The best weapons in ‘Skyrim’

Skyrim races - Redguard
Image via FudgeMuppet/YouTube

Skyrim has been out for more than a decade now and remains one of the most-returned-to titles in many gamer’s libraries. 

The game offers up broad replay-ability thanks to the range of different racial options, radiant quests, and wandering NPCs contained within its utterly massive world. By the fourth or fifth play-through, however, gamers returning to the reaches of Tamriel are likely familiar with many of its most common moments — like the game’s heavily-memed opening scene.

What they may not be familiar with are the game’s best weapons. Skyrim offers up a bafflingly robust range of weaponry options, many of which can be further improved by players with high smithing skills. Your next venture into Skyrim’s deadliest tombs and caves could be much improved by these weapons — the very best the game has to offer.

The best weapons in Skyrim

Skyrim’s range of diverse play styles presents a bit of a hurdle in an article like this. The game presents a broad range of options, both racially and combat-wise, for players to choose from, which allows them to enjoy the game time and again in a variety of different ways. You also have the option to upgrade almost every weapon you come across in Tamriel, which means that even a low-level weapon could eventually become one of your most powerful.

Players looking to plow their way through enemies as a tank with a brutal two-hander are going to find very little use for a dagger or magical staff, but mages couldn’t wield that hefty claymore even if they wanted to. This makes a specific classification of the “best” weapons rather difficult, as each weapon is sure to be utterly useless to certain character types. Because of this, the following list will detail weapons that almost any build can use successfully, as well as some weapons that — while limited in their use — are too effective to ignore.

Daggers

Plenty of character types can find use for a good dagger or two. If you’re smashing your way through the game as a hopelessly obvious tank, you’re unlikely to use it often, but anyone aiming to take a sneaky route — even occasionally — should take a look at these excellent options for a subtle takedown. 

The Stalhrim Dagger

Stahlrim dagger
Image via VinylicPumaGaming/YouTube

Leveling up a sneaky Skyrim character can be exceedingly difficult in the beginning. Until you are adequately stealthy, these typically light-weight builds tend to get murdered. A lot.

With the right weapon, you can turn this completely around. The Stalhrim Dagger is a great option for fresh characters aiming for a thief or assassin build, as it is available early in the game. Players can purchase the dagger in Raven Rock or the Skall Village in Solstheim, or hope for the best while looting various chests throughout the game. It can also be crafted with the right materials and a high enough smithing skill. The blade offers up a relatively low base damage of 10, but can be upgraded and offers the perk of an additional 25 percent frost damage. It’s also exceedingly lightweight, only adding 4.5 to your carry load.

Mehrune’s Razor

Mehrune's Dagger
Image via VinylicPumaGaming/YouTube

This simple blade has a long history in Elder Scrolls games and remains a popular option for several reasons. Its base damage is pretty low, at only 11, but this dagger has an added bonus: it offers up a 1.98 percent chance of providing you with an instant kill, regardless of your level. For new players, this has the potential to be a game-changer. You can also obtain the blade early on — at the Shrine of Mehrunes Dagon — after you’ve completed the related quest. Low-level characters can use this blade to increase the likelihood of a quiet kill and never need concern themselves with a recharge. The weapon doesn’t require soul gems to offer up its perk.

Mehrune’s Razor can be acquired following the “Pieces of the Past” quest, which starts following an invitation to the Mythic Dawn Museum in Dawnstar. 

Blade of Woe

Blade of Woe - Skyrim
Image via VinylicPumaGaming/YouTube

Most players who find consistent use for a dagger are likely pursuing either the Thieves Guild or Dark Brotherhood storylines. It is thus unsurprising that one of the game’s best daggers is obtained at the end of one of these storylines, once players are deep into the Dark Brotherhood’s murderous folds. 

The blade offers up a base damage of 12 and seeps a full 10 health with every blow, but weighs 7, more than most of its small-bladed peers. It has the added bonus of being available as a pickpocket option for particularly talented thieves, or you can wait for the “With Friends Like These” quest to get it the legal(ish) way. 

One-handers

A one-handed weapon is likely the most versatile option for all player types. Smaller, quicker builds aiming for a sneaky play-through will be able to wield these weapons effectively, as will larger, more brutal character types.

Dawnbreaker

Dawnbreaker - Skyrim
Image via Caedo Genesis/YouTube

It doesn’t pack the punch of some of the weapons on this list, but this scorching sword is a unique weapon that is guaranteed to boost certain combat experiences. It’ll be particularly useful early in the game, so consider meeting up with the Daedric Prince Meridia as quickly as possible.

You can track Meridia down at her shrine to the west of Solitude, atop Mount Kilkreath. Upon completion of “The Break of Dawn” quest line, she’ll award players with this Daedric artifact. The simple one-hander provides a base damage of 12 with a weight of 10, and is at its finest when used against the undead. Additional effects allow wielders to burn their target for 10 points and add in the occasional ability to cause fiery explosions.

Chillrend

Chillrend - Skyrim
Image via VinylicPumaGaming/YouTube

If you’re looking for almost the exact opposite to the above option, Chillrend may be your weapon of choice. The path to seizing this blade is a bit longer than that of Dawnbreaker, however, leaving it potentially out of reach for low-level characters. This icy blade will be a boon to any players who do manage to get their hands on it early in the game, particularly when paired with a weapon like Dawnbreaker.

Chillrend is at its most useful against enemies with a weakness to ice, thanks to its ability to add 30 points of frost damage to its base damage of 15. The 16 weight blade also provides a small chance of complete paralysis, and levels up with players as they power their way through the game. It can only be obtained from the leader of the Thieves Guild, however, requiring players to break into Riften’s Riftweald Manor if they want to give the blade a try.

Mace of Molag Bal

Mace of Molag Bol - Skyrim
Image via VinylicPumaGaming/YouTube

Another Daedric artifact worth trying out, the Mace of Molag Bal is an excellent option for players looking to dual wield or pair magic with a sturdy one-handed weapon. The quest related to this enchanted mace is a bit morally dicey, however, which could restrict players looking to enjoy the game with an intact moral compass.

You can track this weapon down in Markarth, following completion of the “House of Horrors” quest. It provides its users with a base damage of 16, but is weightier than its fellows on this list at 18. The addition of 25 points of magicka and stamina damage gives the mace a boost, as does its ability to use soul trap on enemies.

Two-handers

A mage or assassin is unlikely to wield any of these weapons effectively, but you’ll be nigh unstoppable as an Orc or Nord with one of these savage weapons in-hand. They’re too heavy for smaller builds, but any heavy-hitter will wreck the competition with these two-handed options. 

Bloodskal Blade

Bloodskal Blade - Skyrim
Image via VinylicPumaGaming/YouTube

The Bloodskal Blade manages to combine short and long range into a single badass sword, making this selection an excellent choice for anyone with some extra carry weight to spare. This weapon is available early in the game and will likely remain a favorite long after players have outgrown it.

This blade’s prominence among players has to do with its special ability. While the blade itself is pretty commonplace — offering up 21 base damage with a reasonably low 16 weight — its perk allows wielders to hurl a wave of energy up to 15 feet. This long-range attack can target multiple enemies for 30 damage and can even pass through walls. Remember Sevika’s blade in Arcane? It’s like that, but not attached to your arm. Find the Bloodskal Blade following the conclusion of the “Final Descent” story line, acquirable from Crescius Caerellius in Raven’s Rock.

Dragonbone Battleaxe

Dragonbone Battleaxe - Skyrim
Image via VinylicPumaGaming/YouTube

This two-handed option doesn’t require any lengthy quests or ceaseless conversations with NPCs to obtain. In fact, players with a high skill level in smithing may even be able to make this sturdy weapon themselves, avoiding the need to partake in any of the Dawnstar storylines.

If you’d like to avoid the physical labor of making this battleaxe yourself, there are alternate options. The weapon — which boasts 26 in base damage, but is rather weighty at 30 — can be located in scattered areas around Tamriel, or following the defeat of the Soul Cairn’s Keepers. The weapon is fully upgradeable and benefits from several boosts.

Volendrung

Volendrung - Skyrim
Image via VinylicPumaGaming/YouTube

A mainstay across Elder Scrolls entries, Volendrung is one of the very best two-handers available in Skyrim. This legacy weapon is attainable for players willing to work with the Daedric Prince Malacath, who will reward players with the powerful war hammer following completion of the “Cursed Tribe” questline. 

Volendrung offers up an enviable 25 in base damage, weighs only 26, and comes equipped with the perfect perk for heavy-hitters. The weapon absorbs 5 stamina with each blow, ensuring longevity in your next melee battle.

Bows

Bows are arguably the most versatile weapon in Skyrim. Any build type will find occasional use for a bow, which allows players to take down enemies from a distance. You’ll need to get your archery up to snuff before you can clear a camp with nothing but a few arrows, but with one of these in hand, the enemy will never get a clear look at you.

Auriel’s Bow

Auriel's Bow - Skyrim
Image via VinylicPumaGaming/YouTube

You can’t do much better than Auril’s Bow if you enjoy archery at all, let alone if you rely heavily on the skill. This bow doesn’t have nearly the stats of some of the weapons on this list, but it makes up for its smaller damage with the ability to cut enemies down from a distance. Auriel’s Bow also offers up several perks, which stack on top of its 13 base damage to make for a truly devastating weapon. Once you add in the 20 sun damage, you’ve got a base damage of 33. Against undead enemies, the weapon is even more effective, tripling the sun damage to deal out a whopping 73 damage in total.

You can track Auriel’s Bow down after defeating Arch-Curate Vythur at the end of the “Touching the Sky” quest. You’ll find it in the Inner Sanctum of the Forgotten Vale, according to The Gamer.

Nightingale Bow

Skyrim - Nightingale Bow
Image via VinylicPumaGaming/YouTube

Make it far enough into the Thieves Guild storyline and you can wield power over the elements with this stellar bow. It’s a great option for players of all skill levels, but is a particularly good fit for lower-leveled characters. It levels up with players to a base damage of 19, but stacks this with 30 frost damage and 15 shock damage. You can’t enchant this bow, but you can upgrade it to make it even deadlier. 

Players will get the Nightingale Bow from Karliah during the “Blindsided” Thieves Guild quest, at Bronze Water Cave.

Daedric Bow

Daedric bow - Skyrim
Image via VinylicPumaGaming/YouTube

It doesn’t have the speed of Zephyr, but this bow does have the ability to be enchanted, which can massively increase its damage potential. Neither of the above options — despite their very worthwhile perks — can be enchanted, but they can be upgraded. The Daedric Bow has the perk of being upgradeable and enchantable, on top of already enticing stats. At its base level, the Daedric Bow does 19 damage, but it’s rather weighty at 18.

Once you’ve topped level 47, you should be able to purchase this bow from vendors in Riften or Windhelm, or you can locate it for free — with far more hassle — in Brood Cavern, a small cave to the southwest of Morthal. 

Staffs

Of all the options on this list, this section is the most restrictive. Without real effort, several classes in Skyrim are generally ineffective with any type of magic. Staffs don’t require magical knowledge to wield, however, and can add an elemental boost to any fight. While certain character builds may not find consistent use for these staffs, they are inarguably powerful options for even non-magic wielders.

Staff of Magnus

Staff of Magnus - Skyrim
Image via ChakaWhat/YouTube

It doesn’t pack the punch of Miraak’s Staff, but players can track this stave down far earlier in the game. Another legacy weapon, this staff will look familiar to fans of previous Elder Scrolls releases and offers up similar stats.

In order to obtain this staff, players will need to embark on the “Eye of Magnus” storyline. The quest will eventually pit you against a Dragon Priest, so come prepared, but once you defeat Morokei in the Labyrinthian dungeon, you’ll get access to this stellar stave. Using the Staff of Magnus will give players the ability to leech 20 magicka per second from their foe, but it boasts an additional perk. Once your enemy runs out of magicka, the staff will switch to leaching their health. It’s a stellar weapon, particularly against high powered enemies, but drains quickly. Make sure you’re well stocked on soul gems before utilizing the Staff of Magnus.

Sanguine Rose

Sanguine Rose - Skyrim
Image via ChakaWhat/YouTube

One of the coolest-looking staffs in Skyrim, Sanguine Rose is also a thoroughly useful weapon to keep around. The staff, which can be obtained early in the game, offers up the ability to summon a Dremora to lend their aid to any fight you may find yourself in. The Dremora will hang around for 60 seconds following its summoning and battle alongside players until its death.

This summoning is made even better by the rare chance of a high level sword. Upon your summoned Dremora’s death, it will occasionally drop a Daedric Greatsword of Scortching, an incredibly powerful two-handed weapon that, if all else fails, will sell for a tidy price.

Wabbajack

Wabbajack - Skyrim
Image via ChakaWhat/YouTube

This funky stave doesn’t boast the dragon-killing stats of some of its brothers, but its uniqueness makes it a must-have for Skyrim fans. The quest related to this staff is also delightfully weird and pretty simple to pull off early in the game.

The Wabbajack grants its wielder the ability to transform a target into anything, at random. So pointing the staff at a bear will guarantee that you’re no longer facing down a bear, but it might turn into something worse or something useless, like a wheel of cheese. Or it might disintegrate completely. It’s hard to say.

The staff is obtained from the Daedric Prince of Madness, Sheogorath. The Prince himself will hand the staff over following the events of the “Mind of Madness” quest. Starting the quest will require a quick trip to the Pelagius Wing of the Blue Palace in Solitude.