Fallout 1, the original Fallout game developed by Interplay Entertainment and released in 1997, is considered a classic CRPG (computer role playing game) that helped define the post-apocalyptic open world genre. With its gritty atmosphere, dark humor, open ended gameplay and moral choices, Fallout 1 kickstarted the popular Fallout franchise and built a dedicated fanbase over the years.
If you have never played the original Fallout before, or want to revisit this classic from your childhood, you may be wondering if it is possible to get Fallout 1 for free legally in 2023. Here are some options to consider:
Get Fallout 1 free on Steam
Back in October 2022, Bethesda and Valve celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Fallout franchise by making Fallout 1 free to download and keep permanently on Steam.
This was a limited time offer and may not still be available. But it doesn‘t hurt to check on Steam and see if the deal is still running. If so, you can simply add Fallout 1 to your library on Steam and have permanent access to download and play whenever you want.
Claim it free on Epic Games Store
In December 2021, Epic Games gave away Fallout 1 for free as part of their weekly free game promotion. This was also a limited time offer.
However, Epic often rotates and brings back giveaways of the same game periodically. So keep an eye on the Epic Games Store every Thursday when they update their free weekly game, and you might catch Fallout 1 available for free again soon.
Use Xbox Game Pass
If you have an Xbox Game Pass subscription on PC, you can download and play Fallout 1 for free as part of the Game Pass library.
The base Game Pass for PC subscription is $9.99 per month, and gives you access to over 100 games in the catalog including Fallout 1. So if you don‘t mind a monthly fee, Game Pass is a great way to play Fallout 1 and tons of other games for free as long as your subscription is active.
Check on GOG
Fallout 1 is also available on GOG (Good Old Games), a platform focused on selling classic and older games optimized to run on modern systems.
While Fallout 1 normally costs $9.99 on GOG, they do put games on sale quite frequently. Keep an eye out for seasonal sales events like summer or holiday sales, where Fallout 1 may get discounted to as low as $1.99 or even $0.99 temporarily.
Claim if you own Fallout 3
There was a brief period back in 2009 when Bethesda offered Fallout, Fallout 2 and Fallout Tactics as a free package download for anyone who owned Fallout 3 on Steam.
This promotion may no longer be active. But if you do own Fallout 3 on Steam, check your Steam keys and library just in case – you may already have Fallout 1 waiting to be downloaded from a past promotion.
Use abandonware or "free" sites
There are some websites that offer downloads of "abandoned" or older games for free legally.
However, abandonware sites are a gray area when it comes to legality. The games are usually uploaded without permission from the IP rights holders, and many have malware risks as well.
Instead of these, it may be better and safer to wait for legit free offers from platforms like Steam, Epic, GOG or Game Pass. Or consider purchasing Fallout 1 at the normal price to support the developers. It goes on sale frequently for as low as $2.99 during events.
Watch gameplay videos
If you absolutely cannot get Fallout 1 for free right now, the next best thing is to experience it through videos. Go on YouTube and find full gameplay walkthroughs and video essays analyzing the game‘s design, story, music and more.
Major Fallout fans and gaming channels have uploaded high-quality full playthroughs, so watching those will allow you to at least enjoy the story and see the game in action until you are able to play it yourself.
Beyond just being the original entry in a popular franchise, Fallout 1 did a lot of things differently for RPGs at the time that helped cement its iconic status in gaming history.
It created a unique retro-futuristic post nuclear world
The post-apocalyptic setting portrayed in Fallout was very novel for RPGs in 1997. It depicted an alternate dystopian future where technology, design, and culture were heavily influenced by 1950s Americana due to diverging timelines. This retro-futurist aesthetic gave the world a very distinct look and feel that no other game matched.
The nuclear annihilation scenario was also fresh and allowed for creative worldbuilding and lore around how civilization tried to survive and rebuild after the bombs dropped. This became a signature of the Fallout franchise.
It used violence, darkness, and wacky humor in a mature way
Fallout leaned heavily into violence, darkness, mature themes and moral ambiguity in a tactful way that worked harmoniously with its eccentric humor and quirky characters. This balancing act gave the game a distinct personality.
The developers were not afraid to show the grim realities of a post-nuclear world including slavery, drug use, prostitution and genocide. But none of it ever felt sensationalized or glorified. Mature themes were presented thoughtfully to drive home the severity of moral choices.
It offered unprecedented freedom and flexibility
Bethesda‘s Todd Howard frequently credits Fallout as a major inspiration for the open world design in The Elder Scrolls series. Fallout 1 broke from linear RPGs at the time by letting you freely explore its massive world and tackle quests in any order you chose once leaving the introductory vault.
There were very few artificial gates or story barriers restricting your path. You could walk straight to endgame areas right from the start and experience unique reactive content based on your character stats and progress. This was incredibly liberating.
It had deep roleplaying mechanics and moral systems
Fallout 1 took the SPECIAL character system created for Interplay‘s previous RPGs like Wasteland, and refined it to allow for extremely flexible skill and attribute based character builds. You had total freedom to create any hero you wanted and roleplay them accordingly.
The Karma system tracked your moral decisions and affected reactions from NPCs and factions, while the multiple ending system reflected the overall consequences of your actions. This allowed for complex reactive roleplaying.
It influenced many genres and developers over the years
When Fallout came out, the CRPG genre was stagnating a bit and largely confined to fantasy settings and tropes. Fallout successfully transplanted deep RPG systems into a fully realized post-apocalyptic open world, inspiring future franchises like STALKER, Metro and more.
The blend of choice/consequence RPG mechanics in an open world laid the foundations for sandboxes like The Elder Scrolls, Deus Ex, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines and even Mass Effect later on. It proved RPGs didn‘t have to be beholden to tired fantasy traditions.
And of course, Fallout directly spawned its own series. Fallout 2 iterated on the first game‘s ideas just a year later in 1998. And Black Isle Studios was already working on "Van Buren", Fallout 3, before the IP went to Bethesda who rebooted it into a first person RPG.
Fallout came out way back in 1997. So how does it actually play for an audience in 2023 who may be used to modern graphics, interfaces, and gameplay?
The graphics are extremely dated
This should be quite obvious, but the visuals in Fallout 1 are archaic by today‘s standards. The game used basic 2D sprites over pre-rendered backdrops to simulate a 3D environment. While impressive then, it looks very primitive now.
The PC version supports modern resolutions so it won‘t be a tiny postage stamp on a large monitor. But don‘t expect any visual enhancements. This is a game that requires imagination to fill in the blanks.
The turn-based combat is slow paced
Combat in Fallout 1 uses a turn based system with action points that will feel very clunky if you are used to real time first person shooters. You have to be patient and thoughtful with each move rather than expect nonstop action.
It can be frustrating at first as enemies can easily wipe out new players. But with some strategy and number crunching, you can get comfortable with the rhythm and deliberate pacing of Fallout 1‘s combat.
User interface takes time to adjust to
There are no objective markers, quest logs, or convenient maps guiding you at all times like in modern RPGs. Fallout 1 came from an era where you had to pay close attention, read dialogue carefully, and manually track quests and exploration.
The menu system is also archaic. Character management involves a lot of clicking between different screens and stat pages. It takes patience to handle inventory, leveling up, and general UI navigation.
High difficulty and unforgiving gameplay
Fallout 1 does not believe in hand holding or making things easy for the player. Even character creation presents opportunities to gimp yourself if you don‘t build correctly. Enemies hit brutally hard and will slaughter new players. Resources are limited. And quests give vague guidance at best.
Save often, expect to fail and die repeatedly, carefully plan each decision, and be ready to embrace the frustration. Overcoming the challenge is part of the fun once you adapt to Fallout 1‘s distinct oldschool flavor.
For players trying Fallout 1 for the first time in 2023, here are some helpful tips to get the most out of the experience:
Read the manual thoroughly
The PDF manual that comes with Fallout 1 on digital stores like Steam and GOG is a treasure trove of guidance and lore. Do not skip it. Read it cover to cover to understand mechanics that are poorly explained in game.
Use guides when stuck
There is no shame at all for new players to consult guides and walkthroughs frequently when stuck on quests or wanting to build an effective character. Fallout 1 can be downright confusing even to veterans. Guides remove frustration.
Save constantly across multiple slots
Make use of the 12 save slots available and alternate between them to have rollback points. You will die frequently and want restoring saves to avoid losing progress or being stuck in unwinnable situations.
Specialize your character
While you can technically become a jack of all trades, spreading yourself too thin will make you extremely weak. Focus on a specific combat skill (small guns, big guns, etc) and pump points into it.
Know that fights can often be avoided
Not everything in Fallout 1 needs to be defeated with combat. Many quests have creative solutions through dialogue, stealth, or science skills. Talk to NPCs thoroughly and explore options before pulling out your weapon.
Quicksave before picking locks or hacking
Lockpicking and hacking can permanently lock you out ofstory areas if failed too many times. Always quicksave beforehand in a fresh slot to avoid closing off quest branches.
Repair your armor
Unlike modern Fallouts, armor slowly degrades through use in Fallout 1. Keep an eye on its condition and get it repaired regularly to avoid being caught defenseless.
Radioactivity is deadly
Radiation exposure drains your health continuously. Always carry Rad-X pills and be prepared to pop them when passing through hot zones. Otherwise you‘ll quickly die.
The core Fallout 1 experience is the same across all platforms. But if you have a choice between purchasing it on GOG, Steam or getting it free elsewhere, what are the differences to consider?
The GOG version comes bundled with the following goodies:
- High res mod for enhanced visuals
- Fallout Fixt mod that fixes bugs/crashes
- Manual and reference materials
- Vintage artwork and avatars
- Curated bonus content like soundtracks
Overall this is the most feature rich bundle. But no Steam Workshop mod support.
The Steam edition includes:
- Achievements and cards
- Cloud saves support
- Full Steam Workshop mod integration
- Usually cheaper than on GOG
Workshop access means more mods. But it lacks the bonus content of the GOG bundle.
Game Pass or free versions
Free options like Game Pass provide the base game only without bells & whistles. You also lose the game if your subscription ends. But of course, the price is unbeatable.
If possible, grab a free copy first just to try the game out. Then support GOG or Steam for the best long term experience. But free is still far better than not playing at all.
The original 1997 graphics, UI, music, and mechanics of Fallout 1 understandably show their age to young gamers in 2023. Thankfully, mods can help smoothen out the rough edges and tune the experience for a more palatable playthrough even today.
Graphical overhaul mods
One of the most transformative type of mods are full graphical overhauls that replace textures and sprites with newer high resolution 2D art while keeping the original style intact.
Some popular options are:
- Fallout FIXT High Resolution Pack
- Fallout Overhaul Project 5.0
- Origina Fallout Hi-Res Patch
- Fallout Et Tu graphical overhaul
QOL and UI mods
UI mods that preserve the original aesthetics while adding quality of life features are also great for new players:
- FIXT Restoration Project (bug fixes)
- Unofficial Fallout Patch
- Fallout1 Resolution Patch (high res support)
- SFall (engine tweaks and fixes)
- Icon Pack With Weapon Sprites (better icons)
Content addition mods
New unofficial content mods help flesh out the sparse original game:
- Fallout 1 NPC Armor Mod
- More Perks for Fallout 1
- New Reno Real Estate
- Fallout 1 Vehicle Pack
Full conversion mods
Total conversions like Fallout Nevada completely transform the game into something almost entirely new. This can freshen up the experience for veterans.
If you enjoy the style of Fallout 1 and want more classics in a similar vein, here are some recommendations to look into:
- Fallout 2 (1998) – Sequel improves upon the first game‘s foundation in every way. Bigger, deeper RPG.
- Planescape: Torment (1999) – Strange fantasy CRPG with rich lore and writing.
- Baldur‘s Gate 1 and 2 (1998 – 2000) – Epics based on D&D rules. Great characters and adventure.
- Arcanum (2001) – Steampunk fantasy setting mixes magic and tech.
- Deus Ex (2000) – Cyberpunk immersive sim with player agency.
- Vampire Bloodlines (2004) – Dark modern vampire RPG with first person action.
- Wasteland 1 & 2 (1988 – 2014) – Fallout‘s post-apocalyptic spiritual predecessor.
- Underrail (2015) – Indie retro Fallout inspired RPG with fun worldbuilding.
Fallout 1 stands the test of time as an incredibly influential PC RPG classic that is still worth playing today. It established the post-nuclear retro-futuristic world that became synonymous with the Fallout brand. And its open ended gameplay and moral freedom were revolutionary in 1997.
While its visuals, UI, and mechanics are archaic by modern standards, they can be smoothed over through mods and patience. And appreciating where the genre has come from enhances your respect for modern Fallout entries and RPGs in general.
Thanks to giveaways on platforms like Steam and Epic Games Store, it has never been easier to add this iconic game to your collection legally. And enjoying the harsh but fair challenge of its classic CRPG combat and progression is still deeply rewarding.