The Essentials

These Essential mods will greatly enhance your Skyrim experience, improving Skyrim's UI, adding more immersive features, and improving graphics.

These essential mods do not alter the gameplay mechanics of Skyrim significantly. Mods that do significantly alter gameplay mechanics are discussed in the More Mods section. After you complete the Essentials section you will have a stable Skyrim where you can then add other mods that you might enjoy. Be sure to read every mod description, especially for mod compatibility issues.

I have played for more than 100 hours with the same mods detailed in this section, with no gamebreaking bugs or unexplained game crashes.

Make sure you have the latest version of SKSE, LOOT, and Wrye Bash installed before you continue. Please see Getting Started for instructions.

Unofficial Skyrim Patches

The Unofficial Skyrim Patch mods are bugfixing mods, with the goal of eventually fixing every bug within Skyrim and the DLCs.

As of 1/1/2016 - the various Unofficial Skyrim and DLC patches are no longer supported. Please download Unofficial Skyrim Legendary Edition Patch by Unofficial Patch Project Team if you have all the Skyrim DLCs.

You may also want to download the Unofficial High Resolution Texture Patch , but only use if you enable the High Resolution Texture DLC.

User Interface Mods
Mod name Mod description Mod media
SkyUI Completely overhauls the UI of Skyrim's inventory menus and more to improve the user's experience especially for keyboard and mouse users. Also works fine for those who play with a controller (Xbox360 controller works great). Video by insane0hflex
iHUD Hides the HUD when you don't need it, shows it when you do need it! Clean, effective, and immersive. Also made by the legendary Gopher! Video by Gopher
moreHUD This mod adds HUD information to several types of objects/items that you are targeting that vanilla Skyrim lacked. Such as whether the item improved your damage, armor, types of alchemical attributes a plant had, and how much the item would increase your carry weight, all without having to open your inventory. Video by Brodual
AQWMWR A Quality World Map - With Roads (AQWMWR) is a mod that adds the roads and trails of Skyrim to the world map. You can choose between seeing all the roads of Skyrim or just the main ones. See the mod's images section
Even Better Quest Objectives This mod improves the text descriptions of quests in Skyrim to provide locations and details of events in quests so that you do not have to rely on the quest marker to show you where the next objective is located. Video by insane0hflex
One Tweak One Tweak is a SKSE plugin utility mod allows you to enable a borderless window mode, fixes the ALT+TAB double cursor bug, and gives dynamic process priority to Skyrim (leading to better performance). (Requires SKSE) N/A

Visuals and Graphics
Mod name Mod description Mod media
Book Covers Book Covers is a mod that gives books a custom, lorefriendly cover. No more bland looking books. Simple, but incredible mod. Video by insane0hflex
Enhanced Blood Textures Bloodier combat experience with higher resolution and detailed textures. More bloody effects depending on how much damage you do, blood pools, and also introduces green blood for spiders and black oil for machines. Video by Brodual
Enhanced Night Skyrim Replaces the star and galaxy textures with high-resolution night sky alternatives. I recommend to download the Enhanced Night Skyrim v04 High Stars version, although some users may prefer the Colorful version. See the mod's images section
HD Enhanced Terrain Simple mod that increases the detail of distant terrain to look better. Video by hodilton
High Quality LODs Replaces the vanilla LOD meshes with better ones. See mod's images section
High Quality Map Meshes Replaces the map meshes with better quality ones. See mod's images section
Open Faced Guard Helmets Open Faced Guard Helmets removes the chainmail that covers a guard's face. Now you can see a guard's face! See the mod's images section
No Menu and Load Screen Smoke Removes the smoke effect on the main menu screen and during loading screens that may look bad depending on your ENB. N/A
Realistic Sun A great realistic sun texture. Video by RLO Team
Remove Interior Fog This mod removes the interior distant fog in all interiors of the vanilla game, Dawnguard, Hearthfire, Dragonborn. Get the Full Version module (if you have all the DLCs of course). Video by Brodual
Pure Waters Pure Waters improves water textures of Skyrim to look cold, clean, and natural. Video by mod author (Laast)
Static Mesh Improvement Mod Static Mesh Improvement Mod (SMIM)mod fixes a lot of UV mapping mesh errors, and even adds some new 3d models in!
Note! Let SMIM override the files added by Ultimate HD Fire Effects!
Also note! Install SMIM first then pick the SMIM Meshes installer option for Enhanced Lights and FX!
See the mod's images section
Enhanced Lights and FX Enhanced Lights and FX has the goal to create a more dramatic and realistic mood to the Skyrim lights by adding lights to all light sources and removing any light without a source, as well as the addition many more effects like smoke, volumetric lights, and more. Video by insane0hflex
Superior HD Hair Textures Texture replacer mod that replaces the bad vanilla hair textures with HD textures. Video by Brodual
Ultimate Fire Effects HD High definition textures for fire and flame effects, which makes fire effects look more realistic. See the mod's images section
Xenius Character Enhancement Xenius Character Enhancement (XCE) greatly improves the textures for faces, hands, body, scars, eyes, eyebrows, and more. Also fixes the neck seam issue from vanilla Skyrim. See the mod's images section

ENB Presets

For a very long time, I used Enhanced Vanilla ENB, which I used exclusively for over 400 videos. Enhanced Vanilla ENB stays true to Skyrim's original lighting, but gives you the option to add in nice ENB related effects, such as depth of field, godrays, detailed shadows, shadow fixes, and ambient occlusion (SSAO).

If you are having trouble finding the download for the ENB 0113 binary - find it here. The download button is at the very bottom of the page.

However, if you are looking for a performance friendly ENB that makes Skyrim more "fantastical" - try out RealLike ENB v0113. I just started using this ENB preset and love it. However, you may want to tone down the intensity of the sun's corona (the "ray" part of the sun) by editing the enbseries.ini file. Find the line:  SunCoronaIntensity=6.0 and change it to SunCoronaIntensity=2.0.

If those two options don't interest you, check out Hodilton's YouTube channel. Hodilton makes great videos of ENB Presets, and other mods too, so browse throughout the ENB videos to find one that you like.

Immersion and Realism Mods
Mod name Mod description Mod media
Audio Sound Overhaul Audio Sound Overhaul (AOS) is an extensive sound overhaul aiming to make the soundscape more immersive, clear, responsive, impactful and ultimately fun, while always aiming for maximum compatibility, performance and coherency with the main game. Video by Brodual
Auto Unequip Ammo Mod that makes is that you automatically unequip arrows from your character when you do not have a bow equipped. Video by insane0hflex
Convenient Horses Tons of new awesome features for horses, including horse armor, mounted looting and talking, mounted combat for NPC followers, and more. If you don't like riding horses in Skyrim, you don't have to install this mod. Video by insane0hflex
Better Dynamic Snow A mod that changes the ugly, pure-white dynamic snow effect to actually use the default snow texture. This minor change greatly improves the visual appearance of dynamic snow. See the mod's images section
Enhanced Camera In vanilla Skyrim, you can't see your body when in first person! Check out the video by Gopher! Video by Gopher
Footprints Adds footprints to the player, NPCs, and creatures. Video by mod author (jonwd7)
Guard Dialogue Overhaul Guard Dialogue overhaul is a mod alters the guard dialogue, changing it from something that breaks your immersion in the world of Skyrim to something that actually increases it. Video by Brodual
Interesting NPCs A quality mod that adds dozens of new NPCs, most of which are voiced, that are interesting! Most of them have dozens of lines of dialogue, and there are a few NPCs you can meet that are "super followers". Visit the Author's blog too if you're interested! Video by insane0hflex
Player Headtracking Your character turns his/her head to look at other NPCs when they are talking, passing by, and more. Great immersion mod when in 3rd person. Small perfomance hit. Video by insane0hflex
Run for Your Lives Citizens in a village or city will now run indoors during a dragon attack, unless they are guards or other NPCs capable of fighting back. Video by insane0hflex
Wet and Cold NPCs will equip rain hoods when its raining and head for cover, when NPCs are out in cold climates their breath has a "steam" effect, they wear gloves and hoods, and more. Check out isoku's SkyrimNexus profile for more cool immersion mods too. Video by Hodilton
When Vampires Attack Similar to the Run for Your Lives mod, this mod makes citizens in a village or city run indoors during a random vampire attack. This includes eclipse attacks as well. (Similar to Run For Your Lives)

Note: The following mods are not strictly required, although they are highly recommended.

Gameplay Mods
Mod name Mod description Mod media
Alternate Start - Live Another Life This mod gives you a variety of choices for a new playthrough. Instead of starting in Helgen - you start in a cell where you customize your character (race, gender, face, etc), then you'll choose an unique start other than the Helgen/vanilla intro sequence. Great for roleplaying! N/A
Skyrim Community Uncapper The default settings of this plugin will unlock the skill level caps of 100 and push them to 10000. This allows you character to be able to level up almost forever. You may also tweaks the settings of this plugin to set your own caps, to modify the experience earning rate of each skill, the relation between skill leveling and player leveling, and to change the number of perks, health points, magicka points, stamina points, "Carry Weight" points gained at a specific level up. N/A
Realistic Ragdolls and Force Reduces the extra force applied on ragdolls to a more reasonable level and replaces ragdolls so that they bend and twist realistically and fall at a faster velocity. Increase friction to fix ice-like ragdoll sliding. Video by mod author (ddefinder)

Weapons and Armor Mods

Note: if you do decide to install both Immersive Armors and Immersive Weapons, you will need to use Wrye Bash to create a Bashed Patch to see the items added by the mods in game. Otherwise, whichever file is loaded last will be used in the leveled lists, which you probably don't want.

Mod name Mod description Mod media
aMidianBorn Armor and Weapons textures. High quality texture replacements for various Skyrim textures. Download the Armor and Weapons retexture packs, although you could probably download them all if you like them.
Also, as of November 2014 - you should download the Skyforge Weapons hot fix as well.
Immersive Armors Immersive Armors is an armor mod compilation that adds dozens of new armor sets that are lore-friendly and will not break the theme of Skyrim. Video by insane0hflex
Immersive Weapons Immersive Weapons is a weapon mod compilation that adds many new custom weapons that are also lore-friendly and will not break the theme of Skyrim. Video by hothtrooper44