What is the Best Race in Skyrim? Skyrim Races Guide

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While there are many decisions to make on your journey through Skyrim, one of the earliest, and somewhat important, is the race you decide to play. Naturally a very common question is: what is the best race in Skyrim? While there are lots of factors that will determine this, we will try and break it down for you.

Skyrim Races

There are ten different races to choose from in Skyrim and each one has their benefits. Each race will have:

  • Race Power – A skill that can be activated by the player, usually once per day.
  • Race Perk – A passive bonus that is always active such as a resistance to magic.
  • Race Skills – There are 18 skills that can be grown to build your character and each race will get a headstart in certain skills.

Race: Altmer – High Elf

High Elves are the natives of the Summerset Isles. Their notable features are their pointy ears and are generally taller than other races in Tamriel. High elves starting skill bonuses make them perfect candidates for players who want to play as a mage. If magic is your thing High Elves make a great choice.

Race Power: High Born – Regenerate 25% of the character’s maximum magicka per second for 60 seconds.

Race Perk: +50 Magicka

Race Skill Bonuses:

  • +10 Illusion
  • +5 Alteration
  • +5 Conjuration
  • +5 Destruction
  • +5 Enchanting
  • +5 Restoration

Race: Argonian

Argonians come from the swampy Black Marsh and are a reptilian race. Argonians make great explorers with their resistances to disease and waterbreathing ability. If you want to play as a thief or assassin the Argonian race is a good option.

Race Power: Histskin – Regenerate health 10 times faster for 60 seconds.

Race Perk: 50% Disease Resistance and Waterbreathing

Race Skill Bonuses:

  • +10 Lockpicking
  • +5 Alteration
  • +5 Restoration
  • +5 Light Armor
  • +5 Pickpocket
  • +5 Sneak

Race: Bosmer – Wood Elf

Wood Elves are from the Valenwood and prefer the quieter life and harmony with animals. Wood Elves make great archers and can be combined to make a great archery and thief character.

Race Power: Command Animal – Make all surrounding animals your allies for 60 seconds.

Race Perk: 50% Resistance to Poison and Disease

Race Skill Bonuses:

  • +10 Archery
  • +5 Alchemy
  • +5 Light Armor
  • +5 Lockpicking
  • +5 Pickpocket
  • +5 Sneak

Race: Breton

Bretons have both eleven and human ancestry. You’ll see a few kicking around Skyrim in the form of mages. Bretons make a great race for those who want to create a battlemage who uses destruction spells or a conjurer.

Race Power: Dragonskin – Absorb 50% of magicka from all incoming spells for 60 seconds.

Race Perk: 25% Resistance to Magic

Race Skill Bonuses:

  • +10 Conjuration
  • +5 Alteration
  • +5 Illusion
  • +5 Restoration
  • +5 Alchemy
  • +5 Speech

Race: Dunmer – Dark Elf

The dark skinned Elves hail from the Morrowind province. You’ll find dark elves kicking around in Skyrim normally in the form of mages and merchants. Dark elves make a great combination of a thief and mage so great as a shadowspell. As Dark Elves have a natural resistance to fire, if you plan on becoming a vampire, then they make the natural choice if you choose to walk this path.

Race Power: Ancestor’s Wrath – Surrounds the character in fire for 60 seconds.

Race Perk: 50% Resistance to Fire Damage

Race Skill Bonuses:

  • +10 Destruction
  • +5 Alteration
  • +5 Illusion
  • +5 Alchemy
  • +5 Light Armor
  • +5 Sneak

Race: Imperial

The Imperials have dominated Tamriel for over 2000 years and are much like the Bretons and make good battlemages. Early on in the game they lean more towards martial skills but they are versatile characters to use.

Race Power: Voice of the Emperor – Nearby people are Calmed for 30 seconds.

Race Perk: Find more gold than usual

Race Skill Bonuses:

  • +10 Restoration
  • +5 Block
  • +5 Heavy Armor
  • +5 One-handed Weapons
  • +5 Destruction
  • +5 Enchanting

Race: Khajiit

The Khajiit is a cat like race that hails from Elsweyr and other than their appearance, they have quite distinctive accents. The Khajiit are renowned for their stealth abilities. Use this race if you want a thief or assassin class.

Race Power: Night Eye – Improved Night Vision for 60 seconds

Race Perk: +15 Base Unarmed Damage

Race Skill Bonuses:

  • +10 Sneak
  • +5 Archery
  • +5 One-handed Weapons
  • +5 Alchemy
  • +5 Lockpicking
  • +5 Pickpocket

Race: Nord

Nords are the tall, pale skinned humans and always on the quest for honor. The majority of the inhabitants in Skyrim are Nords. Nords are natural fighters and make great one handed or two handed warriors. Magic isn’t one of their strongest skills but they more than make up for it for their physical attributes.

Race Power: Battle Cry – Nearby enemies are Frightened for 30 seconds.

Race Perk: 50% Resistance to Frost Damage

Race Skill Bonuses:

  • +10 Two-handed Weapons
  • +5 Block
  • +5 One-handed Weapons
  • +5 Smithing
  • +5 Light Armor
  • +5 Speech

Race: Orsimer – Orc

The orcs hail from the Wrothgarian and Dragontail Mountains. Orcs have a reputation as blacksmiths and warriors and they are the second tallest race in Skyrim. Orcs are much like Nords and make natural warrior classes.

Race Power: Berserker Rage – Take half damage and do double physical damage for 60 seconds.

Race Perk: None

Race Skill Bonuses:

  • +10 Heavy Armor
  • +5 Block
  • +5 One-handed Weapons
  • +5 Smithing
  • +5 Two-handed Weapons
  • +5 Enchanting

Race: Redguard

The dark-skinned Redguards of Hammerfell are also natural warriors but more magically inclined than Nords and on par with orcs. To start with they favour one handed combat over two. Redguards could also be used to make a battlemage.

Race Power: Adrenaline Rush – Regenerate stamina 10 times faster for 60 seconds.

Race Perk: 50% Resistance to Poison

Race Skill Bonuses:

  • +10 One-handed Weapons
  • +5 Archery
  • +5 Block
  • +5 Smithing
  • +5 Alteration
  • +5 Destruction

Skyrim Race Bonuses

While bonuses to your starting skill levels is handy very very early on in the game, there are so many ways to level up (including power leveling) that the skill bonuses you get with each race don’t actually mean much. At low levels a few hours of gameplay can see you go up 5 levels anyway. So if the skill bonuses don’t mean much, what does?

Race Powers and Race Perks! Below are the best powers and perks in Skyrim that are actually worth a damn.

High Elves

With the +50 Magicka and the High Born skill that regenerate 25% of the character’s maximum magicka per second for 60 seconds, these are two great benefits that benefit any magic based players.

Orcs

Berserker Rage is brilliant if you’re a full on maniac who likes to get stuck into battles with physical attacks. You take half damage and do double physical damage for 60 seconds.

Dark Elf

With the +50% resistance to fire perk that one is a no-brainer for players who want to become a vampire (as you’ll become more susceptible to fire when you turn).

Breton

As you’ll come across lots of magic users on your travels and they’ll use all types of magic, the 25% resistance to magic is super useful whatever playing style you have and the Dragonskin power that absorb 50% of magicka from all incoming spells for 60 seconds is great if you get into a mage war.

Other perks and powers that sound great but aren’t…

  • Waterbreathing with Argonians. There aren’t that many hidden underwater places to explore and you can just use potions instead.
  • Find more gold than usual with Imperials. There so many better and easier ways to get gold in Skyrim.

The Best Race in Skyrim

With all things being equal we have to say that the Breton’s 25% resistance to magic perk is the best all-round perk which will be useful to any player and makes them the best race in Skyrim.

We will caveat this by saying that in the grand scheme of things that your race doesn’t really have that much bearing on your gameplay, nor does it really change the way in which you can grow your character in different skills and playing styles e.g. thief, battlemage, archer, warrior etc. The perks and powers are great but not the be all and end all so don’t worry about it too much!

FAQ

What is the best character to play in Skyrim?

Breton’s 25% resistance to magic perk makes them the best for all-round players. Dark Elf is good for vampire players and High Elf for those who want to become mages.

Can I change my race in Skyrim?

No. You cannot change your race in Skyrim without restarting the game.

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