Best Fallout games ranked

Tristan Stringer
The New Vegas cover image on a background of images from Fallout 2 & 3

The Fallout series launched in 1997 and has since become one of the most exciting franchises in gaming. The best Fallout games are defining genre entries, while the worst should be avoided at all costs.

Whatever players may think of the individual games, the Fallout series is responsible for some of the most legendary and iconic RPG settings ever. Pair that with its unique, inimitable style, impressive wit and memorable characters, and it quickly becomes obvious why so many still choose to head out into post-nuclear apocalypse America today.

Though the first-person shooter RPGs of more recent years have quickly become the flagship entries in the series, Fallout has a long and varied history that spans multiple genres.

So, with that in mind, here are our picks for the Best Fallout games ever.

N.B. Fallout Pinball is not included here as it was an individual mode within a wider Bethesda or Zen Pinball game.

9. Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel (2004)

The Brotherhood of Steel game logo

What it’s about: A linear action RPG that puts players in the combat boots of a Brotherhood of Steel Initiate. After a mission to track down missing Paladins goes awry, the player & their allies set out to take down a rogue Brotherhood cult and some particularly nefarious Super Mutants.

What we think: The Brotherhood of Steel spin-off feels like it was doomed from the start. The game removes the open world of other Fallout titles and confines players to one location at a time, many of which are, frankly, boring.

The game has several issues that make it torturous to play today. Dreadful, needlessly crass dialogue and highly repetitive gameplay make an already average experience impossible to recommend. Despite that, a sequel was ordered, and development began before the first was fully released. The development of the eventually doomed follow-up also ended Black Isle Studio’s development of Fallout 3.

The game was so poorly received that Bethesda Game Studios Game Director Todd Howard later said, “Neither Fallout Tactics nor Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel happened.” Though he later softened his views on the former, his damning indictment of the Brotherhood of Steel remains just as valid today.

8. Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel (2001)

A squad of Brotherhood of Steel head into combat

What it’s about: A turn-based real-time tactical role-playing game in which players control a Brotherhood of Steel squad as they attempt to claim control over the wasteland across several states.

What we think: Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel’s approach to gameplay feels like a logical choice for a series like Fallout, but the whole thing feels clunky and unusual. The mechanics are okay, though the game lacks the immersion and excitement that the first-person entries in the series have.

It’s supposed to be a game that takes the player from the Brotherhood of Steel’s lowest ranks to its highest echelons. That interesting premise is let down by a lack of thrills and repetitive gameplay, all set in a world that’s difficult to care about.

The decision to largely forego roleplaying elements and NPC interactions in this foray into a new genre is understandable, but Fallout Tactics really suffers because of it.

For those who like games of this ilk, the XCOM series and Wasteland 2 are far more complete examples set in other universes. If you want to explore everything the Fallout universe has to offer, this isn’t the way to do it.

7. Fallout 2 (1998)

A Radscorpion attacks the player in Fallout 2

What it’s about: An open-world RPG with similar graphics and gameplay choices to the original, Fallout 2 puts the player in control of The Chosen One as they set out to find a device capable of restoring life to the Wasteland. However, a shadowy organization known as The Enclave stands in their way.

What we think: Fallout 2 is a solid sequel that carefully builds on the foundations of the first game without doing anything truly revolutionary. It further expands on the open world of New California, and there is plenty to discover, even if the trimetric perspective can be difficult to decipher.

The combat system is relatively rudimentary, granting players a certain number of action points to move, shoot, or use aid. Unfortunately, the passage of time has left some combat situations feeling noticeably slow, and the game is actually at its best when the player is exploring and interacting with the RPG elements.

If you’re desperate to play but the camera angle proves too much to deal with, there is a recently released version of the game that could provide a solution. The Fallout 2 Remake is an unbelievably impressive achievement that renders the entire game in first-person 3D, available to download for free from the developer’s page.

6. Fallout Shelter (2015)

The Fallout Shelter logo featuring citizens heading into the vault

What it’s about: A free-to-play management and colony sim in which players act as the Overseer to one of Fallout’s notorious vaults, guiding their citizens through the perils of a post-apocalyptic world.

What we think: Have you ever wanted to control a Vault and everything that goes on within it? If so, Fallout Shelter is likely the game for you. The game has become a surprisingly absorbing simulation in the years since its release, carrying much of the wit and style that the main series has become known for.

All of the usual Fallout rules apply, so expect problems with residents, interlopers, and everything in between as the realities of life underground quickly become abundantly clear.

The gameplay is obviously a significant departure from any other title in the series, but it holds up well and feels like a natural part of the expansion of the Fallout universe. The management and economics will not be for everyone, but it is very approachable for anyone with even limited experience in the genre. 

5. Fallout 76 (2018)

A shopkeeper from the Fallout 76 Wastelanders update

What it’s about: Bethesda’s first and only attempt at a Fallout MMORPG takes place just 25 years after the bombs dropped. It thrusts players into the wilds of rural Appalachia as they navigate not only the threats of the wasteland but also other players with ill intentions.

What we think: Fallout 76 arguably had one of the most notorious and difficult launches of any game in history. Happily, it has come a long way since then and there is genuine fun to be had in West Virginia, alone or with friends.

As a live-service game, regular content updates have brought Fallout 76 closer to the community’s expectations. Story elements now make up a significant part of the gameplay experience, almost all of which can be completed solo.  

Though some of the old complaints remain, particularly around microtransactions, they are now entirely optional, and progress is actually markedly less grind-based than in many other MMOs.

It also offers the opportunity to revisit iconic locations from the series, like The Pitt, as well as some genuinely impressive new ones, most notably the remnants of Atlantic City.

Is it the best Fallout game? No. But it is good fun, generally speaking, particularly if you do your best to ignore the microtransactions.

4. Fallout 1 (1997)

What it’s about: An open-world RPG that sets a vault dweller on a quest to recover a unique computer chip, which will allow the vault to continue providing fresh drinking water after the system fails.

What we think: The game that started it all, Fallout lays the entire foundation for every game that followed. Most of the major areas and factions that would become staples in later games are introduced here, including the Brotherhood of Steel, Super Mutants, and the now notorious vaults.

Fallout is a noticeably darker game than its many sequels, and most of the quests were made deliberately morally ambiguous. The choices on offer to players really drive home the desperation of those living in the wasteland,  and the RPG elements are unbelievably deep, particularly considering it’s more than 25 years old.

It’s packed with important lore that’s regularly referenced in later games, and it features plenty of intriguing characters whose legacies are felt across the series. On the harder difficulties, it is also spectacularly savage, so it may also appeal to those who like a challenge.

As is to be expected, it can feel dated and clunky at times, particularly during the turn-based combat sections. Equally, the precedence placed on player choice is a remarkable thing to play through, but it’s a lot lighter on action than players of the later games may expect.

3. Fallout 3 (2008)

fallout 3 gameplay

What it’s about: After things go disastrously wrong in Vault 101 and their father goes missing, players wander the ruins of Washington D.C., in search of answers.

What we think: It’s difficult to overestimate just how impressive Fallout 3 was when it was released. At the time, it was often hailed as the best Fallout game ever, successfully elevating the series to more mainstream popularity in the process. 

The game eschewed many of the design features of earlier entries in the franchise, changing the perspective to first-person and adding a lot more immersion to your wasteland adventure.

Fallout 3 is also the most faithful to the original game in terms of its approach to narrative and player choice. The Megaton storyline and the final decision at the end of the game are hugely influential pieces of writing that players and developers still refer to today.

In the years since release, invisible barriers, awkward hitboxes, and no aiming down sights have all been criticized. In spite of those, the gameplay holds up remarkably well, considering its age and approach to game design. With recent leaks suggesting a possible remaster on the way, this game is easy to recommend for those interested in the world the Fallout series has created.

2. Fallout 4 (2015)

Image of the progtag and Dogmeat from Fallout 4.

What it’s about: The latest game in the Fallout series is set in the nuclear ruins of Boston, a city greatly affected by the war. After their son is stolen from the vault they’re in, the player must venture out into the wastes to find out who took them and why.

What we think: The most recent game in the series has a somewhat spotty past that, as time has progressed, feels increasingly undeserved. Fallout 4 contains all the hallmarks of the series while introducing believable new factions, locations, and storylines to add depth to the entire tapestry. 

Much of the criticism it faced was for a perceived lack of evolution over previous games in the series, and while there is some foundation to those accusations, it is still an exceptionally good game. 

The main storyline is an intriguing enough mystery that will keep players hooked, and it’s comfortably the biggest and most complete world that Bethesda has ever produced. Some of the Commonwealth’s buildings may be inaccessible, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that all of the ones that are carry their own story. 

The companion system has been significantly expanded, allowing players to bring along someone who complements their moral stances or approach to combat. While building settlements may seem like an afterthought to some, it’s all part of the game’s brilliant approach to making the player feel like a part of the story and someone who makes a difference. 

Many of the usual Bethesda bugs have now been patched out, and the thriving mod scene only adds further appeal to a game that expands on the existing offering brilliantly. With a next-gen update that brings new visuals and content to complete, it’s a good time to play Fallout 4.

1. Fallout: New Vegas (2010)

fallout new vegas header

What it’s about: The player takes on the dangerous mantle of a courier delivering parcels across the impossibly dangerous Mojave Desert. When a delivery involving a highly valuable item goes drastically wrong, it’s time to uncover its purpose and ultimately decide the fate of New Vegas and beyond. 

What we think: Stepping out into the vast deserts of the Mojave for the first time has become a rite of passage for many RPG fans, and Fallout: New Vegas deservedly sits at the top of the Fallout pecking order

From the moment the first cutscene plays and the general premise of the game is laid out, New Vegas offers roleplaying and immersion like no other game on this list. Each location or small town feels unbelievably deliberate in design, and the world is littered with notes and lore that make the overall setting of the game feel equal parts exciting and bleak.

New Vegas itself is easily the best hub ever featured in a Fallout game. It’s possible to spend hours simply sitting and gambling at one of the casino’s many tables. The cast of characters that inhabit it is also delightfully varied and immediately believable, with a standout performance from Matthew Perry a real highlight.

Combat is relatively similar to the third game, with the big change being that players can now aim down sights. All of the mechanical elements are further refined compared to Fallout 3, with gun modding and crafting a welcome addition that has since become a staple.

If you are yet to play a Fallout game and want to start with just one, then New Vegas is absolutely the way to go.

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About The Author

Tristan graduated from Southampton Solent University in 2020 with a bachelor's in TV, Media Production, and Journalism. Previously, he's written for Nintendo Life, Dualshockers, Pocket Tactics, The Digital Fix, VideoGamer, and The Loadout as a guide, list, features, and review writer. On top of being a massive figure collector and struggling New York Yankees fan, Tristan is a Weekend Writer covering all things entertainment Dexerto, from reporting on news to writing features and guides. He can be contacted at