What would the Fallout universe be without its quirky, bizarre, and oddly charming alternate history setting? I mean, at this point it's hard to imagine the game without its 1950's Americana aesthetics clashing delightfully with the harsh realities of the post-war United States.
However, the massive amount of historical revisionism that goes into such an endeavor is sure to yield a few holes or details that simply don't add up. Compounding this is the fact that we're dealing with more than a decade's worth of game lore that has spread across a few different developers, each with a slightly different take on how, precisely, it should be presented. Namely Interplay, being responsible for its genesis, and Bethesda, the company that made the property a household name in gaming.
And naturally, its wonderful absurdities and cheeky self-awareness also have a tendency to spark the imagination, giving wing to countless fan theories that aim to fill in plot holes, bridge gaps in the lore or explain away inconsistencies in entertaining, and sometimes strangely plausible ways. Let's dive in and have a look at the whole lot - here are fifteen things that don't make sense when it comes to Fallout, and ten fan theories that actually do.
25 MAKES NO SENSE: Power Armor Requires Special Training
It doesn't seem like Fallout is able to make up its mind on this topic. Power Armor didn't require specialized training until Fallout 3, and it kept this up with New Vegas as well. However, when Fallout 4 rolled around it did away with this concept, allowing virtually anyone to hop into a suit if they so fancied without so much as an instruction booklet.
Granted, it can be argued that these decisions were made from a gameplay balance perspective. But it sure does play havoc with the idea that Power Armor is supposed to be a complex and dangerous piece of machinery.
24 FAN THEORY: P.A.M Started The Great War
It seems like one of the most obvious things to wonder about in the Fallout universe - who was responsible for lighting the match that set the world on fire, anyway? The Chinese? Vault-Tec? Aliens? Dogmeat?
Well, what about the Railroad's very own P.A.M? While it might seem preposterous, there's actually quite a bit going for this fan theory. ACE mentions in Fallout 2 that self-aware AI's are theorized to have started the war, and P.A.M is hinted to be self-aware. She actively works to reduce variables so that she can calculate her "predictions" more accurately, citing human behavior as a tricky one. And if she wanted to reduce those variables, well, sparking the Great War would definitely accomplish that.
23 MAKES NO SENSE: Potatoes, Tomatoes & Tatos
To you, this might seem like a really minor point to harp on. And you'd be completely, totally and woefully mistaken. Look, I just really enjoy a good potato, okay? Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew. It's important to get your potato facts straight, and that's something Fallout can't seem to do.
Despite potatoes and tomatoes clearly existing in several of the previous titles, Fallout 4 stipulates that they don't via a few choice terminal entries on the Prydwen. Instead, we have the genetically mutated tato, a fusion of both. What's really weird is that you can manufacture pre-war potato products utilizing these post-nuclear abominations.
22 MAKES NO SENSE: Ridiculous Crafting Options
The crafting system that was pioneered in Fallout 4 and carried on to be one of the few straightforwardly good things about Fallout 76 is pretty excellent, all things considered. But have you ever thought about how ridiculous some of the things you can make are?
The idea that you can build a high-tech military laser from a few spare parts and a bit of duct tape is purely insane. I mean don't get me wrong, you can accomplish a lot with duct tape. But I think we've thoroughly passed the limits of its miraculous capabilities as an adhesive here.
21 FAN THEORY: Fallout 76 Is A Simulation
Given how many issues fans seem to take with Fallout 76's lore, wouldn't it be nice if it were all just a dream? Granted, this probably isn't anywhere near what Bethesda has in mind, but the important part is that it would make sense!
Yeah, sure. It could be a bit of a cop-out, but given the extensive virtual reality capabilities that we see utilized multiple times in Fallout 3, and Fallout 4's Memory Den, this is one theory that sits pretty firmly within the realm of possibility. Coupling that with the perceived lore-breaking and strange narrative structure of Fallout 76 just lends it more credibility.
20 MAKES NO SENSE: We Can Rebuild Nuclear Generators, Just Not Cars
With the exception of the Highwayman in Fallout 2, there don't seem to be any operable land vehicles in any of the other Fallout titles. Given that some factions have the capability to maintain a working fleet of VTOL aircraft, why is it that ground vehicles are so rare, if not impossible to get working?
It shouldn't be that hard to locate or rebuild the necessary parts, if you take the ludicrous number of abandoned vehicles and our strangely potent crafting abilities into consideration. If I can find the parts necessary to repair a massive high-tech combat robot, I think that I can handle tracking down a transmission.
19 FAN THEORY: Fallout & Lovecraft's Universes Are Linked
While it may not specifically be Cthulhu, the influence of H.P Lovecraft's mythos is readily apparent if you've followed the Dunwich saga throughout the past couple of Fallout titles, and the things you'll witness tying up the associated quests make it pretty easy to accept that some sort of dark eldritch power is alive and well in the Fallout universe.
Ancient tomes, mysterious relics and dark powers that afflict those coming into contact with madness are all themes that tie in well to this theory, and every item on the list is ticked off as you solve The Dark Heart of Blackhall in Fallout 3, or explore Dunwich Borer's in Fallout 4.
18 MAKES NO SENSE: You Find Bullets In The Weirdest Places
While randomizing quite a bit of the loot found in containers spread across the game makes sense, it also results in some really weird, if not slightly disturbing pieces of loot placed in some very strange places.
You have to admit, finding stashes of firearms and ammunition in students' desks and lockers inside of schools, presumably from before the war, is more than a little peculiar. And honestly, that's just the tip of the iceberg with this one. I'm sure you've found bullets in weirder places.
17 MAKES NO SENSE: Purified Water Is Actually Pretty Easy To Get, Apparently
Water scarcity tends to be a big theme, when looked at in the context of a Fallout game. More than once it's been a central and plot critical concept that drove the protagonist on their journey through the wasteland.
It's an awful shame that so much effort and conflict went into it when apparently all you needed was a few spare parts and some instructions, according to Fallout 4 and Fallout 76. Enough scavenging and you're able to throw together an industrial strength water purifier powerful enough to hydrate entire cities!
16 FAN THEORY: The Sole Survivor Is A Synth
DiMA asks the Sole Survivor pretty straightforwardly in Fallout 4's Far Harbor DLC whether or not he's a synth. Of course, most of us probably just brush that one off and don't think twice about it. But do we really know whether he is or isn't?
Of course, synths don't even exist as of the game's opening, but what about after that? You did, after all, take a two-hundred-year nap in the Vault - anything could've happened. The Institute didn't need you as a "back up" after a certain point, and as Kellogg says, they don't like loose ends. To make it even more complicated, synths are implanted with false memories anyway, so a lot of the Sole Survivor's past could be made up!
15 MAKES NO SENSE: Fusion Cores
It's made pretty clear that Power Armor is built to run without an overtly intrusive method of recharging or refueling in most iterations of Fallout. I mean sure, they're mentioned as using microfusion cell packs, but still, we didn't need to mess with them. Then suddenly with Fallout 4, you need to change the batteries out more often than you need to swap them out of your Xbox controller.
The addition of fusion cores as oversized, nuclear grade batteries just doesn't make any sense. There's also the fact that you can pull them out of power generators that have presumably been running for hundreds of years, and yet they deplete in less than an hour when you plug them into your chassis.
14 FAN THEORY: Deacon Is Fallout 3's Lone Wanderer
Deacon's merciless sarcasm and referential humor secured him a solid place as a favored companion among Fallout 4's cast of characters. The Railroad's man of many faces also has an air of mystery about him, and his deeply sarcastic nature can render it difficult to separate fact from fiction.
Reading between the lines, however, we can easily see where this theory takes root. He makes several references to life in the Capital Wasteland, seems to know about Project Purity, and is the right age to be the Lone Wanderer. They've even got appearance discrepancies covered, what with Deacon's regular plastic surgery habits.
13 MAKES NO SENSE: Radiation Exposure
Of course, the game handles most of it with its tongue in its cheek. It isn't realistic, and it's aware of that. But that doesn't change the fact that radiation exposure in Fallout isn't handled in a way that can be considered even remotely realistic.
First off, in some cases, there really wouldn't be any. Fallout 4, for instance, takes place two hundred years after the Great War. By then, virtually any harmful radiation would've decayed. Also, creatures exposed to the radiation wouldn't "evolve" to grow stronger or adapt, they would develop a host of unhealthy anomalies that would actually make it much more difficult for them to survive. And don't even get me started on Radaway.
12 MAKES NO SENSE: Bottlecaps As Currency
While bartering systems would undoubtedly develop and likely adopt some form of currency to ease the exchange of good and stimulate some sort of ragtag economy, the idea that something like bottlecaps would become the gold standard is actually pretty ridiculous.
While there are other forms of currency available in different parts of the country or as a form of credit for factions powerful enough to sustain a working economy, bottlecaps are almost universally accepted. With actual currency in existence, it seems really unlikely that there would be any sort of exchange rate for bottlecaps given how unstable they'd be, and the methods of obtaining them.
11 FAN THEORY: The Creepy Mannequins Are Alive
You'll find tons of mannequins placed in hilarious, awkward, and sometimes downright creepy arrangements across the entirety of Bethesda's run of Fallout titles. They've almost become a series staple at this point.
And if the mannequins themselves aren't unsettling enough, how about the idea that they're watching and following you? This theory poses just that, and has managed to develop a pretty big following. Sure, it seems like a joke. But the next time you find yourself staring down an entire room of them, keep this theory in mind and then swear that you didn't just see one turn its head in your direction.
10 MAKES NO SENSE: Are Cats Extinct Or Not?
It may have just been a throwaway line uttered by Mr. House in New Vegas, but it still carries some pretty serious implications. Our beloved, furry, feline friends have all passed into extinction, he tells us.
But in Fallout 4, they seem to have a pretty solid presence. This could be on account of the fact that the game takes place on the opposite side of the country, but the cats we do find are all curiously devoid of any effects of long term exposure to radiation. Perhaps that's for the better, as I find myself fairly deeply disturbed by the idea of cat ghouls.
9 FAN THEORY: The Cats Are Synths
It may seem absolutely ludicrous at first, but seriously, hear me out here. It can totally make sense! Our first piece of evidence is actually really straightforward, and it's easily witnessed at the Institute.
They obviously make use of small, mobile creatures to utilize as spy cameras, as we can see with the crows they have posted at various points to keep an eye on things. So why not cats? I mean sure, you never find synth parts on them, but do you ever actually find them on the crows, either?
8 MAKES NO SENSE: The Ghoul In The Fridge
It's established in Fallout 2 that while human beings can mutate into ghouls at young ages, they'll still age and eventually grow up, becoming adults. Fallout 4 had other ideas on this topic, specifically with the quest "Kid in a Fridge."
Meet Billy Peabody, a pre-war ghoul that found himself stuck in a fridge when the bombs fell, became a ghoul and apparently never grew past adolescence. Putting the ridiculousness of the scenario aside, this clearly postulates that becoming a ghoul halts the aging process, although that's never been the case in any of the established lore.
7 MAKES NO SENSE: AI That Is Virtually Sentient
Considering that in our world we're still a long ways off from creating artificial life that is actually self-aware, it seems odd that some of Fallout's robots have basically become sentient. Sure, technology took a strongly different path, and there are super advanced factions like the Institute, but it's still peculiar. It's also presented with terrible inconsistency.
Vault-Tec's ZAX computers, or unique models like Mr. House, for example, are incredibly massive supercomputers, requiring tons of hardware to support their complex AI systems. Others, like Codsworth, are simple, household robots meant to fulfill basic functions. And yet he's attained near sentient learning capabilities, emotions, and even a moral compass so well developed that I feel guilty just booting into my save file.
6 FAN THEORY: The Vault Experiments Are Biblical References
It's going to be difficult to cram all of this into a single entry, but there's definitely a strong case made for how a lot of the Vault experiments, in combination with their numbered code, tie into specific biblical references.
The references are listed specifically as related to the book of Psalms, with a pretty exhaustive list of parallels. For example, Vault 92 had some of the nation's most talented musicians stuffed into it, and subjected to white noise as an experiment. Psalms 92 just so happens to deal specifically with music.
5 MAKES NO SENSE: The Jet Issue
We first learn about the origins of this chem from child genius Myron in Fallout 2. He's probably the best source of information since he invented the stuff to get rich. Apparently, it's synthesized from Brahmin dung, and was clearly invented long after the great war.
There are actually several contradictions to this established canon, but the most egregious of them is found in Fallout 4, where the Sole Survivor can encounter a pre-war terminal entry mentioning a considerable supply of jet being sent to Vault 95 as a part of that Vault's experiment - a whole 164 years before Myron had invented it.
4 MAKES NO SENSE: Vertibots
Making their debut in Fallout 76, Vertibots are unmanned variants of the Vertibird, and are apparently incredibly widespread given the sheer number of them that you'll encounter throughout the game.
And considering that fact alone, they make absolutely no sense since they don't appear in any of the other titles. Fallout 76 takes place earlier than any of the canon games, and the Enclave, the Brotherhood of Steel and even the NCR have at least a fleet's worth of piloted Vertibirds, if not several at their disposal at various, later points throughout the series. Did all of their unmanned cousins mysteriously disappear at some point?
3 FAN THEORY: The Mysterious Stranger's Identity
Persisting throughout the entire series, the Mysterious Stranger is a bit of an enigma. He appears randomly to aid you in combat once you take the associated perk, then vanishes until the next time he shows up to help you. We don't get much outside of that. Or do we?
A few popular theories include him actually being many people, given the time frame, or the idea that he could be a synth. The most intriguing, however, would be him being exposed to some sort of relic, in the same way that Lorenzo Cabot was, rendering him ageless. This also supports Nick Valentine's assertion that he's psychotic, as exposure to such an artifact obviously does that to people.
2 MAKES NO SENSE: No Progress After 200 Years
Sure, some factions are generally better off than others. You have the Brotherhood, the Institute, and so on. But the general state of living for most people, after two hundred years, makes absolutely no sense. There's no real industry to speak of, people are essentially tribal, and often choose living life in a hut made from scrap metal.
The closest that the game comes to something resembling realism is in the NCR, and even then, the idea that they (or one of the other advanced factions) wouldn't have rapidly expanded and built infrastructure that would put them into contact with the rest of the world is pretty silly.
1 FAN THEORY: The Rest Of The World Is Worse Off Than The West
We don't hear much concerning the fate of the rest of the world, with a lot of Fallout's setting and charm revolving solidly around the 1950's vibe that it's known for. However, we do have some indications that the grass isn't any greener on the other sides of the world.
One primary indication is the fact that several wasteland inhabitants actually migrated over to the States after the great war. Allistair Tenpenny, for example, a former Englishman you can meet in Fallout 3, did just that. And if people are willing to move into the bombed out shell of the US, that alone provides enough evidence to make this theory more than credible.