We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

The ultimate Fallout guide to getting started with the RPG series

This guide will get you up to speed on the RPG series, where you can buy the best Fallout games, and tips on how to start your adventure.

Fallout guide: A Brotherhood of Steel helmet lying on the ground overlooking a post-apocalyptic Boston.

It’s official. The Fallout TV show on Amazon Prime is a hit with critics and fans alike, with a certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 85% audience score at the time of writing. Not too shabby for a videogame adaptation set in a violent post-apocalyptic world where former Vault dwellers must adapt to their new, irradiated surroundings.

Some of those who binge-watched Fallout season 1 will likely already be fans of the RPG games. We certainly enjoyed it, as you can see in our Fallout show review. However, if you are as new to this explosive series as a Vault Dweller is to the surface, welcome! It’s great to have you here. Our comprehensive Fallout guide will give you the lowdown on all the games so far, which one you should start with, and tips for exploring post-apocalyptic America.

Fallout guide: a Vault Dweller holding onto a Brotherhood of Steel helmet.

Every Fallout game in order

There are nine Fallout games in total, eight of which are playable on PC in 2024. This includes the original 2D isometric RPGs published by Interplay Entertainment and four 3D first-person RPGs published by Bethesda Softworks. Here is every Fallout game in order of release:

  • Fallout (1997)
  • Fallout 2 (1998)
  • Fallout Tactics (2001)
  • Fallout Brotherhood of Steel (2004)
  • Fallout 3 (2008)
  • Fallout New Vegas (2010)
  • Fallout 4 (2015)
  • Fallout Shelter (2015)
  • Fallout 76 (2018)

The first two mainline games were originally developed in 1997 and 1998 by Black Isle Studios and published by Interplay Entertainment. As spiritual successors to Wasteland, they’re isometric role-playing games that blend real-time and turn-based mechanics. The first two games introduced the series’ signature VATS system, which allows Vault Dwellers to target specific spots on an enemy. The original games also introduced the SPECIAL character creation system that allows you to customize your Vault Dweller with ease, but we’ll delve further into this later on.

After Bethesda acquired the rights to develop future Fallout games in 2004, the next mainline entry was Fallout 3 in 2008, which reimagined the series as a first-person RPG, similar to the developer’s Elder Scrolls games. It kept everything else, however, including the iconic Vault Boy mascot and the ever-important VATS mechanics. The much-beloved spinoff – Fallout New Vegas – was then released in 2010 by Obsidian Entertainment. There have been two more Bethesda entries since then: Fallout 4 in 2015 and the MMORPG Fallout 76 in 2018. There is also a VR game port of Fallout 4, but honestly, it’s not worth the hassle.

Two other spinoffs are available to play right now. Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel is similar to the isometric RPGs from the 1990s but with a more linear story and a focus on tactical combat rather than exploration. Fallout Shelter is a free-to-play management game where you build the best Vault and keep your inhabitants safe from bandits, Super Mutants, and other terrible horrors lurking outside. The only game that’s not playable on PC is Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, as this was exclusive to PlayStation 2 and Xbox consoles. It wasn’t all that good, so you’re not missing much.

Fallout guide: a screenshot from Fallout 1 where the player is in a cave with their Pipboy open.

What is the best Fallout game to start with?

Just because we have a list of the best Fallout games doesn’t mean that you should necessarily start with our choice. The best entry game for newcomers is a question long argued across the Fallout fandom: which game should new players start with? Heck, merely asking this in the office caused a rift. Nobody on the internet can quite agree on the best order to play them in either. That said, the show isn’t based on any one particular game in the series, as it’s an entirely new narrative with never-before-seen characters, so you’ll be getting a fresh experience regardless of which game you start with.

Let’s begin with the argument for the first-ever Fallout, released way back in 1997. While it isn’t available for consoles and is a little slower-paced than the newer RPGs, the recent success of Baldur’s Gate 3 suggests modern gamers might be surprisingly receptive to it. If you’re feeling patient and don’t mind the older visual style, it’s a decent place to start. Once you finish the first, Fallout 2 feels like a natural next step, as it refines the gameplay, features some callbacks to the first, and is often regarded as the series’ peak among old-school fans.

Fallout guide: a camp in Fallout 76 built by a former Vault 76 resident.

If you want something faster-paced and more modern, you should look at nothing earlier than Fallout 3. With the Bethesda-developed games, it also comes down to your gaming habits. If you love building stuff in Minecraft, you’ll enjoy Fallout 4’s crafting a lot; plus, it’s the latest mainline entry, meaning it boasts the most up-to-date controls and visuals.

We highly recommend you experiment with the best Fallout 4 mods and mess around with the Fallout 4 console commands to extend your playtime considerably. We recently went back into the Commonwealth to figure out what the best Fallout 4 builds are and which names Codsworth can pronounce.

Fallout 76 continues this template but with added MMO elements. Your mileage may vary here depending on whether you prefer single-player over multiplayer. The game constantly gets updates, including a new region that’s being tested on the public test servers called Skyline.

Fallout guide: talking to a man about food in Fallout New Vegas.

If you’d prefer an FPS game over a turn-based RPG, I’d recommend starting with Fallout 3 or Fallout New Vegas. Fallout 3 is the first of the Bethesda-developed games, making it a fairly natural place to begin that includes only passing references to its predecessors. That said, it is a bit broken for some, so here’s how to fix Fallout 3 if you run into any problems. Once you do, there are a bunch of Fallout 3 mods you can install to liven up the experience a little.

If you only want to play the very best Fallout game of the lot, I’d recommend going with New Vegas. Why? It boasts some of the series’ strongest writing, characters, and questlines, plus it’s a far easier game to get into than Fallout 1 and 2.

I think booting up some of the best Fallout New Vegas mods is the way to go if you want to experience the Fallout universe at its peak, with amazing-looking texture packs and bug fixes. Heck, someone even modded in the Vault 33 Suits from the TV show, which, given how close geographically the two are set, absolutely fits with the more Western game vibe.

Fallout guide: the Pipboy from Fallout 3 showing the player's health and broken limbs.

Essential Fallout tips for beginners

Now that you’ve chosen your first Fallout game, we figured we’d impart some words of wisdom. These are fairly universal tips for every game in the series, though they’re perhaps most relevant to the Bethesda RPGs.

At the beginning of every Fallout game, you can distribute your SPECIAL stats. This is an acronym of the individual stats: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. The more points you put into any one stat at the beginning, the better at that skill you’ll be.

Fallout guide: a Vault Dweller is talking to a local merchant about their Iguana Bits.

Which SPECIAL stats you invest in largely depends on what kind of play style you want to try. Those aiming to be expert hackers with a witty charm may want to go with high Charisma and Intelligence, while those who want to carry lots of stuff and punch things should take high Strength and Endurance. Some less obvious bonuses include additional action points (AP) per round if you have higher Agility, while Perception allows you to shoot at targets from further away or detect danger around you.

Be sure to read every skill and perk you have access to at the beginning, as they can help you survive or find valuable loot. These do change between each game, but there are common themes. First Aid and Doctor, later combined into Medicine, increase the power of healing items. Others, such as Lockpick, grant you access to forbidden treasures, while Sneak helps you get by enemies undetected.

Fallout guide: the player is using the VATS system to bring up every body limb of the Enclave Soldier ahead of them.

If you’re playing a Fallout game for the first time and want to survive more than five minutes, we recommend at least taking the Small Guns skill or the Pistol perk in later games unless you want to stick with a melee build.

Another key thing to master is VATS, which stands for Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System. This is your best friend in every Fallout game, allowing you to pick an enemy limb to target. If your opponent is holding a weapon, you can disarm them by firing at their hand. Enemies who are quick on their feet are generally vulnerable to shots to the legs, while good old-fashioned headshots tend to be the quickest way to topple human foes.

Fallout guide: a player is shooting at two police droids in Fallout New Vegas.

Once you’re out of the starting game area (usually a Vault), you’re free to explore just about anywhere. Key places to look for include small settlements and caves. These are likely to be booby-trapped, so keep your wits about you (a high Perception skill also helps here).

Finally – and we can’t stress this last tip enough – be sure to save often and keep multiple files if possible. No matter which Fallout game you play, there will be instances where a Super Mutant blows you up with a nuclear warhead or a Deathclaw emerges from the bushes and slices you up like a glazed ham.

Fallout guide: several people in costume posing for a photo in Fallout 76.

How do I buy the Fallout games?

If you’re playing on PC, several stores have the Fallout series on offer. However, not all of them have every single game available for purchase. Both Steam and the Microsoft Store have all eight games, while GOG and the Epic Games Store have all but Fallout 76 and Fallout Shelter. They are regularly available at a hefty discount, and some have previously been free for a limited time on the EGS.

Only the Bethesda-published games are available for the Xbox Series consoles, with Fallout 3, New Vegas, and 4 being available via backward compatibility. Only Fallout 4, 76, and Shelter are available for both PS4 and PS5. Fallout 3 and New Vegas are currently available for streaming as part of the Classics Catalogue for PlayStation Plus premium subscribers. As for Nintendo Switch, the only game there is Fallout Shelter.

Fallout guide: a Synth sleuth walking the dark streets in Fallout 4.

Are the Fallout games on Game Pass?

Several Fallout games are included in the Game Pass subscription, including Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, and Fallout 4. The best part is that the Game Pass versions of Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas include all their respective DLC.

Those wishing to try Fallout 76 should know that Fallout 1st is a subscription service offering a Private World, unlimited storage, a moveable fast travel point, bonus premium currency per month, and a handful of outfits, icons, and emotes.

It’ll be a while before the Fallout 5 release date rolls around, so you’ve got plenty of time to catch up with the series and explore some of the best apocalypse games ever made.