In 2011, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim elevated the series to unprecedented levels of popularity, finding broad appeal among fans and newcomers alike. Before Skyrim, though, The Elder Scrolls series had already produced many high-quality games. In fact, some longtime fans argue prior titles like Oblivion or Morrowind are far superior to the 2011 adventure.
Whether Skyrim or Morrowind is a fan’s favorite, there’s a general consensus and ratings for all the games in the franchise. In this article, ratings and general popularity amongst critics and gamers will be taken into consideration among other factors. Having said that, most of The Elder Scrolls games have merit and their own charm. Just because one is in the “worst” category, doesn’t mean there isn’t value in playing it, especially for those interested in the lore.
A specific title’s outdatedness will also not be taken into consideration, rather, the impact and ratings the game received at the time of release. Skyrim‘s multiple releases on several platforms also only count as one game, not 12 different rankings.
Going into the way-back-machine on this one with The Elder Scrolls: Arena. Counter to the title’s name, the game actually branched out from an arena-fighter format to a more open adventure. Because it changed mid-development, the game launched with bugs and all sorts of issues that led Bethesda Softworks to patch it more than once. Having said that though, this is the first title in the franchise and sets the stage for the future of Tamriel.
Whether or not fans wanted a mobile Elder Scrolls experience, that’s exactly what Blades brought to the table in 2019. Although a free-to-play game, it’s limited by rails (so no free exploration) and a microtransaction system that received criticism. On a positive note, there’s more juicy Tamriel lore and a city-building mechanic that’s addictive.
Coming at the tail-end of card-based strategy game popularity, Legends jumped into the genre with the likes of Hearthstone. It’s a solid card-trading and strategy game that uses the board in an innovative and creative way.
The Elder Scrolls: Legends is still available for a free download on various platforms, but Bethesda has stated it will no longer support it.
Only releasing two years after the first title (not the cadence of Bethesda’s releases today) Daggerfall built even more on the foundation of its predecessor. The freedom of exploration, questing, joining guilds, and buying houses became every gamer’s dream. Critical acclaim for the game was well above Arena and set the standard for future games.
Although ESO is now a titan in online RPG gaming, it didn’t start out that way. When first released, the game met criticism for bugs and feeling incomplete. On top of that, ESO has considerable microtransactions, but they’re mostly cosmetic. Today, the game has gathered a large following, making up for a shaky release. On top of that, the expansions for Elder Scrolls Online add to the experience in a fun and exciting way, the lore is deep, and there are endless hours of gameplay.
When Oblivion launched, it felt as though Bethesda hit the true mark of fantasy RPG perfection. Not only was it dripping with TES lore and worldbuilding goodness, but the gameplay and storyline also made it accessible to RPG newcomers and veterans alike.
With an epic story, villains, weapons, and battle sequences, the fourth installment remains a powerhouse of escapism. Before the sixth installment releases, players who want to learn more about Tamriel should start here first, as the gameplay and graphics haven’t aged terribly.
The best word to describe Skyrim? Epic. Building off the engine and mechanics of Oblivion, the fifth installment of the franchise brought the series to the forefront of the gaming industry. Seasoned adventurers and newer additions jumped into the boots of the Dragonborn, trekked the icy mountains, and vanquished Alduin, the bringer of end times. Skyrim opened up playability like never before, leading to players creating massive amounts of Skyrim mods on PC, leading to open-ended experiences that would last for years to come.
Morrowind continued the adventures in Tamriel but with a twist: a new location with a whole stylistically-different setting. Everything from the creatures to the landscapes to the cities was different than anything Bethesda had done prior, and remains some of the most unique locations and designs the developer has ever created. The game is still held in the highest of honor amongst Elder Scrolls fans, being the first of the series to hit a major console – the Xbox. The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind also allowed players unparalleled freedom which would be pulled from later games like Skyrim, like the ability for players to kill quest givers and ruin their progression.