It's been almost six years since Bethesda introduced players to the world of Skyrim. In that time we've seen multiple remasters and ports, as well as the culmination of work from a tremendous and extremely talented mod community. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim not only released to high critical praise it received countless game of the year awards and honors throughout the industry. The game was applauded for taking the open-world genre and expanding on it in ways we didn't expect.
Bethesda Game Studios has received criticism recently for the release of Fallout 4 in comparison to other current open-world games. Critics and fans alike felt that Bethesda Game Studios didn't do enough to justify it as a whole new entry in the series. It was regarded as a good game, doing everything right that Fallout 3 did, but didn't necessarily take the franchise to the next level. A lot of people credit this to their in-house engine and feel that a studio like Bethesda should have no excuses for upgrading when their games have such a long development cycle.
Either way, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was a great game for its time, and there are so many new things people are discovering to this day. Today, however, we're focusing solely on the armor sets in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and ranking the best and worst sets in the game. You'll definitely see some familiar favorites as well as a couple of obscure sets that take some patience and effort to acquire.
15 Best: Dragonscale Armor (Light)
The Dragonscale Armor set is one that could have been placed literally anywhere on the best armor side of this list. It's one of the most cost effective light armors sets and gives players the ability to enchant it. The main reason why it's not higher on the list has to do with its lack of natural enchantments as well as a reliance on the user having high enchantment and smithing skills to take it to the next level. It also gets bonus points for being one of the cooler looking sets in Skyrim. It comes in with a defense of 82 without a shield which puts it as one of the more tanky sets for light armor wearers. That number boosts up to a respectable 111 with the inclusion of a shield. Dragonscale Armor provides a lot of protection and intimidation but is best used late game.
14 Worst: Imperial Armor (Heavy)
Now, Imperial Armor isn't necessarily terrible. Bethesda did a great job designing the armor sets in such a way that most of them do serve a specific purpose. The Imperial Armor set is going to be the first heavy armor set that 95% of players run into. It carries the same defensive statistics as iron armor but carries the advantage of being obtained both earlier and easier in the game. Imperial Armor also has the bonus of giving the player choices in terms of variety. There are 3 different helmets for this armor set, and each carries slightly different statistical variations. The Imperial Armor set isn't atrocious, it just isn't that good either. Don't be ashamed to rock it early in the game but don't be afraid to move on to bigger and better heavy armor sets.
13 Best: Archmage's Robes (Light)
This set is the premier selection for anyone with an ounce of Magicka in their bones. The Archmage's Robes are excellent in terms of enchantments but don't provide a whole lot in terms of actual defense. That being said, wearers are treated to the following bonuses: All spells cost 15% less to cast, +50 Magicka, and Magicka regenerates 100% faster. These robes turn even the most novice of mages into a true threat that shouldn't be trifled with. The set itself isn't easy to obtain seeing as you'll have to complete the entire questline pertaining to the College of Winterhold. If you're serious about becoming a mage with absolute power be prepared to make this a priority in your next playthrough of Skyrim.
12 Worst: Iron Armor (Heavy)
Iron Armor is a set that doesn't really do much of anything. Its armor rating of 60 is about average, and the banded version of the armor doesn't offer much of an upgrade as it sits at an armor rating of 63. A huge and glaring problem with the Iron Armor set is that it doesn't benefit from smithing perks, and thus you won't receive double improvement. At first, I was willing to write off Iron Armor as a non-issue considering it's meant to be an early game set and help players get into the groove of things. However, Steel Armor can be obtained and used as early as level two so it seems like that whole case can be thrown out the window. Iron Armor should be nothing but an afterthought seeing as there are easy upgrades and better choices right at your fingertips.
11 Best: Nightingale Armor (Light)
It was really tough deciding where on this list the Nightingale Armor set would land. It's a great set of armor with some decent full set bonuses as well as a pair of reasonable enchantments. The real issue is that the set isn't easy to obtain and it doesn't obtain the ability to enchant it any more than it already has been. The armor set is interesting and is a flavorful reward during the Thieves Guild questline, but it falls short in some areas. If you're looking for a stamina boost or protection from frost, then this set should be at the top of your list. It also provides the player with slight buffs to their lockpicking, muffling of boots, illusion spell cost, and one-handed weapon damage. Don't let the ranking fool you. The Nightingale Armor is a set worthy of acquiring.
10 Worst: Fur Armor (Light)
The Fur Armor set falls in the middle of this list in regards to the worst armor sets and it couldn't have been placed any better. It's a set of armor that doesn't provide a whole lot of protection and doesn't really scale in terms of improvement and smithing. It's an armor set that's bad, but not necessarily bad enough to be terrible — just forgotten. In any situation, the worst thing you can do is fall somewhere in the middle, and that's exactly where this set lands. Nothing good ever comes of it. Here's to Bethesda for giving the Fur Armor a higher armor rating than Hide Armor, even though it covers less of the character's body.
9 Best: Miraak's Robes (Light)
Are you surprised to see another set of robes on this list? The reason that Miraak's Robes are higher on this list than the Archmage's is due to it providing protection from other mages, as well as a creating a chance for explosions on enemies whenever you hit them. When we're talking about armor effectiveness on its own, it's important to keep in mind how valuable a set is if it can boost your defense as well as your offense. That being said, you can easily swap Miraak's Robes with the Archmage's Robes on this list if you'd like. It really depends on what type of mage play you prefer. At the end of the day, you should at least know that these two sets are the absolute best in terms of providing benefits to any type of mage build.
8 Worst: Stormcloak Armor (Light)
This spot was either going to go to Stormcloak Armor or Light Imperial Armor. Upon inspection, it was clear to see that the Stormcloak Armor set was the inferior set out of the two. The Stormcloak Armor has an inferior armor rating and doesn't include a shield so based on those comparisons alone it loses the fight. It's depressing to see that an armor set designed for a group of brave and honorable men has a lower armor rating than a piece of fur that doesn't even cover a character's entire body. The Stormcloak Armor set suffers from being an early game item that doesn't really progress beyond its beginnings. There's no upside to investing in it early so when you're getting started you might want to head in a different armor set direction.
7 Best: Ahzidal's Armor (Heavy)
Finally, the first heavy armor we've encountered on the best side of this list. Ahzidal's Armor set isn't necessarily eye-catching in terms of design, but man does it pack a punch. The armor rating isn't actually all that impressive with this set seeing as its numbers are the same as the Steel Plate set, but it's the bonuses you receive from the entire set that set it apart. The effects gifted to the player are as follows: enemies who melee attack you have a chance to be paralyzed, water-walking, allow you to cast spells ignite and freeze, and if a creature you summon were to die in combat it combusts while delivering frost damage. This set does a lot beyond just protecting the player from massive heaps of damage and can be acquired fairly easily.
6 Worst: Hide Armor (Light)
The Hide Armor set is a beginner's set of armor that isn't really found at the very beginning of the game. Which is, of course, a big problem. It offers an abysmal armor rating of 40, though you do have the option to craft a shield alongside the armor to boost your defense, unlike both the Imperial Light and Stormcloak Armor sets. It's not really even the best early game craftable set of armor. The Leather Armor set beats out multiple armor sets in the early game and is easily crafted with a little elbow grease. From an objective standpoint, this would be considered the worst armor set in the game if a couple of other sets didn't fall through so hard in regards to expectations and implementation.
5 Best: Deathbrand Armor (Light)
Though I'm not a fan of the name of the armor set, Deathbrand Armor is a solid set of protection. It's the best armor set in terms of pure protection for light armor characters. Wearing it as a full set provides the player with tons of cool buffs including an increased carrying capacity as well as water-breathing. Your stamina also sees a ton of improvement as it's increased by 15 for each piece of Deathbrand Armor worn. The armor set can be acquired through the side quest called Deathbrand. The armor itself has an interesting design. It's a frosty blue hue that seems to be built based on a Nordic set. If you're looking for the Daedric Armor equivalent for light armor you've come to the right set.
4 Worst: Skaal Armor (Light)
The Skaal Armor set is not only one of the worst sets in Skyrim but an odd addition to the Dragonborn DLC which added a slew of new and better items to the world around you. This seems like it was added as an aesthetic tone piece rather than something the designers felt would see heavy use rates. The armor rating for the Skaal set sits at 46, which isn't terrible, but the set lacks the ability to be crafted, upgraded, or boosted by smithing and smithing perks. With this fact alone that means that every other set in the game that can be boosted or upgraded will be more beneficial to players than the Skaal Armor set. In any case, the set itself does have the redeeming quality of being a cool design that allows your character to look like a disciple of Genghis Khan.
3 Best: Ancient Shrouded Armor (Light)
Now, by this point in the list, you should see that I take into account what an armor set provides in terms of actual armor as well as aesthetic. Ancient Shrouded Armor does little outside of giving a stealth character suitable buffs, but pairing that with a sleek red and black design land it here on the list. The Ancient Shrouded Armor set provides players with the sneak attack, boot muffling, poison defense, and bow attack bonuses when the full set is equipped. Earlier we talked about how the Archmage's robes are an immediate area of focus for mage-based characters. It's the same here in terms of characters looking to place emphasis on stealth and sneaking. This armor set can be acquired by completing the Dark Brotherhood quest called The Feeble Fortune.
2 Worst: Worn Shrouded Armor (Light)
The Worn Shrouded Armor set is the worst armor in the entire world of Skyrim. It has an armor rating of 35 which doesn't seem too bad until you consider the fact that it can't be upgraded. Now, you can alleviate some issues by simply enchanting each piece of the set, but why would you waste resources when you can upgrade a different set from a higher starting point? Luckily we've already talked about a really nifty set of Shrouded Armor — so if you really dig the red/black combo design then you're in luck. This armor set really doesn't benefit any type of player or character. It's intended for use by stealth type characters, but the inability to upgrade coupled with a very low starting point means that this set should be disposed of or sold as soon as possible.
1 Best: Daedric Armor (Heavy)
One of the greatest parts about Skyrim —and there are many— is that the (arguably) best set of armor in the game is also the most badass in terms of aesthetic. The Daedric Armor set not only imbues the wearer with a sense of confidence and intimidation, but it also provides a generously beefy amount of protection. The icing on the cake is that the set can be upgraded and enchantment to the owner's content. Daedric Armor tops the list for its usefulness, customizability, and sheer aesthetic excellence. It's not often in games that the best-looking set of armor is also the best performing. Many times players are left wearing an embarrassing combination of items for ultimate effectiveness. Thanks to Skyrim we had our cake and eat it too.