Note: This post is updated for Skyrim Special Edition! If you are looking for the mods I use with vanilla Skyrim, you can find them at the very bottom of the post!
One of the first questions I get asked whenever people stop by my Skyrim streams is, “What Skyrim mods do you use?” As Skyrim is one of my favourite games (The Elder Scrolls fangirl for life!) and modding is one of my favourite parts of these games, I figured I’d share some of my must-have mods for Skyrim Special Edition now that it’s been released.
Most of these mods have been installed using the Nexus Mod Manager, and are pretty simple to get set-up! There are also some mods available through the Mods section of the game, and I will note these where I have installed them in that way. If you see [IN-GAME] this means I installed it through the in-game Mods menu. Sometimes these are also available on the Nexus, so if you’d prefer to install that way just look them up! But I can’t guarantee they’re there, or that they work with other mods when installed this way as I have only tested those ones through in-game installation.
Skyrim Special Edition Mods
- Enhanced Blood: Changes the default blood texture to be more realistic, but also gives you the option to tweak it. You can modify the size of the blood splatter, how it interacts with the camera, and colours.
- Skyrim Flora Overhaul: Improves the diversity and realism of trees and plants that appear throughout Skyrim.
- [IN-GAME] Lamposts of Skyrim: Adds additional lamposts dotted along roads.
- [IN-GAME] Vivid Weathers: A huge weather overhaul improving all the Skyrim weathers and adding new weather types. This includes enhanced snowstorms and fog, distant rain, and much more.
- [IN-GAME] Surreal Lighting: Modifies the default lighting to give it more of a high-fantasy feel. This one isn’t for everyone, but it boosts the colour of Skyrim a little bit!
- [IN-GAME] Static Mesh Improvement Mod: Improves a variety of static meshes including tables, ropes etc for immersion.
- Osmodius’ Texture Pack: Improves upon the default textures (not covering DLC yet) whilst still remaining quite light weight.
- Luminous ENB: Adds a ton of adjustments to the game’s lighting and saturation to give it a more natural feel.
- Real Mountains: Improves mountain and rock textures. I’m using the eroded appearance.
- Nordic Snow: Modifies the snow texture to be more realistic.
- Realistic Lighting Overhaul: I’m still experimenting with this one, but it changes the lighting to be more realistic and also adds eye-adjustment (so you can’t just automatically see in the dark). However it might conflict with some other mods here so I’m still tweaking it.
Combat and Gameplay
- Apocalypse – Magic of Skyrim: Adds 155 new spells to the game spread across every spell school.
- Ordinator – Perks of Skyrim: Complete perk-tree overhaul with 400 new perks to unlock as you level up.
- Alternate Start – Live Another Life: I used this in Vanilla Skyrim, and it’s still awesome (in fact, it has a lot of improvements!) If you’re bored of starting the game at the same point, this gives a lot of options including some race-exclusive ones to start your game fresh.
- Smilodon – Combat of Skyrim: I’m trying this out on Master difficulty. It aims to make combat more realistic, and improves lethality on both sides.
Characters and NPCs
- Apachii Sky Hair (with Helmet Wigs): This is the same hair mod I used in vanilla Skyrim, and adds a ton of hair for male and female characters of all races. The hairstyles are imported from various games and mods.
- Total Character Makeover: Improves meshes and textures on the default bodies and faces to give all characters and NPCs a more aesthetically pleasing appearance.
- KS Hairdos Lite: Adds some additional hairstyles and modifies the default appearance of some followers.
- RS Children Overhaul: Improves upon the default appearance of children in Skyrim.
Armour and Weapons
- Ars Metallica: Improves crafting to allow you to increase skill whilst smelting, break down equipment into materials, and craft arrows etc.
- [IN-GAME] Cloaks & Capes: Adds lore-friendly cloaks that are compatible, as far as I know, with mods that add immersive survivability.
- Immersive Armors: A lore-friendly armor overhaul that adds a lot of additional armor types.
- Visible Favorited Gear: Shows weapons you’ve added to your favourites, so you don’t have swords appearing out of nowhere when you had a bow equipped etc.
- [IN-GAME] Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch: The next edition in the unofficial patches that provides a lot of minor bug fixes and quality of life improvements.
- [IN-GAME] Weightless Dragon Bones and Scales: The only “cheaty” mod I’ve enabled, as I’m playing through on Legendary difficulty and figured I deserved the convenience of not having to worry about the weight of my dragon materials.
- Achievements Mods Enabler: Playing with mods enabled turns off the ability to receive achievements. This little mod re-enables them, allowing you to tweak the game to your heart’s content!
- Immersive Sounds – Compendium: Modifies default sounds including combat, spellcasting and some ambient sounds to make them more immersive. This mod has tons of customisation options available!
- Pastel Map Markers: Just a cute update to the map to distinguish map markers from one another.
Vanilla Skyrim Mods
- A Realistic Hope ENB: A photorealistic ENB mod with performance-friendly versions for older PCs.
- Climates of Tamriel: Comes with immersive weather and the “project reality” series of darker nights and interiors to make torches an absolute necessity! This mod also includes improved weather-related audio. Cue me jumping out of my skin at the thunder and lightning!
- Realistic Lighting Overhaul: An alternative lighting mod for darker, more realistic lighting. I’m using either this or the above mod for my lighting, depending on my needs.
- Enhanced Blood Textures: Gotta have those gritty blood splatters!
- Towns and Villages Enhanced: Rather than link all of these separately, this link goes to Aplestormy’s Nexus profile where you can download improved towns/villages with extra trees etc. I find it makes the towns very immersive and beautiful!
- Immersive Saturation Boost: Reduces the “washed out” feeling some areas in Skyrim have. Colours “pop” much more, and it’s compatible with most lighting mods.
- Wearable Lanterns: This was a complete necessity for me when I enabled the ENB and Climates of Tamriel, because caves get so damn dark! If you use a two-handed weapon such as a bow or a greatsword, it’s not possible to carry a torch at the same time as smacking enemies so wearable lanterns is a welcome addition!
Characters and NPCs
- Apachii Sky Hair: Contains a huge number of converted female and male hairstyles from Sims 2 and Sims 3 custom content.
- Caliente’s Beautiful Bodies Edition: Modifies the default female body, with plenty of customisation. I pretty much chose this because I wanted a bustier female character.
- Better Females by Bella: Modifies the default female facial texture to be smoother, with additional make-up, and therefore populates your world with lots of very attractive NPC ladies!
- The Huntress Reborn: Replaces Aela with an absolutely stunning model, with options for a young or mature Aela. I personally prefer the mature because she looks more rugged. This was important to me as Aela is one of my favourite potential followers, and I want to pursue her as a wife in my current playthrough!
Armour and Weapons
- Immersive Weapons: Probably the mod I get asked most about! Includes a ton of lore-friendly weapons that will be used by NPCs and sold in stores as though they were with the game from the beginning.
- Immersive Armors: Provides some beautiful lore-friendly armor options. Fair warning though, if you’re using the CBBE mod I recommended in the Characters and NPCs section above, you will need to install a patch. Patch not tested!
- Cloaks of Skyrim: I don’t think an adventurer is ever quite complete without a good cloak. Especially in the cold winters of Skyrim! These lore-friendly cloaks will now be worn by NPCs and found around the world.
- SkyUI: Always felt that Skyrim‘s UI was not very PC-friendly? Yeah, join the club! SkyUI modifies the UI of the game to make it much more PC-friendly, with a lot of other features such as sorting and searching your inventory, smoother menus, searching map and much more! Requires Skyrim Script Extender (SKSE).
- Mounted Followers: Ever get tired of your follower walking incredibly slowly then having to sprint to catch up with you? Yeah, me too! This allows followers to mount up when you do.
This is not a comprehensive list of all the mods I recommend, these are just the ones that I am personally using at the moment, or have used a lot in the past. If you have any questions about any of these mods, or any recommendations, please feel free to leave a comment below!