Welcome, Vault Dwellers: A Guide to the Fallout Universe

The new TV series “Fallout” on Prime Video is based on a gargantuan video game universe of warring factions, world-changing stakes and irradiated monsters. Although the show has an original plot and viewers do not need to be experts on the source material, you may prefer to watch with some level of fluency.

In the six mainline games, beginning with 1997’s Fallout, you can wander through the nuclear-decimated United States as a noble hero, a criminal scumbag or anything in between, adopting skills and specialties in ways that recall the inventiveness of the tabletop game Dungeons & Dragons.

The games are packed with dialogue and texts about postapocalypse survival, meaning you would need to play for hundreds of hours to understand the full back story. Or you could just read this primer.

The Premise

Every Fallout game, including the multiplayer Fallout 76 (2018), begins in an underground vault.Credit…Bethesda Softworks

In an alternate-reality version of the not-too-distant future, America and China are the last global superpowers battling over dwindling natural resources. There are hostile takeovers, Cold War-like developments of dubious technologies and increasingly intense robot armor. By 2077, this war ends with both sides pressing their Big Red Buttons to launch nuclear weapons, ending human existence as we know it.

That’s only the beginning of the Fallout story, thanks to a network of sophisticated underground shelters that the United States got up and running just in time.

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