Did you know there’s 9 whole Fallout games? And that some of them weren’t made by Todd Howard?! Well I did, asshole. So here’s all of them ranked. No funny business.
#9: Fallout Shelter
As the only game in the Fallout franchise playable on a Tesla, Fallout Shelter was designed with failure in mind. This free-to-play vault building simulator is a massive departure from the rest of the series by being closer to one of those disturbing ads you get before a YouTube video that installs malware on your phone, but with a Fallout skin!
Featuring limited gameplay and pernicious microtransactions, it’s hard to see Fallout Shelter as anything more than a quick cash grab leading up to the release of Fallout 4 by tricking children into spending their parents credit card on a Preston Garvey Vault Dweller. Caps well spent, kids!
#8: Fallout 76
Wow, the first multiplayer Fallout! Thanks to the fine folks at Bethesda Softworks, roaming the post-apocalyptic ruins of Appalachia has never been less fun than in Fallout 76. Todd, baby, what were you thinking?
This pay-to-win gimmicky mess came to us as many modern AAA games do, an unplayable and featureless bore with more bugs than a Cazador nest. Fallout 76 dropped in 2018 with no NPCs, half-assed quests, and endless bullet sponge mutated creatures to pointlessly shoot. While fans claim the game has been significantly improved over the years through seasonal expansion packs, the core issue of it being dogshit remains unaddressed.
Editor’s note: I believe our editor Andy Holt swears this game is now terrific.
As the most recent (and last) release in the franchise, Fallout 76 continues the Bethesda trend of decimating any traditional RPG mechanics and replacing it with hilariously janky gameplay. But hey, at least you and your closest friends can clip through the floor of an Enclave bunker together! If it wasn’t for that catchy cover of “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” this game probably would’ve flopped even harder.
#7: Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel
The undisputed worst game of the Interplay era has got to be Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel. This infamously baffling spinoff drops all open world and role playing elements of previous games in favor of on-the-rails action and cringey Slipknot needle drops.
Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel was the first Fallout game designed to be playable on consoles, and it shows. Its shitty, shallow, and mind-numbing gameplay fit it perfectly within the realm of other early aughts shlock that lined the shelves of the Xbox and PS2 sections of your local GameStop.
#6: Fallout 4
Fallout 4 was one of the most anticipated games of all time, riding off the wave of hype generated by Bethesda’s mega hits in Skyrim and Fallout 3. As a lot of younger fans’ first entry into the franchise, Fallout 4 was an undeniable critical and commercial success. Too bad it sucks!
As the worst of the mainline games, “Fallout 4” is a trainwreck of bad design and even worse writing. Misguided in almost every way with a hyperfocus on streamlined, accessible trait picking and a pre-packaged protagonist that totally nukes any opportunity for personalized role-playing. Bethesda’s choice to force a Bioware-style dialogue wheel into Fallout 4 will go down in history as one of the most baffling design bungles since the time Bethesda got rid of skills in Fallout 4. Oh yeah, you know the most basic building block of any RPG? Choosing skills for your character? Yup, it’s gone, rolled up into vague and nebulous perks that leave every playthrough feeling identical to the last.
All this negativity isn’t to say Fallout 4 is totally unplayable, oh no. It has its moments. The game’s attempts to grasp at a more dynamic faction system is admirable, if a bit undercooked. The Brotherhood of Steel and Institute are far more interesting than the milquetoast storytelling of Fallout 3, but Bethesda doesn’t go far enough in making player choice feel meaningful within their world. Any fan of Fallout 4 would say its two saving graces are gunplay and the crafting system. While it’s true that they’re the most fleshed out elements, this is still a Bethesda game at its core. How good could the gunplay possibly be on a jerry-rigged Gamebryo engine slapped with fresh paint? Fallout 4 wins the losers bracket of “good shooting,” but if you play literally any other game, it’s not saying much.
#5: Fallout Tactics
Yet another departure for the Fallout series came in the form of Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel, a turn-based real-time tactical role-playing game, whatever that means. This game gets brownie points for fully committing to its pivot towards strategic combat, with light role playing elements tossed in for good measure. The game is fun to play with rewarding, albeit unoriginal, strategic combat that makes up 90% of what is on offer here.
What makes Tactics a particularly interesting spinoff is that its setting and story are completely divorced from both the mainline West Coast games, as well as the Bethesda-era East Coast entries. Ultimately, Fallout Tactics is a fun and engaging X-COM ripoff with enough juicy Fallout trimmings to make it a worthwhile experience for curious fans.
#4: Fallout 3
The game that brought Fallout back from the dead. Todd Howard is a powerful necromancer, no doubt, but his dark magicks come at a price. Fallout 3 may have saved the franchise, but it’s undeniable that the reanimation process changed this series beyond recognition.
Fallout 3 was the first 3D Fallout created by Bethesda following their acquisition of the franchise and completely redefined what a Fallout game could be, for better or worse. On one hand, this game featured a vivid open world with countless details in its environmental storytelling for wanderers to enjoy. Yet, as a hallmark of things to come with Bethesda titles, Fallout 3 suffered from stripped down RPG mechanics, countless bugs, and a bafflingly misguided story featuring countless soulless and simplistic quests. Worst of all, the replayability of Fallout 3 is crippled by the insanely long Vault prologue. You know, the one that starts with you being shot out of your mother’s vaginal canal into Liam Neeson’s arms and takes like 2 hours until your first steps into the Capital Wasteland?
#3: Fallout 2
Bigger in every way than its predecessor, Fallout 2 is a massive RPG that delivers a fantastic (if less focused) experience than the original. Drifting away from the more serious tone of Fallout, this sequel fully commits to its zany humor that occasionally veers into “lol so random xD” territory. Not to say that’s always a bad thing, but the tonal shifts throughout Fallout 2 can be a little strange since some of the goofs and gaffs don’t land as well as they did in 1998. That’s the year “The Waterboy” came out, after all, so how could Interplay possibly compete?
As far as gameplay goes, Fallout 2 improves the user experience in almost every way. The map is massive with more settlements, more quests, more weapons, more characters, and more bizarre interactions for The Chosen One to endure. Although it feels a bit bloated, Fallout 2 has many of the series’ high points for a reason.
#2: Fallout: New Vegas
Ring-a-ding ding, baby. You knew this one would be up here. Fallout: New Vegas has rightfully achieved a cult status in recent years as the best 3D Fallout game, and one of the best games of all time. It perfectly synthesizes the deep, meaningful, and player-led RPG mechanics of the Interplay era with the fun and easily accessible action gameplay introduced in Fallout 3. Having been developed by many of the original creators of the series that transitioned to Obsidian Entertainment, Fallout: New Vegas is essentially the closing chapter on the world built in Fallout and Fallout 2.
This game offers an immersive world that responds to your actions within it, and this is especially apparent through its characters and factions. The writing on this game stands out as a highlight, with nearly every quest having multiple paths the player can take with countless memorable interactions throughout. Despite receiving middling reviews upon release, mostly due to Gamebryo-related bugs, Fallout: New Vegas has stood the test of time by being an example of what a modern RPG can offer. It’s a shame that Bethesda denied Obsidian a bonus on their work because New Vegas only scored an 84 on Metacritic. Come on, Todd. That’ll get you bad karma.
A groundbreaking, once-in-a-generation role playing game that pushed the limits of the genre in ways that are still being emulated to this day. Fallout took lowly ’90s gamers on the ride of their lives, allowing gamers to fully immerse themselves into a richly detailed post-apocalyptic world unlike anything they’ve ever experienced (unless they played Wasteland first). Computer role playing games were not in vogue when Fallout hit the shelves, but it single-handedly got people giving a shit about this kind of game again.
The creativity, ingenuity, and originality that Interplay put into Fallout is staggering, with almost every now-iconic element of the massive Fallout franchise originating in this single 16 hour experience. This game is tight, perfectly-paced, and jam-packed with rewarding quest lines and meaningful interactions with its desolate wasteland. For many, the isometric Fallout games feel too old or obtuse to dive into for the first time, but the OG Fallout is worth the effort.