Fallout Game History and Chronology

The Fallout franchise can be easily identified by nearly every gamer around from something as small as a mere screenshot. The post-apocalyptic setting combined with the intricately woven backstory and lore creates a standout image that leaves the viewer certain of said screenshot’s origin.

The gameplay of this franchise has changed between each iteration of the series. Fallout 1 and 2 gave the player a top-down view of the map, similar to the earlier Grand Theft Auto titles.

This decision was likely made due to the popularity of such games at the time and also due to the limitations of video graphics in this era.

Fallout 3 and onward, however, gave the player the option to play in either 3rd or 1st person, giving you the ability to switch between the two camera angles depending on the situation presented to the player.

However, no matter the graphical approach taken by the design team, some elements of the gameplay have always been a staple of the Fallout franchise.

For instance, the general basis of each game is to explore the wasteland, picking up quests, stories, and artifacts along the way, with each different item, collected being entered into your character’s personal inventory. This inventory is then managed from your Pip-Boy.

This is but one example of the many key threads which run through this franchise, something which is rather impressive when you consider that the Fallout I.P. has been in the hands of 3 different studios over its lifetime.

The timeline and history of both the in-game world of Fallout and the IRL history of said franchises development have their own personal bumps in the road as it were and therefore this article will take a quick look at not only the history of these two sides of the Fallout genesis but also look at this development over time.

If, like me, you fancy yourself a Fallout superfan, this guide might just be for you. So, let’s get started!

(Note: These titles appear in chronological order of IRL release)

Fallout 1


Fallout 1, or, to give its full title, Fallout: A post-nuclear Role-Playing Game, began its life as a simple concept by the creator of the franchise, Tim Cain, as early as 1994, with the final game being launched in 1997. Cain’s initial vision was to produce a true role-playing game wherein the player.

Therefore the character could do anything and everything they wanted to, allowing these gamers to approach the game in their own way, building unique characters for every walkthrough.

This title places the player into the now oh so familiar post-apocalyptic wasteland setting the Fallout franchise is so well known for, for the very first time. Taking place in the year 2161, 84 years after the Great War, which decimated the global population, Fallout launches the gamer into Vault 13, your character’s home.

Soon after arriving in your new RPG characters skin and home, however, the game then presents to you the central plot point of the game, that being the vault’s broken water chip, a piece of equipment responsible for the water recycling and pumping machinery which keeps all of the residents of Vault 13 alive.

Therefore, the protagonist (you) is brought in to see the vault’s overseer, who tasks the Vault Dweller with finding a replacement chip somewhere out there in the wasteland.

With a plot and general feel for the game already planned out, Tim Cain managed to get approval from his company, Interplay Productions to develop the title. However, it would be classed as a ‘low-budget’ entity and thus pushed out to the more external, role-playing game division of said company.

However, even being labeled a low-budget title didn’t stop the project from costing the studio $3 million, a hefty sum for a games development at the time.

The original plan for the development of this title was to use the G.U.R.P.S. system, developed by Steve Jackson Games, however, after Interplay decided to drop G.U.R.P.S. in early 1997, the developer decided to create their own system, especially for the game, a system so special in fact, they named it SPECIAL.

This system would then see use in every single following Fallout title as a system to organise the skills, attributes, and available perks which influence the way the game is played.

Combat in this initial iteration of the franchise was turn-based, working via an A.P. or action point system which can be bolstered throughout the game via numerous means of progression.

Upon launching the title, Fallout 1 became an instant hit and, therefore, a financial success for the company, selling over 600’000 units worldwide in the opening quarter.

This title was also awarded RPG game of the year by both GameStop and Computer Games Magazine, being praised for its open-ended gameplay, combat, and character systems which revolutionised the genre at the time of release.

It is also important to mention that Fallout 1 is by all interpretations, a spiritual, if not a direct successor of the game Wasteland. This game was developed by Interplay and published by Electronic Arts (E.A.) at the beginning of 1988, the studio’s first foray into the world of the post-apocalyptic.

Initially, the two companies wished to produce two sequels to this title. However, after E.A. decided to cancel Fountain of Dreams (a direct sequel), Interplay followed suit and soon cancelled their title, Meantime. This groundwork and the established concept was therefore extrapolated into the genesis of the Fallout franchise.

Fallout 2

Fallout 2

Fallout 2: A Post-Apocalyptic Role-Playing Game was released exclusively for P.C. under its very literal name in September of 1998. This direct sequel was developed fully by the same Role-Playing Game department of Interplay which developed the first Fallout games.

However, due to the success and admiration the original title received, this department was able to transform into a fully-fledged design company in its own right. The final product was then published by the parent company, Interplay Entertainment.

An interesting fact about the development of Fallout 2 is the sheer amount of confidence Interplay Entertainment had in its I.P.

In an interview for Retro Gamer, the founder of Interplay talked about how Fallout 2 was already in production, under the leadership of Tim Cain even before the release and consequent success of Fallout 1.

However, the official announcement of the games coming was made by Mr Cain in a Usenet posting dated back to December of 1997.

What sets this sequel apart from its predecessor, is not the overall gameplay mechanics or the graphics, as these were mostly the same as the previous iteration, instead, this game featured a much wider overall world and storyline thus resulting in a far more elaborate and complicated world for the player to explore.

This storyline continued on from where Fallout 1 left off, placing the player 80 years after the end of the first title, in the body of the Vault Dweller’s grandchild, a total of 164 years post the Great War.

This grandchild is known as the Chosen One throughout the game and must make their way through the wasteland in order to, once again, save the lives of their tribe from the nearby settlement of Arroyo, which is inhabited by the outcasts and freaks of the old Vault 13.

After you save your tribe, the Chosen One’s tribe is then conquered by the Enclave, a military-like militia claiming to have the power of the U.S. Government, forcing the player to fight for their faction’s lives once again.

When compared to the first installment of the franchise, this iteration slightly falls short of the mark for many, especially if one solely looks at the sales figures. After selling 600’000 copies with Fallout 1, Fallout 2 only managed a rough 246’000 copies worldwide and received a more limited critical response.

Whilst the critics once again reported wonderment with regard to the storyline and gameplay, they also pointed to the number of bugs within the game and the lack of improvements made to previously noted issues thus attracting criticism, albeit mild, from numerous gaming entities.

Here’s our complete guide with Fallout 2 History and an Overview of the Game.

Fallout 3

Fallout 3

Make way for the big dogs. Fallout 3 was the first title launched after Interplay sold the I.P. for Fallout to fellow games developer Bethesda Softworks. The reasons for the sale of their most famous and profitable I.P. are numerous.

First of all, by the time Fallout 2 was published in 1998, the company was already in a poor predicament, financially speaking. In fact, the company was already in bankruptcy court.

The losses which pushed this company into these court proceedings continued under the leadership of Brian Fargo most likely due to poor management decisions, increased competition, poor returns from their sports division, and a lack of titles published for consoles.

To make their way out of this whole, the company began seeking investment and managed to score a $35 million cash injection from Paris-based company, Titus Software in exchange for a percentage share in Interplay Entertainment.

Not long after this injection, Titus Software moved further and completed their acquisition of Interplay Entertainment via purchasing a controlling interest in the outfit.

This acquisition was then followed by the stepping down of Brian Fargo, making way for new C.E.O. Herve Caen who made it his task to save the company and cut out all the deadwood.

However, Caen was either just not good enough or the death notice for Interplay Entertainment was already written as soon after his appointment, Titus Software announced their own bankruptcy amidst civil suits from publishers such as Vivendi Universal Games and others back in 2005.

This led the company to relinquish control of Interplay Entertainment, placing the Fallout developer back in the hands of bankruptcy court once again. At this point, a decision was made. To pay off their creditors, the company would sadly have to sell the I.P. for Fallout to Bethesda Softworks in 2007.

Not long after this I.P. acquisition, Bethesda Softworks produced the new and shiny Fallout 3, released in 2008. This title was the first in the series to incorporate 3D graphics and real-time combat, leaving behind the old, turn-based, 2D platform fans had come to love.

This change was welcomed by many however the Bethesda made a shrewd decision to also include a combat system named V.A.T.S. or Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System.

This mechanic can still be found in Fallout games today, allowing the player to freeze time and select point of contact on their foes which upon completion of said selection will be fired upon with a percentage chance of striking true.

This mechanic would therefore work wonders in appeasing fans of the first two games’ turn-based combat structure.

This edition of the franchise would also follow a very familiar formula to that of the previous entries. In 2277, 36 years post Fallout 2, the main character, known as the Lone Wanderer, must adventure out into the wasteland once again in order to find your recently missing father.

It is along this journey that the player learns of their father’s mission, to purify all the water in the Tidal Basin and eventually, the whole of the Potamic River. To do this, you must help your father retrieve what is known as a G.E.C.K. or Garden of Eden Creation Kit.

This piece of technology was designed by Vault-Tec and is essential to your father’s plans. Once this technology is retrieved, the player must get the help of the Brotherhood of Steele in order to fight your way through droves of enclave soldiers, resulting in the ultimate success of your father’s vision.

Fallout 3 seemed a return to form for the franchise, with many critics touting the games boundary-pushing brilliance, in a similar manner to that of Fallout 1s contribution to the RPG market. This acclaim, therefore, brought with it myriad Game of the Year awards.

These reports seemed to harmonise with sales figures also with the title shipping more than 5 million copies in the first week of sales. An amazing figure, but we must also consider the difference in popularity of gaming consoles, etc., when we compare these figures to those posted by the two previous iterations.

This title would bring in even more profit for Bethesda in the form of heavily purchased expansion packs which cost the gamer extra per installment. In total, the publisher released 5 DLCs beginning in 2009 with Project Anchorage.

Continue reading related Fallout 3 guides:

Fallout New Vegas


Fallout New Vegas is a title that rather sits outside on its own when the whole family gets together. You see, it was developed under licence by Obsidian Entertainment at the behest of Bethesda Softworks.

This title, whilst new in many ways, carried over a lot of the same mechanics, graphics and user interface developed for Fallout 3, in fact, it basically just copied and pasted the base elements of three and placed the story in the Mojave Desert instead of Washington DC. 

The plot of this particular entry in the Fallout universe, however, does have some stark differences when compared to the previous games.

First of all, the player does not start in a vault, and they do not really start with any backstory, the only thing you learn via the opening exposition dump is that you’re a courier who was supposed to deliver an important package. Before being robbed and shot in the head for said package, that is.

Once you get patched up, the game directs you from the starter town of Goodsprings, all the way to the New Vegas strip, wherein you may choose how exactly you wish to get your own back on the man who scorned you.

In the midst of this revenge fuelled journey across the Mojave, the player learns about the three warring main factions in the game, the N.C.R. who model themselves to a democratic republic, similar to the power of the old-world United States.

The Caesar’s Legion, who model themselves after the Roman Empire, complete with crucifixions and everything and the genius that is Mr House, founder of RobCo Industries and sole ruler of the New Vegas strip.

Throughout the courier’s journey, you are presented with decisions that impact the course of the game’s storyline in many ways, especially regarding the faction you end up siding with.

With all this in mind, there are many (including myself) who point to Fallout New Vegas as not only being the best game in the franchise as a whole but also as one of the best games ever made, especially within the RPG genre.

Originally published in 2010, the scope and ability to tell an amazing story displayed by the writers so impressed the gaming audience that ever since rumours of a sequel have been spread around the modern-day watering holes of Reddit and dedicated forums, most of them with little validity, probably in the hopes that speaking said rumours may bring this sequel into reality.

In reality, whilst the developers over at Obsidian mostly came from the now-dead Interplay Entertainment and therefore may have worked on the original Fallout games, these developers were not given much time for the game’s development.

Under a tight schedule and budget, this tiny team actually managed to push out the game within an 18-month window, start to finish, a masterclass in time management and riding your employees to the brink of energy drink-fuelled heart attacks if I ever did see, but a job well-done none the less.

It was this tight window and constantly shifting expectations inflicted upon Obsidian by Bethesda which started to sour the relationship between the two companies, a bond which would then be further tested and maybe even broken by the Metacritic scandal following the game’s release.

This scandal relates to the payment agreement between Obsidian and Bethesda. The two companies agreed a deal at the outset of one straight payment for the title, regardless of popularity or success. The only additional bonus Obsidian could receive would come if the game scored 85 or above on Metacritic.

According to Obsidian’s Chris Avellone, despite the success and obvious popularity of New Vegas, Bethesda refused to pay Obsidian their rating bonus due to scoring 84% with Metacritic, not the agreed-upon 85%.

This fact therefore disgruntled the smaller studio considering the extra work and time pressure they accepted throughout development due to the pressure of Bethesda. These are but a few of the issues between the two companies, thus souring their relationship, which could possibly explain the lack of a Fallout New Vegas sequel.

Fallout 4

Fallout 4

This fourth installment in the Fallout franchise sees Bethesda Softworks take the reigns again for this release for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and higher-end gaming P.C.s.

This Action Role-Playing game, released in November of 2015 takes place, for the prologue anyway in the year 2077 until, for plot reasons, your character is transported via cryo-sleep to the year 2287, exactly ten years after the events of Fallout 3. 

The engine for this title was another development and feather in the cap for Bethesda at launch, with many critics and gamers alike acclaiming the bright crips contrasts and beautiful scenery, combined with gunplay that was both not great but also a welcome change to the gunplay of old.

This engine, dubbed the ‘Creation Engine’ would also be responsible for the first-ever addition within a Fallout game, of fully customisable bases in the form of settlements.

These areas in the world function as semi-sandbox like environments wherein the player can let their creativity flow, extending the playability and long-term longevity of the game indefinitely after launch.

The plot for Fallout 4, technically the fifth iteration in the franchise, is both similar and foreign to those familiar with the overall franchise. The game beings with the creation of the main character in their home in Sanctuary Hills in October of 2077, the day the nukes fell.

After getting acquainted with the fact that you already have a spouse and child to look after, there is a nuclear strike alert, informing all residents to take shelter in their Vault-Tec bunkers.

Being the frightened and obedient citizens they are, your family hightails it off into the vault just before one of the first bombs drop, destroying Boston right in front of your eyes.

The character is then ushered further into the vault by Vault-Tec personnel and is instructed to enter a decontamination pod in order to progress further underground.

But, as many of you wastelanders may have guessed, all is not as it seems with Vault-Tec (you know, like always), and these chambers are actually cryostasis chambers, placing yourself and your family in suspended sleep for decades.

After a quick 210 year nap, you wake at first to find your spouse murdered and your child is taken and secondly to chase after the said kidnapper. This, therefore, begins the Sole Survivors long journey to find their son and exact revenge on those who killed their spouse.

Along the way, the player meets several factions hellbent on destroying one another and in a very similar style to Fallout New Vegas, the player must choose aside in order to advance the story and find your son Shaun. 

With all of this taken into consideration, it is no surprise that Fallout 4 takes the top spot in terms of profitability in the franchise, the game managed to move $750 million worth of copies within the first 24hrs of launch, receiving many awards and positive reviews from critics and organisations around the world.

It was also clear in this game that Bethesda had learned from past iteration in terms of the profitability of DLCs as they managed to create and sell 6 different expansions for this title alone, all the while developing the final game on this list.

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Fallout 76

Fallout 76

Did somebody say flop? No, not me. Yes, Fallout 76 the biggest flop from a major studio in recent memory is the most recent iteration of this franchise and therefore the final game on this extensive list. 

Fallout 76 is the first and possibly the last attempt that Bethesda has/will make at the online action role-playing genre. Released in November 2018 as a prequel to the entire series at large, taking place a mere 25 years after the Great War. 

The ultimate storyline of this iteration is not as important to the general perception or success of the game as Bethesda themselves would happily admit, they focused more on the online, Co-op playability of the game rather than any intensely detailed storyline.

I mean, this was quite obvious to any of us who actually played the game at launch, only to find nearly next to no N.P.C.s in the open-world game, a huge departure from the story and therefore dialogue-driven gaming experience Fallout originally generated acclaim for.

Other issues with the game reported to Bethesda included numerous technical issues, the general bloated feeling of the gameplay and the almost total lack of purpose to be found in the game.

Some critics would also point out that the gameplay in Fallout 76 wasn’t actually that bad when compared to Fallout 4, stating that said gunplay mechanics were perfectly okay in Fallout 4 because the speed and fluidity of said gunplay is not really that important in a story-driven RPG, however, in an online shooter wherein players are sort of pitted against one another, this sluggishness becomes a real grind. 

In response to all of these criticisms, Bethesda where very quick to respond, promising updates, continued support, and extra content in order to fix the game to the point where players could happily while away their free time.

However, for some, this blatant cash grab from a company not too popular with gamers already was the final straw for some, with many losing interest in this installment entirely regardless of patches or free content.

That being said, however, recently, due to many, many patches and extra content, the narrative surrounding the overall game has started to change with many Bethesda fans jumping back on board and having a great time. Sadly, I cannot say I am one of them.

Fallout Game History and Chronology FAQs

Question: How did Fallout Happen?

Answer: A conflict between the Americans and the Peoples Republic of China over limited resources began in 2066.

This Sino-American war lasted a total of ten years before the official start of the Great War in 2077 which lasted a total of four minutes. The war began and ended with the firing of nuclear weapons, firstly by China and then in retaliation from America.

Question: Why did Bethesda sue Interplay Entertainment?

Answer: After the release of Fallout 3 in 2009, Interplay, the original publishers of the Fallout decided to reissue the original Fallout games in a triple pack called Fallout: Trilogy.

The new licence holders did not like this as they believed the similar names between the two products would lead to confusion. Therefore, Bethesda decided to sue Interplay only for them to deny the charge and make a countersuit of their own.

Question: Will there be a Fallout 5?

Answer: Whilst Bethesda has confirmed that Fallout 5 is certainly on the cards and most definitely a future endeavour they intend to explore, they have also stated that this game will almost certainly not be seen for a very long time yet.

This may be because of the Fallout teams continued focus on Fallout 76 or simply because of the time it takes to develop games of this magnitude these days.

Especially when one considers the advent of the next generation of gaming machines forcing each developer to truly step up their collective games.

Another and probably most likely reason for this delay could be the companies overall focus on the next Elder Scrolls game, an official announcement for which has already been made.

Wrapping Up

So, there you have it, a complete history of the Fallout franchise, both the troubled backstory of the developer companies and the slightly more troubled history of the in-game world of Fallout 1 all the way to Fallout 76.

If this guide has given you the urge to explore the totality of the Fallout franchise once again from the very beginning, good luck and godspeed, dear wanderer!

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