Long-running franchises are always tricky for newer players. Especially the ones that have whole story lore behind them. Fallout is one of those franchises, and from the first game, it established a strong story and lore for the players to experience. The post-apocalyptic reality of the United States of America and its inhabitants are at the center of the Fallout story, and the lore behind it stems from over two hundred years. New players struggle with that notion, which makes them question what game they should start playing first. This article will discuss whether you need to play Fallout 3 or other games before Fallout 4.
You don’t have to play any Fallout games before starting Fallout 4. One of the biggest differences between Fallout 4 and its predecessors (besides graphics) is the story lore. Hardcore Fallout fans criticized Fallout 4 for being so different from previous titles in the franchise, including the story lore, which wasn’t consistent with Fallout 3, and Fallout: New Vegas. Fallout 4 has a short recollection of what it is about at the beginning of the game, so jumping into it first wouldn’t be that big of an issue. Of course, if you value the lore and story of games, you should consider Fallout 3 and other older games before Fallout 4.
We will discuss the Fallout franchise, its story, how important it is, and whether you really need to play previous games to understand the Fallout franchise. If you are interested in this topic, stay with us until the end of the article.
Fallout franchise and its lore
The first Fallout game was released in 1997 and, since then, established the franchise’s foundations. Of course, not everything, but the first Fallout presented us with what we can expect in the future of this franchise. The story of Fallout is set 84 years after the Great War, a conflict that lasted only two hours but destroyed everything in its wake.
The population was struggling, and the legend of Vaults, energy weapons, and strong main characters began the Fallout journey. Bethesda developed perks and a S.P.E.C.I.A.L. creation system in the first Fallout game, and it stayed that way until today.
Fallout 2 came out as a sequel in 1998, and besides the usual features, Fallout 2 brought us many features like new items and mechanics, but most importantly, it extended the game’s lore. New factions, Karma, and other features that we still have today, but most importantly, it continued eighty years after the last game and continues the story of Vault Dwellers’ direct descendant, who is the player character of the game.
Fallout 2 was already great, but the release of Fallout 3 brought the franchise to a 3D world, and it became popular worldwide. Fallout 3 was released in 2008, and it was an instant success. This time, the Fallout game is set 200 years after the great war on the East Coast of the United States of America – specifically, former Washington DC, now Capital Wasteland.
Fallout 3 follows Lone Wanderer, a teenager who grew up in Vault 101 with other dwellers, including his father, James. After his father’s mysterious departure from the Vault and consequent end of harmonic life, the 101 offered. The Lone Wanderer seeks his father’s whereabouts while trying to survive in the hostile post-apocalyptic terrain of Capital Wasteland. Of course, the East Coast of the Fallout franchise will be the main setting of future games, which takes us closer to the topic of this article.
We are left with one more game before Fallout 4, arguably the best game of the Fallout franchise, Fallout: New Vegas. If you thought that the role-playing aspect of the game is pronounced in previous games, you are wrong – Fallout: New Vegas brings “the whole thing” to a much higher level.
Despite similar issues during its release, mostly graphic ones, New Vegas became one of the best action role-playing games of all time. Fallout: New Vegas moved away from the East Coast of the United States and relocated to the deserts of Mojave Wastelands and the states of Nevada, California, Utah, and Arizona.
New Vegas is similar to Capital Wasteland because it’s rebuilt among the debris of the former city, this time Las Vegas. Of course, the story is set four years after the happenings of Fallout 3, but it doesn’t have or continue the story of previous installments.
Fallout 4 is set ten years after the events of Fallout 3, and on East Coast as well, but this time in The Commonwealth, a geo-region that covers most of the Massachusetts state. The East Coast is once again present in the Fallout game, which can be crucial in answering this article’s question.
Do you need to play previous games before Fallout 4?
Now that we determined where each Fallout game was set in Fallout Universe, we can determine and answer the main question of this article. If you’re new to the Fallout franchise, you won’t have to play previous games to Fallout 4.
The older Fallout games share a lot in common but mostly do not continue the previous game’s storyline, except Fallout and Fallout 2.
Fallout 3 is set in Capital Wasteland, former Washington DC, and the story spreads to the states of Virginia and Pennsylvania. Of course, Fallout 4’s setting is fairly close to Capital Wasteland and can lead to the belief that people should start with previous games. However, that isn’t the case here.
Nevertheless, besides the setting, Fallout 4 has some connection to Fallout 3, particularly a side quest called The Replicated Man. The story behind this sidequest in Fallout 3 shares many similarities to Fallout 4’s story and its elements – the question of humanity and how far a human will go for scientific achievements and the sentient machines that can feel emotions.
Essentially, Fallout 4’s outlook on post-humanism is teased in The Replicated Man sidequest, where an unidentified humanoid robot escapes his creator and hides in the depth of Capital Wasteland.
With that being said, apart from that clue, Fallout 4 doesn’t have any major connections to previous games – the setting, story, and even gameplay are quite different from the closest “relative” in the franchise, Fallout 3.
Fallout 4 even has a whole cutscene at the beginning of the game, telling players what Fallout is all about. The cutscene will tell you the essential things about Fallout Universe before starting Fallout 4.
But there is a catch. What makes Fallout games so appealing to the fans are its dialogues and role-play aspects of the game. The lore of the post-apocalyptic United States and how everything changed after the Great War is the main driving force of the franchise. The politics behind different people and factions that procured new “species” are Fallout’s most substantial aspects.
Yes, some game mechanics are unique only to Fallout, but its storytelling and the lore make this franchise truly unique, hence Fallout: New Vegas being the best game of the franchise. Objectively, you don’t have to play any Fallout game before Fallout 4. Still, as a new player, it would be good to play older games to understand the mechanics behind Karma, the VATS system, and other unique aspects that Fallout 4 doesn’t have.
In the end, it’s all optional, and keep in mind that you won’t make a mistake if you go in Fallout 4 blind – the game is vastly different than previous installments.
Are Fallout games connected?
With all beings said, Fallout games mostly aren’t connected. The first two Fallout games of the franchise are connected storywise, despite being in different regions of the United States.
The 3D era of Fallout games brought us Fallout 3, which is set in Capital Wasteland and tells the story of the Lone Wanderer, a new character we haven’t seen before in the franchise.
Fallout: New Vegas moves away from the East Coast and brings us the tales and journey of The Courier throughout the Mojave Desert and various places surrounding New Vegas. The story is separate from previous installments and doesn’t have anything to do with the story of Fallout 3.
Finally, Fallout 4 is the most separate and different game from the rest of the franchise, including the story and setting. The game doesn’t have any connections to previous games except the teaser we saw in one sidequest of Fallout 3, and the whole storytelling system is vastly different from previous installments.
In conclusion, Fallout 4 is the “least” Fallout game of the franchise, which is good and bad, according to fans, and the only connection to previous games is the callbacks and easter eggs developers hid all around The Commonwealth.
Fallout 4 is good for the new players introduced to the franchise, and one doesn’t need to play previous games to understand the franchise. But story buffs, lore lovers, and the will to fundamentally understand the Fallout franchise will motivate new players to actually play older installments.