• Archer, and especially stealth archer, is the most popular character archetype and build in The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim.
  • Although players can pick any race for an archer build, some races have stronger starting bonuses ideal for it.
  • While Nord is the worst choice, Bosmer ranks the highest due to its strongest starting bonus in the Archery skill.

The key to the Skyrim experience has always been the ‘play it your way’ philosophy. This is exactly why the game consumes hundreds of hours of fans’ lives and demands so many playthroughs. When it comes to routes through the game, builds, questlines to prioritize, and so on, the possibilities are endless.


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Having said that, as the old joke goes, there’s one playstyle that many gamers just seem to keep coming back to—stealthy archery. While all races in the game can fulfill any role with enough work, this sneaky, long-ranged style (sneakiness optional) doesn’t come naturally to all of them. To get the best start possible as an archer in Skyrim, here are all the races ranked from least ideal to most ideal for archery in Skyrim.

Updated on March 22, 2024, by Anastasia Maillot: The Elder Scrolls 6 being no closer to release, Skyrim continues to be the go-to medieval fantasy RPG experience along with the likes of Baldur’s Gate 3. And like with any fantasy game, archers are a staple. Stealth archers in Skyrim have always been particularly strong, bordering on overpowered, and it’s a popular choice that many players tend to gravitate towards for efficiency. As much hasn’t changed in terms of in-game meta, the ranking of races best suited for archery in Skyrim remains the same. For races that start with archery starting bonuses, the level of the starting bonus has been added in.

10 Worst: Nord

Nords Are Better Suited For Melee Combat

Skyrim Nord Warrior

  • Starting Bonuses: Smithing, Block, One-Handed, Two-Handed, Light Armor, Speech
  • Race Power: Battle Cry (enemies become frightened for 30 seconds)

Skyrim’s default playable race, the Nords, is seriously lacking in the archery department. As is clear from their tall stature and fearsome appearance, they’re popular picks for those who want to take a more conventional warrior role.

In that regard, their starting bonuses give the player some flexibility to switch weapons while doing a lot of close-quarters damage. Their unique skill Battle Cry causes opponents to run from them, allowing the player to stand their ground or turn the tables in fights, while their Frost resistance keeps them agile against mages. They’re a very effective all-around warrior race, but Archery is not among their strengths.

9 Bad: Orsimer (Orc)

Like Nords, Orcs Excel At Melee Combat Rather Than Archery

Skyrim Orc Bandit

  • Starting Bonuses: Block, Two-Handed, Heavy Armor, Smithing, One-Handed
  • Race Power: Berserker Rage (inflict double damage, take half the damage for 60 seconds)

Orcs are the Arnold Schwarzeneggers of the Skyrim world, charging into combat with a proud battle cry and mowing down their unfortunate foes in droves. These heavily armed and armored warriors have starting bonuses in Block, Two-Handed, Heavy Armor, and more, emphasizing their suitability for protracted front-line combat.

Their excellent race power, Berserker Rage, doubles the damage they deal and halves the damage they take for one minute, highlighting this fact further. While it’s more than viable to carry a bow as a secondary ranged option, Orsimer shouldn’t really be a player’s first choice for an archer.

8 Bad: Breton

A Go-To Race For Spellcasters, They Aren’t Ideal For Archery

Skyrim female Breton mage sitting down in the College of Winterhold

  • Starting Bonuses: Conjuration, Restoration, Alteration, Illusion, Alchemy, Speech
  • Race Power: Dragonskin (absorbs 50% of Magicka from enemy spells)

As much freedom to customize characters as Skyrim offers, players will get the very best from their builds only by playing to their race’s unique strengths. Just a quick glance at an overview of the Breton race shows that archery isn’t their strong point.



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With beginning bonuses to Restoration, Alteration, Conjuration, and Illusion, plus Magic Resistance and Dragonskin as well as a slightly wider selection of starting spells, they’re magically inclined first and foremost. Archery isn’t their strong suit.

7 Bad: Altmer (High Elf)

The Best Race For Mages, But Not For Archery

Skyrim Altmer High Elf Mage discovers hidden items in Skyrim

  • Starting Bonuses: Illusion, Enchanting, Alteration, Conjuration, Destruction, Restoration
  • Race Power: Highborn (increased Magicka regeneration for 60 seconds, 25% of maximum Magicka pool per second)

The next race is the Altmer, better known as High Elf. If players want to take one of these noble, intelligent beings on a trip through Skyrim’s stunning world, the archery route might be doing them a bit of a disservice.

As with the Bretons, the High Elves have a natural inclination towards magic. Altmers are the most magically adept of all races, boasting starting bonuses to each school of magic. This gives them huge early-game advantages for anyone wanting to play as a mage. Their unique perks, Fortify Magicka and Highborn leave no doubt as to how they’re ‘supposed’ to be played.

6 Average: Imperial

A Jack-Of-All-Trades Race That Can Specialize In Archery

Skyrim male character in Imperial armor

  • Starting Bonuses: Restoration, Enchanting, Destruction, One-handed, Block, Heavy Armor
  • Race Power: Voice of the Emperor (applies Calm status on surrounding targets for 30 seconds)

The Imperial race is another that allows the player a lot of freedom to experiment. For less narrow-focused character builds, Imperials are a great pick. After all, archers aren’t limited to fighting only from a distance with their bows, with Archery being an incredibly useful sideline for a wide range of classes and builds.

The Imperial race starts with similar bonuses to the Orsimer: Heavy Armor, Block, Destruction, One-Handed, Enchanting, and Restoration. Sneaky sidelines are offered by their Voice Of The Emperor race skill, which briefly calms humanoid aggressors, while their proficiency in healing is a huge advantage for melee combatants. All in all, they prefer to get in close and personal, though a bow can still pay dividends when distant or evasive foes enter the fray.

5 Average: Argonian

A Decent Pick For Any Stealth Build Due To Its Natural Stealth Proficiency

Skyrim Argonian character casting a spell

  • Starting Bonuses: Lockpicking, Sneak, Light Armor, Pickpocket, Restoration, Alteration
  • Race Power: Histskin (10 times faster health regeneration for 60 seconds)

The Argonian race is an average choice for stealth archer builds in Skyrim, due to their natural proficiency in all things stealthy. While Argonians don’t begin with stat bonuses in Archery, true enough, they still get a nice advantage in Light Armor, Lockpicking, Sneak, and Pickpocket.

These reptile-like warriors are designed to be silent but deadly, great for stealth archer builds in particular. If players are role-playing as a rogue and are willing to put some time into leveling their skills with a bow, the Argonian race is a fine choice.

4 Average: Dunmer (Dark Elf)

A Race That Can Go Into Stealth Or Magic

Skyrim customized female Dunmer archer character

  • Starting Bonuses: Destruction, Alteration, Illusion, Alchemy, Sneak, Light Armor
  • Race Power: Ancestor’s Wrath (character surrounded by flames for 60 seconds)

The Dunmer are in a bit of an interesting position compared to the majority of Skyrim’s races. So far, most races have had clear leanings in their starting skills, but the Dunmer have quite a wide suite of them. Sneak, Illusion, Alteration, Light Armor, Alchemy, and Destruction all get starting bonuses with a Dark Elf character. As a result, there’s a lot of freedom here.


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Ancestor’s Wrath also allows them to burn any foe that comes too close for a brief period, adding to the sense that they can serve well at both close and long-range, physical and magical combat. While they may not be the very first choice for a player wanting to focus on archery, they’re sneaky and powerful, with a unique backup plan available when enemies close in on them.

3 Good: Khajiit

An Excellent Race For Any Stealth Builds Due To Its Race Power And Starting Bonuses

Skyrim Khajiit dual-wielding two daggers

  • Starting Bonuses: Sneak, Alchemy, One-Handed, Archery (Level 20), Lockpicking, Pickpocket
  • Race Power: Night Eye (better vision at night for 60 seconds)

The Khajiit might appear to be more of a melee-focused race at first glance. After all, they’re famous for preferring to use their vicious claws in battle over conventional weapons. Like the Argonians, though, they’re sneaky fighters through and through.

Khajiit characters begin with bonuses to Pickpocket and Lockpicking, as well as a +10 to Sneak and an average increase to Archery (+5). Couple these bonuses with their Night Eye skill, which allows them to see in the dark for brief periods, and they are another excellent candidate for an archer.

2 Good: Redguard

A Good Pick For Archery, With Leeway To Spec Into Melee Combat And Magic

Skyrim Redguard Attacking with a sword

  • Starting Bonuses: One-Handed, Destruction, Alteration, Archery (Level 20), Block, Smithing
  • Race Power: Adrenaline Rush (10 times higher stamina regeneration for 60 seconds)

The Redguards, as series fans will know, have long been formidable warriors. Although they lack the outright strength and melee proficiency of an Orc, they’re a bit more well-rounded as a result. Their starting strengths are Alteration, Smithing, Destruction, Block, One-Handed, and Archery.

Once again, it’s a more combat-oriented class, though with more versatility when it comes to methods of dealing damage. Redguards are also rather proficient with magic, while the +5 in Archery makes them solid archers too, especially for those who want effective ranged combat options without dedicating themselves to sniping.

1 Best: Bosmer (Wood Elf)

The Best Race For Archery Due To Its Starting Bonus

Skyrim Bosmer Character

  • Starting Bonuses: Archery (Level 25), Alchemy, Pickpocket, Lockpicking, Sneak, Light Armor
  • Race Power: Command Animal (tame nearby animals for 60 seconds)

Bosmer is the best race for archery in Skyrim. Naturals with bows and proud wood-dwellers with an affinity for animals, the Bosmer (better known as Wood Elves) are the official rangers of the game.

They’re not built to absorb damage by any means, but these limber, agile, and fleet-footed beings are adept at picking off foes from a distance without being detected. If players are wary of enclosed spaces and plan an escape route if foes are alerted, a Bosmer character is a fine choice for an archery build. They have an early advantage right off the bat, with the highest starting Archery bonus in the game (Sneak, Light Armor, and Lockpicking among others help too).

elder scrolls 5 skyrim cover

November 11, 2011


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