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Wot I Think: Fallouts 5-75

Reviewing Cyberpunk 1-2076 is going to take a while

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In the build-up to the release of Fallout 76, we felt it was important to put the game in its proper context. With that in mind, we commissioned games historian Nate Crowley – aka @FrogCroakley – to write capsure reviews of Fallouts 5 through 75. We’ve been posting those reviews five-a-day on Twitter ever since, until the work was completed last night. You can still read all these tweets in the #AllTheFallouts thread, but you can now also read them below.


Frustrated by fan pressure to return to the series’ retro roots, Bethesda released Fallout 5 as one of those handheld LCD games from the late ‘80s. Play boiled down to moving the Pip-Boy left or right to avoid pixellated radscorpions, but was perfectly executed. #AllTheFallouts


Taking the “sorry mate, I don’t think it goes any louder” approach to criticism, Fallout 6 was released on parchment scrolls, with combat handled via handwritten, horse-delivered correspondence with Bethesda. Nobody has yet finished the tutorial. #AllTheFallouts


Eerily, nobody’s sure who developed Fallout 7: Rise of the Dogmen, as it simply appeared in thrift stores. Indeed, we may never find out: when the titular antagonists began turning to camera & reciting players’ childhood fears, all copies were seized and burned. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 8 was the first in the series to take place entirely inside a vault, and involved the player trying to manage the citizenry’s panic over a bee getting in. Not even a mutant bee, just a regular one, making people bark in worry as it swerved near their ears. #AllTheFallouts


Unusually, Fallout 9 was a Japan-only release called 不死学校生活 (Ghoul School) – in this charming highschool RPG, the player was tasked with navigating the academic and romantic trials of a young necrotic post-human in the depths of Vault 12. Actually quite good. #AllTheFallouts


Refusing to accept Fallout 8’s failure, Bethesda doubled down with Fallout 10: The Bee’s Back: essentially a clone of Fallout 8 with a higher polygon count. At least the game’s tagline (“There’s a black and yellow dot. It makes a stressful noise”) was honest. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 11 had a brilliantly simple premise: Fallout 4’s Institute discovers the body of Jason Statham in a lead sarcophagus, and it escapes. The game famously ended in a hellish quicktime event in which Statham, controlled by the player, eats a whole nuclear war. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 12 was particularly noteworthy, as the only way to play was to insert the disc in a chimp’s mouth and look into the creature’s eyes, while softly holding its hands as controllers. Nobody will say what they saw in the eyes of the ape, but it changed people. #AllTheFallouts

There was no Fallout 13. Every now and then a story will surface about a mountain of games buried way out in Nevada, or of a ragged-furred, floppy-eared figure loping round the edge of a campfire’s light – but people say a lot of things, out in the desert. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 14 came with a novelty power armour helmet peripheral, which release contextually-generated smells. Unfortunately, a bug meant it wouldn’t come off, and only produced the scent of deathclaw butt. Has retained a disturbingly committed fan base. #AllTheFallouts


In Fallout 15: Brotherhood of Feels, Bethesda set aside the usual post-apocalyptic landgrab to focus on the emotional life of tooled-up nuclear battlemonks. Despite its lowkey pacing, BoF was lauded by critics for its haunting commentary on toxic masculinity. #AllTheFallouts


After the critical success of BoF, Bethesda pissed it all away with Fallout 16: Masters of Pepsi – a gruesome extravaganza of product placement in which no character could seem to finish a sentence without staring at the player & wolfing down a tin of brown fizz. #AllTheFallouts


As the rights dispute between Bethesda & Interplay resurfaced during the run-up to Fallout 17, an exhausted judge ordered the game’s development foisted onto a randomly chosen fan – who panicked, and made a janky reskin of Streets of Rage starring the Pip-Boy. #AllTheFallouts


Somehow, Fallout 17 was a smash hit, and dev Jeff Mince took on auteur status. His next work, Fallout 18, was a ‘minimalist’ open world game, where players could explore 2 rooms & talk to an old boot. Scared of looking thick, reviewers hesitantly gave it 10/10. #AllTheFallouts


After spending a year locked in his studio, Jeff Mince released Fallout 19, a rhythm game about lashing a man to death with a string of sausages. Brief, ugly, and almost unplayably brutal, it tore away the emperor’s new clothes, and made Mince a pariah overnight. #AllTheFallouts


Bethesda returned triumphant with Fallout 20: Fawlaaht – a game set in a vault populated entirely by clones of cockney hardmen. Players could choose whether to side with Vinny Jones’ Guvnors faction, or pledge allegiance to the power-armoured Mitchell Brothers. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 21 was an oddity: a shipping container packed with the costumes, equipment and script required to play the entire game as a LARP. Buried just outside Washington DC, the container is set to unlock only if radiation on the surface reaches cataclysmic levels. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 22 was shipped as a conventional installment in the series, but when it arrived in stores it was packaged as ‘Return of the Dogmen’, and accompanied by creepy mascots nobody had hired. Affected stores were closed, and the games were impounded & destroyed. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 23 was an avant-garde entry to the canon, where players took on the role of an AI tasked with keeping a vault door closed. Play involved simply holding a button down for twenty five years in realtime, after which a brief celebratory cutscene would play. #AllTheFallouts


Packaged with a full alto saxophone as a controller, Fallout 24 was neither cheap nor easy to play. Nevertheless, it was all worth it for the sheer ecstasy of wailing the solo from ‘Baker Street’ in order to minigun super mutants during an atomic bombardment. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 25 was an odd one. A management sim of sorts, it put players in charge of Vault 420, an experimental shelter which only grew one extremely potent crop. Maintaining productivity with survivors who only wanted to look at their own hands was… challenging. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 26: Enter the Battletoads turned what could have been a light-hearted crossover into a gruelling survival horror nightmare, as players found themselves pursued through a nuclear hell by a trio of gurning, hench amphibians with no concept of pity or remorse. #AllTheFallouts


After Fallout 27’s code was accidentally wiped on the eve of launch, the release comprised only what the panicking intern responsible could hammer together in a night. Sympathetic reviewers praised the way the game’s protagonist, a dot, drifted across the screen. #AllTheFallouts


Many rumours surround Fallout 28. While most recall a mediocre turn-based tactics game, a spate of reddit posts on release day reported the title screen bearing the slogan ‘can’t stop the dogmen’, and playing strange whining sounds even with speakers turned off. #AllTheFallouts

Picking a lock in Fallout 76.

Sublime celebrity tie-in Fallout 29 (released as Diners, Drive-ins & Deathclaws) saw hollering TV chef Guy Fieri voice a peroxide-maned mutant with BBQ sauce for blood, seeking the finest roadkill in America following the detonation of a 900-gigaton Flavor Bomb. #AllTheFallouts


Following the tragic vanishing of former dev Jeff Mince, Fallout 30 was retooled as a tribute to the great man, whose work was by now back in favour. The final sequence – a man being lashed to death with sausages in sepia slow-mo – was a cello-scored tearjerker. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 31 was a bold experiment in augmented reality, superimposing a grim wasteland on top of players’ local areas. It all turned nasty when a man burned down a kebab shop, claiming the Pip-Boy had told him to. Somewhat uncomfortably, this turned out to be true. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 32, released as Fallout: New Crinkley, was set on the dilapidated set of 1990s British talk show Noel’s House Party. Edmonds himself was portrayed as a leather-harnessed warlord, who would unleash dreadful thrall Blobby to run players down & devour them #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 33 was meant to eschew the franchise’s cartoonish aesthetic for a gritty, more realistic feel, but it turns out that spending 30+ hours of game time watching a community gradually starve to death beneath a nuclear winter was a bit of a downer. #AllTheFallouts


Rushed to market to cheer people up after 33, Fallout 34 was a fairly unremarkable game – until some genius released a mod that replaced all the game’s textures with Nicholas Cage’s face, and all dialogue with low quality WAV clips from Con Air and The Rock. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 35 was the first to feature the Utah Crab Men, but was more notable for an easter egg: in an area only accessible by clipping through a hill, players found a disquieting NPC resembling Jeff Mince sewn into a dog costume, silently mouthing the word ‘help’. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 36’s protagonist was a sort of post-apocalyptic Steve Irwin, tracking down mutant wildlife & wrestling it into a corrugated metal & chickenwire zoo. FPS segments were interspersed with a sort of desperately unethical version of zoo tycoon. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 37 was famous for introducing teeth as its primary character stat; as you explored further & defeated more foes, you’d grow more & more gnashers, until your character was staggering along, head bowed by the sheer weight of calcium sprouting from its jaws. #AllTheFallouts


The release of Fallout 38: Usain Bolt’s Salt Vault (about a plot to steal condiments from a bunker packed with furious clones of the famed sprinter) led fans to accuse Bethesda of ‘running out of ideas’, but they insisted they had at least another 38 games in them #AllTheFallouts


Post-apocalyptic in name only, Fallout 39 was a disgrace of a game set in a recruitment firm 500 years after society’s rebuilding. Play revolved around barking into a plastic phone, trying to work out which dialogue options would cajole people into accounts roles. #AllTheFallouts


All was forgiven when Fallout 40’s opening cutscene revealed the previous game to be a psychological experiment conducted by the nefarious Utah Crab Men, a race of pincer-headed, pinstripe-suited bastards obsessed with recreating 21st-century corporate culture. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 41 reprises the original’s premise with a boozy twist: the Lager Chip in the player’s vault is on the blink after 200 years of non-stop partying, so they must pop out & get a new one before everyone sobers up and has to endure a truly apocalyptic hangover. #AllTheFallouts


In Fallout 42, you played as a lone wanderer whose only possessions were a can of hairspray and a shoe. They were no use as weapons, but by huffing one from the other, you could gradually, quesaily, turn the game into the special stage from Sonic 2. #AllTheFallouts

After a moral panic sparked by Fallouts 41 & 42, Bethesda were forced to turn Fallout 43 into an extended advert for sobriety. Chems like Jet & Fury were replaced with wholesome fruit & veg, while the Pip-Boy delivered extended sermons on the dangers of addiction. #AllTheFallouts


Following the usual leaving-the-vault intro, Fallout 44 had players step out into an ordinary world, pissing itself over having tricked so many people into living in a hole. The rest of the game, like life, was largely about holding down a job & trying not to cry. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 45 was a weird, dreamlike remake of Fallout 4, where the game’s factions had united in terror of a figure called ‘the king beneath the hill’, and would implore you with grimly realistic eyes to protect them from his army of dog/human hybrids. Unsettling. #AllTheFallouts


When you first step into Fallout 46’s wasteland, it’s lifelessly serene: just rocks, ruins & wind. Half an hour in, a twig snaps behind you & you turn, just in time to glimpse a flash of orange fur you’d recognise anywhere. It is Gritty – and you are being hunted. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 47 was a 5-Nights-at-Freddy’s-esque nightmare where you played a wasteland radio DJ, desperately trying to queue up the correct vinyls, while enraged super mutants burst out of air ducts & bullied you into playing ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ over & over again. #AllTheFallouts


In Fallout 48, you’re captured by a ghoul with a taste for theatre & given 6 months to put on the definitive performance of Waiting for Godot, or see your home vault levelled. After roaming the wilds to find a cast, the misery of teaching them their lines begins #AllTheFallouts


Pulp masterpiece Fallout 49 saw the player pitted against the cyborg hulk Mecha-Oppenheimer, commanding a legion of radioactive undead GIs from a long-buried WW2 research bunker. In his own words: are you a bad enough dude to defeat Death, destroyer of worlds? #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 50 is mostly notable for a strange NPC, claiming to be a time traveller, who garbles a warning about “a great, broken emptiness”, something about the number 76, and a “legion of bugs”, before being consumed by a swarm of rats. Who knew what he meant? #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 51 was an accidentally sublime remake of Three Men and A Baby, featuring three towering mutant bachelors – voiced by Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel & Jason Momoa – getting into scrapes & japes as they attempt to look after a self-aware nuclear warhead. #AllTheFallouts


Another Japan-only title, Fallout 52 (released as きれいい けいじ – “pretty apocalypse”) was a kawaii dress-up game, where you could outfit your roster of raiders, ghouls and mutants in cutting edge harajuku fashions, before posing them for baffling photographs. #AllTheFallouts


In an unlikely blend of ‘Fury Road’ & ‘The Parent Trap’, Fallout 53 challenged the player to rekindle the romance between two super mutant warlords, by tricking them into chasing each other across the wastes in a nihilistic death race. Surprisingly heartwarming. #AllTheFallouts


In puerile puzzler Fallout 54, you played the sole plumber in a vault stocked only with beans & sauerkraut. Could you unclog the pipes fast enough to stop the vault drowning in its own effluent, or would you just put a brick through the screen in disgust? #AllTheFallouts

Fallout 55 challenged you to escape the lightless depths of the dreaded ‘Vault W’, which Vault-tec had populated entirely with bioengineered manifestations of countercultural icon Waluigi. Played a bit like horror movie ‘The Descent’, but with more ‘wah’. #AllTheFallouts


In a bizarre throwback to early ‘90s edutainment, Fallout 56 saw the V.A.T.S system reconfigured to deal damage commensurate with the player’s ability to solve simple maths & logic problems, with the Pip-boy becoming a patronising, know-it-all bastard. #AllTheFallouts


“You think you’re safe” intones a hoarse voice, as you stand over the body of Fallout 57’s final boss. Behind you, a dog-headed figure stands on a distant peak. It raises a paw, glowing with queasy sigils, & you wake screaming, with no trace of the game on your PC #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 58: The Courtship of Mugnarr was a dating sim, in which you played a sweating colossus with a microwave for a head & a heart of gold. Would you choose debonair deathclaw Garko, or Bludwig, the paladin with a sensitive side beneath his power armour? #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 59: The Nuptuals of Mugnarr continued the story of the oven-headed titan, facing you with tricky narrative choices as you planned the big man’s wedding. Seat the ghouls too near the atomic death cult, or order the wrong vol-au-vents, and there’d be trouble #AllTheFallouts


After painstakingly rebuilding fans’ goodwill, Fallout 60: A Home for Mugnarr squandered it all – the game was entirely based on Fallout 4’s maddening construction system, so 90% of play time was spent desperately begging steel plates to stick to the ground. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 61, a.k.a ‘It’s Always Sunny in Diamond City’, focused on a gang of utter scumbags running a dive bar in the jewel of the commonwealth. Play revolved around petty acts of spite, heavy drinking, and incoherent, quicktime-driven shouting matches. #AllTheFallouts


At some point in any franchise, a garbage mobile game becomes inevitable. Enter Fallout 62, a vaguely Fallout-themed Candy Crush clone, whose ads – featuring a profoundly phoned-in performance from Anthony Hopkins – became inescapable for a six month period. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 63 followed on from Fallout 11, with players searching London’s ashes for the bunker where Statham had been contained, before pleading him for help against a nebulous threat. Somehow, it felt uneasily as if more than just the game’s ending was at stake #AllTheFallouts


In a chilling PR stunt, Fallout 64 contained the actual launch codes to the US nuclear arsenal, ostensibly behind an uncrackable cipher. Players cracked it in 2 hours, but thankfully, since it was a Bethesda release, the feature was bugged & armageddon was averted #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 65 was a rare treasure. Styled ‘Fallout: Skegness’, it was a harrowing commentary on the English family holiday, where you had to endure being trapped in a caravan for 200 years, repeating the same pointless arguments as nuclear winter raged outside. #AllTheFallouts


After an exhausting board meeting, the best anyone could come up with as a theme for Fallout 66 was “two thirds of the devil”, and so that was that: the game was a half-hearted struggle against an incarnation of satan that disappeared from the hips down. Rubbish. #AllTheFallouts


By the time Fallout 67 rolled around, the developers were too eager to work on Fallout 69 to really care about it, so they rushed it out in a couple of weeks. It was something about a pig and an abandoned paint factory, maybe? Nobody really remembers. #AllTheFallouts

Bobblehead repair collectable in a shed next to a armour repair station.

Let’s be honest: who cares about Fallout 68? It could’ve been the pinnacle of human art, and you’d still just want to know about Fallout 69. Luckily it wasn’t: it was a busted mess that bluescreened repeatedly as you battered a scorpion to paste with an old rope. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 69 was exquisitely sexual. Too erotic be discussed, in fact; the words would sear away your eyes like the blast-flash of an extremely horny nuclear explosion. Those few who played before it was banned were hospitalised with snapped wrists & borked pelvises #AllTheFallouts


In a wasteland shattered anew by the sexual armageddon of Fallout 69, game 70 in the series, “Fallout: the Banquet of Regrets”, put you in the shoes of a furtive wanderer, scouring the land for whatever riches remained beneath the drifts of used prophylactics. #AllTheFallouts


By the time Fallout 71 rolled around, Bethesda devs were beginning to feel the strain of having released more than sixty games in less than three years. Exhausted by it all, they figured nobody would mind if they just plopped out a quick atompunk reskin of Tetris. #AllTheFallouts


At last, in Fallout 72, the dogmen made their play. Moments after the game went on sale, the file MINCE.EXE began propagating itself on users’ PCs, and panting, shuffling creatures began to appear on dark streets. Suddenly, implausibly, the world was at war. #AllTheFallouts


Fallout 73 was not so much a game as a patch, and not so much a patch as a weapon: a last-ditch piece of digital sorcery, aimed at closing a door to a reality beyond our own. Even so, reviewers praised its crisp textures and smart inventory management system. #AllTheFallouts


Humanity did not play Fallout 74; it played us. Some say the dogmen itself were its architects; some say it never existed at all beyond the minds of survivors. Regardless, it was a greater cataclysm than had ever been rendered in the series’ early, cheery stories. #AllTheFallouts


Thankfully, the pact brokered in Fallout 63 came good at last: in “Fallout 75”, as historians now call the last battle of the dogman war, Jason Statham himself consumed every server bearing a copy of any game from Fallout 5 onwards, ending the horror at last. #AllTheFallouts


With the world saved at last, and Statham buried in a hero’s mausoleum, Bethesda’s board sat back & took a deep, collective breath of relief. “Right then lads,” said Todd Howard, rubbing his hands with glee, “who wants to make an underwhelming MMO?” #AllTheFallouts

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Who am I?

Nate Crowley

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Nate Crowley is the author of The 100 Best Video Games (That Never Existed), and does game narrative and world design for hire when he isn't writing books. He's on twitter as @frogcroakley.

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