Let's Rank The Fallout Games, Best To Worst

In the 20+ years since the Fallout franchise was introduced to the world, all of the games have been met with praise - which means that ranking them isn't easy. It's especially difficult to pit the games against each other when you consider that the post-nuclear franchise underwent a genre change.

Still, here we are. The Pecking Order god is not satisfied with our Grand Theft Auto, Pokemon, Final Fantasy and Halo rankings. It wants more. So we'll feed the beast another feature, this one ranking the Fallout games, from best to 'worst.' Here's some things you should keep in mind before we get started:

1) We'll only be covering the main entries in the Fallout franchise; no spin-offs or DLC. Sorry, Tactics!

2) Remember, this is my personal opinion. You might disagree! You're welcome to comment with your own rankings, if not debate my personal order - although naturally I'll do my best to justify my choices.

Let's do this.

This post originally appeared on 2014, but has been updated with a new order.

1) Fallout 2

OK, yes: Fallout 2 altered how I viewed America and its politics, and it gave me a safe space to explore my sexual identity.

But objectively, I see it as the pinnacle of what Fallout has to offer: a zany, post-apocalyptic game with an incredible amount of choice, a smart critique of American ideals - all packaged in a more cerebral genre than the modern titles. (It's a turn-based RPG.)

This is a game where you can lose countless hours to exploration ... or you can beeline to the final boss within 30 minutes of starting the game. It's a game where you can become a porn star or a made-man, just for funsies.

Oh, and the conversations! What a joy, to speak to everyone you come across and learn a little more about this world.

My favourite moment: talking to the AI responsible for ending the world in the great war. Fallout 2 has the sort of freedom and versatility that most modern games that brag about "choice," and "consequences" can't touch.

2) Fallout 1

When I initially ran this post over a year ago, Fallout 1 was dead last on the list. I actually replayed this game in 2015, and my opinion has changed!

Lets be absolutely clear here: the game has not aged gracefully. The UI is terrible. There's no tactical side to the combat - it's mostly praying to the RNG gods, even when you have the best gear available. And the graphics are so bad, it's very easy to miss important stuff you need to interact with.

AND YET. What the first Fallout nails is the atmosphere. The post-apocalypse is stark. There are no frills here; the stuff about the 1950s, and the vault experiments, don't make an appearance. It's just a desolate, savage wasteland - and you can feel it the second you leave the vault.

And the horrors hiding in that post-apocalypse, well ... people have only heard rumours. Fallout 1 built the sort of mystery and intrigue that would only be possible in 1997, back when Deathclaws and Super Mutants were brand new to everyone. These enemies aren't just fodder. They're truly terrifying, and Fallout 1 makes you understand why.

Also, this was the game with The Master - one of the greatest villains in video game history. I will never forget the way Fallout 1 allows you to convince the big bad that he's wrong. Superb.

3) Fallout 3

For a hardcore Fallout fan like myself, the fact 3 exists at all feels like a miracle - before Bethesda took charge, I assumed my beloved franchise was all but dead. I still remember how quickly I reserved the collector's edition of Fallout 3.

I still remember the excitement I felt waiting in line outside of a Gamestop, waiting for the midnight release. All I could think of was, 'is this really happening? Is there really a new Fallout game?'

While I lament the genre change - there is no shortage of shooters out in the world, and XCOM proved that you can modernise a franchise without turning it into an FPS - Fallout 3 felt, well, right. Experiencing vault life first-hand in the introduction is one of the best openings in a game, ever.

The Capital Wasteland is a great setting, especially for a game all about America. And the experience of actually walking through Fallout 3 in its full, open-world glory, is a joy.

Many of my favourite characters in the franchise, like Moira Brown, are from Fallout 3. Fallout 3's Tranquility Lane is the best level in the entire series. And the quests? Remember The Replicated Man? So good!

4) Fallout: New Vegas

Many consider New Vegas to be superior to Fallout 3, namely because of the writing. And sure, it's good. At the same time, New Vegas' entire schtick with the casinos and gambling has been done already! Fallout 2 had New Reno, remember?

I'll quote Richard Cobbett on why New Vegas is disappointing when compared to New Reno, as he puts it well:

While I enjoyed Fallout: New Vegas, the actual town of New Vegas - to be more exact, the Strip - was a bitter disappointment. You spend a good third of the game waiting to get into this fabled gambling utopia, only for the gates to finally open and reveal four deserted casinos squatting amongst post-apocalyptic debris. No texture, no threat, no soul. Not so in New Reno.

Gaining control of the Vegas strip is cool in theory, but it feels inconsequential to the degree of control that you have over Reno in Fallout 2.

Yeah, I appreciate that New Vegas is a more refined RPG experience than Fallout 3, and I love how much your character build/skills matter in this world. I'm definitely not saying it's a bad game or anything. But, big picture, New Vegas didn't manage to wow me to the same degree Fallout 3 did, nor did it explore particularly new territory.

5) Fallout 4

Here's where things get particularly tricky for me. Fallout 4 was my most-played game of 2015. I've spent hundreds of hours within the Commonwealth, and still feel like I've only seen a small percentage of what Fallout 4 has to offer. No matter where I go or what I'm doing, there's always something interesting out in the distance, waiting to be discovered.

I love companions like Nick Valentine and Curie. I love how Diamond City feels like a real place. Building settlements is also way more addicting than it has any right to be. And let's not forget, this is is the first Fallout game with combat that isn't garbage.

Fallout 4 is an excellent experience, as far as exploration and adventure are concerned. But compared to the other Fallout games, well ... there's something missing.

Unlike the other games, role-playing and world-building isn't as important in Fallout 4. Instead, Fallout 4 seems more concerned with keeping you busy shooting stuff and finding loot - which is fun, yes, but not really what Fallout games have traditionally been 'about.' I wrote at-length about this disappointment here:

Fallout 4 Is Not The Fallout Fans Fell In Love With

Last night, while wandering in Fallout 4, I heard something strange in the distance. A man on a megaphone was enthusiastically commentating a race. I'd never heard something like it before, so I had to take a closer look. To my surprise, I didn't find a horse race, I found a robot race. A robot race! People were cheering them on from the sidelines, possibly even laying down bets. It was one of the coolest things I've found while playing Fallout 4 ... and then Fallout 4 ruined it.

Read more

While the main game can miss the mark at times, the DLC understands exactly what makes Fallout so good. Far Harbour, the biggest DLC Bethesda has ever created, is a perfect depiction of a post-apocalyptic New England, grouchiness and all.

I loved learning more about the synths, even if it made me question everything I thought I knew about Fallout 4. It's clear that Bethesda designed Far Harbour with choices beyond murder, and it pays off.

Some of the most memorable moments in Fallout 4 happen in this DLC, as you try your best to juggle all the different factions.

Bethesda continued to hone this delicious moral ambiguity with Nuka World, a DLC that, much to Preston Garvey's horror, lets you become a raider.

Nuka World isn't as philosophically complex as Far Harbour, but it doesn't have to be. With Nuka World, Bethesda said goodbye to Fallout 4 with a bang, letting you run wild in a chaotic carnival house of attractions. Nuka World is everything fans love from the zanier side of Fallout.

It's a perfect send-off.

Even with these additions, you'll note that Fallout 4 is still last on this list. The thing you have to remember about Fallout is, even when they're disappointing, Fallout games are still pretty damn good.


Comments

    Swap the places of Fallout 2 and Fallout 3 then move New Vegas to #1 and you get my list

      For any fan who has been with fallout all the way through (including wasteland, the game fallout 1 was the "spiritual successor" of), fallout 2 is the clear winner. the newer games were a step back in several ways.

        ...so?

          do you have a counter argument or are you upset that i posted my opinion of fallout ranking in a thread attached to an article about fallout rankings?

            Given your opinion seems to try and speak for everyone, there is no counter argument to that BS.

            I am a fan that has been with the series throughout, however I put Fallout 3 over Fallout 2. If your opinion is that Fallout 2 is the best of the lot, that's fine, but don't tell other people what they should think.

              Oh I see, you are angry about the way I phrased it? I don't have magical powers of defining other peoples opinions. That said, anyone who thinks Fallout 2 is not the best fallout game ever are totally objectively wrong. Woops, there I go again!

              btw I don't hate Fallout 3. I just replayed it recently actually.

                No one was angry. We just think you're an undeniable douchebag.

                Oh look, now I'm channelling you by telling other people how they should think.

                  he just got owned!!!!

                  Actually. You seem like the douchebag here.

                  And calling FO3 better than 2 is flat out ridiculous. You're entitled to your opinion of course. But you're in the minority.

                  This article was spot on. Even acknowledging the FO3/FO:NV coin flip.

            "if you were a TRUE fan you would think this"

            BS....

              You've got a point. I was reading user reviews for last of us on metacritic yesterday and so many of them stated something like "i'm a real gamer, if you like this game you're not a real gamer".

              I mean, wtf? I remember when gaming was a pasttime of shame and regret. Does that make me a real gamer? Crazy. A gamer is someone who enjoys games. Any more defined definition is stupid and divisive for no good reason.

        Fallout 2 removed all of the intelligently written, subversive and dark humour for Monty Python quotes. Oh, and the opening area was so awful... So, very, awful.

        Don't get me wrong, I love the improvements to the interface, the expanded story opportunities... It was just a quickly churned out sequel that lost a lot of the charm of its predecessor.

          Ahem, allow me to raise a counter point...

          Boooooooooooooooooooo. ;P

            This is some Next Level thread necro.

            I still stand by my position. They knocked it out in under a year and it showed.

              Haha, yeah, I didn't realise the article was a repost until someone else pointed it out to me. X.x

              But good for you, not only for standing your ground on Fallout 2, but for not giving up on Kotaku and gaming in general. Way to stick it out. We really made it. #switch

    Weird. I could never get into New Vegas. Put them in order of release for me. 1,2,3,4.

      Give it another go man. I was the same had another go after all vegas DLC. Then your realise it's the best of all the games.

      This.
      I also like the fact that FO:Tactics and Brotherhood of Steel don't even get a mention because they where so bad.

        *shakes head*

        Fallout Tactics was excellent - RTWP party-based tactical RPG. Needed a lot more work on story & RPG elements, sure, but I consider it part of the canon, and a shitload of fun.

          Yep, Tactics was awesome!

          The combat you love, without all that reading!

          Shoutout to my man Stitch.

        I understand Tactics is the ugly stepchild that they keep locked up in the Fallout attic but it's a really enjoyable game. Setting up ambushes is fun, the sound design is great, Weapon variety is good, playable character options are plentiful and its also fun to play as part of the most interesting faction and work your way up the chain of command.

    Didn't like V.A.T.S. ? Boo! Hiss! I thought it was fantastic.

    so where is fallout tactics? Now THAT is worthy of no.1

      He classed that as a spin off, hence his apology to it. Though i would have included it as i think it's in the same class as new vegas.

      There was another fallout game on first xbox i think...it didn't do well.

    New Vegas on survival mode was one of the best gaming experiences I've had the pleasure in taking my time with. Was great due to not being able to stock up on ammo and having to actually stop to drink and eat on a regular basis, in turn giving more depth to actually scavaging for items. There was also a brilliant lack of underground subway tunnels which began to get a little annoying in Fallout 3.

    Last edited 30/06/13 11:55 am

    Nuts to Patricia, I'm talking about Tactics. Loved that game. Played it 3 times but still haven't finished it lol. Always get up to the last map but don't have enough M2 ammo to beat all the bloody robots. Should sit down and read a guide to figure out wtf I'm always doing wrong one day :(

    I played F2 way back around the time it came out, it was absolutely amazing. And the bug where the car boot spawned on every map was really helpful, haha. I played F1 sometime after that so I guess my impression of it wasn't as good since it was a step 'down', but I still enjoyed it. F3 was fantastic, NV had a game-breaking bug for me (the plot wouldn't advance for some reason) so I was stuck in limbo with that game until the patch came out, which soured my memories a bit. But otherwise I really enjoyed it, especially how you could do things ANY way you wanted to... I snuck into the Legion camp and murdered them all, and the game recognised that and adjusted the final battle accordingly. Brilliant!

      Gotta use the 2mm railgun sniper(s)! Becomes sort of easy mode after that

        Nah, Gauss Minigun. :P

        I was personally using shotguns loaded with EMP rounds. It was bloody hard to get the DU M2 rounds, I only ever had enough for about 5 bursts.

        Oooh, I see. I think I ended up always getting super mutants on the team loaded up with machine guns because they could cut through normal enemies like butter, but then the robots show up and the ammo starts running out... I'll have to give the game another go one of these days. Cheers!

    "But the entire casino/Vegas shtick? It’s been done"

    ...really?..REALLY? oh come on thats weak

    As someone who essentially played every Fallout game on their release day, the correct order is as follows.

    2 > NV > 1 > Tactics > 3 > Brotherhood of Steel

    Fallout 3 was a complete slap in the face to me, while a decent game, it was not a decent Fallout game. The day they announced they were giving NV to Obsidian I was so happy and they definitely did not disappoint.

      This is my order aswell, Fallout 3 felt more shooter less RPG.

      I agree with this, but I'd put Tactics = 3. Neither of them really felt like a Fallout game, but as games in general they were both decent.

    My List best to worst.

    1# Fallout
    2# New Vegas
    3# Fallout 2
    4# Van Buren
    5# Fallout 3
    6# Tactics
    7# Brotherhood of Steel

      Gonna have to agree with this guy, right here.

      Van Buren? I hope I'm not the only one that THANKS GOD Van Buren never saw the light of day, the tech demo was horrible, the story was weird and didn't seem as cohesive as Fallout 3 turned out

    Fallout 3
    Fallout: New Vegas
    Fallout: Tactics
    Fallout
    Fallout 2

    Tactics
    Fallout 3
    Fallout
    Fallout 2
    Fallout NV

    Call me crazy, but Tactics was my fave. It's the least 'Fallout' like of the bunch, but it was everything I loved about the older Fallout games. Turn based combat. Pure and simple. The adventure/RPG element clicked best for me in Fallout 3. So immersive.

    Fallout 3 is my favourite game of all time.
    Cue the hate from the Obsidian/Blackisle/interplay fanboys.

    Yeah, I enjoyed 3 more than New Vegas. 3's amazing ending with the giant robot completely blew me away. NV's DLC, particularly Sierra Madre, made me want to claw out my eyeballs.

    I did like the rep system in NV, but by the time the time you reached The Strip, you had generally thrown your lot in with NCR because that's the first big group you encountered.

    NV >> F3, the other spots I don't really care about.

    Correct ranking - I agree...

    Fallout 2
    Fallout 3
    Fallout NV
    Fallout 1

    Yay ^^

    If spin-offs such as Tactics are off the table why is New Vegas included?
    Either way.. all of these titles are top tier, and each is great in their own right

    Like some others mentioned above I'd have to say Fallout 2 is my favourite for no reason other than it was the first I played in the series and introduced me to the incredible world of Fallout, had to go back and find a Fallout 1 disc afterwards.

    It's pretty awesome how different New Vegas and Fallout 3 are, but they're both firmly Fallout games, anyone that can't see that isn't looking properly. The first thing that hit me when playing concurrently through both of them though is how much better bandits are handled in Fallout 3, so lively and mean sounding while in NV although they have factions they're absolutely cookie cutter and more often than not just so quiet, the lack of personality in NV bandits is really unsettling.
    The second is how much the player characters elbows stick out in Fallout 3, it was really hard to adjust to how awkwardly unnatural the animation looked when going back and forth

    Tactics was cool

    "That's right hide, just like a little bitch!"

    Fallout 3 was revolutionary, fuk the rest that just build on that perfection...

    I haven't played the original fallouts and I'm sure I'm missing out however,

    Fallout 3 holds a special place in my heart as it was the last Bethesda game that gave me this starry eyed wondrous feel of stepping out into the massive sandbox of a game. Walking out of the vault, down the street towards megaton surrounded by desolation, it was like something out of a storybook, a particularly terrible dystopian storybook. I loved it, it was exciting, new, fresh.

    New Vegas just didn't do it quite the same way unfortunately, It was a good game granted, better in some regards but didn't give me that sense of wonder and awe like Fallout 3 did.

    My list:
    1. Fallout 2
    2. Fallout 1
    3. Fallout Tactics
    4. Fallout 3
    5. Fallout NV
    6. Fallout BOS

    I prefered the isomectric turn based stuff, there were already heaps of shooters when they released Fallout 3, it seemed sad that they turned it into one. That said, Fallout BOS was the only game that I had to force myself to finish, the rest were all great.

    I actually enjoyed them in the order they were released. F1, F2, F3 and then NV. Tactics wasn't really Fallout, so that's out.

    Then again I remember playing the demo to the original Fallout to bits. So when the full version came out it was a damn amazing experience. Unparalleled by virtually any other subsequent game.

    I even remember trying to play it on my 486 back in the day, even though it required a Pentium 100 as a bare minimum. So it ran (when it ran) at about a frame every few seconds.

    After reading the rest of the comments, I suddenly feel really old. Seems many people didn't play the original Fallout when it first came out...

    If we're strictly talking about numbered games + New Vegas, then the proper order is this:
    Fallout 2
    Fallout
    Fallout: New Vegas
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    That big pile of brahmin shit they called Fallout 3

    One other thing. More of a nitpick or an observation. I noticed you placed Fallout: New Vegas after 3 because of the casino thing "it's been done by Fallout" and all. Pretty much everything in Fallout 3 except the setting on the east coast had been done by Fallout. Water purification, G.E.C.K., Enclave trying to kill everyone with FEV, I mean really, the whole game was just a series of ripped off plot points from the first two games.

    Fallout, all winners, all have something

    This list is terrible. I especially like how even though you ranked New Vegas as number 3, you still only described it as a comparison of how it pales in comparison to fallout 3 (which it doesn't). You should find a new hobby because your not very good at this one.

      Vegas was no. 4, after Fallout 3.

      You should find a new parietal lobe because you're not very good at basic comprehension.

        This post originally appeared on 2014, but has been updated with a new order.

        lineman @lineman Aug 27, 2014, 6:46am

        you're not very good at basic comprehension

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