Few fandoms are as zealous as that of the Skyrim variety, and with good reason. A game with the potential for literally hundreds of hours of play is nothing to shake a greatsword at.
The fifth game in the Elder Scrolls series, the 2011 Skyrim release built on the legendary story of Tamriel, a mythical land filled with magic, trolls, giants, mammoths, demons, dragons, and depending on your chosen mod, perhaps even Thomas the Tank Engine. Now, it’s a given that this kind of universe will turn out its fair share of oddities. Hands up if you’ve ever known the comical pain of suddenly entering Skyrim’s orbit after a giant spied you too close to a mammoth herd. Ah, all of us. Yes. How many lamented saved games are those giants responsible for, we wonder?
Anyway, add to this dangerous mix ten distinct races with their own competing political agendas, throw in a sprinkle of resource scarcity, a large splash of player agency, and top it all off nicely with a pinch of dedicated modding community. There! Now you have the perfect ingredients for a maniacal state of affairs. And yes, that’s totally what makes Skyrim the awesome game that it is. It’s the reason why the title’s biggest problem is choice anxiety, and it’s what gives each player the option to have a totally unique Skyrim story.
But it’s also what leads to an innocent Nord to one day killing a woman on her wedding day, and so on. Here are fifteen times Skyrim went TOO far!
16 That Time You Had To Clean A Temple
It’s always strange to see what aspects of realism a game chooses to include or exclude. Case in point, the Witcher 3’s decision to have not even one character of color, presumably to stick within the logical confines of the vaguely-northern feel of the game, while at the same time not blinking over the fantastical elements of every other part of the story.
In Skyrim’s case, it’s the dedication to IRL struggles that has you cleaning a temple following an ill-advised drinking contest with Breton conjurer, Sam Guevenne. It’s one thing that you wake up in Markarth of all places (ugh), but now you have to clean an entire temple with a hangover? True, you did trash the place, but this is one immersive tactic we probably could have all done without.
15 The Necromancer Who Loves Chickens
No, you read that correctly. Loves chickens, not chicken. No one who loves a singular animal so much as to make it a beloved part of their personality is altogether the kind of person you want around in many social situations. Come to think of it, is there any necromancer you’d have round for dinner, in any case? Likely not. But this one especially not.
Players near Ivarstead may have come across some bluish-hued chickens accompanying an attacking necromancer. If you did, congrats! You've seen some zombie chickens courtesy of what we imagine to be a very lonely mage. Let’s break that down, shall we? A man has the ability to reanimate the dead. He can pick anything, really. This exact power is craved by at least a dozen other villains in pop culture. Imagine - bringing the dead back to life. But it’s chickens that win his favor. Chickens.
14 The Time You Had To Kill A Woman On Her Wedding Day
Unsurprisingly, the Dark Brotherhood’s behind this one, too. Once you’ve proven you’re as bad-ass as the rest of the motley killer crew - once you become ‘the Listener’ (it just sounds weird, right?), that is - the head honcho, Astrid, will send you on a secret mission to murder one Vittoria Vici.
Her death will spell trouble for her cousin, the Emperor Titus Mede II - and it’s him who Astrid wants to get to. Staying out of the political turmoil, and taking for granted that killing someone for money is something we’re all okay to do in-game, doing it on her wedding day? In the middle of her endearing speech? Yikes.
13 Any Time You Were Killed For Accidentally Stealing A Sweetroll
Skryim’s people have very short-lived memories. You could save them, their children, and their livelihoods, and minutes later they could be pulling an axe on you for swiping a bottle of mead. You weren’t even trying to steal it, for goodness sake. You were just interested in having a perfectly respectable conversation with an inn keeper. Is it your fault that the bar counter is messy AF and littered with goods of every sort? No!
Far too many deaths have occurred after pressing ‘A’ or ‘E’ or ‘X’ while the cursor is positioned just a bit to the left or right of an intended object. It is among the most cited causes of early demise, this is right up there with Giants, and being any level under fifteen. When will the senselessness cease?
12 Dunmer Are Good At Sneaking? Seriously?
There are ten playable races in Skyrim. The Altmer (High Elves), Argonians, Bretons, Bosmer (Wood Elves), Imperials, Khajiits, Nords, Redguards, Orsimer, and Dunmer (Dark Elves). Each come with their own set of starting abilities; natural talents, if you will. Like we said earlier, these races interact with one another in a complex political system that mimics our own world’s intricate history with race.
In that sense, it can be argued that making the Dunmer (Dark Elves) the ones who are ostracized by other (paler) races is a strong comment on our earthly state of affairs. However, less worthy of praise is Bethesda’s decision to include sneaking as one of the Dunmer’s unique personality perks. A game that’s happy to incorporate issues around IRL race politics should have been a little more wary of what this would have added to existing stereotypes. Don’t get us started on Khajiits, either.
11 A Religious Massacre
Skyrim can be pretty. You would have experienced this first-hand for yourself. We’ve spent a solid few work hours dreaming about the time we’d later spend traipsing around the icy plains of Winterhold, or walking through the pristine streets of Solitude. It’s often hard to remember that this is a harsh land, ready to strike down any distracted explorers. That’s probably why Bethesda gave us scenes like this one - a quaint reminder that the world of Tamriel is at unease even when you’re not.
The official story is that these poor Talos worshippers were caught practicing the banned religion by a Thalmor soldier on a grisly mission. The rest is bloody history. It’s enough to make anyone run off to join the Stormcloaks.
10 An 80s Wrestler/Dragon Hybrid? Say No More, Fam.
This one’s not on Bethesda. We did this all to ourselves. If you ever thought the world of the Elder Scrolls series lacked a certain WWE-feel to it, the Skyrim community has an answer for you. In comes this mod featuring the likeness of Randy Savage, better known as ‘Macho Man,’ a huge wrestler active between the 70s and early 2000s. Where does Macho Man fit in among the medieval Skyrim setting? As any and all dragons, of course.
Part Macho Man, part dragon, this mod sees the skies filled with many of the popular wrestler’s best lines. Randy Savage may have passed back in 2011, but his memory lives on in the distant land of Tamriel. Various other Skyrim wrestling mods have seen the introduction of epic finishing moves, so there’s plenty of WWE drama for those who want it.
9 Killing The Orphanage Matron In Riften
One thing that makes this Dark Brotherhood quest so irksome is how soon in the game it’s available to play. Skyrim doesn’t wait long before it breaks the bad news that it’s got some baggage. Nope, it gets it all out on the first date.
Newcomers to the land of Skyrim would have heard rumors about a boy in Whiterun performing what’s known as ‘The Black Sacrament.’ Charming! Of course, being the intrepid explorer, so many of us are in Tamriel, you’ll go looking for this boy. When you find him and his bizarre Blair Witch Project throwback, he’ll be all kinds of excited at your arrival. You see, he needs you to kill the matron of an orphanage in Riften. Once you find out why, you’re not as conflicted as you might normally be, but damn! That’s intense, Bethesda. What the hell?
8 A Squashed Miner You Can Loot
Another acute reminder that no one can ever get too comfortable in Tamriel, here lies an unfortunate Solstheim miner, crushed under the weight of his yield after a mine cart accident on an uphill. It reeks of a Sisyphus metaphor; the squashed and broken miner a bleak analysis of the issues following the common human forced to live out a back-breaking work life to make ends meet.
Which is why it’s all the more horrible that Bethesda let you loot him. You can loot the miner. Rob his still-warm corpse of all that gold ore that eventually killed him, probably after years of him wishing it would. He’s also got a strongbox you can try your luck with, while contemplating how his has run out. And, like all depraved Skyrim fans, you do all of this. You’ll feel a bit ick about it, but you’ll still do it. Oh, yes.
7 Absolute Terror In The Dwemer Ruins
In the dark crevasses of the suppressed portion of our minds, lies memories of the abandoned Dwemer ruins of Mzinchaleft. Several quests can be completed on the grounds, but none, in hindsight, were worth the sheer, unrelenting horror. Especially the one that had you collecting Crimson Nirnroot like Katniss did that backpack in the cornucopia of the 74th Hunger Games. NOT worth it, Bethesda.
Let’s take a closer look. First off, the ruins are in the middle of nowhere - hardly ever a good sign. Then there are the bandits that surround it, working up the courage to go in. If you manage to stave away the cold and bandits, you’ll then be ready (ha!) to face the Dwemer machines of certain death, the Dwarven Spiders, and Guardians, as well as various Home Alone-style booby traps. For those who survive this by eating every last potato in their inventory, you’ll have the vicious Falmer to answer to. Lovely.
6 The Sad, Sad Tale Of Wujeeta The Skooma Addict
Here’s another unnerving bit of realism. Those of us familiar with thief-haven, Riften, will know the docks that lie behind the Riften Fishery. There you’ll find the Argonian skooma addict, Wujeeta. Her frailty adds to the general ‘no’ feeling of Riften as a whole, a place where innocence goes to die a quick death.
Wujeeta is part of a quest that sees the player character uncovering the dark underbelly of the Skyrim skooma trade, including Riften Fishery’s dodgy role in the drug smuggling scheme. Is it too much to ask from our games that they don’t have us rocking back and forth on the floor of our showers? There’s magic in this universe! Can’t they magic the addiction away? Please?
5 When They Let You Sell Your Own Wedding Ring
We’ve all heard the news about divorce rates, and everyone from psychologists to comedians are writing about how technology has affected our views on marriage. It’s easy to be cynical about a lifelong partnership, no matter how many times you say ‘aw’ when you hear about otters holding hands so they don’t drift apart when they nap (AW!).
This tangible distrust of ‘forever’ has made its way into Tamriel via the simple gold wedding band newlyweds will find in their inventory after their wedding. How? Well, you can sell it. For gold. True, you might really need the money. But if you’re half-way decent with a sword, spell, or bow, you’ll have more than enough of what you need. This means that any ‘for sale’ sign occupying the bling on your ring finger is just a dollop of depressing dark humor.
4 Cicero’s Special Relationship With The Night Mother
Anyone who refers to themselves in the third-person is creepy. It’s a trope employed by writers in film to let the viewer know that this character is very troubled, indeed. Now, Cicero is an excellent example. His high-pitched trill wrapped around his own name is at least as creepy as the Falmer, and just as threatening as a Frost Troll, only Skyrim never asks you to befriend either of those. Those you’re allowed to kill on sight. Cicero you have to talk to.
And being Cicero’s buddy is even less desirable once you realize his only other friend is the Night Mother - the skeletal corpse of the Bride of Sithis, otherwise known ‘the Lady Death.’ Housed in a coffin, the leader of the Dark Brotherhood whispers orders to Cicero, who takes his job as weird-butler-person very seriously. Fun!
3 The SUPER Creepy Wing In The Blue Palace
Solitude is arguably the most beautiful city in Skyrim. Everywhere you look there is warmth and wealth, and owning a house in this area is prime real estate. That said, if you want a piece of Solitude, you’ll need to put up with some odd neighbors. Those who have walked near the Bard’s College might have come across a disturbed beggar, Dervenin. He’ll tell you all about his missing master, imploring you to find him in the Pelagius Wing of the Palace.
Being the (sometimes unwilling) hero that you are, you’ll consent to find the poor man. So starts the quest ‘The Mind of Madness,’ after which you’ll never be the same, we’re afraid. The first sign should really be your point of access, since you’re only able to enter the dreaded wing with Pelagius’ Hip Bone. And it’s all downhill from there.
2 Exploding Spider Projectiles
The mind of a Bethesda developer must be a truly grim place. Here we thought spiders were gross enough as they are, but we were wrong, apparently. No, to really get at the essence of everything wrong with spiders, you needed to see them coming at you as an exploding projectile.
How doth this aberration of nature occur? Dragonborn DLC is to take all blame. Once you’re done with crafting your assortment of normal weapons, you can get stuck in creating spider-based abominations through the Imbuing Chamber. Just pair a gem with an albino spider pod and boom! A fresh, new hell awaits. Amethysts will give you shock damage, emeralds will give you poison, rubies make for fire, and sapphires for frost. All of these make for years and years of cognitive behavioural therapy.
1 Markarth’s Beef With The Forsworn
There’s something about Markarth that we never took to. The whole city has a piss-off vibe to it. What is it they always say? ‘Blood and silver.’ That’s what flows in Markarth. It’s the dead-eyed, sad equivalent of out-of-town strip malls. What dilapidated roadside attractions would be like if they were sinister and run by a brutish, corrupt, and wealthy family. No one trusts anyone else. For good reason, when around us, we suppose. But just because we’re going to steal everything not nailed down doesn’t mean we want to be treated like suspects.
Anyway, Markarth doesn’t like the Forsworn. The city is basically a propaganda mill. Not cool. The conflict between the Nords and the Forsworn isn’t without its convolutions. There’s a lot at stake for either side. But for all accounts, it seems like the Nords have won. They’re the one’s playing house in Markarth, after all. All that extra hate just feels unnecessary and totalitarian.