This question has been asked so many times and yet rarely will you see a comprehensive and thorough explanation between all the different versions of Skyrim that there are today. In the video above I will talk you through the differences, but in case that you prefer to read at your own pace here is a written guide as well.
It’s not that there are a dozen Skyrim editions or so, it’s just that Bethesda has somehow managed to make it very hard to understand the differences between them, for those who are just now coming into contact with any of them. Players need to know what they’re buying and what’s the better product.
Let’s start in a chronological way, it’s the easiest way really.
In the Beginning
There was ‘just‘ Skyrim. The base game launched on November 11, 2011 and was a buggy mess. Although it is easily one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time, let’s not forget just how crash-prone and full of bugs it was.
Skyrim LE (Legendary Edition)
On June 4th 2013 the LE version was released and it was simply a packaged version of the game containing all 3 official DLCs as well as additions such as:
- Mounted combat
- Combat cameras
- Legendary difficulty mode
- Legendary skills (you can master every perk and level up all your skill trees)
So essentially it was a ‘package‘ that included everything up to that point and you could just buy it and have ‘everything‘ installed at once. That’s still basically the ‘base‘ game of Skyrim + other goodies that came after it.
This version is what is playable on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
Skyrim SE (Special Edition)
During 2016, Bethesda announced a remastered version of Skyrim. Hence the confusion a lot of players had between ‘Skyrim Remastered‘ and ‘Skyrim Special Edition‘ – which is basically the same game with two different names players used interchangeably.
This version of the game was met with a lot of criticism from players who already paid for the game previously and all DLCs in one way or the other. So Bethesda allowed everyone who owned LE to automatically acquire SE at no additional cost up until a certain point, via STEAM.
Skyrim SE is basically a much better version of Skyrim, no matter what someone else tells you. It features everything that LE does, as well as:
- 64bit engine
- Remastered graphics & effects
- Volumetric god rays
- Dynamic depth of field
- Screen-space reflections
- New water and snow shaders
- The ability to play PC mods on consoles (most important for many)
However, this is NOT the reason why Skyrim SE is so important today in 2020. The reason why it’s so important is because all the major upcoming mods are developed for it, almost exclusively.
It used to be when it first came out (and a year or two after) that players would not want to buy it BECAUSE all of the major mods were for LE and SE was a mod desert so to speak, but now the reverse is true. Mod authors are embracing a better game engine that provides far more resources and stability for their work.
So before we go into mods (which is pretty much what keeps this game alive today), let’s recap quickly.
Who Should Buy LE or SE?
Owners of the previous, or second previous if you count the latest upcoming consoles, should get LE. This means Playstation 3 & Xbox 360.
If you’re on Xbox One or PS4, then SE is your game.
Everyone else on PC who never got into modding Skyrim should go with SE since the price difference is less than 10% and there is no question about the performance & stability gains SE brings to the table plus future mod support.
There are also promotions and game marketplaces where you can often get the game for around $10 – $15.
Skyrim Mods (LE & SE)
Bethesda has basically updated its game for the newest consoles at the time (Xbox One & PS4) and given players the ability to finally utilize mods on them. There were certain limitations of course, but things have changed.
On PC is where modding truly shines. However, do not ever pay for mods because all the best mods are hosted outside of Bethesda’s Official Creation Kit.
I have never paid a cent for a mod that I’ve installed, and I’ve installed hundreds of them.
In fact, modding Skyrim became sort of a hobby of mine.
So where do all the best mods come from?
This website is a platform for mod authors to publish their game mods covering hundreds of different games these days.
Nexus Mods is THE place to be. Skyrim LE & SE are the two most popular games on the website and most of the mods are released for those two. New games are added weekly and chances are there might be some super cool mods for some other game(s) you’re playing as well.
If you want to get started with modding Skyrim yourself, I suggest you add to your Youtube library my Skyrim SE Playlist and watch all of the videos in there to help you get started.
I always keep in mind that total beginners need a lot of help and hand holding so I answer ALL questions in the comments as well as take requests to make new videos and content to help clarify whatever it is that needs clarifying. So after watching my videos, please do feel free to comment on them and ask about whatever might be unclear to you.
Modding Skyrim is so fun, I don’t want anyone to miss out on it if they’ve got the time to acquire the basic skills to do it.
The game is quite unrecognizable after some of the most important mods are added to it. And not to mention how much new content is available, just take a look for example at Beyond Skyrim Bruma (the same authors are working on many new ones right now). And there are so many more!
Final Thoughts & Wrapping Up
Skyrim SE is a fantastic upgrade if you’re like me and you never bought any of the previous versions. As I mentioned before, if you want to buy any of these games @ huge discounts (whether PC or console), use a gaming marketplace to save some cash.
You will save a lot of money in the long run.