There are dozens of choices to be made in Bethesda’s masterpiece RPG Skyrim, but one of the first is where your character is from. There are 10 races to choose from, each with their own unique powers, bonus effects, and stat bonuses. That ushers in the question: “Is there a best race in Skyrim?” The stat bonuses aren’t super important, since you’ll be able to tailor your character to whatever class you want using the skill tree as you level up over the course of the game, but they can be a solid first step. Ultimately, you should play whatever race you like best, but adding all of these effects together can give significant advantages to certain builds.
It can be tricky trying to weigh the pros and cons of all those bonuses though. That’s why we at High Ground Gaming decided to put together this list ranking the races in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim from worst to best so you can start your adventure off right!
The Best Races in Skyrim Ranked from Worst to Best
Be sure to guard your knees. It’s time to rank the races in Skyrim from worst to best!
Homeland: Elsweyr | Unique Power: Night Eye | Bonus Effect: +15% Base Unarmed Damage
The cat-people known as Kajiit come from Elsweyr. They are a race tailored towards rogue stats (even if J’zargo is the best mage NPC in the game) with 15 extra points in Sneak and 10 extra points in One-Handed, Archery, Lockpicking, Pickpocket and Alchemy. Unfortunately, all of their skills are pretty much useless. It’s easy to see at night in Skyrim, so there’s really no need for the improved night vision granted by their Night Eye skill. A bonus to unarmed damage is equally useless unless you’re attempting a very specific sort of challenge run. The Kajiit are best avoided unless you just really like cats.
Bosmer (Wood Elf)
Homeland: Valenwood | Unique Power: Command Animal | Bonus Effect: 50% Disease Resistance, 50% Poison Resistance
The Bosmer, or Wood Elves, hail from Valenwood. They come with an extra 15 points in Archery and an extra 10 points in Light Armor, Sneak, Lockpicking, Pickpocket and Alchemy. This naturally makes them ideal candidates for rogues, but their bonuses don’t help much. The Command Animal ability allows you to make all surrounding animals your allies for 60 seconds which can be fun, but is only useful in rare circumstances. 50% Disease Resistance and 50% Poison Resistance is all but useless as potions to treat these effects are littered throughout the entire game.
Homeland: Hammerfall | Unique Power: Adrenaline Rush | Bonus Effect: 50% Poison Resistance
Redguard is the name of the people from the eastern country of Hammerfall. Their stats are best suited to warriors, but there is a light scattering of magic in there as well. They have 15 bonus points in One-Handed and 10 bonus points in Smithing, Block, Archery, Destruction and Alteration. Their Adrenaline Rush ability allows them to regenerate stamina 10x faster over the course of sixty seconds which is handy for delivering a barrage of power attacks or for prolonged blocking. The 50% Poison Resistance is all but useless however, as we mentioned with the Bosmer.
Homeland: Black Marsh | Unique Power: Histskin | Bonus Effect: 50% Disease Resistance, Waterbreathing
Argonians are the lizard-folk from the south-eastern lands of Blackmarsh. They are tailored towards rogues with 15 bonus points towards Lockpicking and 10 points towards Light Armor, Sneak, Pickpocket, Restoration, and Alteration. 50% Disease Resistance is negligible and Waterbreathing, while fun at first, quickly loses its appeal when you realize there’s very little to explore under the murky depths of Skyrim’s waters. The main appeal of the Argonians (besides the sheer awesomeness of being a Lizard person) is the Histskin ability. This allows them to regenerate health 10x faster for 60 seconds which can be incredibly useful if you find yourself in a dire situation with your HP bar dwindling.
Dunmer (Dark Elf)
Homeland: Morrowind | Unique Power: Ancestor’s Wrath | Bonus Effect: 50% Fire Resistance
The Dunmer, or Dark Elves come from the north-eastern island of Morrowind which was the setting of The Elder Scrolls III. They get a bonus 15 points in Destruction and a bonus 10 in Light Armor, Sneak, Alchemy, Illusion, and Alteration. This makes them sort of a rogue-mage hybrid. Their Ancestor’s Wrath ability surrounds the character in fire for 60 seconds and they get a free Sparks spell at the beginning of the game. They also have a 50% Fire Resistance which is infinitely more useful than Disease or Poison Resistance. It is a game about fighting dragons after all. The Dunmer make exceptional mages and decent rogues, but aren’t the best of either.
Homeland: Skyrim | Unique Power: Battle Cry | Bonus Effect: 50% Frost Resistance
Skyrim is the home of the Nords, so there are plenty of story reasons to choose this race for your character, but they make pretty decent fighters as well. They get an extra 15 points in Two-Handed and an extra 10 points in Block, One-Handed, Smithing, Light Armor, and Speech. Their Battle Cry ability makes nearby enemies “Frightened” for 30 seconds which is useful any time you’re feeling overwhelmed. They also have a 50% resistance to frost damage which comes up a lot in Skyrim. They’re tough, strong, and above all – narratively relevant.
Homeland: Cyrodiil | Unique Power: Voice of the Emperor | Bonus Effect: Find More Gold than Usual
Cyrodiil is the seat of imperial power in Tamriel. It’s located in the center of the continent and was the setting of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Imperials are sort of jacks-of-all-trades. They have a bonus 15 points to Restoration magic and 10 points to Heavy Armor, Block, One-Handed, Destruction and Enchanting. That might make Imperials seem like they’re made to be warrior-mages – and they sort of are – but their special abilities also make them the best class for rogues. They have the Voice of the Emperor ability which makes nearby people calmed for 30 seconds. They also tend to find a little bit more gold wherever gold is found. That means not only do they find more loot to steal, they can calm upset parties when they are caught stealing or assassinating targets.
Homeland: High Rock and Orsinium | Unique Power: Berserker Rage | Bonus Effect: Can join Orc camps without becoming Blood-Kin
Some Orsimer hail from High Rock while others come from Orsinium, but all of them make up the best race for warriors in the game. Orcs get an extra 15 bonus points to Heavy Armor and 10 to Smithing, Block, Two-Handed, One Handed, and Enchanting. That means they’re good at making and using the best weapons and equipment available. Their Berserker Rage is one of the best special abilities in the game as well. It allows them to deal double damage and take half damage for 60 seconds. They can also gain entry to Orc camps without having to first become “Blood-Kin” though that’s less useful in the long run.
Altmer (High Elf)
Homeland: Summerset Isles | Unique Power: Highborn | Bonus Effect: +50 Magika
The Altmer, or High Elves, sailed to the continent from the Summerset Isles. They are quite simply the best race for mages in the game. High Elves get their 15 point bonus in Illusion, and have their 10 point bonuses in Conjuration, Destruction, Restoration, Alteration and Enchanting. Their Highborn ability allows them to regenerate 25% of the characters maximum magika every second for 60 seconds and they get free access to the Fury spell. They also just have a bonus 50 magika right at the start of the game. So not only do they start with five extra levels of magika, they also have an ability which gives them a minute where it’s virtually unlimited.
Homeland: High Rock | Unique Power: Dragonskin | Bonus Effect: 25% Magic Resistance
What’s the best race in Skyrim? The number one spot on our list ranking the races in Skyrim has to go to the Bretons of High Rock. They’re primarily made to be mages, with a 15 point bonus to Conjuration and 10 point bonuses to Speech, Alchemy, Illusion, Restoration, and Alteration. Their Dragon Skin ability also allows them to absorb 50% of magika from all incoming spells for 60 seconds and they get the Conjure Familiar spell for free. The real reason they’re number one on our list is the Bretons’ bonus effect however. They have a 25% resistance against all magic. This alone makes them a desirable choice for any build as they passively minimize incoming spell damage.
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Thank you for reading our list ranking the races in Skyrim from worst to best. We hope you’re armed with the information you need to pick the best race for you and it helps you to survive the snowy north of Tamriel. Be sure to follow High Ground Gaming for more news, reviews and lists like this one.