The Fallout series has one of the most interesting worlds in gaming. Over the course of the franchise, it’s looked and played pretty differently. With so many varied games, it can tricky to pick which Fallout game to play first.
The Fallout series has had released on PC and consoles stretching decades. It’s even been made by many different developers and released by two separate companies. That all makes for a pretty stark divide in gameplay between the two ends of the franchise.
If you’re looking for a starting point, it’s understandably tricky. Some fans are critical of everything released in the series since the early 200s. It can make it difficult to see which game to play first with so many differing opinions.
You could go back to the series’ roots and rediscover what made it a success in the first place. Although, that would mean playing a lot of retro titles before getting close to the series’ modern direction.
Even taking the more recent releases from Bethesda, the title has become contentious. Recent installments like Fallout 76 depart majorly from traditional gameplay. What you’re left with is a franchise that while iconic, might not have an obvious entry point for new fans.
Fallout also has plenty of highly controversial games within its own fan base. Each fan’s preferences make for a different recommendation for where to start. This can make it even more frustrating to just start.
We’re going to break down which Fallout game to play first. This is a franchise where different groups will have different opinions. But we’re going to try and give a balanced view on the first Fallout game to play your average fresh player.
Which Fallout Game to Play First for Most Players
For most gamers who aren’t looking for any specific genre outside of just trying this huge franchise out, there’s a clear pick for which to play first. Fallout 3 is a natural jumping-on point for quite a few reasons.
While the world of Fallout is consistent across games, most of the stories are unrelated to Bethesda’s outings. There are developments with the various factions that survive but playing Fallout 3 first won’t spoil your enjoyment of anything else.
Fallout 3 is one of the most accessible titles for players too. It’s easily playable on modern hardware and won’t feel too dated for those who can’t look past a bit of aging.
Fallout 3 is the best pick for getting introduced to what Fallout now is. Some might say it’s not a great pick for games like classic Fallout, but it’s definitely representative of the series since.
Fallout 3’s Strengths as an Introduction
There are several reasons why Fallout 3 is the answer to which Fallout game to play first. One of the main ones though is that its gameplay is probably the best suited for first-time players.
The combat in Fallout 3 strikes the right balance between strategy and action. This game has shifted more to action than its predecessors. However, it retains a few elements of strategy through the V.A.Ts system.
Fallout 3 gives you free rein in exploring the wasteland. Once you’re through the opening you’re free to go out and explore. You can follow the story or just live your life.
Although, it doesn’t just leave you alone to fend for yourself. The game has enough subtle prompts and direction to encourage players to explore themselves without missing anything important.
When setting out, you’re immediately directed to a settlement. This settlement is the source of side quests and it introduces players to other areas of the game.
There’s even a questline in here with lasting consequences on the game world. This helps establish stakes. It also teaches the player that actions have consequences though, so you won’t shoot up an important character just to take some bottle caps.
Fallout 3 doesn’t hold the player’s hand, but it’s designed to ease them into free reign exploration.
One of the most fun aspects of the world of Fallout is discovering the various horrors lurking in the vaults. Fallout 3 has some of the series’ best vaults. If you’re coming in completely blind, it even pushes you to find one of these in the main plotline.
Little touches to the game like that help to ensure that even new players don’t miss the key details of the world. Older fans have understandable complaints about some parts of the game, but these benefits make it a better pick for which Fallout game to play first compared to other titles.
What to Play After Fallout 3?
After you’ve played Fallout 3, the rest of the series is fairly open. Although, there’s one game that’s probably the most natural fit.
Fallout New Vegas is widely regarded as the best in the series and for good reason. It improves on Fallout 3 in a lot of ways. It’s a game that manages to tell a great story while embracing some of the openness of Fallout 3.
New Vegas is a great pick for your second game. Fallout 4 has its merits too. It’s the most modern installment of the game that isn’t an online multiplayer experience. Both of these are a great fit for the next title after Fallout 3.
The Case for Fallout 1 & 2 First
If you’re wondering which Fallout game to play first, starting mid-way through the series might not sound optimal. It’s natural to wonder if you actually need to play the original two games before to get the most out of it. Or even if you need to play them at all.
Purists and fans of strategy games would definitely say to play them, but it’s a bit more complicated. These are two fantastic games with vivid worlds and a style of gameplay that’s greatly missed in the series.
In terms of authenticity in the game’s worlds, a game from the 90s scores higher than the newer installments for plenty of fans. However, while impressive they have aged.
The original two Fallout games were published by Interplay Entertainment, pinioning a retrofuturist world set after a nuclear apocalypse. They were limited by hardware at the time though.
These games have a great system for turn-based combat. There also played with an isometric view. These are strengths of the original games to their fans, but they’re vastly different from what the series would later adopt.
They’re also much older games. There is an argument to be made that the limited graphics have held up better than Bethesda’s early attempts at the series. Although, it isn’t a perfect fit for which Fallout game to play first unless you’re specifically a fan of more retro games in this style.
Why Most Players Shouldn’t Start Here
The newer games use the world established by the first few games. However, narratively they are a fresh start. They don’t require knowledge of the origins to get started. You don’t lose too much context by skipping them.
They’re not the best starting point for a general player today. The first two titles are pretty far removed from the current series in gameplay, graphics, and even the feel of the story in places.
While good experiences, most players won’t miss much if they wait for the original two games. If you are a fan of that style of game though, these are fantastic entries. There’s a reason the IP didn’t die out with its original run, these games are something special.
They are great games to come back to later, especially if you enjoy the world of Fallout and want to see the purer original version.
New Vegas – The Game to Play If You’re Only Playing One
Fallout 3 is the perfect starting point for most, but what if you’re only doing a single title? If that’s the case then New Vegas is not to be missed. This is widely held up as the highlight of the more modern games and it’s not one to miss.
While published by Bethesda, this title was developed by Obsidian. The game uses the open-world gameplay style of Fallout 3. However, in some ways feels closer to the original titles.
New Vegas’ dev team included some who worked on the original run of titles. It also brings back some elements that were missing in Fallout 3. It can be a bit of a middle ground between the two types of Fallout
This game is set in what’s left of Las Vegas. It starts out with the player character ambushed and left for dead. Over the game, you’ll try and find your attacker. However, you’ll also be led on an adventure all over the wasteland.
The choices that you make are more meaningful here than in other titles. There are various factions to work with too. It’s a game that holds up to multiple play-throughs with a different style of character.
It’s important to keep in mind that Fallout 3 doesn’t directly lead into New Vegas or anything. Vegas is set later, but it’s only some references that really connect them. If you’re only playing one game, then it’s the one to play. If you’re in this for more than that though, it isn’t the best to start with.
Why New Vegas Should be Saved for Later
The characters and world of Fallout never feel better developed than in Fallout New Vegas. So why isn’t the game to play first? It would be like eating dessert at the start of a meal.
New Vegas makes a lot of little improvements on Fallout 3, like better iron sights and some crafting. These are quality of life changes that you’ll miss in Fallout 3. Similarly, you might be let down by the writing in other titles once you’ve played New Vegas.
Fallout New Vegas is probably the best in the series from Bethesda. While Fallout 3 is a great starting point, it’s fine to start here if you’re just looking for the highlights of the series. If you do though, keep in mind that future trips to the wasteland might not measure up to your first time around!
Fallout 4 – Which Fallout Game to Play First If You Only Play Recent Games
Fallout 4 is the most recent core game in the franchise. It follows up on Fallout 3 but isn’t a direct sequel in terms of plot. This game is set in a different area and doesn’t entirely follow on from the other game.
You can play this first with no knowledge of the rest of the series, but there are a few reasons why it’s not a great starting point.
The title does catch you up on the events of past games as you start out, but you’re not getting the full depth of the world here. You’re getting a briefer version so longer-term fans can get to the action quicker.
Fallout 4 features the same freedom of choice as in 3. The main story is a bit less traditional for Fallout though. This is a game that at times feels more concerned with dealing with sci-fi concepts like synthetic life than life in the wasteland. It’s a fun story with plenty of mystery, but it isn’t the best starting point.
There’s also a large section of the game devoted to building a base or settlement. This area has its fans, but its’ kind of out of place. If you’re looking for games like Cities Skylines, maybe that’s a plus. If that’s your goal then there are better games to play than Fallout though.
If you’re really limiting yourself to just modern hardware games, then Fallout 4 can work as which Fallout game to play first. However, it isn’t really the best jumping on point. You’ll have a nicer ride with the franchise in general if you save it for later.
Fallout 76 – The Best for Online-Only Players
The most recent game in the Fallout Series is controversial. When it first launched, players were pretty unhappy with it. They expected a full-on RPG instead of the online-only game they got. However, it has grown into something special.
Fallout 76 has become a pretty fun social online game. If you can look past its launch-period controversies, it has become a worthwhile entry into the series. People use the servers for role-playing and other unique types of play that make this a different type of Fallout game.
Fallout 76 has come a long way since its launch. If you’re open-minded, then it can be a fun experience. Some of the creative ways people play the game are great demonstrations of how much a good community around a game can save it.
This is a good starting point if you’re specifically looking for that online-only collaborative experience. Nothing else in the series offers that.
The downside to that though, is that nothing else in the series is like this. It isn’t particularly representative of Fallout, it’s more of its own thing. This isn’t a great starting point for most people since it doesn’t really give the Fallout experience.