Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls is perhaps the most important western RPG video-game saga. These games offer an open world you can explore at your will for the ultimate sandbox experience.
While we wait for Elder Scrolls 6, let’s rewind on five titles we’ve seen so far. There’re five games in the franchise, on top of various expansions and DLCs. Additionally, there’re nine spin-offs. The total number of Elder Scrolls games is 14.
Also, Skyrim is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The game debuted on November 11, 2011.
Table of Contents
Main Elder Scrolls Games in Order by Release Date
The Elder Scrolls is a high-fantasy RPG series. The setting is Tamriel, a fictional continent brimming with original races, original lore, and elements inspired by European tales.
Traditionally, the hero starts as a prisoner, so the first step is finding a way out. Afterward, players enjoy full freedom to follow multiple storylines and activities.
The amount of activities TES games offer is outstanding. You can join guilds, gather resources, craft, explore, dungeon-crawl, trade, fish, steal, and more. On top of that, there’s also the main plot, but it greatly differs in each entry.
Lastly, every main game happens within The Elder Scrolls canon timeline.
Bethesda Softworks released the original title in 1994 for MS-DOS PCs. It’s currently available for free on Bethesda’s official page (Windows only).
The game happens during Tamriel’s 3rd Era, year 399 (3E 399). A ruling emperor, Uriel Septim VII. A powerful wizard, Jagar Thar, betrayed the emperor, took his identity, and seized the throne. The Gods send the player to defeat the usurper and rescue Uriel Septim.
Players could choose among 18 classes and eight races. Moreover, there were six available subclasses players could unlock during gameplay.
Speaking of which, gameplay revolved around dungeon-crawling. You can choose any area on the map to explore, which includes towns. In towns, you can talk through NPCS via hefty menus. Moreover, you could find gear, supplies, quests, and information through NPCs.
These elements created a game with the biggest freedoms players had seen by 1994. You can do as you please on the Empire by following any quest or exploring any dungeon.
Daggerfall debuted two years after the original title, in 1996. Despite the short time spawn, it represented a massive graphical and gameplay upgrade.
The original title debuted for MS-DOS PCs as well. It’s also available for free at Bethesda’s official site for Windows. It has been free since the game turned 15 years on 2006.
Daggerfall’s timeline is 3E 375, the event directly before Arena. The story starts when the ancient golem Numidium murders King Daggerfall in battle. By 2E 895, former emperor Tiber Septim used the golem as a weapon to unify Tamriel.
You play as Uriel Septim’s hero, and you choose between 18 classes and eight races. The emperor sends the player back to his hometown, High Rock, to put the errand spirit of King Daggerfall to rest. However, King Daggerfall aims to use the powerful golem, once again, as a tool of conquering.
The second installment is longer and deeper than the first. The 2.5D world holds thousands of dungeons to explore and about 750.000 that interact with the player. Increasing the overwhelming factor, the game has five different endings.
The Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire debuted in 1997 for DOS PCs. It’s a Daggerfall spin-off, available through Bethesda’s launcher.
The timeline is 3E 372, so it’s before Daggerfall. You play as a mage apprentice during Battlemage trials within Battlespire, a pocket realm within Oblivion.
The protagonist discovers Daedra Lord Mehrunes Dragon invaded the realm and killed everyone. You must travel across the Oblivion to stop Dagon and restore Battlespire.
The game is quirky, different, and unique within TES games. The design is linear, and players had to survive across seven levels without any merchants, shops, or NPCs who could help. The key to success is character stat build, spell crafting, and flying.
Redguard is also a Daggerfall spin-off. The action-adventure RPG debuted in 1998 for DOS systems. It’s available at the GoG store, as well as on Bethesda’s launcher. Also, there’s a free comic on Bethesda with the beginning of the story.
The protagonist is Cyrus, a legendary Redguard mercenary. On the Stros M’Kai island, and during 2E 864 (the last years of the second Era), Cyrus leads a mission to find Iszara, his missing sister. However, he finds himself in the middle of a political conflict against Tiber Septim.
The gameplay offers a similar open-world as the original games, albeit in third-person. The character also comes with a name, skills, race, and class.
Other than that, there’s a great number of activities to enjoy, even though the game is shorter than previous titles.
Morrowind debuted in 2002 for PC and Xbox. Bethesda had grown into a bigger studio, so Bethesda Game Studios developed the game. The parent company Bethesda Softworks became the distributor.
The RPG title still enjoys a loyal cult following because of its epic tale. Tamriel felt more immersive than ever as it came full of details, NPCs, personalities, factions, and stories. Moreover, enhanced character customization and third-person perspective improved the original formula even further.
You choose between 21 classes and ten races, plus a Birthsign, which also affects attributes and skills.
The leveling system also evolved. The protagonist could develop skill trees by using particular skills or studying. Aside from that, playability is similar to Daggerfall, albeit Tamriel was better, deeper, and rich in lore, details, and secrets.
Other gameplay changes allowed players to join factions, religious cults, family houses, and similar. Choices could influence the way the story plays.
That said, the story is massive, but the central plot revolves around the reincarnation of Dunmer, an ancient hero (the player character). In 2E 864, the hero is chosen to defeat an ancient deity, Dagoth Ur, and save the Empire from the immortal God.
The game has two expansions (Tribunal and Bloodmoon). Currently, you may find bundles packing the base game plus the available extra content (like a GoTY edition).
The Elder Scrolls III: Tribunal ( 3E 428) – 2002
Tribunal debuted in 2002. The follow-up story revolves around Tribunal deities.
Novelties included a way to sort quests and other UI upgrades.
The Elder Scrolls III: Bloodmoon ( 3E 429) – 2003
Bloodmoon debuted in 2003. The expansion adds a new area, the Solstheim island, where a new story happens.
You explore the East Empire Company as they are struggling to establish a colony on the tundra. There, you discover the existence of werewolves, a “disease” that may affect you, making your character turn into a werewolf every night.
The Elder Scrolls Travels: Stormhold -2003
Stormhold is the first mobile title of the series. It’s no longer available on official stores, though.
It takes place in Stormhold prison, where players have to defeat Quintus Varus’s warden. The setting opens up a long maze you have to escape. It’s akin to classic dungeon-crawling RPGs of the ’90s like the original King’s Field.
The Elder Scrolls Travels: Dawnstar – 2004
Dawnstar debuted in 2004 for mobile devices. Because of its age, it’s no longer available in official stores.
The timeline is unknown, but the plot revolves around various tribes besieging Dawnstar, a city. Governor Vinticae asks the hero to find the necessary allies to save the city.
The game had up to 36 dungeons and seven classes, depending on the hardware where you played the game. Additionally, it had four heroes, four merchants, and a healer.
The Elder Scrolls Travels: Shadowkey – 2004
Shadowkey debuted in 2004 for mobile devices and represented the third entry of the Travels trilogy.
The player controls an unnamed hero. The goal is to protect your hometown from Skelos Undriel, an evil mage. The gameplay enables traveling through open terrain, temples, dungeons, bandit camps, and caves.
Oblivion is the fourth main entry in the saga. It debuted in 2006 for Windows and Xbox 360. It later debuted for PS3 as well. Bethesda worked alongside Take-Two Games Interactive to the best entry yet.
The story happens around Cyrodiil, a south-eastern Morrowind province. Timeline-wise, it places players on 3E 433, which is after the events of the third entry. And similar to the previous title, it has 21 classes and 10 races. Additionally, it retains a similar leveling system as Morrowind.
Players must defeat a fanatic cult, the Mythic Dawn, from opening portals to the demonic dimension of Oblivion. As the game continues, players will find more portals in the open world, allowing heroes to explore the other dimension for loot and glory.
Similarly, players can explore and do anything in the world without any limitations. They can postpone the storyline indefinitely. However, there’re always opportunities to improve their skills and gear.
Gameplay has a greater focus on action, plot, and graphics. There’s also a Radiant AI system that enhances NPC’s actions and behavior towards the protagonist. Moreover, these NPCs follow time schedules and night-day cycles.
Oblivion received critical and fan praise, and it won multiple significant awards in the industry.
The Elder Scrolls IV has two expansions:
The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of Nine (3E 433) – 2006
Knights of the Nine is Oblivion’s first expansion. It debuted in 2006.
The content introduces a new enemy the hero must defeat, the ayleid raze.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles (3E 433)- 2007
The 2007 expansion sends players to a new Oblivion area, the Shivering Island. There’re, you’ll accomplish a mission for Sheogorath, a Daedra prince.
The Elder Scrolls Travels: Oblivion (Mobile) – 2006
The mobile Oblivion game debuted for mobile devices in 2006. It’s a barebones adaptation of the core game.
Players could choose between eight classes and follow the Oblivion plot. However, instead of gaining experience by using major skills, the game offers a classic XP leveling system.
Gameplay-wise, Oblivion mobile functions as an isometric dungeon-crawler.
Skyrim is the crown jewel of the series. The RPG debuted in 2011 for Windows and Xbox 360. Since then, its massive success has pushed Bethesda to create series for multiple console generations.
Currently, Skyrim is available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch. The studio is also working on a newer version for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series.
PC players can also buy the Special Edition. It includes every DLC plus multiple audio, graphical, and quality-of-life upgrades.
Either way, the story happens on 4E 201, so it’s the last game in the Elder Scrolls timeline. The new hero, Dovahkiin -“Dragon Blood,” has the mission of defeating Alduin, a dangerous dragon.
For the tasks, the hero not only develops skills but also “Dragon Shouts.” These are powerful screams that allow you to use ancient magic for extra versatility. Unlocking these abilities through main quests are some of the best stories the saga has to offer.
Also, you can say “Fus-Ro-Dah!” enemies to push them from ledges and mountains, fun times.
A major change in the game is the lack of classes. Instead, your race plays a significant role in your character construction, and there’re ten races. After that, everything depends on the activities you do and the skills you use.
Each one develops one of the 18 skill trees, like Alchemy, Blacksmith, and Smithing. Then, each skill can rise up to level 100.
Then, the plot happens in Skyrim, a Tamriel province. The setting opens up a wide map, with many activities you can complete at your own pace. Moreover, there’re hundreds of skills, dungeons, and NPCs.
Overall, the amount of stuff you can do is outstanding. Players are still finding details, bits, and pieces all over the map. The game even offers the ability to turn into a werewolf.
More importantly, Bethesda continues supporting and revitalizing the title with game modes, quests, and upgrades. Currently, they’re working on the Anniversary version:
Skyrim has three DLCs:
The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard – 2012
The first Skyrim expansion revolves around Serana, Lord Harkon’s vampire daughter.
The content adds new enemies, weapons, a legendary dragon, and the main quest with various significant events. FOr example, players find a new race and an Elder Scroll.
The Elder Scrolls V: Hearthfire – 2012
The second expansion allows players to build and customize houses from the ground up.
The Elder Scrolls V: Dragonborn – 2013
The last expansion is about Miraak, the first Dovahkiin. He’s trying to conquer Tamriel, and players must defeat him.
The adventure introduces new Dragon Shouts, gear, stories, and NPCs.
Lastly, the setting is Solstheim, present also in Morrowind.
The Elder Scrolls Online – 2014
ZeniMax Online Studios released The Elder Scrolls Online in 2014. The game was launched for Windows and macOS. Currently, it’s also available for PS4 and Xbox One.
Since its release, there have been five major DLCs: Morrowind, Summerset, Elsweyr, Greymoor, and Blackwood. Each one pursues new stories in a new area, often based on previous games.
On top of that, the developers have launched several minor DLCs that introduce different systems, gear, upgrades, balance changes, guilds, quests, and more.
The game follows the Skyrim formula within a massive, evolving, and persistent open world. It’s an MMORPG that gives players the kind of freedom they expect from the saga.
However, the experience is not as deep as it is on Skyrim. The system feels simplified and easier to follow. Either way, we consider it one of the best casual MMOs you can play right now.
The events in the game happen on 2E 583, which means TESO is first in the saga’s timeline. There is a struggle for Tamriel’s vacant throne, and you can join one of the three mortal alliances to seize power.
Aside from the throne storyline, there’ various secondary plots. For example, Daedirc Prince Molag Bal is trying to conquer the Mundus plane.
As before, you can engage with the content you like, from any place in the world, and at the pace you desire. You don’t even need to complete any main quests: you can just play, gather, explore, craft, and dungeon-crawl.
Legends is a free-to-play competitive digital strategy game. You can trade cards and craft a deck full of abilities, creatures, villains, kings, and allies we’ve seen in Tamriel across the series’ titles.
The game debuted for Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS in 2017.
The gameplay is a turn-based match between two players (player vs. player or player vs. AI). There’s quite a lot more to it, and if you’re curious, you can read the official guides.
There’s also a plot in the game. It’s about the player character, plus some allies, defeating High Elf Naarifin.
The High Elf is invading the Cyrodill, the heart of the Empire. The hero protagonist must reach the White-Gold Tower to defeat the conqueror. Winning against the AI during the campaign rewards cards.
The game’s quest is about becoming a city Champion by following a storyline. You can also create and customize your city and conquer other cities through one-on-one Arena online battles. That said, the game has a combat system that allows you to tap melee attacks, spells, potions, and abilities.
Lastly, you can craft your gear and explore dungeons in the Abyss.
Every The Elder Scrolls Games in Chronological order
Here’s the final list of the Elder Scrolls Game in Chronological Order.
- The Elder Scrolls Arena – 1994
- The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall – 1996
- The Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire – 1997
- The Elder Scrolls Aventures: Redguard – 1998
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind – 2002
- The Elder Scrolls Travels: Stormhold -2003
- The Elder Scrolls Travels: Dawnstar – 2004
- The Elder Scrolls Travels: Shadowkey – 2004
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006)
- The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion Mobile – 2006
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – 2012
- The Elder Scrolls Online – 2014
- The Elder Scrolls: Legends – 2017
- The Elder Scrolls: Blades -2019