Which Fallout Game to Play First if You Liked the Show

If you enjoyed Amazon Prime’s Fallout TV series, but have never played the games, you might be wondering where to start. There are now five games in the main series, plus an MMORPG and a couple of spinoff games. The franchise has been around for almost 27 years, with the first game releasing in 1997. Games in general have evolved a lot in that time, and the Fallout games have as well, with several different developers playing a role in that evolution.

We’ll cover each of the games below, skipping only a couple of the smaller games that are not considered canon or part of the main series. Keep in mind that this list is not ranking the best games in the series, but rather the easiest or most interesting to get started with if you’re coming from the TV show. Here’s our list at a glance; read on to see our reasoning!

  1. Fallout 4
  2. Fallout: New Vegas
  3. Fallout 1
  4. Fallout 76
  5. Fallout Shelter
  6. Fallout 3
  7. Fallout 2

This article was co-authored by Luxrah and Graves.

If you’ve never played any of the Fallout games, Fallout 4 is probably the easiest entry into the series. It’s the most recent of the main thread of single-player RPGs, which means it’s got the most advanced systems, the best graphics, and the least overall jankiness. While the game is already over eight years old, it’s due to get a next gen update later this month. There are also a ton of mods available for it, allowing you to upgrade or customize everything from armor to the weather. (As a first-timer, though, we would recommend not getting too deep into mods just yet.)

Unlike the other Fallout games, Fallout 4 starts out before the bombs drop, so you’ll get a glimpse of the world as it was, much like what we got to see with Cooper Howard on the TV show. When the apocalypse hits, you’ll head to your vault with your family, where you’ll be cryogenically frozen — another familiar plot point if you’ve watched the entire first season.

Later you’ll awaken to explore a post-nuke version of Boston, Massachusetts, where you’ll encounter the Brotherhood of Steel, ghouls, various vault dwellers, and other familiar factions from the show. There’s also one unique feature that was added to this game and carried over into Fallout 76, and that’s settlements. In Fallout 4, you have a reason to pick up every random piece of junk you find, because it can all be scrapped and used to build. Just be aware that you may find yourself carefully setting up barricades and fussing over your Tato Plants instead of actually completing the main quest!

It’s also worth mentioning that Fallout 4 is the only game to have been adapted for VR, if that’s something you’re looking for.

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Fallout: New Vegas is not only widely considered the best Fallout game, but also one of the best games of all time, and not for no reason. While its bugginess makes it slightly less accessible than Fallout 4, and its combat can leave something to be desired, there is simply no better written game in the series, and no game with a better world to explore. Everything about New Vegas oozes style.

If what you liked most about the Fallout show were the characters and the world, then Fallout: New Vegas is a great choice to explore (especially due to a certain hint at what is to come in Season 2).

In New Vegas, You play as a “Courier”, someone assigned to deliver a certain Platinum Chip to Mr. House in New Vegas. But, along the way, you are caught and end up shot in the head and buried. Then, you take control of your character. Quite a hook, isn’t it? And that’s just the beginning; the game gets better from there. If story and quests are what you want, you can’t do better than Vegas, baby!

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The game that started it all, Fallout 1 still holds up remarkably well. While there will be some learning curves for a modern audience, there are also many people that consider Fallout 1 to still have the best story and dialogue in the series, 27 years later. It is a blast to play, and starts off strong by presenting dozens of the kinds of choices that nearly all Fallout games would continue with.

In addition to playing through a fantastic game, though, you’ll also get to see where it all started. Not just the series, but a lot of the factions that you see in the show. The Brotherhood of Steel, the Vaults, and the New California Republic all have their roots here, as well as a number of factions that are likely to show up in Season 2. Not to mention that it is the only mainline Falllout game set in the same region as Season 1 of the show, so you’ll get to compare how things have changed in the 140 years since the Vault Dweller left Vault 13. Even if war…. War never changes.

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We’ll preface this by saying that Fallout 76 is one of the weakest games in the series. But while it earned terrible reviews early on for its lack of NPCs and plethora of bugs, the game has seen tremendous improvements since then, and now it feels a lot more like a multiplayer version of Fallout 4. It’s also the most recent game and looks the best.

Vault 76 is a control vault, so you won’t encounter any experimental shenanigans there. You’re just a good, clean American who was hand-picked to recolonize the Wasteland after the apocalypse. You exit your vault only 25 years after the nukes drop, which makes this game the first in the series chronologically, a good 59 years before Fallout 1. You’ll be exploring an area of the Appalachian Mountains around Morgantown, West Virginia. If you know your cryptids, you’ll enjoy a subplot devoted to the Mothman and its cult of worshipers.

The main reason to play Fallout 76 is because you want to experience the Wasteland with other people. You can encounter other players in the open world or team up with your friends to complete quests and crush enemies. The story isn’t quite on par with the single-player RPGs, unfortunately, and the gameplay can get a bit repetitive, but it’s a lot of fun to just run around with a buddy and wreak havoc with the craziest weapons you can find.

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Fallout Shelter is more of a spinoff game — a management simulation inspired by the core RPGs. But it could still be a good option for a first dip into the Fallout games. For one thing, it’s free, and you can play it on just about any gaming device, including phones and tablets. Second, it’s really easy to get into and great for casual play. It’s also loaded with Fallout’s patented humor and flavor.

In this game, you’re the overseer of an entire vault of your own. You pick the vault’s number and construct it room by room, managing its resources and personnel and sometimes sending residents out into the Wasteland to explore and gather items. You won’t get much in the way of story, unfortunately, but with a recent update, you’ll be able to get some of the characters from the show to join your vault.

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Fallout 3 was Bethesda’s first foray into the Fallout universe, and it significantly changed the formula, with a first-person perspective and a wide-open 3D world to explore. The plot is the most similar to that of the show, with your character growing up in the safe, comfy confines of Vault 101 until one day your father leaves the vault, and you must go looking for him across an impressive, if radioactive, reconstruction of Washington DC. (Your father is voiced by Liam Neeson, by the way.) There’s also a high-tech invention involved that can do great things for civilization, not unlike the cold fusion generator we saw in the TV show.

If you like the sound of Fallout 3’s plot and setting, however, there is another way that you can experience them. A recently updated mod called A Tale of Two Wastelands allows you to play through the entirety of Fallout 3 inside Fallout New Vegas, using the latter game’s updated engine and mechanics. It should be a much better experience overall, and will allow you to jump into New Vegas as well at any time you choose.

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Fallout 2 is often negatively compared to Fallout 1, because it left something to be desired for many players, but time has softened this comparison some. While most fans do prefer the world building and story of Fallout 1, it cannot be denied that the streamlining of combat and the progression of time helped make it a tighter experience. There is a lot to love here, too, with some of the best characters and quests in the setting, and some fantastic areas.

Unfortunately, though, the worst part of Fallout 2 is the first hour or so, which most players consider to be tedious and boring, holding your hand for far too long. This in contrast to Fallout 1, which — if anything — lacked tutorialization. However, what this means is that Fallout 2 is unlikely to really grab you and make you want to play more. It is usually recommended to play Fallout 2 after 1, though, since the game expands so much on the concepts and ideas presented in the first game.

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Fallout 5 is not currently in development, and won’t be until after The Elder Scrolls VI is completed. Based on projections and leaked documents, that’s likely still a few years away. In the meantime, as you can see in this list, there is still plenty of Fallout to occupy you until season two comes along. And if you get bored with these games, there are always plenty of awesome mods out there!

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I love RPGs, sandboxes, survival, and sim games. Anything that lets me build and decorate or just has a really good story. I've spent hundreds of hours in Bethesda games and even more time modding them. I also play a lot of World of Warcraft.

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