Although post-apocalyptic themes and settings have long been a staple in literature, film, and video games, any discussion on the topic's inevitably going to stumble across the Fallout series at some point. Whether it's the ravings of a die-hard fan or the mutterings of an embittered player-turned-critic after the disastrous reception of Fallout 76, there's definitely an earful to be had. But it's safer to plan for two or three. Just in case.
Regardless of the obvious differences in opinion, what the two ends of that spectrum have in common is this: They probably want more sprawling wastelands to survive in, ideally with NPCs to murder for cool hats. Luckily for everyone, an itemized and well-curated list of some of the best alternatives immediately follows this paragraph! Broaden your post-nuclear horizons or simply seek refuge from the fallout of Fallout 76 with these ten titles.
The Long Dark is a slower paced, more contemplative spin on traditional post-apocalyptic survival games. Set away from bigger bastions of civilization such as cities, the entirety of it takes place in the remote Canadian wilderness.
Available in both story and sandbox modes, the game itself isn't very action-forward, but intensely focuses on resource management, careful planning, and survival skills. This one's a definite must-have for those looking for a more grounded and realistic experience.
The STALKER series has an extraordinarily interesting and troubled history that's worth looking into on its own. But the games themselves, though buggy, are uniquely ambitious and compelling.
The games take place in the Zone, an area created after a second disaster takes place in the resettled area surrounding the infamous Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Its bleak and oppressive atmosphere really works with its survival horror elements to create a truly special post-apocalyptic experience.
As a rule, video games directly spinning off from film universes that aren't Star Wars are going to have a tough time, with a few notable exceptions. Mad Max, though it isn't perfect, is actually a pretty good time.
It's got solid progression mechanics, viscerally engaging combat, and it offers some pretty radical vehicular gameplay. It's also quite a looker, with incredibly visually satisfying action sequences that are sure to hold up for a few more years yet.
Ironically, initial predictions for Fallout 76's gameplay inferred that it would be similar to RUST, but that obviously couldn't be further from the truth. RUST is a multiplayer only survival game that truly puts the experience into the hands of the players.
The sole aim of RUST is to survive in a vast, harsh environment. To that end, players form clans, build cities, and either cooperate or compete with others in order to do so. The setting isn't explicitly post-apocalyptic, but taking in its aesthetics and the atmosphere it manages to create, it may as well be.
The Rage series is a post-apocalyptic festival of explosions and absurdly cool weapons brought to the table by FPS super veterans id Software, and as such, it's safe to set expectations reasonably high in several departments going in. Though the games' storytelling elements are often criticized, it's top notch in practically every other way.
Set during the Earth's far future in which civilization has collapsed following an asteroid collision, Rage takes heavy cues from atypical post-apocalypse settings such as Mad Max and puts them to good use.
If Fallout fans had initially skipped out on the Far Cry series, then New Dawn should give them a reason to take another look. It packs in all of the familiar, RPG-lite trappings of the recent Far Cry titles and wraps them up with a nice little post-nuclear bow.
That said, returning to Far Cry 5's Hope County a few nuclear warheads later isn't all the same recycled shtick with an irradiated coat of paint. There are plenty of new toys for fans of the previous installment to come back and check out, so it's definitely worth a look for old and new players alike.
Frostpunk is going to be most different flavor on the list, as it's a city building post-apocalyptic survival game putting players in charge of an entire population rather than a sole protagonist or small group of heroes.
The alternate history behind Frostpunk sees Earth fall into a volcanic winter in 1886. The player must guide refugees in establishing settlements around emergency installations known as generators, which are essentially gigantic radiant heaters. It's an engaging concept, offering tons in the way of mind-boggling decisions and moral quandaries.
Borderlands is another title that isn't explicitly post-apocalyptic, but its dusty wasteland settings and Road Warrior aesthetics tick enough of the boxes to win over most fans of the mentioned subgenre.
This shoot and loot RPG series is just as fun solo as it is with friends, boasting ridiculously good cooperative multiplayer and an action-packed plot that's full to the brim with self-aware humor.
The original Wasteland released in 1988 is the spiritual predecessor of the Fallout series, providing the essential framework, setting, and tone that it would become known for. Wasteland 2, ironically, serves as Fallout's spiritual successor, showcasing what the series might've looked like had Bethesda not taken it into the realm of first-person shooting.
Wasteland 2 is a love letter to the isometric, turn-based RPGs of yore, featuring incredibly rich character development, a punishing difficulty curve, and deeply consequential decision making. This is definitely the game for anyone toting gripes surrounding Fallout's increasingly simplified and casually-accessible gameplay design.
The Metro series is a set of post-apocalyptic survival horror titles that reward stealthy, methodical gameplay and tactical ingenuity. While level progression is generally linear and plot-driven, the player actually has a great deal of license in deciding how to approach and handle hostile situations.
The first two games are set within the claustrophobic confines of the Moscow Metro following a nuclear catastrophe, with occasional interludes (and the vast majority of the recent Metro: Exodus) taking place on a surface world ravaged by radiation and mutant horrors.