Basically everybody is talking about what mods you should try for Skyrim Special Edition. I’m not gonna try to add another general list of the best mods or whatever, but I thought I’d go ahead and point out what I used when I decided to start modding up the original version of Skyrim. Most of what I installed were the well-known mods everybody else might be suggesting but maybe some are lesser-known mods that I still think are pretty useful.
Firstly though, I’ll say that for the time being I’m probably not going to mess with Special Edition. Skip to the first bolded sentence if you don’t want to read why. I think it’s probably worth buying if you’re a Skyrim console player just to experience it with mods for the first time, specifically mods like “Forgotten City” or “Falskaar” which add entire new areas and quests. The biggest mods are basically fan-made free DLC. I have no idea if Enderal is going to be brought to Special Edition, much less on the consoles, but if you haven’t heard of it, it’s a total conversion — pretty much an entire new game built with Skyrim’s components. I won’t be getting into Special Edition any time soon however because two mods I consider essential don’t support it yet.
The first is ENB — the mod responsible for all those screenshots you might see with visual effects way beyond any of the console versions. For years PC users have been messing around with graphical features in Skyrim that still aren’t in Special Edition. The completely altered textures, intense depth of field, more realistic lighting, and other things put the look of Skyrim completely at a user’s discretion, and it will be a while before they appear in Special Edition, if ever. I think the creator of ENB has said it’s tough because the mod was originally written for DirectX 9 (Special Edition uses DirectX 11) and depends on properties that have completely changed in Special Edition.
The second, and probably even more essential, is “SkyUI”. I can’t play Skyrim without “SkyUI”. Not only that, but as far as I can tell no user interface mods are yet available for Special Edition, at least not for consoles. I don’t want to ever touch Skyrim’s original UI again. “SkyUI” adds so much and makes such fundamental changes it’s considered arguably the most important Skyrim mod of all. A lot of other UI mods depend on it. The only mod obviously more important is the one upon which “SkyUI” depends — “Skyrim Script Extender”. the makers of SKSE confirmed they’re working on bringing it to Special Edition, but the makers of “SkyUI” confirmed they aren’t, but are willing to help anyone else who’ll take it upon themselves to bring “SkyUI” to Special Edition. Let’s hope.
Now for the mod suggestions. If I don’t post links for all of them for all platforms, just search them on Bethesda’s official Creation Kit website or at Skyrim Special Edition Nexus. By the way, I suggest you don’t mix Nexus mods with Creation Kit mods if you’re on PC. Go all one way or the other.
Bug Fixes, etc.
Some of the most popular Skyrim mods which I’m sure all the other articles tell you about are the ones that really just fix issues Bethesda left in the game. One is “Unofficial Skyrim Patch” (link is for Xbox) and another is “Cutting Room Floor“. The first is self-explanatory but the second takes a lot of things that Bethesda apparently left on the disc unfinished, finishes them, and adds them to the game. These include locations, quests, and characters. I honestly couldn’t tell you the specifics because I spent so much time playing with this mod I really don’t know what Skyrim is like without it.
This mod is the main reason I’m even typing this blog post. I didn’t think I heard enough people talking about it or suggesting it, but if you install one mod for Special Edition, make it this one.
Install it before you start a new game because the purpose of “Alternate Start” is to completely skip the opening sequence at Helgen. As soon as you start a new character this mod brings you right to the character creation screen from which you hop right into the game. It’s great for starting new characters if you don’t want to go through the Helgen opening every single time you do so. From the character creator you can start from either the normal opening or a number of new beginning states the modder designed. The most basic one is to start from the location the character creator is set in — a prison cell somewhere in Eastern Skyrim from which you must escape. If you don’t do the regular opening but still want to start the main quest, just go to Helgen and you’ll arrive just as the dragon that attached it leaves. Investigate the ruins a bit and you’ll find something that starts the main quest normally.
Many modders and players who extensively use mods will tell you to either install this before starting a character or don’t mod Skyrim until after Helgen. Modding can easily break the Helgen opening because of how dependent it is on very tight scripting — the kind that isn’t really present throughout the rest of the game. This is actually why I don’t like the Helgen sequence — it’s not at all representative of Skyrim as a whole. It’s a linear Call of Duty-style set piece in a game that’s supposed to be about going anywhere and doing anything — the complete opposite of that kind of design. I think “Alternate Start,” especially with its prison escape beginning, is more evocative of the classic-style dungeon crawlers Skyrim is related to, like Ultima Underworld or even the Souls games. The Helgen opening hands you armor and a weapon and everything, but with “Alternate Start” you can start the game with absolutely nothing if you want, scavenging your way from the bottom.
Even Better Quest Objectives
I find “Even Better Quest Objectives” to have a pretty big effect on immersion in Skyrim. I’ve written here before about how much I dislike waypoints because they encourage players to mindlessly follow them without really finding their way through the game world and familiarizing themselves with it. Without waypoints though Skyrim’s quest objectives aren’t descriptive enough for players to find them naturally. You’ll just see “meet this character” with a waypont magically telling you where that is. EBQO adds to hundreds of quest descriptions to give you a location so you can find quest objectives in a more immersive way. You’ll see “meet this character in Riften” or “north of Whiterun”. Check the modder’s profile at Creation Kit too because there are additions to this mod that take into account the above mods.
Quality World Map
“Quality World Map” (Nexus PC link) simply makes the world map a lot more detailed. It improves the map texture and makes the roads visible. On PC there’s even a version that makes the world map screen look like a paper map of Skyrim, though it’s a work-in-progress and can be buggy. “Quality World Map” doesn’t support Special Edition yet but the modder is working on that.
If you’re tired of merchants not being able to buy enough of your stuff because they ran out of money, or you just don’t think they don’t have as much money as a merchant should, this is a pretty straightforward mod. It just multiplies the amount of money merchants usually have. Small, but important in my opinion.
Realistic Female Armor Overhaul
“Realistic Female Armor Overhaul” (Nexus PC) is just something I added because I’m tired of boob armor in my fantasy. This goes beyond the bikini chain-mail trope. Full armor with curves for breasts is just straight-up impractical. Even if the setting your’e dealing with isn’t realistic there’s no reason to have boob armor except to accentuate breasts. Full metal armor shouldn’t really conform to the shape of the wearer. This mod simply changes the female armor models to look more practical (but still not identical to the male armor).
I don’t know if this will ever be available for consoles and the version I see available for Special Edition isn’t actually the one I installed for the original game. It’s a compilation of female armor mods for Special Edition that includes the one I installed.
These are just a few of the big mods I consider important to my Skyrim experinece that I see are available on Special Edition and maybe don’t get as much attention as some of the other famous mods. There are some smaller ones I use that maybe aren’t as important. You should just take this as a compliment to all the other “Best Skyrim Special Edition Mods” articles.