I spent countless hours, (okay, it was 363 hours), in Skyrim. While the game is great, things like visuals, user interface, and the same old weapons can get dulled over time. While browsing the Steam Workshop for mods, I didn’t even know where to begin.
There are hundreds and hundreds for just Skyrim alone. Things like weapon packs, user-made quests, and more populated charts. This got me thinking: what are some of the best mods of all time? Not just Skyrim, but all the time.
Where to begin with mods? Mods can include total conversion mods, which could replace nearly every aspect of the game to add new experiences, visual upgrades, reskins, characters, and more. It’s based on influence as well.
How did these mods change the landscape of gaming? It’s not exactly a small playing field. I went ahead and compiled a list of the 20 all-time best mods to make it easier for you.
We’re starting strong with Skywind, a total conversion mod to make Morrowind look and feel like Skyrim. At first, I thought it would be simply a visual mod, a nod to Morrowind fans. However, the creators want to essentially build Morrowind from the ground up using Skyrim’s toolkit. Talk about ambition.
Skywind hasn’t actually been released yet, but I believe it earns a spot for its impressive ambition. The team releases trailers of the ‘new’ gaming world, and it is breathtaking. As of right now, it seems the team is trying to nail down audio, so who knows when the actual release will be. Whenever it is, I can’t wait.
Third Age Total War
I remember playing this mod back in the day. It’s a total conversion mod for Medieval II: Total War, changing all units and locations to those from the Lord of the Rings universe. Ever wonder if 5,000 Hobbits can take down Sauron? Want to take the battle to the armies of Mordor?
Definitely check this mod out. You can play custom battles, scenarios, (iconic battles from the books and movies), and even take part in the ‘War of the Ring’ campaign. If you’re a fan of Lord of the Rings, the Total War series, and great cinematic gameplay, check out Third Age.
Darth Mod for Total War
Darth Mod is a series of mods created by DarthMod Productions to enhance Total War Games. Playing vanilla builds of games is great and all, but Darth Mods add great new features to the games like new music, tons of unique different units, and new campaigns.
It breathes life into older games. While the reception for Empire: Total War in 2010 was perhaps a bit lukewarm, I dare you to try Darth Mod for it. It’s a completely different game!
Game of Thrones for Crusader Kings II
I’m a huge fan of both Game of Thrones and Crusader Kings II. I’ve sunk hours into both franchises, so what’s better than combining the two? In Crusader Kings II, you control the head of a royal dynasty. You’re tasked with advancing your dynasty in medieval Europe.
You go about doing this by strategic marriage alliances, spying, assassinating, and warfare. For Game of Thrones, this is just a normal Tuesday. You can play as the great houses, or even the Night’s Watch and Jon Snow. You can change the events of the story, assassinating those pesky characters and advancing your dynasty.
Star Wars: Galactic Warfare
Our first Star Wars entry, Galactic Warfare trades in the gritty Middle Eastern setting of Call of Duty 4 to iconic Star Wars locales. You play as either rebel or alliance, gunning each other down in classic settings like the Mos Eisley spaceport.
If you’re a Call of Duty or Star Wars fan, this is a no-brainer. However, it’s smaller in scale, so you won’t get those sweeping memorable battles from Battlefront.
Just Cause 2 Multiplayer
What’s better than skydiving and using your grapple hook to hijack a jet fighter, then bombing an enemy oil depot? Doing it with friends of course! Reminiscent of the early Grand Theft Auto multiplayer mods, Just Cause 2 multiplayer throws over a thousand energetic players into one server.
I know the map is big, but when you have a bunch of tricksters looking for the next big ‘boom’, I’m sure it can get small quick. Definitely check this out if you want to have some serious fun with friends, experience new brands of mayhem, and of course, blow stuff up.
The Nameless Mod
If you’re as big of an original Deus Ex fan as I am, this is the mod to check out. Not to say that I don’t love the new Deus Ex titles with Ada Jensen. On the contrary; I have hours and hours sunk into those titles. However, something about the original just feels like home.
That’s why my ears perked up when I discovered The Nameless Mod. It takes place in a completely different city, with completely different characters, all with great new dialogue. If you’ve been thinking about replaying Deus Ex or are looking for something new, check this mod out.
Nehrim: At Fate’s Edge
Another Elder Scrolls mod. Nehrim plunges the player into a whole new world, (seriously, a world completely different from The Elder Scrolls). Developed by 12 people, Nehrim allows you to play as three different races, exploring new and exciting towns and cities.
You have a new main campaign, so you’ll never be left wanting for content.
Developed in 2009 by Studio Radi-8, NeoTokyo throws the player into a fast-paced near-futuristic world of NeoTokyo. Since it utilizes the Half-Life 2 framework, you know it’ll play well. The fact that it shares the same engine as Half-Life 2 engine ends there; things couldn’t be more different.
You need to be quick in NeoTokyo; it’s often an unforgivably hard and fast-paced shooter. However, if you can master the gameplay, you can play multiplayer with your friends in a sweet, techno future inspired by Ghost in the Shell.
Enderal: Forgotten Stories
Much like Nehrim, Enderal is a total conversion of an Elder Scrolls game. Developed by a small team at SureAI, Enderal involves a great fantasy quest, voiced by a full cast of characters. You’ll be thrown into a brand-new game world, rife with a new campaign, characters, and locations.
It reminds me of a lot of the Gothic series in look and vibe. If you’re looking for that kind of gritty vibe, then this is just the ticket. Also like Gothic, the game is unforgiving.
Ever thought you’d get killed by a rat? Well in the early game, it’s entirely possible. But it’s extremely rewarding. I have to say, if you’re on the search for greater gameplay using Skyrim’s engine, you can’t go wrong here.
This is an official prequel to the 2008 hit, Portal. Three people developed it. What is it with these small teams of super talented individuals and their ability to reshape the gaming landscape?!
The player takes on the role of Abby, the test subject, and takes part in 19 different trials using the portal gun.
If you fell in love with the Portal gameplay as so many did, this is obviously something you need to check out. There are hundreds of lines of dialogue, new advanced maps, and more.
Multi Theft Auto
In 2003, we were still reeling from the insanity of GTA: Vice City. Then comes Multi Theft Auto, the mod that finally answers that age-old question of “what if we could play Grand Theft Auto in multiplayer?”.
Originally titled Grand Theft Auto III: Alternative Multiplayer, Multi Theft Auto took the crazy worlds of the new GTA games and allowed players to crudely play together in Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City.
They made it a little more robust with the release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, adding content and more things to do. I add this because of the influence it had on gamers and game developers. This was truly the precursor to what we now take for granted as GTA Online.
Yes, you read it right. Team Fortress was originally a 1996 Quake mod that was eventually used by Valve in 1999. This, in turn, paved the way for the insanely influential Team Fortress 2.
The building blocks for what we’re familiar with today are all here: a rock-paper-scissors type of adversarial gameplay, different classes, and of course, a red and blue team. This simple multiplayer mod of Quake eventually would go onto make Valve nearly billions of dollars.
DayZ is based on ArmA2, a realistic military simulator/shooter for PC. The developers of DayZ took ArmA’s framework and totally made it their own. It created an entirely new game. The game drops you into the middle of a sparse, unforgiving rural landscape populated with shambling zombies and nefarious players.
This mod was an absolute hit in 2012. It was known for its permadeath, (you die, you lose everything, no do-overs), insane difficulty, limited resources, and cutthroat interactions between players online. You had to download third-party clients to get it to run, but it was eventually released as a standalone game.
Be warned: this game is about surviving, not running and gunning. You will die, a LOT. You have to be stealthy, smart, and quick. Happy hunting!
The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod
If you were a fan of the great Knight of the Old Republic and its sequel, this is a must-play mod. It takes the second game in the series and adds a lot of cut content that didn’t make it into the final release of Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords.
This adds so much that will make any dissatisfied KOTOR gamer happy about the somewhat lacking quests and ending of KOTOR II. The Knights of the Old Republic games are cheap, and often on sale. If you haven’t played either, do it now! And when you get the second, definitely download the restored content for a more cohesive, complete experience.
Long War for XCOM
XCOM Enemy Unknown is an addictive tactical turn-based shooter that pits the player versus the bloodthirsty hordes of alien invaders. Throughout the game, you develop new weapons, armor, and items to take back planet earth. Long War adds nuance and detail to an already award-winning game.
It takes the difficulty and turns it to 11. It also lives up to its name and makes the game long. On top of this, new voice acting, 12 player squads, and new missions populate this solid mod for a game that is already a 9/10.
The Dark Mod for Doom 3
I’m a huge fan of the Thief games by the now-defunct Looking glass Studios from the 1990s and early 2000s. It was a great series of stealth games that really emphasized sound and shadow, something that at the time was revolutionary.
Enter Doom 3, its dark shadows, gritty graphics, and more. Dark Mod puts you in the boots of the beloved snarky thief, Garrett, in the new and improved visuals of Thief using the Doom 3 engine. Things look beautiful. You’ll be immersed fully in the environment as you’re sneaking into a guild to steal all the loot. For Thief fans, this is a piece of art.
This is one of the most revolutionary multiplayer mods ever made. I actually didn’t know Counter-Strike was a mod of Half-Life until after years of playing it. It’s terrorists versus counter-terrorists in this multiplayer blockbuster.
This game ushered in more great shooters of the 2000s like the early Battlefield titles.
I’ve spent many a night talking trash with friends and strangers, trying to defuse bombs and get headshots. This is one of the best, and it carried on the tradition with the release of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
This is quite an achievement. They went ahead and recreated the first Half-Life game using Half-Life 2 engine.
It took 8 years, but it was well worth it. For both new players and old, Black Mesa breathes new life into the original tale of Gordon Freeman and his wild adventures at his new workplace. I have to say, playing a classic using the solid and reliable Source engine is addictive and comfortable.
Here it is, the king of all mods. Garry’s Mod defies all possible descriptions. It’s unbridled chaos at its best. It has all of the assets from Valve games and allows the player to create worlds, scenarios, characters, EVERYTHING. You can truly create nearly anything. It’s a playground of creation, destruction, fun, and hilarity.
I remember tethering a whale to a bus one time. People go further and create multiplayer games on the servers of Garry’s Mod. You can find great deathmatch servers, capture the flag type games, everything. The creativity alone earns the number one spot Garry’s Mod.
Now, go get modding.
There you have it. The 20 all-time best game mods. It wasn’t easy, but it sure was satisfying. You can pick up these mods anywhere, and they add hours of fun to games we all know and love.