With a lineage spanning back to 1994, it’s difficult to talk about RPGs without mentioning Bethesda Studios’ flagship franchise, the Elder Scrolls. Whether your first adventure across Tamriel came while battling the vicious dragon Alduin in 2011’s Skyrim or you’ve been following the franchise ever since saving Emperor Uriel Septim’s life in Arena almost three decades ago, chances are you’ve dabbled in one of these seminal fantasy epics.
With so many Elder Scrolls games now available to play, any newcomers looking to get into the series are probably wondering where to start. Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Below, we’ve assembled a chronological timeline of every Elder Scrolls game and major expansion, showing you how to play the series in order.
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How Many Elder Scrolls Games Are There?
There are a total of 27 games and expansions in the Elder Scrolls timeline – 4 exclusively on PC, 18 on home console and 5 on mobile devices. All of these games are canon to the timeline, telling stories set in the fictional world of Tamriel. Although some span multiple provinces, each entry in the series tends to focus on a specific continent or region of Tamriel, whether that’s the murky swamps of Morrowind, the snowy mountains of Skyrim or the sunny meadows of Cyrodiil.
There are only two games that won’t feature on this timeline, and that’s because they don’t specify the year or era in which they take place. These are The Elder Scrolls Travels: Dawnstar and The Elder Scrolls Travels: Stormhold. Both mobile dungeon-crawler spin-offs are isolated from the events of any other Elder Scrolls game, making it very difficult to place them on the timeline. With that in mind, let’s run through the chronological order of every other game in the series.
Elder Scrolls Games and Expansions in Chronological Order
These blurbs contain mild spoilers for each game, including characters, settings, and story beats.
1. The Elder Scrolls Online
The first mark on the timeline, The Elder Scrolls Online offers a fully online version of Tamriel, allowing groups of players to team up and explore some of the franchise’s most iconic regions. Set during the Second Age, the story takes place during a time when the Imperial throne lies empty and Tamriel is without a ruler.
With no emperor residing over Tamriel, three factions rise to fight over the throne, with the land’s fiercest warriors taking part in a battle known as the Alliance War. However, politics are the least of their worries, as Molag Bal, an ancient Daedric Prince, has initiated an event known as the Planemeld. This cataclysmic ritual threatens to merge Tamriel with the apocalyptic realm of Coldharbour, forever transforming it into a desolate wasteland.
With the Planemeld commencing, we meet the player character: a warrior known as the Vestige. Following a ritual at the hands of an evil mage, the Vestige’s soul is taken. Shortly after, they wake in Coldharbour, alive but now soulless. Fighting their way back to Tamriel, the Vestige begins an adventure to defeat Molag Bal, reclaim their soul and put a stop to the Planemeld.
2. The Elder Scrolls Online – Morrowind
The first major expansion added to Bethesda’s online take on the franchise, The Elder Scrolls Online – Morrowind allows players to venture to the titular elven region years before the events of the Elder Scrolls III. It follows a story set in the realm of Vvardenfell, with the Vestige aiding one of the Tribunal gods, Vivec, as they attempt to stamp out a new Daedric threat and stop a meteor hurtling towards the island.
3. The Elder Scrolls Online – Summerset
The second major expansion added to The Elder Scrolls Online, Summerset takes place in the eponymous home of the High Elves. Players venture to Summerset as a new Daedric threat looms, investigating a cult known as the Court of Bedlam. As the Vestige learns more about the Daedric followers’ plans, they rally with allies to stop them.
4. The Elder Scrolls Online – Elsweyr
Elder Scrolls Online’s third major expansion, Elsweyr transports players to the titular homeland of the Khajiti, which has been invaded by hordes of dragons. Long thought to be extinct, the Vestige heads to Elsweyr to defeat the flying beats while investigating the reason being their mysterious return.
5. The Elder Scrolls Online – Greymoor
The fourth major expansion added to The Elder Scrolls Online, Greymoor takes players to Skyrim years before the events of The Elder Scrolls V. Sent to investigate a series of mysterious supernatural storms, the Vestige heads to the home of the Nords, finding themselves facing off against a powerful vampire lord and his ancient army, the Gray Host. Battling vampires, werewolves, zombies and other monsters, they must fight to save Skyrim from its undead invaders.
6. The Elder Scrolls Online – Blackwood
The Elder Scrolls Online’s fifth major expansion, Blackwood is set in the marshes just beyond Leyawin, taking players to the setting of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion hundreds of years before the events of the game. The Vestige ventures to the region after learning that a cult known as the Longhouse Emperors have entered into a pact with the Daedric Prince of Destruction, Mehrunes Dagon. Hoping to stop the demonic god, the Vestige teams up with new allies in an effort to end his monstrous ambitions.
7. The Elder Scrolls Online – High Isle
The sixth major expansion for The Elder Scrolls Online, High Isle takes players to the home of the Bretons, where they uncover a mysterious conspiracy that threatens all of Tamriel. Pursuing a battalion of knights known as the Ascendant Order, the Vestige discovers their leader, the Ascendant Lord, is plotting to plunge the world into an era of eternal conflict. Teaming with allies, they embark on an adventure to stop the plan and take the Ascendant Lord down.
8. The Elder Scrolls Online – Necrom
The Elder Scrolls’ seventh major expansion, Necrom returns to the province of Morrowind, allowing players to explore the region of Telvanni Peninsula. While venturing through the idyllic land, they come across a new Daedric plot, uncovering cosmic secrets that threaten all of Morrowind and the realms beyond.
9. The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard
Set during the final years of the Second Era, The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard is an action-focused spin-off of the main series. As a violent civil war rages following the death of Hammerfall’s former king, players take control of a Redguard mercenary named Cyrus, who returns to the continent in search of his missing sister, Iszara.
Cyrus’ investigation takes him across Hammerfell, as he battles pirates, guards and Daedric forces. Along the way, he learns more about Hammerfell’s rulers and their connection to his sister, uncovering sinister, long-hidden secrets.
10. The Elder Scrolls: Arena
The first mainline entry in the series, Elder Scrolls: Arena takes place hundreds of years after Redguard, moving the franchise into the Third Era. After being usurped by the treacherous battle mage Jagar Tharn, Tamriel’s ruler, Emperor Uriel Septim, is trapped in an alternate realm, with Tharn disguising himself as the monarch and taking his place on the Imperial Throne.
As Tharn settles into his new role as emperor, he throws a young warrior into the dungeons, unknowingly beginning the Eternal Champion’s journey. Stepping into the shoes of this unlucky warrior, the player is visited by the spirit of a mage named Ria Silmane, who Tharn murdered after she witnessed the emperor’s betrayal. Silmane helps the champion escape, allowing them to embark on a quest to track down the Staff of Chaos and put an end to Tharn’s evil plans.
11. The Elder Scrolls Travels: Shadowkey
Set during the events of The Elder Scrolls: Arena, The Elder Scrolls Travels: Shadowkey follows a nameless hero that embarks on an adventure after their town is raided by bandits. While infiltrating the bandit’s base, they free a prisoner named Skelos Undriel, who is being hunted by Jagar Tharn and his men.
Assisting Undriel, the player learns that Tharn is pursuing a monster imbued with powerful dark magic known as the Umbra’ Keth. If Tharn was to find the beast, he could use its abilities to inflict unspeakable horrors on his enemies. To prevent Tharn from using it for evil, the hero tracks down special artifacts to defeat the Umbra’ Keth and put a stop to Tharn’s plans.
12. An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire
Also taking place during the story of Elder Scrolls: Arena, An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire follows a nameless battlemage apprentice that takes on the forces of Mehrunes Dagon after finding themself trapped in the realm of Oblivion.
The game unfolds over seven levels, as the apprentice faces tougher foes and forges deeper into the depths of Dagon’s fiery hellscape in hopes of returning to Tamriel. It’s one of the very few Elder Scrolls games to feature multiplayer, allowing two warriors to take on Dagon’s forces simultaneously.
13. The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
The second mainline entry in the series, Daggerfall takes the action to Hammerfell and High Rock, introducing players to a new locale and lead character. Set during a period of intense political strife, the player takes on the role of an Imperial agent as they embark on a journey to Illiac Bay. Under strict orders from Emperor Uriel Septim, they’re to investigate the ghostly reemergence of the late king of Hammerfell, who was supposedly killed in battle a year prior.
The king’s spirit has been seen wandering the streets of Hammerfell, demanding vengeance for an unknown crime. Alongside looking into this paranormal phenomenon, the agent is also tasked with tracking down a mysterious letter sent to his wife, the former queen, which Septim claims is of immense importance.
As the agent’s mission progresses, they realize it’s of far grander importance than it first seemed, with a hidden conspiracy surrounding an ancient Dwemer artifact potentially threatening all life in Illiac Bay.
14. Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Elder Scrolls’ third mainline release, The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind was the first game in the franchise to let players explore a fully 3D world. Freed from their shackles after being mysteriously pardoned by Emperor Uriel Septim, the player takes on the role of a prisoner that’s released into the marshes of Morrowind and joins forces with a secret group of Imperial agents known as The Blades. Swept into a world of prophecies and legends, the hero is tasked with investigating a series of mysterious disappearances.
As they learn more about the missing citizens, they realise their presence in this conflict may be down to more than just chance, learning that they’re a prophecized warrior known as the Nerevarine. With the weight of destiny on their shoulders, they’re forced to walk the Nerevarine’s path, all the while being pursued by the villainous Dagoth Ur and his monstrous cult, the Sixth House.
15. Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind – Tribunal
The first of two expansion packs released for Morrowind, Tribunal continues the adventures of the Nerevarine. The expansion’s main quest begins after the player is attacked by a Dark Brotherhood assassin. Surviving the attempt on their life, they head to the city of Mournhold, hoping to find leads about the Dark Brotherhood and the identity of the person that performed the Black Sacrament.
While there, they assist Morrowind’s ruler, King Helseth, who quickly drags them into a conflict with a group of gods known as the Tribunal. Said to watch over Morrowind and bring prosperity to its people, the Tribunal is worshipped across the region. However, as the player begins to learn more about the trio of deities, they realize one of these gods has intentions that are far from pure.
16. The Elder Scrolls III: Bloodmoon
The final expansion released for Morrowind, Bloodmoon allows players to charter a ship to the isle of Solstheim. While exploring the island, they’re attacked by werewolves, beginning a new adventure to discover the source of the feral beasts. Heading to the village of Skaal, they discover more about the werewolves on the island and their connection to a Daedric lord known as Hircine.
17. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
The fourth mainline entry in the series, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion takes the franchise to the Imperial region of Cyrodil during a Daedric invasion known as the Oblivion Crisis. Oblivion’s story begins in the dungeons of the Imperial City, with the player character, who’s serving time for an unknown crime, waking to find Emperor Uriel Septim at the door to their cell.
Escorted by an entourage of guards, Septim is fleeing assassins that have infiltrated the Imperial Palace, hoping to use a secret escape route accessed via a fake wall in the player’s cell. After aiding the emperor’s attempts to flee, Septim reveals that the player is destined to play a major role in a cataclysmic battle to come, entrusting them with an amulet and asking that they deliver it to a priory in North Cyrodil. Shortly after, Septim is murdered.
Escaping the Imperial Palace, the player embarks on a mission to deliver the amulet. What starts as a simple favor quickly becomes a grand quest to save Cyrodil and beyond, as mysterious demonic gates appear around the realm and the Daedric Prince of Destruction, Mehrunes Dagon, begins a full-scale invasion. Investigating cults, traversing fiery hellscapes and protecting the heir to the Imperial throne, the player quickly becomes Cyrodil’s last hope, leading the realm’s forces in a battle to close shut the jaws of Oblivion.
Read our review of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
18. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – Knights of the Nine
The first of two expansions released for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Knights of the Nine sees the player character venture to the city of Anvil, where they discover the local chapel has been destroyed and its inhabitants murdered. Speaking to a preacher outside the church, they’re told that an Ayleid god called Umaril the Unfeathered is behind the massacre, with the immortal sorcerer striking back at the Nine Divines.
The player sets out on a quest to defeat Umaril, learning that he can only be killed by the Divine Crusader: a warrior blessed by the gods and bearing holy relics. To become this champion of legend, they must prove their worth, tracking down armor and artifacts belonging to a long-dead faction of warriors known as the Knights of the Nine.
19. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – The Shivering Isles
The second and final Oblivion expansion, The Shivering Isles adds a new realm and lengthy questline to the base game. After a mysterious gateway appears in Cyrodil, the player is transported to the Shivering Isles: the home of the Daedric Prince of Madness, Sheogorath.
After meeting Sheogorath in his palace, the player quickly enters his service, joining him in preventing a catastrophic event known as the Greymarch. According to Sheogorath, when the Greymarch begins, an ancient being known as the Jyggalag will appear and eradicate the Shivering Isles, killing everything in its path. To prevent the Greymarch, the player sets forth on an adventure across the Shivering Isles, all the while contending with the eccentric locals, reality-bending events and twisted monsters that lurk on the island’s madness-tinged shores
20. The Elder Scrolls: Legends
A collectable card game set in the Elder Scrolls’ universe, The Elder Scrolls: Legends follows a nameless warrior known as the Forgotten Hero. Embarking on a quest to stop the ruthless Lord Naarifin after the Altmer general invades the Imperial City, the Forgotten Hero fights their way across Cyrodil, battling various enemies and surviving increasingly overwhelming odds. As they venture closer towards an encounter with Naarifin, the general begins cooking up a demonic scheme, beginning an occult ritual that will bolster his army with Daedric forces and make him nigh on unstoppable.
Read our review of The Elder Scrolls: Legends.
21. The Elder Scrolls: Blades
A mobile spin-off of The Elder Scrolls, The Elder Scrolls: Blades casts the player as a nameless survivor of the emperor’s private army, the Blades. After their fellow brothers-in-arms are hunted down and slain by the Thalmor during the events of the Great War, our hero flees to the province of Cyrodil, hoping to escape capture and leave peacefully in exile.
Fleeing to their hometown, they return to find it completely destroyed. Long before the player’s return, an ancient crypt beneath the town was unsealed, releasing an Ayleid necromancer called Celemaril Light-Bringer. Free to roam once more, Celemaril cursed the land and destroyed the town, leaving it in ruins. Hoping to stop the sorcerer and reclaim their home, the player begins recruiting townsfolk, repairing buildings, and exploring dungeons, all the while inching closer to their final battle with Celemaril and his army of the dead.
22. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The fifth main entry in the timeline, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim takes the series to the titular home of the Nords. Set during a violent civil war, Skyrim slots the player into the boots of a prophecised warrior known as the Dragonborn.
Beginning the game on an execution block in an isolated fort, the player escapes death after the ancient dragon god, Alduin, attacks the settlement. Narrowly escaping with their life, the player learns that dragons have returned to Tamriel, with Alduin resurrecting the race of long-extinct beasts.
However, Skyrim may have one last hope. Shortly after escaping execution, the player realizes they are the last in a mythical line of warriors known as the Dragonborn. With dragon blood flowing through their veins, they have the ability to absorb the souls of dragons and wield their abilities through the use of magical shouts. Teaming with two surviving members of the Blades and a group of powerful sorcerers known as the Greybeards, they track Alduin, beginning a journey to defeat the dragon god and fulfill their destiny.
Read our review of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
23. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard
The first of three major expansions released for Skyrim, the Dawnguard DLC sees players begin a new adventure, with a group of vampire hunters recruiting them for an important task. Known as the Dawnguard, these hunters are attempting to stop a maniacal Vampire Lord known as Harkon and his army of followers from permanently blocking out the sun.
While working with the Dawnguard, the player meets Harkon, who offers them the choice of becoming a fellow Vampire Lord and joining his mission. Here, the story diverges down two paths. Regardless of whether the player sides with the Dawnguard or the vampire legion, they are sent on several quests with Harkon’s daughter, Serana, learning more about the elder scrolls and Harkon’s true plans.
Read our review of the Skyrim Dawnguard DLC.
24. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Hearthfire
The smallest of Skyrim’s three expansions, Hearthfire sees the Dragonborn learn of three new plots of land located in Falkreath, Dawnstar and Morthal. After buying any of these plots of land, they can build a house, using it to store items, raise a family, craft weapons, brew potions and much more.
25. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dragonborn
The final expansion for Skyrim, the Dragonborn DLC, adds a new realm to the game. Unlocking a port in Windhelm, players can charter a ship to Solstheim, allowing them to return to the setting of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind’s second expansion, Bloodmoon.
After being attacked by cultists worshipping a mysterious priest known as Miraak, the player sets sail for Solstheim, pursuing rumors of a second Dragonborn allegedly living on the island. There, they discover Miraak: an immensely powerful Dragonborn with the ability to bend dragons to his will.
Unlike the player, however, Miraak sees his powers as a means to dominate others rather than help them. He’s enslaved the people of Solstheim, manipulating them with the same technique he uses to control dragons. Using this power, he intends to invade the rest of Tamriel. After learning of Miraak’s crimes, the player decides to track down and stop the powerful warrior. As the two Dragonborns inch closer towards an inevitable showdown, the player begins to learn more about Miraaks’ unique abilities, figuring out the means to use them against him.
Read our review of the Skyrim Dragonborn DLC.
How to Play the Elder Scrolls Games by Release Date
- The Elder Scrolls Arena (1994)
- The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall (1996)
- The Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire (1997)
- The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard (1998)
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (2002)
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind – Tribunal (2002)
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind – Bloodmoon (2003)
- 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 IV: Oblivion – Knights of the Nine (2006)
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – Shivering Isles (2007)
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard (2012)
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Hearthfire (2012)
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dragonborn (2012)
- The Elder Scrolls Online (2014)
- The Elder Scrolls: Legends (2016)
- The Elder Scrolls Online – Morrowind (2017)
- The Elder Scrolls Online – Summerset (2018)
- The Elder Scrolls Online – Elsweyr (2019)
- The Elder Scrolls: Blades (2020)
- The Elder Scrolls Online – Greymoor (2020)
- The Elder Scrolls Online – Blackwood (2021)
- The Elder Scrolls Online – High Isle (2022)
- The Elder Scrolls Online – Necrom (2023)
What’s Next for The Elder Scrolls?
During Bethesda’s E3 conference back in 2018, Bethesda Game Studios officially announced the next entry in the Elder Scrolls franchise: The Elder Scrolls VI. In the years since, very little has been revealed about the sequel, with the studio currently hard at work on its next major title, Starfield.
It’s currently speculated that the game will take place in Hammerfell, and will feature a vastly upgraded version of the Bethesda Engine. Unfortunately, we also know that we’re not going to see it anytime soon. Speaking on the Elder Scrolls VI during Microsoft’s FTC trial earlier this year, Xbox head Phil Spencer revealed that the sequel is still “five-plus years away”.