Do you need to play Fallout before watching the show? A spoiler-free guide

Do you need to play Fallout before watching the show? Spoiler-free guide explains
(Image credit: Amazon/Prime Video)

If you loved watching The Last of Us on HBO, you won't want to miss out on Prime Video's new Fallout series. It's a screen adaptation of a massively popular video game series that's been around since 1997. 

If you're new to this dark, snarky, post-apocalyptic series, you're probably wondering, do you need to play Fallout before watching the show? Maybe you watched the Last of Us without playing the games or you're unsure if the Fallout games are worth waiting to watch the show. I've spent plenty of time wandering the wastelands of the Fallout games, so I'm here to offer a few tips for any newbies to the series. 

This spoiler-free guide will break down how the Fallout show relates to the games and which games you can play (and skip) before watching. 

Which Fallout game is the Prime show based on? 

A promo photo from the Fallout show on Prime Video

(Image credit: Amazon/Prime Video)

Let's clear something up right away: the Fallout show is not based on any one specific game from the series. 

Bethesda Game Studios Director Todd Howard explained the situation in an interview with Lex Fridman, commenting, "It exists in the same world but is its own unique thing. So it adds to it while also people who haven't played the games, who haven't experienced how crazy cool Fallout is, can watch the series." 

That said, Howard also mentioned that a lot of effort was put into making the show extremely detailed and bringing in references to the games. So, watching it will be a more rewarding experience if you've played at least one of the games beforehand. However, the Fallout show isn't a simple retelling of any of the games. 

Do you need to play Fallout to understand the show? 

While the Fallout TV show isn't based on any specific game in the series, it's safe to say it is based on an extensive amount of lore and history from the games. 

If you don't know anything about the games going into the series, you'll probably still be able to enjoy the story, but you might not pick up on some important details about how the wasteland world of Fallout works, who all the inhabitants and factions in it are, and what the motivation behind characters may be. 

So, it's probably worth playing the games or at least watching a crash course on Fallout lore before diving into the show. The gist of it is that there was a "Great War" in 2077 that ended in nuclear fallout, leaving the world (or at least the United States) in shambles and ruin. The radiation created a variety of dangerous mutated beings, including some humans (as you'll see in the show). 

Luckily, a company called VaultTec was prepared for just this sort of situation! They created hundreds of fallout vaults around the country... Although, some are far safer than others. Over a couple hundred years following the initial nuclear fallout, some vaults opened, allowing survivors out into the hostile wasteland.

Which Fallout games should you play before watching the show? 

The poster for Fallout: New Vegas, the best Fallout game

(Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios)

The trailers and promos for the Fallout show look awesome, so it's no surprise if you do want to dip your toes into the games before starting the show. You're in for a treat. The Fallout games can be dark at times, and even a bit scary, but they're also funny, exciting, and full of emotional twists and turns. 

Since the Fallout show isn't based on a specific game in the series, you can technically start with any of them — but you shouldn't. You might miss out on the best game in the series. 

I would highly recommend anyone new to Fallout start with Fallout: New Vegas. It's widely considered one of, if not the best game in the series. It has a great story and a world that's unique and thrilling without being too dark. It also has a great soundtrack for roaming the desert like a post-apocalyptic cowboy. 

Fallout: New Vegas is also set the closest to the Fallout show, so it makes sense to start there. It takes place 204 years after the nuclear fallout, which puts it just ten years before the events of the Fallout show. Plus, it's set in Nevada and California, making it the closest geographically to the Fallout show, which takes place in Los Angeles. 

A promo screenshot for Fallout 4 featuring Vault 111

(Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios)

The stories of the Fallout games are technically disconnected from one another. So, you can play either Fallout 3 or Fallout 4 before or after New Vegas, but I'd recommend tackling Fallout 3 before the series' fourth numbered entry. 

It was the first modern entry in the Fallout series and really shaped the direction of the games that followed it. It has a stronger story than Fallout 4, although it also has arguably the darkest tone of any game in the series so far. Fallout 3 is set in the ruins of Washington, D.C., 200 years after the nuclear fallout. It follows the player's journey to find their missing father. 

Fallout 4 is the most recent game in timeline order, set in 2287 in Boston. Its tone is a bit brighter and more approachable than other games in the series, but isn't as chaotic (in a fun way) as New Vegas. So, if you want something that's somewhere between Fallout 3 and New Vegas in terms of tone, give Fallout 4 a try. It follows a parent, the lone survivor of Vault 111, as they search for their kidnapped child. You also get to have a dog and a talking robot. 

At this point, you may be wondering, what about Fallout 1 and 2? You can play these two titles, but they shouldn't be your top priority. The core three are Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout 3, and Fallout 4

Fallout 76 is the most recent addition to the series, but it's had some controversy surrounding it and isn't quite as good as its predecessors. Fallout 1 and Fallout 2 are both extremely different from later games due to the limited computing power available for games in the late 90s. They aren't as fleshed out as later games and modern gamers, especially those who are new to Fallout, may find them underwhelming. 

So, if you're set on playing every Fallout game then by all means, add the first two entries to your list. However, you don't need to play them before watching the show. 

How to watch the Fallout show


(Image credit: Prime)

If all this talk about the Fallout series has you excited, then you'll want to get an Amazon Prime subscription if you don't already have one. The show released a bit earlier than expected, dropping on April 10 on Prime Video. So, the entire first season is already available to watch. 

You can also use that Amazon Prime subscription to get free copies of the games for a limited time on Prime Gaming! 

Stevie Bonifield
Freelance Writer

Stevie Bonifield is a freelance tech journalist specializing in keyboards, peripherals, gaming gear, and mobile tech. Outside of writing, Stevie loves indie games, photography, and building way too many custom keyboards