This free Fallout game is absolutely blowing up right now, but you might've never heard of it

 Fallout Shelter.
Fallout Shelter.

What you need to know

  • Thanks to the popularity of the new Fallout TV show that debuted last month, all of the Fallout games have been spiking with increased player counts and attention on social media.

  • In addition to titles like Fallout 4 and Fallout 76, another Fallout game you may not even know about has been blowing up, too: Fallout Shelter.

  • According to an analysis report, the free base-building mobile game's downloads per day tripled from 20,000 to 60,000 three days after the show came out, while it's daily revenue quadrupled from $20,000 to $80,000 in that time.

  • Fallout Shelter is available on Apple's iOS App Store and the Google Play Store, along with Steam, Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch. Notably, though, only the mobile versions have received updates in recent years.

Amazon's fan-favorite new Fallout TV show has blown up like an atom bomb following the debut of its first season last month, with an eye-watering 65 million viewers having watched it so far. Unsurprisingly, all the buzz for the post-apocalyptic fiction has begun something of a renaissance for the franchise, with player counts surging across all the Fallout games throughout April and into May.

Two of the games that've spiked the hardest are 2015's Fallout 4 and 2018's Fallout 76, with the former becoming the best-selling game in Europe and 1 million players beginning their journey in the latter in a single day last week. Another one that's popping off, though, is one you may not have even heard of before — Fallout Shelter. The free-to-play mobile game was hugely popular when it originally launched back in 2015 (and when it released on other platforms in the following years), and it's getting tons of attention nearly a decade later thanks to the Fallout show.

According to data collected by the analysis company Sensor Tower that was shared with, Fallout Shelter's mobile downloads per day tripled within three days after the show's release, rising from "around 20,000" on April 10 to 60,000 by April 13. During that time, daily revenue from its in-app purchases also quadrupled from $20,000 to $80,000. Additionally, the game reportedly reached the #7 position on the Top Free Games iOS chart in the US, which is the highest it's been since June 2018.

Fallout Shelter
Fallout Shelter

Compared to the open world RPG Fallout games such as Fallout 4, Fallout Shelter is a base-building game with an emphasis on the construction and management of one of Vault-Tec's underground nuclear bomb shelters. In it, you fulfill the role of its Overseer, expanding it with rooms that offer various goods and services to its residents while ensuring that they're healthy, happy, and contributing to "the repopulation of this great nation of ours."

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You won't be able to get everything you need from your Vault in the long-term, so you'll also need to send some of your Vault dwellers out to the wasteland to explore and scavenge. Dwellers with higher S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attributes will be better at dealing with various types obstacles or encounters; you can also equip your residents with protective armor and powerful weapons to increase their chances of survival.

Over time, Fallout Shelter has been updated with lots of new content, including Vault dwellers, outfits, armor pieces, weapons, and locations that are either heavily inspired by or directly taken from the mainline RPGs and other Fallout media. Notably, the latest patch for the game added new quests to obtain Lucy, The Ghoul, Maximus, Ma June, Snip-Snip, the Snake Oil Salesman, and the dog CX404 from the TV show, along with memorable pieces of their equipment like The Ghoul's revolver.

Part of successfully managing a Vault means assigning your dwellers to tasks their S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats are ideal for.
Part of successfully managing a Vault means assigning your dwellers to tasks their S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats are ideal for.

Unfortunately, only the mobile version of Fallout Shelter has gotten updates like these since 2017, so if you plan to check it out on Steam, Xbox, PlayStation, or Switch, just know that those editions don't have all of the content. Even so, the core gameplay that everyone's fallen in love with is there, and in the words of Todd Howard himself, "it just works."

The game isn't really for me, personally, but that's simply because these kinds of base-building management games aren't typically my cup of tea in general. If you enjoy them, though, it's absolutely a game you should try — it's free, after all, so you've got nothing to lose (and you can have a great time without ever spending a bottlecap).

Interested in playing one of the main Fallout games instead? Don't forget that every title in the series is available through Xbox Game Pass (either with the console version on Xbox, PC Game Pass on PC, or Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for both). That includes Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout Tactics, Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout 4, and Fallout 76.