(Before we get started here, I haven't actually played ALL the Fallout games, which is why Fallout Tactics, Brotherhood of Steel, Van Buren, and Fallout 4 don't show up here.)
Systems I Played Them On: PC (1 and 2), XBox 360 (also
Playstation 3 and PC - 3 and NV), Android (Shelter)
Release Dates: 1998, 1999, 2008, 2010, 2015
Developers: Black Isle Studios (1 and 2), Bethesda Game Studios (3) and Obsidian Entertainment (NV), Behaviour Interactive (Shelter)
Ppublishers: Interplay Entertainment (1 and 2), Bethesda Softworks
Best Football Cards I Pulled in All those Years: 1998 UD Choice Peyton Manning DN, honestly dunno if I bought any in '99, 2008 Leaf Rookies & Stars Longevity Matt Ryan AUTO RC, 2010 Topps Chrome C.J. Spiller AUTO, didn't buy any in 2015.
Cool Heavy Metal Albums From Those Years: The Chemical Wedding by Bruce Dickinson (98), Bigger Than the Devil by S.O.D. (99), Bloody Pit of Horror by GWAR (2010), and The Book of Souls by Iron Maiden (2015)
My introduction to the Fallout series was back around late 2000 or maybe 2001, when I stopped by the local Walmart for whatever it was I was headed there for, and made the usual stop by the electronics section to gaze longingly at things I couldn't afford. I would always make a point to hit up the various cheapo discount sections they had prior to the existence of the $5 DVD bin, and occasionally, I'd get lucky, like that time I got a cassette copy of See You in Hell by Grim Reaper for like four bucks. Anyway, they had a CD-ROM two-pack with both Fallout and Fallout 2 in it for ten bucks, and oh sweet Jesus, the system requirements were right in the sweet spot of what my already-miserably-outdated Micron PC could handle. (366 MHz was probably decent in 1999, though) I knew jack shit about PC gaming and was going in completely blind as far as what the Fallouts were about, but it was two games for ten dollars. And now that I think about it, I bought Fallout 3 with an Amazon gift card and New Vegas was a gift from my wife, so between a couple DLCs and that time I bought some lunchboxes on Fallout Shelter, I think my total expenditures on all of these are still under twenty bucks. Hopefully, this streak of luck continues, and I can find an XBox One with a copy of Fallout 4 stashed behind a dumpster or something. A boy can dream, I guess.
THE CASE FOR: Really above all else, it's the world they built for these things. Post-Nuclear apocalyptic future stuff has always been a cool place to go for your science fiction of a fantastical nature, and throwing that extra little curve of an alternate timeline where 2070s America was basically 1950s America with robots makes it even better. Especially now in these times when (white) people seem to be longing to a return to that idyllic time that never existed, when Leave it to Beaver reruns kind of glossed over the way the cops were all Klansmen and people walked around just assume half the world could get blown to smithereens any day now. Come to think of it, the 2010s are a lot like the 1950s, just with smaller bombs. Huh. Anyway, Fallout sets you down inside a world where those innocent times got vaporized in a nuclear war with China, and even though it's been over a hundred years, (200 years, once Fallout 3 hits) mankind is still fucked, living just slightly better than Mad Max style barbarism, and even that is under threat from crazy-ass mutants and giant scorpions running around. Not to mention the folks that rode out Armageddon inside those squeaky-clean underground vaults coming to the surface to have to deal with all this bullshit, and the poor saps who ended up in one of the shady-ass experimental vaults instead. And there are just layers and layers of stuff like this, and it all works and fits together, and it's craaaazy. With the Fallout series, you've got a fully fleshed-out, lived-in universe going on that feels more like it's already existed for a while, as opposed to one that's being made up on the fly. And when you're talking role-playing games, if the world you've built isn't any good, you've got nothing.
(Which is not to say that's a "good" world, but it's one that's good to set a video game in.)
Another thing worth mentioning is how once the series made the jump to 3D, they resisted the urge to go full-on first-person shooter with it. I mean, it's still a lot of shooting done from a first-person perspective, and the turn-based thing was gone, but it's still more thinking than reflex, and the VATs targeting system restores some semblance of a turn-based combat system, even if you can only use that sparingly. Somehow, they managed to make a Fallout game out of Elder Scrolls: Oblivion while still making it feel like a Fallout game, probably owing to how absurdly strong the world they built for it is.
Also, I know it's a lot closer to a large scale digital pet than an actual video game, but Fallout Shelter is perfect and beautiful, so fuck you.
THE CASE AGAINST: I guess if I had to make a case against Fallouts 1 and 2, they'd mostly boil down to me being a dude who grew up on console games, who was not prepared for the way that PC games are a lot more likely to let you fail horribly and irrevocably with little to no warning. Kill the wrong dude or forget to pick up the right item and you could get stuck with no way out, and if you forgot to save (and save often, on multiple save files) you couldn't fix the damage you had done without losing hours of time you could have better spent looking at a tree or petting a cool dog or something. PC games didn't hold your dick for you the way the Super Nintendo did, and it cost me dearly on multiple occasions. Still though, that's probably not the game's fault. It's not you, Fallout 2, it's me.
As for the 3D Bethesda games, the main thing would be that both Fallout 3 and New Vegas are glitchy pieces of shit. Seriously. For a normal game, the signal that you need to stop playing is something like watery eyes or the realization that it's late, you have work the next day, and you haven't fed the cats yet. These two have a pretty definitive signal for when it's time to turn off the XBox, and that's when the screen freezes and the controller no longer responds to anything you do. Also, I never have completed Fallout 3's Head of State side quest, because the game simultaneously decided that I never actually picked up the poster of the Lincoln Memorial that's still in my inventory, and that Caleb Smith's home planet needed him, so he has disappeared without a trace. And they've had damn near a decade to make some sort of patch for some of this stuff by now, Jesus.
Get ready for a whole lotta this.
Also, Fallout 3 specifically suffers from the way that most of the game takes place in ghoul-infested underground tunnels. I mean, it makes sense, because in reality, an atomically destroyed metropolitan area would be hard to navigate on the surface, but it just turns way too much into a zombie survival horror game where everything looks the same. Then there's the ending, and I don't want to make with the spoilers and spoileriffically spoil the ending in a spoilerlicious fashion, so I'm gonna hide the next paragraph using the magic of CSS styles. So if you're using a version of Netscape Navigator from 1998, uhh, sorry for spoiling the game. (For the rest of you, just click and drag to select the text.)
Simply put, the ending of Fallout 3 sucks. The major climactic battle scene involves you just kind of walking behind Liberty Prime while he (it?) does all the actual activity, and there's no big boss for you to overcome at the end. I mean, theoretically, there's Colonel Autumn, but he's just a regular dude who's relatively lightly armed and probably goes down easier then some of the nameless lackeys that are with him. He's an afterthought. Fallout 1 had you take on the Master, horrifying mutant computer psychic thing, New Vegas had Legate Lanius, who was a gigantic dude in scary ass armor, and Fallout 2 had one of the most crazy overpowered villains ever, Frank Horrigan, who was basically twice as large and scarily-armored as Lanius. 3 just has a pushover in a trenchcoat, and a multiple choice ending where you gain nothing from the evil choice, the noble sacrifice still ends your game forever unless you bought the Broken Steel expansion, and it doesn't let you take the common sense option with Fawkes on your team. Come on now.
All this being said, I actually liked the modernized 3D games a lot better than the classic overhead view ones, and New Vegas in particular is a masterpiece that stands out above the rest, sort of like the way Red Dead Redemption relates to the Grand Theft Auto series. (although that may just be some sort of subconscious suggestion due to all the deserts and twangy Western music and whatnot?) Anyway, like I said earlier, I've never played Tactics or Brotherhood of Steel, and I pretty much can't afford the means to play Fallout 4 right now, but aside from those (And Wasteland, to which Fallout was kind of an unofficial sequel. Really need to get DOSBox working, you guys) there's never been a bad Fallout game, and that's why it's blown up all huge and you can find Vault Boy t-shirts at Walmart now.
Personal Memory: Friends, I have a confession to make. That part earlier, where i mentioned how Fallout 1 and 2 would let you get irreversibly stuck somewhere if you screwed up and didn't keep multiple save files? Yeah, that happened to me. Got to the military base and took out the Lieutenant, but killed the wrong mutant somewhere and didn't have the right key to the right door somewhere, so I couldn't actually get out of the building. So I saved the game, hoping to just come back later and figure it out. I saved it over my only previously existing save file, and after a few weeks of hitting the same dead ends, I realized that I had pretty much fatally screwed up, and I got pissed and just started playing Fallout 2, rather than start over. So yeah, I have never actually beaten the first Fallout game. I am a fraud. This has been a difficult confession to make, and my family and I would appreciate if you'd all respect our privacy as we hope to let the healing begin.
CURRENT RANKINGS, as of July 11, 2016.
1. Fallout: New Vegas (XBox 360, 2010)
2. Brütal Legend (XBox 360, 2009)
3. Mike Tyson’s Punch Out !! (NES, 1987)
4. Fallout 3 (XBox 360, 2008)
5. Fallout 2 (PC, 1998)
6. Fallout (PC, 1997)
7. Fallout Shelter (Android, 2015) 8-10,000,000,000,000,000 - TBD