Despite being a decade old (yes, it’s been that long), Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is still one of the most popular videogames in the market. Because of its enduring appeal, the Skyrim community has managed to keep the game relevant after all these years, with Bethesda even re-releasing a remastered Special Edition back in 2016, while VR versions of the game were released in 2018.
The remastered Special Edition contains all of the original game’s contents, along with the three DLC add-ons (Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn, respectively), as well as even more modding capabilities and options. At the start of a new decade, we’re seeing new players discovering Skyrim for the first time, but they now have a veritable knowledge-base of tactics, information, and information about the game’s contents that their gaming forebears didn’t have access to. Lucky!
In this article, we discuss the different races of Skyrim, the best races for specific play types, and some background info on each race.
Known as the Altmer, the High Elves are perhaps one of Tamriel’s most powerful Magicka users, second only to the Bretons. Descendants of the long-gone and mythological Aldmer’s, the Altmer are the tallest and fairest of the humanoid races. They are also the Tamrielic Empire’s biggest threat, with the Altmer heading the Aldmeri Dominion, a powerful faction comprised of elves, mostly Altmers and Bosmers.
As natural Magicka users, the High Elf is Skyrim’s best race for mage users and players who prefer offensive magic-based attacks. They are exceptionally adept at Destruction magic and are a force to be reckoned with even in lower levels, thanks to their starting spells Flames, Fury, and Healing. The High Elf’s racial power, Highborn, allows a High Elf character to regenerate 25% of their maximum Magicka every second, ensuring that they never run out of Mana to cast spells.
Skyrim’s best race for archers and rogue-based players, the Wood Elves (known as Bosmer) are a race of Elves living in the heavily forested region of Valenwood. Wood Elves long rejected the trappings of civilization, preferring instead to live amongst nature and animals. They’ve cultivated such a close connection with the natural world that they’ve been able to build their cities atop giant walking trees that forever wander Valenwood.
Their agility is also useful for skills like Sneak, Lockpicking, and Light Armor, making them a great race for Thief-based plays. Their racial power, Command Animal, allows them to control a wild beast for 60 seconds, providing the player with a surprisingly strong ally if the situation calls for it. Wood elves are natural archers, so it’s best to stick to this weapon all throughout your game.
Known as the Dunmer, the Dark Elves are notorious for being mysterious and delving into dark arts. Originally part of a race of Mers that served the Daedric God Boethia, the Dunmers are natives of Morrowind, and are known for being evasive and shifty, all of which belie their mastery of Magicka.
This race has favored skills in Illusion, Alteration, Alchemy, Destruction, and Sneak, making Dark Elves perfect for players who wish to play two different play styles: Thief and Mage. The Dark Elf’s racial power is Ancestor’s Wrath, which covers the player with a Flame Cloak that damages any enemy near you for 10HP for a minute.
Sometimes referred to as ‘Manmerri’, the Bretons are a race of half-human and half-Aldmeri peoples that inhabit the province of High Rock. This unique mix makes them the most powerful Magicka users in all of Tamriel, even besting the proud High Elves. Little is known about this strange people, only that they are excellent mages, with high resistances to magic, and are generally a minority population in most settlements across the empire.
Bretons can use any kind of magic, but their favored skills include Alteration, Restoration, Conjuration, Alchemy, Illusion, and Speech. Their starting spells include Flames, Conjure Familiar, and Healing, making them very formidable even in the early game. Their race power, Dragonskin, allows Bretons to absorb 50% of the Magicka from incoming spells for up to a minute.
Despite their physical appearances, the Orcs, also known as Orsimer, are actually part of the Mer people, meaning they are a different variant of Elf. They are the fiercest, toughest, and strongest warriors in all of Tamriel, preferring steel over magic. They are descended from the ancient Aedroth Trinimac, through the Daedric God Malacath.
The Orcs are the best race in Skyrim for players who are used to tanking multiple enemies and taking them on in hand-to-hand combat. Orcs are more on the defensive side of the warrior spectrum, with skills in Heavy Armor, One-Handed, and Two-Handed. Orcs are also master smiths, with skills in both Smithing and Enchanting, allowing them to create armor and weapons that boost their natural defenses. Their race power, Berserk, gives them double damage in melee combat for 60 seconds, while also reducing incoming damage by half.
Natives of the imperial capital of Cyrodiil, the Imperials are considered to be the most cosmopolitan, urbane, and sophisticated of all the races in Tamriel. Their access to some of the best schools in the empire allow them to become extremely shrewd traders, diplomats, and craftsmen. Although human, they have a knack for controlling Magicka, allowing them to fuse both magic and muscle in the battlefield.
The Imperial race is the best race in Skyrim for people playing as Battlemages, as their choice skills include both physical skills like Heavy-Armor and One-Handed with more magical skills like Destruction, Restoration, and Enchanting. Their race power, Voice of the Emperor, allows them to calm down any nearby person for 60 seconds.
Tall, fair-haired, hardy, and strong, the Nords are the native warriors of Skyrim. They’re known for their incredible resistance to the cold, both natural and magical. Experts in all forms of physical warfare, the Nords live in a warrior society that’s fueled by both honor and martial glory. In Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a Nordic group called the Stormcloaks are attempting to liberate Skyrim from Imperial control.
As natural warriors, they lack many magic skills, which they make up for with sheer brute force: their favored skills include both One-Handed and Two-Handed, and it’s augmented by Block, Light Armor, Smithing, and Speech. Their race power, Battle Cry, makes nearby enemies flee the area for 30 seconds.
Hailing from the desert province of Hammerfell, the Redguard are a race of Men that are known for being one of the most skilled warriors in Tamriel. If the Nords of Skyrim represent brute force, then the Redguards of Hammerfell represent graceful combat. Redguards are known for being masters of every weapon known to Man and Mer, but they prefer the use of Sword and Shield.
Redguards are the best race in Skyrim for people looking for a lightly-armored warrior like a scout or a skirmisher, especially considering Redguards favored skills in One-Handed, Block, and Archery. The Redguard can also wield Magicka, not as strong or as adept as the Mers or the Imperials, but their Alteration and Destruction skills are still something to contend with. Their race power, Adrenaline Rush, helps them regenerate stamina 10 times faster for up to a minute.