The 8 Best Fallout Games of 2019

Play all the titles in this classic franchise

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Set in a variety of post-apocalyptic wastelands across the United States, the Fallout video game series is renowned for its vast landscapes, strong character development, and complex quests. Ranging from California to Massachusetts, Las Vegas to Washington D.C., and beyond, it regularly wins awards for the depth and breadth of its open-world gameplay.

With nearly half a dozen titles in the main series, however, plus spin-offs and mobile versions, newcomers to the franchise often struggle to know where to start. We've put together this detailed guide that talks about the strengths and weaknesses of every Fallout game on the market, to help you quickly get up to speed and start playing.

Whether you're a desktop, console, or mobile gamer, or prefer role-playing, strategy, or base-building games, there's something for you in the Fallout universe.

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Courtesy of Steam

If you've only recently discovered the Fallout franchise, it may be hard to believe it's been around for over twenty years. Released in 1997, the game's battle-scarred post-apocalyptic setting is a refreshing change from the dark dungeons and medieval landscapes that had long dominated role-playing games beforehand.

A broken water recycling system forces your character to leave the safety of their underground vault and venture out into the unknown wilds of what used to be southern California. The locals aren't particularly welcoming, but there are plenty of abandoned weapons lying around to help deal with that problem.

Combat is strictly turn-based, and the ability to target particular areas of an attacker (shooting their legs out from under them, for instance) adds a welcome tactical element. Non-player characters also show up to join your quest now and then, although they'll often hinder as much as help.

While Fallout understandably looks and feels a little dated these days, it's still plenty of fun to play and serves as a great introduction to the later games in the series.

Fallout 2

Released barely a year after the original, Fallout 2 looks and feels much like its predecessor, but a number of improvements make it a noticeably better game. The in-game world is much larger, and you're free to explore it at your leisure. Humor and pop-culture references abound as you interact with friendly and not-so-friendly characters in the wasted communities around you.

Character creation and development is much the same as the original, with a dozen skills to hone, but the sequel makes better use of some of the more exotic ones. Unlike almost any game before it, Fallout 2 lets you create and play highly-customized characters, and then experience the game in quite different ways based on those choices.

Other useful tweaks include smarter NPCs that wear armor and gain experience and more balanced access to powerful weapons. In many ways, it's the game that Fallout aspired to be. If you've never played it, you've missed a treat.

Fallout 3

A decade passed between the second and third games in the main Fallout series, as it changed developers from Interplay to Bethesda Softworks, and location from southern California to the east coast of the United States.

It's very different in other ways, too, taking advantage of ten years of computer and console hardware improvements. Turn-based combat gives way to a real-time approach, and the isometric view of earlier games is replaced by a first and (somewhat odd) third-person perspective. You'll find grim cityscapes instead of scorched desert, and the storyline matches the somber setting — there are fewer jokes here than elsewhere in the series.

Despite the changes, though, many of the best parts of Fallout remain. Actions still have consequences, with your karma score affecting the way you play and how other characters interact with you. You continue to develop skills over time, with optional "perks" that can open up new gameplay options and close off others. It's still possible to target specific parts of an attacker, albeit in a very different way.

Fallout 3 is a deep and engrossing game that takes dozens of hours to beat, and even longer to fully explore.

Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas

Courtesy of Amazon

Released a couple of years after Fallout 3, and using the same game engine and visual style, New Vegas is more of an expansion than an entirely new game. Based largely in Nevada, it adds plenty of worthwhile new tweaks and is well worth playing even if you've spent many hours mastering the previous version.

One of the biggest additions to the game is factions. Your interactions with them have a major impact on how the plot unfolds, with your reputation regularly preceding you into a new town. You might receive a gift if you're well-liked, or avoid a fight if you're known for violence, and quests open up or get closed off based on previous actions.

Gambling makes an appearance, both inside and outside the remains of Sin City, but you may well find yourself too busy exploring the remote nooks and crannies of the game's vast wastelands to spend long at the blackjack tables.

Fallout: New Vegas is one of the few times in gaming when more of the same is definitely a good thing.

Fallout 4

It's back to the east coast for Fallout 4, where the action takes place in the ruins of Boston. Awakening from hibernation two centuries after a nuclear war destroyed the world, you set out to find your kidnapped son in the wastelands, but end up becoming a vital cog in what's left of society.

Your actions have real consequences on how the game progresses, even more than in earlier versions. Trying to juggle competing and incompatible interests while tracking down your son and keeping yourself alive and somewhat healthy in the process, is far from an easy task.

As in previous games, companions — both human and otherwise — show up to help, although a cumbersome control system can sometimes make them more hassle than they're worth. Building settlements, though, is a new addition for Fallout 4, and even though it's largely an optional part of the game, it's easy to spend many hours doing so.

You'll spend plenty of time searching for loot, not only in the hope of finding better weapons and armor, but because even everyday items can be repurposed to improve your gear.

While you might expect slightly better graphics from a game released in late 2015, before long you'll likely be far too engrossed in the vast world and endless side quests to care.

Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel

One of a pair of spin-off games released in the early 2000s, Fallout Tactics is more of a real-time strategy game than an RPG. 

You and a range of squad members tackle an increasingly-difficult set of missions, with the emphasis on tactical combat rather than individual exploration and problem-solving. Traditional Fallout elements like character customization and development are still present, however, and the graphical style stays consistent with the official series.

The first multiplayer game set in the Fallout universe, friends can take control of other squad members, or you can go it alone. There are plenty of campaigns to work through, some of which are surprisingly long and challenging, and you'll need to put in at least 60 hours of gameplay to make it all the way to the end.

It's not the best game in the series, but if you're a fan of Fallout and RTS games, it'll be a solid addition to your library.

Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel

Despite also being a spin-off, with a very similar name, Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel has few similarities to its predecessor.

While the post-apocalyptic setting remains, gameplay is wildly different, with one or two players battling through a series of locations in an attempt to find the other members of the "brotherhood." You'll gain experience, discover armor and weapons, and suck down health potions in an attempt not to die before the end of the level.

Resembling dungeon-crawling games like Diablo, graphics and soundtrack are good, and although there's more cursing than usual for a Fallout game, the dialog can be amusing.

Things quickly get repetitive, though, so while Brotherhood of Steel is an enjoyable distraction taking place in a familiar world, it won't keep you entertained for more than the dozen hours or so it takes to play through to the end.

Fallout Shelter

Fallout Shelter

Courtesy of Steam

An odd addition to the series, Fallout Shelter bears little resemblance to the other games. Drawn in a colorful, cartoonish style, you play an Overseer responsible for the health and wellbeing of an ever-expanding community of vault dwellers.

Best played on mobile, gameplay is straightforward as you gather resources to build and upgrade a variety of rooms with the goal of keeping everyone inside safe, happy, and healthy.

You can send people out into the wastelands to search for loot, but the longer you leave them there, the greater the chance they'll encounter a foe they can't handle. Raids and infestations keep you on your toes — you're not as safe inside your vault as you might hope.

Oddly the game is most difficult in its early stages, with resource management getting progressively easier as you approach the population limit. Once you've hit it and built every room type, there's not much left to do — Fallout Shelter suffers from the lack of a proper endgame, and there's little reason to go back and play through it all again. Overall it's fun for a few days​ but not much more than that. At least it's free!