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All Fallout games, ranked

Fallout 3 key art featuring the protagonist wearing the iconic power armor.
Bethesda

Who would’ve thought the post-apocalypse could be such a fun time? The Fallout franchise has taken the idea of a Mad Maxlike future and not only made it into a wildly popular game franchise but also a hit TV series. The core franchise has been around since the late ’90s, and yet we’ve had only a handful of mainline entries in the series since it was revived by Bethesda with Fallout 3. With Starfield in the rearview mirror and the next Elder Scrolls title currently being the dev team’s focus, it could be close to another decade before we can set foot in the wasteland ourselves once again. What better time, then, to look back at the franchise and rank all the games from best to worst?

Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas
87%
M
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre
Shooter, Role-playing (RPG)
Developer
Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher
Bandai Namco Entertainment, 1C/Cenega, Bethesda Softworks
Release
October 19, 2010
So much was stacked against Fallout: New Vegas from being great. Obsidian had a mere 18 months to make the entire game, and while that time constraint did show in terms of bugs and stability, it didn’t hold back the quality of writing or depth of role-playing whatsoever. This makes a lot of sense when you consider many of the original creators of Fallout had gone on to form Obsidian. Years later, a combination of patches and fan mods has finally revealed just how impressive and dynamic the game is. To this day, few games are as open-ended in how they let you complete (and fail) quests.
Fallout: New Vegas Trailer - E3 2010

Fallout

Fallout
86%
M
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), PC DOS, Mac
Genre
Role-playing (RPG), Turn-based strategy (TBS)
Developer
Black Isle Studios, The Omni Group
Publisher
Interplay Entertainment, Edusoft, MacPlay
Release
September 30, 1997
The second and third picks could swap places depending on who you ask because they’re so different in design, but we give the edge to the original Fallout. Aside from introducing the entire world and lore of the universe, it also set the tone of dark humor that has carried on through the entire series since. Gameplay-wise, the series began as an isometric turn-based RPG instead of the open-world RPG it would turn into. It is a bit more hardcore in terms of difficulty and managing items and your character, but very rewarding for the level of depth and variety of builds you are afforded.
Fallout Intro Movie

Fallout 3

Fallout 3
84%
M
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre
Shooter, Role-playing (RPG)
Developer
Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher
Bethesda Softworks
Release
October 28, 2008
The first game to catch mainstream appeal and bring the series to the modern era was Bethesda’s Fallout 3. It reimagined the classic isometric games in the Elder Scrollsstyle open-world RPG, and the two ended up being a fantastic mix. It made the somewhat intimidating look and feel of the original games far more approachable by making it a first- or third-person game and streamlining the RPG systems while still offering a ton of player choice and different outcomes for quests depending on your actions. The inclusion of the VATS system also helped smooth over the game’s lacking shooting mechanics with a satisfying slow-down that called back to the original’s turn-based systems.
Fallout 3 - Trailer (Official)

Fallout 4

Fallout 4
80%
M
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S
Genre
Shooter, Role-playing (RPG)
Developer
Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher
Bethesda Softworks
Release
November 09, 2015
The biggest knock against Fallout 4 is that it is just Fallout 3 but bigger. If you liked Fallout 3, then that might be all you want, but after eight years between games, a lot of people felt this sequel didn’t live up to the legacy it was set up for. Unfortunately, it also took a step back in a lot of ways, such as the dialogue system that restricted you to a maximum of four choices that were far too vague to properly tell what your character was going to say in any given situation. This was tied to the choice to give your character a voice, meaning options had to be limited to accommodate each one being spoken. The settlement system was also a kind of love-it-or-hate-it addition. Fallout 4 is a mixed bag, but there’s more good than bad to find.
Fallout 4 Official - Announcement Trailer (Official)

Fallout 2

Fallout 2
90%
M
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), Mac
Genre
Puzzle, Role-playing (RPG), Turn-based strategy (TBS)
Developer
Black Isle Studios, The Omni Group
Publisher
Interplay Entertainment, MacPlay
Release
October 29, 1998
Whether you like the changes Fallout 4 made, at least it tried new things. Fallout 2 is almost identical to Fallout but with a new story. This sequel came out only a year after the first, and it shows. There are a few tweaks to systems here and there, but the only thing that makes this game a bit more newcomer-friendly is the fact that your main quest isn’t on a time limit so you don’t feel pressured to rush the main quest and skip everything else. Writing is subjective, of course, but many people do prefer the story, setting, and characters of the first over the sequel. Since the gameplay is largely untouched, that’s going to make a big difference in where it ranks.
Fallout 2 Trailer 11/1998

Fallout Shelter

Fallout Shelter
64%
T
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), Android, iOS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Genre
Role-playing (RPG), Simulator, Strategy
Developer
Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher
Bethesda Softworks
Release
June 14, 2015
Thankfully Fallout Shelter is a completely skippable, much smaller game. It was originally relegated to mobile devices but has since come to consoles as well; however, we don’t recommend playing it anywhere if you’re expecting anything resembling a traditional Fallout experience. You play as an Overseer of a vault in a management sim-style game where you take care of all your vault dwellers, building new rooms, and trying to make them happy and productive. It uses the admittedly appealing cartoony art style from the fictional Vault Tec advertising to great effect, but there’s very little substance here. It’s a fine distraction if you just want something Falloutthemed, but shares almost nothing with what people love any of the main games for.
Fallout Shelter - Announcement Trailer

Fallout 76

Fallout 76
58%
M
Platforms
PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre
Shooter, Role-playing (RPG)
Developer
Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher
Bethesda Softworks
Release
November 14, 2018

Well, maybe changing things too much isn’t such a good thing as Fallout 76 showed. On paper, Fallout 76 sounded like every fan’s dream game. It was going to be a full Fallout experience, but multiplayer. What could go wrong? At launch, it might be easier to list what didn’t go wrong with Fallout 76. The game was ugly, ran poorly, was riddled with bugs, had no NPCs, boring and repetitive quests, and so on. Granted, the game has been improved a ton in the years since with many patches and expansions, but that core idea just never came together to make a good Fallout game. Something about that magic was lost in the transition to a multiplayer, persistent game.

Fallout 76 – The Power of the Atom! Intro to Nukes Gameplay Video

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Jesse Lennox
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