A Famously Canceled Fallout Game Finds New Life As A Free Mod

A screenshot of Fallout Yesterday, a conversion mod of Fallout 2 that honors the canceled title codenamed Van Buren. - Image: PJ Hexer & Co / Black Isle Studios
A screenshot of Fallout Yesterday, a conversion mod of Fallout 2 that honors the canceled title codenamed Van Buren. - Image: PJ Hexer & Co / Black Isle Studios

Back in the good ol’ days, the Fallout series was a beloved isometric CRPG series developed by Black Isle Studios, a renowned developer that shut down in the early aughts. Before its closure, it worked on two incarnations of a proposed Fallout 3 before both were eventually canned. One of these versions, known as Fallout Van Buren, has lingered over the series’ fandom though, even influencing entries in the series. Now it has been restored as a mod to Fallout 2.

Fallout Yesterday is the name of the free mod, and in practice, it’s a total conversion of Fallout 2. All of the content featured in the mod is based off of a leaked demo of Van Buren, as well as extensive design documents for the game that eventually came to light. The mod has been playable as a work-in-progress for Patreon backers, but a massive new update to Fallout Yesterday has now prompted a full release on Nexus Mods. The update introduces countless features, including more than 100 new items and weapons and numerous quests, which take place in environments like the Hoover Dam, a prominent locale in the much-more-official installment in the series, Fallout: New Vegas.While it is only as finished as a canceled game can be, Fallout Yesterday now appears to be essentially content complete.

That’s because New Vegas, developed at now-Microsoft-owned Obsidian Entertainment, was led by Josh Sawyer, an RPG developer who worked on Van Buren during his time at Black Isle Studios. Van Buren would’ve followed a prisoner who managed to escape in the American Southwest, and whose journey included interactions with Caesar’s Legion, a notable faction featured in New Vegas. Despite borrowing some elements from the canceled game, New Vegas is mostly its own thing and features original characters and storylines developed by Sawyer and his team.

Though Van Buren never officially saw the light of day, it’s clearly haunted the series ever since its cancellation in 2003. We don’t often learn much about canceled games due to the industry’s penchant for secrecy, but Van Buren flies in the face of that standard. It’s great to see how much the Fallout fan base clearly cares for this game if they’ve gone so far as to unofficially resurrect a game that’s been dead for decades.

More Fallout can’t possibly be a bad thing at this point in time. Following the success of Prime Video’s adaptation of the series earlier this year, all eyes have been on the franchise. Multiple installments in the series topped the charts and saw a resurgence in popularity after the release of the hit show, and Bethesda’s Todd Howard has been surprisingly vocal in the time since about the exceptionally far-off Fallout 5.

Though the title’s been all but confirmed, Howard and his various teams are currently split between several other projects, including multiple expansions to Starfield and the upcoming Elder Scrolls 6, meaning it’ll be a while till we see it. In the meantime, you may as well install Fallout 76 like I have, or enjoy the fruits of the ambitious modding community and play the version of Fallout 3 that never was.

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