Obvious answer: Skyrim. How can you enjoy replaying Skyrim without being able to bypass the intro, sort your inventory by weight or value, or steal the Paragliding from Breath of the Wild (opens in a new tab)? OK, the last one is optional, but Skyrim is the number one game that I would only suggest playing unmodified the first time around. (Game number two is every other Bethesda open-world RPG.) I guess if you count unofficial patches as mods, the same goes for Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, but I’m thinking more mods complete only to patches.
What game would you never play without mods?
Here are our answers, plus some of our forum.
Wes Fenlon, Editor: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2. Somewhere in the pages of PC Gamer, I’m pretty sure I called KotOR 2 the buggiest game I’ve ever beaten. I made it to the end, surviving a good slew of bugs, outright crashes, and even a corrupted save file. And that was all with the vital TSLRCM, aka Changed Restored Sith Lords Content (opens in a new tab), installed. TSLRCM is an essential add-on that restores bits and pieces of KotOR2 that developer Obsidian didn’t have time to complete, and also fixes bugs that made stuff that actually has been in the game inaccessible. Considering how buggy The Sith Lords was still when I played it in 2013, I can’t imagine how bad it was before fans rushed to fix it.
TSLRCM debuted in 2009 and was last updated in December 2020, so maybe all the issues I encountered in 2013 have since been resolved. I hope so, because it’s my choice for the best Star Wars game. (opens in a new tab). Just…use lots of save slots.
Chris Livingston, Feature Film Producer: Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl is one of my favorite games of all time, but gosh. It has bugs. To be honest, some of them are pretty darn fun and only deepen my affection for the game, but I can’t imagine I’d play it again unmodified. It’s been years since I’ve revisited it, so I don’t know what the best mods are for it these days, but I remember the Area Reclamation Project (opens in a new tab) did a good job of ironing out bugs, improving stability, and adding new optional features without feeling like a completely different experience.
Ted Litchfield, Associate Editor: I pretty much gave up mods that aren’t reconstructive or standalone due to 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 home PC: Magic midas for oblivion (opens in a new tab), Call of Duty tacticoo stuff in Fallout. I picked up NPCs from other game franchises, a custom race of weird anime elves, mods to expand towns and settlements and bring them to the same loading zone as the overworld, and I’ve brought this computer to its knees.
After a certain point something snapped and the ground texture on Oblivion’s overworld was just a repeating pattern of an imperial city map for some reason, and I didn’t could determine what had done it. The problem persisted even on a fresh install (I’m sure I could have figured something out, but I was 13). I had loaded this PC with so many weird and tasteless mods it was permanently haunted, and I didn’t play Oblivion again for over 10 years. These days I try to “respect the developer’s vision”.
Andy Chalk, NA News Manager: I don’t usually play with mods, and I don’t usually play games again once I’m done with them. But if I ever succumb to the temptation to return to Morrowind, I absolutely won’t without the Passive Cliff Racers mod, or something like that. It may seem like a minor thing, but man, these birds are just a non-stop pain in the ass. The Nerevarine doesn’t need that.
I’m changing my answer, because I completely forgot about that. One game I’ve replayed (and might replay again) is System Shock 2. It’s great, but graphically very dated. (Frankly, it was graphically dated when it was new.) There are two essential mods to address this shortcoming: System Shock 2 Renaissance (opens in a new tab) and SHUP (opens in a new tab), the shock texture upgrade project. They’re a little fiddly to use, but collectively they give the game a serious and much-needed visual upgrade. It’s been a while since I played SS2, so there may be other options now, but Rebirth and SHTUP have always been the “big ones”, and those are the two I wouldn’t be without.
(Nor should you.)
Brian Boru: Far Cry 5. Another one of Ubisoft’s boring FC intros, which I only want to see once. Then there are the many-hated capture sequences that kept me out of gaming for nearly a year until the excellent Resistance mod took care of both of those issues.
Civilization. I played Civ4 for about a year in vanilla – a wonderful game, but UI boredom finally got to me. The BUG/BAT mod made it playable again, as I play it every year. I started Civ6 recently and went straight to mods, installed about 30 of them – no need to suffer from UI deficiencies when I don’t have to.
With games good enough to warrant a replay, I usually look for an “unlocked” mod, so I can have access to most of the good stuff right off the bat.
ZedClampet: Welp, I currently have 285 mods running in Farming Simulator 22 (by the time I finished playing Farming Simulator 19 I had over 800 mods), but that would only be a close second to Satisfactory, where I only have 48 mods, but they’re incredibly important to how I want to play the game; for example, the mod that makes the game peaceful, removing all enemies, plants and animals, and the mods that allow access to vehicles earlier in the game.
I have played this game over and over again. Unlocking trains, drones, and jetpacks later was cool the first couple times. Now I just want them ASAP. Same for the enemies. They were fun at first, but now they’re just a nuisance. Also, mods that replace the very annoying bio-energy at the start of the game are a must. So, yes, it is Satisfactory for me.
major : Other than the obvious answer you already listed, my next most modded game would be Fallout 4. I would never play this game without mods (aside from the first part when it was released). Make your settlements bigger and more sophisticated, make your settlers smarter, upgrade factions, extra quests, extra crafting options, and there’s even a FallUI (opens in a new tab) mod now based on SkyUI, and a photo mode (opens in a new tab) mod this is the best photo mode i have ever used. Your mod choices are nearly as endless as they are for Skyrim.
DXCHASE: None, I mostly play vanilla games and if there’s a feature I want I’ll download it.
Fridis: Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. Don’t get me wrong, the game is absolutely amazing with some of the coolest side quests, classes, and skills. It’s a fantastic game from the start, but it also has one of the most heartbreaking moments in video game history: Elizabeth Dane’s fucking quest where you have to use a boat that’s mostly : buggy! Buggy you say, YES! This means you can’t continue with the main story because you can’t get the prompt that says you can get into the fucking boat! It was incredibly frustrating if you didn’t support your saves, managed to get a save from a friend OR got the unofficial patch that fixed this.
Zloth: Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries. The game is certainly playable without any mods, but, assuming you have the PC to spare, why would you? Some graphic mods to make explosions fiercer, leave smoke trails behind missiles and maybe give you glass in the cockpit make the game look better. TTRulez AI Mod (opens in a new tab) makes allies and enemies smarter. The Pilot review (opens in a new tab) makes your mechwarriors more interesting and lets you change their portraits and voices (very handy to avoid duplicates in your spear), and vonBiomes (opens in a new tab) add new interesting places to fight.
Slask: I would never play Cities Skylines without mods. Luckily, the game has had great mod support from the start. I don’t just use one active because that really kills performance, but I use a lot of other mods for traffic and other QOL mods. I’ve gone crazy with assets before, and it stops performance at single digit fps when you get a big city.
Sarafan: It’ll be a bit controversial, but I can’t imagine going back to Deus Ex without it. Revision (opens in a new tab) mod. It fixes a few bugs that remained in the original game and that alone is very good, but its main benefit is the new content. Many sites have undergone a major overhaul and the new areas barely stand out in quality from the original content. They fit perfectly.
Additionally, the mod improves the graphics significantly, features a remixed version of the soundtrack, and a new take on skill points and boosts (there are few options of this feature to choose from). The big advantage is that all these modifications 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 one. Don’t like the skill tree changes? Choose the standard. The same goes for the new character models and some other aspects of the mod.
Revision is highly configurable. I can only recommend trying it. Not everyone likes it, but chances are you’ll never go back to the original game without this mod.