With Skyrim having been out for nearly a decade now, it's only natural that things start to feel a bit old. The same quests and the same enemies remain in the game from playthrough to playthrough, which is why a lot of players are turning towards mods to make the game a bit more interesting and unpredictable.
If you feel like Skyrim is particularly easy, even at Legendary difficulty, there's a whole host of mods that tweak key gameplay features to make things much harder. From adjusting enemy difficulty to changing how loot works, here are the top picks of difficulty mods, ranked.
Updated on July 29th, 2021 by Anastasia Maillot: Thanks to an active and dedicated modding community, Skyrim is likely to stay alive for years to come despite its apparent age by now. Every year, new mods and technology are introduced that helps to bring the game a step closer to today's standards. That also includes features like increased difficulty.
On top of these five additional difficulty-increasing mods that tweak enemies and the economy of Skyrim, a helpful and short step-by-step guide on how to easily install Skyrim mods has also been added for those only beginning their modding journey.
How To Download Mods For Skyrim
- Go to Nexus Mods and create an account.
- Download Vortex from Nexus Mods. It's a mod manager and downloading tool connected to Nexus Mods.
- Launch Vortex. In the Games tab on the left menu, connect Skyrim to the software through the Search function.
- Once the game is detected in the Games tab, choose a mod on the Nexus Mod site.
- Open the mod page, and check any requirements for the mod. Some mods require the Unofficial Skyrim Patch and/or SKSE or even SkyUI.
- On the right side next to Download, choose Vortex. The Vortex software will then install the mod automatically.
- On Vortex, navigate to the Mods tab and make sure to click Enable on the downloaded mod.
- Start Skyrim and the new mod.
15 Trade And Barter
One of the best and most immersive economy mods has to be Trade & Barter, which adds a bunch of buts and ifs to the prices of goods in Skyrim. Speech alone won't be enough to get a good price. Instead, variables like race, location, relationship, and even faction ranks can affect how much money merchants will demand.
The mod is incredibly customizable, so any features not wanted can be turned off from the menu screen. It really allows players to tailor the settings to whatever experience they most want out of the game.
14 ASIS - AI Overhaul
There are countless mods out there that tweak the AI of Skyrim's enemies, and for good reason. A lot of the time the AI is disappointingly slow, making the Dragonborn feel like the smartest fighter in all of Skyrim. However, with ASIS - AI Overhaul, this won't be the case anymore.
Enemies can now cast complex spells that were previously unavailable to them. They can make use of consumable items like potions, as well as actually have complex perks just like the Dragonborn. The cherry on top is that enemies will also spawn in greater numbers, to make things even more of a nightmare.
13 Organized Bandits In Skyrim
Bandits are simply the bread and butter of Skyrim, but they can be pretty boring and predictable to fight against after a while. Organized Bandits gives players not only variety but a greater challenge by introducing far more interesting and powerful bandit types into the game.
Of course, with harder enemies, better loot also comes along. Some bandits will drop special rings, and each of them also has a chance to drop a lore book detailing the lore behind that specific bandit type. With this mod, taking over a bandit stronghold will never feel the same again.
12 Deadly Dragons
Another cornerstone of Skyrim are dragons and fighting them. The first encounter with these giant beasts feels frightening and impressive, but after that, they're pretty predictable, just like every other enemy.
The Deadly Dragons mod remedies this issue specifically. It introduces more unique dragon varieties with unique attacks and patterns, which will actually make the Dragonborn fight for their survival the next time they face off against a beast of the skies.
11 Revenge Of The Enemies
Speaking of enemies in general, players preferring a more general tool to make their time in Skyrim's combat more immersive might want to try the Revenge of the Enemies mod that brings battles to the next level.
Each enemy type now has more abilities that are special to them. Draugr can now have access to more dangerous shouts, while vampire enemies can suddenly turn themselves into bats. It also updates a lot of Skyrim's bosses to have way more unique features and gameplay mechanics, forcing players to use their wits when in combat.
10 MorrowLoot Ultimate
Starting off with loot mods, which generally don't make the game that much harder but just a bit more realistic, there's MorrowLoot. Skyrim's loot scaling can be a little too convenient for some, and at times it's downright nonsensical — especially when common bandits start walking around with top-tier equipment.
With MorrowLoot, some types of weapons and unique gear can only be gained by killing a character that could realistically have them. For instance, orcs will tend to carry orcish gear and the Thalmor have elven gear. In general, great loot will be much harder to find.
Forget about tweaking how much special gear you can find in chests. This whole idea of controlling loot can be taken a step further by controlling the amount of any type of loot in any and all chests found around Skyrim.
It's nice to loot a whole chest of cool stuff at the end of a dungeon, but it makes the experience a bit too easy. Scarcity adjusts the way all types of loot works. Chests will have smaller yields of loot, so you won't be swimming in gold within fifteen levels of playing the game.
8 SkyTEST - Realistic Animals And Predators
The animals in Skyrim add another layer of immersion. Skyrim is a wild northern province with a bunch of natural threats, like the fearsome sabercat and the territorial cave bear. With SkyTEST, all these iconic animal NPCs are changed to behave in a more realistic manner.
It also changes combat for these animals, making them much more challenging to deal with. It's a bit droll how all hostile animals just thoughtlessly run at you in the same way, from wolves to cave bears. So SkyTEST's realism is a welcome and somewhat challenging addition.
Let's really switch gears here and take immersion to the next level. Animals aside, another major factor of Skyrim's environment is its weather. It's pretty evident it's extremely cold and harsh in Skyrim, but you never actually need to worry about this in the vanilla version of the game. Until now.
Frostfall is one of the most popular mods out there as it adds the concept of making campfires and managing exposure to extreme cold. Walking over to Winterhold won't be that easy now, as you'll have to fight off hypothermia and avoid cold rivers that can seriously damage your character's health.
6 Realistic Needs
Hypothermia is one thing, but what about other kinds of needs? Skyrim introduced cooking as an aspect of the game, but Bethesda failed to make it an integral part of gameplay due to how little food items actually heal the player. Not to worry, however, because there's a mod to fix this too.
The Realistic Needs mod introduces thirst, sleep and hunger as three basic needs you'll have to manage during your adventures. Your character will need to think about hydration, as well as making food. If not, they'll deal with the effects of starvation. Sleeping and actually making use of bedrolls and inns is also a challenging and welcome addition to the game.
Now that the whole survival aspect of Skyrim has been covered, let's talk about enemies, because that's the part of the game that will really bump of the difficulty. Starting off with very small and basic tweaks is the Requiem mod, which is focused on making combat more realistic for each type of enemy.
While Requiem doesn't bump up the difficulty of enemies directly, it changes the way you need to tackle combat and fight off certain threats. Rather than just running at things with a sword in hand, players will have to make use of other skills and gameplay features to survive the encounter.
4 High Level Enemies
With combat brought to a more strategic level, it's time to actually make some of the enemies you encounter a bit more consistent with the Dragonborn's leveling process. Although Skyrim introduces a light scaling of its enemies, the High Level Enemies mod makes this aspect of the game even better.
New and daunting enemies will be introduced as soon as you reach level 10, so you'll be be faced with challenge fairly early on in the game. This doesn't just include the old, well-known critters everyone's familiar with, but new beastly variants as well.
3 Smilodon - Combat Of Skyrim
Even if the health pool and level of enemies is tweaked, there's still the problem of having these incredibly predictable AIs running around doing the same thing you've always seen them do. That's why a mod like Smilodon is an absolute necessity because it makes Skyrim's AIs much smarter.
Thanks to the mod hostile NPCs will play in a much smarter way, which will turn combat into a real challenge even for seasoned players. You'll have to watch out for attacks of opportunity, as well as intelligent blocks from enemies with shields.
2 Rebalanced Encounter Zones And Leveled Actors
Immersion and enemies have been covered, but what about the areas themselves, such as the dungeons? This falls into the category of enemies as well. Skyrim's strength as an open-world experience comes from the fact that you can go anywhere you want at any level or point in time in the game. The best part? You'll probably be able to defeat any dungeon in question due to level scaling.
The Rebalanced Encounter Zones mod will make this impossible, by introducing those classic Morrowind-style dungeons that would not scale to your level or skill. If a location was tough, you'd have to come back later and try again. No more walking into a late-game dungeon without being prepared.
1 Dead Is Dead
Ultimately, Skyrim is a pretty forgiving game in the sense that you can always save and load and try beating and enemy as many times as you want. You don't really lose anything in the process, other than the time, of course. Unless, you have this nifty little mod.
Dead is Dead is a mod that does exactly what you'd imagine: make death permanent. Once you die, your character is permanently dead. You won't be able to continue playing with them as long as the mod is installed. It's definitely not a nice permanent mod to have, but for challenge runs to ramp up the difficulty it really puts the stakes up high.
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