To think that one of this holiday’s marquee titles is none other than The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a game originally released way back in 2011. Many other companies would have moved on and potentially started work on its follow-up years ago, but Bethesda is content in re-releasing this major hit year in and year out without much issue. The game has been featured on many platforms, and will soon add both VR and Nintendo Switch to the mix more than six years later. There was no denying the game’s popularity when it first released, but what makes The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim so popular with players years after its release? That’s what I aim to find out.

Skyrim of course, is the fifth part in one of gaming’s most famed franchises, which itself has been around since 1994 with the release of The Elder Scrolls: Arena. The action-role-playing game kicked may have been steeps in high-fantasy but the series had a sense of realism not found in many other games of the time. Politics and diverse cultures started being larger topics in these titles with each and every new installment in the franchise diving deeper into its expansive lore making each sequel feel largely different while still following the same formula that was first set up in Arena.

These lore rich worlds are also massive in scope, with continents exceeding anyone’s expectations. For many fantasy franchises, primarily the Zelda and early Final Fantasy titles, you’d be given a much smaller landmass to explore and venture into while the details and populous of the game would provide information about the world, but The Elder Scrolls franchise gives you that world to explore and you can go about doing so without any hesitation with now many other games franchises, including the aforementioned Zelda series, only recently exploring this style of gameplay.

While these games may seem complex at first glance, they can be easily fitted to anyone’s play style with Skyrim being far more accessible than the last titles while being the most expansive at the same time. You can go through the adventure without doing any sidequests and go roam the world as you please, or you can go about it like most people and go through each nook and cranny that the game has to offer. Progressing through the world is entirely left to the players own path and choices, giving each play through a different experience than the last and the way you interact with those in the game will change the outcome of many quests and how the NPC’s perceive you.

The Elder Scrolls franchise featured pretty ‘modern’ games for their times and can still be considered as pioneering the open world fantasy genre, but Skyrim propelled it to new heights while staying true to its series roots. The open-ended freedom that Skyrim gives to players makes it easy for anyone, young or old, to pick up and understand the game in a few minutes, which is potentially the reasoning behind Bethesda re-releasing the game so often, as it serves as a gateway for new players to get into the genre. Longtime fans of the series will always be happy to pick up the newest installments, but younger players might have heard of or seen Skyrim being played by others and can now play it for their own while sharing their new experiences with others when they play on their newer system of choice.

Skyrim also uses many fantasy tropes that are far more modern in today’s age compared to when Arena came out in 1994. Taking inspiration from other massive fantasy giants like the Lord of the Ringshelped build the world of Skyrim into a multicultural game with a diverse cast of characters and creatures that are vastly different from one another while being part of the same eco-system and not straying too far off from what we are familiar with fantasy monsters. With humans, orcs, dragons, trolls, giants and much more, the world is filled to the brim with classic fantasy novel creatures all while providing their own unique takes on them to match along with the world of Skyrim.

Being able to customize your character from A to Z was also an ambitious task for Skyrim as it did not simply allow you to change your skin color and hair, but you could play as any of the humanoid races offered in the game, forging your own story and creating the background for your hero. It’s still is a problem in many games today where the hero is just a basic human, but Skyrim lets you pick out from a multitude of races to make your experience once again, feel unique from anyone else.

This all helped create one of the better titles in 2011, garnering awards and praise from seemingly everyone in the gaming community, but what really pushed Skyrim even further was the fact that you could eventually mod your experience as you see fit and craft the adventure you’ve always wanted to play. Yes, there are some silly and downright bizarre takes that are offered in the modding community, but this opened up new ways for players to express themselves and feel part of the game even further. This continues on to this day with the original release, where people try and re-create the world of Skyrim or any number of new adventures for anyone to enjoy.

The Elder Scrolls series has always been about classic fantasy tropes and larger than life adventures, but its fifth installment is what took the franchise to new heights. Taking what made the series so wonderful to play and simply making it bigger gave returning as well as new fans of the franchise a truly special experience back in 2011. Skyrim will most likely go down in history as one of gaming’s most influential titles with its community driven content and inheritable experiences, which is what makes this installment in the The Elder Scrolls franchise so popular and a favorite by many gamers, even after so many years after its initial release.