Skyrim Best Challenge Runs, Ranked
If there’s one thing Bethesda succeeded in with The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, it’s giving the player proper choice in how to play the game. There simply aren’t that many rules or limitations, especially when mods or console comm&s Advance into play. This is what has kept Skyrim so fresh all these years.
However, this isn’t just about character builds. It’s about custom rules & limitations that are so crazy & impossible that it’s a miracle some players have even managed to make them work. And yet, there’s proof that they do work, as seen in these insane challenge runs.
Updated on November 27, 2022, by Ritwik Mitra: The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim is one of the greatest RPGs of all time, there’s no doubt about that. There’s a reason why so many people are still playing this title even now, with re-releases & the like extending this title’s longevity for quite some time. Players who want a different experience with this familiar title can try out some of the ludicrous & entertaining challenges to keep them busy, with the best of the bunch being mentioned below.
15/15 Purchased Items Only – BADCompanySarge
Sometimes, it’s the simplest challenges in Skyrim that end up being quite memorable. Such is the case with the Purchased Items Only challenge, which states what players need to do from the get-go.
Aside from starting gear, the only equipment, items, & other things that players can use need to be purchased. Players need to loot & sell many items to gather the gold they need to keep their equipment on par with their enemies.
14/15 Flames Spell Only – Nerbit
The Flames spell is one of the most basic spells in the Destruction tree that players can use in the game. Suffice it to say, most players would move on from this spell the very moment they find different avenues to explore.
However, this challenge forces players to only use this single spell for the entirety of their playthrough. It’s a bold challenge that ends up being a unique — if slightly boring — way to power through the game.
13/15 Conjured Equipment Only – Mah Dry Bread
Conjuration is a spell tree that more players need to check out, simply because of how fun this school of magic is. Conjuration allows players to summon monsters & gain magical equipment for a brief period, which is a pretty unique power on its own.
In fact, some people love Conjuration so much that they used it for a pretty bold & fun challenge! Using only Conjured Equipment can be a struggle early on but becomes easier & more enjoyable when players get a ton of perks for this particular spell tree.
12/15 Level 1 Run – The Spiffing Brit
Sometimes, it’s the simplest challenge runs that end up being the best ones. Such is the case with the Level 1 Run challenge that has become a staple of most RPGs that don’t feature any kind of forced leveling.
Players need to be wary about leveling up any of their skills & must power through the game without being remarkable in any way. This is easier said than done, & it’s the constant need to not do anything to level up a skill that makes a Level 1 Run so enjoyable in its own twisted way!
11/15 Crafted Items Only – BADCompanySarge
Crafted Items Only is a great run that forces players to interact with one of the most underutilized systems in the game. Given the wealth of things that players can accomplish in Skyrim, it’s easy to see why crafting might take a back seat for many players.
So, players who just don’t end up interacting with this system all that much no matter how many times they play Skyrim will have a ton of things to enjoy about this challenge. The fact that crafted items scale with the player means that players won’t be overpowered by enemies regardless of how far they go into this run.
10/15 Pure Combat Run – MajorSlackAttack
Starting off fairly tame yet surprisingly difficult when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, there’s MajorSlackAttack’s Pure Combat run. This is a great challenge for those who have experience with the game itself but are new to the whole challenge run scene & might be intimidated by the more hardcore runs.
This run includes no crafting or buying of any sort, meaning all items must be found in the wild or loot in order to be used. Additionally, the player adds two finishing conditions: the armor cap needs to be reached, & he has to have level 80 one-h&ed. This is definitely no easy task, especially as the game is on Legendary difficulty.
9/15 Illusion Magic Only – G00SE_IT
In general, magic-only builds tend to be quite challenging, since magic is so underpowered in the game. But that’s what makes the schools of magic such great challenges for players to try out in a pure mage build, especially the schools that tend to see little to no use, like Illusion.
G00SE_IT actually has a pretty ingenious way of tackling this challenge in his own run. The first thing he does is create a High Elf, which gives him access to a starting Illusion spell called Fury. He then uses that to pit enemies against each other, or lure enemies to traps & the like.
8/15 Stolen Items Only – DangerBen
Some challenges focus more on what kinds of items the player can use, rather than specific skills. This is another fantastic way to limit gameplay to only a few select items or make the player work twice as hard to actually find usable stuff.
The stolen items only challenge is just as the title implies: only objects that have been stolen can be used by the player. With legendary difficulty on as well, this really is a tough one to crack, but DangerBen does it beautifully in his completed challenge run. For anyone wanting to make a true thief build, this is a wonderful challenge.
There are a bunch of side activities in Skyrim that can earn the player a bit of money, as well as just increase the immersion with the game’s world. From mining to chopping wood, these are just a few of the Cold little things that the Dragonborn can focus on in between dungeon quests.
G00SE_IT, inspired by these features, decided to try his luck at a tool-only challenge run, which basically narrows down available weapons to tools like the Woodcutter’s Axe & Pickaxe. Although these items are easy to Advance by, they’re not exactly high on damage, which makes this run devastatingly hard on Legendary.
6/15 Fists Only – Senza
Melee is just one of the many aspects of the game that nobody ever uses. Ever. And for good reason: it does so little damage that there’s really no point in it. Even Khajiit & their race power, a damage boost to their unarmed hits, deal such minimal damage that it just doesn’t make sense to build a character around melee & fists only.
However, Senza decided to make the impossible possible. His challenge run is not only fun & comedic to watch, but it’s also quite intelligently executed. The only rule is not to have any special gauntlets equipped for damage boost. And yes, it does take a long time to kill enemies in this run, meaning most of the fights will actually just push the player to run away.
5/15 Torch Only – Mitten Squad
Ah yes, torches… those items that most players probably only use to light their path. Not many know that torches can be used to block damage, the same way that shields are used to bash. Consequently, torches set enemies on fire, but using them drains stamina.
This didn’t dissuade Mitten Squad from trying his h& at a torch-only challenge run, the main issue being the finding of torches that can be equipped. While he does use Restoration to heal himself during combat, otherwise he can only take enemies down with a torch. This is an insane task, especially since the flame dies in four minutes, rendering the torch useless after.
4/15 Main Quest Speedrun – Waz
This wouldn’t be a proper challenge list without the mention of a good old speedrun. Skyrim is a massive game, & speedrunning all the quests is a bit redundant with how much time it consumes & the sheer amount of content there is.
However, speedrunning the main quest has become pretty popular, & was successfully completed by Waz in just under 24 minutes of in-game time. This is absolutely insane, & the video of his challenge showcases a lot of the Cold manipulation that speedrunners do to achieve a quick run of the game.
3/15 No Damage Taken – Mitten Squad
In games like Skyrim, it’s impossible to avoid being hit by the enemy. Or… is it? Players have started to question everything that makes this game what it is at its core, which has given rise to absurd challenges like this one: the no damage taken challenge.
As the name implies, even 1 damage point taken is marked as a failure, & through console comm&s, it can be made so that the character constantly only has one health point to make matters easier to track. Mitten Squad has a really Cold challenge run of this, which puts a ton of emphasis on stealth & archery.
2/15 Pacifist Run – Ymfah
Taken damage aside, how about not inflicting any damage at all? Given that there are so many enemies that need to be killed for quests to progress in the game, it might feel like running a full pacifist character in the game would be an impossible feat.
Not at all, actually. Ymfah’s pacifist run is great proof of that, although it’s evident that it’s a lot of trial & error on his part. From luring bosses to traps or pitting enemies against each other with the Fury spell, there are some workarounds to make this challenge run possible.
1/15 No Armor, No Weapons – Rhetam
Armor, weapons, second chances. Those are the things that make Skyrim so great among fans; the ability to try again & to level up a character through experience. What if all those were taken away? With Legendary difficulty & permadeath, it’s a nightmare challenge waiting to happen.
Rhetam begins his journey in the no armor, no weapon challenge run as a Khajiit. Most of his run is based around unarmed combat, as well as spells, & also involves baiting allies to fight tougher enemies & minimize damage that way. In many ways, this really is the ultimate backward way of playing Skyrim, which makes it the most fun — & craziest — of the bunch.
The Elder Scrolls 5 Skyrim: Anniversary Edition is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, & Xbox Series X/S.
MORE: Skyrim: Unanswered Questions We Still Have About Solitude
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