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Windows Central
Windows Central
Brendan Lowry

Every Fallout game ranked worst to best in 2024

Fallout 4 power armor.

Since the first game was released back in 1997, the Fallout series has stood tall as one of the best RPG franchises in gaming, famous for its dark humor, biting satire, deep build and weapon variety, and retrofuturistic art direction. Interplay Entertainment, Obsidian Entertainment, and Bethesda Game Studios have all contributed entries to the post-apocalyptic IP, with each one taking place at different times and in different parts of what was once the United States throughout the years that followed nuclear armageddon.

There hasn't been a new Fallout title since Fallout 76's release in 2018, but Fallout 5 has at least been confirmed. Also, the popular new Fallout TV show as well as an ongoing Fallout Franchise Sale has begun something of a renaissance for the series, with player counts surging across all the games. Indeed, Fallout is on everyone's mind right now, including ours — and as a result, we've been reflecting on its games, voting and discussing to determine which ones we enjoy the most and which ones we wish were a little better. You'll find Team Windows Central's rankings for all the mainline Fallout RPGs below, organized from worst to best.

6. Fallout 76

Power Armor-clad players in Fallout 76. (Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios)

Bethesda took a huge risk when it chose to develop a multiplayer-focused Fallout game instead of another of the series' typical single-player entries, and the final product — Fallout 76 — got off to a shockingly poor start in 2018. The open wilderness of West Virginia initially had very little to do or see, and the meager amount of story content available at launch paled in comparison to what was included in past titles (for a long time, there weren't even any NPCs you could talk to). The game also ran disastrously, despite the torrent of huge patches the developers released in its opening weeks.

Thankfully, Fallout 76 has gotten much, much better since then, with various free expansions and updates adding tons of quality story, roleplaying, and gameplay content over time. Its performance has also improved dramatically over the years, though your mileage may vary (a friend of mine can't even get a consistent 30 FPS at 1080p on Medium settings, despite using a rig well over the recommended spec). It's still our least favorite Fallout, but it's still worth checking out, especially since it's free until May 15 if you have Amazon Prime.

5. Fallout 2

Enclave soldiers in Fallout 2's opening cutscene. (Image credit: Black Isle Studios)

Interplay Entertainment division Black Isle Studios released Fallout 2 a year after the original game, and while it has the same isometric perspective and gameplay systems, that's where the similarities — broadly speaking, at least — end. Compared to the tight and focused design of Fallout, Fallout 2 is significantly larger, with tons of different locations, factions, characters, quests, and random encounters to meet and play through. It can sometimes feel unfocused as a consequence of its wider scope, though at the end of the day, most of what's here is still great. Notably, it's also very zany at times, contrasting against the first game's darker, more serious tone. 

In it, you play as The Chosen One, a member of a village called Arroyo that worships the first game's Vault Dweller 80 years after the events of Fallout. The Chosen One is tasked with finding a Garden of Eden Creation Kit, or G.E.C.K., so that the people of Arroyo can use it to terraform their land and save their community.

4. Fallout

The Vault Dweller encounters Radscorpions in a cave. (Image credit: Interplay Entertainment)

The one that started it all. Released in 1997 by Interplay Entertainment, Fallout introduced gamers to the iconic world of the post-apocalyptic RPG series. It, like Fallout 2, is isometric and also a little awkward to play by today's standards due to funky controls and a confusing interface, but if you can get past that, there's a wonderful game to experience here. It puts you in the shoes of the Vault Dweller, a survivor of the Great War that emerges from their hardened Vault 13 bunker 84 years after the bombs fell to search the wastes of California for a replacement water chip for the Vault's purification system.

Though smaller than its sequel, the original Fallout has immaculate worldbuilding, amazing characters, and a great balance of both serious and comedic writing.  There's also an impressive number of branching story paths and different ways to complete its questlines, though one thing to be aware of is that many of the latter have some annoying time limits. Ultimately, Fallout is a beloved classic, and one every fan should at least try.

3. Fallout 4

A Protectron wandering the Commonwealth in Fallout 4. (Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios)

Fallout 4 is the most recent single-player entry from the franchise's current steward Bethesda Game Studios, and is set in the wasteland of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts 210 years after the Great War. Compared to the other single-player 3D Fallout games, Fallout 4 is notable for having the best graphics, gunplay, and build variety, and is the only one to feature the fan-favorite settlement base-building system that Fallout 76 would eventually adopt for its C.A.M.P. mechanic. It's also a phenomenal foundation for community-made mods, which are available on both PC and Xbox (here are some of the best Fallout 4 Xbox mods I recommend).

Though Fallout 4 has excellent worldbuilding and plenty of factions and characters to  encounter, its underwhelming dialogue options and lackluster opportunities for roleplaying keep it from reaching a higher spot on this list. Its highly customizable weapons, gunplay, and combat systems are the best in the series, but the second the shooting stops and the talking begins, the game's issues become glaringly apparent.

2. Fallout 3

The Lone Wanderer in the Capital Wasteland. (Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios)

Fallout 4's predecessor Fallout 3 may lack the former's gameplay refinements and its settlement mechanic, but it makes up for it by having much better dialogue, roleplaying, and writing overall. It was the first game Bethesda made for the franchise after acquiring the rights to it in 2007, and in our view, it's also the best. Notably, it was also the first 3D title in the series, as well as the first one to introduce the dynamic V.A.T.S. targeting system that's appeared in every new game since.

Fallout 3 takes place in the Capital Wasteland — what remains of Washington D.C. and its surrounding areas — and tasks you with searching for your father after he mysteriously disappears from your Vault. Factions from Fallout and Fallout 2 such as the Brotherhood of Steel and the Enclave make major appearances here, and the events that unfold throughout the narrative directly influence the story of Fallout 4.

1. Fallout: New Vegas

An NCR Veteran Ranger wielding a Ranger Sequoia revolver. (Image credit: Obsidian)

Yeah, you probably saw this coming, but hey — there's a reason why 2010's Fallout: New Vegas is often considered the best Fallout game, and also one of the best PC games and best Xbox games of all time. Several, actually; it's everything we love about Fallout 3, but with improved gameplay mechanics, even better writing and dialogue, a ridiculous number of branching story and quest paths, and a richer, denser open world brimming with unique groups and characters. Obsidian Entertainment's contribution to Fallout is arguably the studio's magnum opus, and pretty much everyone is hoping it'll work on the franchise again one day.

The only major issue with New Vegas is that the PC version is rather notorious for its bugs and crashes, but these are problems you can solve by installing stability and bugfix mods released by the community over the years. That process is actually a lot simpler than you might expect it to be, especially when resources like the Viva New Vegas modding guide exist.

What about the other games?

Fallout Shelter is one of the most successful free-to-play mobile games there is. (Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios)

I can already hear your furious typing, but don't worry — we didn't forget other Fallout games like Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel, or Fallout Shelter. Compared to both the main RPG titles as well as each other, these spinoffs are simply too different to rank fairly, so they're getting some honorable mentions here. And before you ask, no, we didn't include Fallout Pinball. It's technically Bethesda Pinball, anyway — Fallout is just one of the three tables you can play on.

Released in 2017, Fallout Shelter is a remarkably successful free-to-play base-building and management game that allows players to create and expand their very own Vault-Tec Vault. Over time, it's been updated to include characters from the RPG games as well as those from the TV show, and is available to play on Steam, Xbox, PlayStation, the Google Play Store, and Apple's App Store.

Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel was made by Interplay and came out in 2001, and is available for purchase on Steam (you'll get the best price at Green Man Gaming). The story is a bit campy and it doesn't have any direct ties to the narratives of Interplay's other games, but it's a very enjoyable tactics combat-heavy take on isometric Fallout. If you like turn-based strategy, definitely give it a shot.

Finally, there's Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, which is often considered the black sheep of the series (most people don't even know it exists). Released in 2004 by Interplay on Xbox and PlayStation 2, it's a top-down action RPG with linear "chapters" and hack-and-slash combat. Notably, it's the only Fallout game that's considered non-canonical (Bethesda revised its decision to decanonize Fallout Tactics a few years back).

Agree or disagree with our rankings? Drop us a comment and let us know why, and feel free to share your own rankings, too. By the way, every game listed here other than Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel is available to play on either (or both) Xbox or PC with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, so if you're a subscriber, you can begin your wasteland adventures without buying any of them.

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