When Bethesda whipped the cloak off Fallout Shelter at its E3 2015 conference, many heads tilted sideways. No one had expected a mobile game; it came as a total surprise. Even more of a shock, perhaps, was how popular this community management sim ended up becoming. Its sandbox vaults eventually drew more than 100 million players across PC, console and mobile. But after all that if you’re looking to expand beyond the wasteland, here are ten alternatives games like Fallout Shelter.
1. This War of Mine
Available on: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch, iOS, and Android
Many games tell the stories of the soldiers charging through towns. These power fantasies arm us with the most powerful guns to beat our best kill / death ratios and blast through buildings without pause. Meanwhile, This War of Mine is the story of the people who live in those buildings - the innocent civilians who are trapped in the exposed air between two gun barrels, trying to survive in the rubble. You join a group of survivors seeking shelter in a bombed-out house, and must spend each night scouring dangerous parts of town for supplies so in the day you can feed your group, perform repairs, and treat the sick. It’s made in collaboration with War Child too, so you learn the stories of real refugees.
Available on: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Android, and iOS
Sheltered is shameless. Squint, and it’s Fallout Shelter with a fake moustache and glasses – though here you’re in charge of a four-person family unit trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic bunker. The game systems are strikingly similar: build better utilities, upgrade your existing equipment, and maintain living standards while venturing out into the wilds. The main difference between Sheltered and Fallout Shelter is how you pay for it; Bethesda’s mobile game is free to play but supported by microtransactions. Sheltered, on the other hand, asks for around a fiver straight up and then won’t bother you for any payments again. So if you want the experience of Fallout Shelter without the in-game cash flow, Sheltered might be for you.
Available on: PC
Inspired by Joss Whedon’s Firefly, Rimworld is the story of three survivors building a colony at the edge of the universe. It takes all the charm of the space western TV series and builds on it for an experience that will satisfy the most discerning management sim players. The best simulation games acknowledge that life doesn’t always go to plan, and Rimworld consistently throws spanners that’ll keep you on your toes. Your characters’ needs often exist in conflict to the mission objective, which makes them more well-rounded. Unexpected events throw disasters at your door that can’t always be averted. Combine this with a rich sci-fi world and plenty of secrets to uncover, and Rimworld is a much deeper alternative to Fallout Shelter.
4. Project HighRise
Available on: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, iOS, and Android
Swap an underground bunker for a skyscraper and you have Project HighRise - basically Fallout Shelter but 80m tall. It’s a modern reimagining of SimTower and tasks you with building a full high-rise building, populating it, and keeping its community happy by providing amenities like restaurants. You can either enjoy free rein in sandbox mode or take on Project HighRise’s 10 objective-based scenarios which provide satisfying bursts of serotonin after each completion. Speaking of gratification, make sure to pause and lay down plots for several offices, stores and restaurants in one go, then hit fast-forward. Watching the construction workers swarm in to do your bidding is itch-scratchingly good.
5. Assassin’s Creed Rebellion
Available on: Android, and iOS
There have been so many Assassin’s Creed games, you’re forgiven if you’ve lost track. One that may have slipped under your radar is Assassin’s Creed Rebellion - essentially a reskinned Fallout Shelter where you manage the headquarters of the Brotherhood. Generators and canteens are swapped for armories and training rooms, and there are plenty of nods to hardcore fans of the Ubisoft series. The history of the Spanish Inquisition is woven in nicely, for instance, and there are even some light platforming sections that see assassins parkour across the city to gather supplies and loot.
Available on: PC (coming soon to PS4, and Xbox One)
This is the second game by 11 Bit Studios on this list after This War of Mine; the Polish studio is a master of building management sims with a moral centre. Crisis is the heartbeat of Frostpunk as you attempt to build and lead a society in a world ravaged by disaster. Fail, and your citizens might banish you from your own city to die freezing and isolated in the wilds. Do well, and you have a brief respite before the next crisis hits. It sounds bleak, and Frostpunk is a cortisol cocktail, but it’s also impossible to stop playing. The heady mix of management with grippingly difficult moral choices makes it a great alternative to Fallout Shelter.
7. State of Decay 2
Available on: Xbox One, and PC
This zombie survival sim centres on emergent storytelling. A run-of-the mill search for supplies can quickly go south, and the ensuing panic and tragedy (or narrow avoidance of one) will quickly pull you from your slump at the back of the sofa to the edge of your seat: feet planted, shoulders hunched, controller clutched with white-knuckles. In State Of Decay 2 you play a band of survivors eking out a living in a town overrun by blood plague - a special kind of undead sickness that cough drops ain’t gonna cure. If you enjoyed the light combat element of Fallout Shelter, this is a richer experience of exploration in a wasteland.
Available on: Android, and online
What do you do after society collapses? You rebuild. In this post-apocalyptic strategy game you and a team of survivors are trapped in a city encircled by zombies. Your job is to keep everyone alive, expand your territory, and manage resources, which becomes trickier as you go deeper into the game and new areas open up. A bigger area means more supplies, but it also means more to guard. Rebuild will judge your attempts too, awarding you a score based on the decisions you make and keeping reports of your progress across a story with several endings. Sure, this is fairly far removed from the vault management systems of Fallout Shelter, but Rebuild offers a greater challenge.
9. The Sims 4
Available on: PC, PS4, and Xbox One
The core loop of Fallout Shelter is thus: Expand the vault with things its inhabitants need, make it more homely, and everyone has lots of babies. Happily, the core loop of The Sims is: Build nice houses filled with things your Sims need, make their dwellings more homely, and they’ll have lots of Woohoo. What really sets The Sims apart though is the level of detail and customization - this is the ultimate life simulator, and you can do pretty much anything. If you enjoyed the management aspects of the Vaults but want a game where you’ve got greater freedom to create characters and storylines, The Sims is a must play.
10. Dungeon Inc.
Available on: Android
“Gold Production Manager” is a pretty impressive title for a LinkedIn profile, and boy, does it make for a fun game idea too. As head honcho of a megacorporation it’s your job to maximise profits, which you can do by expanding the Dungeon, Inc. office space, hiring more monsters as employees and defending against hero audits. The game is basically an idle clicker, so you juggle your time between managing your affairs and tapping the screen to generate cash, but unlike some games in the genre this never gets old. It’s pretty different in presentation to Fallout Shelter, but for another game with compelling management mechanics you can’t go too far wrong here.