This week we’ll be checking out the Fallout games ranked. Buckle up and strap in, ’cause this is a one-way ticket to the wasteland.

Ever daydreamed about how you’d survive the apocalypse? Was Mad Max an inspirational and aspirational tale for you? If so, you’ve probably heard of Fallout – the hit series that puts you in the dusty boots of a wasteland wanderer trapped in a post-nuclear-apocalypse.  

Itching to begin your epic quest of survival amid radioactive mutants and factional skirmishes? You’re in luck! There’s a whole lot of Fallout for you to sink your teeth into. 

The best Fallout games ranked by public perception and critical reception is just the ticket for your one-way train to the wasteland. Let’s run down the whole Fallout series so you can sort the wheat from the green-glowing chaff. Focus your playtime on the best, and leave the rest for deep cuts if you just can’t get enough. 

Fallout Games Ranked From Worst to Best

Starting from the bottom, let’s climb our way to the all-time best Fallout game. First up is Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel

9. Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel

Brotherhood of Steel
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Platforms: PS2, Xbox
  • Release Date: January 14, 2004

Hey, you got your Diablo in my Fallout

Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel was a lesser-known and lower-rated entry in the series, exclusive to the Xbox and PS2 during the early 2000s. While it bears the Fallout title, it could have just as easily been a RAGE spinoff had it manifested a decade later. And perhaps then it wouldn’t have been judged so harshly. 

Brotherhood of Steel is a top-down Action RPG in the same vein as Blizzard’s Diablo, dropping the player into linear levels to search for loot and wipe the map clean of enemies. Unlike other Fallout games, Brotherhood of Steel is not open-world – a peculiar choice for a series defined by player agency. The levels are linear in the truest sense, railroading the player forward and preventing them from returning to previous levels once completed. 

One of the few redeeming factors for Fallout fans is the co-op mode, which allows players to tackle the main story together. But it’s simply insufficient to carry the game.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not altogether bad. It’s precisely the sort of game one might have picked up at Blockbuster (along with a few pizzas) to game the weekend away with a friend. But it isn’t a true Fallout game, and that puts it last on our list of Fallout games ranked.

8. Fallout Shelter

Fallout Shelter
  • Genre: Simulation
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Mobile
  • Release Date: June 14, 2015

Another spinoff from the mainline series, Fallout Shelter offers players the chance to build and manage their very own Vault-Tec vault. Released for mobile platforms iOS and Android in 2015, it was eventually ported to Windows, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch. 

All well and good, right? But for those of us who have played Fallout Shelter, there’s one looming question the game leaves hanging overhead like a mushroom cloud… Why? 

At no point does the jump from open-world RPG to microtransaction-riddled mobile game make sense. While the visual aesthetic makes good on the cartoony stylings of the series’ Vault Boy mascot, it doesn’t have much else going for it. It lacks depth, falls into the same repetitive traps most mobile games do, and seems like a cheap opportunity to squeeze a few dollars at a time out of Fallout fans.  

Perhaps you need a little extra Fallout in your day while at lunch or on the can. Or maybe you’ve grown weary of slaying Deathclaws and being the bright spot in a dreary wasteland. Fallout Shelter offers you the opportunity to remain immersed in the Fallout universe even once you’ve powered off your console or computer and retired to bed. But at what cost? 

Apparently, at the cost of gameplay depth, narrative, and player choice. For these reasons, Fallout Shelter ranks low on our list of Fallout games ranked.

7. Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel

Fallout Tactics
  • Genre: Tactical RPG
  • Platforms: PC
  • Release Date: March 15, 2001

Not to be confused with Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, the first and only game to bear the Fallout Tactics title actually feels like it belongs in the series. Especially given the series’ CRPG roots, a turn-based tactical game in the vein of XCOM seems like a perfect fit on paper. And it is. 

As far as spinoffs go, Fallout Tactics is both buoyed and restrained by the genre change. The combat is pitch-perfect, encouraging the player to think around obstacles and take unique approaches. They even turned it up a notch with different battle mechanics that make combat more active than its predecessor. 

But while the story feels like it belongs in the Fallout universe, Fallout Tactics suffers from the same handicaps as other spinoffs. At the end of the day, Fallout is about free-roaming exploration and player choice – two aspects that are bound to suffer in any other format. As far as non-RPGs in the family go, though, Fallout Tactics is a solid entry that’s bound to please turn-based tactical fans and Fallout fans alike. 

6. Fallout 76

Fallout 76
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
  • Release Date: November 14, 2018

On paper, rolling across the wasteland with a party of other players sounds like a slam dunk. If there’s one thing Bethesda games need, it’s multiplayer. Not to say that a well-crafted singleplayer game isn’t worthwhile or that all games require multiplayer. But I’ve been a fan of The Elder Scrolls since Morrowind, and the one thing I always wanted was to experience Tamriel alongside a friend. Same with the wasteland from Fallout 3 and onward. 

So how did they bungle it so badly? 

At launch, Fallout 76 did not include NPCs around the wasteland. That’s a bold move that speaks to the confidence Bethesda had in the player base. Unfortunately, it fell rather flat. So Fallout 76 blundered along for a few years bearing the brunt of the fanbase’s ire comparing what it was to what it could have been. 

I bet you’re wondering why this game wasn’t at the bottom of the list of Fallout games ranked. There’s one simple reason: Bethesda took the complaints to heart. While it still isn’t perfect, they’ve worked hard to improve the Fallout 76 experience in the intervening years since launch, and the result is remarkably adequate. 

The recent Wastelanders update filled out the playable area with the expected gamut of post-apocalyptic characters. And it’s adopted the same gameplay that made Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 so successful. It may have stumbled out of the gate, but it found its footing nearly two years on. If you’re looking to enjoy Fallout with friends, Fallout 76 is the way to do it. 

5. Fallout

Fallout 1
  • Genre: CRPG
  • Platforms: PC, Mac
  • Release Date: October 10, 1997

The granddaddy that started it all! Fallout is not only the progenitor of the whole Fallout series, but it’s a visionary take on the world post-nuclear apocalypse and a damn good CPRG in its own right. At the tail end of the Cold War, with decades of pent up stress and anxiety over the possible exchange of nuclear warheads between superpowers, Fallout chronicles what life might’ve been like after the bombs fell. 

There are factions. There are mutants. There’s a copious amount of radiation. And there’s a rock-solid story driven by player choice. Not to mention the deep character customization that ensures whatever your story, it can be tailored uniquely to you and your favored approach to the wasteland.

Become a gunslinger, an outlaw, or a savvy scientist with all the smooth-talking charm to end any conflict without violence. Your experience with Fallout was primarily up to you. And that’s what made it so timeless and endearing to hundreds of thousands of players since its 1997 release. Take your time while questing to savor the worldbuilding, and you’ll be rewarded with dark humor and thoughtful writing. While the visuals and the gameplay may be dated in 2020, the experience can’t be rivaled. 

If you haven’t played Fallout before, but you love Fallout 3 and 4, be advised that it’s a different sort of game — more Neverwinter Nights than Morrowind. But if you’re willing to broaden your genre palette – or you’re a fan of CRPGs to begin with – Fallout is a must-play. 

4. Fallout 2

Fallout 2
  • Genre: CRPG
  • Platforms: PC, Mac
  • Release Date: October 29, 1998

“Anything you can do, I can do better” may well have been the mantra behind Fallout 2.

As any proper sequel should, it kept all the good from Fallout 1 and made the rest even better. The world was bigger, the quests deeper, and the gameplay largely more of the same. When the most frequent criticism of a game is that “it didn’t change enough” over the already stellar predecessor, you know what to expect going in. And what to expect is more incredible watercooler stories from the wasteland. 

The biggest improvement between Fallout 1 and is easily the lore. As a writer, when you’re building a world from scratch, you’ve got your hands full forging history from whole cloth. When you’re revisiting a world for a sequel or another story in the same universe, you can spend more time turning story hooks into five-course meals and engaging your audience in new and exciting ways. Fallout 2 takes full advantage of the foundation laid by the first game in this regard. And the witty, dark humor stuck around, much to the approval of the rapidly growing fanbase. 

It’s also important to note that Fallout 2 is another CRPG. This may be both a blessing and a curse depending on your preferences. Again, if you’re coming from the Bethesda Fallout games, you may find yourself a bit bewildered. As far as classics go, though, Fallout 2 has stood the test of time as a pillar of the CRPG genre and post-apocalyptic fiction. 

3. Fallout 3

Fallout 3
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
  • Release Date: October 28, 2008

In 2008, a new era for Fallout (and our Fallout games ranked list) began. But the story behind it actually begins a bit earlier.

The third entry in the series started as a 3D version of the classic CPRG formula, developed in the same house as the first two games. During development, the IP owners and originators, Interplay Entertainment, went out of business. This prompted the sale of their in-house IPs to cover their bankruptcy. For one reason or another (the open-world premise is undoubtedly one ingredient in the pot), the Fallout series piqued the interest of Bethesda Softworks. So much so, that Bethesda bought the rights to Fallout sometime after that. The details are murky.

What isn’t murky is the impact Bethesda had on the Fallout universe. Hot on the heels of the quintessential Elder Scrolls FPSRPGs Morrowind and Oblivion, Bethesda unleashed their take on Fallout 3 to the game-playing public in 2008. And the wasteland was forever changed. 

Fallout 3 moved the series from it’s top-down, CPRG roots to a more grounded first-person RPG experience. Bethesda makes a particular flavor of RPG, which’s on full display here (for better or worse). And despite their bug-infested development process, Bethesda produced one of the best RPGs of the era and an honest successor to the Fallout mantle. 

It preserved the quality writing and open world, multifaceted approach to questing across the wasteland. And despite emphasizing swords-and-sorcery in The Elder Scrolls, Bethesda proved that they could code a pretty fun gun. The adaptation of the VATS targeting system to the first-person paradigm is well-executed, and it never gets old popping the heads of raiders trying to loot your bottlecaps. As far as a next-generation Fallout goes, Fallout 3 seemed to be as good as it could get…

2. Fallout 4

Fallout 4
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
  • Release Date: November 10, 2015

If you thought the change from CPRG to FPS was simply too much, you won’t find any respite from here on out. The top Fallout games on our list grow from the series grafted by Fallout 3. If you’re a newcomer to the series, you likely discovered it through one of these games. So let’s get started.

Like Fallout 2 before it, Fallout 4 takes what worked about the game immediately prior and takes it to the next level. The gunplay feels tighter than Fallout 3, the quests twist and turn like a tangle of ivy up ruined brick walls, and the world is a bit brighter and more saturated. Gun customization is deep here, and the opportunity to build and protect your very own settlement offers a novel twist on the formula. All quality seasonings for a savory FPSRPG stew. 

Set in Boston instead of the Capitol Wasteland of DC, Fallout 4 provided a much-needed change of scenery for the series, from deserts to more habitable terrain. Sure, it’s still all rusty cars and crumbling buildings, but you can be sure it’s aesthetic. Apocalyptic noir, if you will. 

1. Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout New Vegas
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
  • Release Date: October 19, 2010

After the success of Fallout 3, Bethesda saw fit to hand the Fallout reins over to upstart Obsidian Entertainment for a time. The result was a love letter to the series’ roots that brought together the best of both old and new for a wild rollercoaster ride.

Set in the Mojave Desert, Fallout: New Vegas is quirky. It’s rough around the edges. But it’s also the purest distillation of the quintessence that drives the Fallout series. It’s filled to the brim with world-class writing, engaging characters, and more interesting locales than you might expect amidst all that sand and shrubs. 

Fight fire ants in dry lakebeds. Pledge your services to one of three unique and flavorful factions. And check out cities so accurately modeled after their real-world counterparts, you can uncover familiar landmarks. It’s the very best that Fallout has to offer.

It may be the post-apocalypse, but that doesn’t mean the wastelanders can’t have fun and crack a few jokes between cracking skulls. When you run into Mr. House, tell him High Ground Gaming sent you!

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This is our take on all Fallout games ranked. Whether you’re new to the series or a longtime fan, we look forward to exchanging wasteland stories with you. Perhaps around a campfire with a bit of radroach on a spit (hopefully you brought Rad-Away).