Skyrim has long stood the test of time and is still regarded as one of the best role-playing games ever made. With 10 unique races to choose from with each having its own caveats and advantages, different playstyles have further bifurcated the races amongst each other.
From our playthrough of the games with each race, here are the best Skyrim races for each particular playstyle:
- Mage – Altmer (High Elf)
- Thief – Argonians
- Stealth Archer – Breton
- Assassin – Dunmer (Dark Elf)
- Warrior – Khajlit
- Knight – Nord
- Warrior (Survival Mode) – Orc
- Paladin – Imperial
- Combat Archer – Redguard
There’s more to the tale than what meets the eye though. Each race in Skyrim, as mentioned earlier, comes with its unique properties. Therefore, your understanding of them will truly dictate what playstyle each race is best suited for. So, keep on reading to truly know why a particular playstyle makes the most sense on a race.
The Mage uses pure magic and intellect to gain the upper hand on their foes. Completing all the pre-requisites of a good starter, the Altmers (High Elves) are the best race for playing a Mage in Skyrim.
Altmer (High Elf)
The High Elves are the original inhabitants of the Summerset Isle. With prominently pointed ears and a slender body with a relatively tall appearance, they’re quite hard to miss. If anyone thinks of a pure magic-based class, there’s a high chance that Altmer is the first race that comes to mind.
- Passive increase in Magicka by 50 pooints
- Regenerate magicka faster for 60 seconds, once per day
- +10 Illusion
- +5 Alteration, Conjuration, Destruction, Enchanting, Restoration
If there’s one race in Skyrim that screamed magic, it is the High Elves. With a +50 bonus in Magicka right off the bat, you’ll be able to cast advanced spells right from the get-go. While your power, Highborn, might seem underwhelming, it increases your Magicka Regeneration by up to 2000% which helps you take on heavier fights allowing you to cast extremely powerful spells in succession.
While you may be inclined towards aggressive combat, you do gain +10 in Illusion which is a welcome bonus as it allows you to explore stealthier options. With a +5 increase to every other magic-related skill in the game, you gain a headstart as compared to every other race in the game when it comes to magic.
From our observation, going for a Pure Mage build on High Elves makes the most sense. You’ll be able to use offensive Destruction spells and defend yourself with Alteration alongside using Shock to take down foes with lower health. We do not recommend focusing on Frost at least in the early game due to tons of enemies being resistant against it (particularly Nords).
If you aren’t in the mood for close combat, investing in Conjuration and having summons around you is a definite help. However, if you want to stay closer to the action, then investing in Bound Weapon spells is an absolute must.
Thieves are the stealthiest and the most cunning of all the playstyles. With a keen focus on remaining undetected, they tend to work in shadows and take what they wish without much resistance. The Argonians are widely known to be the best race for playing Thief in Skyrim.
The Argonians are the native species of the Black Marsh. Consequently, their appearance consists of scaled skins, horns, and reptilian features that have led them to be stereotyped towards more stealthy roles, and rightfully so! That is why the Argonians are considered as the best class for playing a Thief.
- Resist Disease 50%
- Weakness to Cold 25%
- May consume raw meat without food poisioning
- Recover health 10x faster for 60 seconds, once per day
- +10 Lockpicking
- +5 Alteration, Light Armor, Pickpocket, Restoration, Sneak
With these stats in mind, it is clear that the Argonians are meant for a more stealthy approach towards the game. They gain extremely high bonuses to Sneak, Armor, and Light Armor. Plus, you’ll have a more versatile weapon choice. Why’s that? You won’t need to be spending resources on trying to level up your other skills as they’re already significantly boosted. So, if you are in the mood to turn into a thief or like your attacks sneaky, the Argonian is the way to go.
However, that’s not all that the race has to offer, other than being stealthy, Argonians are extremely strong in their own right. They are a part of one of the most resilient races in the entire game. This is primarily because of their ability, Histskin. This allows you to heal 10x faster for an entire minute once a day.
Combine this with your natural resilience to poison and you’ll be able to survive through almost anything. Another added advantage is your ability to breathe underwater. While this may not seem that important at first, especially for a new player, the world of Skyrim is filled with rivers, lakes, and oceans that house treasures and other valuables underneath.
Besides that, you’ll be able to venture through areas and take the scenic route of going through lakes and oceans. All in all, the Argonian works best if you are in the mood of thieving around, but, is a viable pick for broader uses as well.
Hailed as the most over-powered playstyle in the entire game. The Stealth Archer combines the deadliness of a bow with the tenacity of stealth. The Bretons are the best race when it comes to playing Stealth Archer in Skyrim.
A mixed race of both humans and elves, the Bretons are a unique bunch. While keen and proficient in Magic, they also have the highest natural resistance to magic in the game as well. They can be built for multiple different playstyles. However, we’ve had the most success in playing them as a mage and stealth archer.
- Stealth Archer
- +25% Resist Magic
- 50% chance to absorb all damage and gain Full Magicka cost of any spells that hits your character for 60 seconds, once a day
- +10 Conjuration
- +5 Alteration, Illusion, Restoration, Alchemy, Speech
While they may not same eerily stealthy, Bretons make up for some really powerful stealth archers if you build them right. Their innate +5 Illusion allows them to quickly level up the fabled Invisibility skill. With it, you can sneak around and remain invisible until you hit your target.
Moreover, with a tad bit of Destruction Magic and the ability to see enemies through walls by skilling your Alteration tree allows you to plan your next move extremely carefully. Besides that, having a bow will help you take down enemies from further ranges while using Sneak will help you move throughout the battlefield and use spells to take down enemies before they even notice you.
If you’ve noticed, you’ll need to be leveling up a lot of skills in order to go forward with this build. Therefore, we recommend snagging the Lover Stone from Kolskeggr Mine. Otherwise, you might have a bit of trouble trying to get all your skills up to an optimum level.
By using the Lord Stone, the Alteration Tree, Breton’s natural resistance, and completing the Agent of Mara quest, you’ll be able to gain up to 90% magical resistance. Combine that with using the Bound Sword spell alongside your conjured dead, you’ll be dealing tons of damage.
Moreover, you can also reach the armor cap extremely quickly with a combination of Heavy Armor, Block, Alteration, and the +50 armor you get from the Lord Stone. With these pre-requisites, the Breton turns out to be an absolute tank when it comes to soaking up magic damage.
Assassin / Stealth Mage
The Assassin / Stealth Mage share the same characteristics. Slithering in the shadows, they deal massive amounts of damage at a moment’s notice. However, what spreads them apart is their choice of weaponry. While assassins resort to the blade, stealth mages use magic as their primary offense. The Dunmer (Dark Elves) are the best Assassins / Stealth Mages in the game.
Dunmer (Dark Elf)
The Dunmer, commonly referred to as the Dark Elves are known for their prominent grey-skin and Elven characteristics. They are the most versatile of the Elves when it comes to playstyle due to their attributes and power.
+50 Fire Resistance
- Ancestor’s Wrath
- Opponents that get close take 8 points of fire damage per second. This ability can be activated once per day for 60 seconds
- +10 Destruction
- +5 Alchemy, Alteration, Illusion, Light Armor, Sneak
Between the Mer or the other Elven races, the Dunmer offer a unique balance such that their initial bonuses don’t focus on stealth or magic but are instead a culmination of both. While this may seem counter-intuitive, we ended up having the most fun playing the Dunmer as a stealth mage.
Destruction remains your offensive skill in order to dish out damage. While typical assassin builds tend to focus on getting sneak-based bonuses and one-shot enemies, that’s not a luxury we can afford. Instead, sneak allows us to get the jump on our enemies allowing us to strike them before they do.
Since we won’t be using any weapons, poison is ruled out of the picture. So, by investing in Alchemy, concocting spells such as Fortify Destruction help you amp up your damage significantly allowing you to deal a ton of damage whilst fighting at your own terms.
With the innate fire resistance present with Dunmer, you’ll be able to counteract the weakness to fire that a vampire naturally has. Therefore, Dark Elves have an easier time being vampires as compared to any other race due to their fire resistance and because they inherently counteract the 1st and 2nd stages of vampirism.
The Paladin follows the light and never goes astray. A practitioner of Restorationist magic, they use their swords to deal blows to whoever crosses their path. The Imperial race is the best if you want to play a Paladin in Skyrim.
Considered as the noblest race in the game, the Imperials are well-regarded for their large armies, disciplined nature, and their wealth. With that said, their nature towards war and the upholding of values and virtues turns them into natural soldiers.
Imperials find more gold than other races
- Voice of the Emperor
- Calms nearby humanoids for 60 seconds
- +10 Restoration
- +5 Block, Destruction, Enchanting, Heavy Armor, One-Handed
Paladins aren’t really considered as a typical class in Skyrim. Instead, they’re more reserved towards roleplaying. However, that doesn’t take away from the overall effectiveness an Imperial Paladin has. Your ability to calm humanoids down comes in handy when you accidentally anger a village. But, more importantly, finding more gold helps you get your weapons and armor quicker.
Generally, Paladins are extremely durable and resilient and swear by their Heavy Armor. Besides that, they are one-handed brawlers and share some similarities with a spellsword in the fact that they are adept with magic. However, Paladins are able to use healing spells in order to sustain longer in combat which ties in directly with the Imperial’s initial +10 Restoration.
One typical bifurcation between a Paladin and a spellsword is your inclination towards Restorationist magic as compared to Destruction. Besides that, there’s no significant difference in gameplay. The reason why a Paladin tends to be weaker is that their damage ends up falling short in later stages of the game.
Warriors are the true embodiment of power and might. Known for their offensive capabilities and their leniency towards unarmed combat, the Khajlit are known to be the best warriors in Skyrim due to their unique characteristics.
The Khajlit are the rarest race in Skyrim. They are known for their feline, beast-like appearance and have a slender figure. Their inherent bonuses and their place in the lore allow them to be excellent archers, thieves, and warriors
- Unarmed attacks do 12 points of damage with base unarmed damage set to 10 (all other races have their base damage set to 4).
- Night Eye
- See in the dark for 60 seconds an unlimited number of times per day
- +10 Sneak
- +5 Alchemy, Archery, Lockpicking, One-Handed, Pickpocket, Sneak
If you take a quick gander at the Khajlit’s initial bonuses, you’ll be right to discern that this race inherently favors stealth over anything else. Plus, you don’t get any bonus points in any armor skill and therefore won’t be able to defend against most attacks.
However, a warrior is not all about defense. From our playthrough, the Khajlit was incredibly satisfying to play as a glass cannon because of the race’s inborn ability to deal more unarmed damage than any other race in the same. So, you’ll be packing quite a punch!
Your heightened offensive capabilities more than make up for your weakened defense as a Khajlit warrior. But, you still remain a glass cannon for a majority of your playthrough. As such, we only recommend this build for seasoned players who know what they’re getting into. Otherwise, you might get quickly frustrated with the lack of defense in this build.
If being a warrior feels too hard as a Khajlit, going for a pure thief / archer build is much simpler and equally rewarding. Your initial bonuses will allow you to move around remaining undetected and focusing on either Archery or One-Handed will let you make quick work of your foes regardless of your weapon of choice.
The Orcs have long stood the test out of time being hailed as one of the greatest warrior races in the entirety of Skyrim. Therefore, they are great combatants, are exceptionally resistant and their abilities allow them to lay waste to their enemies.
- Survival Mode (Warrior)
- Berserker Rage:
- Take half and deal double damage for 60 seconds
- +10 Heavy Armor
- +5 Block, Enchanting, One-Handed, Smithing, Two-Handed
The Orcs have no passive in vanilla modes. However, they are the best race when it comes to playing in Survival Mode. This is because they gain two extremely powerful passives which are:
- +15% Resist Fatigue
- +15% Resist Hunger
- +10 Warmth
In Survival Mode, you aren’t able to fast travel and will need to travel by foot or on a horse. With that in mind, not needing to rest as much or eat can increase the pace of your playthrough by a considerable margin. Moreover, when traveling, you won’t find a lot of places where you can properly rest and cook your meals.
However, as an Orc, you don’t have to worry about either of that and can instead carry on with your journey without breaking a sweat. You also gain +10 Warmth as an Orc in Survival Mode. However, that is overshadowed by other races such as the Nords who tend to stay warmer for longer.
As you may have guessed, Orcs remain a viable pick in the vanilla game and their preferred playstyle is that of a warrior. You can either fixate on not using magic whatsoever or leaning towards Destruction magic turning you into a spellsword. While the race isn’t very fun to play due to its generic nature, it does deal a lot of damage and remains a meta pick.
The Knights yield to no magic. Their playstyle solely compromises on using iron and steel to do their talking for them. The Nords are considered as the best race for playing a playstyle as unique as a Knight.
The Nords make up the majority of the population of Skyrim. Resembling a typical human, they can be played in a variety of different ways. However, you’ll most often find Nords as warriors and knights due to their skill with one-handed combat.
- +50% Frost Resistance
- Battle Cry
- All targets flee for 30 seconds
- +10 Two Handed
- +5 Block, Light Armor, One-Handed, Smithing, Speech
Typically, a pure warrior is often referred to as a knight in Skyrim. Generally, this playstyle revolves around using no magic whatsoever and completely focusing on heavy armor and combat. With that said, the Nord is a natural fit for this particular playstyle.
With inborn resistance to cold, you’ll be able to survive against peskier foes like Falmer who can easily overwhelm you if you don’t have inherent frost resistance. Besides that, having access to your Battle Cry allows you to scurry enemies away when overwhelmed granting you much-needed space.
Related: Why You’re a Vampire in Skyrim and How to Cure it
In terms of not using magic, the Nord is perhaps one of the few classes that least need it. With no real initial bonus towards magic, you can prioritize two-handed weapons to deal an insane amount of damage from a very early point in the game.
The Combat Archer is the polar opposite of the Stealth Archer. Instead of waiting for the perfect opportunity, this playstyle has you waltz in to reap the moment on your own. This is why the Redguard race is the best for playing a Combat Archer.
The Redguards are known for their proficiency with weapons as compared to any other race in the game. They are known for their humanoid appearance and relatively darker complexion. Generally, Redguards are played as warriors and rangers / archers.
- Combat Archer
- +50% Poison Resistance
- Adrenaline Rush
- Stamina regenrates 10x faster for 60 seconds
- +10 One Handed
- +5 Alteration, Archery, Block, Destruction, Smithing
While Redguards can be played in a variety of ways, we’ve had the most fun with them as combat archers. Adrenaline Rush allows you to stay zoomed in for an entire minute due to your stamina regeneration. What differs you from a stealth archer is your focus on being up close.
In terms of your playstyle, your primary skills are the entire archery and the shield bash perk which is found on the block tree. Instead of sneaking up on your foes like a stealth archer, the combat archer gets right to their face bash them, then zoom in on them and shoot them.
Moreover, having perks in the light armor tree increases your stamina regeneration even further. All you need to do is to avoid melee damage and you should be able to survive most altercations.
What Is The Best Race To Start With In Skyrim?
With over ten different choices, finding the best race to start with can be quite a predicament. Generally, before choosing a race, having a general idea of what playstyle you are looking for is of pivotal importance. However, if you are a newer player, that might not be too simple.
With that said, the easiest playstyle to get started with in Skyrim is a Stealth Archer. They deal quite a lot of damage and can one shot most enemies which is further testament to their prowess. The best race to start with in Skyrim is the Breton. They are extremely tanky, their innate abilities allow them to soak up quite a lot of blows and synergize the best with the skills required from a Stealth Archer.
However, while they are the best race to start with, they do carry a bit of a learning curve as you might end up making a lot of mistakes when you first start paving your way towards more inconspicuous ways. Not to worry though, with ample practice, you’ll soon realize the raw damage output and utility that a Stealth Archer has over any other playstyle in the game.
What Is The Easiest Race To Play In Skyrim?
The Imperial is the easiest race to play in Skyrim. This is because of their racial power, Voice of the Emperor, that allows you to calm all humanoids down for 60 seconds. Once you first start the game, there’s a high chance that you may end up angering an entire village due to a particular action.
Once that happens, you may need to flee from the village. However, at earlier levels, the NPCs might end up ganging up on you and killing you. To avoid such a dreary faith, you can use the Imperial’s innate ability to subdue all resistance as you make your grand escape. Plus, your passive allows you to collect more gold than any other class in the game. This makes the game much easier as you’ll be able to find your gear much quicker.
Lastly, the Imperial suits a variety of playstyles including a Warrior, Paladin, Knight, and Swordspell. So, you’ll always have plenty of options to work around with.
Even with all these playstyles covered, there are many that are left untouched. If you are a new player though, we recommend checking out the Warrior, Stealth Archer, and Stealth Mage for a taste of what Skyrim has to offer from every angle!