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Skyrim mods that completely change the game

The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim is something of a timeless classic in the video game industry. Part of that, of course, is because the game has been rereleased so many times on so many different platforms that it is impossible to escape its grasp. To chalk up the game's ubiquity to that, however, would be a discredit to what really makes Skyrim's longevity special: its incredibly passionate modding community.

It isn't just minor cosmetic upgrades or the occasional quest inspired by another popular work of fiction that populates Skyrim's incredibly long list of mods. Some of these mods literally transform the game, creating an entirely new world to explore. Whether these worlds whisk players away to brand new locations or emerge out of the Skyrim we already know and love, they're a welcome addition to a game that already has the kind of depth most titles can only dream of. Here's our collection of some of the best Skyrim mods that completely change the game.

Katamari Dovahkiin makes Skyrim a nightmare

Some combinations of games just make sense. Skyrim is a medieval fantasy set in a Scandinavian-inspired region of the world, meaning that a lot of other fantasy texts, like The Lord of the Rings or even Game of Thrones, would make a perfect fit for some mod content.

Other combinations challenge our perception of reality, making us wonder why or how something could ever be allowed to happen. That's the category where Katamari Dovahkiin hurtles headlong into, combining — despite, probably, nobody ever asking for it — Skyrim with Katamari Damacy, the game that sees a cute, 5cm tall being known as the Prince of All Cosmos roll up material on Earth in order to rebuild the rest of the universe, which his dad accidentally destroyed after a night of binge drinking.

In Skyrim, though, Katamari Dovahkiin gives the protagonist the ability to suck up all characters they are near underneath their feet. It sounds funny at first, but then you see it in action. Eventually, the Dovahkiin creates a hellish mass of writhing animals and humans at their feet, some of them still attempting to inquire about quest leads or the state of their knee, while the player strolls onward with an ever-growing and mobile personal door mat at their feet.

Dragonborn in Termina is a link to another franchise

The Dragonborn is the chosen one, set out from humble beginnings to liberate the land they find themselves in from the many problems that ail it, ranging from civil war to the return of the hyper-intelligent and dangerous dragons. There are also quests to save the Skyrim equivalent of princesses within the nobility.

What does this mean? Well, the Dragonborn is not that dissimilar from Link, the hero of The Legend of Zelda. Link's shouts and grunts might not literally murder people, but they both have the land's best interests at heart, and that counts for something.

Dragonborn in Termina is a mod that brings the entirety of the land from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask into Skyrim. For a bit of context, the mod adds (among much else): Clock Town, Great Bay Coast, Goron Village, Ikana Canyon, Pirate's Fortress, Deku Kingdom, and many, many more. It's extensive and is remade to fit the style of Skyrim so Termina doesn't feel massively out of place within the game.

Oh, and the best part? This mod introduces the famous Moon from Majora's Mask into Skyrim's night sky. Nothing like a little bit of added motivation to wrap up the main story instead of falling down the rabbit hole of side quests, right?

Enderal is a whole different game

Some people are so talented, and imaginative, that they're unwilling to leave "what if" scenarios as just that: hypothetical situations that are fun to talk about but never fully realized. The development team behind Enderal, one of Skyrim's most expansive conversion mods, weren't satisfied with Bethesda's rendition of the world and decided to build their own instead.

That's right. The team literally built an entire world within Skyrim's engine, which is essentially the only thing left from the original game in this mod. The mod features between 30-100 hours of content, a brand new world map, new classes, enemies, and even a re-balanced combat system. It's not set within The Elder Scrolls, but rather features its own lore and narrative.

This mod is also much harder than Skyrim. Enderal does away with fast travel, meaning players need to walk back and forth between cities and ruins, and makes it so players can only wait while in an inn or bed, stymieing the health regeneration players receive from it as well.

The end result is an experience completely unlike Skyrim. It's an entirely different game, with fully voice-acted NPCs and beautifully done quests on top of it all. Enderal even adds gambling minigames to inns in what feels like the mod team just flexing their dev muscles to prove they could.

Beyond Skyrim: Bruma takes you back to Cyrodiil

Beyond Skyrim: Bruma is yet another conversion mod that pairs a massive amount of new content with an entirely different look at the game. Bruma adds lands from Tamriel into Skyrim, allowing players to cross the borders of the titular country.

Bruma allows players to explore locations in-lore like Frostcraf Spire, Frostfire Glad, and Cloud Ruler Temple, which makes for a nice addition for diehard fans of The Elder Scrolls. The city of Bruma proper also has around 70 new characters added into it with their own quests and voice acting. The voice acting is particularly impressive; some of the actors have credits on professionally made games like Dragon Age: Inquisition, which means that the quality is in a class of its own when it comes to modding.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Beyond Skyrim: Bruma is that the mod constitutes a larger addition to the game than its official Dragonborn DLC. It borders on unbelievable how much the Skyrim community cares for the game and wants to add its own flair to it, and this mod is an excellent example of how seriously the modders take their craft when it comes to completely changing Skyrim for the better.

Vigilant makes combat actually hard

It has become one of the industry's most reviled traditions: comparing a new game to Dark Souls. The fact of the matter is, Dark Souls has left its mark on gaming because of successfully blending a deep, fair combat system with some of the most difficult gameplay this side of Ninja Gaiden, all wrapped up in a Gothic, brooding setting that is hard to forget.

Vigilant is the closest Skyrim will likely ever get to Dark Souls, as the mod essentially transforms a portion of the game into a Souls clone. The mod is heavily influenced by the Souls series and Bloodborne, adding in horror elements to Skyrim alongside some engrossing new chapters related to the Vigilants of Stendarr as they battle the forces of Oblivion. The story gets pretty intense at times, and has some genuine horror moments, so it's a welcome change of pace to Skyrim's more standard fantasy fare.

Of course, this mod also adds what everyone would expect based on its inspiration. There are some extremely difficult boss fights present within Vigilant, to the point that dying a dozen or so times and having to completely respec a character who was overpowered in the original Skyrim is something of a rite of passage for those who download this mod. If you've ever found yourself yearning for a grittier, darker, and much more difficult Skyrim, Vigilant is the perfect mod for you.

Falksaar expands on the Elder Scrolls' lore

The thing about the universe that Skyrim exists within is that it is so, so much bigger than fans typically expect. The amount of lore behind The Elder Scrolls that has never even made it into gameplay is staggering. It is a game series that has been designed with so much attention to detail that its in-game books often contain hints for where the series may go next, and tantalizingly suggest some godlike entities that could be major players in future releases.

Why wait until then, though? Mods like Falksaar exist now, and do a wonderful job creating brand new content that is based heavily on the lore that Bethesda has already infused into the world of The Elder Scrolls. Falksaar adds around 20-30 hours of gameplay, complementing that with completely new areas, dozens of detailed quests, and fully voiced characters with their own motivations and story.

Falksaar even introduced a new soundtrack just for the mod, accompanying that change with some new shouts, items, and spells. Everything about the mod feels very official, with a lot of polish added to its new contents. There's so much to unpack with this mod that it is difficult to detail it all here, but rest assured that it is one of the most lore-friendly interpretations of additional content within Skyrim's mod community, and any Elder Scrolls fan owes it to themselves to pick it up and check out a whole new side of Skyrim.

Skyrim Redone ... well, redoes Skyrim

It takes a lot of confidence in yourself as a game designer to look at a game as popular as Skyrim and think: "I could've done better." But that's exactly what happened with the team behind Skyrim Redone, a mod that completely restructures the game from the ground up in an effort to produce an even better experience than the one that the original Skyrim delivered.

Skyrim Redone doesn't teleport your character to some far away land or add a ton of new quests and voice acting to the game. Instead, Skyrim Redone overhauls the base game from its mechanics to its racial modifiers to its skill trees. The mod also dramatically changes combat, including encounter scaling, and provides a much more complex experience than the one that was delivered in Bethesda's version. If you want the full details on what Skyrim Redone does to the game, they're available here; just note that the mod literally has over 100 pages of notes tracking the many changes it makes, so you're going to be there a while.

Skyrim Redone might not change the game in the way that most of the other mods on this list do, but it might still be the most complex and challenging of all of them thanks to its nuance and dedication to improving core gameplay mechanics.

28 Days and a Bit 5 - Zombie Mutation makes the game a zombie war

One of the most prevalent fantasy tropes ever created is the dragon, something that Skyrim certainly has plenty of. Even the main character is related to them, and they're a suitably breathtaking Big Bad as the narrative progresses.

Another popular fiction trope that Skyrim only touches the edges of, however, is the zombie. Sure, there are Draugr basically everywhere, and a few quests that are concerned with necromancy, but there's nothing like a full-fledged zombie breakout waiting in the wings, just underneath the surface of Skyrim's world.

That's what 28 Days and a Bit 5 – Zombie Mutation is for. This mod offers a variety of different zombie outbreak scenarios, each with different settings that can be customized at any time. The player gets to control how the zombie outbreak plays out, and in a sandbox world like Skyrim, that means untold amounts of chaos and violence.

There are some really nice subtle touches in this mod, too. The best one is the ability to barricade doors, though, which offers an extra bit of roleplaying potential for those who don't just want to pit a zombie horde against their Dragonborn. What if the Dragonborn instead had to protect their family? It's all on the table with this gory, spooky zombie mod that has way more play to it than fans might initially suspect.

Tropical Skyrim brings a sunnier disposition

If there's one minor thing that could be considered a bit of a missed opportunity with Skyrim, it's that the game's world never really feels that varied. There are a variety of dungeons, sure, but they're all underground and gloomy, save for a few. The towns look different but are all snowy, rocky, and grim, much like the land that spawned them. It makes sense and it works for the game, but you'd be forgiven for wishing there were some more dramatic changes in environment every now and then.

That's what Tropical Skyrim is for. The mod does exactly what it sounds like it does, trading the snow flurries and winter winds that populate Skyrim's world for tropical breezes, palm trees, and sunny shores. For such a seemingly small change, Tropical Skyrim really goes all out, changing the entirety of Skyrim's climate into something much more equatorial.

Does Tropical Skyrim make some of the clothes people are wearing a little ridiculous? Sure. But it's easy to dismiss it if you just work really hard at believing fur is in in Skyrim this year, and after that, it's easy to forget the rest of your troubles in a tropical paradise with a bit of a dragon problem.

Can you survive Frostfall?

Skyrim has a ton of quality mods, and their numbers continue to grow as the community hones its skill and develops even more impressive additions to the base game. Given just how many mods players have to choose from, it says a lot when one of them rises to the top and becomes one of the most popular within the game's community. That's just what Frostfall did when it released, and now, after several iterations and patches, it is the best it has ever been.

Frostfall transforms Skyrim not in location or style, but in its very genre. Frostfall turns the game into a survival title, adding several mechanics to the game like coverage, exposure, and a new perk system that is based around braving the harsh winter weather. Exposure measures how much current weather conditions are affecting you, for instance, whereas the new perks like endurance will help you survive longer in the cold.

Frostfall makes Skyrim highly realistic for its climate, and makes the game much more difficult to manage than its original form. It's a fun spin on what the world of Skyrim probably looks like for people who aren't the Dragonborn, and it is an addictive, immersive experience that really needs to be played before anyone passes judgment on it.

Skywind returns to a classic

Skywind is one of the most ambitious modding projects ever undertaken, and has been going on for years. There's a lot that separates Skywind from its other mod contemporaries, including an all-volunteer team that is putting in the kind of hours that a studio likely would and, unfortunately, a release date that continues to remain a mystery years into the project's existence.

That doesn't make Skywind any less impressive, though. The mod looks absolutely gorgeous, and focuses on porting Morrowind into Skyrim, essentially remastering the former in the process. Don't let that process fool you, though, as the team behind Skywind have also said that they are actively looking to improve elements of Morrowind whenever they are able, such as the vastly more detailed representation of House Dagoth that the team showcased in a trailer during development.

Efforts like the one the Skywind team have embarked on is a reminder that something about Skyrim and its engine have made it a mainstay in the modding community well past when other titles would have bowed out. This kind of ambitious project will always catch fans' eyes, but the sheer detail and dedication to the original Morrowind helps set Skywind apart.

Skyblivion returns to another classic

Of course, if there's going to be a Skywind, The Elder Scrolls fans certainly won't stop there. An equally ambitious project from a group of volunteer developers has produced Skyblivion, a mod that looks to transform Skyrim into an updated version of Oblivion.

Skyblivion is incredible because it feels a lot like a true game release rather than just an extensive modding project. The mod has an entire list of affiliates on its website, regularly hosts livestreams that update people on the mod's development, and has a breathtaking gallery of stills from Skyblivion's developmental progress that look and feel professionally made.

The issue facing Skyblivion is the same one that faces Skywind: the ambitiousness of each mod's undertaking has made it difficult to pin down a release date. Skyblivion looks fantastic, but might be years out still, stuck in a torpid development cycle due to its nature as a volunteer project.

At the very least, though, fans of both Skyrim and Oblivion have something to look forward to if and when Skyblivion ever graces the modding community with a finished product.