Skyrim, a critically acclaimed open-world RPG, was originally released in 2011. It was praised for its world design, visuals, and character advancement, among other things. Some players got so addicted that they still play the game, which gives the modding community a reason to keep creating new, fascinating mods. This way, Skyrim always feels fresh and alive, and there’s always something new to try.

Taking this into account, it’s not surprising that the original game’s developers are also occasionally giving Skyrim some love, mainly in form of new, enhanced editions, that often bring numerous improvements when compared to the original, to ensure that the players will always have the best experience possible.

However, an ordinary person could easily get lost in the variety of different Skyrim editions. Which Skyrim version is the best? What makes Special Edition special? Is Anniversary Edition the way to go? Or maybe the Legendary Edition is the answer that solves all issues?

Today we’ll make a thorough comparison of different Skyrim versions, which will hopefully help you to choose the one, that will meet your needs best.

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Original Skyrim

PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and pretty much every device and home appliance there is...
Release year:2011
Graphics:3 / 5
New content:4 / 5
Gameplay:4 / 5
Overall value:4- / 5

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the fifth main installment in The Elder Scroll franchise.

It’s an action role-playing game with a vast, 3D open-world environment with snowy landscapes and Jarl rulers; a world, that allows players to immerse into an epic fantasy adventure, that is heavily influenced by Scandinavian and Norse mythology and folklore. Skyrim focuses on the character of Dovahkiin, the Dragonborn, a human with a dragon’s soul, who needs to learn and master his ancient powers of Thu’um, or “dragon shouts” to save the world from impending doom.

Skyrim

The game comes with a relatively short story, but Skyrim’s strength lies in the fact, that players can do whatever they want in the game. In fact, you can play for literally hundreds of hours, and still not finish the main storyline. You will probably spend most of your time exploring, discovering new places, finding hidden treasures, completing countless side missions, and – of course – trying to join the guilds. The Thieves Guild, The Companions, the College of Winterhold, the Dark Brotherhood, and even the Bards College – you don’t have to choose, you can ally them all and it’s more than worth it, not only for the possibility of learning more about the world’s lore but also for the unique rewards.

The game features a character progression system that makes it possible to choose the direction of the protagonist’s development. Do you want to become a traditional sword and board type of guy? There are skills that will make you a better swordsman. Or do you prefer the use of magic? There are several schools of magic, each focusing on a different mentality, and each will help you in a different way: some will bring destruction, while others will help you increase your survivability. And what about non-combat abilities? You may want to craft new armors and weapons yourself, and there are skills for that, too. You may want to try alchemy or increase your haggling capabilities. You can learn how to be stealthy and steal from unaware citizens, you can master a bow, or you can dive into lockpicking – the choice is yours.

Master the ancient dragon techniques of Thu’um and become the hero, the world desperately needs.

Key features
  • The original release of the game
  • Works on a 32-bit engine
  • Largest mod support due to being the oldest of all editions…
  • …but rapidly loses the ground to a more modern Special Edition
  • Currently unlisted in the Steam store, but still can be accessed through direct links from search engines
        

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Legendary Edition

PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and pretty much every device and home appliance there is...
Release year:2013
Graphics:3 / 5
New content:4 / 5
Gameplay:4 / 5
Overall value:4 / 5

The Legendary Edition was the first of the new compilation packages of Skyrim. It was released in 2013 and it was basically the original game, packed together with its three major DLCs: Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn. It was a convenient bundle that allowed players to immediately jump into the world of Skyrim and experience everything it had to offer – just one click, and you’re ready to go.

Skyrim

It came with several changes, too. Most notably, the Legendary Edition introduced a new legendary difficulty level that was meant as a final challenge for the most experienced veterans of the game. While the additional challenge is usually a good thing, legendary difficulty raises the bar in a rather lazy way, by simply modifying damage multipliers – you will deal much less damage, while enemies will deal much more damage. There are no special encounters waiting for you, no special rewards, no Easter eggs hidden for the most skilled players to find. It makes legendary difficulty a rather annoying and tedious experience, where each fight is like battling a sponge that also deals tremendous amounts of damage. Duels are longer and leave almost no room for mistakes, especially in early to mid-game, where you are not yet properly geared and most enemies can send your character flying before you can shout “FUS RO DAH”. It’s worth noting, however, that defeating a dragon on the legendary difficulty does feel rewarding, even if there are no special rewards for doing so.

On the bright side, Legendary Edition also came with a long-requested feature that finally allowed players to level their characters without limits. Once a certain skill tree is maxed, you can reset it to its original value, marking it as Legendary, which allows you to train it all the way to the top again, which grants additional character levels, and thus, additional skill points that can be used to allocate more skills. This way, you no longer have to choose between different skills – ultimately, you will be able to obtain all of them. If you’re patient enough to grind them, that is.

Legendary Edition also added mounted fights and new combat cameras.

Key features
  • Includes the base game and 3 DLCs (Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn)
  • Adds legendary difficulty level, unlimited character level ups, mounted fights, and combat cameras
  • No longer available; superseded by the Special Edition
  • Owners of Legendary Edition got a free upgrade to Special Edition
        

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition

PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and pretty much every device and home appliance there is...
Release year:2016
Graphics:4 / 5
New content:5 / 5
Gameplay:4 / 5
Overall value:4 / 5

The Special Edition was released in 2016 and it’s what you could call, more or less, a proper remaster of the original game. In the simplest words, SSE does everything the Legendary Edition did, but better, and throws a bunch of new things to the mix.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition

One of the most important changes in the Special Edition is the switch from 32-bit to 64-bit. Doing so made the game run much smoother on modern operating systems because the game can finally make the most out of all the available processing power we have today. It’s undoubtedly one of the main reasons why you should switch from the original game to SSE if you didn’t already – unless, for whatever reason, you’re still using a 32-bit OS, in which case you won’t see a lot of difference and you’ll probably be better sticking to the original. The 64-bit engine allows players to run more mods simultaneously without negatively impacting the game’s performance – and mods are what keep Skyrim alive, despite the fact that it’s a decade-old game. Sooner or later, you will probably want to give some mods a go, and believe us, once you try, you’ll starve for more, quickly making the 32-bit version of the game obsolete, because it won’t be able to keep up with the game’s growing demand for computing power.

But the Special Edition is much more than that. One of the first things you’ll notice after launching SSE will most likely be the graphics. Special Edition added volumetric god-rays, SSAO support, optional rain and snow occlusion effects, smooth shadows that are now displayed in full resolution, higher resolution of trees and flora, more detailed environments, sun flare effect, and more. It also changed the game’s color scheme to be warmer and more colorful, which results in a livelier experience.

Skyrim

As far, as the Skyrim Special Edition vs Skyrim topic is concerned, one would probably also like to know: what about mods? Although the original version of the game comes with a larger pool of available mods due to the fact, that it was available for 5 more years than the Special Edition, it seems that it’s only a matter of time before SSE will catch up. Most of the mods from the original game work well with SSE, but some of them are not compatible at all. This is especially true for some niche mods that quickly got abandoned by their creators after the initial release. Mods that were created exclusively for the Legendary Edition will have the most difficult time – they need to be completely rewritten, so, unless there is a high demand for some mod, which could encourage some modders to rewrite it for the new edition, you may have trouble finding an alternative for SSE.

With that being said, it’s still worth going for SSE. Even if your favorite mods from the original Skyrim can’t be installed in Special Edition, there are still thousands of other mods to choose from, and new ones are released on a regular basis. Special Edition became the go-to version of the game that currently receives the most attention and love from players, modders, and developers. Moreover, the Special Edition has an in-game mod browser, which makes it extremely easy to find, install, and modify all the modifications you’d ever want. And that’s still not all: Special Edition finally brings limited mod support for consoles, making it your only option if you wanted to play Skyrim with mods.

Key features
  • An overhauled edition that does everything that Legendary Edition did, but better and faster
  • Greatly improved visuals
  • Superior 64-bit performance
  • Numerous bug fixes
  • An in-game mod browser with a constantly growing number of mods
  • Limited mod support finally brought to consoles
  • The current go-to version of the game
        

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition

PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and pretty much every device and home appliance there is...
Release year:2021
Graphics:4 / 5
New content:3 / 5
Gameplay:4 / 5
Overall value:4 / 5

The Anniversary Edition is the most recent addition to the Skyrim family. It was released in November 2021, and it’s basically a Special Edition with a collection of 74 Creation Club mods that add over 500 elements to the game, from armors and weapons to houses, and even the entire quests.

This is, at the moment, the most convenient way to experience Skyrim for casual players, because you don’t have to browse the mod library yourself – the best mods are already there. It’s a careful selection of mods that are believed to make the game a much more enjoyable adventure. Developers did a great job at choosing the mods that are considered a must-try by the majority of players.

It may seem pointless at first because some players prefer to browse available mods themselves and pick the ones, they enjoy the most. However, there are a lot of players who need help at choosing what’s right for them – they may not have that much free time to make their own research. They may not know what they’re even looking for. Anniversary Edition saves them all the trouble and gives them a ready-to-go package with a selection of mods that are guaranteed to work well together out-of-the-box, without any additional preparations needed – simply install the game and start a new adventure.

Anniversary Edition is made with vanilla players in mind; players, who didn’t play with mods before and who would like to try something new, because they already know the original game inside out. If you play with mods already, then you may consider staying with whatever edition you’re currently playing – the Anniversary Edition will most likely break the unofficial mods you’re currently using.

Skyrim

On a side note, it’s worth mentioning that there is an Anniversary Upgrade available. If you already own Special Edition, then you can get the Anniversary Edition at a discounted price, which is a quite tempting deal, to say the least, especially considering the fact, that if you were to buy all the Creation Club mods separately, it would easily cost you well over $200. However, you could probably easily find free alternatives in most cases, anyway – the Creation Club features Bethesda-approved mods, but it’s not the only place to get the mods from. There is also the Steam Nexus, for example.

Among the included Creation Club mods, there are 26 newly added ones. These are:

  • Alternative Armors – Daedric Plate
  • Alternative Armors – Dragon Plate
  • Alternative Armors – Dwarven Plate
  • Alternative Armors – Iron
  • Alternative Armors – Leather
  • Alternative Armors – Orcish Plate
  • Alternative Armors – Orcish Scaled
  • Alternative Armors – Silver
  • Bittercup
  • Bloodchill Manor
  • Bow of Shadows
  • Farming
  • Fearsome Fists
  • Fishing
  • Gallows Hall
  • Ghosts of the Tribunal
  • Goldbrand
  • Headman’s Cleaver
  • Horse Armor – Elven
  • Horse Armor – Steel
  • Nchuanthumz: Dwarven Home
  • Necromantic Grimoire
  • Redguard Elite Armaments
  • Staves
  • The Cause
  • The Contest
Key features
  • A convenient package of the Special Edition, bundled together with over 70 Creation Club mods that add over 500 new elements to the game, such as items, quests, houses, and more
  • Extremely high value – over $200 worth of mods for as low as $20
  • Made mostly with vanilla players in mind
  • Can crash the Special Edition mods, if you’re using any
        

Skyrim VR and Skyrim for Switch

Obviously VR and Nintendo Switch
Overall value:4 / 5

Speaking of different Skyrim versions, the two remains: VR and Switch. Both have their pros and cons, but due to the lack of competition, you don’t have much choice if you want to try the game on the Switch console or together with VR goggles.

Skyrim VR is a one-of-a-kind thing, where you can experience the world of Skyrim in an entirely new way. It’s more of a fun addition, though, as you can quickly become dizzy if you’re not used to playing VR games. However, it’s a well-made port, so if you want to fully dive into the game, then the VR version will surely keep you engaged for quite some time.

Skyrim VR

Skyrim for Nintendo Switch is a similar story. Although it has some weaknesses, such as slightly worse visuals when compared to other versions and no mod support, it’s still your only option to play this award-winning RPG on Switch, and for this reason alone some players will find it totally worth it. Also, trying out the new motion controls is a fun experience, although it can be a bit hard to get used to it.

Despite some minor differences, Skyrim for VR and Switch is still that same good old RPG, as far as in-game mechanics and the available content are concerned.

Conclusions

Depending on your personal needs, you will want to get a different version of Skyrim. Objectively speaking, the best edition currently available is the Special Edition, and that’s the one you should be probably going for. It supports thousands of mods and new ones are released regularly, it has better and more detailed visuals than the original game, it has better performance and plays smoother, it brings mod support to consoles, and it’s generally better suited for modern play.

If you didn’t play with mods before though, then you could give Anniversary Edition a go instead, as it’s a convenient package of Special Edition and the most interesting mods that could cost you a lot of money if bought separately. No need to spend hours on browsing the mod library. Save your time and simply get the Anniversary Edition to get a new Skyrim experience, just like that.

If you’re still playing on an old 32-bit operating system, then you may want to stick to the original game. And finally, if you want to play Skyrim with a pair of virtual reality goggles or launch the game on the Nintendo Switch console, then Skyrim VR and Skyrim for Switch are your only options, really.