The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of the most landmark titles in modern gaming. You’d be hard pressed to find a gamer who hasn’t played it, even in passing, and it’s easy to see why. There are so many memorable moments to be found across all its re-releases. Granted, the game has a slew of faults, including messy bugs, uninspired side quests and NPCs that all sound the same. Some may even call re-release business model ludicrous. And let’s not forget that Bethesda tried (and failed) to implement paid mods — and then added them again.
But this isn’t a list of all the bad things Bethesda has done. Let’s celebrate all the times Skyrim graced our many platforms. Let’s remember a time when Bethesda seemed too big to fail.
Let’s relive all the best ways to experience the Skyrim opening sequence.
No. 10: On a Let’s Play or Livestream
I’d never disparage anyone for watching a Let’s Play on YouTube or a livestream on Twitch of someone playing Skyrim. The player’s personality draws you into the gameplay. Frankly, at this point, you’ve probably seen the opening sequence more than enough times. Seeing it through the lens of someone who cracks wise or is experiencing it for the first time helps spice things up a bit.
It should be noted that I desperately wanted to include the Very Special Edition on Amazon Alexa as No. 10, but the iconic ride to Helgen unfortunately isn’t there.
No. 9: Special Edition on PS4/Xbox One
Now let’s put you in the driver’s seat. Cut to five years after release. Everyone thought they had their fill of Elder Scrolls goodness. But lo and behold, Todd Howard was only starting on his path to Skyrim oversaturation. The Skyrim Special Edition graced the eighth generation of consoles, and I couldn’t wait to dive into the mountain of monotonous side quests all over again. I sat there and watched the opening sequence once more, enjoying the upgraded wagon textures beneath my feet. I had a new appreciation for the quaint town of Helgen. I had seen it catch fire so many times before, but the updated shadows and other graphical enhancements of the Special Edition really brought the town’s death to life.
No. 8: Special Edition in 4K UHD
It’s hard to believe until you own a 4K TV, but riding the wagon to Helgen in ultra-high definition is stunning. The higher resolution and consistent frame rate put the small hamlet’s destruction in a new light. Above all, Alduin’s flames pop unlike anything else thanks to the HDR.
I’m just kidding, Skyrim doesn’t have HDR support on PS4 Pro or Xbox One X. It’s wasted potential that could’ve propelled this to the top of the list. Still, the souped-up consoles remain as the easiest option for witnessing the game in 4K (with bits of dynamic resolution on Xbox One X).
No. 7: After Installing Your First Batch of Mods
Whether you did it on PC or consoles, playing Skyrim for the first time with mods is an exciting moment. It’s like exploring your favorite game with a new pair of glasses. It frames the ride to Helgen in a new light, because now you’re waiting for something unexpected. Now you get to see Thomas the Tank Engine rain hellfire and carnage upon Helgen.
No. 6: The Second Playthrough
After playing one character in Skyrim for a long time, you’ll probably get the urge to roll a new one. The allure of a different build, race or gender might be enough to make you start all over again. Regardless, whether your second playthrough was on the same platform or a new one, sitting next to Ulfric and facing Alduin means something else to you. The whole scene is recontextualized by your first character’s odyssey through the land of Skyrim, giving you a different appreciation for the opening sequence.
No. 5: On Nintendo Switch
The Switch port in 2017 came as a surprise to everyone, and I might only be ranking this one so highly because I love Nintendo’s hybrid console. You could watch that opening sequence practically anywhere you wanted. Maybe I’m a little blinded by the possibilities surrounding the handheld console, but consider this: The Switch is the only way to see your character on a horse-drawn wagon while riding the bus, which is like a modern-day wagon. It’s the kind of immersion no mod could ever compete with.
No. 4: In VR
Virtual reality can compete with the Switch, though. In fact, it blows the Switch out of the water when it comes to immersion. If you have a decent setup, seeing Alduin in VR can be legitimately terrifying. VR might be one of the best ways to experience Skyrim in general, if not just for the novelty of it all.
No. 3: On PC
After building a big, beefy, powerful gaming rig, the first thing I did was pay for Skyrim once again, like any sensible consumer. Watching that opening sequence for the billionth time — which at this point might be out of sheer admiration and respect — moved me. I cried in 60 frames per second, just like the quaint townsfolk of Helgen.
No. 2: The Very First Time
I booted up Skyrim on my PS3 for the first time on November 11, 2011. I remember because Bethesda was lucky enough to secure such a pretentious release date. The first time was something special. Having an evil dragon crash your public execution might be one of the best ways to start a high-fantasy open-world RPG. It sets the stage for what feels like an endless adventure, and Skyrim (for the most part) delivers on that promise.
No. 1: After Disabling the Opening Sequence with a Mod
After seeing the opening sequence more than nine times in my life, I resolved to never see it again. If you love (or loathe) something, you must set it free, right? So I installed a mod called Random Alternate Start by Syclonix, and I’ve never looked back. The mod spawns you in a random location on the map, skipping the sequence in Helgen entirely. Frankly, it’s opened up a lot more avenues for role playing and immersion, which actually inspired me to gather more bear pelts for NPCs.
I’d give the mod 10/10 arrows in the knee, making it the best way to experience the opening sequence of Skyrim.
GameLuster’s Tuesday 10 is a weekly column that highlights memorable, light-hearted facets of video games or the industry at large. The No. 1 is a hill no one should die on, but it’s a hill that should be admired from afar.