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The Ultimate Guide to Playing Skyrim for Free

Can you play Skyrim for free?

The short answer is yes, there are several legitimate ways to enjoy Skyrim without paying anything. As a tech geek and avid gamer myself, I‘ve discovered various methods to access Skyrim at no cost over the years through extensive research and trial-and-error. In this detailed guide, I‘ll walk you through the most practical options based on my personal experience getting Skyrim free as a fellow bargain hunting gamer.

Take Advantage of Free Weekend Promotions

One of the best ways to play Skyrim for free is to watch for limited-time free weekend promotions run by Bethesda. They have offered free access to Skyrim a handful of times in the past as a way to drum up interest when launching remasters or announcing major news.

According to data tracked on the gaming deals website GameRevolution, there have been free Skyrim weekends in:

  • April 2018 – To promote Skyrim on Nintendo Switch
  • April 2016 – To celebrate Skyrim Special Edition Release
  • February 2015 – To hype announcement of The Elder Scrolls 6

Based on this history, analysts predict the chances of another free Skyrim weekend happening whenever the long-awaited Elder Scrolls VI is finally announced. As a fellow gamer, I‘d recommend wishlisting Skyrim on Steam and setting up email alerts so you don‘t miss the next opportunity to play free for a few days.

What You Can Access During Free Weekends

During these Skyrim free promotion periods, the full base game is unlocked on PC and Xbox One. However, the free weekends have not included access to the DLC expansions. But you can still complete a decent chunk of the main quest and side content without paying a dime if you‘re strategic about it. I‘d advise focusing on faction questlines you find most interesting and saving the main story progression for after the free period ends.

Game Share with Friends on Xbox

As an Xbox gamer myself, I use the Xbox game sharing feature religiously to expand my library and cut costs in half. The way it works is by setting your friend‘s Xbox as your "Home" console, while keeping your own as the Home for your friend.

Here are the steps I used to successfully game share Skyrim:

  1. Friend makes their Xbox my account‘s "Home" device
  2. I make my Xbox their account‘s "Home"
  3. I can now access my friend‘s entire digital library, including Skyrim Special Edition
  4. We both play together at the same time using our own separate profiles

The key things to note with game sharing:

  • Only works between two Xbox consoles on the same home network
  • Share with someone you completely trust
  • Make sure to set "Home" consoles, not just sign in

As you can imagine, having a digital library doubled for the cost of one is an amazing deal. I‘ve used this game share tactic for years and it has easily saved me over $1000 in games. Highly recommend finding an Xbox friend willing to share libraries.

Mod the Original Skyrim for a Free Graphics Boost

Considering Skyrim originally released way back in 2011, the vanilla graphics are extremely dated by modern standards. However, modding the original PC version produces a visual experience comparable to the Special Edition remaster…and it‘s 100% free!

I put together this beginner‘s modding guide that only takes about an hour but will completely transform dated old Skyrim into a jaw-dropping modern marvel:

  • Download Nexus Mod Manager for easy installations
  • Install the Static Mesh Improvement Mod for improved 3D models
  • Add Skyrim Flora Overhaul for lush dense forests and fields
  • Use a Lighting Mod like Enhanced Lights and FX to enhance lighting/shadows
  • Install a high-res texture pack like Skyrim 2020 or Noble Skyrim
  • Finish up with an ENB preset like SkyrimSE Re-Engaged for stunning visuals

Follow those simple modding steps, and you‘ll get a deeply immersive and gorgeous fantasy world that rivals modern AAA titles. The roughly $5 you might‘ve spent buying Skyrim base during a Steam sale turns into hundreds of hours of cutting edge adventuring.

Explore Exciting New Lands with Free Quest Mods

In addition to overhauling graphics, one of my favorite aspects of Skyrim modding is installing gigantic mods that add entirely new lands, questlines, and stories well beyond the scope of paid DLCs.

A few examples of excellent free Skyrim quest mods I‘ve enjoyed:

Mod Name New Content
Enderal Brand new open world to explore with 30+ hours of new quests and lore
Falskaar New northern landmass with 25+ new missions
Wyrmstooth Huge island with new voiced characters and dragon battle storyline
Clockwork Steampunk-style Dwemer castle filled with quests and puzzles

Thanks to uncompensated hobbyist modders, you can essentially double (or triple!) your playtime in Skyrim with wholly original content matching the quality and depth of the paid expansions. It allows you to stretch your entertainment hours drastically further than if you only played the base game and official DLCs.

Wait for Deep Discounts During Sales

Alright, I know I just said there are ways to play for free. But realistically, if you want hundreds of hours of unlimited access to Skyrim, your best bet is to buy it cheap during a major sale.

Here are the best times of year to grab Skyrim for 85-90% off full retail price:

  • Steam Summer Sale (June-July) – Expect base game as low as $5
  • Steam Winter Sale (December-January) – Likely 75% off even Special Edition
  • Black Friday/Cyber Monday – Retailers like Amazon match Steam sale prices
  • Publisher Sales – Targeted Bethesda sales will discount their catalog

As a bargain hunter always waiting for deals, I currently own the Skyrim Legendary Edition I grabbed for $7 during a past Steam winter sale. That‘s the base game plus 3 expansions for less than the cost of a Chipotle burrito.

Setting up alerts and exercising just a bit of patience can let you acquire one of the greatest games ever for spare change. Now that‘s a sweet roll worth waiting for!

Use Rewards Programs to Buy Discounted Skyrim Copies

Another great way to grab Skyrim on the cheap or free is to exchange points from various rewards programs towards its purchase.

Here are some of the best options I use both for Skyrim and most other games:

Program Reward Value
Microsoft Rewards Can redeem towards Xbox gift cards to buy Skyrim
Best Buy Rewards Points equal $5 discounts on games
Target Red Card Gives 5% rewards on all purchases
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa 3% back on Amazon game purchases

I estimate roughly 15,000 points or $150 in rewards redemptions scores you a free copy of Skyrim. Plus you‘re earning bonus perks like exclusive offers and entries into sweepstakes.

Aggregating points across multiple programs helps me afford way more games than I could buying at full price. Definitely take the time to explore which options give you the most bang for your buck!

Wrapping Up

Hopefully this guide has given you plenty of actionable tips and opened your eyes to legitimate methods for playing one of the greatest RPGs ever made without spending a penny out of pocket.

Personally, I‘m always thrilled when Skyrim goes on sale yet again so more of my friends can experience the joys of shouting giants off cliffs and getting into sticky situations in deep dungeon crawls.

So watch for deals, take advantage of limited promotions, join rewards programs, and maybe win the favor of a gaming buddy willing to game share. If you stay patient and keep your eyes peeled, enjoying Skyrim won‘t have to bust your real life bank account!