Obvious answer: Skyrim. How can you enjoy replaying Skyrim without being able to bypass the intro, sort your inventory by weight or value, or fly the Breath of the Wild paraglider? (opens in new tab)? OK, the last one is optional, but Skyrim is the number one game I would only suggest if you’re playing it unmodded for the first time. (Game number two is every other Bethesda open-world role-playing game.) I think if you count unofficial patches as mods, the same goes for Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, but I’m thinking full mods rather than fixes.
Which game would you never play without mods?
Here are our answers, plus some from our forum.
Wes Fenlon, Editor-in-Chief: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2. Somewhere on the PC Gamer pages, I’m pretty sure I called KotOR 2 the most buggy game I’ve ever beaten. I made it to the end and survived a fair amount of bugs, outright crashes, and even a corrupted save file. And that’s all With the vital TSLRCM, also known as The Sith Lords Restored Content Modification (opens in new tab), Furnished. TSLRCM is a must-have add-on that restores parts of KotOR2 that developer Obsidian didn’t have time to finish, as well as fixing bugs that made some things that way was inaccessible in game. Considering how buggy The Sith Lords was when I played it back in 2013, I can’t imagine how bad it was before fans rushed in to fix it.
TSLRCM debuted in 2009 and was last updated in December 2020, so perhaps any issues I encountered in 2013 have since been ironed out. I really hope so because this is my pick for best Star Wars game (opens in new tab). Just use lots of memory slots.
Chris Livingston, Producer of Features: Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl is one of my favorite games of all time, but my goodness. It has bugs. To be fair, some of them are pretty damn amusing and only deepen my affection for the game, but I can’t imagine ever playing it unmodded again. It’s been ages since I’ve revisited it, so I’m not sure what the best mods for it are these days, but I remember the Zone Reclamation Project (opens in new tab) It did a good job of fixing bugs, improving stability, and adding some new optional features without feeling like a completely different experience.
Ted Litchfield, Associate Editor: I’ve practically sworn off mods that aren’t reconstructive or standalone because of my experience with Oblivion and Fallout 3 in eighth grade. I was blown away by the possibilities and loaded a ridiculous amount of mods onto our family PC: Midas Magic for Oblivion (opens in new tab), Call of Duty tactical stuff in Fallout. I’ve picked up NPCs from other gaming franchises, a custom race of weird anime elves, mods to expand cities and settlements and put them in the same loading zone as the overworld, and I’ve brought this computer to its knees.
After a certain point, something broke and the ground texture on the overworld in Oblivion was just a repeating pattern of an Imperial City map for some reason, and I couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was. The problem somehow persisted even on a clean install (I’m sure I could have figured something out, but I was 13). I had this PC loaded with so many weird, tasteless mods that it was constantly haunted, and I haven’t played Oblivion in over 10 years. These days, I try to “respect the developers’ vision.”
Andy Chalk, NA News Director: I don’t usually play with mods, and I generally don’t play games once I’m done with them. But if I ever succumb to the temptation to return to Morrowind, there’s no way I’m going to do so without the Passive Cliff Racers mod or something similar. It may seem like a small thing, but Man, these birds are just a non-stop nuisance. The Nerevarine don’t need that.
I am changing my answer because I completely forgot about that. One game I’ve replayed (and may play again) is System Shock 2. It’s brilliant but very dated graphically. (Frankly, it was graphically outdated when it was new.) There are two mods that are essential to addressing this shortcoming: System Shock 2 Rebirth (opens in new tab) and SHTUP (opens in new tab), the Shock Texture Upgrade project. They’re a bit awkward to use, but together they give the game a serious and much-needed visual upgrade. It’s been a long time since I’ve played SS2 so there may be other options now, but Rebirth and SHTUP have always been the “big ones” and they’re the two I wouldn’t go without.
(You shouldn’t either.)
Brian Boru: Far Cry 5. Another of Ubisoft’s stretched, boring FC intros that I only want to watch once. Then there are the much hated capture sequences that made me stop playing for almost a year until the excellent Resistance mod took care of both of those issues.
Civilization. I’ve been playing Civ4 vanilla for ~a year – lovely game but UI fatigue finally got the better of me. The BUG/BAT mod made it playable again as far as I play it every year. I recently launched Civ6 and went straight to mods, installed ~30 – no point suffering from UI glitches if I don’t have to.
For games that are good enough to warrant a repeat, I usually look for an “unlock” mod so I can access most of the good stuff right from the start.
ZedClampet: Welp, I currently have 285 mods in Farming Simulator 22 (when I finished playing Farming Simulator 19 I had over 800 mods) but that would be a bare second behind Satisfactory where I only have 48 mods, but they are incredibly important to how I want to play the game; For example the mod that makes the game peaceful, removes all enemies, both plants and animals, and the mods that allow access to vehicles earlier in the game.
I’ve played this game over and over again. Late unlocking of trains, drones, and jetpacks was cool the first few times. Now I just want her asap. The same goes for enemies. At first they were funny, but now they’re just annoying. Also, the mods that replace the highly pesky early-game bio-energy are a must. So, yes, it’s satisfactory for me.
Captain: Aside from the obvious answer you already listed, my next most modded game would be Fallout 4. I would never play this game without mods (except for the first playthrough when it was released). Make your settlements bigger and fancier, make your settlers smarter, improve factions, additional quests, additional crafting options, and there’s even a FallUI (opens in new tab) Mod based on the SkyUI and a photo mode (opens in new tab) Mod, this is the best photo mode I’ve ever used. Your choice of mods is almost as endless as Skyrim.
DXCHASE: None, I mostly play vanilla games and if there’s a feature I want I download it.
Friend: Vampires: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. Don’t get me wrong, the game is absolutely amazing with some of the coolest side quests, classes and abilities. It’s an amazing game from the get-go, but it also has one of the most heartbreaking moments in video game history: The goddamn Elizabeth Dane quest that requires you to use a boat that’s bugged most of the time! bugged you say YES! It means you can’t proceed with the main story because you don’t get the prompt that says you can enter the goddamn boat! It was insanely frustrating when you didn’t back up your saves, managed to get a save from a friend, OR gotten the unofficial patch that fixed it.
Zloth: Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries. The game is certainly playable without mods, but when you have the PC at your disposal, why would you? Some graphic mods to make the explosions look more fiery, leave smoke trails behind the missiles, and maybe indulge in some cockpit glass will make the game look better. AI mod by TTRulez (opens in new tab) makes allies and enemies act smarter. The pilot overhaul (opens in new tab) makes your mechwarriors more interesting and lets you edit their portraits and voices (very handy to avoid duplicates in your lance) and biomes (opens in new tab) Add some interesting new places to fight.
Slasken: I would never play Cities Skylines without mods. Luckily, the game had great mod support from the start. I don’t use just one asset as it really slows performance, but I use many other mods for traffic and other QOL mods. I used to be asset crazy, and it freezes performance to single digit fps when you get a big city.
sarafan: It’s going to be a bit controversial, but I can’t see going back to Deus Ex without the revision (opens in new tab) Mod. It fixes some bugs left in the original game and that in itself is very good, but its main asset is the new content. Many locations have undergone a complete overhaul and the quality of the new areas is almost indistinguishable from the original content. They fit perfectly.
In addition, the mod improves the graphics in meaningful ways, proposes a remixed version of the soundtrack, and a new approach to skill points and enhancements (there are few options for this feature to choose from). The big advantage is that all these changes are optional and you can disable certain parts of the mod in the menu. Don’t like the new soundtrack? No problem, you can use the original. Don’t like the skill tree changes? Select the default. The same goes for new character models and some other aspects of the mod.
Revision is highly configurable. I can only recommend trying it out. Not everyone likes it, but chances are you’ll never go back to the original game without this mod.