The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, like most previous entries in Bethesda’s fantasy RPG franchise, allows players to customize the race and appearance of their character before setting out on their adventure across Tamriel. And, as in previous games, each race comes with its own unique set of perks and advantages that impact gameplay both in and out of combat.
The ten races presented in Skyrim are the Altmer, Argonians, Bosmer, Bretons, Dunmer, Nords, Imperials, Khajiit, Orcs, and Redguards. While the choice for some players might boil down to aesthetics, there are real advantages and disadvantages to consider when picking out a race. Combat is arguably the main gameplay feature of Skyrim, or at least the one that appears the most often, so combat advantages should be considered before settling on a character.
While the pros and cons of each race will be more flexible depending on which class players opt to pick in Skyrim (for example, a mage would be more well-suited to play as an Altmer than a thief might be), some advantages are universal and can apply to any combat scenario. That said, the best race overall might not be the best race for the specific character build players have in mind, and they should seriously consider these factors when making a decision.
What Skyrim’s Best Race Is & Why
Racial abilities in Skyrim can generally be sorted into two categories: an active race power and a passive racial effect. Race powers have a once-a-day usage, and therefore aren’t as useful to consider when making a decision. Many players may not even remember race powers exist, at least not in time to use them in combat scenarios. While some race powers are arguably more practical than others – an Argonian’s ability to briefly regenerate health faster or an Imperial’s ability to calm surrounding enemies – the focus should really be put on racial effects.
The Altmer’s 50+ bonus to magicka makes it a strong contender for any mage, particularly as new players might put more focus into leveling up health than magicka, therefore making it more difficult to use spells early on. The 50% fire and frost resistance, respectively possessed by Dunmer and Nords, are also beneficial when fighting mages (Elder Scrolls magic attacks do a massive amount of damage). However, the 50% disease resistance that Argonians and Bosmers have is only useful if the Dragonborn doesn’t become a vampire or werewolf, both of which have 100% resistance. And while the gameplay effects provided by Imperials and Orcs are unique, they have no use in combat.
Ultimately, the two strongest choices when it comes to racial effects are Argonians and Bretons: Argonians because of their waterbreathing ability, which will save players from burning through potions just to venture underwater, and Bretons because of their significant 25% magic resistance. Given that magic can be a tough force to fight against regardless of a player’s class, the Breton is arguably the best Skyrim race when it comes to combat, and quite possibly the best pick overall. That said, players can venture through The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim with several different save files, trying out new races and abilities to find what suits their playstyle best.