Skyrim is the fifth full-fledged part of the sensational RPG series by Bethesda Game Studios – The Elder Scrolls.

Even though the game premiered 13 years ago, it still enjoys undying popularity, with its fan base constantly growing.

This title offers an enormous open world, incredibly interesting lore, hundreds of engaging quests, and tremendous freedom in how you approach them, as well as nearly limitless possibilities for character development.

And speaking of characters… did you know that choosing a race in Skyrim is not just a visual matter, but it has significant importance for further gameplay and building various skills? Would you like to know which race to choose if you want to play as a Stealth Archer, and what is the best race if you aim to play the role of a Brutal Barbarian? Stay with us!

Understanding Skyrim’s Races

Even though picking the appearance, gender, and race of a character is nothing new in RPGs, you should know that especially the latter feature has great significance in further gameplay. Particularly when it comes to Skyrim, where the classic division into classes was abandoned, allowing for almost unlimited development in all directions.

Almost – because although it is possible, and you will be able to master all skills with any character, it cannot be denied that each race has its natural predispositions and passive abilities. As such, certain races unlock specific skills faster and easier, enjoying significant advantages while using them.

What is the best race in Skyrim? What are the pros and cons of each? We invite you to our Skyrim races guide for beginners!

The Races of Skyrim: An Overview

  • Nords

Nords are the native race inhabiting the icy lands of Skyrim. People of this race are solidly built, naturally strong, and resistant to low temperatures, which translates into their 50% frost resistance.

Their strength and solid physique make them excellent warriors. They handle Two-handed Weapons well (they have a natural 10 bonus to this skill), One-handed Weapons ( 5), they excel in Blocking attacks ( 5), and they are also quite skilled blacksmiths ( 5 Smithing). However, they fare poorly in activities requiring stealthy, silent, and finesse attacks.

They also have a bonus ( 5) to Speechcraft and an interesting passive racial Greater Power, which they can use once a day – Battle Cry. It makes targets up to level 99 flee for 30 seconds, with a range of 60 feet.

  • Imperials

Imperials are the native inhabitants of Cyrodiil, the province neighbouring Skyrim to the south, which is the capital of the Empire. Their bodies are built slightly more delicate and subtle than Nords, but they also possess considerable strength – they handle Heavy Armor well ( 5) and, like Nords, they are adept at Blocking ( 5) and One-Handed Weapons ( 5).

Unlike their Northern neighbours, they are much better at magic – they have a 5 bonus to skills related to Destruction and Conjuration spells, as well as 10 to Restoration. Similarly to Nords, they lack talent for stealthy, ranged attacks.

However, their special abilities are interesting – Voice of the Emperor, which allows them to calm all humanoid beings nearby for 60 seconds, and the passive ability Imperial Luck, which allows them to find more gold.

  • Bretons

This race hails from High Rock, with both elven (Altmer & Bosmer) and human ancestors. They are characterized by a slight build, delicate features, and natural 25% Magic Resistance. They are also considered one of the most intelligent inhabitants of Tamriel.

The initial bonuses of this race are mainly related to magic and quasi-magical activities. They have: 10 Conjuration, 5 Alchemy, 5 Alteration, 5 Illusion, and 5 Restoration. Additionally, they enjoy a bonus of 5 to Speech. Furthermore, unlike many other races, they start the game not only with Flames and Healing spells, but also with the basic skill of Conjure Familiar. All of this makes them outstanding mages, alchemists, and conjurers. However, they are not adapted to Heavy Armor and Two-handed Weapons.

They have another cool feature. Dragonskin – a racial Greater Power which allows them to absorb 50% of magicka from hostile spells for 60 seconds.

  • Redguards

A race originating from the hot, desert-like Hammerfell. They are descendants of remarkable warriors with magical abilities. They are characterized by exotic beauty, deadly speed, and a natural 50% Poison Resistance.

Redguards inherited from their deadly ancestors high proficiency in One-handed Weapons ( 10) – they excel in wielding two blades. Additionally, they are quite skilled in Blocking ( 5) and fighting with a bow ( 5 Archery). Naturally, they are also good Blacksmiths ( 5) and are proficient in Destruction and Alteration Magic ( 5).

Their special ability is Adrenaline Rush, activated once a day – it makes Stamina regenerate 10 times faster for 60 seconds.

  • Altmer

High Elves, native inhabitants of Summerset Isle, most commonly encountered in the game as soldiers and mages of the Thalmor. They are distinguished by their slender build, tall stature, and of course, pointed ears. They are the most talented in the arcane arts, and their passive ability Fortify Magicka automatically increases their mana (magicka) by 50 points.

Altmer excel the most in Illusion magic ( 10), but they are also excellent at Alteration, Conjuration, Destruction, Enchanting, and Restoration (all have a 5 bonus). Additionally, at the start, besides Flames and Healing spells, they also have the spell Fury (Illusion). High Elves, however, do not have any bonuses to using melee weapons, bows, or wearing armour.

Their special, once-a-day power is Highborn – it regenerates magicka faster for 60 seconds.

  • Dunmer

Also known as Dark Elves, they are another kind of elves, but they differ from their cousins with their greyish skin tones, usually red eyes, and shorter stature. They migrated to Skyrim from the rocky-volcanic Morrowind after the eruption of the Red Mountain. Due to their origin, they have 50% Fire Resistance.

Their origin also makes them excellent in Destruction magic ( 10), and besides, they are superb at Alteration and Illusion (both 5). Unlike their magical, tall cousins, they are skilled in activities typical for a Hunter or a Thief – Alchemy ( 5), Light Armor ( 5), and Sneak ( 5).

Their special, once-a-day ability is Ancestor’s Wrath – opponents that get too close take 8 points per second of fire damage. This lasts for 60 seconds.

  • Orsimer

Also known as Orcs, although they belong to the elven race, they significantly differ from their cousins. They have green skin, are tall, massive, strong, and their characteristic feature is their overgrown lower canines. They are considered the best warriors and blacksmiths (and they are most often encountered in these roles in the game).

The biggest skill bonus they have is for the one associated with wearing Heavy Armor ( 10), they handle Two-handed and One-handed weapons well, and excel in Blocking attacks. Additionally, as born blacksmiths, they have 5 to Smithing and Enchanting, allowing them to forge magical weapons.

Their special ability is Berserker Rage – they take half damage and do double damage for 60 seconds, once per day.

  • Bosmer

Also known as Wood Elves, are short, petite beings, native inhabitants of Valenwood, who live in harmony with nature and can communicate with animals (special ability Command Animal, which makes nearby animals allies for 60 seconds). Additionally, they have innate 50% Resistance to both Diseases and Poisons.

They are considered excellent archers (Archery 10), and their delicate posture makes them great at Sneaking ( 5). They are good at Lockpicking ( 5) and Pickpocketing ( 5). All of this is complemented by a bonus for the Light Armor skill ( 5), as well as developed Alchemy from the very beginning ( 5). However, they are not very adept in direct combat and Heavy Armor.

  • Khajiit

One of the two beast races in Skyrim. Khajiit resemble humanoid cats and are native inhabitants of the exotic Elsweyr. They are not highly respected, so they are not encountered in cities, but rather in caravans camped outside their gates. Interestingly, many of them speak in the third person.

Due to their feline nature, they excel in Sneak ( 10) and, like Bosmer, their bonus skills include Archery, Lockpicking, Pickpocketing, and Alchemy (all 5). Additionally, they handle One-handed Weapons well, but they hardly need any, as they possess a natural ability to fight barehanded – all thanks to their Claws special ability.

Furthermore, they have the passive ability called Night Eye, which allows them to see in the dark for 60 seconds. Interestingly, neither Claws nor Night Eye are limited to one use per day, as in the case of other races’ special abilities.

  • Argonians

The second playable beast race available in Skyrim. They are native inhabitants of the swampy Black Marsh and due to their origin, they have acquired enormous Disease Resistance (50%). Additionally, they can breathe underwater without any problems, and they are characterized by high intelligence.

Like the other two races mentioned above, they have a well-developed ability to Sneak and Pickpocket (a 5 bonus to start). They excel in wearing Light Armor ( 5), as well as using Restoration and Alteration Magic (both 5), but their greatest advantage is the innate ability to pick locks ( 10 Lockpicking).

In addition to the passive ability Waterbreathing and 50% Disease Resistance, they also have an interesting racial Great Power, which they can use once a day – Histskin. It invokes the power of the Hist (an ancient, magical tree race) to recover health ten times faster for 60 seconds.

Choosing the Right Race for Your Playstyle

As you can see, the choice is quite extensive, and most races perform well with several, often not necessarily overlapping with the classic division into classes, skills. So how do you choose the best race to create a classic RPG playstyle focusing on the Warrior, Mage, and Thief?


  • Nord – warriors who excel in close combat, especially with heavy two-handed swords, war hammers, and battle-axes.
  • Orsimer – born warriors, considered the best in Skyrim, who excel in fighting with One-handed Weapons, Two-handed Weapons, and Blocking, and additionally have a bonus to Heavy Armor.
  • Redguard – their high stamina and high proficiency with two swords make them invincible warriors.
  • Imperial – they have fairly universal skills, so they perform impressively as warriors, mages, and everything in between (battle mage, crusader, paladin, etc.).


  • Altmer – born mages. The most magically talented race with bonuses to almost all magical skills, high magicka, and a racial Greater Power that regenerates magicka.
  • Breton – the most intelligent of the races, with developed magical and alchemical abilities, and a racial Greater Power that allows them to drain mana from enemy attacks.
  • Dunmer – they excel in Destruction Magic as well as Alteration and Illusion. They have a natural resistance to fire damage (Flames, Fireball, etc.).


  • Bosmer – born hunters and excellent material for thieves, with highly developed Sneak, Lockpicking, and Pickpocketing skills. Additionally, they effectively eliminate enemies from a distance.
  • Khajiit – like Bosmer, they have developed Lockpicking, Pickpocketing, and Sneak skills. Additionally, they see very well in the dark.
  • Argonian – like the other two races, they have highly developed Pickpocketing and Sneak skills, as well as being excellent in Lockpicking. The additional ability to breathe underwater allows them to approach targets unnoticed (underwater, of course).

Race and Roleplaying

‘You’d make a good rug, Cat’, ‘You’ll make a fine pair of boots, lizard!’, ‘Only thing I hate worse than them scalebacks is the filthy gray skins.’… Anyone who has played Skyrim has had the opportunity to hear these and similar words, most often uttered by Nords. Skyrim’s lore addresses issues of racism and class divisions (Khajiit not allowed into cities, ghetto-like districts of Dunmer, lack of trust towards Elves, etc.), which can be felt when choosing a character of a certain race.

This mechanic adds spice to the gameplay. It will be much easier for us to get along with representatives of our or closely related race, and we can also expect distrust from other Skyrim’s people. Additionally, in some quests, the race we choose will affect the method of completing the task. An example of this is the quest ‘Diplomatic Immunity’, which involves infiltrating the Thalmor Embassy. As a High Elf, disguised in Thalmor robes, we can easily pass by elven guards.

Furthermore, It is obvious that by selecting a particular race and developing our character according to its innate abilities and predispositions, we will quickly reach perfection in our chosen profession, which directly translates into our style of play.

Modifying Races with Mods

Skyrim is one of the most modded games, and the creators fully support both modifications and the modding community (some mods have even become official and have made their way into the latest, anniversary edition of the game, enriching the gameplay).

As for mods related to races, there are also plenty to choose from. The most popular of them is the Imperious mod, which adds 3 new passive abilities to each race and 1 new power that is unlocked through a quest, and additionally allows NPCs of different races to use racial powers and skills.

Additionally, you can find plenty of mods changing the appearance of characters (such as height, body build, faces, hair, tattoos, etc.), adding new races (such as Snow Elves, who in the original lore turned into the eerie Falmer), or… adding kids and skeletons of races other than humans to the game.


So, as you can see, selecting a character race in Skyrim affects not only the visual side of the game. Picking a specific species has a significant impact on how you can develop your character, how to fight and solve tasks, or what relationships you will be able to build with NPCs.

Each of the 10 available races has its own strengths and weaknesses, unique abilities, and special opportunities that make the gameplay fascinating and engaging. What is the best race in Skyrim? There is no straightforward answer to this question – it all depends on what playstyle you choose and what way of solving problems appeals to you the most.

However, there is no doubt that Skyrim, even in its raw version, without mods or add-ons, can provide you with many hours of entertainment, and each play-through (when choosing a different race) can be unique!