Skyrim Races Ranked from Worst to Best

skyrim races
Hair mods got this Nord looking fly.

Which Skyrim race is best, and why?

It’s no secret that I am an avid Skyrim player. I have wandered the mountains of Tamriel, flown over it in the T.A.R.D.I.S., and jumped off a mountain. I have given my Khajiits fantastic abs and been eaten alive by Alduin several different times. With ten playable races, you can make the Skyrim as interesting as you want. Be an Orc invited into the strongholds or be a Khajiit greeted warmly by the traveling caravans (and maybe following them down the moonpath to Elsweyr). The game is what you make it, but I bet we can all agree some of the races are better than others. So, let’s take a walk through them.

Each character of Skyrim has a base skill level of 15. All characters have certain enhanced skills, which have a base level of 20. Each race has a primary skill that begins at base level 25. The list below is my opinion, and numbered from worst to best.


10. Dunmer

Pros: The Dark Elf starts with bonus points in Light Armor, Sneak, Alchemy, Allusion, and Alteration. Their primary skill is Destruction, and Ancestor’s Wrath is pretty cool.

Cons: Now, don’t call me a racist. But…I hate the elves. I hate playing all of them. The Dark Elf is no exception. If you like to walk around and set people on fire, fine. Go for it. Dance around the field and shoot some sparks. If you’re more of a fighter, this entire character is a waste of time for you. I don’t know anyone who goes around Skyrim without swinging a weapon. What’s the point of this?       


Then the die is cast, and once again my blade will taste Nightingale blood!

9. Breton

Pros: The Breton has a few strong skills. His enhanced skills are Speech, Alchemy, Illusion, Restoration, and Alteration. If you’re into magic, the Breton is a good choice. His primary skill is conjuration, and that gives him the ability to create things earlier than some of the other races. He’s also one of three races that begins the game with three spells. The special skills of the Breton are his only saving grace from last place: Dragonskin and magic resistance. Spend your days absorbing other people’s magic and getting a resistance to their magical attacks? Useful!

Cons: Everything else? The Breton has no bonuses to fighting. His one-handed skills, two-handed skills, armor skills? No bonus there at all. If you want to run around and smash people, this isn’t your man. Puny humans.

Your luck had to run out sometime.


Pros: The enhanced skills of Smithing, Blocking, Archery, Destruction and Alteration. Their primary skill, One-Handed combat is useful if you’re a sword and shield fighter. And…congratulations Redguard! You can resist 50% of poison. That’s great for the one time that I get sprayed by a spider. And that stamina boost for 60 seconds. Guess I can’t forget that.

Cons: These guys want to kill Saadia. She seems nice enough. Redguard characters don’t have any bonuses to armor, so if you charge into battle, they’re not good for that. Poison resistance is pretty much a waste of time, and if you’re the thieving type, the Redguard isn’t great at sneaking, Lockpicking, or Pickpocketing. Honestly, I can take a stamina potion. Everything he does can be done a different way. Seriously, leave Saadia alone.

If you’re looking for opportunities to make some coin, well…I’m your man.

7. Argonian

Pros: The Argonian ranks higher than my last few characters for a couple reasons. He’s got claws, so his weaponless attack has a six-point bonus. If you’re building a weaponless character, the Argonian is one of two options. The Argonian’s enhanced skills are Light Armor, Sneak, Pickpocket, Restoration and Alteration. Your prime skill is Sneaking, and your race ability allows you to regenerate health ten times faster for a minute. The Argonian can also breath underwater. I know many people think this is useless, but I love to travel by water. ALSO THE UNDERWATER CHESTS. If you’re a fan of the Falskaar expansion, there’s A WHOLE SHIP you must search. Get down there with your bad self.

Cons: You’re resistant to disease. WHO CARES. Also, regenerating health faster for one minute once a day? COME ON! Also, they’re ugly. And that guy who tells me to put out the lighthouse fire to screw me over? What a jerk.

Wood elves make good scouts and thieves, and there are no finer archers in all of Tamriel.

6. Bosmer

Pros: The Bosmer ranks higher than the Dunmer because of their starting allocation. Their primary skill? Archery! I love a good bow fight. (Otherwise known as hiding in the woods and shooting people.) Their enhanced skills solidify them as the real wood people. These skills, Light Armor, Sneak, Lockpicking, Pickpocketing, and Alchemy are exactly what you’d expect from people who live magically in the woods.

Cons: Here we go: Welcome back to the 50% poison resistance. Spiders anywhere? No? Okay, worthless. You also have a 50% resistance to disease? Okay, I can cure that quickly with a potion. Command animal, their race ability, is the stupidest thing. This isn’t actually useful for more than the first fifteen or so levels, because you can learn to do the same thing through the game with every other character.

Upon my honor, I do swear undying loyalty to the Emperor.

5. Imperial

Pros: The Imperial’s special gift, Imperial Luck, is a beautiful thing. As you search people and containers you find a bit more gold than any of the other races. It ends up being about ten pieces each place. This doesn’t seem like much, but I like to search for things and you can bet this gets me rich after a bit. The power of the Imperial, which is cool but also useless after a while, is Voice of the Emperor. Once a day you can calm down everyone around you for 60 seconds. The Imperials enhanced skills, Heavy Armor, Block, One-Handed Destruction and Enchanting make them formidable fighters.

Cons: The Imperials and the Nords are human, and for that, they are just about worthless. Skyrim belongs to the Nords, but the Imperials try and take it anyways. Spoiler alert: They’re both only as good as you make them and the war is a waste. Voice of the Emperor can only be used once a day, so unless you wait 24 hours to use it again, you might as well just learn the spell. Their primary skill of Restoration makes no sense to me. Ugh, rude Imperials.

I fight because I must.

4. Nord

Pros: They’re not the Imperials. Their enhanced skills of Smithing, Block, One-Handed, Light Armor, and Speech are beneficial. These skills make the Nord one of the best fighters in Skyrim, and on top of that, the Nord’s primary skill is Two-Handed. As far as fighters of Skyrim go, the Nord is the second-best option. As a Skyrim native, they have a 50% resistance to frost, which is useful if you use Frostfall. The race ability Battle Cry is really helpful in the first moments of the game, because you can make targets flee for thirty seconds.

Cons: Leave me alone about Talos. Also, the battle cry stops being useful after maybe fifteen to twenty levels? Depending on how fast you go through the game, you learn a shout that does the same thing and can be used more than once a day, making it the better choice of the two powers.

You idiot. Do you even know who I am?

3. Altmer

              Pros: I wanted to hate the High Elves, I did. Just the fact that they’re called High Elves makes me angry. Unfortunately, they have some very cool, very useful skills. If you prefer to play as a mage, the Altmer is exactly the race you need. They have all the magical skills enhanced. This means that their Conjuration, Destruction, Restoration, Alteration and Enchanting are all above the norm. Their primary skill, Illusion, makes you a more skillful mage to begin with than any other character.

                Cons: The Altmer’s race power just outlines how much of jerks they are. Highborn? Seriously!? Anyways, Highborn allows you to regenerate 25% of your magicka for 60 seconds. Useful if in a fight. Can only be used once per day. Also, I still think they’re jerks.

Welcome to our stronghold, Blood-Kin.


Pros: I have heard so much hate on the Orc, but I don’t let it get to me. I have two playstyles: Sneaky and Tank. I’m betting you guessed that the Orc is my tank. As I progress through the game I find myself smithing everything. I have built all the armor I wear and I spend all my time trying to progress faster. (I want Dragonplate and I want it now!) Let me tell you what makes the Orc special: Berserker. Berserker is the Orc’s race power, and it is the best of the race powers. While using Beserker you deliver double damage and take half damage. You become the most powerful, durable character. It’s only for 60 seconds, but you can kill a lot of people in a minute. Plus, who doesn’t like being calmly invited into every stronghold? Malacath would be proud.

Cons: Before we get any further, the Orc has zero business as a mage. If you want to be magical in any way, shape, or form, there is zero point in being an Orc. Yes, he gets a starting bonus in destruction and alteration, but that is a tiny thing that doesn’t really pay off for me. He doesn’t have the high elf’s magicka regeneration or even a resistance to frost or something. I love him and I hate him.

Khajiit has wares.

1. Khajiit

The Khajiit is my power character. First and foremost, I use lighting mods that make Tamriel realistically dark in the night time. Every race has their special skill, and the Khajiit’s is Night Eye. For sixty seconds, you have night vision. Unlike the special traits of other races, you can use this more than once a day. Now, for the rest of the cat’s magical powers.

Pros:  I have two play styles: Barbaric warrior and sneaky sneaker. The Khajiit will never compare to Orcs as barbaric powerhouses. The Khajiit is the consummate sneak. You can be in the woods, one hundred yards out, confidently stringing your legendary Nightingale bow. Primed to rise to the top of the Thieves’ Guild and lead the Dark Brotherhood, the Khajiit’s main enhanced powers are one-handed combat, archery, lockpicking, pickpocketing and alchemy, which all begin at the 20-skill statistic. The primary skill of the Khajiit is exactly what you’d expect of a cat-people: Sneak. You might not be a Cathay-raht (look it up) but you can certainly be the most powerful assassin in all of Tamriel. A final, useful, bonus of the Khajiit is their weaponless attacks. The Khajiit claws are as powerful as some weapons and will serve their purpose in surprise hand-to-hand combat (or, you know, in the many brawls you can encounter across the world).

Cons: You’re not the Cathay-raht. (You better have looked it up.) In the sake of fairness, the Khajiit is not a powerhouse character. You would be better off with an Orc or Imperial. 

In conclusion, the Khajiit should be your main character for his sneak, his eyesight, and his bow proficiency. No one else compares. However, in the interest of fairness, these are just the starting characteristics and bonuses of all characters. It’s true that as you progress, most of these bonuses are overshadowed by things you learn and improve on your own. Khajiit still has the best wares. Tell me who you prefer, and why!

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A gamer through and threw (like grenades across a map). Dropped my first motherboard and never forgot it. Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start.
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jlaskowski97's picture

jlaskowski97 4 years 9 months ago

I always play the Bosmer race, but I agree on some of the cons of picking that specific character type. Never once have I used the "Command Animal" ability. Resistance to disease doesn't do anything against a vampire in my experience, so it's worthless to me. I do find poison resistance useful, though! Maybe I just run into more spiders than the average user. The worst thing is that Skooma doesn't affect me. I know that sounds weird, but I've never seen the effects of the drug in action!

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