The Elder Scrolls: The Elder Scrolls Arena was released in 1994 for DOS PC systems. The game was intended for players to assume the role of an arena combatant, but development shifted the game into a role-playing game (RPG). This game began the tradition based on the principle of "[being] who you want and [doing] what you want" that persists throughout the series' history.
The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall was published in 1996. Fueled by the modest success of The Elder Scrolls: Arena, The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall was even more ambitious than its predecessor. The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall featured one of the first true 3D worlds on a large scale, a game world claimed to be twice the size of Great Britain. Glitches were experienced commonly by players. Joe Blancato described the game as "notoriously buggy". Despite Daggerfall's commercial success, the game critic remarked, "the game still bears the mark of bad code".
Following the release of The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, Bethesda Softworks ceased development of the numbered title of the series until 2002 to develop in the interim An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire and The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard, which were released in 1997 and 1998, respectively. Both games had a smaller focus than the numbered series titles: An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire limited itself to dungeon-romping and The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard was a linear third-person action-adventure game.
The release of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind in 2002 saw a return to the old-style expansive and non-linear gameplay, and a shift towards individually-detailed landscapes and items, with a smaller game-world than past titles. It was developed simultaneously for PC and Microsoft's Xbox console. The game achieved commercial success, and sold over four million units by mid-2005.Two expansions were released between late 2002 and early 2003: The Elder Scrolls III: Tribunal and The Elder Scrolls III: Bloodmoon. A Game of the Year Edition encompassing the original game plus both expansions packs, as well as the latest patch and modding tools was released later.
Development of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion began in 2002, and focused on artificial intelligence improvements that interact dynamically with the game-world, proprietary radiant AI, implementation of Havok (physics) engine, and improved graphics. The game was released on PC and Xbox 360 in early 2006 and for PlayStation 3 in early 2007. Bethesda Softworks released one content collection and expansion pack in late 2006 and early 2007: The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine and The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles, respectively. A Game of the Year Edition was later released, featuring the original game, plus all expansion packs and updates for all three platforms, with the PC version getting exclusive mod tools and other bonuses.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was announced on December 11, 2010, at the Spike Video Game Awards 2010. The game is not a direct sequel to its predecessor, Oblivion, but instead takes place 200 years later, in the land called Skyrim, in Tamriel. Skyrim also makes use of an updated graphics engine. It was released on November 11, 2011 to critical acclaim. Skyrim received Spike's Game of the Year award and IGN's Xbox 360 and PC Game of the Year Awards for 2011.