Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Lifewire / Kelsey Simon
Well written plot
Highly interactive world
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a well-written, highly immersive action role-playing game. It‘s great for any player who enjoys fantasy, dragons, and magic in an expansive open world.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an action role-playing game focused on single-player immersion in a fantasy world. It was originally released in 2011 and has most recently been ported over to the Switch. We took a close look at this game on its newest platform, playing it on the go to test the handheld gameplay experience, along with the plot and graphics.
As with other games on the Nintendo Switch, you’ll need to insert the cartridge into your device. Skyrim does take a while to launch, so be patient as it loads up. There shouldn’t be any special downloads required, like with other games, and as soon as things load you’ll be able to play.
First, let’s just take a moment to mention that this review covers The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim―a game that was originally released in November of 2011 for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. That’s right, the game is now over seven years old. In 2016, Skyrim released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. They even released a VR version of the game last year, shortly after releasing the Switch version.
To say this game has a history, and a huge fandom, is an understatement. Jokes about Bethesda forever re-releasing Skyrim on new platforms have been circulating through the gaming world for a while now. All of these thoughts were running through our head when we started playing Skyrim for the Switch. Is another version of this game for another platform really necessary? We wanted to stand firm and say no. We wanted to begrudge Bethesda for releasing Skyrim yet again rather than creating something new. There’s just one problem: Skyrim is a good game, and Nintendo’s Switch is an amazing system.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim starts with you on the back of a cart, your hands bound and a few other prisoners with you. You’re being taken to a location where an executioner is going to chop off your head. Of course, if you died, this wouldn’t be much of game, so it doesn’t come as a big surprise when a dragon swoops down from the sky and interrupts things. With your newfound freedom, you’ll venture to a nearby city and give the Jarl there a warning that a dragon is coming. You’ll help kill this dragon, and after, you’ll learn you’re special. You’re Dragonborn.
There are a variety of stories for you to get involved in, many of which you can solve in whatever manner you please, whether that’s by being diplomatic or murdering everyone you see.
You can suck up the power of a dragon, which can then be used to in a special form of magic, called a shout. Shouts range from knockout shouts (Fus Ro Dah!), shouts that let you jump, ones that freeze, etc. You’ll spend a good chunk of the game hunting down words of power and learning new shouts, while also killing more dragons, hunting for more treasure, and slaughtering loads of draugr along the way.
It's important to remember that Skyrim is an open-world, role-playing game with loads of possibilities. You can choose where you go, and which side missions you want to do. There are a variety of stories for you to get involved in, many of which you can solve in whatever manner you please, whether that’s by being diplomatic or murdering everyone you see. That’s the true beauty of Skyrim―how much control the game gives you over your character. The world building in the game is also beautifully done, with missions that allow you to learn more about the worlds myths, legends, and gods, but also books that help flesh out the lore.
When it comes to role-playing games, Skyrim balances player control perfectly with world immersion. You can learn everything there is to know about the world of Skyrim if you wish, or you can just run along killing things and doing the main missions. It’s really up to you.
Check out our guide to the best Nintendo Switch action adventure games.
The first real interactive thing you do with the game is to create your character, and true to other Elder Scrolls games, you can change your character’s appearance in the most minute way. Pick your race, gender, hairstyle, eye color, and even tweak the height of your cheekbones and brows if you want. This is the first sign of just how encompassing and involved the role-playing aspects of Skyrim are.
The action comes in through the fighting―an integral part of the game, as important as the role-playing. You’ll be able to hone your combat abilities, whether with the magic of a mage, the arrows of a ranger, or the sword of a fighter. You’ll be able to choose whether or not you want to be stealthy, sneaking up on foes, or running straight at them, axe swinging.
We often found ourselves struggling to face an oncoming attacker, or struggling with the motion controls to aim our bow.
Skyrim does an amazing job of setting up an open-world fighting system that really allows you to control how your character fights and levels. There’s just one issue: the open fighting system is amazing when you’re playing on PC, but on the Switch, it just isn’t as smooth. We often found ourselves struggling to face an oncoming attacker, or struggling with the motion controls to aim our bow. We quickly resorted to axes and swords, swinging wildly at enemies because it just felt easier on the Switch than taking the time to be precise with the bow.
Overall, that was our biggest complaint about Skyrim for the Switch. On PC, it’s actually pretty amazing just how much control you have, especially with all the mods you can download. But on the Switch, the number of buttons you have are limited, and doing things like sprinting is far more awkward than just pressing shift. Instead, you’ll have to use a combination of both joysticks and one of your left buttons. Your B key opens a menu, which again can be clunky and awkward to flip between the map, which you need often, and your inventory.
The lock-picking system gives you haptic feedback, and shouts and spells are done with the upper left and right buttons. Overall, the gameplay was designed to function fluidly with a keyboard and a mouse, and when simplified down to two joysticks and a handful of buttons, becomes complicated and far less smooth. After some time we did get better at the controls, but it never felt natural and we often had to adjust our grip to turn before we found the enemy attacking us.
Check out our article on Skyrim hacks and cheats.
The graphics in Skyrim aren’t awful, but they haven't progressed much since 2011. If you’ve played any other version of Skyrim, you can overlook it, simply because you know what you’re getting into. Bethesda attempted to make Skyrim look realistic, likely in their desire to give you a fully immersive experience. But these days, Skyrim’s graphics just aren’t as realistic as what other, more recent games have accomplished. In places, the mountains look blocky and the grass a little patchy. Character’s faces sometimes seem deeply sunken around the eyes, with the skin looking more like leather than flesh. It’s not that the graphics are overly bad, they’re just not as good as what you can get with better hardware on the PC.
Considering The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is available on so many other devices, it raises the question of whether or not it’s worth getting for the Switch. First, let’s talk about the negatives. We mentioned our issues with the controls earlier. If you're used to playing the game with a mouse and keyboard, the controls on the Switch just aren't as easy to use.
The other advantage to playing on PC is the variety of mods available for download. There are more than you can imagine, with features that range from making the visuals more pleasing, to adding entirely new lands, quests, and characters.
But there are some advantages to playing on the Switch, the main one being the ability to take the game on the go. The Switch is the first platform that allows you to take Skyrim with you. You can play in the car or on an airplane, which is a feature that‘s hard to beat. Motion controls are also a unique selling point. You can hook up your Switch to a TV or a monitor, and hold the two Joy-Cons freely in each hand. Instead of clicking a button to swing your weapon, you’ll swing your hand. It actually feels pretty instinctual to play like this, adding another fun element to the game.
Take a peek at our guide to the Elder Scrolls V. Skyrim main quest.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim costs roughly $60 dollars for the Switch (MSRP). You might be able to find it on sale on Amazon for less, but it’s still on the more expensive side like other popular Switch games. This is disappointing since you can find Skyrim on other platforms for a fraction of the cost, even snatching it up for sale on Steam for $25 or less on PC. Considering the cost difference, the PC version of the game is the better deal, especially since the gameplay is better looking. But if you’re looking to take Skyrim on the go, or a Switch is your preferred gaming system, the price isn’t unreasonable.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim almost competes with itself, due to how many other versions of the game are available on other platforms. But if you’re looking for role-playing games specifically designed for the Switch, it would be worth looking at The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It was designed for the Switch from the beginning, sharing Skyrim’s action role-playing gameplay, but with crisp, beautiful graphics and smoother controls. If you’re interested in Japanese RPGs (JRPGs), it might also be worth looking into Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which will also share the same action-packed feel as Skyrim, but with a completely different graphics style and somewhat more complex combat and leveling.
Good if you want to play on the go.
Even though The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a great game and the Switch is an amazing platform, our advice is only to buy Skyrim for the Switch if you’re looking to play on the go. Otherwise, we’d suggest purchasing Skyrim for the PC, where you’ll really be able to enjoy superior graphics and customization options.
There was an error. Please try again.
Thank you for signing up.