Bethesda is a big name in the video game industry, with a great many franchises under their possession. Amongst all those franchises, The Elder Scrolls and Fallout are probably the two biggest names. They served as Bethesda’s core value, with a design philosophy of unadulterated open-world actions.
The two franchises are thematically opposite, however. In The Elder Scrolls, its sword and sorcery, magic and dragons and demons. There are none of those in Fallout, as it is a post-apocalyptic legend set in an alternative world destroyed by nuclear fire.
The list below would rank all the main entries of both franchises, from worst to best.
10 – The Elder Scrolls: Arena
The oldest game on this list. It certainly does not feel quite right to place the original game this low on the list, however, it is true that Arena is dated and very hard to enjoy in 2019.
The map design was a mix between procedurally generated areas and hand-designed ones. This process was rather new back then, allowing the developer to create a huge impressive game world. However, it is the only good part amongst a cesspool of bad features. The convoluted menus combined with the painfully slow movements would make any attempt of enjoying this game highly difficult.
9 – The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall
The ambition involved in Daggerfall’s creation is truly a legend among video games. They definitely tried to replicate the real size of the world, with the size of the game map being 161,600 square kilometers. The game world features over 15,000 towns, cities, villages, and dungeons for the player's character to explore.
This game has the same weakness as Arena when examining using today’s standards. The main thing that prevents people from enjoying this game is probably the cumbersome UI.
8 – Fallout
The beginning of the Fallout Franchise, Fallout laid down the foundation for the post-apocalyptic world we all know and love. The game is set in 2161, with players stepping into the shoes of the Vault Dweller, whose quest is to get out of the vault and bring back a water chip before everyone inside the vault perish. Many new fans would be put off at first by the game’s top-down tactical RPG style, however, this is actually one of the most important parts of the franchise’s identity.
Fallout introduced branching dialogues, multiple ways to complete a quest, companions, and finally, the SPECIAL skill system. It also included the karma system, which affects the way everyone treats your character. This system has definitely set the Fallout franchise apart from many other RPG titles.
By today’s standards, the game is fairly dated – however, if you could get through that kind of UI, it is worth playing Fallout for its story alone.
7 – Fallout 4
It is rather difficult to place Fallout 4 on this list, as it certainly is a step back in a lot of aspects. Fallout 4 traded the core RPG elements for its looks and gunplay features. The best thing in this title is probably the combat – it has the best gameplay in a Fallout title. The guns feel responsive and powerful, with a lot of effects added. The combat AI, while still rather buggy at times, was still a great improvement over previous generations. The last thing to be mentioned is the graphics: Fallout 4 looks beautiful.
Those upgrades come at the cost of everything else, however. The skill system, SPECIAL, and the actual roleplaying elements were dumbed down almost completely to a “perk system”. The decision to introduce a fully voiced protagonist limited the options for dialogues by a lot, as for every single dialogue, Bethesda would have to spend more money on voice actors. All of that combined with the weakest plot in the series had left players unsatisfied and angry. The settlement system is not too bad, but it is just a side attraction.
6 – Fallout 2
Fallout 2 took everything enjoyable from the first game and expanded them to the maximum. The solid foundation set by Fallout had been carefully tuned and tweaked, making it the ultimate Fallout classic experience.
The story of Fallout 2 is considered by many fans to be the best amongst all Fallout games. Set in 2241, 80 years after the events of the first game, the protagonist of Fallout 2 is a direct descendant of the previous Fallout main character. As the Chosen One, your mission is to retrieve the Garden of Eden Creation Kit from Vault 13, the original vault in the first game. Overall, Fallout 2 brought back many of the old familiar quest systems from the first game while removing the more annoying ones, such as the time limit on completing missions.
5 – The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion
Oblivion is a bit of a mixed bag, however, there are a lot more good features than bad ones. At the time of its release, the game was groundbreaking. The world design was beautiful, despite being more generic than its predecessor, Morrowind. The quests are pretty well written, especially the Thieves’ Guild questline. You get to steal the Elder Scroll itself from the top of the imperial palace in the final quest. The main quest is no slouch, as you get to ally with the heir of the imperial throne to push back the wave of Oblivion.
On the other hand, the NPCs in this game were probably the worst Bethesda ever produced. The voice acting was terrible, the character designs were bizarre. If you can get through those things while playing Oblivion, the game would definitely be higher on the list.
4 – Fallout 3
Fallout 3 was Bethesda’s first attempt at cracking the Fallout formula, and overall it was a success. Ditched the top-down style for a variant of the Oblivion gameplay, this combination has revived the Fallout Series in a new direction. In this game, it was clear that Bethesda was not fully able to merge both styles together, with the VATS system served as a clutch for the terrible gunfights. The AI had not improved much since the Morrowind days also contributed to the mediocre feeling of Fallout 3’s combat system.
With the combat being that weak, you might have wondered why Fallout 3 is this high on the list. The reason behind this placement is Fallout 3’s role-playing system. Bethesda tried their best to bring the classic Fallout system into this title, with interesting, well-written quests that can be completed in various different ways. The art direction and graphical designs were great as well, with items, buildings and various assets retained their original Fallout aesthetics.
3 – The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind
It can be said that Morrowind is the perfect Elder Scrolls game. Comparing to the modern Elder Scrolls settings, the city of Vvardenfell and the continent of Morrowind itself are way more beautiful and foreign, with unique architecture and alien landscape that were practically unique at the time. The plot is way darker than the usual fantasy tropes, with Eldritch Abominations taking over the government and even the world.
The gameplay of Morrowind, however, does show its age. The combat system is repetitive after a while. The skill and statistics system, while being more immersive compared to its modern iterations, is rather slow. Combined with the initial walking speed and the lack of fast travel, exploring the world of Morrowind could be a tedious task, especially if you are trying to get into Vivec. This game is in dire need of a remaster.
2 – Fallout: New Vegas
Fallout: New Vegas is the best Fallout game ever made, and ironically, it was not made by Bethesda. The only thing they did was providing Obsidian with the Fallout 3 engine and publishing the title. This title was part of the reason behind Obsidian’s legendary status.
Despite suffering a lot from Bethesda’s deadlines and engine, Fallout: New Vegas is as close to a perfect Fallout game as it could get. There are a lot of lore elements revived from the first two Fallout games, such as the NCR. The developers in Obsidian also added even more role-playing elements to the game, with every quest having multiple ways to be completed. The main storyline was fantastic, with the amazing twists and turns which were also weaved into the DLC’s storyline. If only Obsidian developed Fallout 4.
1 – The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
The most popular Elder Scrolls game. This placement of Skyrim on the list is completely justified, as it is the title that turned the franchise into a household name. The game has become so famous that it is actually really hard to find a gamer who hasn’t heard about the name.
Skyrim is one of the most beautiful games at the time of its release – and with the Special Edition’s enhancements, it gets even better. While the gameplay could use some more improvements in its complexity, the core aspects of Skyrim is still super solid and incredibly immersive. The combat arguably is the most engaging amongst all Elder Scrolls games, as you get to face real dragons in all their glory.
Interested in more of our top lists? Please check out this article for the top 5 open-world games that are going to be released in 2020.