Every Fallout game, ranked from worst to best

After the overwhelming success of the Fallout TV show, we're going back to rank every Fallout video game from worst to best, starting with Fallout 76 and ending with...
Power Armor in Fallout. Credit: Prime Video © 2024 Amazon Content Services LLC
Power Armor in Fallout. Credit: Prime Video © 2024 Amazon Content Services LLC /

The Fallout franchise has been a bit starved for content in recent years, with the only recent game being the somewhat unpopular Fallout 76. There probably won't be a new game in this post-apocalyptic video game series for quite some time, as Bethesda director Todd Howard has confirmed that his studio's next new project will be Elder Scrolls VI.

But the Fallout TV show from Amazon Prime has revitalized the series for old fans and brought a plethora of new ones on board. With the franchise arguably bigger than ever, let's look back at every major game released since the first Fallout came out in 1997, ranking them from worst to best.

8. Fallout 76 (2018)

Fallout 76 has had a tumultuous reputation among gamers since its launch in 2018, which was mired by corporate greed and penny-pinching. These elements are part of the reason that this can hardly be considered a real Fallout game when you compare it to others. At its core, Fallout 76 is a multiplayer live-service game complete with an extensive list of micro-transactions that block a large chunk of content behind a paywall. The live-service model is unpopular among a lot of gamers, but it was especially heinous among Fallout fans who were used to massive single-player role-playing experiences. Typically, the only purchasable content in past Fallout games were DLC packages that basically added hours of new campaign missions that were worth reaching into the wallet for. But Fallout 76 asked players to pay for cosmetic items, guns and quality-of-life upgrades, which was a different story.

Another unpopular element of Fallout 76 was the fact that the game launched without non-player characters. The idea was that every person you meet would be another live player. This idea sounded incredibly dumb to me before the launch of the game and it was quickly apparent that having the world empty of colorful NPCs, something the Fallout series was famous for, was a bad idea.

Although updates have since added questlines and NPCs, Fallout 76 has stark anti-Fallout elements baked into it, making it hard to enjoy as a longtime fan of the series. But there is certainly a community out there who enjoy this game, and Bethesda continues to update and improve it. But for this list, it is the weakest of the bunch by a considerable margin.

7. Fallout Shelter (2015)

Fallout Shelter is a mobile game that launched alongside Fallout 4 nearly a decade ago. Dear God, I can't believe it's been that long. The gameplay in Fallout Shelter has you essentially take on the role of a Vault-Tec overseer and build a vault — which is where the privileged few who can afford it ride out the apocalypse — from scratch. This involves sending some of your dwellers into the wasteland to complete quests and scavenge for caps while the rest of your people take care of the day-to-day operations of the vault.

It's a very simple and mind-numbing game full of fun references and characters from every other Fallout game. If you're wondering why this mobile game is ranked higher than Fallout 76, that's because it is straight-up more fun and a better Fallout experience in my opinion. I've admittedly spent way more time playing this game than 76 so I am definitely biased. I'm not ashamed to admit that I've spent days' worth of time working my fingers to the bone to build every single room in the game and collect juicy weapons from the wasteland. If you're a Fallout fan, it's a fun time waster.

6. Fallout Tactics (2001)

Fallout Tactics is often overlooked by Fallout fans, likely because it was the only game developed by Micro Forte and it's very different than anything else in the series. Critics gave it decent marks after its 2001 release, but the game generally flies under everyone's radar.

For one, Tactics is the most linear game in the series. The open-world RPG elements are pretty scarce as the game has more emphasis on combat and missions more akin to something you'd find in a first-person shooter. But the game still features a top-down perspective like its predecessors. You also control a squad of characters instead of just one this time around.

Another big reason this game is sort of set aside is the fact that it's not really part of the official canon. The game takes place in the outskirts of Chicago, after a rogue group of Brotherhood of Steel members crash land there. This sect of the Brotherhood allows outsiders to join, which is a big no-no for the rest of the organization. This group is referenced in other games so it is somewhat canon but not fully according to Bethesda. All in all, Tactics is not a bad game, and it's worth playing at least once for Fallout fans.

5. Fallout (1997)

The original Fallout game was developed by Interplay Productions and released way back in 1997. The game was a success, receiving good marks from critics and players alike for its unique retro-futuristic aesthetic, which is an important part of the franchise's DNA to this day. The classic storyline of the player taking the role of the badass vault dweller sent into the wasteland against impossible odds is here. The main villain the Master, who controls an army of super mutants, is regarded as one of the most fascinating and unique villains in the entire series. Through mutations caused by exposure to the Forced Evolutionary Virus, the Master goes from a human vault dweller to a hive-mind amalgamation of different people and computers hell-bent on assimilating as many people as possible to create a perfect society.

The storyline is top-notch, but the gameplay is where the original Fallout shows its age. There is no auto-save feature, the interface is extremely frustrating, the combat is turn-based and the character creation process can make or break your entire playthrough. I wish Bethesda would grace us with a remaster of this game because it is very much deserving of a fresh coat of paint or even a complete overhaul. This game is the one that started it all and is worth playing today if you are a fan of the series. Just make sure you have YouTube and the wiki handy because you will need assistance to navigate the antiquated systems.

4. Fallout 2 (1998)

Fallout 2 is a direct sequel to the original game, again developed by Interplay. It was released in 1998 after just a year of development time. Gameplay-wise, the sequel plays fairly similar to the original. But this game greatly expands the size of the map, the number of NPCs to interact with, and the lore. The primary antagonist this time around is the Enclave, a shady organization made up of the remnants of the pre-war United States government. The introduction of this faction makes the backstory of the Fallout universe much more sinister and fascinating. They are powerful, have a ton of highly advanced technology and aren't afraid to enslave or kill anyone who gets in their way. Good stuff.

The ominous intentions of Vault-Tec are also hinted at for the first time in this installment, deepening the darker undertones that fans applauded in the first game. In fact, these dark themes are cranked up to 11 in this game, with slavery, prostitution, organized crime and drugs not only prevalent among the NPCs, but also available for you to partake in as a player.

The sheer number of factions and expanded lore in this game put it over the first one in my opinion.

3. Fallout 4 (2015)

Fallout 4 was released in 2015 and it was a solid addition to the franchise. The game takes place in New England, with the city of Boston and the surrounding small towns encompassing much of the map. Although the game's graphics look better than previous installments, I feel like the shiny look removes some of the magic present in other Bethesda games. The main questline is also a bit weaker than in other Fallout games. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy being on a revenge quest as the player seeks out his/her missing son. The ability to embark on separate storylines for each of the game's factions is also good for replay purposes. But the game seems to get less fun the more I go back to it over the years, which I cannot say for the last final games on this list.

The game has value. Additions like base building, settlement cultivation, player dialogue and a revamped crafting system are all very much welcome. But if I'm sitting there trying to decide which game in the franchise to replay, Fallout 4 is not the first game that jumps out at me.

2. Fallout 3 (2008)

Fallout 3 was the first game in the franchise developed by Bethesda Studios, and it blew the door open for what this franchise could become. This was the first game where the player didn't control things from a top-down perspective. Instead, Bethesda included the same first-person (with the optional third-person) POV from its wildly popular game Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It's still fun today to revisit Fallout 3 and explore the destroyed remnants of Washington D.C.

It was the perfect blend of old elements from the franchise and new mechanics that transformed the experience. Being a vault dweller jettisoned into the wasteland for a long crusade is a central theme of the franchise. The V.A.T.S. targeting system, the new first-person perspective and the revamped perk system are just some of the additions that make this game endlessly repayable. Not to mention a mysterious main questline featuring Liam Neeson as the voice of the player's father, who you have to track down for the majority of the game.

The game mostly holds up to this day, but there are rumors of a remaster coming in the near future. If this is true, I will be glued to my Xbox in perpetuity to relive the glory days of this game's release in 2008.

1. Fallout: New Vegas (2010)

The undisputed king of the wasteland, in my opinion, is Fallout: New Vegas, the only game in the series made by Obsidian Studios. This game improves on the mechanics and gameplay of Fallout 3 and injects a Western backdrop with more impactful decision-making, gambling and insanely fun storytelling. There are multiple paths toward the end of the game, with the fate of the Hoover Dam and the city of New Vegas hanging in the balance. As one of the only sources of power remaining in the world, the Dam is highly sought after by many factions, including the NCR, Caesar's Legion and the mysterious Mr. House.

You can choose to assist any of these factions in their quest for supremacy over the Mojave wasteland as you take down anything that stands in your path, from deathclaws to slavers. After years of sitting on this game, exploring every inch of the map and completing side quests, perhaps the most intriguing thing about Fallout: New Vegas is yet to come. Mr. House made a surprise cameo in the Fallout TV show, and overseer Hank appeared to be heading to New Vegas in the final shot of the first season, making it likely that a canon version of Fallout: New Vegas will have to be established.

One would have to think we haven't seen the last of Mr. House, New Vegas or even the Courier, the main character you play as in the game. With season 2 confirmed to be on the way, I am very excited to see how this game fits into the canon of the show and what/who we'll see in live-action.

Next. All 8 episodes of Fallout, ranked from worst to best. All 8 episodes of Fallout, ranked from worst to best. dark

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