On the surface, the pervasive violence, nightmarish difficulty, and dark humor of the Fallout series should have relegated it to niche status. But it’s that exact combination (along with the ability to have your very own handheld nuke launcher) that’s helped it become one of the most acclaimed series in the gaming industry over the last 20 years.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world where mutants, cannibals, and raiders descend upon you in waves, the Fallout franchise has come to define the modern role-playing game, from its first iteration at Interplay Entertainment to its modern installments at Bethesda Softworks. As gamers anticipate the next entry in the series, Fallout 76, take a look at 10 facts about this iconic series.
1. IT’S A SPIRITUAL SUCCESSOR TO WASTELAND.
Before Interplay’s original Fallout came out, the studio already visited a war-torn nightmare of a world in 1988’s Wasteland. In this RPG on the PC, players took on the role of the Desert Rangers, a team tasked with roaming what’s left of the Southwest United States while battling any warring factions they came across.
When Interplay couldn’t pry the rights to Wasteland away from distributor Electronic Arts for a sequel, director Timothy Cain and his team crafted a brand-new IP that focused on mainly the same nuclear-scorched principles. Though a number of titles were batted around—including Vault 13—the team eventually settled on Fallout, which was a name suggested by Interplay head Brian Fargo.
2. THE POST-APOCALYPSE WASN’T THE FIRST SETTING DISCUSSED.
Fallout is defined by its setting—the war-torn streets, smoldering husks of civilization, and retro-futuristic vibe all helped make this franchise stand out from its competition. But this world wasn’t Cain’s first idea. According to a feature article on Polygon, Cain originally toyed with the type of traditional fantasy RPG that had defined the genre during the 1990s. The next idea was to let you play as time-traveling dinosaurs, which is obviously never a wrong choice. Eventually, though, the team settled on the post-apocalyptic theme that has stayed with the franchise ever since.
3. THEN THE WHOLE THING WAS ALMOST DERAILED BY D&D.
Though the team finally nailed down the world, it didn’t mean Fallout was a sure thing. At one point during production, Interplay got the rights to release games based on the Dungeons & Dragons franchise, and the company wanted to scrap Fallout and move the team onto the more traditional RPG title.
In an interview with Polygon, Cain said he actually had to beg the higher-ups to allow him to continue with his game. The same thing would happen again when Interplay wanted Cain to reconfigure the game into a multi-player RPG to piggyback off the success of Diablo. Again, Cain’s vision prevailed.
4. THERE WAS ALMOST A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FALLOUT 3.
After the success of Fallout 2 in 1998, Black Isle Studios—working under Interplay—began prepping a third installment, codenamed Van Buren. Like the first two installments, this one would be an isometric RPG in the Wasteland where the player takes control of an escaped prisoner who winds up attempting to stop (or help) a rogue scientist’s plan to “purify” society via an attack from an orbital nuclear missile system.
The project was canceled, and soon Black Isle Studios would be axed and the Fallout property would land at Bethesda. However, a tech demo of the original Fallout 3 did land online a few years back.
5. THE GAMES ARE STACKED WITH SCI-FI EASTER EGGS.
The Wasteland is littered with more than just burned-out buildings and scattered remnants of humanity; it’s also home to Easter eggs and homages to nearly every major sci-fi property in existence.
In the original game, for instance, players can stumble upon a familiar blue callbox that disappears into thin air—a callback to the TARDIS from Doctor Who. There’s also the sight of a post-apocalyptic wanderer traveling the wasteland with his dog from Fallout 3 that is an unmistakable homage to the Mad Max series. And if you stumble upon a refrigerator in the desert in Fallout: New Vegas, look inside—you might find the skeletal remains of Indiana Jones as a nod to the infamous nuke scene in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
And that’s just the beginning. If you take your time to really explore the world of these games, you’ll find shout-outs to Planet of the Apes, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Jaws, Star Wars, and countless others.
6. FALLOUT 3 HAD ISSUES IN AUSTRALIA AND INDIA.
When Bethesda took control of the series for 2008’s Fallout 3, the studio retained its high level of violence, profanity, and all-around sacrilege. So it was only inevitable when governments started to take notice.
In Australia, the game was faced with a ban due to the fact that the player could use, and get addicted to, morphine. Instead of losing this sizable market, Bethesda changed the name of the drug to the fictional “Med-X” after the Aussie government took issue with a player getting addicted to (and possibly even glorifying) a real drug. This change wasn’t just reflected in Australia but in every region, turning Med-X into part of Wasteland lore.
The controversy continued in India, where the game simply wasn’t released at all because of issues stemming from “cultural sensitivities.”
7. FALLOUT 4’S SCRIPT TOTALED 13,000 LINES OF DIALOGUE FOR THE MAIN ACTORS.
In previous games in the series, the main characters never spoke; they were voiceless protagonists in a world of fully-voiced supporting characters and villains. But in Fallout 4, Bethesda took away that ambiguity in favor of fully voiced heroes. They hired both a male and female voice actor for the job, depending on which character the player chose to create, and for its first foray into the voiced realm, the studio made their leads pretty talkative.
According to the game’s director, Todd Howard, each actor had about 13,000 lines of dialogue, which were recorded over the span of two years. That number goes up exponentially when you look at the game as a whole: One estimate put the total lines of dialogue for every character in the game combined at somewhere near 170,000.
8. THE SERIES BOASTS AN IMPRESSIVE CELEBRITY VOICE CAST.
Though the main characters are usually mute, the world of Fallout is populated by a roster of celebrities who have lent their voices to everything from super mutants to wannabe crime bosses. Most recognizable among them is Ron Perlman, who narrated the intros to Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout 3, Fallout Tactics, and Fallout: New Vegas. He’s become a fan favorite part of the story over the years with the opening lines, “War. War never changes.”
There’s also Liam Neeson as the main character’s father in 3, which also featured Malcolm McDowell as the president. And then there’s New Vegas, with Matthew Perry (an ardent franchise fan) as Benny and Wayne Newton as a radio DJ. Throughout all the games, you’ll also hear from the likes of Danny Trejo, Brad Garrett, Dave Foley, and Lynda Carter, who also wrote and provides the vocals for original songs in Fallout 4.
9. FALLOUT 4 EARNED $750 MILLION ON LAUNCH DAY.
The franchise was more of a critical success than a commercial one during the Interplay years, but once it made its way to Bethesda, it managed to hit sales marks that were previously unseen for the series. Fallout 3’s launch week saw 4.7 million units shipped, for a total of $300 million worldwide. Fallout: New Vegas saw similar success, bringing in over $300 million in its first month.
Well, Fallout 4 basically doubled those numbers within its first 24 hours on the market. The $750 million that the game made on its November 10, 2015 debut was a record at the time for the biggest entertainment launch of the year and one of the biggest single-day video game feats of all time.
10. FANS ARE CREATING NEW FALLOUT GAMES.
Bethesda has always been a haven for modders, those tech-savvy super fans that dive into a game’s source code to create something wholly original within the original title. A lot of these mods fix graphical issues and other bugs, while others add new characters or a dose of absurdity to the game, like the mods that turned all deathclaw enemies into Thomas the Tank Engine or Macho Man Randy Savage.
Some of these mods go well above and beyond, turning into full games in their own right, set in the Fallout universe and created by fans. There’s Fallout: Cascadia, which is a mod project that puts the series in Seattle; Fallout 4: New Vegas, which recreated New Vegas with 4’s upgraded engine; and Fallout: New California, an ambitious New Vegas mod that features all-new characters and stories.