A Guide To Understanding The Fallout Timeline

The world of Fallout isn’t a particularly nice place to live. The series takes place in a very different version of the United States that is ravaged by mutated wildlife, humans who have turned into mindless ghouls, and haywire robots. Radiation is everywhere and it’s hard to even find a place to sleep without being attacked by roaming gangs of raiders.

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So, how did things get so bad in the Fallout universe? Let’s dig into the timeline and follow it through the past all the way up to the most recent Fallout titles.


Pre-War Times – Long Before The Bombs Fell

fallout pre war

Before the world fell into utter chaos, most of the events leading up to the current state of the Fallout world mirror what happened in our reality. Things started to take a turn for the worst when resources such as petroleum and uranium became scarce. This caused significant tension between nations. In 2066, the US declared war on China, which led to China invading Alaska.

Around the same time, a pandemic known as the New Plague had started to wreak havoc across the US. In an attempt to find a cure for this disease, scientists began researching a drug to counter its effects in 2073. Dubbed the Pan-Immunity Virion, it proved to be an effective counter-measure against the New Plague.

In fact, it was too effective as its side effects included increased muscle growth and brain activity. This caught the eye of the US military who decided to steer research away from simply curing a virus and towards turning US soldiers into supersoldiers. This would begin the creation of what would be known as the Forced Evolutionary Virus or FEV.

The Great War – Major Events Leading Up To Fallout

fallout great war

Conflicts and tensions continued to rise up until the fateful date of October 23, 2077, which was the beginning and end of an event known as The Great War. This was the moment when the United States was struck by a series of nuclear missiles by China. Most of the US was uttered wiped out leading to mass destruction, millions of casualties, and most of the country becoming an irradiated wasteland. Some lucky civilians were able to make it to underground Vaults where they would survive the blasts but be subjected to the cruel experiments of Vault-Tec scientists.

During the collapse of society, several important events occurred. A group of US soldiers would abandon the army and form a paramilitary faction with religious overtones known as The Brotherhood Of Steel. The remaining members of the US Government formed a coalition known as The Enclave and took refuge at The Poseidon Oil Rig in the Pacific Ocean where they plotted to retake the United States. Experimental species such as Deathclaws escaped from US facilities and caused havoc across the country.

Over in Boston, an individual who would come to be known as The Sole Survivor would witness the fall of the bombs and manage to make it to Vault 111 where they, their spouse, and their baby Shaun would be cryogenically frozen.

Years later, on June 27. 2102, a man named Richard Grey would stumble across the Mariposa Military Base where FEV research was being conducted. While exploring the facility, he would fall into a vat causing him to mutate into a grotesque mass of flesh and machine known as The Master. This event would become an important part of the very first Fallout game.

However, according to official Fallout canon, the true first Fallout game on this timeline is the multiplayer survival game, Fallout 76.

Fallout 76 – Reclamation Day


Inhabitants of Vault 76 would leave the safety of the vault to venture out into the remains of West Virginia on October 23, 2102, 25 years after the bombs fell. This day would be known as Reclamation Day.

As the Vault Dwellers would soon discover, a new pandemic known as the Scorched Plague had begun ravaging the region of Appalachia. This disease would turn humans and animals alike into mindless drones with burning sores and green crystals piercing through their skin. Thankfully, the Vault Dwellers discovered a cure for this disease and inoculated the local residents.

During the events of Fallout 76, The Master began his experiments with the FEV. He planned to use the virus to mutate all of humanity into a new species. This led to the creation of his army of super mutants known as The Unity, who would spread across the country looking for more human subjects to be experimented upon.

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Fallout – The Legend Of The Vault Dweller (And Also Fallout Tactics Happens)

fallout the master

It wasn’t until 2161 that someone would put a stop to The Master’s plans. In Fallout, a Vault Dweller from Vault 13 – one of the many still inhabited Vaults located in California – was tasked with finding a water chip for the Vault’s malfunctioning water purification system. He ventured out into the wasteland and managed to befriend many fellow survivors while also fending off super mutants, raiders, and other baddies. Through his travels, The Vault Dweller would confront The Master and defeat him, leading to the end of his super mutant army.

As a reward for not only ending The Master’s schemes but also finding a replacement water chip, Vault 13’s overseer declared that The Vault Dweller could not return to the Vault as he had been exposed to the wasteland and could compromise the Vault’s safety. Needless to say, the overseer is a jerk. The Vault Dweller left along with a few others and they formed a new settlement known as Arroyo.

Other significant events that occurred around the time of the first Fallout game include a scientific organization known as The Institute beginning their research into creating synthetic humans around 2178. The New California Republic or NCR is formed as a nation built from the remnants of New California as well as select regions of Nevada and Oregon in 2189.

Also, the events of Fallout Tactics occurred in 2197, although the most significant thing to come from that game was the creation of a midwestern branch of the Brotherhood Of Steel. So in other words, not a whole lot happens in that game.

Then, in 2227, members of The Institute broke into Vault 111 where The Sole Survivor and their family were still cryogenically frozen. They kidnapped The Sole Survivor’s child, Shaun, and murdered their spouse. The Institute then placed them back into cryogenic stasis for another 60 years setting the events of Fallout 4 into motion. But we’ll get there in a bit.

Fallout 2 – Getting A GECK

fallout 2 enclave

This leads into Fallout 2, which took place in Arroyo in the year 2241. The Vault Dweller’s daughter had become the village elder and her child would be known as The Chosen One. The village was in the midst of a terrible drought causing their crops to wither away. In an effort to save their people, the village elder sent The Chosen One out into the wasteland to find a terraforming device known as the Garden of Eden Creation Kit or GECK that could potentially save Arroyo.

The Chosen One faced many hardships and tough decisions on their quest, but they eventually found themselves back at a nearly deserted Vault 13 where they recovered the GECK. Unfortunately, while they were gone, most of the residents of Vault 13 and Arroyo were captured by The Enclave to be used as test subjects for its FEV experiments. To make matters worse, The Enclave planned to exterminate all mutated life with a new strain of the FEV that it’d release into the air.

Thankfully, The Chosen One put a stop to this by traveling to The Enclave’s oil rig and blowing it up. The residents of both Vault 13 and Arroyo were rescued, and they used the GECK to rebuild their society in Arroyo.

Shortly after the events of Fallout 2 in 2250, a group of scientists and Brotherhood Of Steel members in The Capital Wasteland – an area located around the remains of Washington D.C. – began a water purification project known as Project Purity. This would provide clean, radiation-free drinking water to everyone in the surrounding area and beyond. Among the scientists were James and Catherine, a couple who would conceive a child who would be called The Lone Wanderer.

Fallout 3 – Project Purity

fallout 3 lone wanderer

The Lone Wanderer would be born in 2258, but sadly, Catherine would not survive childbirth. This event would cause James to abandon Project Purity and travel to Vault 101 with an infant Lone Wanderer. He struck a deal with the overseer to become their doctor, so he could raise his child within the safe confines of a vault. In his absence, Project Purity would close down.

The Lone Wanderer lived a relatively normal childhood in Vault 101 throughout the beginning of Fallout 3. Meanwhile, James secretly continued his research on Project Purity with the limited resources he had in the vault. With The Lone Wanderer having nearly reached adulthood, James decided to make a last-ditch effort to finish Project Purity. Thus, in 2277, James escaped Vault 101 and headed back out into The Capital Wasteland.

However, upon learning that his father has vanished, The Lone Wanderer also decided to leave the vault and go after his father. He eventually found him, and they gathered up the rest of the scientists to attempt to get Project Purity back up and running. But they faced another major setback when The Enclave arrived and attempted to take over Project Purity by force. James would make yet another reckless decision and flood the control room with radiation to prevent The Enclave from having complete control over The Capitol Wasteland’s drinking water. He dies and The Lone Wanderer is left to pick up the pieces of Project Purity.

With help from the Brotherhood Of Steel, The Lone Wanderer recovered a GECK, which would allow Project Purity to be completed. The Enclave attempted to interfere, but they’re defeated by the Brotherhood Of Steel and their giant robot named Liberty Prime. Project Purity filtered the water of The Capital Wasteland and The Lone Wanderer went on to have many more adventures (one of which involved thwarting an alien invasion.)

Fallout: New Vegas Into Fallout 4 – The Current End Of The Fallout Timeline

fallout 4 shaun

In 2281, an individual known as The Courier is attacked by a gang of hoodlums while transporting an important package. After surviving a gunshot to the head by the gang’s leader, Benny, they head out into The Mojave Wasteland in Nevada to seek revenge. This is the beginning of Fallout: New Vegas

After dealing with Benny, The Courier is stuck in a three-way war over the nearby Hoover Dam, which is still pumping out clean water. The three groups fighting for the dam included The NCR, an army of violent soldiers called Caesar’s Legion, and a man named Mr. House who operates a casino in New Vegas and controls a large number of robots. They all wanted the dam as whoever controlled the water had control over the whole region. The Courier eventually helped The NCR take over the dam allowing them to secure their power in The Mojave Wasteland.

Finally, in 2287, The Sole Survivor woke up from their cryogenic sleep in Vault 111 to begin the events of Fallout 4. They set out on their quest to recover their son Shaun from The Institute that stole him and killed their spouse. The Sole Survivor reached The Institute’s headquarters only to discover that Shaun was now the one in charge. 60 years had passed since he was taken away and he was now a dying, old man who went by the name Father. From here, there isn’t an official canon ending, but it more than likely ended with The Sole Survivor destroying The Institute by overloading their nuclear reactor.

They then go on to receive far too many requests to set up and protect settlements before forcefully conquering a Nuka Cola-inspired theme park.

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