The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Game Poster Image

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim



Vast and violent RPG filled with moral choice and ambiguity.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Looking beyond the glorified violence and mature themes involving sex and substance abuse, players craft their own story filled with its own morals. They must choose whether or not to engage in acts of evil, such as thievery and murder, decide which faction of a war they side with, and select for themselves professions ranging from kindly bard to deadly assassin. Players must also be prepared to face the repercussions of their actions, as their choices will alter how guards and citizens act in their presence. It is possible to spend significant time in jail for misdeeds, and lose skill development progress as punishment.

Positive role models

From marauders, thieves, and assassins to honorable soldiers, family-loving tradesmen, and conflicted nobles and royalty, there is a vast range of characters in this game. However, the personality of the protagonist is entirely up to the player. He or she can engage in acts of good (which will necessarily include some violence as many missions involve quelling threats to the population of Skyrim), become an untrustworthy and notorious villain, or even walk a path in the middle, doing good in public while conducting acts of evil in private.  

Ease of play

Controls are surprisingly straightforward and easy to figure out without referencing a manual. Beautifully designed menus, meanwhile, make managing inventories and character development simple and fun. It will take hours to master and fully understand everything in this complex game, but that’s appropriate, given its length.  


Players use swords, axes, and hammers in brutal melee combat against human and fantastical opponents. Blood flies through the air, coating the floor and walls, and enemy characters grunt, scream, and spin like rag-dolls when struck. Slow motion kill moves see the camera move out of first-person perspective to provide a more cinematic view of the action. Players can also attack using bows and arrows and magic spells from a distance, to similarly bloody effect. Players explore scenes of past violence, including bloody torture rooms filled with implements of pain and death, and scripted sequences show the execution of non-player characters, who have their heads chopped off.


Sexually-charged dialogue makes reference to "sultry" characters, as well as whores, the act of rape, and sex slaves. 

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Bottles of wine, ale, and mead are found all around the world. Players can have their avatar collect and drink from them, sometimes enhancing skills as a result. Some quests revolve around alcohol, such as one in which players help a merchant whose stock of booze is being held up by a bureaucrat; another that sees the player helping a wife retrieve her drunken husband's stash; and still another that involves a drinking contest with another character.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a vast, open role-playing game with missions involving bloody, visceral violence and others that require diplomatic social skills. The game is largely what the user makes of it. Players can choose to act nobly, maliciously, or apathetically. Actions are typically accompanied by appropriate consequences, meaning players who do good will be rewarded while those who do evil will likely end up spending time in jail and facing loss of property and skill. The game is dense with mature themes involving sexuality, alcohol, and complex social, political, and economic problems.

What's it about?

THE ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM is a fantasy role-playing game set 200 years after the events of its predecessor. It takes place in Skyrim, the oldest and northernmost province of Tamriel, a continent that fans of the Elder Scrolls franchise have been exploring in games dating back to 1994. As in previous entries, players have complete freedom to explore a vast, open world however they like, growing their character slowly through game-altering decisions and actions that could lead them to become a noble soldier fighting for an empire, a fighter in a resistance group that challenges the empire, or a member of several different organizations that range from a college of bards to a brotherhood of assassins. Along the way they learn that they are one of the dragonborn, a rare breed of warrior capable of slaying dragons and stealing their voices, which they can use in battle. This turns out to be pretty handy, given that the dragons have returned to terrorize Skyrim after centuries of absence, adding to a stack of problems that includes a burgeoning civil war and a potential invasion.

Is it any good?


A strong contender for one of the best M-rated games of 2011, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is perhaps the largest and most ambitious single-player, role-playing games ever made. Its world is startling in its scope, complexity, and beauty. More than 100 points of interest -- including cities, towns, caves, and ruins -- dot a Nordic landscape filled with towering mountains, beautiful wildlife, and rushing rapids. Blue skies and bright sun can in moments give way to pounding rain, deep fogs, and blinding snowstorms. Calm nights, meanwhile, are lit by mesmerizing starscapes and dancing Northern Lights.

And there is no shortage of things to do in this world. Players are free to choose their own way through the tundra, hills, and marshes, completing or ignoring scores of quests at their leisure. Engaging combat mechanics combine with interesting characters, a rich and interweaving mythology, and the satisfaction that comes with the constant discovery of new places and things to create an experience that remains fresh day after day, week after week. Hardcore adult players can expect to invest somewhere north of 100 hours in this remarkable virtual fantasy world, and they’ll adore every minute of it.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the possibility of losing oneself in enormous, realistic video game worlds. How do you maintain game/life balance? How do you moderate your play?

  • Families can also discuss violence in games. Do you distinguish between games that allow you to make moral decisions regarding violence (such as whether or not to kill a thief or stop an unjust execution) and those that simply present the player with legions of enemies to slaughter? How so?

Game details

Platforms:PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360
Available online?Not available online
Developer:Bethesda Softworks
Release date:November 11, 2011
Genre:Role Playing
Topics:Magic and fantasy
ESRB rating:M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol

This review of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent of a 12 and 14 year old Written byThe best dad November 17, 2011

It's a OK

Hello! Let me put this to you straight and simple. Skyrim is about exploration and fantasy. I bought this game because my 15 year old wanted it for his birthday. When he put it in his system I decided to watch him play. The game was fantastic! I have never seen anything like it before. However at the time my 13 year old also wanted to play it. I told him he would have to let me see the game played longer by my 15 year old. I have to say after watching my son play the game I told my other son to come in. I told him it would be okay to play because of the fact that Skyrim is such a big game that I seriously doubt that my 13 year old will get to see every bit of the game. The sexual content is at a minimum, The blood is similar to the Halo games, and the drinking thing is just silly. Thank you for reading this review and I hope it helped :) Peace
What other families should know
Great role models
Adult Written byColin A. November 13, 2011

First user review not written by either a troll or a younger teen.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am going to tell you about Skyrim, what it is, what it is about, and the different themes associated with it. Skyrim is the next installment of Bethesda Softwork's award-winning Role Playing Game series, The Elder Scrolls. It is a game in which a person takes control of a character of their own design (anything from brave Nordic warrior to Cat-Person.) One traverses the open world of Skyrim in search of fame and glory through combat, trade, errands, and diplomacy. I feel that "pause for 13" is a worthy rating for this game, as while many 13 year-olds can certainly handle many of the game's mature themes, it is not always a given. Let us look through the stuff here, shall we? Educational: Believe it or not dear reader, this game can actually teach a player a good deal about conserving money and bartering, as in the game the character can make many decisions about what to buy, where, and for what reason. This is helped as different stores and vendors offer things at different prices. The player's vocabulary of fantastical words will also be increased, as they will learn words like "tome" or "necromancy". Not that they are particularly useful words or anything. Role models: The main role-model in the game, is actually the player themselves. They can decide to, ultimately, if they want to smash in the head of an innocent civilian or not. As most games, combat against other blood-thirsty warriors and great beasts is required to play and win the game, but it is up to the player if they want to be a paragon of righteousness and help the weak, or be a really, really big jerk. Violence: The game almost revolves around violence, but not as much as a game like Call of Duty. The player can choose several different methods of battle to defeat a foe, everything from giant-axe brutality to spewing a torrent of fire out of their hands. As could be expected, the goal of all methods is to kill one's opponent, but magic I have seen is notably less bloody than melee combat. Players can expect to see corpses, skeletons, and mutilated bodies throughout the course of the entire game. Sexual themes: Minimal but still present. The occasional bit of innuendo here, some cleavage. Characters can appear with most clothing off, this being men in loincloth and girls in their undies. Language: Not as bad as most games. No F-bombs or swearing in "the name," as it takes place in another world entirely. The "D" word and the "B" word are common place however. Basically any swear that can sound alright said in medieval times. Themes: It can get pretty strong in this game. Many a time will the player be forced into hard, morally difficult or confusing situations. There is, if the player decides to peruse some schools of magic, a good deal of summoning, the collection of the souls of enemies, and other dark ideas in general. Addictive factor: Skyrim is an incredible game. It is almost endlessly immersive, and can hold a person's attention for months, literally. There is so much to do and see in the game that there are some people who have played a single character for hundreds of hours in the previous game, Oblivion, just to enjoy all that there is to offer. It goes without saying that Skyrim has even more content, and can utterly consume the life of the player if they have nothing else to do. Be sure your child is not overly-imaginative in the way that they would blur fantasy and reality together, as this is one of those games. Overall: Skyrim is an excellent game for anyone who can take the mature themes and still enjoy them, along with playing it in moderation. If not, it could lead to an escapist attitude toward life in general, as the player would much rather play Skyrim than enjoy the charms of reality. Be sure to know your child if you allow them to play it.
What other families should know
Educational value
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byPvt. Sokolva November 27, 2011

Moral Decisions: Scary, but Important

Among the games of today Skyrim is the rarest kind of jewel. It is an experience that should be had by anyone who loves video games, and the story-line, moral choices, character development, atmosphere, and sheer gorgeous beauty of the world you are exploring make this game one of the best I have ever played. As a hard core gamer all of my life, I look at this game as a once-in-a-decade occurance. It is unique, it is individual (a very rare thing in games that are becoming increasingly fixated on only the multiplayer experience) and it is beautiful. But that's not the point. I am a young adult, after all, and this game, as a M Rated game, is targeted towards me and middle to older teens. Is this game appropriate for children? In some ways possibly more so than most M rated games. In other ways, it is not so much inappropriate as perhaps over younger children's heads. This game is a very difficult game. It has difficulty settings, of course, but the complexity of the world and the problems the character is presented with, the sheer vastness of an entire land to explore and dozens of quests to fullfill, make this game a likely bewildering experience to many children younger than 12, and only if those twelve year olds are experienced or fairly experienced gamers. There is a way of thinking that goes along with experience with games, and they will need critical thinking skills, trial and error, patience, and technical skill to be successful at this game. While it is extremely rewarding to wander into the wilderness of Skyrim, weak and practically defenseless and without knowing anything about the world you are entering, I entered that world as an experienced and confident gamer, and suspect that the experience would be overwhelming to younger children who do not have much experience with video games. There are just so many things to do, become, try. Which brings us to the moral choices dilemma. It is true that in Skyrim, you can choose to become anything from the noblest man or woman to ever walk to earth, to the lowest, cruelest, piece of scum. There are many levels of gradation, unlike many games in which the good/evil moral choice aspect is presented in a way that makes you either totally good or absolutely bad. For example, you could choose to save a man from a bandit's onslaught, and yet pickpocket random people on the street. You can donate your money to homeless beggars, and then join an assassin group and kill for money. There are many moral choices in this game. To many to count. And that is why I think, in the end, this game is better than a game in which you are forced to play by default, a completely good hero or a mean antihero (as in the Grand Theft Auto games). The kind of moral choices in Skyrim can seem scary. After all, what if your child chooses to play as the worst kind of character, a merciless killer, who would kill innocent men and women on the street to rob them of their money? First of all, the fighting in this game is far less violent than most games now days. There is a little spurt of blood, and then the body falls, completely intact (unless it is beheaded, and even then, the animation is nothing that most 12 year olds haven't seen worse of in movies or on TV). Some people I know play the game in this way and find in enjoyable. But many other people find an excersize in morality, as they try to become a genuinly good person and make decisions that will benefit those around them. It means more to be a hero in Skyrim, because you can choose not to. IT means more to choose not to lie, to choose to help someone who needs it, to choose to make a character who embodies some aspect of how you would hope to live. But at the end of the game, the character is just a character and the world is just a world. RPG's can teach us things about ourselves, and Skyrim is one such obsticle course through which we can practice steering our morality. So this is my recommendation:seriously question whether this game is appropriate for your child if they are under 13 and not an experienced gamer. However, if the kid is 16 and older, this game might just end up being their favorite game ever.
What other families should know
Too much violence


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?