Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas are among the most popular titles in Bethesda Softworks’ post-apocalyptic series. The stories of lone-survivors traveling across what was left of America after the nuclear war are augmented by excellent gameplay and graphics, bringing the desolate worlds to life on the player’s screen.

Both games have their strong points, and in this article, we will compare them to decide which one is better. In our decision process, we will take a look at the plot of both games, their gameplay mechanics, and overall reception from the critics. Without further ado, here’s the comparison of Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas

Setting and plot

The setting of both games is pretty much the same – post-nuclear war United States of America. Fallout 3 is set in the year 2277, in what remains of Washington D.C. and thereabouts. The plot focuses on the child born in Vault 101, whose father – a scientist  – defects for unknown reasons. Hunted by the Vault’s security, the protagonist escapes to the surface where they will become involved with the conflict between two enemy factions – the Enclave and the Brotherhood of Steel – while searching for their missing father.

Fallout 3 2008

The plot of New Vegas is set four years after the events of Fallout 3. This time, the protagonist is a courier delivering high-risk packages in the area of the former state of Nevada. Things get particularly dicey when during one of the deliveries, the protagonist is attacked and robbed by a bandit lord, Benny. The stolen package contained a device known as the Platinum Chip, an item sought after by the powers trying to take over the control of the area. The Courier embarks on a quest to find Benny and retrieve the Platinum Chip – a journey that will take them to the heart of the region: New Vegas.

Both games have an interesting setting and plots. The search for missing father in Fallout 3 and quest to retrieve a stolen package in New Vegas share similar themes of a lone wanderer exploring an unknown land and getting caught up on its conflicts. In our opinion, the plot of New Vegas deserves the win here, thanks to its colorful cast of deranged individuals and several endings dependent on who the player sided with throughout the game.

Gameplay mechanics

Both Fallout games are action-RPGs that heavily emphasize the role-playing elements of the gameplay. Fallout 3 begins with the player creating their character, deciding on their looks and various attributes.  A new feature introduced in Fallout 3 is the V.A.T.S. system – on top of real-time combat, the player can initiate an RPG-like mechanic, where they can aim at specific parts of the enemy’s body, dealing damage to it. F3 introduces companions, who will travel with the protagonist and assist them in combat.

Fallout: New Vegas - gameplay

Fallout: New Vegas retains and refines most of the mechanics of its predecessor. The new gameplay features include expanded crafting – unlike F3, New Vegas allows the player to craft anything from food to weapons – and the reputation system, which the players of Fallout 2 will recognize immediately. The Companion Wheel has also been improved, with the player able to give more complex commands to their AI-controlled party.

While credit should be given to Fallout 3 for introducing mechanics widely recognized as the series’ trademarks, New Vegas fleshed them out and added new solutions that improved some of the faults noticeable in F3. Once again, victory goes to New Vegas.

Review scores

Both Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas were positively received by the critics. The former was praised for introducing the players to a vast open-world environment, in which the player could lose themselves for hours, carrying out story missions and sidequests, or just exploring in search of loot. The critics also praised the gameplay mechanics, especially the masterful combination of action and role-playing elements. A testament to F3’s reception can be accolades it received, including several “Game of the Year” awards from various outlets.

Mutant in Fallout New Vegas game
Mutant in New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas’ reception was also good but not as overwhelmingly positive. The critics noted new and improved gameplay mechanics but lamented the technical problems that the developers failed to iron out before the release. Seeing as Fallout 3, similarly burdened by several bugs, managed to wow the audiences and critics alike on the day of its premiere, we give it victory in this round.


Well, there you have it: 2 to 1 for New Vegas. The follow-up to Fallout 3 was never going to have an easy time. With the amount of expectations and hype surrounding the release, there would always be those who’d say that the game did not live up to them. But if we look at the whole picture, New Vegas is definitely a better game – one that expanded upon the novel mechanics introduced in F3 and created one of the best stories in the series’ history. And for that, in our minds, it deserves victory over Fallout 3 by the sheer virtue of trying to surpass the giant.