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Which Elder Scrolls game is best?

Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls has grown to be a world rich with expansive lore, deep characters and immersive history. Since 1994, the franchise has dominated role playing (RPG) video games with its enjoyable gameplay and thoughtful storylines.

The 2011 launch of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim defined the decade and set the standard for all RPG video games. While the Elder Scrolls games were always popular, Skyrim was critically acclaimed by players, critics and the gaming industry on a universal scale. Even 10 years later, it’s being remastered and ported to new gaming platforms, followed by its rampant player community. 

What to know before you buy an Elder Scrolls game

Books and video games have contributed to the world-building of Tamriel, the Elder Scrolls world, since the release of The Elder Scrolls: Arena. Gameplay varies across different platforms and genres, and not all these games are as single-player as you might think. The main games do stick to a similar action RPG format, and fans of that genre will also be interested in other PC games.

Games of the franchise

The Elder Scrolls franchise has released multiple games over the years. The oldest games are dated, having ‘90s graphics and mechanics, but are still quality entertainment.

Elder Scrolls games such as Daggerfell, Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim are what truly established Skyrim as an open-world RPG and a land ripe with thousands of hours of exploration. Aside from these primarily single-player games, Bethesda released The Elder Scrolls Online as a massively multiplayer online game (MMO) and The Elder Scrolls: Legends as a free collectible card game.

General lore

The Elder Scrolls world of Tamriel is chronicled through great storytelling, so you don’t have to worry about playing the franchise in any defined order. Tamriel is a fantasy land filled with humanoid and monstrous races, magic, politics and divine beings. Real-world historical influences can be seen in The Elder Scrolls games, its weapons, locations and culture inspired by past medieval societies.

Gameplay (single or multi)

Although the most popular Elder Scrolls games follow an open world RPG format, some releases do deviate from the norm. 

The main games in the series are single-player action RPGs with a focus on character customization and leveling up through skills. A strong modding community has altered games so it’s possible to play co-op, but this mode is not officially developed.  

The Elder Scrolls Online release takes a different path into MMO territory, and The Elder Scrolls: Legends is a multiplayer strategy game.

What to look for in a quality Elder Scrolls game

A top-tier Elder Scrolls game will have complex character customization and an engaging environment to match its sublime reputation. The best games have downloadable content (DLC) and strong modding communities that add hours and replayability to player favorites in the series.

Character customization

The greatest appeal of The Elder Scrolls is the customization and character building that function as in-game mechanics. The character’s appearance can be changed, which serves a purely cosmetic purpose, but in each game there are other choices that can affect the starting stats. The main games of the series — Daggerfell, Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim — have the most in-depth character creation screens, with choices of races, birth signs, classes, backgrounds and attributes. In every game, the player can choose their character’s name.


The quality of storytelling helps define the best of the franchise. The top games are not carried by a single fascinating storyline; rather, numerous side quests and character stories make the world feel alive throughout the main character’s journey. Throughout the games, the character faces more than the paramount conflict at hand. Each game is full of political turmoil, rising guilds and local troubles that add to the in-game world.   

DLC and modding

With the success of each Elder Scrolls game, Bethesda has released expansions and downloadable content. DLC adds gameplay and more layers of lore for players to explore. And later games in The Elder Scrolls series have active modding communities. Modders are people who are usually unaffiliated with a gaming company, but know how to edit game files. They often fix bugs and add content free of charge.

How much you can expect to spend on an Elder Scrolls game

The newest game in the series costs $40-$70 depending on the platform, while older games can be found for $15 and below. There are occasional sales where the games are bundled and sold at a discount price.

Elder Scrolls game FAQ

Are The Elder Scrolls games connected?

A. All of the Elder Scrolls games take place in the same universe, in the world of Tamriel. Each takes place in a different region in a different time period, but all the stories are connected. Events from previous games are occasionally referenced in later releases.

What is the chronological order of The Elder Scrolls games?

A. The primary games of the series have mostly been released in chronological order. The Elder Scrolls Online takes place before all other games in 2E582. Hundreds of years later, the events of Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind and Oblivion take place in said order. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the last in the sequence.

What’s the best Elder Scrolls game to buy?

Top Elder Scrolls game

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

What you need to know: A single-player RPG with a customizable character, nonlinear storyline and vast open world.

What you’ll love: The in-game world is massive, with wilderness, dungeon, cave, city, town, fortress, village and supernatural environments. Non-player characters (NPC) will interact inside and outside of quests, and there are multiple joinable factions for the player. Three DLCs and thousands of mods are available with additional storylines, items, skills and characters.

What you should consider: Some people consider the combat clunky. There are radiant quests that are repeatable and redundant.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon for PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation and Xbox

Top Elder Scrolls game for the money

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

What you need to know: A single-player RPG with a customizable character and nonlinear storyline.

What you’ll love: Oblivion is usually sold in a bundle with its 10 expansion packs, giving you extra game content for the same cost as a typical Bethesda game. The Shivering Isles DLC makes this game many people’s favorite in the franchise. There is a vast amount of content, and NPCs will treat you differently depending on your character’s infamy.

What you should consider: The game was released in 2006 so the graphics do not hold up to today’s standards. Many characters share voice actors due to a small cast.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon for PC, PlayStation and Xbox

Worth checking out

The Elder Scrolls Online

The Elder Scrolls Online

What you need to know: A different game from the rest of the franchise, The Elder Scrolls Online is a MMO with combat, crafting, questing, exploration and leveling. It takes place in Tamriel and allows character customization.

What you’ll love: Additional content is consistently being added. New locations and locations from previous games can be explored. The lore, quests and characters are highly praised for an MMO, and there are factions that can be joined in-world.

What you should consider: Since it is an online multiplayer game, you cannot use mods or developer tools to enhance gameplay. The game is very large and updates frequently, and there may not be space on smaller computers.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon for PC, PlayStation and Xbox


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Gwen Swanson writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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