With over 30 million copies sold, Skyrim is joint 19th on the list of highest-selling video games of all time.
Despite it being released over 10 years ago, it’s still receiving support from Bethesda and brings in thousands of new players every year.
If you’re one of these new players, you’re likely experiencing difficulties settling on a specific character and playstyle.
I always recommend players pick the race that resonates with them the most. However, if your choice is based on gameplay elements, there are a ton of different things to consider when making your choice.
This list will rank every race in Skyrim, providing information on their unique benefits to get the best possible Skyrim start!
Each race has a unique power they can use once per day, a unique passive effect, and different starting skills. If you think you’d enjoy playing a magic-user for example, you’ll want to pick a race that starts with some increased magic skills.
Unique Activated Power: Improved Night Vision for 60 seconds.
Unique Passive: Increased unarmed damage
Starting Skills: One-Handed / Archery / Sneak / Lockpicking / Pickpocket / Alchemy
Khajiits excel at dwelling in the shadows, using their night vision and dexterity to deal devastating sneak attacks.
Physically, Khajiits have a myriad of options available. You can morph their bodies to be intimidating tigers or cute kitties.
Unfortunately, sneaky play-styles aren’t that viable in Skyrim without mods. And you’re missing out a ton with the terrible unique passive.
Unique Activated Power: Regenerate health 10 times faster for 60 seconds.
Unique Passive: Can breath underwater & 50% Disease Resistance
Starting Skills: Light Armor / Sneak / Lockpicking / Pickpocket / Restoration / Alteration
Argonians are reptile creatures originating from the Black Marsh, located in the South-East direction of Tamriel.
In-game, they have a diverse set of skills that point towards a more supportive character. No particular combat prowess is highlighted other than light armor.
This race is rare in Skyrim and only work for immersive reasons. There’s no real gameplay reason you’d choose an Argonian over other races.
You’ll almost never make use of the ability to breathe underwater. Some locations have underwater treasure but they’re not worth basing your whole character around. Besides, water breathing enchantments are commonplace in Skyrim.
Unique Activated Power: Nearby enemies are Frightened for 30 seconds.
Unique Passive: 50% Frost Resistance
Starting Skills: Smithing / Block / Two-Handed / One-Handed / Light Armor / Speech
Native to Skyrim itself, Nords are a strong and fierce race, known for their adversity in tough situations.
Massive frost resistance is really useful against mages of different variants, as well as in the cold and harsh conditions of Skyrim’s mountain ranges.
Utilising their starting skills will allow you to quickly level up smithing skills to craft and upgrade powerful weapons.
The inclusion of block without heavy armor is a bit bizarre though, as light armor shields aren’t great in Skyrim.
7) Wood Elf
Unique Activated Power: Make one animal your ally for 60 seconds.
Unique Passive: 50% Disease & Poison Resistance
Starting Skills: Archery / Light Armor / Sneak / Lockpicking / Pickpocket / Alchemy
Perfect for hunter based characters, Wood Elves are best when they’re surrounded by nature.
Increased disease and poison resistances are remarkably good in Skyrim due to the number of foes who apply those respective debuffs.
The ability to ally an animal to yourself will almost never be used after you reach like level 5 though. With that being said, the unique passive is good enough to warrant a choice for your first character!
Unique Activated Power: Take half damage and deal double physical damage for 60 seconds.
Unique Passive: Can immediately enter orc camps or strongholds
Starting Skills: Smithing / Heavy Armor / Block / Two-Handed / One-Handed / Enchanting
Forget magic or sneaking around, Orcs prefer to charge head-on and bash some skulls in with powerful weapons.
Their starting skills are perfect for a self-reliant character who can smith and enchant their own weapons and armor.
Starting with two-handed, one-handed and block gives you plenty of playstyle options.
On the other hand, they have little to no magical powers. Only choose this race if you enjoy melee fights.
Orc strongholds contain plentiful amounts of resources and quests but you can enter them with any other race if you can convince (or kill) the orcs residing there.
Overall, orcs are the best melee fighting race in Skyrim.
5) Dark Elf
Unique Activated Power: Surrounds the character in fire for 60 seconds.
Unique Passive: 50% Fire Resistance
Starting Skills: Light Armor / Sneak / Alchemy / Illusion / Alteration
Crafty, highly intelligent individuals. Dark Elves, also known as the Dunmer, are one of the most unique looking races in Skyrim.
They excel in fights against targets who manipulate fire or are weak to it. This includes a lot of the dragons you battle.
Illusion, alteration and alchemy provides ample opportunities to defeat foes with quick whits. A lack of offensive starting skills require you to invest in these skills to approach fights.
Dark Elves are overall one of the hardest races to play but are also one of the most rewarding!
Unique Activated Power: Regenerate stamina 10 times faster for 60 seconds.
Unique Passive: 50% Poison Resistance
Starting Skills: Smithing / Block / One-Handed / Archery / Destruction / Alteration
A highly versatile race that can fit many different playstyles. Redguards can make good use of a variety of weaponry and are best suited for players who don’t want to commit to one offensive method.
Stamina regeneration is always useful whether you’re blocking power attacks or running to create distance between your bow and an enemy.
Appearance-wise, they’re very similar to other human races, only with a darker skin color.
Unique Activated Power: Nearby people are Calmed for 30 seconds.
Unique Passive: Find more Gold
Starting Skills: Heavy Armor / Block / One-Handed / Destruction / Restoration / Enchanting
Your most regular human race, boasting an uncanny ability to find more gold in chests and containers.
This is my personal favourite choice as I like to play as “myself” in Skyrim. Heavy armor, one-handed and block fits my preferred tanky sword & shield playstyle.
Options to invest in a magic-based character is pretty nice. Melee users don’t touch their magicka reserves so having a few restoration spells handy is always useful.
Unique Activated Power: Absorb 50% of magicka from all incoming spells for 60 seconds.
Unique Passive: 25% Magic Resistance
Starting Skills: Speech / Alchemy / Illusion / Conjuration / Restoration / Alteration
In second place mostly for their unique passive, magic damage is rampant in Skyrim so a 25% resistance is pretty crazy, especially on higher difficulties.
Bretons are a magical race that look like ordinary humans. Perfect for mage characters who like to utilise
Good speech and alchemy starting skills offer a nice source of income early on as you can sell your crafted potions.
1) High Elf
Unique Activated Power: Regenerate 25% of the character’s maximum magicka per second for 60 seconds.
Unique Passive: +50 Magicka
Starting Skills: Illusion / Conjuration / Destruction / Restoration / Alteration / Enchanting
In terms of pure focused starting skills that fit perfectly with the passive and activated power, High Elves are the best starting race in the game.
While they do have little proficiency in archery or melee combat, everything they do have makes them the best spellcaster race in the game. No other race will be as effective at completing the game!