The impact of Bethesda titles on gaming as a whole is hard to even grasp. Some of the most influential and beloved RPGs of all time have come from this studio — or were revived by them — and give players ways to interact and live in worlds that few other games even attempt. The Elder Scrolls series has always been one of their crowned jewels, but it was the fifth game in the series, Skyrim, that took the fantasy open-world series to levels of popularity that rival the biggest IPs in gaming. Now, over 10 years since that game came out, there are hundreds of people still playing that game to this day for all the freedom it gives.
As great as it is, 10 years is old for any game. Skyrim may be constantly released on every new system that comes out, but there’s no denying that there’s only so much that can be done to make this game look and feel modern. Plus, for many out there, even the huge map is running dry of secrets to find and stories to be told. With the next entry in The Elder Scrolls still years off, a ton of people are looking for their next fantasy RPG fix. Whether you love the open world, deep story and lore, RPG-style combat and character building, or simply a giant experience that lets you play the way you want, we’ve rounded up all the best games like Skyrim you can play right now.
Despite the high hopes for Cyberpunk 2077, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is undoubtedly still the best game CD Projekt Red has ever made. Based on the famous Polish novels, The Witcher games started with a very rough first entry that never left PCs, followed by a much more polished, if still somewhat janky, second entry on PC and consoles. Somehow, the team’s third-ever game felt like the culmination of decades of experience and knowledge. The open world alone is almost too big, and it’s jam-packed with hundreds of points of interest, treasures, quests, monsters, and everything else you’d want while exploring a detailed fantasy world.
Just like Skyrim, you don’t necessarily need to have played or read any prior Witcher content to jump into The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The game is great at getting you up to speed on the major players and their relationships. Unlike Skyrim, you are actually playing a more defined character as Geralt rather than a completely blank slate. That goes a long way in making the story and character interactions — and how you choose to influence them — far more impactful than they are in Skyrim. The quests are incredibly well written, often with layers that will push you to make difficult choices, and there are enough of them, plus two massive DLCs, to easily consume your life as much as an Elder Scrolls game.
What people love about Skyrim usually isn’t tied directly to it being a fantasy game. Maybe for some people it is, but for most, it’s the RPG elements, quests, and exploration of a world with a rich history. The Outer Worlds isn’t as massive as Skyrim in most senses but more of a deep and concentrated experience that excels at just about everything it tries to do. The fact that it’s sci-fi inspired, and actually pretty funny, shouldn’t make you think it won’t scratch your RPG itch just because it has lasers instead of magic and uses hubs rather than a fully open world. In fact, the toned-down scale makes it even more enjoyable since, you know, you can actually reach a satisfying conclusion in a reasonable time if you so choose.
Set in a solar system ruled by corporations, you build up your character who is freshly awoken from a decades-long cryosleep. The skills and attributes system is one of the best we’ve seen. The first several levels have you put points into broad categories of skills, but once you hit a threshold, you then start getting into the micromanagement of more specific skills. This makes it feel way less punishing or overwhelming when deciding what to invest in early on. Every build is viable, with non-violent, stealth, guns blazing, and any other way you want to handle a problem accounted for. Plus, the bright sci-fi aesthetic and dark social commentary of the story are a nice change of pace from your typical grim fantasies.
It would be hard to deny that Zelda: Breath of the Wild didn’t take some cues from Skyrim when it was being developed. That isn’t to say it’s a clone — in fact, it probably has more differences than direct similarities, — but the areas where it does stray are well-thought-out and meant to encourage the playstyle of this new Zelda adventure. This was the first truly open-world Zelda game, and for many, it became the peak of what that genre should be. That all comes down to just how free and open that world is, but also the level of care put into actually designing the open world. While Skyrim has tons of square miles, plus caves and dungeons, most are clearly randomly generated or at least slapped together without too much thought. Zelda: Breath of the Wild‘s map, meanwhile, feels like every inch was crafted to give you something to do, discover, or accomplish.
Zelda: Breath of the Wild will speak directly to those who loved Skyrim for the exploration first and foremost. As an RPG, this game is quite bare-bones in comparison. You have your health and stamina, plus a bunch of buffs you can get from food and different armors, but that’s mostly it. The real point of contention is the weapon degradation system that forces you to swap weapons as they degrade and break during combat. Depending on your tendencies, this may be a big deal or a fun way to keep things exciting and fresh. Otherwise, this new Hyrule is packed with secrets, shrines, and just downright beautiful scenes to find. The lack of real Zelda-style dungeons is another small disappointment, but if you consider the entire world the dungeon itself, it’s the best the series has ever had.
Read our full The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild review
Based on the Conan the Barbarian series, Conan Exiles is a game made by a small team that feels way more impressive than you’d think. As a survival game, Conan Exiles is a much more brutal and relentless experience than Skyrim despite there being no signs of dragons or magic. Set in the same fictional time period, you create a brand new character who is brought back to life by Conan and sent to survive, if you can, in the Exiled Lands. Based on the name, you could probably predict that this isn’t exactly the most hospitable place in the world. You will battle the elements, environment, wildlife, and even other players in an attempt to eke out a living.
There are mods out there that make Skyrim have more survival elements, but Conan Exiles is a much easier way to get that experience in a brand new setting. To keep alive, you will have to manage your hunger, thirst, and heat, plus your health, obviously. Collecting resources and jamming them together to make basic tools is how you’ll spend the early game, just trying to make it through the night, but eventually, you will be able to build up bases and farms and craft powerful weapons and armor. Other players can be teamed up with or attacked, along with the fictional dinosaur-type monsters that roam the lands. Leveling up does give you some power through attribute points, but your main mode of progression is in what you build yourself. If you can get into it, this is a deeply satisfying, albeit harsh, survival game.
The potential that Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning had was cut short by some unfortunate management decisions. Originally meant to lead into a full-on MMORPG set in the same universe, this single-player RPG ended up being the only thing this studio would ever put out. The story may not be over, though, since THQ Nordic picked up the rights and reintroduced this surprisingly competent game as Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning for last-generation consoles. This new version runs way better, has cleaned up visuals, and packs in all the DLC previously released, with plans for new DLC to come later as well. Whether or not this series ends up continuing under this new publisher, this updated third-person RPG is absolutely worth checking out for a fan of Skyrim, even if it has one of the worst titles we’ve ever seen.
Set in a fairly standard fantasy world called the Faelands, you create a character from one of four races, two types of humans, dark elves and light elves, and three classes. These classes are Might, Finesse, and Sorcery, which equate to warrior, thief, and magic classes in most other titles. Combat is more action-focused and leagues above Skyrim in terms of feedback and general fun. There are dozens of weapons you can swap between with their own move sets, plus a Reckoning Mode you can trigger that is essentially a time-slowing mechanic to thrash on the slowed enemies. Quests are plentiful in this world, and the main quest is pretty good, at least high enough quality to draw you along to see its conclusion. You can do some pretty interesting NPC interactions as well, such as steal from or even kill them. It isn’t perfect, but Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning is a great single-player RPG to dive into.
Because so many need to make concessions to fit and even just be controlled well on consoles, RPGs have, for the most part, gotten less complex over time. While Skyrim does a decent job at letting you role-play and react to your choices, it can’t hold a candle to the level of depth present in Divinity 2: Original Sin. This throwback to the CRGPs of the past, this game thrives on being a unique experience for every single player due to how much it takes into account. You can obviously expect your choices to carry weight, but even your main character’s race, skills, and past actions can change how other NPCs, big and small, react to you.
Unlike Skyrim, in Divinity 2: Original Sin, you control an entire party of characters. While you do still have a main character, the ability to build your entire party for different situations and as unique classes offers way more opportunities for experimentation on a single playthrough. That being said, the number of ways this game can change based on your choices and actions make it almost endlessly repayable. The added co-op mode, where you can play the entire campaign with a friend, just makes the experience even more fun and tactical. It’s a bit on the tougher side, though, so be ready to really think about every move you’re making.
If you ripped out all the fantasy elements of Skyrim and replaced them with more simulation-style mechanics, you’d start to have something resembling Kingdom Come: Deliverance. You play as the lowly son of a blacksmith but will work your way up to be an important and influential role in the civil war in historic 15th-century Bohemia. Being set on an actual place during a specific historic time period, Kingdom Come: Deliverance strives to be as accurate as possible. Along with that, the game also asks you to be more accurate in caring for your own character, too. Eating, sleeping, and even bathing are all important for keeping yourself alive.
Basically, if you wanted a much more immersive medieval game and can do without the dragons and magic, Kingdom Come: Deliverance has you covered. The world is vast, beautiful, full of side quests, and quite deadly. The combat is much more intricate and tactical, with more nuance than simply swinging like crazy and hoping the enemy’s life bar runs out first, like in Skyrim. You really will feel like a lowly peasant in this vast world at the beginning, but over time, you’ll grow in skill and status to someone of importance. Assuming you’re able to survive long enough, that is. There are some rough edges here, but the systems and mechanics are so deep that they’re well worth looking past.
If you came to Skyrim for the RPG experience of grinding through monsters, leveling up, and taking on every single side quest before the main one, Dragon Age: Inquisition will scratch that itch wonderfully. In a very similar setup to Skyrim (and basically all RPGs for that matter), you play as the chosen hero and the only one capable of defeating an apocalyptic threat. Rather than dragons, which there still are, mind you, the evil encroaching on the world in Dragon Age: Inquisition is demons invading from rifts to a place called the Fade. Your character, whom you can build as whatever gender, race, and class you like, are the only ones with the power to close these rifts.
Often described as a single-player MMO, Dragon Age: Inquisition really does feel like one at times. You have multiple hubs to explore, each with its own side quests, collectibles, random mobs, and all that good stuff. Where it steps up and will feel superior to Skyrim is in the main plot and characters. While not BioWare’s greatest RPG, there is still a lot of role-playing to do here. You have a party of characters you can manage, get to know, and even romance depending on how you’ve made your character. The basic combat can be a little route, but leveling up and unlocking new skills and abilities, plus commanding your party, keeps it from getting too stale. The story itself will take you a dozen hours at the least, and there’s easily double that amount if you try and do it all.
Read our full Dragon Age: Inquisition review
To be fair, Horizon Zero Dawn is a lot smaller than Skyrim in most ways. The open world isn’t as overwhelmingly massive and doesn’t even have as much unique content in it to do, the RPG elements are much more restrictive, and you basically just have one build you can be. On the other hand, what Horizon Zero Dawn has going for it is all in the details. Just to get it out of the way, this game looks stunning. The environments, characters, weather, and most importantly the enemies all look multiple generations ahead of vanilla Skyrim models. The details you can spot on the robotic enemies are not just for show, either, but in a lot of cases are instrumental to your strategy in taking them down.
Without getting too deep into it, you play as a woman named Aloy in a world taken over by robotic creatures resembling dinosaurs and other wildlife. The main quest is fairly guided, though you have plenty of opportunities to branch off and take on other side quests that are also of high quality. There’s basically no rinse-and-repeat quests or characters here, which is a great reprieve from Skyrim. The bow combat, even though it is basically your only option along with a few other weapons and tools, never gets boring. The feedback you get from knocking, firing, and destroying components of an enemy with an arrow is delicious, especially when you have the slow-motion upgrade. Pair that all with a story full of mystery, twists, and hooks for an upcoming sequel, and you’ve got a more than solid open-world RPG.
Read our full Horizon Zero Dawn review
You can’t get much further away from being a dragonslayer in a Viking-inspired land full of magic and monsters than being an outlaw in the faithfully accurate wild west of 1899. The only real translation would be horseback riding, but don’t expect your horse in Red Dead Redemption 2 to climb any mountains for you. Along with that, the other most important reason why this is a fantastic game to try out if you like Skrim is just how detailed and immersive the world you’re in really is. RockStar is known for going above and beyond when it comes to making its worlds feel real, but it took things to an almost absurd degree when creating Red Dead Redemption 2. From skinning animals and cleaning your guns to the footprints you leave in the mud, everything in this game attempts to pull you into it and make you really feel as though it’s a real, living, breathing place.
Once again, you aren’t playing a blank slate of a character in Red Dead Redemption 2. You play as Arthur Morgan, a member of a gang of outlaws in a fictional region of the old west. This time, you’ll be swapping out your swords, shields, magic, and arrows for revolvers, rifles, knives, and … well other bows and arrows. The plot of this game is deep, long, and full of engrossing and detailed characters you will get to know intimately over the dozens of hours you’ll spend with them, but it’s also a very directed experience. However, you’re not limited to just following the main campaign and can fully explore and experiment in the open world. There are dozens of side quests, sure, but the number of things you can just stumble upon unprompted and activities you can do just for the fun of it can easily take up weeks of your time. If you really get into it, you can make it more personalized by heading into Red Dead Online for a more pure RPG experience.
Skyrim and the entirety of the Elder Scrolls series, for that matter, take obvious inspiration from the old pen and paper classic Dungeons and Dragons game. So, what better game to jump over to than an official Dungeons and Dragons game? Neverwinter is a free MMORPG that is the best realization we’ve gotten of the dynamic and open-ended role-playing translated into a video game. That being said, you don’t have to be familiar with Dungeons and Dragons at all to appreciate how unique and fun this experience is. And there’s no barrier to keep you from giving it a shot, either, as the game is completely free to play.
Like most MMOs, starting the game begins with creating your character. You can choose from one of nine classic classes, including the barbarian, cleric, fighter, paladin, bard, ranger, rogue, warlock, and wizard. There is a pretty meaty story to go through, at least by MMO standards, involving a missing Lord, the near destruction of the titular Neverwinter, and political powers vying for power. With plenty of years since launch, the story has obviously grown as more content has been added, along with more mechanics and side things to do as well. There’s so much to do solo, but grouping up for high-end raid-style activities is an option, too. The combat is also more involved than a normal MMO. Your attacks are all dictated by your aiming and timing attacks and skills, which will feel very similar to those who play Skyrim in third-person mode.