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5th June 2024

The complete Fallout timeline, explained

Some Fallout fans are concerned that its TV show contradicts the canon. Here’s why it doesn’t
The complete Fallout timeline, explained
Credit: Bethesda Softworks

With the terrible Halo, the brilliant The Last of Us, and now the release of the new Fallout series, game franchises are coming to television in search of a new audience. Amazon Prime’s Fallout is a testament to the fact that video game adaptations can be mature and compelling. The show charms fans with the kind of world-building that drew many into the original franchise, while appealing to people who’ve never picked up a controller in their lives.

As Bethesda director and executive producer Todd Howard has confirmed, the show exists within the canon of the series. The show is set in the year 2296 – a full nine years after the franchise’s last mainline instalment Fallout 4. This means what happens in the show has massive implications on the past and future of the series. But how does the Fallout show match up to the series’ timeline?

Spoiler alert: the ending of the Fallout TV series and details for every Fallout game are discussed below.

Bombs Drop – Year: 2077

The entire Fallout franchise is based on an alternate history of the Cold War. For the series, October 23, 2077 marks the start of the Great War and the end of the world as we know it. We get a glimpse into pre-war life in the show, and briefly in Fallout 4, as both depict the exact moment the world becomes a nuclear wasteland. The opening moments of Fallout 4 see the Sole Survivor and their family making their way into Vault 111, while Howard Cooper is seen attempting to flee Los Angeles with his daughter in the show.

Fallout 76 – Year: 2102

As a prequel to the series, Fallout 76 begins on the Reclamation Day of October 23, 2102. Set in West Virginia, the game stars a Vault Dweller from Vault 76 who sets out to find their missing Overseer. Fallout 76 is known as somewhat of a disappointment among fans, yet it does effectively show the devastation of a wasteland just 25 years after the bombs have dropped.

Fallout 1 – Year: 2161

Set 84 years after the Great War, the very first game begins in Vault 13. Fallout 1 follows a Vault Dweller given the simple task of finding a new Water Chip before their water supply runs out. The Vault in question is in Southern California, close to what will become Shady Sands and Vault 33 in the show. In typical Fallout fashion, this adventure isn’t so easy, as the Vault Dweller battles against The Master and his army of mutants.

Fallout Tactics – Year: 2197

Fallout Tactics is the first in-depth insight into the Brotherhood of Steel in the series. As one of the most famous (or infamous) factions from the series, we get to see their establishment as a faction. A group of military men bunker in a Vault with a group of scientists. The military unit kills the scientists after learning about their experiments, then establishes the Brotherhood to safeguard pre-war technology.

Tactics follows a Brotherhood squad trying to claim the ruins surrounding Chicago, but the game ultimately takes them out west to find Vault 0 which is rumoured to shelter leaders in government, the military, and science.

Fallout 2 – Year: 2241

Fallout 2 follows a direct descendant of the Vault Dweller from Vault 13 in the wasteland. As a direct sequel, we get to follow the rise of the New California Republic as well as the Enclave. There are passing references made to the Enclave as the scientist Siggi Wilzig escapes with the fusion reactor in the show. This makes it likely Season 2 may explore this organisation which claims to be the true successor of the US government.

Credit: Bethesda Softworks

Fallout 3 – Year: 2277

Fallout 3 follows yet another Vault Dweller searching for a loved one. Set in the East Coast near former Washington D.C. in Vault 101, our protagonist looks for their missing father but discovers a larger plot around a project to purify the Potomac River’s drinking water and ends up clashing with the Enclave. A lot of the content from Fallout 3 isn’t covered by the series yet, so it should be interesting to see if and how they chose to use this lore.

Fallout: New Vegas – Year: 2281

Fallout: New Vegas follows a courier travelling across the post-apocalyptic Mojave Desert on a revenge mission, getting caught up in a local factional war between the New California Republic and Caesar’s Legion. Episode 6 of the Fallout show sees Shady Sands, sometimes referred to as the New California Republic, hit by a nuclear bomb in the 2280s. We get a glimpse of the bomb’s aftermath through Maximus’ backstory and begin to gain a sense of how this destabilised the region.

It’s revealed that Hank McLean, Lucy’s father, was responsible as it threatened Vault-Tec’s mission of recolonising the wasteland. Hank was cryogenically frozen in Vault 31 with other executive Vault-Tec employees to become an Overseer. This revelation caused uproar amongst fans, with some wondering if this meant New Vegas was being retconned.

Credit: Bethesda Softworks

To give a bit more clarity, this episode shows a chalkboard in Vault 4 depicting the known history of Shady Sands with an ambiguous date around when the bombing happened. Howard admitted to IGN that the bombing of Shady Sands complicates the timeline: “All I can say is we’re threading it tighter there, but the bombs fall just after the events of New Vegas.”

Fallout 4 – Year: 2287

Fallout 4 follows the Sole Survivor of Vault 111 through the Commonwealth as they try to find their missing son. Players get introduced to both the Minutemen and Railroad factions which haven’t featured yet in the show. Fallout Season 2 could introduce Synth characters from this game. This would open the opportunity for the show to explore themes like sentience and ethics like HBO’s Westworld.

Jonathan Nolan, the director of the Fallout TV series, dismissed the idea of catering to fans as a “fool’s errand”, instead choosing to make creative decisions in line with his vision for the show. He admits his own love for the franchise came from first playing Fallout 3, and this passion shines through in the series.

By moving away from fan service, the series expands and enriches the Fallout universe. With Fallout 5 already confirmed as a game Howard and Bethesda want to make, who knows how the Fallout TV show will change the future of the series?

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