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Skyrim: The 15 Best Graphics Mods You Need To Install
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an amazing game, no doubt about it. However, Skyrim has been out for a decade now, and the graphics have certainly seen better days. Luckily, thousands of mods are currently available to rectify the problem. With a little work, Skyrim has the potential to look absolutely stunning with the right mods installed.
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These graphics mods serve as an excellent base to get the player started. Obviously, there exists a literal multitude of graphics mods. In fact, some only deal with the re-texturing of a single object! The mods on this list provide the broad strokes to get Skyrim to look its very best. More of them can always be added alongside these ten essential enhancements.
Updated July 26, 2021 by Mark Hospodar: It shouldn't come as a surprise to veteran dragon-tamers that Skyrim's modding community is immense. It's easy to get sucked down into the rabbit hole, never to emerge. Conversely, many beginner modders have a tendency to go overboard, ending up with an unstable game. Modding is a process that needs to be taken slowly to get the best results. Tinkering with some basic graphics mods is the perfect way to get one's feet wet when trying to understand an admittedly formidable process. Implementing this collection of graphics mods will not only make Skyrim look better, but will also make learning the ropes of modding less of a headache. In addition, fans may find this guide useful when breaking into Skyrim's wonderful world of mods for the first time.
A Quality World Map
Players may not realize how much time they spend looking at Skyrim's world map. The map itself is vital for fast traveling and planning one's future explorations. Unfortunately, the vanilla map isn't as detailed as it could be.
One of the first (and simplest) mods a player should install is A Quality World Map. The mod adds a stunning level of detail and even depicts Skyrim's road system, which is a nice addition. There's also an option for a paper map aesthetic in the vein of The Lord of the Rings. Don't leave home without this classic mod!
Skyrim Realistic Overhaul
One of the easiest ways to make Skyrim look better is to install an all-in-one texture pack. Skyrim Realistic Overhaul gets the job done admirably without slowing down one's system to a crawl. The mod itself is massive and covers a little bit of everything when it comes to re-texturing various objects.
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The scope of the mod is so broad that this could conceivably be the only mod a beginner may need. Conversely, if a player wants a beefier load order, Skyrim Realistic Overhaul blends quite well with other graphics mods that focus on more individual areas of improvement. It's a sort of "building block" mod no fan should overlook.
Forgotten Retex Project
It's worth noting that even the largest retexture packs can't cover every object in this massive game. Some of the less important items, such as junk and clutter, are often overlooked. Luckily, fans don't have to hunt down a myriad of individual mods to satisfy their needs for enhanced clutter.
The Forgotten Retex Project is a really great mod for improving the more mundane items scattered throughout the world. It's also worth noting, however, that even unique quest items, like the Crown of Barenziah, are given some love as well. From cookware to ancient diadems, this mod is one that surely shouldn't be forgotten.
Much of Skyrim's gameplay is experienced in the outside environment. As such, the foliage must look its best. Veydosebrom Regions is a great choice as it diversifies and sharpens the game's plentiful vegetation. Each region of Skyrim is given its own unique feel to it by expanding the variety of flora.
The mod is very lore-friendly in its approach, so nothing should feel unusual for an Elder Scrolls game. When installing, choosing "Standard Quality" is the best choice without making the environment too dense with grass and shrubbery.
Windsong Immersive Character Overhaul
Skyrim is teeming with NPCs. By now, these NPCs are really showing their age. For them, a great choice for an all-in-one graphics mod is Windsong Immersive Character Overhaul. This mod is quite impressive as it makes NPCs look more like actual humans without radically changing their overall vanilla appearance.
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This mod works great with other small, cosmetic enhancements. The Eyes of Beauty mod makes NPCs look less dead inside. Superior Lore-Friendly Hair complements WICO quite nicely by making hair look more natural. Just sign-up for a Nexus account to download WICO.
Realistic Water Two
The look of the water is one of those details that can sometimes be easy to overlook. But water is plentiful in Skyrim, so it definitely deserves some attention. Arguably the best of the bunch is Realistic Water Two.
This mod adds some much-needed color and vibrancy to bodies of water. Ponds, marshes, streams, and rivers are all given some diversity. New sounds are added as well. Stunning shades of green and blue really make the overall landscape pop. Swimming in Skyrim's rivers and streams never looked so good!
Deadly Spell Impacts
Improving the overall look of the characters and environment is obviously important, but what about the more subtle details? More specifically, the impact of spells on their surroundings. The vanilla experience is by now, unsurprisingly, not very impressive.
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A very simple, yet notable mod to consider is Deadly Spell Impacts. With this mod, the effects of magical attacks now appear as one would expect. Each element is given its own unique texture, along with a few added details, such as snow melting when a fire attack is unleashed. It's an immersive little addition that mages may find interesting.
Ruins Clutter Improved
Skyrim involves a lot of dungeon-delving. It's fair to say that players will spend much of their time in various ruins and tombs. Ruins Clutter Improved is a rather large texture mod that focuses on the junk items found in dungeons.
Looking at the same ugly objects over and over again can become tiresome. Improved meshes and textures for objects that are seen almost constantly make them easier on the eyes. Combined with other mods on this list, dungeons will look better than ever.
Enhanced Night Sky
If Skyrim is going to look better, then the sky can't be ignored. More specifically, the night sky deserves some attention. The aptly-titled Enhanced Night Sky mod makes stargazing a veritable feast for the eyes.
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Stars, as well as nebula, are given high-resolution replacements, the effects of which are quite dazzling. The mod includes some customization presets, although the "Colorful" option is arguably the best choice. Stopping periodically to enjoy the night sky is something that's hard to resist with this mod.
Static Mesh Improvement Mod
The world depicted in Skyrim is filled with countless objects. Things the player sees all the time can definitely benefit from a visual upgrade. The Static Mesh Improvement Mod, or SMIM as it's popularly known, gives the game's more mundane objects a fresh coat of paint.
According to the mod author, the goal is "to make the Skyrim architecture, clutter, furniture, and landscaping much nicer." The sheer breadth of this mod is impressive. Tens of thousands of improved meshes for various everyday objects are included.
Book Covers Skyrim
There's no shortage of reading material when it comes to an Elder Scrolls game. There are hundreds of books, journals, and notes littered across Skyrim. It's no stretch to say that players are likely to bump into a book of some sort every couple of feet. For objects in the game as prolific as books, it's important they also look their best.
One of the best and most impressive mods for this game, hands down, is Book Covers Skyrim. Every book, journal, and note is given a retexture that makes every one of these objects feel like a unique item. The covers on some of these books are so visually impressive, it's hard not to examine them for a few seconds just to admire the craftsmanship.
Enhanced Lights & FX
Older games often possess poor lighting effects, especially when compared to today's standards. Lighting, however, plays a critical role in how a game is presented. Enhanced Lights and FX adds some realism to Skyrim's lighting animations and effects.
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One of the most noticeable features of this mod is how light shines through windows and underneath doorways. Burning candles will emit smoke. Shadows and reflections are given more detail. All of these things greatly affect the mood of the game. Inns are cozier. Dungeons are darker. It's a mod that seriously improves the atmosphere in both large and small ways.
Underground - A Dungeon Texture Overhaul
Dungeons make up a large part of the exploring in Skyrim. Whereas Ruins Clutter Overhaul upgrades the textures of the miscellaneous items, Underground - A Dungeon Texture Overhaul improves almost everything else.
When the two mods are combined the player should immediately spot a noticeable difference. Floors, staircases, archways, rocks, and stones are given the high-definition treatment. Everything is more sharply detailed rather than blurry, which is always a plus.
The mountains that dot Skyrim's landscape are certainly majestic. Enter the Majestic Mountains mod, an enhancement that truly brings out their beauty. Mountain textures look less like they were painted on and more like actual rocks, especially when viewed from a distance.
Another cool little detail is the improved look of the moss that adorns certain rocky outcrops. The manner in which the lighting is reflected off the sides of the mountain is also reworked, which gives the environment a more natural feel to it. It's definitely a graphics mod that shouldn't be neglected.
If fans enjoy the Majestic Mountains mod, they'll also love Blended Roads, made by the same author. Similar to the previous mod, Blended Roads makes Skyrim's thoroughfares into less of an afterthought and more of a natural feature of the landscape.
Rocks and cobblestones now actually appear as such. Roads no longer look like low-resolution blobs sinking into the ground. The road and the ground itself appear more natural, akin to something one may see in real life. This mod goes a long way toward making the overall environment feel more immersive.
A Note Concerning ENBs
Graphics mods are all well and good on their own. But making the game really pop requires an ENB, or Enhanced Natural Beauty. ENBs are not graphics mods per se. Rather, they upgrade many of the game's post-processing effects, such as Ambient Occlusion and Anti-Aliasing.
ENBs fit hand-in-glove with graphics mods, making details sharper and colors more vibrant. A player is really cheating himself by only having one without the other. A good choice that works well is Natural and Atmospheric Tamriel. This particular ENB gives things a photorealistic quality to them, which makes the overall environment look awesome when paired with the above mods.
NEXT: Mods That Were Even Better Than The Original Game
Kapp'n the sailing turtle hasn't made it to Animal Crossing: New Horizons yet, but he remains an iconic NPC from the series.
Read NextAbout The Author
Mark Hospodar has been an avid gamer ever since he fired up the original Medal of Honor on his PS1. A history teacher by training, Mark has branched out into the fields of fiction and non-fiction writing. He has co-authored several published works, including Future Imperfect and Tales from the Grimacing Goblin. However, his love of gaming has never dissipated over the years. A good, old-fashioned RTS title will always bring him back into the fold. His other interests include horror movies, toy soldier collecting, and anything Batman-related.
Edit: Not looking for a mod that will change the weather (Project Reality). I want to keep the vanilla sky settings, but want a more realistic mod for it.
It only changes the night sky but it looks amazing, it was the first mod I downloaded
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It only changes the night sky but it looks amazing, it was the first mod I downloaded
Any idea whether or not the skies are dynamic or does it look the same each night?
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I've tried that mod already... any alternatives?
Why would you ever need a tie?
Shooting Stars http://skyrim.nexusmods.com/mods/25022
Climates of Tamriel http://skyrim.nexusmods.com/mods/17802
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