Fallout is a titan of the game industry. When Interplay Entertainment created the first Fallout game in the late 1990s, they could never have guessed that this game would go on to define how we view post-apocalyptic games in the context of our modern times.
Since the release of said game, there have been a few more Fallout games added to the franchise every few years, with some being diamonds that have changed open-world video games and others being a complete shambles that have seemed to make a mockery of the very AAA industry that they themselves have come from.
In short, Fallout: New Vegas is the best in the series. It expands upon all of the best features of Fallout 3 such as an enticing story, fun gameplay, and an expansive world. It doesn’t get bogged down with bugs as much as the other games in the series and is less of a grind than Fallout 4. It is the best casual playthrough experience available in the Fallout series.
With such a variety in quality between games, it is important to know which games you should pick and which you should avoid. As such, we’ve decided to create an article of the very best Fallout games, ending in the absolute best one.
Be warned! From this point on, this article is going to be filled with spoilers.
Fallout 1 was in development for three years and cost upwards of $3 million dollars before Tim Cain’s masterpiece was released to the public.
The game’s story was a cynical, negative spin on the 50s perfect idea of the Atomic age – much like 80s and 90s cyberpunk was on the computer age.
In the world of Fallout, on October 23rd 2077, a global nuclear war between America and China erupts and obliterates society. Some people escape to vaults, designed by vault-tec, and survive the nuclear Armageddon.
In Fallout 1, the year is 2161 and the vault’s water recycling and pumping chip stops working.
Tasked by the overseer to leave the vault and find a replacement, the vault dweller (your character) must leave the safety of their home and journey into the post-apocalyptic world of Southern California they know nothing about.
The premise already creates tension to the story, as everything in Fallout is a juxtaposition between the nostalgia of the past and the reality of the present.
You wander through ghost towns with memorabilia of the 1950s and meet people who have only known this reality, but also those who have survived long enough to know the truths about the old world.
This is what makes the Fallout universe so fascinating, as people didn’t just die in the blast, many were changed.
The Varied World of Fallout 1
Now due to the radiation, there are three groups of people: the unchanged humans, who avoided the blast in vaults, the ghouls who should have died in the blast but instead became undying people in rotting bodies, and super mutants who were changed by genetic experimentation.
Each of these three groups gives us a small snippet of how the world is depending on who you talk to, with ghouls remembering the past as they can live hundreds of years, super mutants being basically babies who were born into this world and remember nothing of the past, and humans who sit somewhere in between.
The first fallout game also introduces us to the politics of this world and the shattered remains of society. Tribal groups roam the land, with many people crowding together in semi-organised towns just to survive.
Some are incredibly advanced like the Brotherhood of Steel at Lost Hills – a remnant of a military unit who have taken it upon themselves to preserve the old technology – and some are little more than roaming gangs steeped in tradition like the Great Khans.
Moral Decisions in Fallout
Through it all, the Vault Dweller must make moral decisions to help or hinder these groups of people, with most of the outcomes being morally gray and the decisions being absolute.
Another aspect of this game is time is a factor, so you need to complete your objectives within a set time or terrible events will occur.
Unlike later Fallout games, this game used a kind of three-quarters viewpoint that was mostly top down and would reveal aspects of the environment based on the direction you were facing.
While this doesn’t seem like much nowadays, during the 90s this was an extraordinary development and lent the game to the intense exploration that it is known for.
The game also uses a turn based strategy system when combat is engaged, where the characters will battle until their action points are depleted, at which point your character may have to leave combat for a bit before attacking again.
This combat system was good for the time of release, but it became clunky very quickly and detracted from the overall fund experience of the game.
The unbridled success of Fallout 1 – with it being considered one of the best role playing games at the time, winning role-playing game of the year, and gaining economic sales as well as a fan base – meant that Interplay really wanted to continue the saga.
Despite the first game being tied off in a neat package, due to the nature of the world of Fallout there were ways to create a new story without ruining the legacy of the old game, while also keeping the terrifying, cynical aesthetic of the old game.
Fallout 2 takes place a full 80 years after Fallout 1 in 2241 and times have changed in the former Western United States.
After the Vault Dweller’s heroic actions that saved the vault, they were exiled from it, and so they traveled north to Oregon with the companions they met along the way.
There they founded a village called Arroyo, from which the new player character – the Chosen One – appears.
At this time, the village experiences the worst drought that they have ever had and the village elder tasks the Chosen One to find a G.E.C.K or a garden of Eden creation kit.
These were made by American scientists before the apocalypse in order to revive the natural world after the bombs, but due to the incompetence and deliberate sadism of vault-tec, they were generally never used or stored correctly.
Fallout 2 is a Solid Sequel
It’s worth noting that some retro gamers prefer Fallout 2 over all other games in the series.
Fallout 2 expands on the world of Fallout greatly, basically fleshing out the world. While the original Fallout was a grim reality, it never truly explored just how grim and desperate the world was, however Fallout 2 really goes into it.
Strong language is prolific in the game, and you see how people survive, including turning to sex work, and there is constant evidence of slavery and death in the world. In this grim world, karma and reputation are also added.
Karma is how good or bad the actions your character commits are and affect how good or bad your character is, whereas reputation is how well a community receives you.
Weapons, armor, and skills have also been upgraded within the Fallout world with a wider range of enemies to fight as well.
The skills themselves were suddenly all useful as well, whereas before you had to decide which skills to use before using them.
Finally, the story was progressed for all the areas you went to before and filled out the world’s factions.
Suddenly, the banded together merchants within the Shady Sands area had become a powerful nation known as the New California Republic and you meet the remnants of the old American government – with all their scary powerful technology – and catch a glimpse of the attitudes that caused the global collapse.
While Fallout 2 has some criticisms for being buggy or not changing the gameplay or story too much, it was a good game that really completed the world building of the Fallout universe, something that was absolutely necessary for the better games to come in the future – hence its high placement here.
This is newest full game in the Fallout universe – we refuse to acknowledge the absolute shambles that is Fallout 76, it needs to be put in a dumpster and wheeled into the ocean – Fallout 4 follows in its predecessor’s footsteps of being loved by critics and being commercially successful.
However, due to it being released in 2015 it follows on from the storyline of the Fallout 3, rather than the other two. The difference is that Fallout 3 and 4 are set on the east coast of America, rather than on the west.
Therefore, Fallout 4 takes place in the New England area around Boston. This, of course, changes some factional and political aspects, but we will explore them later.
The story takes place 10 years after the events of Fallout 3 in the year 2287. The story starts very different from other Fallout titles, as you actually start the game before the bombs fall.
When the bombs fall, you and your family are sent to Vault 111, where you are cryogenically frozen until the year 2287.
Upon awakening, the character witnesses a man execute your wife and kidnap your child, making you the Sole Survivor of the vault and giving you your name.
At this point, you explore the world and are introduced to a very different environment than on the West Coast.
Some Pros and Some Cons
In Fallout 4, there are 4 main factions vying for control: the Brotherhood of Steel, the Institute, the Minutemen, and the Railroad, and these factions are focused on a new group of humanoids that were introduced briefly in Fallout 3 – synths or synthetic humans, who are basically completely robotic inside but given a personality and look just like humans (if you’ve read ‘Do androids dream of electric sheep?’ that really covers it.
Generally, Fallout 4 doesn’t change much between it and Fallout 3 (keeping the new combat systems, new dialogues, and continuing the story) instead it tries to improve upon these.
There are a couple of new features however, including an affinity system for companions where they like you more or less, and now you can build your own settlements, which people were crying out for in Fallout 3.
The story is absolutely superb, like previous incarnations in the series, and focuses on just what makes us human and how other humanoids can certainly be humane and human but also how creating synthetic humans could also harm people no matter how benign they are.
It is thought-provoking and sad.
However, the game can also be very buggy and prone to problems. In fact, if not for the outdated systems of the previous games and their lackluster combat, it may well have slipped further down the list.
Fallout 3 is the game that not only brought back Fallout, but made it one of the most beloved game series on the planet.
This game came out in 2008, 11 years after Fallout 2, and had been in development hell for years. When Interplay in 2005, they sold the rights to the Fallout series to Bethesda Studios – known for the Elder Scrolls game.
Bethesda completely scrapped all the code and built the game from scratch, and by doing so they created the best game of the decade and one of the best games of all time.
They changed every part of the game play without sacrificing any of the world building or the story.
Fallout 3 is set in the year 2277, 36 years after Fallout 2, on the east coast of America in the area around Washington D.C. You are introduced to the story at various milestones throughout your life in Vault 101 until you are 18 at which point your father leaves the vault.
The problem is that the vault was never supposed to open, it was intended to remain sealed forever.
After you escape the vault, you begin your journey through the Capital wasteland as the Lone Wanderer, trying to find your father and finding out about the world around you.
Fallout 3 is a Beautiful Adventure!
More than any game previous, Fallout 3 immerses you in the game, and it fills in so many details about the world.
This is possible for a few reasons. The first is that you are in a third person or first person view and the world has been built with better graphics. That means that towns look like big towns, and you can see structures and the land itself.
It gives you a sense of the devastation that the bombs did, it makes you see the travesty of the world around, and forces you to accept the grim reality of the world as you see it in the full rendered ugliness it truly is.
The second is that the dialogue, the factions, and the independence and ideas of the people have been expanded. Now, you can talk to others and see how they view events, you can see crimes committed, and you can see the hypocrisy of actions.
Finally, the exploration shows you the crimes of the past. It is not just this story you are piecing together, but that of the world before the bombs and during the aftermath.
When you enter vault-tec vaults and see the terrible experiments they committed on people, it leaves a mark, and it tells a story without saying any words.
While Fallout 3 does introduce old factions, there are also new ones and new cultures, building a new world in the Fallout universe that hadn’t been done before and showing us the cracks of division even in old orders.
Fallout 3 won multiple awards for a reason, despite some bugs. It is a titanic gaming achievement and in our opinion, it is only surpassed by one other Fallout game.
Fallout: New Vegas
Everything good we just said about Fallout 3 was put into New Vegas and turned up to eleven. Released in 2010, the game was a collaboration between Obsidian Entertainment and Bethesda Studios and was released with only a little bit of fanfare.
While it sold well originally, it was nowhere near the level of Fallout 3, but the sales grew and grew as more people became addicted to the game.
Eventually, the game would sell 12 million copies worldwide and win several awards for the sheer genius of the game.
Set in 2281, 4 years after Fallout 3, the player character is introduced as a courier that is executed by a mysterious figure for carrying a package.
The Courier doesn’t die and is healed by a local doctor, but with no memory of themselves or what they were doing. The Courier sets out to explore the wasteland and find out why they were attacked.
This world is different from previous games, as you are in the Mojave Desert and Las Vegas, but the place is an active war zone with the New California Republic and a new power from the east – Caesar’s Legion – actively fighting for control of the area.
The Peace and Chaos of New Vegas
Although there is peace, for now, skirmishes are constant.
While these are the two big factions, there are tens of other smaller factions that each have their own agendas and each with their own ending.
All of them have unique cultures and views, whether it be the gangs of Free side defending turf or the isolationist Boomers, and each will want your help.
The combat, the dialogue, and the story, all are improved versions of Fallout 3. Yet somehow they’re unique with the old factions meeting brand-new ones. It breathes an incredible breath of life into the series.
In this game, the reputation system is brought back for factions and depending on what you do will depend on how you are viewed.
The game has been hailed as one of the best RPGs of all time, and our review here really doesn’t do it justice. As such, you should definitely play the game yourself and see why everyone loves it.
Fallout: New Vegas is the best game in the Fallout series, hands down, but the series is filled with so many good games that you should check them all out before you make up your mind.