Best Skyrim Special Edition Mods for PC Windows Central 2021

Skyrim Special Edition brought advanced support for modding with 64-bit on PC, meaning players can load up heavier mods with fewer issues and instability. For all the mods listed in this round-up, we'll be using the Nexus platform and the Vortex mod manager to install them. Here are the best mods you should install for your next Skyrim playthrough.

See Where You're Going: A Quality World Map

The map isn't necessarily bad in Skyrim, but there are a few improvements that A Quality World Map by IcePenguin brings to the table. The mod includes a set of highly-detailed world map textures, complete with roads. This is a must-have for anyone who enjoys walking (or riding) everywhere without the use of fast travel. This mod also adds a detailed Solsteim map. And there's even a paper-style map!

Free at Mod Nexus

Start A New Life: Alternate Start

When modding Skyrim, some bad things can happen, especially during the opening scene. This is a heavily scripted part of the game and one that can cause problems if you have mods that interfere with Bethesda's code. Alternate Start provides the option to skip the start of the game altogether, protecting against crashes, and can even allow for some exciting roleplaying adventures.

Free at Mod Nexus

Call Down The Heavens: Apocalypse

This is an essential mod for anyone looking to do a mage build. You get 155 new spells, all of which are added to existing vendors and loot lists, no script bloat for enhanced performance, compatibility with many other spell-related mods, and the ability for unique mage builds that do not focus on destruction or conjuration. You will need ASIS (Automatic Spells, Increased Spawns) for NPCs to be given new items and spells.

Free at Mod Nexus

Beautiful Ambience: Audio Overhaul

Skyrim sounds pretty good already, but this mod makes your adventures that little bit more immersive. With Audio Overhaul installed, you'll feel the need to wonder between locations on foot rather than quick travel. Every part of Skyrim has been improved, from footsteps and ambiance to creatures and combat.

Free at Mod Nexus

Aggressive Engagements: Combat Evolved

The AI and combat in Skyrim aren't brilliant. It's fine, but with a few mods, including Combat Evolved, you can transform it into an engaging and rewarding system. This mod is a light script-free combat and difficulty enhancement. Combat Evolved makes combat more dangerous and unforgiving, changing nearly every aspect of combat, including improved enemy AI.

Free at Mod Nexus

Restored Content: Cutting Room Floor

Modders have not only fixed bugs in Skyrim, added new content and worked magic with the game engine, but also restored some content that Bethesda cut from release. This mod restores several NPCs, some quests, and other miscellaneous content which was created but never implemented in the game. Villages that are supposed to exist have been spawned in, quests that were partially implemented have been completed, and numerous items have been added.

Free at Mod Nexus

Make Torches Useful: Darker Nights

As the name suggests, this mod makes the nights in Skyrim darker, depending on personal preference. For many, the evenings in Skyrim were far too bright, and Darker Nights provide the option of 6 different levels that can be set to create a more atmospheric experience during the late and early hours of each day.

Free at Mod Nexus

Skryim Never Looked So Good: Enhanced Lights and FX

Enhanced Lights and FX is a sizeable mod that creates a more dynamic and realistic mood to the Skyrim landscape by adding actual lighting to all light sources and removing any light without a cause, as well as the addition of numerous effects including smoke, volumic lights, and more. If you want dungeons, interiors, and Skyrim in general, to look better, you need to install ELFX. Just don't install the weather part of the mod if you plan to use True Storms.

Free at Mod Nexus

Walk-in Wardrobe: Immersive Armors

Skyrim has a bunch of armors already available, but Immersive Amors is a mod that takes kitting out your characters (and NPCs) to the next level. Fifty-five new sets are included, alongside 396 shields and various other miscellaneous apparel items. That's a lot of new items to play around with. Different sets and items have specific stats that are integrated into the game through quest rewards, placement in dungeons, and given to certain people.

Free at Mod Nexus

Real People: Immersive Citizens

Immersive Citizens is a mod you should install if you want to wander around a world that feels lived in. NPCs, by default, aren't the most realistic of folk, which is exactly what this mod addresses. The AI has been revamped, better reacting to its surroundings, engaging in more complex schedules, occasional outings, respond to weather, and interactions with nearby objects in the environment.

Free at Mod Nexus

Countless Decapitation: Immersive Weapons

Much like the Immersive Armors mod, Skyrim has several weapons already available for you to use, but Immersive Weapons adds around 230 more, not to mention new weapon sets to make various new melee builds viable. Not only is it great to see and use the new weapons, but hothtrooper44 made sure that the mod doesn't harm the lore, just in case you wish to play as close to vanilla as possible.

Free at Mod Nexus

More Souls: Interesting NPCs

Interesting NPCs is huge. I'm talking more than 250 fully voiced NPCs (atop all the characters already in-game) with at least 25 of them being recruitable as followers, more than 15 NPCs you can wed, and over 50 new quests. That's a massive amount of content that works well with other restoration and content mods to bring Skyrim to life.

Free at Mod Nexus

Choose Your Starsign: Ordinator

The perk tree could do with some improvements to make each playthrough and build feel more interesting and unique. This is where Ordinator comes in, adding more than 400 perks to the game, completely overhauling each skill tree. You'll need to visit the Nexus page to see all the perks added, but it's a comprehensive list, and Ordinator is a mod I cannot play without.

Free at Mod Nexus

Fus-Ro-Dah: Realistic Ragdolls and Force

The ragdoll effect in Skyrim can lead to some hilarious situations, including those moments when a giant will send you to outer space with a whack of its club. That's no good for role-playing and immersion, which is where Realistic Ragdolls and Force can lend a hand. Bodies now react to gravity and force more realistically. It's a small but useful mod.

Free at Mod Nexus

Shimmering Splendar: Realistic Water Two

With the updated water flow system and more included in Skyrim Special Edition, mods that affect the natural liquid are now more critical when the aim is to create a more realistic-looking environment. Realistic Water Two takes Bethesda's improved system and takes everything to the next level with higher quality effects and textures, not to mention more accurate water body movement depending on the location (sea, river, pond, etc.).

Free at Mod Nexus

Seriously. Run.: Run for your lives

Run for your lives is a package of two handy mods, developed and uploaded by the same author. Run for your lives and When vampires attack affects the way NPCs react to dragon and vampire attacks, namely those who are unable to fight back. Instead of witnessing absolute carnage due to citizens of Skyrim not fleeing to the safe indoors, installing these mods lets you fight off deadly beasts with guards by your side.

Free at Mod Nexus

Must-have Tool: Skyrim Script Extender 64-bit

Finally, the incredibly talented modders behind the exceptional Skyrim Script Extender has released a version in beta that works wonderfully with Skryim SE. What this tool allows you to do is install mods that require additional functionality that the base game engine cannot offer. I'm talking a better UI experience that wasn't designed for consoles, more feature-packed mods, and more.

Just make sure you download and install the version for SE and not the old Skyrim. Afterward, you need to launch the SKSE64 .exe and not the Skyrim executable through Steam.

Free at SKSE

Better UI: SkyUI

This is currently an early testing build of the excellent SkyUI mods, but it's well worth checking out now. What it does is revamps the entire UI, allowing you to more easily navigate your inventory and such, seeing more information at a glance.

Free at Mod Nexus

Hilarious Companion: Sofia

The fully-voiced delight that is Sofia is a lore-friendly (depending on opinion and play style) follower who accompanies the Dragonborn on his (or her) adventures. Voiced by Christine Slagman, the dialog is not only witty and humorous but also reacts to surroundings, other NPCs, and select quest lines.

Free at Mod Nexus

Pretty Ropes: Static Mesh Improvement Mod

SMIM is a huge mod. And by huge we mean massive in both scale and size of the download. Totaling nearly 1GB, this package contains a bunch of improved 3D models for various things like robs, chains, lanterns, and other objects. It's particularly effective if you're one to notice when things look slightly out of place or aren't high-quality assets.

Free at Mod Nexus

Uncover Hidden Secrets: The Forgotten City

How does an expansion sound? The Forgotten City has you covered with an award-winning unofficial experience, backed by superb writing, original orchestral score, and voiced dialog that offers around eight hours of gameplay. You're tasked with entering an underground Dwarven city and uncover a mystery, and it's non-linear, too, with multiple endings.

If you've finished the main plot numerous times and are soon running out of things to do, give The Forgotten City a go.

Free at Mod Nexus

Make Skyrim Feel More Alive: True Storms

The weather effects in Skyrim are pretty good, but since everything was compiled way back in 2011, there's room for improvement. Cue True Storms. This is a must-have mod for anyone looking to create a more immersive Skyrim experience with the weather adding to every outing. It brings fog, variable weather, high-quality sound effects, new textures, dust storms, and more.

Free at Mod Nexus

Fixes Bethesda Never Made: Unofficial Skyrim: SE Patch

This is a must-have download for anyone, even if you do not wish to get into modding your Skyrim install. As the name suggests, it's a compiled package of fixes, improvements, and additions to the title. Hundreds of gameplay, quest, NPC, object, item, text, and placement bugs have been fixed. Seriously, there's no reason as to why you shouldn't install this patch.

Free at Mod Nexus


VioLens is a must-have for those who enjoy seeing a death cam view for kills. Whether you're into magic, bows, or cold steel, this mod allows you to configure everything around death cams and comes rocking some killer effects that leave you smiling after a heated battle.

Free at Mod Nexus

Choosing the best mods

The absolute must-have mods for Skyrim include SKSE, SkyUI, and Alternate Start. The rest depends on your system specifications, your desired playstyle, and what type of content you want to add to the world of Skyrim.

I'd also like to thank modders for their continued support in extending the enjoyment of games, particularly Skyrim. You guys are incredible.