War. War never changes. When it comes to ranking the best Fallout games, it can be quite a challenge. After all, the series overall offers up some very memorable experiences throughout the wastelands. Taking us to the Mojave desert, the Commonwealth, and Appalachia - to name a few - Bethesda's post-apocalyptic franchise has brought us many different adventures over the years. From 2161 in Fallout 1 right through to 2287 in Fallout 4, the Wastelands sure have seen a lot of action. And with thoughts turning to the potential of someday seeing Fallout 5, we try to take on the tough task of ranking every irradiated journey the retro-futuristic world has to offer.
So pull up a chair and crack open a bottle of Nuka-Cola as we rank every Fallout game from worst to best.
8. Fallout 76
In theory, the idea of an online multiplayer Fallout is very appealing. In practice, however, Fallout 76 just doesn't have quite the same charm and wonder as its predecessors. At launch, the absence of NPCs really took away the same feel we're so used to in the series, and bugs and broken quests made the lonely world frustrating to boot. To its credit, it has improved since, with the addition of NPCs making it feel more alive than it did previously. And If you have some good pals to mess around with, it can be fun to dip in and out of. But sadly the latest entry in the series doesn’t have the same kind of draw as those that came before it.
7. Fallout Shelter
Ever fancied being an Overseer? As a spin-off that ties into the world of the wastelands, Fallout Shelter is a great free-to-play management sim that will keep you hooked with its sense of progression. And yes, it really is free-to-play. It will rarely try to get you to spend real-world money and it’s pretty generous with in-game currency. Essentially it’s a more complex Tamagotchi where you create your own vault and look after your vault dwellers by building up your vault to improve their quality of life. Originally made for mobile, it's simplistically addictive mechanics make it fun and approachable for all kinds of players. While it’s of course a lot smaller in scale, it deserves a place on this list for being a charming little Fallout number featuring the trademark style and animations of the Vault boy any Fallout fan will appreciate.
6. Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel
Ten-hut! Who could forget Paladin Ryczek - aka Sarge - drilling you as you begin your life as a newbie Brotherhood of Steel recruit? The off-shoot turned-based tactics RPG is a very well executed deviation in the series that introduces the wastelands to a slightly different genre of play. Since it doesn’t follow on from the story of 1 and 2, Fallout Tactics really is on a path of its own, but it has decent enough story on offer. The turn-based strategy aspect might not be everyone’s bottle of Nuka-Cola, but the way it presents you with several different approaches and options helps make for a challenging and engaging experience. The voice acting is superb, and honestly, one of the most memorable lines in any Fallout comes from Ryczek right at the start: “the Elders have ordered me to mold you flabby, hip slapping, berry picking, rat rubbing, Brahman kissers into capable warriors.” That’s one way to make you feel motivated! While being a Brotherhood of Steel recruit doesn’t offer you as much freedom as being a vault dweller, it’s still worth a look.
5. Fallout 1
Going back to where it all began, Fallout 1 laid down for the foundations for the retro-futuristic world we all know and love. Set in the year 2161, Vault 13 is where you take up residence and when the vault comes under threat, you venture out into the Wasteland to protect it. Many fans who came to the series much later might be put off at first glance by the style and look of the top down RPG, but it was a pivotal title in its own way for establishing much of what we see in later entries. With branching dialogue, multiple approaches to solving quests, NPCs to encounter, companions, and the classic Special skills system, it has all the hallmarks of post-apocalyptic world we’ve become so accustomed to. It even introduces the Karma system which we see throughout the series that affects the way the world views your character. By today’s standards it is pretty dated, and the UI really hasn’t aged well, but if you can get past all that it’s a historical throwback that’s worth returning to for the story alone.
4. Fallout 2
Really there weren’t a lot of changes from the first, but Fallout 2 took what its predecessor had established and finely tuned its foundations to offer up something bigger and better. Many view the sequel as the quintessential introduction to the series and it is more approachable in some respects. Set 80 years after the events of the Fallout 1, you play as the direct descendant of the previous Vault dweller. As the 'Chosen One', you set out to retrieve the Garden of Eden Creation kit (GECK) from Vault 13. But, as usual, it doesn’t quite go to plan. Lots of the old familiar systems are in play here, but it gets rid of some of the more annoying features of Fallout 1, such as having a time limit on completing quests. Before Fallout became what it is today, this was once the cream of the Wastelands crop.
3. Fallout 4
The most recent single-player entry has so much on offer. From building your own settlements to finding interesting side quests, and discovering a creepy Ghoul-invested town, there’s no shortage of things to do. But even after hours and hours of enjoyable gameplay, Fallout 4 can still feel strangely lacking. Some of the key features from previous iterations are missing, such as the Karma feature for one, and while the main storyline is decent enough, it feels more forced on you than any other main questline in Fallout as a whole. One of the beautiful things about Fallout is how much freedom you have to craft your own character and create your own journey. And sure, you get to create your character, but their fate is already sealed. You have to be a parent and find your lost son. Of course, there’s still plenty of room to go off the beaten track throughout, but it still feels like you’re tied down by this one aspect. It’s a brilliant game nonetheless, with the best combat in any Fallout title, but for some inexplicable reason it just feels like its missing that special something.
2. Fallout 3
While the jump from Fallout 1 to 2 wasn’t such a leap, Fallout 3 truly changed up the game. By opening up the expansive Wasteland and giving us a first-person perspective, Bethesda’s spearheaded instalment took the series from a 2D RPG to a 3D open-world experience unlike any other. Lots of hallmark elements remained the same - such as Special skills, Karma and dialogue options - but we also got to see the first introduction of new features like the assisted targeting system VATS. The rich world is a meticulously detailed rendering of a post apocalyptic Washington DC, and the factions and political divides of the setting add so much depth to the immersive feel of Fallout’s world. It’s over a decade old, but it holds up very well today, which is a testament to just how good Fallout 3 really is.
1. Fallout: New Vegas
Truth is, the game was rigged from the start. Fallout: New Vegas is a near perfect example of how an RPG should be. With one the best openings in video game history, you play as a Mojave Express courier who sets out to deliver a mysterious package. On route, you get caught up in an ambush and left for dead. Ain’t that a kick in the head? Before you know it, you find yourself caught up in something so much bigger. Right from the get go, you’re in charge of how everything will play out. Traversing the landscapes of New Vegas, you’ll encounter all kinds of seedy characters along the way, with rival factions, choices with consequences and one heck of a main story-line. Three great powers - the New California Republic (NCR), Caesar's Legion and the illusive Mr House - all aim to out play each other for control of the Mojave Wasteland, and it's entirely up to you if you want to get involved. It’s easily one of the most memorable Fallout experiences, with some of the best NPCs in the entire series.
If you want to get the most out of the latest Fallout, why not check out our Fallout 76 tips, which are also available in video form below: