited to 1GB and can't add new assets to the game. Xbox One mods can be up to 4GB and can add all-new assets such as new models, sound and so on. Xbox mod support is much more
Anyway - when you find a mod you want, hit 'add to library'. If you don't already, the site will make you link your shiny new Bethesda ID to your console ID, and this will in turn make the mod pop up in your mod list console side on that main menu option. It's pretty simple all old, but that step of visiting the website isn't immediately obvious.
The best Skyrim Special Edition Mods for PC, PS4 and Xbox One
Now you know how to download, what exactly should you be looking for? Well... let's talk about that. Here's some of our top picks for Skyrim Special Edition modding on both PC and console.
Open Cities Skyrim - make it an even more open world
Open Cities Skyrim is a pretty simple mod on paper but must have been quite challenging for the developers to put together - it lets you move seamlessly from the overworld into cities without encountering a loading screen!
This makes a world of difference; city guards will now leave the gates to assist in a nearby fight, and generally it'll save you quite a lot of time. If you're familiar with Morrowind or even Fallout 4 you'll be used to this style of open world; it's undeniably better.
Falskaar - a massive new storyline and land mod
Falskaar is one of the most impressive mods we've ever seen. This mod adds a huge new landmass to the game - but that's not all. This new land comes complete with a new storyline which is well-written and incredibly fully-voiced in a quality manner.
The developers boast 20 hours of new content, and that includes dungeons, quests, gear, magic, music, followers... pretty much the works. There's actually arguably more content to this mod than to some of the full-on expansion packs released by Bethesda themselves.
The Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch
This one is pretty simple - we all know Bethesda open-world games can sometimes be a little on the spotty side. It comes with the territory of the massive worlds with emergent AI. We all sort of just accept it.
Skyrim Special Edition is no exception, but some fans are working hard to do that which Bethesda's QA department struggled to do. This mod is pretty simple - it fixes issues with things like quests, NPCs, full-on bugs... anything they could find that wasn't quite right.
Less Aggressive Animals - make life a little easier
This is more a quality of life mod than anything, but, really... sometimes Skyrim's wildlife can be a bit of a pain if you're just trying to explore.
This mod aims to sort that out - it makes the wildlife in Skyrim a little less vicious and outgoing. Things like wolves and skeevers will be less likely to attack you. Mudcrabs will no longer bee-line for you and try to kill you right away, but will have to be attacked by you first. Other animals remain aggressive but have had their behaviors tweaked.
Frostfall: Hypothermia Camping Survival
Frostfall is about as brutal as its name implies - this mod turns Skyrim into a full-on survival game where simply staying alive in the cold weather is a challenge in itself.
The mod will force you to camp, wear appropriate clothes, and generally work hard to stay alive. As well as the general stuff to make its concept work, this mod includes new spells and skills, plus a lot of visual cues to help you understand when you're descending into the deadly depths of hypothermia.
Point the Way - reduce the need to bring up the in-game map
Point the Way is the sort of minimal-change mod that one really has to respect - it simply takes what Skyrim already is and makes a tiny tweak and addition to make it a little bit more immersive.
In this instance, the addition is signposts. Point the Way dots real signposts around Skyrim more frequently, meaning if you don't want to open the game menus you can try to navigate your way around by following the game's roads and following the signposts posted along them.
Immersive Citizens - make radiant a little less crazy
Bethesda Game Studios' games are basically characterised now by their character AI system. The radiant AI can sometimes lead to amazing things and sometimes lead to hilariously dumb stuff. This mod aims to tighten up their AI systems.
The immersive citizens mod makes a fairly big difference, tweaking NPC behaviors in some incredibly granular ways that stack up to pay off quite well indeed.
It's available for Xbox One and PC in a full, unedited state. A slightly stripped-down PS4 version is also available. Keep in mind if you want to use it alongside Open Cities you'll need an additional patch, also available on Bethesda.net.
Live Another Life - take a fresh start in Skyrim
The Live Another Life mod is very appropriately named. Rather than going through the Skyrim opening we all know well at this point, this mod replaces it with an all-new start to the game.
This start is helpful for a few reasons. If you've seen the opening of Skyrim to death you get a nice change, for one, but on top of all that this mod actually is a lot snappier than the original opening and allows you to get to the open world action a lot more quickly.
Phendrix Magic Evolved - the ultimate mage mod
Phendrix's Magic Evolved mod is absolutely massive. It adds over 370 new spells to the game. This includes all-new types of spells.
The new spells are scattered throughout the world and can be naturally found through gameplay. This mod isn't just for dedicated mages either - there's many new spells here that aim to offer special buffs to characters who are more physical in nature. There's even a slew of new defensive spells.
The Forgotten City - visit an award winner
The Forgotten City is actually an award winner - back when it was released in 2015 it scooped awards from Skyrim fan sites and big old sites like ModDB. It's a full-blown expansion that should last you around 8 hours.
The story is a murder mystery and befittingly is fully voiced. This is a great little story that in our opinion stands up to some of the best quest lines in Skyrim proper. There's even multiple endings and an all-new orchestral score - this mod's developers went all out. It's also a small download - under 150mb.
Imperious - Races of Skyrim
A big part of any fantasy universe is its races, and The Elder Scrolls is really no different. Imperious aims to make your choice of race in the game a lot more important and it quite successful at it.
Imperious basically overhauls race-based abilities, powers and stats to make each race more diverse. New abilities exclusive to each race have also been added, further making your choice all the more important.
Static Mesh Improvement Mod - it's prettier
Look, this one is a bit boring in that it's not adding exciting new storylines to the game or big new lands to explore... but this one is important. It makes a big difference.
By improving the static meshes throughout the game, fans have made serious strides to make the world of Skyrim just feel a little more real. Some of the differences are profound and will likely take you by surprise. This has taken a group of fans 4 years, and some 1000 meshes have been improved throughout the game.
Wet and Cold - enjoy the miserable weather a little more
If you're going to suffer miserable weather in Skyrim, it may as well be the most realistic and impressive miserable weather the game can offer. This mod offers that.
Adding things like splash sound effects when you walk in the rain and after swimming to visible moisture from the player and NPCs breath in especially cold areas, this mod basically takes all of the extreme ends of Skyrim's weather and improves it to make it a little more impressive. It even makes some AI tweaks - NPCs will seek shelter in bad weather.
And a bonus for fans of other RPGs...
Beyond Skyrim itself, there's some lovely mods and nods to other games and the odd movie available for Skyrim SE via Bethesda.net. Other companies... please don't sue these guys. This is cool stuff. Here's some of our favorite highlights:
- Chocobos! 5 towns, 5 breeds of chocobos, in 5 iconic colors FF fans will recognize from the Gold Saucer and beyond. Who needs a horse?
- Triss & Yennefer! Playing as a lady? This mod adds the armor of these two classic women of the Witcher to the game.
- Be Zack's Living Legacy: It's the Buster Swords, as it appears in Crisis Core. Impractical size swords are no longer just for JRPGs, evidently.
- Kill some monsters the right way: More Witcher here - why not dress up like Geralt? This one is based off his default Witcher 3 outfit.
- Visit the world of Conan: Any mod that begins its description with a dedication to fans of Schwarzenegger is probably a winner. This mod adds a full-on Conan the Barbarian themed dungeon and quest.