There is much to do in Bethesda’s masterpiece, Skyrim. If you’re a social butterfly, there are NPC’s to talk to, and if you get bored of that, they will be more than happy to give you a quest. (What would these poor souls have done if the Dragonborn had never shown up?) You can slay a dragon, get rag dolled by a giant, explore caves, barter with merchants, and decorate your home. There is something for everyone. A true open-world experience that gives players the freedom to experience Skyrim in a multitude of ways.
However, even with so much to do and see, adventuring can still get lonely. For some, Skyrim’s vast landscape is best experienced with a like-minded (or at the very least, entertaining) companion. Others simply need a tank or support character to help them survive the more challenging areas of the game.
Whatever your playing style, Skyrim has a follower for you. Unfortunately, not all companions were created equal. For every capable archer or mage, there is a dimwitted warrior or an eager citizen who got in over his head, wanting adventure but never truly considering the reality of that decision. Some seem out to kill themselves or—even worse—you! Choosing the right follower is the difference between leaving a cave with all of your loot and becoming over-encumbered as you recover items from your companion’s corpse.
There are many potential followers in Skyrim. Trying to figure who is worth pursuing and who isn’t, can be overwhelming. Don’t get stuck reloading your previous save. Our handy list highlights the best—and worst—that Skyrim has to offer.
15 Best: Aela The Huntress
A well-rounded follower, Aela, a loyal Nord werewolf, becomes available once you complete the Companions questline. Not only is she great with a bow for long-distance attacks, but she is decent enough with one-handed weapons for melee attacks. At her level cap of 50, her Sneak skill reaches 97 (thanks to her thief classification), making her the perfect follower for sneaky thieves and stealthy archers.
Oh, and Aela won’t judge you morally bankrupt players either. Commit any crime you want—even murder! She will never raise her blade against you or leave your services. However, just because she’s willing to look the other way doesn’t mean she will join in on the fun. She declines requests to attack innocent characters or steal—even though she is a thief.
However, she comes with perks such as on-the-go archery training and the ability to give lycanthropy, which is a pretty sweet deal.
14 Worst: Roggi Knot-Beard
Be sure to avoid Kynesgrove, or a wild Roggi Knot-Beard will appear. The lowly miner will ask for your help recovering his ancestral shield. I know this makes him sound like some badass warrior but, trust me, he isn’t. In fact, good old Roggi’s level is capped at 20 (the lowest in the game).
As you have probably already guessed, his stats are pretty mediocre. His highest-level skills are non-combat ones such as Smithing at level 45 with Alchemy and Enchanting pulling in a measly 40. His other skills are so pathetic that I won’t bore you by listing them here. Just know that he is below average in every possible stat. He’s also a coward who will flee from battle when injured and won’t commit any crimes.
His only redeeming quality is his love for mead. However, there isn’t enough in Skyrim to make you forget his incompetence.
13 Best: Barbas
Barbas is no ordinary dog, in fact, he isn’t a dog at all but a shapeshifting Daedra. He is found on the road outside of Falkreath and will follow you indefinitely as long as you do not complete his quest by either killing him with the Rueful Axe or returning him to his master. That’s right, Barbas is a quest character and invincible!
Barbas is a great decoy but also makes quick work of weaker enemies, making battles against stronger ones easier to manage. Outside of battle, he is likely a poor choice for thieves, as he can detect you when you are stealing. Get around this by telling him to stay beforehand.
Despite this, Barbas is still a solid choice, and since he isn’t technically a follower, you can have one additional companion as well. So, if you hate traveling alone, Barbas is the one for you.
12 Worst: Sven
Sven is a lute-playing, Nord bard that you encounter at the beginning of the game in Riverwood at the Sleeping Giant Inn. To gain his companionship, you must help him win the heart of Camilla. If you choose to help his rival, Faendal, instead, Sven will become unavailable—which isn’t a bad thing.
Sven’s stats are similar to Roggi Knot-Beard’s. He is of the citizen class and tops out at level 20. His primary skills are Alchemy, Enchanting, and Smithing, and although his secondary skills are Archery, One-Handed, and Two-Handed, none of them ever surpass level 45. Simply put, Sven isn’t built for battle. He isn’t even wearing armor when you first encounter him. It’s like he woke up that morning and was like, “You know what would be great? Going on an adventure with little-to-no preparation or useful skills.”
That sweet lute music isn't enough to fell a dragon.
11 Best: Mjoll The Lioness
Found in thief-ridden Riften, Mjoll the Lioness is a Nord warrior who has taken it upon herself to rid the town of corruption. If you want her companionship, you must first earn her favor and then retrieve her lost sword. Trust me, she is worth the trouble. Mjoll is an essential character, which means that she can never be killed—not even by friendly fire during an intense battle.
At her level cap of 40, she maxes out both her Heavy Armor and Two-Handed skills (with 580 health), making her a great tank for players that prefer long-range attacks. Not only is she a beast on the battlefield, but she is also a pleasant person. As you travel, she will regale you with story after story about her past.
If you don’t mind traveling with a chatterbox—or her creepy stalker, Aerin—Mjoll is the one for you. Just don’t earn a bounty in Riften.
10 Worst: Adelaisa Vendicci
If you are wandering around the docks in Windhelm, you will run into a woman in Imperial armor. She may look strong and capable, but Adelaisa Vendicci is anything but. If you want to test her out, she is available as a follower after completing "Rise in the East"—though there is little incentive to use her for anything other than a sacrifice for Boethiah.
Although she is an Imperial soldier, she is classed as a citizen with a level cap of 25. Just like Roggi Knot-Beard, her primary skills are non-combative—Alchemy, Enchanting, and Smithing aren’t going to be very effective during a battle or ever. As one of the weakest characters in the game, Adelaisa is a major disappointment. This is one character you should leave on the dock of the bay.
9 Best: J’zargo
To attain this confident Khajiit mage, travel to the College of Winterhold and help him test his scrolls. J’zargo is one of two available Khajiit followers, so he’s a good choice if you need a little variety. However, be forewarned, some might find J’zargo’s arrogance somewhat off-putting—even if it is warranted.
Stat wise, J’zargo is arguably one of the best followers in the game. He has no level cap, which means he continues to level up with the Dragonborn indefinitely. Destruction and Restoration spells are his expertise, making him a great support character for close-combat players. At around level 50 he maxes out his Heavy Armor and One-Handed skills, which make him a great battle mage or tank (if he’s out of magicka).
You may find that he will only cast low-level Destruction spells. To fix this give him adept or higher level staffs.
J’zargo is ready for more adventure.
8 Worst: Farkas
When you first encounter the Nordic werewolf, Farkas, in Jorrvaskr, he appears to be a strong and intimidating warrior. However, the Dragonborn soon discovers that he’s a nice guy who often finds himself on the receiving end of insults from his fellow Companions about his intelligence.
Okay, but he’s strong, right? Well, not exactly. Although he maxes out his One-Handed skill at his level cap of 50, his Heavy Armor and Block skills never exceed 20 (ironically, he is a master-level trainer for the former). When he isn’t trapped behind a gate in Dustman’s Cairn, he’s on his knees trying to recover his health.
The source of Farka’s problems is his blacksmith class, which gives him mastery in non-combative skills such as Smithing and Speech. Also, even though his Light Armor skill is higher, he wears Heavy Armor.
Perhaps it’s time for Farkas to find a new line of work.
7 Best: Serana
Serana, one of the Daughters of ColdHarbour, became a pure-blooded vampire by pledging herself to Molag Bal during a terrifying ritual. Like Mjoll, she is an essential character who cannot be killed; she comes as a part of the Dawnguard DLC. However, she will not have the full set of follower commands until you finish the main Dawnguard questline.
A powerful necromancer, Serana's level caps at 50, and she will raise corpses to help in battle. If she runs out of magicka while obliterating everything in sight with Destruction spells, she’ll switch to a melee weapon (One-handed is one of her primary skills) so give her a strong sword or dagger.
Outside of combat, Serana is a unique follower who can interact with her environment (e.g., sitting down, using workbenches, etc.). If so desired, you can have her bite the Dragonborn to turn them into a Vampire Lord.
6 Worst: Lydia
Even non-Skyrim players know about Lydia and her antics. You meet your first housecarl early in the game at Dragonsreach after killing your first dragon. If you decided to help Sven out back in Riverwood, you are likely desperate for a new companion at this point. Especially a warrior-classed one in steel armor and ready to fight.
On paper, Lydia is a good follower who has a level cap of 50, maxing out Heavy Armor, One-Handed, and Block. You may be happy to take her along, but soon notice little annoyances like her attitude, or the way she refuses to follow you down the mountainside, seeking out a safer path instead. She seems determined to block every door, set off every trap, and get caught sneaking around. When she does fight, she blindly rushes into battle and gets herself killed.
Don’t settle. Unless, of course, you like yelling at your companions.
5 Best: Teldryn Sero
The only Dunmer on our list, Teldryn Sero, is a spellsword and mercenary that you can hire for 500 coins. You can find him in The Retching Netch in the Solstheim town of Raven Rock. In battle, Teldryn is a force to be reckoned with, topping out at level 60 with One-Handed, Light Armor, Destruction, and Conjuration being his primary skills.
Teldryn’s class and skill set make him a triple threat. He is a savvy swordsman who is more than capable of holding his own in battle, but also blasts opponents with Flame or Firebolt when appropriate. On top of all of this, he will also summon a flame atronach to add to the onslaught. When he does suffer damage, he heals himself or uses ward spells for added protection.
He also makes for a pleasant traveling companion, as he offers unique commentary for various cities across Skyrim.
4 Worst: Uthgerd The Unbroken
The notorious Nord warrior, Uthgerd the Unbroken, is found at The Bannered Mare in Whiterun. Beat her in a tavern brawl to receive 100 coins and her services. Uthgerd is a decent warrior; however, even at her level cap of 30, she never manages to max out any of her skills. Her One-Handed and Heavy Armor skills are a little above average whereas her secondaries, Block and Archery, are average.
Overall, she is another run-of-the-mill follower with a low Sneak skill destined to set off every trap she encounters. Not to mention, she is a despicable, hypocritical person. If you are willing to listen, she will tell the Dragonborn about how she was denied entry to the Companions because she killed a boy. Instead of being remorseful, she bears a grudge against them. This from someone who will attack you for murdering an innocent character.
3 Best: Frea
Frea is a Nord shaman found in the Skaal Village on Solstheim and is only available if you own the Dragonborn DLC. Not only does Frea not have a level cap, she is essential and thus cannot be killed. You can make her a permanent follower by either passing a persuasion check or successfully bribing her after completing "The Fate of the Skaal."
Frea’s primary skills are Alteration, Light Armor, Restoration, and One-handed. There are two reasons why she’s pretty cool: she dual wields weapons and is smart enough to wait for you to disable traps (unlike some others on this list). Another plus is that she will also use spells to heal herself. It is unlikely she will ever fall to her knees and beg for mercy in battle.
2 Worst: Cosnach
Cosnach is a drunken Breton found in the Warrens or Silver-Blood Inn in Markarth. He challenges the Dragonborn to a fistfight, betting 100 coins. Beat him, and he will follow you for free (and you will be a little richer).
Although his stats aren’t terrible, they are nothing to write home about. His level cap is 30, with One-Handed at 78 and Heavy Armor at 79. On top of being a generic warrior, he is rude and is always begging for money for drinks. He also isn’t in a very practical location for a character with such low stats. By the time you make their way to Markarth, you will have encountered better followers.
He isn’t worth the journey unless you plan on marrying him. Sure, he might be good for laughs, but if you actually cared about him, you would send him to AA.
1 Best: Cicero
If you prefer to adventure on the right side of justice, then the jester assassin, Cicero, is not for you because you have to join the Dark Brotherhood to acquire him. You must also choose to spare his life after he flees to Dawnstar Sanctuary—once again making him an essential character—during “The Cure for Madness.”
Cicero’s high-pitched voice, dark humor, and mini dance parties are an acquired taste but also make him one of the most developed characters in the game. There’s never a dull moment with him as your companion.
Cicero’s level caps at 50 with mastery in One-Handed and Sneak—he won’t set off traps—and high levels in Light Armor and Archery. He is a versatile fighter who excels at close combat but is also an effective sneaky sniper.
He’s nearly the perfect follower—in small doses.