Fallout 3 vs. Fallout: New Vegas

A head-to-head evaluation of two great games for PS3 and Xbox 360

The Fallout games for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are considered classics, but which is better: Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas? We tested both to see how they compare. In short, Fallout 3 is for gamers who enjoy exploring large virtual worlds at their leisure, while New Vegas offers a more story-driven experience.

Fallout 3 vs Fallout: New Vegas

Overall Findings

Fallout 3
  • Immersive open world that rewards exploration.

  • DLC extends the main story by several hours.

  • Clunky shooting mechanics.

Fallout: New Vegas
  • More interesting and varied missions.

  • Greater weapon variety with customization options.

  • Steep difficulty curve at first.

  • Occasional graphical glitches.

Like the other games in the series, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas combine the best elements of the RPG and FPS genres. Both feature top-notch graphics complimented by engaging stories and missions. From a mechanical standpoint, there is no question that Fallout: New Vegas has better gameplay than Fallout 3, but the world of Fallout 3 is more interesting to explore.

If you play the PC version of Fallout 3, use cheat codes to get weapons, ammo, and other items.

World Design: Fallout 3 Has a Better Open World

Fallout 3
  • Go anywhere and do anything from the beginning.

  • Every building can be explored and has something worth finding.

  • Weapons are plentiful and easy to find.

  • Confusing, maze-like underground tunnels with invisible walls.

Fallout: New Vegas
  • Lots of boarded-up buildings you can't enter.

  • Many locations offer little or no reward for discovering them.

  • Until you get decent armor and a decent weapon, it's not fun.

  • Its opening few hours are the worst of any video game.

Fallout 3 has the advantage when it comes to world design. The Mojave in Fallout: New Vegas is boring to explore for the most part, and the city of New Vegas is also disappointing. In contrast, the setting of Fallout 3 features varied terrain with lots of landmarks to explore.

Another issue with the Fallout: New Vegas world is that if you don't take the correct path, you'll quickly get slaughtered by enemies that are more powerful than you. For example, if you take the wrong road out of Goodsprings, you'll be destroyed by either giant radscorpions or deathclaws. Even if you do take the right road, you're often unprepared for what the rest of the wasteland has in store for you. In Fallout 3, you can take any path you want and explore anywhere right from the start.

Mission Design: New Vegas Offers More Variety

Fallout 3
  • More creative and varied enemies.

  • Restrictive storyline choices.

  • Fewer optional missions.

Fallout: New Vegas
  • The main missions are more interesting than Fallout 3.

  • Nearly every named character is connected to a mission.

  • Huge variety of optional missions.

While the world is more interesting in Fallout 3, New Vegas has better mission designs. There are tons of unmarked missions you can take on by talking to everyone you meet. Gaining the trust of the boomers, dealing with the White Glove Society, investigating an assassination attempt with NCR, and joining Caesar's Legion are more enjoyable than what Fallout 3 has to offer in terms of side-quests.

It's strange to spend most of your time fighting other humans in Fallout: NV rather than the hordes of monsters that are trying to kill everyone. Still, it makes sense considering that humans are greedy and pose the biggest problem in a survival situation. Fighting ghouls and super mutants, though, is more fun.

Downloadable Content: Extra Missions and Super Weapons

Fallout 3
  • Broken Steel DLC extends the main story.

  • New locales to explore like Point Lookout and The Pitt.

  • Evade alien abduction in the Mothership Zeta DLC.

Fallout: New Vegas
  • Start with better armor and weapons with the Courier's Stash DLC.

  • Get powerful super weapons with the Gun Runner's Arsenal DLC.

  • Old World Blues is the best DLC for either game.

Back when you had to buy the DLC separately, Fallout 3 had better DLC for the price. Now that you can buy versions of the games that come with all DLC, they are pretty even. In addition to extra missions, New Vegas has two pieces of non-mission-based DLC that have a significant impact on the game, particularly the opening few hours.

Final Verdict

While the world of Fallout 3 is more fun to explore, Fallout: New Vegas features superior gameplay mechanics and more engaging missions. The presentation of each game is fairly equal, but New Vegas has a few glitches. Since the series is more about the thrill of exploration than anything else, Fallout 3 can be considered the better Fallout game.