The Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises, beyond being Bethesda's bread and butter, are two of the biggest names in the gaming industry as a whole. Both revolve around a core design philosophy of unadulterated open-world shenanigans. But thematically, they're almost exact polar opposites. On one hand, you have a vast and completely original fantasy universe of dragons, fallen demigods, and unlikely heroes caught in the tangled threads of prophecy. On the other, a post-apocalyptic survival epic set in an alternative history version of the world we know.
So let's ask the big question here: Which one's better? Actually, let's go a step further and answer that question. Keep scrolling and join Game Rant as we rank all of the titles within The Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises from worst to best.
As a note - Fallout and Fallout 2 will not be included on this list, as they were made by Interplay and Black Isle Studios. While they're great games, they aren't necessarily representative of Bethesda's design philosophy.
9 The Elder Scrolls: Arena
It doesn't feel quite right to place the game that started it all so far down the list, but facing facts, Arena is a very difficult game to enjoy as a modern gamer. It was most definitely a spectacular and groundbreaking title at the time of its 1994 release, but trying to enjoy it in 2019 is definitely a chore.
Its mixture of procedurally generated areas and hand-designed content was innovative and allowed for the creation of an impressively huge game world. But the convoluted menus in conjunction with the almost painfully awkward movement make it incredibly difficult to truly appreciate once you've been spoiled by contemporary offerings.
8 The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
Daggerfall suffers from the same drawbacks as Arena when attempting to appreciate it in 2019. Again, it feels unfortunate to drop it so low, because the scope of Daggerfall is such that later installments in the series simply cannot compare. There was even a fully functional banking system. You could actually take out loans to buy a house, and bankers would dispatch assassins to take your head if you failed to pay them back.
The ambition involved in the creation of Daggerfall is truly a thing of legend, necessitating the sort of design and attention to detail that the modern gaming industry rarely sees. Unfortunately, the UI is so insanely cumbersome by modern standards that it's extremely difficult to actually enjoy said design.
7 Fallout 76
Well, it had to be discussed eventually. Fallout 76 is playable, certainly, and it's come a long way since its remarkably disastrous and poorly received launch. It's even adding NPCs with a pending content update (which feels strange as headline news for an open-world RPG, but here we are). That said, it wasn't as terrible as most people wanted it to be for the sake of riding the hate train.
But the obvious flaws can't be overlooked, either. Bethesda was about as poorly prepared for the launch of Fallout 76 as they could possibly be, and to this day it's plagued with technical issues and exploits, which is borderline unforgivable for the online experience that it's meant to be. Is Fallout 76 better nowadays? Absolutely. But it still has a long way to go.
6 The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Oblivion is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, t the time of its 2006 release, it was groundbreaking. The environmental design was captivating, despite being a bit more plain and conventional than the preceding title, Morrowind. The quests, particularly the Thieves' Guild line, were captivating and well written.
On the other, the NPCs were among the most horrid that Bethesda has ever produced, and that's saying quite a bit. The voice acting (outside of Sir Patrick Stewart, naturally) was uninspired and forced, and their graphical design almost managed to completely pass through the uncanny valley and into the realm of purposeful caricature. The terms "bizarre" and "uncomfortable" come to mind, but don't seem to do justice.
5 Fallout 3
Fallout 3 was Bethesda's first crack at the Fallout formula, and all told, it really wasn't so terrible. At points, it became abundantly clear that Bethesda still wasn't entirely sure how to mesh their famed open-world design with that of an action-forward shooter hybrid. Their take on the VATS system alleviated this to a degree, but it became a necessary crutch as the shooting mechanics, mixed with the spotty combat AI, just didn't work so well.
The actual role-playing mechanics and progression were good. The overall atmosphere and art direction were also pretty solid, though the textures and reused assets for building interiors definitely got old quickly. There's a lot of heavy criticism leveled at the overwhelmingly brown color palette in outdoor areas, but, well, we're talking about a world ravaged by nuclear fire. Were people expecting more rainbows?
4 Fallout 4
Fallout 4 is difficult to place because it certainly took a few steps backward in some respects. However, ultimately, the fourth chapter in the Fallout series definitely fixed a lot more than it broke. The primary thing that Fallout 4 did right was combat. It features, far and away, the best gunplay seen in a Fallout title to date. The combat AI, while still problematic at times, was much improved over previous iterations, and graphically, the game is gorgeous.
But these upgrades didn't come without a few gripes in tow. The skill system, and by extension, a lot of the actual roleplaying elements, were completely gutted and reduced to a "perk" system. The decision to go with a fully voiced protagonist left players with sorely limited dialogue options and the plot is arguably the weakest in the series. This leaves the settlement system, which was fun in a Minecraft-lite sort of way, but ultimately just a diversion.
3 The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Morrowind is quite nearly a perfect Elder Scrolls game. Compared to the more modern Elder Scrolls titles, the setting of Vvardenfell is entirely novel and foreign, with its unique architecture and bizarre landscape practically begging to be explored. The decidedly darker, almost Lovecraftian plot is deeply intriguing, as is the very culture of its Dunmer inhabitants.
However, Morrowind does show its age. The one-note combat gets repetitive after a point, and although the more "hardcore" design of its skill and statistics system is much more immersive than its modern counterparts, the initially slow running speed coupled with the lack of direct fast travel can make exploring a few particular locations, such as Vivec, an exercise in torturous frustration. It's a title worthy of unconditional love, but it's in sore need of a remaster.
2 Fallout: New Vegas
Fallout: New Vegas is as close as Bethesda's branding of the Fallout universe ever came to reconciling its roots with its new design direction. Ironically, Bethesda also had very little to do with the development process, outside of furnishing the Fallout 3 engine and publishing the title.
Still, it technically falls under Bethesda's umbrella. Despite suffering from a lot of the same issues as Fallout 3, New Vegas was pretty fantastic. It revived a lot of the lore elements that were missing from Fallout 3, such as the NCR. It also featured a lot more actual role-playing elements, with multiple, branching solutions to most quests, including the main storyline. If only Bethesda took some notes into the development of Fallout 4.
1 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Is this placement arguable? Totally and absolutely. But it's difficult to dispute with the numbers on this one. Skyrim is truly the game that turned The Elder Scrolls into a household name, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a gamer that isn't at least vaguely familiar with the gaming juggernaut that is Skyrim.
Skyrim is graphically stunning, even at eight years old, and without the Special Edition's enhancements taken into consideration. And while it could stand a little more mechanical complexity, it's still an incredibly immersive and satisfying gaming experience. The combat is more engaging than it's ever been in The Elder Scrolls, and of course, it brought us dragons, in all of their scaly, fire-breathing glory. To beat a dead meme, "it just works."