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Every Fallout Game Ranked Worst To Best

On paper, the world of the "Fallout" franchise sounds ridiculous. Every game in the series takes place either decades or centuries after a futuristic America that never grew out of the cultural staples of the 1950s was doomed by a nuclear apocalypse. Roving the wastes of the U.S. are giant mutants, ghoulish humans transformed by radiation, and all manner of irradiated ants, scorpions, rabid dogs, and giant mole rats.

When the franchise first began, it captured the wonderful open-ended feeling of a tabletop role-playing game and translated that to a top-down, turn-based, single-player adventure. These days, "Fallout" looks more like an open world MMO, and it has genre-hopped several times throughout its history. Every game, however, centers on that unique, bizarre world that was first conceived way back in 1997. Every game also features its share of hilarious dialogue, stand-out roleplaying opportunities, and nearly impossible missions. Finding their own personal way through the challenges of life in the Wasteland has kept players invested for decades. 

"Fallout" and its fans have seen multiple developers and an enviable amount of game releases. The games have wandered from California to the Mojave Desert to Washington D.C. without ever losing their overall aesthetic and appeal. "Fallout" will go down as one of the most beloved gaming franchises in history, but not every entry is created equal. Here's every entry in the series, ranked from worst to best.

9. Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel

"Brotherhood of Steel" is the only "Fallout" game to not receive a PC release, and though it's not the only time the franchise tried out a different genre, it's definitely the messiest attempt. For years, fans have lamented the fact that "Brotherhood of Steel" replaced a planned "Fallout 3" title from Black Isle after developer/publisher Interplay closed that division (per IGN).

None of this means that "Brotherhood of Steel" is without any redeeming merits. The game is still set in the "Fallout" universe, which means there are plenty of unique characters to meet and locales to explore. The game replaces the open world formula of previous entries with individual stages that are unlocked as the story progresses. This format feels limiting for a "Fallout" game, but at the stages are detailed and look pretty good for a game from 2004.

"Brotherhood of Steel" is also the first "Fallout" game to feature cooperative multiplayer. Choosing from up to six playable characters, two friends can romp through the Wasteland, mowing down anything in their path. The game may be lackluster and the linear progression means it's missing most of the elements that initially made "Fallout" a success, but fighting ghouls, mutants, and creatures with a friend can still entertaining. IGN said it best when it described the game as having "enough action for a Saturday afternoon."

Release Date: Jan. 14, 2004

Available On: PlayStation, Xbox

Genre: Action, RPG

Game Modes: Single-player, Local Multiplayer (Up to 2)

Metacritic Score: 64 (PS2), 66 (Xbox)

8. Fallout Shelter

"Fallout Shelter" is another example of the franchise branching out and trying a new genre. The game was released in the lead up to "Fallout 4," but Bethesda took what could have been a simple marketing stunt and turned it into one of the best mobile releases of 2015. It even became popular enough to receive PC and console releases.

The premise is simple: Players manage the operations of an underground Vault-Tec fallout shelter via "Sims"-esque gameplay. Vaults start small, with just a few rooms and residents, but through smart resource management, and the occasional expedition to the world above, they can be expanded into massive homes for the remains of humanity. Players assign Vault Dwellers to specific roles, and they can watch as the apocalypse survivors go about growing food, performing medical tasks, or putting out the occasional fire.

Despite being essentially a mobile game, "Fallout Shelter" looks fantastic and is packed full of entertaining animations and interesting Vault-centric visuals. It makes for a fun on-the-go dip into the world of "Fallout," but it pales in comparison to the franchise's other entries. Ultimately, as noted by some reviews, "Fallout Shelter" gets bogged down by an over-prevalence of microtransactions and the lack of any kind of endgame, but it's still worth a look for any fans of the franchise.

Release Date: June 14, 2015

Available On: Android, iOS, PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One

Genre: Strategy, Simulation

Game Modes: Single-player

Metacritic Score: 71 (iOS), 63 (PC), 61 (Switch)

7. Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel

By being a pretty good tactical game, "Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel" basically proves that "Fallout" is best as an RPG. The game lifts many of the mechanics from the first two "Fallout" games and funnels them into an experience that GameSpot described as being "much like 'Fallout' overall – only with less talking and more fighting." The game's story, which is easy enough to miss on an initial playthrough, follows an offshoot of the Brotherhood of Steel that takes form in Chicago after a Brotherhood airship crash lands there.

As noted by reviews from GameSpot and RPGamer, "Fallout Tactics" makes excellent use of a mix of real-time and turn-based combat systems. Some mechanical improvements allow the game to scale up the battles, which all take place in a series of unique maps. The game also marked the first time "Fallout" introduced multiplayer — players could fight head-to-head via a LAN connection or on dedicated servers. The official servers for the game shut down in 2014, but there's still a community of players to be found online.

Unfortunately, like other attempts at taking the franchise into new genres, "Fallout Tactics" largely misses what made its predecessors great. Role-playing elements take a backseat, and the story is non-intrusive at best. That said, there's no denying the fun to be had by setting up an epic battle between hordes of mutants and Brotherhood initiates against an apocalyptic background. Anyone dying for a strong tactical combat game that uses the "Fallout" aesthetics as set dressing won't be disappointed by "Fallout Tactics."

Release Date: March 14, 2001

Available On: PC

Genre: Tactical RPG

Game Modes: Single-player

Metacritic Score: 82 (PC)

6. Fallout 2

At the time of its release, "Fallout 2" was described by GameSpot as a "'more of the same' sequel," and there was definitely nothing wrong with that. The game made incremental improvements to many of the elements that fans loved about the original "Fallout." Nicer graphics? Check. Larger world? You've got it. More control over companions? Sure thing. While the game didn't introduce anything totally groundbreaking, it expanded on a formula that fans had loved.

In "Fallout 2," players take on the role of the Chosen One, a member of a small tribal society sent out to find a "Garden of Eden Creation Kit" in order to save the community. Unlike in the original "Fallout," there's no time limit for completing the main story, so players can take their time exploring the Wasteland. The game's real focus is on role-playing. Character creation, which also follows the same format as the original, determines how players can interact with the world, who they'll be able to gun down, and whether or not they'll be hoodwinked into being sold as a slave.

The franchise's history with buggy releases began with "Fallout 2." The game was released barely a year after the original "Fallout," and the rushed production left it riddled with bugs that interrupted gameplay semi-frequently. These days an unofficial patch solves most of the game's problem, though modern players might find the combat and companion mechanics to be a slog at times. "Fallout 2" doesn't have quite the nostalgic appeal or tight pacing of the original, but it's a must for any diehard fan of the series.

Release Date: Oct. 29, 1998

Available On: PC

Genre: RPG

Game Modes: Single-player only

Metacritic Score: 86 (PC)

5. Fallout 76

Yes, "Fallout 76" has the worst Metacritic score of any game in the franchise. Before its release, the game sounded like it would be nothing short of a dream come true. Set just 25 years after the nuclear apocalypse, "Fallout 76" promised players the chance to explore a massive environment in Appalachia with up to 24 other players. Then the game bombed on release.

At launch, "Fallout 76" felt like the world's largest ghost town. There were no human NPCs in the game. Instead, players received quests by picking up Holotapes, finding lost notes, or talking to the occasional robot. The game's story tried, but largely failed, to justify the absence of humans in Appalachia, and the clunky party mechanics and multiplayer elements did nothing to make up for it. It seemed like the game was built without considering what fans really love about "Fallout."

Bethesda took some major heat, but never stopped working to improve the game. A number of massive free updates have since improved numerous aspects of the game. There are now NPCs, questlines, and traditional dialogue trees. Interacting with other players, which is always optional, is now a truly enjoyable and worthwhile experience. The game has also been rebalanced, so players can focus on exploring the ridiculously large and incredibly detailed environment to their heart's content. 

In 2020, Kotaku acknowledged the improvements to "76," declaring, "They finally did it." Today "Fallout 76" is the biggest "Fallout" game you've never played, and you can bring your friends along for the ride.

Release Date: Nov. 14, 2018

Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Genre: Action, RPG

Game Modes: Online multiplayer (Up to 24 players)

Metacritic Score: 52 (PC), 53 (PS4), 49 (Xbox One)

4. Fallout

The game that started it all is still amazing decades later, though modern players might find the isometric graphics off-putting and the turn-based combat something of a chore. Aging elements aside, it's easy to see why "Fallout" spawned one of the biggest video game franchises of the 21st century. Its inventiveness blew people's minds back in 1997. Upon starting up the game, players customize a character who lives in an underground nuclear shelter 84 years after the world caved to a nuclear apocalypse. Players are sent from the Vault to find a replacement computer chip that can save their Vault's water supply.

From there, players are free to more-or-less do whatever they want as they explore the Wasteland of California. More than any other "Fallout" game since, the original focused primarily on storytelling and role-playing. Players can choose to talk their way out of conflicts, sneak around unnoticed, or roll in guns blazing. Unique locales and hilarious dialogue trees pop up around every corner. There are so many different ways to tackle every situation in the game that it begs to be replayed, and the game's imposed time limit (the Vault runs out of water in 150 in-game days) serves to further boost its replayability.

The game was praised for "managing to capture some of the open-endedness of tabletop RPGs" (via The Game Hoard), though it's combat was criticized as simply feeling "functional rather than explicitly bad." Those under-developed combat mechanics may grate on the nerves of modern players, but "Fallout" still offers all the joys of a post-apocalyptic tabletop game for a single player.

Release Date: Oct. 9, 1997

Available On: PC

Genre: RPG

Game Modes: Single-player

Metacritic Score: 89 (PC)

3. Fallout 4

Anticipation was high for "Fallout 4," and though Bethesda didn't exactly disappoint, it also didn't manage to top the high bar set with "Fallout 3." Like other games in the franchise, "Fallout 4" occasionally takes its eyes off the role-playing prize. A more defined player-character backstory and full voice acting for player dialogue surprisingly detract from what makes "Fallout" so great.

That said, the game gets so much more right than it does wrong. There's no shortage of amazing locations to explore in "Fallout 4". Tucked amongst the ruins are also some of the most memorable quests of the franchise — one involving a pirate crew of robots particularly sticks out — and the main storyline is tense and nuanced in a way the story of "Fallout 3" was not. There are also a surprising number of companions to be found, each of which have compelling storylines of their own.

Customizability is the gameplay thread that runs through every element of "Fallout 4." Players can trick out their guns, melee weapons, armor, and sets of Power Armor. The settlement-building mechanics took some criticism, but they're optional for anyone looking to avoid them, and plenty rewarding for anyone who's ever wanted to construct their own post-apocalyptic neighborhood. On top of this, Bethesda finally managed to make the gunplay in "Fallout" smooth and enjoyable. The gameplay is so compelling that Polygon's Arthur Gies stated, "the only thing stopping me from going back into it is taking this time, right now, to tell you about the game."

Release Date: Nov. 10, 2015

Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Genre: Action, RPG

Game Modes: Single-player

Metacritic Score: 84 (PC), 87 (PS4), 88 (Xbox One)

2. Fallout: New Vegas

Many fans hold "Fallout: New Vegas" as their favorite game in the series, and it's easy to see why. The writing throughout the game is spectacular. From hilarious dialogue and memorable characters like The King to the constantly startling moral decisions that seem to arise from every quest, a single playthrough of "New Vegas" will leave you with a dozen or more stories that stick in your mind. Eurogamer described "New Vegas" as "a side-quester's dream," and the best part of the game is that every side quest connects to another or impacts the overarching story in some way.

The story of "Fallout: New Vegas" begins simply: The player takes control of a courier who was shot by a man named Benny, who was determined to steal the platinum chip the courier was carrying. Players are free to hunt Benny down or simply wander the Mojave Wasteland, but no matter what their choices will permanently affect the lives of everyone living in and around New Vegas. There are a number of factions vying for control of the area, and players can help or disrupt the faction's goals as they see fit.

While the game's characters are endlessly fascinating, some fans find the environment of the Mojave Wasteland itself to be a bit dull. That said, Obsidian understood that role-playing is what sets "Fallout" apart, and leaned into that aspect of the game while ironing out some glitches that almost ruined the game. "Fallout: New Vegas" is still a shining example of how good a "Fallout" game can be.

Release Date: Oct. 19, 2010

Available On: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Genre: Action, RPG

Game Modes: Single-player only

Metacritic Score: 84 (PC), 82 (PS3), 84 (Xbox 360)

1. Fallout 3

"Fallout 3" is the quintessential "Fallout" game and one of the most beloved open world games of all time. "Fallout 3" was originally set to be released in the early 2000s and developed by Black Isle, but when it shut down, Bethesda acquired the rights to the franchise and set about creating a fantastic modern "Fallout" title. Bethesda knocked it out of the park with a breathtaking open world adventure set in the Capital Wasteland.

Players get the option of exploring the Wasteland in first- or third-person, and though the combat mechanics may sometimes leave much to be desired, as IGN noted, "'Fallout 3' is such an engaging and fantastic experience that it's easy to overlook its few minor flaws." No game in the franchise before or since has so perfectly captured the destruction and desolation of the post-nuclear world. From the underground metro tunnels to the Republic of Dave, there's always something new and exciting to see in the Capital Wasteland.

Like the original game and its sequel, "Fallout 3" emphasizes role-playing, and players are free to shoot, sneak, bribe, or threaten their way through any encounter. A simplistic karma system highlights the moral decisions that players face during each quest, and whether it's deciding the fate of a mutated man-tree or disarming an atomic bomb at the heart of a city, every quest leaves its mark on players and the larger world. For these reasons and more, "Fallout 3" is still the best "Fallout" game around.

Release Date: Oct. 28, 2008

Available On: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Genre: Action, RPG

Game Modes: Single-player only

Metacritic Score: 91 (PC), 90 (PS3), 93 (Xbox 360)