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The Best Fallout games: Every Fallout game ranked

You inevitably will when we put Tactics at number one, but please don't get angry.

A solider in T-51 power armour, some vault boys, and an NCR Ranger.
Image credit: VG247/Bethesda

Fallout. It's a series of games about what happens when someone pushes that big red button to drop the nukes, damning an alternate timeline version of humanity to spend an eternity doing fun little quests among the rubble. Within that, there's scope for some of the best RPG fun you can get, no matter what kind of fun it is that you're looking for in an RPG.

We've all thought about what'd happen if the bombs were to actually fall, and since 1997, first Interplay and Black Isle, now Bethesda - with some help from Obsidian and now Amazon, have offered us a chance to see just how we might fare if forced to roam the radioactive streets of post-apocalyptic America. The answer in reality is that we'd all probably die very quickly, but hey, that's what video games are for - to give us a chance to dream.

But, which of the Fallouts is the best? It's a loaded question for sure, an one you'll end up answering differently depending on what you want out of a Fallout game. However, because the terrifying beast that pulls the strings of our world has yanked it in a direction where things need to be ranked on websites, here's our attempt to do just that for the Fallout series, both main-line entries and all the spin-offs that're actually worth caring about.



1. Fallout

Look, it's Fallout 1, if I don't put it first, that's a disservice to numbers. The first Fallout game is the one that started it all back in 97', and as such, it's a pretty old-school isometric RPG that might not be as easily pick up-able for the modern player as some of its kin, but definitely delivers a story that's worth getting into it for. The water chip of Vault 13, found in California, gives up the ghost, forcing the first of the series' many dwellers to head out into the wastes and explore the ruined world.

Fallout's vault dweller exiting Vault 13.
Image credit: VG247/Interplay

As they discover cool locations and meet cool people, they end up uncovering the plot of The Master, a secretive entity with a really sexy voice - or voices - and the army of super mutants it sits at the head of. There's a lot of choice and consequence along the way, allowing you to really write your signature into the game's dirt, assuming you're down for some turn-based combat. Plus, if you play it today, you can act quite uppity towards people who haven't.

2. Fallout 2

Again, anything else would be a disservice to numbers. Fallout 2's a lot like its immediate predecessor in terms of appeal and overall gameplay, no surprise really since it came out only a year later, in 1998. The biggest change this time around is the introduction of The Enclave, the remnants of the pre-war US government who just can't help sticking their power-armoured noses into the business of others. Playing as the Chosen One, a tribal descendant of the first game's vault dweller, you're off to find a useful bit of tech called a GECK to help out your village, Arroyo.

The Chosen One having a chat in Fallout 2.
Image credit: VG247/Interplay

Sadly, there's a couple of dudes called Frank Horrigan and Dick Richardson that you'll end up having to deal with, but the former at least is a really interesting character, both to chat to and fight. It was also one of, if not the, first games to feature same-sex marriage, though sadly you can't marry Frank Horrigan, if I remember correctly.

2.25-ish. Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel

That's the best I can do numbers, please forgive me. I'll be honest, this one could be about Frank Horrigan and The Master challenging each other to a sumo wrestling match and I wouldn't know it. It's from 2001, it's set in the Midwest and its turn-based combat is more complex that the first two games, because apparently that's a thing people wanted. If you want a Fallout game that's a bit more strategy-based that the rest and like the Brotherhood of Steel, it might be for you.

A squad going into battle in Fallout: Tactics.
Image credit: VG247/Interplay

2.5-ish. Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel

They've taken the word Tactics out of the name, but it's still about the Brotherhood of Steel. This one marked the end of Interplay's run with the series and is linear in nature, which might make it one to miss if you're in this for the RPG freedom.

3. Fallout 3

Wahey, numbers, we're back on track. Fallout 3's the first of the Bethesda entries, and I can personally attest that it makes a good entry point to the series. It's set in DC, has rather more modern action combat to go along with its RPG mechanics - even if the lack of iron sights makes the gunplay a bit mid at times. You're the Lone Wanderer, kicked out of Vault 101 to hunt down your dad in the wastes of Washington, DC. You end up working with the Brotherhood of Steel and facing a choice between them and The Enclave as to what becomes of your daddy's big science dream.

A Brotherhood of Steel soldier in Fallout 3.
Image credit: VG247/Bethesda

Even if the main quest's otherwise a bit choice-sparse compared to other entries, the open world's great, and it's one you'll remember fondly, even if it is mostly green, gray, and brown. The DLCs are fun too.

3.5. Fallout New Vegas

Oh momma. Fallout New Vegas is my sprit animal, but I've got to be objective here. It's a very good Fallout game that leans heavily into choice and consequence, allowing you to decide the fate of the city of New Vegas, by choosing which of the numerous factions that exist in the Mojave Wasteland and/or are battling over Hoover Dam to side with. While it's probably not the most ideal entry point to the series if you're a total newbie - I'd argue it presents a similar challenge to The Witcher 3 in that regard, in terms of having lots of established stakes to catch up on - if you're after something that takes things to another level roleplaying wise compared to Fallout 3 especially, it's the one.

The courier looking at New Vegas in Fallout New Vegas.
Image credit: VG247/Obsidian

The controls and mechanics are modern enough to make it generally more accessible than the first two Fallout games, while delivering a lot of the same kinds of in-depth storytelling and worldbuilding they're known for. Sure, like a lot of its siblings, it can be pretty buggy, and its repurposing of Fallout 3's assets might leave those craving a fresh aesthetic wanting, but there's enough substance to make it well worth enduring these minor hangups. Plus, the four DLCs are all bangers, with their own unique themes that add plenty to the overall experience.

4. Fallout 4

Here's a bit of a tough one, though it is easy number ranking wise. Fallout 4's the most recent mainline entry in the series, which is kinda hilarious to say given that it turns ten years old relatively soon. It's also probably the most accessible to newbies, which is a plus, but if you're after some of the in-depth roleplaying mechanics offered by the likes of New Vegas and the first two games, you'll probably be left wanting. The story's alright, offering a good variety of factions that, while each somewhat interesting, can also feel a bit lacking in depth compared to those of New Vegas. Are you detecting a theme?

Fallout 4's Sole Survivor.
Image credit: VG247/Bethesda

On the other hand, if you like the idea of getting creative and building up your own wasteland base or town - in a manner that's a bit like Minecraft in terms of ethos if not execution - this is definitely the single-player entry for you. There are hundreds of hours of fun to be had with that alone, and plenty of mods that can take it even bigger heights - including the fantastic Sim Settlements 2, which also comes with its own DLC-size story. Otherwise, you're left with something that arguably feels like a very slight improvement on Fallout 3 a lot of the time, even if it does pack in some cool changes - like the turning of power armour into a fun wearable vehicle of sorts. The DLC, though, at least in terms of new places to explore, I'd say is weaker the both New Vegas and 3, both in terms of quantity and quality.

4.1. Fallout Shelter

Shelter first came out the same year as Fallout 4, and it's a mobile game that sees you manage your own vault - though it is also playable via Steam, Switch and last-gen consoles if you fancy. As such, it's probably only going to appeal to those seeking exactly that kind of game to play on their phones - generally in short bursts while in transit or on the loo - rather than the typical 'full' Fallout experience. As with a lot of mobile games, it's got a loop that can be a bit addictive, but also features a fair amount of waiting around for things to be ready and a steady smattering of microtransactions for you to consider pouring cash into.

A vault in Fallout Shelter.
Image credit: VG247/Bethesda

It'll probably only keep you entertained for a couple of weeks or so before you get bored of it, but it did recently have the three protagonists of Amazon's Fallout TV show added to it, so that's something.

76. Fallout 76

Here we are, the most recent entry in the series as of writing, and it was released in 2018, which is about six years ago. Fallout 76 had a very rocky launch that's very well-documented at this point, but it's since amassed a very nice community of hardcore fans, who've been getting lots of new visitors of late. As to what it offers, I'd say it'll most appeal to those who enjoy a bit of open-world survival crafting and base building, all with the option of having a crew of friends tag along with you and join in.

Some players in Fallout 76.
Image credit: VG247/Bethesda.

For a lot of people, that's something that has a lot of appeal, and when added to the decent selection of quests and other activities on offer at this point in the game's lifespan, it can certainly be a recipe for fun. Though, for all that chat about the game just being plain 'good' now, if that's not the kind of thing you're looking for in a Fallout game, you might not vibe with 76 all that much. Either is ok, though. Even if the idea of paying for a Fallout 1st subscription just to create private or custom worlds isn't quite my cup of tea.


For more on the best games to play, take a look at what we reckon the best open-world games to hop into are, as well as the best survival games to grind out an existence in.

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