Skyrim Guide - Which Races and Character Builds are the Best?

Skyrim Guide - Which Races and Character Builds are the Best?

If Skyrim Special Edition is your first foray into the world of Skyrim, you might want to read up on which races are best-suited for your play needs, and which character builds will help you the most.

The world of Skyrim features many different races, including the Bretons, High Elves, Imperials, Orcs, and many more. We've rounded up the perks and bonuses of each race, in our handy Skyrim race guide.

We have a variety of other guides on the gamer here at USgamer, all of which can be found within our Skyrim tips and tricks guides hub, including how to get started in the game, as well as how to romance characters like Farkas and Serana.

Skyrim Races Guide

Tamriel's many races converge in Skyrim (whether they want to or not). When the game begins, you're given the option to pick the race you want to play as. Even though each race has a skill bonus and some are a bit more suited for certain character builds than others (e.g. Nords make good sword-swinging warriors), there are no restrictions.

But which is the best Skyrim race? The answer to that question isn't an easy one, and it's really up to you as to which race would suit you best. If you want to make a magic-using Argonian, it should prove more than sufficiently powerful enough to get through the game without major issue. Here's a list of Skyrim's races and a very quick rundown of the bonuses they enjoy. The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages has a percentage breakdown of each bonus.

  • Altmer (High Elves) -- These adept magic-users receive a +50 Magicka (MP / mana) bonus.
  • Argonian -- Argonians' cold blood help them resist disease (don't let that stop you from becoming a werewolf, though). They can also breathe underwater, receive a +10 in lockpicking, and are good at unarmed combat.
  • Bosmer (Wood Elves) -- Bosmer can resist disease, resist poison, and receive a +10 archery bonus.
  • Breton -- Bretons have natural defenses against magic attacks. They also receive small bonuses in conjuration and alchemy.
  • Dunmer (Dark Elves) -- Dunmer enjoy 50% resistance against fire attacks. They also receive small bonuses when casting Destruction magic.
  • Imperials -- Imperials are great at finding extra gold, and they're particularly effective at healing their injuries.
  • Khajiit -- These big cats are excellent at unarmed combat, and they're naturals at sneaking and stealth.
  • Nords -- Skyrim's native race (well, one of them) enjoy natural resistance to frost magic. They also receive a bonus when wielding heavy two-handed weapons.
  • Orcs (Orsimer) -- Orcs wear heavy armor with ease (and get a small bonus for doing so), and can enter Orc strongholds unchallenged.
  • Redguard -- The Redguard race is resistant against poison, plus its members receive small bonuses when wielding one-handed weapons and casting Destruction magic.

Skyrim Best Skills/Best Character Builds

While you shouldn't let your character's race dictate a single, set path for their development, each race's innate bonuses do make them well-suited for certain character builds. For instance:

Nords, Imperials, Orcs, and Redguard are strong races that enjoy bonuses to smithing and sword-wielding. They make good warrior builds, and will do well if you continue to nurture related skills. Count on blades, hammers, maces, and shields. You can't wield shields if you're holding a two-handed weapon, so you may want to save two-handed combat for races really suited for it, e.g. Orcs.

Argonians, Bosmer, and Khajiit are light-bodied and light-fingered, making them good candidates for stealth/thief builds. Keep levelling up their sneak ability in conjunction with archery, and you'll have a powerful sniper on your hands. You'll also want to pay attention to light armor upgrades, though Skyrim's armor-crafting choices for archers and thieves are a little on the "bleh" side. Thankfully there's a mod that opens up some awesome crafting projects for playerrs who prefer light armor.

Altmer, Dunmer, and Bretons enjoy innate Magicka bonuses, which make them decent choices for mage builds.

If you want to mix things up, consider a hybrid build. Dunmer, for example, are good illusionists and are light-footed. Those are the ingredients for a decent magic-using assassin or thief.

Whatever race or build you choose, you should nurture the Sneak and Lockpicking skills to at least some small degree. Sneak is invaluable for letting you execute surprise attacks (or avoiding combat entirely), and Lockpicking lets you get your hands on Skyrim's myriad locked-up goodies without breaking expensive lockpicks like twigs.

There's no such thing as getting too much information in this game, so be sure to take a look at our other Skyrim guides, walkthroughs, and tips, or take a look at our picks for the best Skyrim Xbox One and PlayStation 4 mods. We've also got a how to get Zelda items in Skyrim Switch guide.

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve,, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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