The Best Playable Races For Every Class in Skyrim (Ranked)This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
The continent of Tamriel is home to many different races, all of which form part of a long-standing tradition of bloodshed that has shaped the realm for years.
Even though each region varies quite a bit by the local population’s dominant race, you will find all of Tamriel’s races in every corner of the continent.
Variety has always been one of the main factors of this game and Skyrim is a proud home to all of the races in the land.
Some have different attributes than others, so finding the best race to play as can be quite a tricky task(not to mention the, erm, race-y undertones). But in all actuality this game offers different talents based on who you play as, where some are more gifted with magic than others while some are better physically built to be warriors.
Choosing the best character is fully dependent on what you want to do in Skyrim, so I’ve ranked the best races in the game to help you get a better idea of which ones might suit your playstyle. Let’s dive in!
Orcs, the natives of the Dragontail and Wrothgarian mountains, are formidable physical creatures that are thought to be amongst the strongest races in the game.
They have everything they need to thrive in combat, and their barbaric nature also makes them fearsome bandits and warmongers.
Orcs are, without a doubt, one of the scariest races in the game – not only because of their personality, but also because of their physical appearance.
According to Tamriel historians, Orcs might be related in one way or another to Elves.
As such, you might think of Orcs as a sub-race of the elven but with much more pronounced physical traits than their magical counterparts.
Players who choose to be Orcs can quickly scare foes in combat, but they also have a knack for craftsmanship that is unmatched.
Some imperials have the skill it takes to match an orc’s abilities to smith… but in general, Orcs are known to be some of the finest weaponsmiths and armor smiths in Tamriel.
Some legendary Orc smiths have lived throughout the ages and the armors they’ve crafted can be found in many dungeons as you play along.
Bretons are originally from High Rock and they are known to be some of the best spellcasters in the world.
They are the ideal race to pick if you fancy being a wizard without compromising your human appearance, as most other magic-friendly races are (mainly) elves.
Bretons can also wield a sword and shield quite well, so battlemages are common amongst the Breton kin. This is a really interesting build strategy to follow if you want that mix of magic and might.
They aren’t just good at casting spells either.
Bretons can use their powers to fortify their resistance to enemy spells, making them some of the toughest wizards to defeat. Even though Bretons resemble humans, it is thought that Elven blood runs through their veins.
This could be the main reason as to why they are so good at spellcasting.
When it comes to Skyrim, however, Bretons are not common at all.
You’ll mostly find Nords in these lands, so being a Breton in Skyrim also adds a spice of uniqueness that can’t be matched by any other race.
You’ll love to visit the College of Winterhold as it’ll feel like home as soon as you walk through the main gates of the University.
Argonians are lizards that arose from the Black Marsh, one of the most inhospitable regions of Tamriel.
They are very good at moving swiftly and they travel water very well.
They can even breathe underwater which makes them the best aquatic race in the game. The abilities of an Argonian are many, and even though they aren’t the strongest of warriors, they make for fearsome assassins and thieves.
In fact, moving without being detected is one of the best attributes of Argonians.
Having been born from the lands of the Black Marsh, Argonians are also quite good at resisting diseases.
They rarely fall ill, so you can move around some of Skyrim’s most dangerous environments without having to fear for the health of your character.
In terms of vitality, Argonians are basically unmatched by others.
They have the natural ability to regenerate their health quickly, which compensates for their lack of resistance. This also makes Argonians formidable warriors.
And even though they need to train their strength to reach higher levels, they can still prove to be difficult contenders to defeat in battle.
7. High Elves
Here we have the people of the Summerset Isles, also known as the Altmer.
High Elves are most commonly seen as sorcerers and they rarely hold a sword into battle. In any case there are a handful of High Elves who act as battlemages, but training in the arts of weaponry isn’t what you’ll most likely find an elf doing.
High Elves are the best race for you to play as a mage out of all the races in Skyrim. They have the most natural talent and it helps them excel at spellcasting with their magicka regeneration.
Most High Elves are quite tall and they hold their traditional Aldmer lineage very close to their hearts.
Also most High Elves are pale, but you’ll also find some of them to have skin resembling that of northern humanoid races such as Bretons and Nords.
There are many prestigious High Elves across Tamriel with many of them holding important positions in the courts too. They are often associated with prestige, and once you see how they carry themselves you’ll understand why.
6. Wood Elves
Also known as the Bosmer, Wood Elves are elven creatures with a darker skin tone and a closer affinity to nature than others.
These guys have natural accuracy which makes them the best archers in the land. And this is why most Wood Elves spend the better part of their time perfecting their abilities with the bow and arrow.
Wood Elves are not as noble as their High Elf counterparts, and they are more commonly associated with darker arts.
In fact, most Wood Elves who prefer a magic life tend to opt for conjuration magic, even though most of them live like thieves or assassins amongst the two major underground guilds.
Khajits are probably the most avid traders of the land.
They have a natural talent to pick up good offers and they are the best hagglers that you’ll find in Skyrim.
Those who want to live a life of merchants may want to start their next game playing with Khajits. These feline creatures are naturally very likable and they often refer to themselves in the third person.
Most of them come from the arid land of Elsweyr, a giant desert that resembles Arabia.
They are great hand-to-hand warriors thanks to their claws, which makes these creatures a personal favorite to win in most unarmed combat duels.
Granted they have earned a bad reputation for themselves as they are seen as savages by the womenfolk, much like the Argonians.
4. Dark Elves
Dark Elves are the creatures that inhabit the shady region of Morrowind.
As their name suggests, they are very good at stealthly movements which makes them great assassins and thieves (much like Wood Elves).
They have a darker appearance, both in what refers to their skin tone as well as their eyes and overall looks.
There’s a good number of Dark Elves in Skyrim thanks to the eruption of the Red Mountain in Morrowind, which caused thousands of elves to flee to the northernmost part of Tamriel.
In Skyrim, Dark Elves aren’t really known to be assassins to most people. Although you’ll find one or two of them amongst the ranks of the Brotherhood and the Thieves’ Guild.
They have mainly made a reputation for themselves as spellcasters in this game, which means that many of the mages in Skyrim are originally from Morrowind – even some of the most powerful members of the College of Winterhold.
They are great casters of Destruction magic which makes them devastating foes to face if you happen to get on the wrong end of one of these magical prodigies.
Nords are the main inhabitants of Skyrim.
They have a knack to resist cold unlike any other race in the game thanks to being born in the coldest province of Tamriel.
This allows them to tank the most powerful freezing spells and makes them highly resistant to any blizzards.
You might find one or two Nords with great magical prowess, but you’ll mainly see these folks as strongmen looking to pick a fight wherever they go.
I think Nords are basically the Elder Scrolls Vikings. They even have a battlecry spell that allows them to strike fear into their opponent’s hearts, usually leaving anyone around running for their lives.
They are often seen wielding axes or two-handed weapons, and these work great mostly because of how strong these warriors are.
Female Nords don’t fall behind either since they are some of the strongest warrior races in the game. Gender has no limits here!
Nords are also the second-best blacksmiths of Tamriel, just behind the Orcs.
Playing as a Nord is a great choice if you want to blend in with the people of Skyrim too, since most of the citizens of the region are of Nord descent.
Redguards have mostly emigrated to Skyrim from their homeland in Hammerfell. Many people think that Redguards are the most powerful warriors in Tamriel, mainly because of how easily they can proficiently wield swords and learn to use them.
Now their race was bred after years and years of bloody battles, which makes them as resistant to damage as they are capable of dealing high amounts of it.
Redguards are not all about blunt strength, though.
They also excel at using shields and other pieces of defensive equipment.
I’d say they tend to master them with a lot of ease, so players looking for an aggressive warrior playstyle might want to try a Redguard character.
And as the name suggests, they tend to have red-toned design which more often than not results in them being the second darkest of all races, just behind the Dark Elves.
They make for great fighters and you can find a lot of them amongst the ranks of warrior guilds such as The Companions.
Most Redguards also have a natural talent for archery which makes them versatile fighters for almost any part of the game.
Imperials are born and bred in Cyrodiil.
You’ll find an Imperial almost everywhere you go, mainly because they don’t excel at a particular skill so they are as versatile a race as you can get.
They do most things in the game quite well, and allow you to fulfill your goal of playing all the roles at once based on whatever quests you’re chasing.
I think as a whole, Imperials are the best race to pick if you’re unsure of where you want your adventures to go.
Imperials are the oldest and most well-trained citizens of the Empire which makes them the predominant race in Tamriel.
According to the Elder Scrolls’ story, they have been ruling the region for a little over two millennia.
Imperials make up most of the Imperial Army of Tamriel and you can see them all around Skyrim as they fight the Nord revolution.
In any case, Imperials can also be seen as traders and you will find many of them working as inn-keepers and other trade-related professions.
They have quite a skill for negotiating too, which makes them almost as good in trading as the less-respected Khajit. Plus Imperials are also proficient at Destruction magic and one-handed weapon combat so they really can do it all.
If you want a well-rounded game that can go in any direction then I recommend an Imperial character to start.