If you pay any attention to videogames you’ve probably heard that war never changes. And, in a sense, neither do the Fallout games. Don’t let decades of visual and mechanical innovations fool you; at its heart, Fallout has always been about creating memories. Some are explosive, others are violent and many of them are downright weird. The wasteland has no shortage of things to see, gear to loot and people to kill, and with Fallout 4 gracing our screens this fall, there is no telling what sort of strange, hilarious and morally depraved horrors await us in the rancid streets of Boston. But now seems like a better time than ever to look back over the series’ greatest moments in anticipation for what lies ahead. To help you remember, here is a list of some of the greatest moments in the Fallout franchise.
Fallout: New Vegas
When you approach Nipton for the first time, a raving madman runs towards you babbling about winning the lottery. Fallout is home to some pretty eccentric people, so at first you might just laugh it off and let this lunatic continue on his merry way. But as you turn the corner headed into Nipton’s main street, you realize the horror he escaped.
Crucifixes line the road, their victims still writhing before the flames of the ruined town. Talking with one crippled resident, you come to understand that the lottery is nothing more than a dressed up method of decimation with a twist: Everyone in town is sentenced to death, except one who is allowed to live and one who is crippled. At this point, Caesar’s Legion, those responsible for the atrocity at Nipton, seemed like a distant, idle threat. But after leaving Nipton behind, you’ll likely not forget the startling lesson in brutality you learned there.
Speaking of atrocities, watching a mushroom cloud expand over the hamlet of Megaton and realizing that you were the one responsible isn’t something soon forgotten. Sure, you might have smiled at the thought that Bethesda had truly lived up to the series’ reputation for choices with awful consequences, but you’d have to admit that you felt just a little guilty. I mean, Megaton was pretty unsightly, but the village had heart.
Regardless, pressing a button and watching an entire village turn to dust is a pretty great way of kicking off your opening hours in the Washington wasteland. Just don’t be surprised when you’re kept awake late at night by the tortured faces of the two dozen citizens you vaporized. You monster.
Fallout 3: Broken Steel
When Liberty Prime takes to the streets to reap vengeance against the Enclave, it was probably a moment that had most players laughing gleefully. Originally designed as a weapon to liberate Anchorage, Alaska from invading Chinese forces, Liberty Prime is a massive death-dealing robot from Fallout 3’s expansion pack, Broken Steel. Liberty Prime never got to unleash its wrath on Chinese invaders, however, as the robot had a bit of a power issue. Two hundred years later, members of the Brotherhood of Steel finally cracked the energy nut and, with some clever rewiring, caused the robot to turn on the Enclave instead. Pretty ironic when you consider that the Enclave are comprised of many former branches of the US government.
But that’s not what you’re thinking about as this three story tall robot fires lasers from its head while spouting awesome propaganda like “embrace democracy or you will be eradicated.” Instead, you’ll be thinking about how this is probably one of the greatest moments you’ve ever witnessed in a videogame, and you’d be right: It really is.
Every Fallout Game
Perhaps nothing is as iconic to Fallout as the hulking mass of steel that is power armor. Always seen as the pinnacle in weaponized armor, finally climbing into your own suit is the realization of a fantasy that many players would have been nurturing for dozens of hours by that time. It never takes long before you encounter your first suit, typically worn by a member of the enigmatic Brotherhood of Steel, but it feels like a lifetime before your character is strong enough to wear one. Bethesda probably knows this and relishes taking every opportunity to tease you with the armor as often as they can, making the moment you finally claim one for yourself that much sweeter. It’s heavy, it’s probably not very practical, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t the coolest suit of armor in any videogame.
The wasteland is home to some unsavory characters, but none of them can even hold a candle to the sheer barbarism and tenacity that is Frank Horrigan. United States Secret Service agent turned mutant, Frank is the evil Chuck Norris of Fallout. Deathclaws are often considered the king of the irradiated food chain, but during Fallout 2, Frank unceremoniously rips the arms off of one with the same ease a child would tear the legs from a spider.
Finally killing Frank at the end of Fallout 2 is incredibly satisfying. It’ll take some skill, luck and a lot of ammo, but when this mutant brute finally falls in combat it’s an ending worthy of Quentin Tarantino. As you deal the killing blow, Frank is split in half, his entrails sprawling over the steel floor of the Enclave oil rig. But, just when you think you’ve finished the job, he props his torso up by his arms and proceeds to threaten you with his dying breath.
The first Fallout game doesn’t end with a bang as much as a whimper. After eradicating the mutant threat and fixing the water purification system, you return home to Vault 13 to be met at the entrance by the Overseer. But, instead of welcoming you in with open arms, the Overseer is remiss to inform you that you will not be rejoining your friends and family within the vault. Allowing you to return as if nothing had changed would likely spark a renaissance of thought, with vault dwellers becoming curious of the world outside and more willing to abandon the order and structure of vault life. So, with pain in his eyes, the Overseer forces you into exile.
It’s a bittersweet ending, and watching your character wander back off into the desert with his head hung low is an image that’ll stay with you for days after. You might have saved those you care about, but in the process, you sacrificed any and all hopes of ever seeing them again.
The Fallout series is brimming with moments that make you sit back and marvel, but few of those memories compare to the anticipation you feel stepping out of Vault 101 in Fallout 3 for the first time. For fans of the series, it was undoubtedly an emotional moment, as the decade of waiting finally paid off as you took your first intrepid steps into the Washington wasteland. Seeing the wide horizon revealed before you in all of its fully 3D glory, and internalizing the sense of freedom impressed upon you in that instant is one of the most profound moments offered on last generation consoles. You stare out at that serrated horizon, smile and think, this is going to be good.
Few games have risen to command the love and adoration that Fallout has. Spanning decades, hardware generations and even developers, the franchise has always stood as a paragon of excellence in the gaming community. With the impending release of Fallout 4 garnering so much attention at this year’s E3, it is important to spend some time looking back in order to appreciate what lies ahead.
But, ultimately, memories are a personal thing, which means that you likely have your own and should share them! What are your greatest moments from the Fallout series?
Steven Messner is a freelance writer with a zealous passion for good beer and good video games. He also enjoys taco night, games about space, and forgetting to take out the garbage. You can find his work at GamesRadar, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, and Playboy.com. Alternatively, you could just add him on Twitter @stevenmessner and say hello. He likes that.