Skyrim Legendary Edition vs Special Edition: What’s the Difference?

Skyrim Legendary Edition vs Special Edition

You don’t need to have the best gaming setup to know a good game when you see one– and for many, a beloved role-playing game continues to enchant 10 years later.

A decade after release, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim remains enormously popular, with an estimated total player count of over 18.2 million for its lifespan, and at least 120,000 players who have earned a trophy in recent months for PlayStation alone.

Then what I find even more impressive, is that many are just now starting to play Skyrim in 2021, and renewed interest is continually stirred with an active modding community.

One of the most recent updates? A comprehensive mod that allows players to import their own distinct characters into the game for a more customized experience.

The mod, reported by Screenrant, also offers intuitive editing tools that allow players to make changes to NPCs and in-game items. As someone who greatly appreciates customization in my own gameplay, I can see why this mod alone may give even more life to a still-thriving community.

Called Project Proteus, the mod essentially expands on some already existing features but streamlines them, for more seamless customization not only of characters, but also elements like spells and weather. While it’s only available for PC gamers, for now, it’s creating a stir nonetheless.

But for players interested in Skyrim, the first decision isn’t about the best mods to download, or what quests to embark on. Players new to the franchise will have to choose whether to invest in the Skyrim Legendary Edition vs Special Edition.

In this article, I’ll make that choice simple by telling you the differences between Skyrim Legendary Edition vs Special Edition and well as regular Skyrim, and give my recommendations for which version of this iconic game is worth buying.

Main Differences Between Skyrim Legendary Edition vs Special Edition

The Main Differences Between Skyrim Legendary Edition vs Special Edition are:

  • Skyrim Legendary Edition is built on the original 32 bit version and fully mod compatible, whereas Special Edition is on the 64 bit version which can break some mod compatability
  • Skyrim Legendary Edition also offers Nintendo Switch and PlayStation VR options, whereas Special Edition is only available for PC, Windows, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
  • Skyrim Legendary Edition includes both improved graphics and new combat additions, whereas Special Edition is a basic remaster.
  • Skyrim Legendary Edition can mostly be bought on GameStop and through third part sellers, whereas Special Edition is widely available on platforms like Steam.

What is Skyrim?


Let’s start with the basics. If you’re reading this article, I assume you least have an inkling about what Skyrim is–or maybe you’ve come across other gamers playing, or even talking about it. You may wonder why Skyrim is so popular– and if it’ll even suit your gameplay style.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which was released in 2011, is the newest in the Elder Scrolls series, with the also popular predecessor, Oblivion. For the purpose of this article, I am discussing the 2011 version, but will be, as many gamers do, referring to it as Skyrim for shorthand.

Skyrim is an open-world role-playing game, with action and adventure elements. The gameplay includes open ended quests, but also gameplay set against the backdrop of an established setting and rich plot.

Does Skyrim have a storyline?

Skyrim takes place around two centuries after Oblivion, in a fictional empire undergoing a civil war. Players play the role of a character called Dragonborn. As the name suggests, the character is connected to dragons–he has the abilities related to dragons but is considered a “mortal”.

Skyrim also has a bit of its own mythology: a dragon, Alduin, created by one of the gods, has been predicted to eliminate all of mankind. The main plotline starts you off in prison, awaiting execution– but this is disrupted by Alduin. From there, things unravel as you explore an immersive open-world, tackle quests, and meet both allies and foes.

The game also offers DLC expansions that allow you to get involved in new quests involving vampires, unravel more mysteries about the Daedric gods and you can also nab another one of the DLC expansions which allows you to build your own house. Then it’s worth mentioning that with the help of the creation club content, you can enhance the story and overall gaming experience however you like. 

How many hours of gameplay are there in Skyrim?

Some estimate that an experienced player can complete the main plotline is about 30 hours of fairly aggressive gameplay. This, of course, only refers to the main quest.

The great thing about Skyrim is that technically it never ends. The game developers have created what is termed a Radiant Story system. This system essentially adapts to your choices and side quests and allows infinite ways to play. Some estimate that total gameplay can exceed over 230 hours, but there is no real way to quantify it.

Complementing this system, Skyrim does not dictate exactly how you play, perhaps appealing to some that prefer creative or sandbox games.

You can explore, make allies or enemies, collect, and take on small and side quests as you want. That, along with an open world of diverse and expansive terrain, allows for Skryim to have an infinite amount of gameplay, or, at very least, a high replay value.

How many DLCS are there for Skyrim?

Another reason Skyrim has an excellent replay value is its expansions. Currently, there are three DLC options for Skyrim: Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn. All three were released between 2021-2013, so it is unlikely at this point that there will be additional DLC this time. These add ons offer new quests, weapons, and even land and homes.

It’s these DLCs that can not only further expand your gaming experience but also play a large role in your decision whether to buy Skyrim Legendary Edition vs Skyrim Special Edition. You see, Skyrim Special edition owners will get all of this content included as standard. Whereas with the Legendary edition and indeed, the original version, the player will have to purchase this content separately to experience all there is to offer from this Elder Scrolls game. 


Skyrim Heroes

Dawnguard, the first DLC introduced for Skyrim, brings an additional storyline, quests, characters, creatures, spells, items, and explorable regions. The plot centers around a vampire lord named Harkon, whose sole mission is to use the Elder Scrolls to end the sun’s reign. Your character can either join the force of vampires or the Dawnguard, a group of vampire hunters.

Along with the main plotline, Dawnguard comes with 12 side quests, more than 80 additional characters, 23 new explorable regions (two large regions), a new dragon, frost giant, and chaurus hunter.

Magic spells also include two fully developed skills–lycanthropy and vampire lord– with their own advanced skill tree. The expansion also gives you 19 new weapons (including crossbows and the Dragonborn weapons set), 5 alchemy items, and 5 new sets of armor.


Hearthfire is the DLC that stands out most to me for Skyrim– not so much that it is the best DLC, but that it’s different from Dawnguard and Dragonborn in notable ways. Rather than following a central plot line and side quests, this DLC allows you to add more everyday customization to your world.

The main feature of Hearthfire is the ability to build a home from scratch. You can build everything from a modest single room home to stables, gardens, and laboratories. All homesteads can be built on one of three main locations, situated in snow-covered tundra, salt marshes, and forests.

Furniture and sets come with this DLC add-on, as well as servants like stewards, carriage drivers, and birds. You also can choose to marry and adopt children. Finally, Hearthfire also includes new characters and 5 new achievements.


Dragonborn, the final DLC released for Skyrim, takes on another main plotline and is quest-based, like Dawnguard. The central plot focuses on the titular character that leads you, as the player, to explore Solstheim, an isle situated in Morrowland. You’ll be confronted with a cult attempting to bring the Dragon Priest back into power.

Aside from the main quest, features include new weapons (including Nordic weapons), armor sets, and a full island to explore. There are 7 main quests and countless side-quests, alongside new NPCs, and the ability to ride dragons.

Why is Skyrim so fun?

It depends on your gaming preferences, but many find Skriym so fun for a variety of reasons–from the open-world exploration to options for characters customization, to side quests and a dynamic plotline. Even elements like weather and terrain make for a greater sense of immersion.

It’s also a game with an active modding community — a large part of why Skyrim remains popular in 2021. Some examples of the best Skyrim mods include mod managers, such as the Nexus Mod Manager and newer Vortex; DLC-worthy gameplay add ons like Falskaar and Forgotten City, and new character customization and weather effects.

What is better: Skyrim Special Edition or Legendary Edition?


If you’re convinced that Skyrim matches your gameplay style, you don’t need the newest console system or best gaming laptop to enjoy. What you did need, however, is to make a decision on which version to purchase.

Both Skyrim Special Edition and Legendary Edition have their pros and cons. Here are the main differences you need to consider between Skyrim Special Edition vs Skyrim Legendary Edition so you can get the most out of your gaming experience.

How much does Skyrim Special Edition vs Legendary Edition cost?

Skyrim isn’t a free-to-play game, like Fortnite, so you’ll need to pay for the base game– and any expansions. Unfortunately, despite being 10 years old this year, Skyrim isn’t cheaper than many games in its genre– but with its replay value and gameplay, it’s still worth your money.

Skyrim Special Edition

The special edition retails for $39.99 on Steam. There are also two additional bundle options. One includes the special edition, plus Fallout 4, for $79.98. There’s also a ‘summer bundle,’ which comes with the special edition and the two Elder Scrolls predecessors, Oblivion and Morrowind and retails for $67.47. If you haven’t tried the other Elder Scrolls Game options, we would recommend the latter. 

Check out how Skyrim compares to Fallout.

Skyrim Legendary Edition

The legendary edition does not appear to be available on Steam and is notably more difficult to find. Depending on your desired platform, you can find it through GameStop and Amazon. The PC edition retails for the same $39.99 on GameStop, but you can buy the XBox 360 version for a little over $26 on Amazon. There aren’t the same bundle options that you’d potentially get through Steam.

My Takeaway

The prices are fairly comparable, especially since there are a variety of ways to buy, but Skyrim Special Edition is easier to find and provides additional bundle options.

What gaming platforms is Skyrim Special Edition vs Skyrim Legendary Edition available for?

Beyond the price and where to buy Skyrim Special Edition vs Legendary Edition, there are also a few differences when it comes to what gaming platforms you can play on.

Skyrim Special Edition

Skyrim Special Edition

Skyrim Special Edition for Windows, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. Since the new Playstation 5 is backward compatible, you can also play this version on a PS5.

Skyrim Legendary Edition

Skyrim Legendary Edition is also available for Windows, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, but a subsequent 2017 release added a Nintendo Switch game, as well as a stand-alone Playstation VR (virtual reality) version.

My Takeaway

If you play on Nintendo Switch or are into virtual reality gameplay, you’ll need to go with Skyrim Legendary Edition. Otherwise, you’re good to go with either version.

What gameplay does Skyrim Special Edition vs Skyrim Legendary Edition come with?

When considering the greater difficulty in finding the legendary edition, many questions arise as to if Skyrim Legendary Edition is worth it. A large part of this decision comes down to the DLC and features included.

Skyrim Special Edition

Skyrim Special Edition includes all three released DLC for Skyrim, but that’s not all. This edition is essentially a remaster of the original, bringing needed modern updates to keep this game feeling fresh and lively going into 2021.

The remastered version brings forth a sweeping graphics update for a more immersive world experience than the original game, but that’s not all. In fact, one of the most worthwhile upgrades from this edition are the enhanced modding capabilities.

Modding is now also allowed for console players, as well as the ability to create your own mods. With all three DLC, remastered graphics, and modding capabilities, playing this edition is a distinguishable experience from the original Skyrim release.

Skyrim Legendary Edition

Skyrim Legendary Edition also comes with all three DLC released for Skyrim, meaning you won’t have to buy a DLC pack just to witness to official add ons Skyrim has on offer. In addition to DLC and modding capability for both the PC player and console player base, this remastered version allows old mod options and newer content to be used, meaning that if you come across a popular mod, you won’t have to question it’s compatibility. 

But what makes this edition stand out from the special edition is the enhancements to gameplay. New features include a combat camera, as well as the ability to ride and attack at the same time. Not to mention the legendary difficulty. The Legendary difficulty setting offers a new level of challenge, geared toward hardcore players. So if you are a gamer that found the original critically acclaimed game to easy, then this is perfect for you. 

My Takeaway

If you’re looking for a remastered version which offers graphical improvement, the special edition is a solid choice– but the legendary edition adds more challenge and dimension to your Skyrim gameplay.

How Does This Affect PC Players?

While the differences between the two games basically boils down to better graphics and some smaller changes, for PC gamers, this choice is a little more important. You see, the Legendary Edition is a 32-bit version of the game and this makes this title compatible with all mods that date back to the original release. However, the Special Edition version, although boasting more crisp, enhanced graphics, will give modders a hard time.

This is because the enhanced graphics and 64-bit version makes all mods make before the release of the Special Edition version incompatible. Rendering any old mod or existing mods that modders have potentially downloaded useless. So, in short, the Legendary Edition is hands down the best game to choose for PC users who don’t want to rely on creation club content and the creation club mods which are controlled to Bethesda.


Question: Is Skyrim worth playing in 2021?

Answer: Even though Skyrim was initially released in 2011, it’s still worth playing nearly a decade later. While this role-playing, action-adventure game does have some linear plots, a dynamic storytelling system means you’ll have endless possibilities, quests, and open-end exploration.

DLC add ons, a strong modding community, and even a graphics update through the legendary and special editions make Skyrim still incredibly fun to play for countless hours, heading into 2021.

Question: Can Skyrim run on a laptop?

Answer: Skyrim can be played on both console and PC platforms. You can play on a laptop, but for the most visually stunning and also smooth experience, a dedicated graphics card or gaming video card could be helpful to enjoy remastered versions. Basic system requirements include the equivalent of an Intel Core 2 Duo E4400 CPU, though an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 or greater processor is most recommended.

Question: Can I become king of Skyrim?

Answer: With the game alone, you can’t truly become the High King in Skyrim. In theory, Dragonborn, the main character, has great power but it simply does not suit the High King position. While some in the gaming community wish that becoming the High King was a feature, others argue that it doesn’t make sense, in terms of lore, and in terms of

Dragonborn’s habit of leaving for quests, for him to become High King.
However, there is a Nexus mod that allows you to become High King. The High King mod includes a unique quest to become the king. Do keep in mind that this mod was released in 2017 and the mods you always download at your own risk.

Final Decision: Skyrim Legendary Edition

If you can get your hands on it, Skyrim Legendary Edition is better than Skyrim Special Edition. For around the same price, you can get the addition of more difficult gameplay as well as a few more gameplay perks.

That said, if you want to score a deal, it may be easier to go with the special edition, and of course, if you don’t care about the additions, both are excellent options. Both Skyrim Legendary Edition and Skyrim Special Edition are great options, with remastered graphics, a lively modding community, Skyrim is still a great game to play in 2021.

Interested in buying?

Purchase Skyrim Legendary Edition on GamersGate or Amazon.

Purchase Skyrim Special Edition GamersGate or Amazon.

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