Starfield: 7 amazing mods I won't play the game without

Starfield key art 2023
(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Starfield may have only just come out, but there are already tons of amazing community-made mods that you can install if you're playing with the Microsoft Store or Steam version of the game on PC. Whether you're hoping to rebalance Starfield's gameplay, elevate its graphical presentation, improve the user interface, or something else, there's a very good chance you'll find exactly what you're looking for on the Nexus Mods Starfield mod archive.

Though my first playthrough of Bethesda's expansive sci-fi RPG was done on a completely vanilla save, I've since installed several excellent mods that have made my ongoing second one an even better experience. In particular, seven of them are so good that I can't even imagine myself playing Starfield without them moving forward. Here's a closer look at all of them, and why I strongly recommend each one.

Project Reality - Immersive Gameplay Overhaul

(Image credit: Windows Central)

While I enjoyed my time spent with vanilla Starfield, I felt a few of its gameplay elements were underbaked and disappointing. The stealth system always felt wildly inconsistent even with fully upgraded Stealth and Concealment skills, and even on higher difficulties, both you and your enemies are total bullet sponges. Earning lots of credits fast is ridiculously easy, too, as is getting tons of XP for levels.

One mod that solves all of these issues in one fell swoop is Project Reality, which overhauls the game with changes that give it more of a hardcore survival feel. It improves the viability of stealth by making it harder for enemies to detect you when you're out of their line of sight and aren't making much noise, while also promoting a lower time-to-kill by reducing the maximum health of both you and your adversaries. Credit and XP gains have been lowered as well, forcing you to be more selective with purchases and chosen skills. 

Project Reality also comes with a tweak that disables infinite ammo for NPCs, though you can disable this if you want. Make sure to read the mod's description and comments for more information on how to do this.

Improved Combat AI

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Starfield's AI can often behave in rather dumb ways, so one of the first mods I looked for was one that raised their intelligence and made them more engaging to fight. Improved Combat AI does just that by making NPCs more active and strategic during combat. With this installed, your opponents will make decisions faster, shoot more frequently, use cover often, and throw more grenades in an effort to flush you out of yours. Their accuracy gets a bit of a boost, too.

Notably, these tweaks affect companions and followers, too, so your crewmates won't have trouble keeping up with the enhanced AI and will actually become useful. Finally, a gameplay-related reason to bring allies along for the ride!

Ultimately, this mod is fantastic, and when it's paired with Project Reality, Starfield's overall combat experience becomes significantly more exciting. Definitely give it a shot if the vanilla game has left you wanting more.

StarUI Inventory

(Image credit: m8r98a4f2 on Nexus Mods)

While I think Starfield's UI is generally fine, one part of it I'm not a fan of is its inventory screen. Each item in it takes up a significant part of the screen, yet displays very little information. As a result, it often feels like you have to do way too much scrolling and close investigating during inventory management, and after an entire playthrough of dealing with that, I wanted better.

StarUI Inventory is precisely what I was looking for. On top of shrinking elements in the inventory UI down so they're more compact, the mod also adds item icons that correspond to selectable subcategory filters so you can quickly find what you're looking for (for example, you can view your rifles by selecting the rifle-shaped icon). Item details like mass, DPS, and credit value can also be viewed at a glance thanks to the addition of columns, removing the need to select items to see this information.

If you love this mod as much as I do, you might also like StarUI HUD. As its name suggests, it brings a similar overhaul to Starfield's heads-up display. I don't view this one as essential since I think the vanilla HUD is fine, but it's a great mod nonetheless.

Undelayed Menus

(Image credit: Seb263 on Nexus Mods)

The transition animations and fading effects that play as you move between Starfield's menus do look nice, but eventually, I got tired of how they delayed my ability to quickly pick a star system to grav jump to or equip a new piece of armor. An extra second of waiting to get into your menus doesn't sound like a lot, but it adds up over time, and it's the biggest reason why the interface feels rather sluggish in vanilla.

Undelayed Menus makes the UI feel much snappier by speeding these transitions up or removing them entirely. It also raises the framerate of interface elements to 60 FPS (it's 30 FPS in vanilla), resulting in a navigation experience that feels buttery smooth. 

Before installing, make sure you read the pinned comment on the mod page for instructions on how to make it work properly with StarUI Inventory.

Neutral LUTs - No Color Filters

One of the most polarizing elements of Starfield's visuals is its color grading. There's a distinctive blue-green tint to the game that looks a bit washed out, and while it adds a lot of mood and atmosphere to some scenes, it arguably doesn't look very good in others. If you're like me and would prefer something that looks more natural, I can't recommend installing Neutral LUTs - No Color Filters enough.

Put simply, this mod removes Starfield's color filters and makes its blacks deeper, resulting in a cleaner, more realistic image (the video embedded above has gameplay with and without the mod, if you'd like to compare). The mod description also includes some instructions on how you can tweak a configuration file to make outer space darker as well, so make sure you read it if you're interested in that.

Starfield HD Reworked Project

A fair number of Starfield's textures are surprisingly low-res, and while it's not always noticeable in motion, it can become quite apparent during slower gameplay moments like NPC conversations or instances of stealth combat. Thankfully, the Starfield HD Reworked Project takes care of that by massively improving texture quality across the board while preserving the game's art direction.

Developed by the same author behind the Witcher 3 mod of the same name — it just so happens to be the most endorsed mod on Nexus Mods for that game, by the way — the Starfield HD Reworked Project is an absolute must-have for folks aiming to give Bethesda's new RPG a graphical facelift. What's more, the mod has little to no impact on performance at all, provided that your GPU has at least 6GB of video memory.

Notably, the mod also improves some fire visual effects, though I recommend overriding them with the gorgeous ones from the next mod.

EXE - Effect Textures Enhanced

(Image credit: The EXE Team on Nexus Mods)

The team behind the incredibly popular series of Effect Textured Enhanced (EXE) mods for the Fallout games is back at it again with Starfield. EXE - Effect Textures Enhanced replaces every single visual effect in the game with remade versions that look significantly better. This includes weather, muzzle flashes, open flames, blood spatters, bullet impacts, explosions, sparks, and much more.

Multiple large updates for the project are planned, and the team has confirmed that additional options for gore are on the way for folks that miss the ultraviolence of Bethesda's Fallout games. The mod is also fully compatible with the Starfield HD Reworked Project, and together with both it and the Neutral LUTs mod, your Starfield will look phenomenal.

The future is bright, and I'm excited for it

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Even though Starfield only came out a few weeks ago, stellar mods like these are already available and have become permanent additions to my load order. It's exciting to think about what the game's talented passionate modding community will  accomplish in the future, especially since Todd Howard has confirmed official mod tools are coming in 2024.

These seven mods are my favorites, but there are plenty of other fantastic ones I also use and enjoy. For a complete list of what I recommend, don't miss our roundup of all the best Starfield PC mods.

Starfield is finally here, and it's undoubtedly one of the best Xbox games and best PC games for lovers of space exploration, deep RPG gameplay, and the sci-fi genre as a whole. 

Starfield Premium Edition

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Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.