Skyrim: 15 Best Mods For Realistic Gameplay

The graphics, the combat, the story, the freedom of choice– those are just the cherry on top of the plain designer cake we all call The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. They aren’t even the greatest assets of the said video game. No, when it comes to playing Skyrim in a long enough duration, the meat lies in the game’s “moddability” or how viable it is for modding. It’s arguably the best selling point of the game and it’s a lot more important than you think. That’s because mods are essentially game features by the players for the players. Without mods, Skyrim is only half as fun.

Often, the community takes matters into its own hands regarding the improvement of the said roleplaying game (RPG). As a result, the definitive Skyrim experience is never complete without mods. So here are 10 of them to prolong the game’s lifespan while you wait for The Elder Scrolls VI. These are for the Special Edition– we recommend you do yourself a favor and grab that one since the old and regular Skyrim is too unstable.

Updated on January 16, 2021 by Anastasia Maillot: While nothing truly beats the vanilla experience of Skyrim, many of the mods that have spawned from its tirelessly working modding and fan community have become staples when it comes to experiencing the game to its fullest degree. While some mods are concerned with quality of life changes, others truly alter the way the game feels.

For players looking for a healthy dose of realism in their Skyrim experience, there’s a whole array of realistic mods out there to bring the world closer to an actual medieval experience with real stakes. Combine these mods with Legendary difficulty, and suddenly the game feels like a true challenge that forces its players to survive rather than thrive.


The armor skill in Skyrim is a bit lackluster, which is why something like True Armor is a necessity to make things much more interesting. It actually introduces strengths and weaknesses to many of the armor sets available in the game, which makes the choice for players much more strategic.

Moreover, True Armor also tweaks the way armor works when it’s worn out over a long period of time, just like real armor. Armor will finally affect the way you move and regenerate health properly, which is why this mod is a must-have along with a decent combat mod.


Just traveling around Skyrim and clearing out dungeons is exciting, but it’s definitely not all that realistic. Especially if you use an economy or scarcity mod, you’ll notice that loot won’t carry you over to the next day. That’s why every realistic Skyrim needs a mod like Skyrim Jobs, which introduces proper professions.

The mod has tons of realistic features like gaining experience in a specific job and eventually getting promoted and earning more hourly wage by performing certain tasks. Many of the classic jobs of Skyrim are represented, including miner, alchemist, blacksmith, farmer, fisherman, and many more.


Religion is a theme that isn’t explored that much in Skyrim, other than as passive boosts when you pray at a shrine. However, in true medieval fantasy settings, worshipping deities should have more advantages to actually reward the player. It might not be hyper-realistic but it’s realistic within the genre of medieval fantasy.

Thanks to Wintersun, you can pick a deity and worship them, while also making choices and actions according to their rules. Breaking their rules will also have specific consequences, so this mod adds an additional layer of gameplay and challenge. The best part? You don’t just have to choose from the Nine Divines, the Daedric Princes are fair game as well for worship, so you can go as dark as you want.


The skills in Skyrim are plentiful and useful in their own regard, but there’s still space for something that’s better directed at the atmosphere of Skyrim’s world. Skills of the Wild is a great choice for players who already have mods like Frostfall and Campfire and would like to add additional survival-related skills to their game.

Four new perk trees become available in this mod: knower of the land, art of the hunt, culinary arts, and beast handler. As such, you can specialize in hunting, just plain old survival, taming animals, and cooking meals that can hold you over for a while when out in the wilderness.


Fast travel is one of the major features that tend to break immersion for players. It’s just so easy to travel from one place to another instantly and avoid actually dealing with the wilderness of Skyrim. With survival mods that make the forests and plains and mountains even deadlier, fast travel is just overpowered.

The Carriage and Ferry Travel Overhaul mod fixes this. Fast travel will no longer be possible, but traveling around will still exist in a more balanced state. Pricing for these modes of transport will also be tweaked to be more realistic and balanced, so you’ll actually need to plan your travels now.


Once you fire up your Skyrim Special Edition (SSE) game, you’ll soon notice how much better the graphics (unmodded) are compared to the classic Skyrim. However, it still doesn’t hold a candle to today’s games– it needs a little more push. So, this visual mod lets you do just that. It’s a preset of a graphical effects injector in PC games called ENB and it can breathe new life into an aging graphics engine.

One of the best among them for SSE is the Re-engaged ENB by firemanaf. It improves many things such as the lighting, clouds, water, the sky, and also adds more modern effects such as a more advanced ambient occlusion and subsurface scattering to make character skins more realistic. Sadly this one’s only available for SSE.


Even if it got updated, SSE’s textures are still a tier below what one would consider crisp. For that, you will want another upgrade (provided your graphics card can handle it) in the form of 2017 textures by Pfuscher. It basically replaces all the textures of the game to sharper and more detailed versions that will look better on your computer monitor.

For those of you who are content on using the classic/old Skyrim, this texture mod is the best equivalent of the 2017 texture mod above. It’s called Skyrim HD and the name says it all. Oddly enough, this one features a higher range of hi-res textures compared to the SSE texture mod; that one can only go up to 4K while Skyrim HD can go as high as 8K.


Since Skyrim and its SSE variant are both built using Bethesda’s Creation Engine, they are already outdated no matter what angle you look at them. This is heavily apparent when you’re viewing some of the game’s supposedly round objects which appear jagged or in other instances, 3D objects that appear flat.

Thankfully you can remedy such a ghastly sight with the help of the Static Mesh Improvement Mod (SMIM) by Brumbek. It comes in an SSE version and an old Skyrim version. Trust us when we say that you should never play Skyrim without this mod. It revolutionizes the static object models and by increasing their polygon count, making them look like their intended real-world counterparts- the difference is night and day.


Here’s our last visual overhaul mod for Skyrim. It addresses one of the most obvious shortcomings of the game engine or art design: the vegetation. One look at Skyrim’s (whether the classic or SSE) grass and trees and you’ll be reminded that you’re playing an eight-year-old game.

The Skyrim Flora Overhaul by vurt both with an SSE version and a classic Skyrim version, not only improves the leaves, trees, and plants, but also adds more variations between them. This is perfect for players who are sick and tired of just seeing nothing but pine and birch trees. It also makes the grass and flowers fields look more wild and untamed.


The Campfire mod by Chesko for SSE version and classic Skyrim version lets you channel your inner survivalist and outdoorsman. It’s pretty self-explanatory; the mod lets you set up your own camp anywhere pretty much like the non-player characters (NPCs) of Skyrim. It’s a seemingly minor detail that actually has a huge effect on gameplay.

For one, it adds more stuff to do in the game which is always welcome. You’ll need to work for your own camp too, like harvesting wood and building your own campfire, which of course, is a lot easier in-game than it sounds. This mod also serves as a framework for more immersive and realistic ones…


Skyrim’s a cold place and the majority of the province is covered in snow or has occasional snowstorms. While the game achieves the intended atmosphere visually– that’s all they are, just for show. Hence, Frostfall by Chesko again adds a bite to that bark– or frostbite to that tree bark, what have you.

The idea is pretty simple: it gets cold; then you find heat sources; then you survive… or don’t; then you die of hypothermia. Luckily, there are many heat sources available in the game such as campfires, torches, kinetic movement, food and drinks, more clothing or armor layers, and even your own spells. Because it’s not enough that the locals and the local dragons want you dead- the weather also has to participate. This mod requires Campfire and works well with it.


Wet and Cold by isoku for SSE version and classic Skyrim version is pretty similar to Frostfall but less hardcore. It also involves added environmental challenges and effects but less taxing on the gameplay. Getting wet, whether in the rain or by dipping in water, will add some nice visual touches to the screen such as water drops.

Additionally, falling snow will also visibly accumulate on characters’ hair, armor, or clothing. If characters are also in a cold region, visible steamy breaths will be present. NPCs will also be more mindful of the rain or snow and will go home when caught in them. It’s not just visual either. Being caught in a blizzard or snowstorm will impede your movement and blind you, so you’ll have to keep your character’s head down.


To add to the list of hardcore survival stuff in Skyrim, we recommend looking into iNeed, also by isoku again for SSE version and classic Skyrim version. This mod addresses the obvious in Skyrim: the fact that you have a living character who has basic needs. They should be easy enough to acquire; you’ll regularly run across some wheels of cheese or sweet rolls waiting to be stolen; sometimes even some game meat.

What this mod does is trigger your character’s dependence on them. Not just food, but also hydration and sleep. You’re just gonna have to live with the fact that the Dragonborn is the same as everyone else save for the ability to shout expletives in dragon tongue. iNeed basically completes your quest for survivalism in Skyrim, don’t go on an adventure without it.


Even when it was first released, the artificial intelligence of Skyrim was no smarter than a pile of rocks. There are even hilarious ways you can toy with them due to this. However, there’s no doubt that they break the immersion. So make them more lifelike and human with the help of Immersive Citizens by Arnaud dOrchymont for SSE version and classic Skyrim version.

The mod does wonders for the AI and NPCs of Skyrim. It changes their schedule to a more logical one; the combat is more akin to real-life fight or flight responses and they also respond better to the world around them. Remember those pesky civilians that just stand by while a bear or dragon mauls them to death? This mod deals with those freaks.


Waking up on a carriage on the way to a public execution then finding out that you’re a Dragonborn is tedious and boring already. Not to mention Skyrim‘s intro was quite abysmal and awkward. Instead of fixing it, why not just completely remove or skip it? Alternate Start by Arthmoor for SSE version and classic Skyrim version gives you that freedom.

Now, you can start as anyone you want to be in the land of Skyrim. Bandit, Stormcloak, commoner, Winterhold College girl- even as a non-Dragonborn if you prefer, because you didn’t even ask for that. The best part? You get to skip that initially unskippable slog of clumsy exposition and presentation at the start. Have fun!

NEXT: 10 Open World RPGs Better Than Skyrim

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