When it comes to discussions about The Elder Scrolls, fans of this unique series lose their minds. So what happens when we try disassembling the two franchise’s most popular titles? Let’s see!

Some games require commitment. In The Elder Scrolls, it comes easily, as the entire franchise is one great work of art. But spending tens, hundreds, or even thousands of hours in your favorite game, you stop being an ordinary player and become a part of this world.

Live in it, uncover its secrets, and experience grand adventures that you will remember even at the age of 90. Fans of Skyrim and The Elder Scrolls Online can share these experiences! But these last two titles in the series, according to fans on Reddit, are incomparable. Well, today, we will accept this challenge! Are you considering buying one of these games and don’t know what to choose? Dispel your fears with our ultimate The Elder Scrolls Online vs. Skyrim comparison!

FeatureElder Scrolls OnlineThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2023)
Game Type MMORPG (Multiplayer) Single-player RPG
World Larger, includes nine Imperial provinces Smaller, set in the province of Skyrim
World Interaction Less frequent surprises, more decorative More interactive and filled with surprises
Plot Setting 1000 years before Skyrim 200 years after Oblivion
Story Structure Highly linear Non-linear
Main Objective Combat growing power of Molag Bal Defeat the dragon god, Alduin
Character Creation Choose from ten races and six classes Choose from ten races, no class selection
Combat System Action bar for abilities Pause and select weapons/spells
Quests Linear, need to follow main plot Non-linear, can skip and move freely
NPC Interaction Limited, more focused on other players Deep interaction with NPCs
Economy Requires grinding, crafting system Easier to make money, trading with NPCs
Mounts Over a hundred mounts available One mount (horse)
Mods Not available Extensive mod support, even on consoles
Graphics Better graphics and diverse environments Detailed and atmospheric world
Boss Fights Over 70 bosses in the base game Fewer, more story-integrated bosses

General overview

Skyrim and ESO are classic role-playing games set in a fantasy world. Embarking on an adventure in each of them, players enter the enormous world of Nirn to explore the provinces of the continent of Tamriel and discover its secrets. And there is always something to do because playing every game in the series, the player takes the role of an outcast to decide the fate of this world.

And here comes the first fundamental difference between the two titles. While the Elder Scrolls series has always been single-player games (including Skyrim), ESO is an MMORPG. It means you can’t play offline and without the company. So you need to know that if you are a console user, you need an Xbox Live Pass or a PlayStation Plus subscription to enjoy this title. But if you plan to start your adventure with Skyrim, you can play it offline, both on PC and console.

The world

Let’s start comparing ESO vs. Skyrim from the vital feature – the game world. When Skyrim was created exclusively by Bethesda, the Elder Scrolls Online project came to life thanks to ZeniMax studio. And although the latter faithfully reproduced the classic atmosphere of the series, you can notice some differences at first glance. It is due to the need to adapt some features of previous games to the multiplayer version, which has resulted in various outcomes.

For example, Elder Scrolls Online features a much larger world. During the game, you will visit nine Imperial provinces, including those known from earlier titles in the series, like Morrowind or Skyrim. The game offers great pros like better graphics and much more diverse environments, guaranteeing better exploration and more adventures. But does it really?

The action of Skyrim takes place in only one province – Skyrim. It is a much smaller map, which doesn’t mean it’s tiny. The massive open world invites you to explore, and you can go anywhere you want. So is there anything to compare? Yes! The two worlds carry different feelings, according to the Steam community.

The single-player games in this series have for many years used players to the fact that wherever they go, there will be something to do. You can see a place, explore it and discover a mudcrab merchant, an entrance to a dungeon, or a strange wizard. In ESO, you also see such a view, but it does not mean it is hiding something. There are significantly fewer surprises! And despite its size, the world is more a decoration than a field to show off. And the reason is the linearity of the plot.

The plot

Skyrim’s action takes place 200 years after the events of Oblivion and features one unique element – dragons. In this title, you will play an outcast that soon turns out to be a prophesied hunter, and your task will be to defeat the mighty dragon god. But not so fast! In the meantime, you can do whatever you want.

Explore the wild, snowy woods, travel to forgotten dungeons, fall in love, fight the law, or turn into a werewolf and howl at the moon all day long. You don’t even have to finish this game to have fun. Quests in Skyrim are non-linear – so you can skip some points. The title will also diversify your experiences, so if you complete a visit somewhere, the game itself will move the assigned quest somewhere else.

The Elder Scrolls Online takes place a thousand years before the events of Skyrim. It tells the story of the mortal threat posed by the growing power of Molag Bal and the origins of various alliances forming in the face of danger.

When you enter the game world, decide for yourself what your part in this story will be. Or not! ESO features a highly linear plot structure, setting a specific direction of progress. You can go wherever you want! But to continue the adventure, you’ll still need to get back to the last point of the plot. This title, however, has a significant advantage over Skyrim in another aspect – multiplayer. You don’t have to engage in the story and instead create your legend in the company of other players.


All the fun in both games focuses primarily on exploring and completing quests. From them, players gain experience and can discover the following chapters of their thrilling adventure. Both also use level-scaling, although, in Skyrim, the difficulty level of the enemies is based more on a level range. But let’s start at the beginning.

In Skyrim and ESO, your adventure begins with character creation. It is a memorable moment for every RPG fan, allowing you to boost your immersion and become more connected with the character played. In the Skyrim game, you can pick from ten races, but the class selection does not exist. In ESO, you also choose from ten races but have six classes to choose from. It is because, in the online version of Elder Scrolls, you do not play a predetermined role as in Skyrim.

As Skyrim is a single-player title, the gameplay entirely focuses on your character. You are the only hero, and each action inspires a unique story, providing the impression of an epic journey in an almost cinematic style. For this reason, you may have the opportunity to bond with the NPCs and devote yourself entirely to the intense atmosphere. As you already know, Skyrim has non-linear quests, so during your journey, you can go wherever and whenever you want without harming the main storyline. Well, unless you die unexpectedly along the way.

As players on Reddit say, Skyrim is more Morrowind and Oblivion than ESO. Its other huge pros are more varied dungeons and architecture, better quest rewards, and making decisions. If you are a fan of selecting a specific weapon or spell while fighting with pause – you will love this title. ESO quit such a combat mechanics in favor of a convenient action bar because it is impossible to implement the traditional model of selecting attacks in a multiplayer game.

Elder Scrolls Online is more about quantity than quality. The quests in this title are much more varied, always offering thrilling gameplay. There are other players, but you don’t have to play with them. You can engage in the lone wanderer and silent hero lifestyle. You don’t have to worry about unexpected attacks in PvP mode, as each duel must first be accepted. And if you wish, you can choose not to participate in this mode at all. But as it happens in multiplayer RPGs, grinding is necessary to achieve anything at all.

The level will not accomplish itself, so it is worth completing various quests for the factions or taking on bosses, of which there are over 70 in the basic version of the game. It is also more challenging than in Skyrim to make a fortune. Selling items generates a medium income, so it’s worth traveling to the dungeons to farm the most valuable stuff. But remember, you can’t go through the dungeon alone, so better gather a party. The solution to low earnings is also a brilliant crafting system.

In ESO, you can collect items anywhere and from anything! Deconstruct some objects and use them to create new, valuable products that you can use yourself or sell for pretty good money. The crafting system is simple and fun. And it is much easier to fill the entire inventory during the adventure than in Skyrim.

Mods and mounts

The last difference between Skyrim and Elder Scrolls Online is rather cosmetic. However, it is of great importance to RPG enthusiasts. Let’s start with transport. ESO’s developers have created something extraordinary by adding over a hundred mounts to the gameplay. Some of them you can buy, others get as a reward or meet during your travels. Mounts divide into ten species like bears, guar, Dwarven spiders, and wolves – so there is a lot to choose from! Especially since there is only one mount in Skyrim – a horse.

But Skyrim has something ESO will never get. As an offline game, it is easier to customize and mod. And thanks to the latest engine upgrades, even Xbox One or PlayStation 4 users can enjoy mods. What’s so great about that? Let’s see! With mods, you can turn every dragon into the flying state of Ohio. Or, multiply the traders’ gold so they can buy more items from you. Or make all the NPCs run around naked. Mods are the answer to the needs of all players, and you will also find something for yourself.

Which is better?

It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Similar, but the content is entirely different. But maybe this will make it easier for you to choose a game for yourself. First, consider if you are more into multiplayer or single-player. For obvious reasons, this is the one of primary requirements in making this decision. If you prefer a single-player, then know that you can enjoy the gaming adventure of your life in the form of one of the best role-playing games ever – Skyrim. With a captivating story, mods, a surprising world, decision-making, and dragons! It’s just an experience that will stay with you for life.

However, if you are not into the lonely atmosphere of the gameplay in Skyrim, choose The Elder Scrolls Online. With other players, you will experience an exciting adventure full of various quests, pleasant crafting, PvP gameplay, and dozens of great bosses, mounts, and DLCs.

You can decide entirely about your gameplay nature, follow the storyline, or give it up in favor of having fun with other players or free roaming around available locations. One thing is sure in this comparison – whatever you choose, you will be more than satisfied!