Beating Skyrim is just the beginning. Eight years on, gamers are still exploring creative challenges in this massive sandbox

In the gaming world, first you play the game, then you play with the game.

Skyrim is a fantasy game set in a huge, depressing world with incurable diseases, vampires, werewolves and ancient dragons returning to destroy human life. It’s open world, variety of challenges and complex character leveling system create countless opportunities for creative approaches to the game, based on playful constraints.

The community that continues to play the game, some eight years since its release in 2011, has developed certain conventions around creating and attempting unique playthroughs. For many the challenge is to set to set the game to the hardest difficulty, “Legendary,” and then see if you can complete the main story under certain conditions. Many of these challenges were created by speedrunners–gamers who try to complete a game in as little time as possible. 

These challenging ways to play Skyrim really put your brain to work.


Using only Illusion spells is one ways to challenge yourself in Skyrim. Playing through the game with an illusion build can be complicated because much of the game requires you to kill enemies to complete missions, whereas illusion spells are used to avoid hostile beings and evade battles. This challenge requires you to progress by distracting and sneaking around stronger enemies. This is useful for a stealth build, but an illusion only rule creates a problem. Illusion spells can’t deal any damage to anyone. In the main quest there are some quests that require you to kill an enemy in order to progress through the main story. The only way to do this is to bring a horde of enemies with you and then cast a “frenzy” spell on the main boss of the quest which will causes him to attack the horde of enemies that you brought in and, who will then counter-attack, hopefully wearing down the boss eventually. This doesn’t count as breaking the rules of the challenge because you didn’t inflict damage to them or kill them yourself. Creative workarounds like this are what these playthroughs are all about.


The genocide playthrough is very unusual, but it’s very straight forward: you have to kill everyone on sight. The only problem is that certain characters are coded as “essential” which makes them unkillable, since doing so might break a mission and make it impossible to progress in the game. The only way to beat the game as a genocide build is to avoid killing the essential characters, or use console commands which allow you to change the rules, making essential characters killable. Just make sure you complete their associated missions first. When you play genocidally, you may find yourself with some morally dubious feelings of bloodthirst as you carry out the killing spree. It may only be a game, but can be hard to commit to killing innocent farmers and beggars just trying to make a living in this harsh world.


Swapping your weapons and gear with any character you kill is a very interesting and challenging depending on what you get. You have to use their equipment until you kill the next character. One thing that makes this challenging is that most enemies have common and weak equipment. This can really put you at a disadvantage when you’re fighting a boss and he sends out weaker enemies forcing you to kill them, setting you up for an unmatched boss fight. To win at this disadvantage, you have to play very smart or get very lucky. This is one of the most frustrating and time-consuming ways to play Skyrim and it can really make you stop and size up your opponent’s gear before you get into any fight. 


Running around with no equipment and no weapons is very hard to do in a dark and gruesome game like Skyrim. This playthrough really forces you to think about how you are going to complete the main story and what strategies you will have to use in order to complete this challenge. You can’t wear armor or use any weapon including weapons summoned by magic. You have to mostly rely on destruction spells to deal damage, but you need to be very wary of enemies since you die very easily. And if you run out of magic, it takes forever to kill an enemy with your bare hands, especially when playing on “Legendary” difficulty. 


You only get one shot at living and if you die it’s all over for good, just like in real life so don’t mess up during the “No-Death Run.” The amount of time and effort you have to put into this hardcore challenge is unbelievable. Many popular and famous streamers have tried this challenge and failed over and over again. No matter how hard they tried, they could not come close to the end of the main story. Very few people have beaten the “No-Death” challenge, but I’m proud to say that I am one of them. It took forever and all I could say when I beat this stressful challenge was “finally this stupid game is over.”

Skyrim has so many things you can do, the possibilities are endless. It’s a great game that will always give the player something fun and exciting to do that will always keep you hooked.

Bethesda is making another Elder Scrolls game sometime in 2021 and a lot of people are excited, especially me. If they do something similar to what they did to Skyrim, making it immersive, with a well-made story, fascinating lore, and entertaining side quests, I think that the Elder Scrolls 6 could be one of the best games and it’s definitely worth this crazy long wait.

Image credit: Bethesda Softworks

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