The aftermath of an apocalyptic event is a common setting for many games, from RPGs to survival games to fast-paced action shooters and everything in between. The Fallout series is, arguably, the daddy of them all – it even threatened to take over a previous list. Rich in lore and dripping with excellent gameplay, the Fallout series has a strong history. Just like many gamers, I was first introduced to the Fallout series by a friends’ copy of Fallout 3 and immediately fell in love. I quickly endeavoured to seek out the previous games in the series and I wasn’t disappointed.
The main games in the Fallout series are all great standalone stories and each can be played without prior knowledge of the series, although I would recommend giving them all a go. The graphics of the first few games don’t hold up too well by today’s standards but the gameplay, certainly of Fallout and Fallout 2, is brilliant – if a little difficult.
The popularity of this series is clear just looking at the number of people who’ve bought the games in the past but also looking at the prices of the older games on Steam. Fallout is £7.99 at the moment, which is a high price for a 21 year old game but definitely worth every penny. If you’ve never played a Fallout game before this list of the best Fallout games should help you work out where to begin.
8. Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel (2004)
Not to be confused with its predecessor, Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel is the fourth game in the Fallout universe and the only one not released on PC. It is an action-RPG game that actually signaled intent for the series to move away from the isometric view of the previous games. It’s often overlooked when talking about the Fallout universe because it isn’t held to the same esteem as the others.
The plot begins in a very similar way to Fallout Tactics. The player character is a choice of three pre-made characters who pledge to become a Brotherhood of Steel initiate, only this time it all happens in Texas. Split into three chapters, the first chapter tasks the player with investigating the disappearance of members of the Brotherhood in the city of Carbon. Chapter two sees the return of the protagonist from the original Fallout. The Vault Dweller travels to the city of Los with the player. There, they search for mutants and deal with a cult. Chapter 3 is essentially just the final boss, Attis. He’s a super mutant general and the battle is split into two sections. After dealing enough damage in the first section, the player character is knocked unconscious and left to die. Human residents of the secret vault assist the player and soon you’ll enter the ruins of the vault to find Attis. After defeating Attis, the player is able to access a computer terminal to begin decontamination of the vault. This is essentially a self-destruct and the player has to rush to a monorail car in order to escape.
It’s a bit of a mish-mash of a game, as is reflected in a Metacritic score of just 64%, and it was such a big departure from the previous games that it became lost in the wasteland of time. The game is not considered canon by Bethesda because of many inconsistencies with previously released lore.
7. Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel (2001)
The third game released under the Fallout name, Fallout Tactics moved away from traditional RPG elements and focused more on squad-based combat. It introduced what developers called “Continuous turn-based” combat, close to real time, as well as the first multiplayer mode. The plot of the game follows a Brotherhood of Steel squad in the Midwest of the US. I first played Tactics a few years after discovering the series. I couldn’t really get into it at the time, the mechanics of the game didn’t suit my preferred style at the time. It’s worth getting into though, especially if you like squad-based combat games like X-COM.
Bethesda have declared that Fallout Tactics is also not canonical due to several inconsistencies with Fallout universe lore. There are, however, a few key plot details from the game which have been continued into later games in the series. There are two references to midwestern Brotherhood of Steel groups in both Fallout 3 (Scribe Rothchild speaks of a rogue squad in Chicago) and Fallout 4 (Lancer Captain Kells mentions that the Brotherhood have built airships in the west but they have likely been destroyed).
6. Fallout Shelter
Fallout Shelter is the free-to-play game released on iOS at E3 in 2015. A subsequent Android release followed a few months later and in March 2017 it was released on Steam (although it had been released via the Bethesda.net launcher the previous Summer). At E3 2018, Todd Howard announced that the game had also now been released for PS4 and Nintendo Switch. It’s the one Fallout game that everybody with access to a console, smartphone or computer can play.
The main focus of the game is running a Vault. Players number their vault and build rooms. Building requires resources which can be achieved through completing quests and leveling up Vault inhabitants. I really enjoy playing Fallout Shelter. It’s a great way to alleviate the boredom of public transport and the updates released to the game since release have only added to the fun. Having said that, there are a few criticisms that should be sent in its direction. The gameplay can be fiddly on a phone screen, the quests are repetitive and there’s no real longevity in a save.
5. Fallout 2
Fallout 2 is the first sequel in the series and follows the adventures of The Chosen One, a member of a wasteland tribe who turns out to be a descendent of the Vault Dweller from the first game in the series. Gameplay is similar to the original Fallout with turn-based combat and a pseudo-isometric view. There were, of course, a few changes from the first game in the series to this one including the introduction of a reputation system which affects how the player character is treated in the various towns within the game. Control of non-player companion characters was also improved.
I enjoyed playing Fallout 2, but found it quite difficult to get invested in the story. I thought that it was too similar to the first game – leave home to find a macguffin, return home to find that the mission isn’t over, defeat FEV related baddie – and I couldn’t fully invest in it. That being said, it’s fun to play and the difficulty is high enough to keep it challenging but not so much that it’s frustrating to play. It’s the only game in the series that’s a direct sequel with The Chosen One of Fallout 2 being a descendant of The Vault Dweller of the first game.
4. Fallout: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game
The one that started it all. A culture and a way of life began on September 30th 1997 with the release of this game. It saw the birth of a character creation system called SPECIAL (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, Luck), which has become the foundation of many subsequent role playing games. Delivered in a pseudo-isometric view, the game used turn-based combat to produce an outstanding experience. Fallout: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game also introduced players to a futuristic world that is very much in the image of 1950s science fiction.
The story of Fallout follows the Vault Dweller, someone sent from their home in Vault 13 to get a new water chip for their Vault before the current stores of water run out. After finding and returning with the chip, the player is tasked with taking down super mutants and the Master before an attack on Vault 13 is launched by the mutant army. Upon defeating the mutants and the Master, the Vault Dweller returns to Vault 13 only to be told that, despite their achievements, they can’t stay because it would mean the rest of the inhabitants of the vault would want to leave. The Vault Dweller went through all of these trials only to be rewarded with exile.
The first few times I played this game I found the drastic change in style from my introduction to the series difficult to get my head around. After a few attempts at creating a character and dying fairly early in the series, I got frustrated and uninstalled it. A few years later though, I gave it another go and was blown away. The setting and story are incredible and its provenance stands the test of time.
3. Fallout 4
The most recent and most controversial Fallout game, Fallout 4 was released in the Autumn of 2015 after a short notice announcement at E3 the same year. Highly anticipated, the game itself disappointed a few fans, myself included, because of the movement further away from the RPG elements that the series was founded upon towards more action-based gameplay. I was so excited for the release of Fallout 4 that I ended up spending over £500 upgrading my PC to make sure it would run. Fallout 4 also introduced settlement building, something that took its inspiration from a fan-made mod for Fallout: New Vegas.
The beginning of the game follows the player character, heavily customizable and voiced for the first time, as they go about their morning routine, including signing up for a spot in the nearby Vault, on October 23rd 2077. After the onset of nuclear war, the player character and their family enter the Vault where they are cryogenically frozen. During this freezing, you are awakened by some shady characters attempting to kidnap your son Shaun, during which they kill your partner. You are then refrozen and awaken later and escape the Vault to try to find Shaun. You will meet many factions along the way, you can build settlements for wasteland survivors should you wish to, and make decisions that will affect the future of the Commonwealth.
The story of the game is quite similar to that of Fallout 3, only reversed, and there is a twist that many players did not see coming. The game is heavily criticized for not allowing the player more choice on their behaviour, essentially forcing the player to be a good person – something previous titles did not do. It is, however, a fun game to play with settlement building providing hours upon hours of content for players to keep the game as interesting as possible. It’s the Fallout game that I have invested the most time into purely because of the settlement building aspect–I’m constantly building and rebuilding in Sanctuary.
2. Fallout 3
Officially the second sequel to 1997’s game-changer, Fallout 3 became a game-changer of its own. The first game to offer players a choice of first-person or third-person view, it also allowed greater character customization than had been seen before. It introduced radio stations allowing the player to listen to music from the early-20th century that they may not have heard before. The Ink Spots, in particular, have gathered many new fans since the release of Fallout 3. It was the first major release in the series to not be set on the west coast of the US, instead being set in the wastes around Washington DC.
I remember the first time I played Fallout 3. I was sat in front of the TV with nothing decent to watch so I decided to check out my flatmate’s Xbox 360 games collection. I fancied something new and spotted this game in the pile. From the first few bars of I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire, I was hooked. I played the game as often as I could. I would stay up until 9am the next day trying to get through as many quests as I could. I even bought some of the DLC despite not owning the game myself.
I loved the gameplay, the story and the setting. No other game series has affected me in the way that Fallout has and, for me, it all started here.
1. Fallout: New Vegas
If Fallout 3 was the game that invested me in the series, New Vegas is the game that made me a devotee. New Vegas is the last game in the series not developed by Bethesda, with Obsidian taking the reigns here. Obsidian is a team that includes developers who were involved in the first two Fallout games and it shows. Although in the same engine, and graphics style, as Fallout 3, there is a greater emphasis on the RPG elements which really made the series famous. It also had the best story – with many more options for you to really create a character.
You play as The Courier, who had been tasked to deliver a platinum chip to the city of New Vegas, but you were ambushed by Benny in Goodsprings. What follows is a quest for revenge that culminates in the player ultimately deciding the fate of everyone who lives in the Mojave Wasteland. The story, for me, is near perfect and the choices available to you mean that you can have a different experience nearly every time you play. Having said that, I almost always side with the NCR to provide the most stability to the region. I’m a creature of habit.
If I had to pick fault with New Vegas, I would say that the voice acting is one of the weakest I’ve experienced throughout the whole series. Initial antagonist Benny is voiced by Matthew Perry, who seems like he was just reading the lines aloud rather than trying to act, very disappointing. Bethesda aren’t famed for the quality of the voice acting in their games but New Vegas was particularly bad. Having said that, Fallout New Vegas is my favourite game in the series and I’m hoping that the current trend of remastering games will lead to a remastered version of this masterpiece in the future. Ideally with better acting.