How Long is the Main Quest in Skyrim?

Ah, fellow Dovahkiin! I remember the first time I booted up “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” and was faced with the age-old gamer’s dilemma. As I stood atop the Throat of the World, gazing out at the vast expanse of Tamriel, I was torn between following the path of the Dragonborn or venturing into the unknown, chasing every butterfly and joining every guild that caught my eye. It felt like choosing between following the main quest in an RPG or getting lost in side quests for hours on end. I couldn’t help but wonder:

  • How long is the main quest of Skyrim?
  • Can it be completed quickly?
  • What are the pros and cons of finishing the main quest before diving into the side adventures?

I wagered I wasn’t the only one grappling with these questions. Many adventurers, like you, have probably felt the same pull between destiny and distraction. And that’s why I’ve crafted this guide. Think of it as your in-game strategy guide or a potion to boost your decision-making stats.

So, gear up, grab your favorite enchanted weapon, and let’s embark on this quest for knowledge together. Ready to level up your Skyrim strategy? Keep on reading, fellow gamer!

How Long is the Main Quest in Skyrim?

Ah, Skyrim! A game that has captured the hearts of many adventurers, including mine. Let’s dive into the main quest of this epic journey.

The main quest of Skyrim, often referred to as the “Dragonborn” storyline, is a thrilling tale of dragons, ancient prophecies, and the fate of the world resting on your shoulders. But how long does it take to complete this central narrative?

On average, if you’re the type of player who beelines straight for the main objectives without getting sidetracked by the allure of side quests, random dragon attacks, or the temptation to join guilds and factions, you’re looking at around 20 to 30 hours of gameplay. This estimate includes the time it takes to travel between locations, engage in dialogue, and battle the various foes you’ll encounter along the way.

I would like to point out that during my own playthrough, it took me approximately 35 hours to finish the main quest for the first time on Xbox 360, and around 45 hours on the PC. In both cases, I focused mainly on the main story quest, but on the PC, I was a bit older and wiser, so I took my time a little more.

However, Skyrim is a vast and immersive world, and the beauty of the game lies in its depth and the countless distractions it offers. Many players find themselves spending hours exploring caves, joining the Thieves Guild, or simply hunting and crafting. If you’re one of those players who loves to immerse themselves fully in the world, the main quest can easily take a backseat, and you might find yourself clocking in 50 hours or more before you see the credits roll.

But here’s a little secret: No matter how long you take, the journey is worth every second. Whether you’re shouting dragons out of the sky, delving into Nordic ruins, or simply enjoying the northern lights in the quiet of the night, Skyrim offers an experience that’s hard to match.

So, Dragonborn, whether you’re on your first playthrough or your tenth, take your time and savor the adventure. After all, it’s not just about the destination, but the journey itself. Happy adventuring!

Can the main quest be completed quickly?

Absolutely! While Skyrim is renowned for its vast open world and countless side quests, the main questline, known as the “Dragonborn” storyline, can be completed relatively quickly if you’re focused solely on it.

For players who prioritize the main quest and avoid distractions, it’s possible to finish the storyline in around 15 to 20 hours. I’ve thrashed my way thorugh the mainline quest while playing as a wizard in about 15 hours. This involves:

  1. Fast Traveling: Utilizing the fast travel system to quickly move between locations you’ve already discovered.
  2. Skipping Dialogues: While it might take away from the immersive experience, speeding through dialogues can save a significant amount of time.
  3. Efficient Combat: Being well-prepared with potions, strong weapons, and armor can make battles, especially with dragons, quicker.
  4. Avoiding Side Quests: While tempting, steering clear of side quests and other optional content will expedite your journey through the main story.

However, it’s worth noting that rushing through the main quest means missing out on a lot of what makes Skyrim special. The side quests, guilds, exploration, and interactions with NPCs add depth and richness to the game. But if you’re on a mission to see the main story’s conclusion in the shortest time possible, it’s definitely doable!

Completing Skyrim’s Main Quest First: Pros and Cons

Completing Skyrim’s main quest before venturing into the rest of the world has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Let’s break them down:


  1. Dragon Shouts: Progressing through the main quest unlocks various Dragon Shouts, which can be powerful tools in combat and exploration. Some shouts, like “Clear Skies,” can even change the environment, making certain areas more accessible.
  2. Dragonrend Shout: This specific shout, obtained later in the main quest, forces dragons to land, making them easier to fight. This can be particularly useful if you’re exploring areas with frequent dragon encounters.
  3. Dragon Souls: As you defeat dragons during the main quest, you’ll collect dragon souls, which are required to unlock shouts you discover in your travels.
  4. Narrative Focus: For players who prefer a linear narrative experience, completing the main quest first provides a clear and uninterrupted storyline. This can make the overall narrative feel more cohesive.
  5. Leveling Up: The main quest provides ample opportunities to level up, ensuring you’re better prepared for some of the tougher challenges in side quests and faction quests.


  1. Missed Opportunities: Some side quests and faction quests can provide unique items, skills, or allies that might be beneficial during the main quest. For instance, becoming the Archmage of the College of Winterhold grants you powerful gear and spells.
  2. Overleveling: If you focus solely on the main quest, you might find yourself overleveled for some side quests, making them less challenging and potentially less enjoyable.
  3. World Immersion: One of Skyrim’s strengths is its rich, immersive world. Diving straight into the main quest might make you miss out on the depth and lore scattered throughout the side quests, books, and NPC interactions.
  4. Economic Benefits: Engaging in side activities, like joining the Thieves Guild or trading, can provide you with a steady income of gold, which can be useful for buying gear, property, or training.
  5. Character Development: Faction quests, in particular, offer unique opportunities for character development and role-playing. For instance, joining the Dark Brotherhood or the Companions offers distinct storylines that can shape your character’s identity.

In conclusion, whether you choose to complete the main quest first or explore the vast world of Skyrim is entirely up to your playstyle and preferences. Both approaches offer unique experiences, and there’s no right or wrong way to journey through the land of the Nords.

Final Words and Summary

Ah, fellow adventurer, our journey through the vast lands of Skyrim’s decision-making has been as epic as any dragon battle. As we stand at the crossroads, let’s take a moment to recall the signposts we’ve passed:

  • The main quest of Skyrim can take between 15 to 30 hours, depending on your playstyle.
  • It’s entirely possible to speedrun the main quest in a focused manner.
  • Advantages of completing the main quest first include unlocking powerful Dragon Shouts and a streamlined narrative experience.
  • On the flip side, diving straight into the main quest might mean missing out on unique items, lore, and character development opportunities.
  • The world of Skyrim offers a rich tapestry of side quests, guilds, and exploration that can enhance the main storyline.
  • Balancing the main quest with side adventures can lead to a more immersive and rewarding gameplay experience.

As the sun sets on our guide, I urge you to forge ahead, armed with this newfound knowledge. Eager to discover more secrets of Tamriel? Dive into the “What Next?” section!

What Next?

I always believe in leaving you with something actionable to embark on after our tales. Here’s your quest log for the next steps in your Skyrim adventure:

  • Replay the Game: Experience Skyrim from a different perspective. Maybe as a mage or a stealthy thief?
  • Join a Guild: Explore the unique storylines of the Thieves Guild, Dark Brotherhood, or the Companions.
  • Craft and Enchant: Dive deeper into Skyrim’s crafting system. Forge legendary weapons and armor.
  • Explore Uncharted Territories: Visit places you’ve never been to. Who knows what treasures or tales await?
  • Engage with the Community: Join online forums or Reddit communities. Share your experiences and learn from fellow Dovahkiins.


Nick Sinclair

Nick Sinclair, a gaming aficionado since the Commodore 64 era, studied Creative Computer Games Design in university before founding his own gaming company. Discovering a passion for content creation, Nick now helps gamers squeeze every drop of fun out of their favorite gaming hardware

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