All Versions Of Skyrim Compared To One Another & What’s Changed

Summary

  • Bethesda has released multiple versions of Skyrim on different consoles over the years, offering slightly different experiences.
  • The PC version is considered superior due to graphics, modding, and console commands. PlayStation versions had initial bugs.
  • The Anniversary Edition is the most comprehensive with enhanced graphics, new mechanics, added quests, and mod support.


The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim is one of the RPG genre’s best-loved titles, and developer Bethesda Game Studios has capitalized on this popularity by publishing versions of the game across separate console generations. Bethesda’s unique approach to filling out the decade-long wait for The Elder Scrolls 6 has been subject to plenty of jokes and wry commentary, but there’s no denying it’s yielded positive results for the company. It’s also been rewarding for Skyrim fans willing to reinvest in the title on different consoles, as more content has been added to it with each update.

Trying to bring something new to the table every few years when releasing the exact same game is not an easy feat, but Bethesda – with the help of its modding community – has managed to do so for the most part. Whether a player has only ever experienced the original game or has played each of Skyrim‘s many different iterations, each of these versions offers a slightly different taste of the same dragon-slaying dish. There’s no wrong way to play the game, but there are definitely versions that provide a more comprehensive experience overall.

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Skyrim Base Edition (2011)

PC, PS3, Xbox 360

A Dragon roaring in Skyrim

Available on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 upon release, the original Skyrim was a truly epic RPG. There were a number of hiccups involving bugs in Skyrim, but those imperfections have cemented themselves in players’ memories, with some of the best glitches in Skyrim ending up being seen as endearing qualities. The unintentional silliness and hilarity that these bugs and glitches brought to a serious game was enough to immediately turn Skyrim into one of the most memorable (and meme-able) games to ever exist.

One thing to note with the base edition is that not every version that not every version is equal. The PC version has always been hailed as inherently superior for a number of reasons, including better graphics and framerates as well as the invaluable ease of access when it came to modding and console commands. The Xbox 360 version worked as intended, but Skyrim on the PlayStation 3 was heavily affected by a nasty bug that erased game memory after a certain point in playtime. This was eventually fixed, but Skyrim was borderline unplayable on the PS3 at launch.

Skyrim Special Edition (2016)

PC, PS4, Xbox One

A road in Skyrim Special Edition right next to the same area in the base version

Five years after the fifth Elder Scrolls title dropped, a remastered version was released for consoles and PC, with Nintendo Switch following three years later. As expected, the Skyrim: Special Edition included upgraded graphics and polished effects as well as all three DLCs – Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn – included in the purchase. It also introduced mods for consoles, which was a benefit previously only afforded to PC versions of the game.

More bad news for PlayStation players followed the Remaster’s release, however. Although the corrupted saves bug had been fixed, the number of mods available to PS4 was only a handful compared to those allowed on the Xbox. Sony put this restriction in place over fears of console security, and there wasn’t much Bethesda could do to fix it. The PS4 version is still a good way to play Skyrim, but it’s a disappointing option for anyone looking for a heavily modded version of the game.

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On PC, however, the Special Edition made mods better than ever. As a 64-bit version of the game, it can hold up significantly better with heavy modding, resulting in the potential for more insane changes than ever before. Although it took a while for the modding scene to catch up with where it had been on the original iteration of the game, trying to play the original on PC today will result in a lack of compatibility with many of the best Skyrim mods to overhaul the game.

Skyrim Switch Release (2017)

Nintendo Switch

The Champion's Tunic from Breath of the Wild in Skyrim.

When Skyrim Special Edition port for Nintendo finally rolled around, some players were skeptical that a game as massive as Skyrim could run smoothly on a portable system. Skyrim on Switch may lack survival mode but it still handled Special Edition pretty well. The Nintendo Switch port supported the enhanced graphics and even offered motion control as a unique bonus, something players considered incredibly entertaining for its gimmicky difficulty. There were a couple of problems with compressed text and audio, but overall the Nintendo version was very well received.

In the modding scene, the Switch release takes another step backwards, as the platform offers no mod compatibility whatsoever. As a consolation prize, motion controls are included for a variety of purposes, including general sword-and-board action, aiming bows, casting spells, and picking locks. It’s also possible to traverse Skyrim in a Link outfit in the Switch version, an exciting addition for The Legend of Zelda fans.

Skyrim VR (2017)

SteamVR, PlayStation VR

A first-person view of someone holding a sword and looking at a dragon in Skyrim VR

Virtual Reality is a more recent video game trend, but one that Skyrim made good use of. Skyrim VR added to the adventures of the Dragonborn, taking on a whole new universe of immersion. At the same time the Special Edition was released for Nintendo Switch, Bethesda had optimized Skyrim for VR across a range of platforms that offered it. VR in terms of slaying dragons and flinging spells at the undead introduced a whole new experience for even the most seasoned Skyrim fans, injecting the gameplay with an added layer of intensity and difficulty.

Naturally, spending hours immersed in VR can lead to a certain amount of fatigue compared to other Skyrim iterations, but it does make the rigors of being the Dragonborn feel a little more palpable. Carving out an existence in Skyrim is harsh, and playing it in VR makes that more apparent than ever before. Eating 20 cheese-wheels and other foods in Skyrim at once, running for days on end, and never getting a wink of sleep is bound to take more of a toll on VR players than any other kind, a prospect that could be intimidating to some and exciting for others.

Skyrim: Anniversary Edition (2021)

PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch

Skeletons in Skyrim Anniversary Edition

Most recently, Bethesda celebrated Skyrim‘s 10th birthday in 2021 with a special Anniversary Edition that was made available for all of its platforms. Players can purchase the game as a whole, which includes all of Skyrim‘s base game and its three DLCs, or they can upgrade a copy of the Special Edition to the Anniversary Edition for much cheaper. The game upgrades include further enhanced graphics and gameplay along with reduced loading screens. Fishing has been added as a new mechanic and all the approved Creation Club mods are present, as well as some brand-new mods to tweak the appearances of weapons and armor.

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Some more additions to the Skyrim: Anniversary Edition include a Survival Mode mod, which makes the consequences in the game far more realistic and dangerous. For example, the Dragonborn needs to sleep, cure any diseases and eat enough food before too much time passes, or they will suffer permanent damage. There are also some added quests in the newest edition of Skyrim, going by the name of Saints and Seducers. A host of new crafting ingredients and recipes are available to find all over the world thanks to the Anniversary Edition‘s Rare Curios DLC.

Which Version Of Skyrim To Play

Special & Anniversary Edition Are Both Great Options

After all the years that have passed since the original release of Skyrim, the initial incarnation of the game has been superseded by subsequent releases. For a general playthrough, it’s best to look to the Anniversary Edition, which contains the most impressive package of content and graphics overall. The Special Edition is still a great way to play overall, however, so upgrading shouldn’t feel imperative. PC is ideal for mods, but modern Xbox versions also beat out PlayStation in that regard. Buying the game on the Switch is great for portable play. The VR version could be overwhelming for a first playthrough, but it’s an interesting option for veterans or VR enthusiasts.

Players looking to try a different kind of Skyrim Special Edition should check out the official video of Skyrim’s release via Amazon Echo and Alexa:

Skyrim has been such a successful title that Bethesda has deemed it worthy of multiple releases, and although this ritual has become a joke among Elder Scrolls fans, it would appear that Skyrim will make frequent appearances in game stores for a while to come. The only thing that will cease the addition of new versions of The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim is the inevitable release of The Elder Scrolls 6.

Source: Bethesda Softworks/YouTube

  • Skyrim

    Platforms:
    Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S

    Publishers:
    Bethesda Softworks

    Release Date :
    November 11, 2011

    Mode:
    Single player

    Rating:
    9/10 Steam; 4.3/5 Gog.com