Since Skyrim is a decade old game, it’s not surprising that the game looks a bit outdated graphically. This has put off many players from trying out or playing Skyrim as they are more accustomed to the graphics of next-gen AAA titles.
But unlike other games, Skyrim has a very active modding community. The mods for Skyrim can change the graphics, sounds, weapons, armor, locations, you name it. The possibility is endless.
For this article, we’ll be specifically talking about the graphics of Skyrim.
There are countless high-quality visual overhaul mods that can elevate the game’s graphics and bring it to the next level.
But we’ve hand-picked and selected only the best mods you can install to make your game look next-gen.
Now, there are many elements you can overhaul to improve the game’s overall graphics.
First, we’ll go over the best main texture mods, which significantly improve the quality and meshes of the game.
Then, we’ll move on to covering the additional mods that can improve the visual aesthetic of the environment and objects.
Note: If you’re unsure how to start modding, check our guide here.
Best Overall Texture Overhaul Mods
So, let’s start with the basics, the texture. These are the mods that are the foundation of graphical improvement.
The improvement can range from fixing the geometry of static meshes to replacing them with 4k textures.
You can even override mesh improvement mods with texture replacement mods to further increase the graphics of the game.
However, the quality of texture that you can use will depend on your system specification. We’ve listed mods that you can run on beefy PCs as well as on low-end systems.
Static Mesh Improvement Mod (SMIM)
If you want to improve the graphics, start by installing SMIM. It’s a must-have mod that improves the geometry of countless objects in the game, giving them more depth and feel to it.
It does so by replacing the low polygonal meshes with high polygonal textures. You can find SMIM in nexus mods.
Skyrim 202X by Pfuscher – Formerly 2020
Moving on to the textures, while the SMIM mod does improve the look and feel of the environment, you’ll still need to install a texture replacement mod to increase the overall graphics quality.
Skyrim 202X by Pfuscher is an excellent mod that replaces vanilla textures with high-resolution textures.
The mod covers landscapes, towns, dungeons, miscellaneous items, weapons, armor, etc. All the textures in the mod pack range from 4k to 8k resolution. So, you’ll need a powerful PC to run the mod.
Skyrim 202X Downscale
If the Skyrim 202X mod is too big or highly demanding for your PC, you can download a downscaled version from the same author.
The textures in this mod pack are available in three versions, i.e., 1k, 2k, or 4k. Although the textures are slightly lower resolution, they still look crisp and more beautiful than in the vanilla game.
Noble Skyrim Mod HD-2K
While the aforementioned mod improves the overall textures and meshes of the game, Noble Skyrim Mod focuses solely on the architecture of the cities, buildings, dungeons, outposts, etc.
You can install this mod separately or in conjunction with the previous texture mods.
Note: The author has also provided a performance-friendly version of the mod for lower-end systems.
Best Lighting Mod
The most important aspect of graphical improvement is the lighting. Good lighting mods can add so much to immersion and photorealism.
We’ve listed a couple of great lighting mods below. You can’t go wrong with either of them.
Enhanced Lights and FX
The most popular lighting mod in Nexusmod is the Enhanced Lights and FX. The mod removes artificial lights and only adds lights where there’s a source.
For example, caves and dungeons are generally darker as they lack natural lighting. On the opposite spectrum, cities or towns are much more lively and brighter.
The interior lighting is adjusted accordingly so that only light sources such as lamps, candles, and creaks from the roof can emit light.
Note: This mod does make dungeons and caves a bit darker, but you can easily adjust it to your liking while installing.
Another great lighting mod is the LUX VIA which works similarly to the Enhanced Lighting mod.
But this mod reworks the entire lighting system in the vanilla game, adding a certain cinematic feel to it.
As the mod is made from scratch, it also provides more versatility. You can choose to either change the interior, exterior light, or both by installing addons.
Install the Lux Orbis if you want to change the exterior lighting. Choose the LUX mods to change the interior lighting. Combine both of them to elevate the overall graphics.
Best Weather Replacer Mods
Like the general lighting, the weather also plays a huge role in improving the graphics of the game. It adds a layer of depth and immersion that was missing from the vanilla game.
Like any other mod, there are a ton of weather mods for Skyrim. But two of them stand out as they are highly rated by the community and are also compatible with other graphical overhaul mods.
The first one is Obsidian weather. It features over 90 different types of weather spread across the 12 in-game months.
This weather mod leans more towards realism with the sharp and natural atmosphere that it provides.
As the name suggests, this weather mod has highly saturated weather effects along with some complementing lighting effects as well.
Vivid Weather is one of the biggest weather overhaul mods adding in hundreds of weather effects such as rain storms, snowfall, cloud textures, fogs, rain effects, etc. The mod mainly aims to give the game a fantasy-like mood.
Best Environmental Mods
Most of your time, you will be venturing through the lands of Skyrim. So, it is equally important to improve the graphics of the environment as well.
There are many aspects to improve the overall quality of the environment, such as the water, grass, stones, mountains, etc. we’ve listed mod for all the categories below.
Skyrim Flora Overhaul SE
Starting with grass, the Skyrim Flora Overhaul is an ambitious mod that aims to replace all of Skyrim’s flora, including trees, bushes, grass, plants, etc.
Given the sheer size and texture of the mod, this may affect your performance a bit. So, if you’re on a lower-end system, you might need to tweak the settings for better performance.
Folkvangr – Grass and Landscape Overhaul
Folkvangr is currently my favorite grass mod for the game. Not only is its performance friendly, but the texture in the mod is also very high quality.
The grasses are rich and dense and feel distinct in every region of Skyrim. Once you have installed the mod, you’ll immediately feel the graphical improvement. Check out the foliage in Riften.
As the name suggests, the Majestic Mountain mod aims to make mountains more beautiful.
It does so by replacing the default mountain textures with a 4k version. It also improves the shadow of the mountain, giving the mountains more depth and structure.
Additionally, it also replaces small stony structures and hills that are every so scattered in Skyrim.
Blended Road improves upon the stony road of Skyrim. Instead of the vanilla stone mesh in the road, the mods add distinct stone formations.
You can even combine this mod with the majestic mountains mod to greatly improve the quality of the roads.
Underground – A Dungeon Texture Overhaul
Given how much time we spend on dungeon diving, it is essential to improve their textures. The Underground mod focuses mainly on revamping the textures of caves, ruins, dungeons, mines, forts, etc.
Water for ENB
Moving on to overhauling the water in Skyrim. Water for ENB is the best water mod as it provides additional customization with other popular ENBs.
Combining ENB with the high-resolution water effects can really make lakes, rivers, and ponds look hyper realistic.
Realistic Water Two
A great alternative to the Water for ENB mod is the Realistic Water Two. This mod is not as customizable with ENBs but is lightweight and performance friendly.
Best Weapon and Armor Graphics Mod
Now that we’ve covered the graphical mods for the environment and atmosphere, we can move on to improving the graphical texture of weapons and armor.
AMidianBorn Book of Silence SE
AMidianBorn Book of Silence is one of the best weapon and armor texture replacements on Nexusmods. It replaces many armor, weapons, unique items, and miscellaneous items.
Furthermore, the mod also retextures undead creatures such as the Draugr, Skeletons, Dragon Priests, etc.
This mod overhauls the clothes in the game by replacing the low-resolution vanilla textures of all the clothes and dresses with high-resolution meshes. Rusting clothing gives a fresh look to all the NPCs in the game.
Additionally, the author has also given the option to choose between 1k, 2k, or 4k clothing textures.
Best Enemies Retexture Mods
Last but not the least, we have texture improvement mods for all the creatures and enemies in the game.
As you’ll be spending a good amount of time fighting them, improving their looks helps boost the game’s overall graphics.
Project Clarity – Creature Textures Redone
Project Clarity is one of the bigger texture replacement mods for creatures. It aims to replace vanilla meshes with custom high-quality textures for almost all the creatures in the game.
There is also a variety of texture resolutions that you can choose from. They range from 1k all the way up to 8k.
Bellyaches HD Dragon Replacer Pack
While dragons do look majestic when they’re soaring in the sky, you can see low polygonal meshes when they’re up close.
Bellyaches HD Dragon Replacer mod fixes this by introducing HD textures for ten different types of dragons in the game, including the ones in the DLC expansion.
Not only does it makes the dragon look stunning, but it also makes fighting them feel more thrilling.
If you’re looking to improve your visual aesthetic, you’ve probably heard about ENBs often. In short, ENB enhances the game’s overall visuals, lighting, particle-effects, and adds a cinematic feel to the game in exchange for some performance.
The difference after installing an ENB is quite drastic, which is why many players endorse using it. When it comes to the best ENB, it is a personal preference, honestly.
Some players may prefer the dark and rustic feel of the game, whereas others may enjoy vivid and fantasy-like visual aesthetics.
SkyrimSE Re-Engaged ENB
This ENB preset is perhaps the most popular ENB preset on Nexusmod,s and it rightfully deserves it. This preset truly gives your game a next-gen visual upgrade. It is also currently my personal favorite ENB preset.
The mood of the ENB leans toward a vibrant yet natural appeal. You can find the Re-Engaged ENB mod over on Nexusmods.
Next, we have the most trending ENB preset, the Rudy ENB. The ENB focuses on giving a photorealistic look to the game. It is also a very demanding ENB, so ensure you have a decent system before adding it to your game.
The one aspect that the ENB excels at is compatibility with other mods. There are multiple Rudy ENB presets for weather mods, lighting overhaul mods, armor, dungeons, interiors, flora, etc.
Note: Installing multiple graphic overhaul mods can lead to conflicts and errors. So, we recommend sorting the mod load order via Loot to stabilize and optimize your game’s performance.