Bethesda Game Studios is responsible for some of the biggest RPGs in the industry – yet has achieved that with only two different series. With Starfield adding something fresh into the mix, up until now, Bethesda Game Studios’ catalog has been comprised of either The Elder Scrolls or Fallout.
Creating The Elder Scrolls in 1994, and taking over the Fallout franchise to introduce something new with Fallout 3, we have had a number of fantastic titles from this studio. But which ones stand the proudest?
Updated on October 19, 2023, by Dominic Allen: We’ve updated this list to include Bethesda’s newest game, Starfield. A huge Xbox console exclusive and incredibly popular right now, Starfield had to be put in here.
Bethesda Game Studios has dipped into the mobile games market a couple of times now, and though the games also have console releases, they’re clearly designed to tackle the mobile market. The Elder Scrolls: Blades is BGS’ attempt at bringing the famous fantasy series to our pockets, and while it does a good job of this, it’s not why these games shine.
It loses the wonder, the charm, and the true engagement, instead opting for town management, waiting for time to pass, and microtransaction storefronts. You don’t have to buy the things with real money, but as is the case with many mobile titles, it makes it less enjoyable if you don’t pay and just play normally. That said, it’s still a solid mobile game, and can offer a great experience to just hop into every now and then – but it’s far from Bethesda’s best.
Kicking off the series back in 1994, The Elder Scrolls: Arena offered its own spin on the early days of first-person gameplay. With dungeons to crawl, monsters to fight, and a world ripe for exploration at your fingertips, it quickly became successful.
While the game did a lot for the series, establishing many of its expectations, and also pushing forward the genre itself at the same time, the following games pushed the boundaries so much more than anyone was prepared for. Arena is absolutely fantastic and pivotal to the franchise, but as it is with foundations, was built upon rapidly in the years after.
9 Fallout Shelter
- Android, iOS, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
- June 14, 2015
Bethesda Game Studios’ first dive into the mobile gaming scene, Fallout Shelter launched in 2015, just months prior to the release of Fallout 4. In this game, you are the overseer of your own Vault in the post-war world of Fallout. Keep your residents happy, expand the shelter with new rooms and facilities, and send out teams on scavenging missions in the hopes of bringing back some high-value loot.
It can be a fair bit to learn and invest into, but it’s actually a pretty solid settlement-managing game that’s super easy to jump back into and play casually. There are, of course, microtransactions and options for paying for certain features, but if you want to ignore all of that, you can. It can become quite a difficult game, especially as you become a larger vault and have to deal with more threatening attacks.
Only two years after the original, Daggerfall expanded on what The Elder Scrolls was in almost every way. The biggest change, however, was the scope of the world. Using procedural generation, Daggerfall offered an explorable map the size of Great Britain, packed full of villages, dungeons, and all new threats.
While using procedural generation did mean a lot of the content would be repeated, hence why it wasn’t a tool the studio continued using for the purpose of quantity, it was incredibly impressive at the time, and made it one of the biggest games available. However, Bethesda did go back to that procedural generation for their biggest game set in the cosmos.
7 Fallout 76
- PC, PS4, Xbox One
- November 14, 2018
- Action, RPG
A few years after Fallout 4, fans were surprised to see yet another big Fallout title come out of nowhere. However, rather than the typical RPGs we know, Fallout 76 was an online game that allowed players to share the wasteland together – for cooperation, or for rivalry.
This game did miss the mark when it first launched, opting to leave behind any NPCs and have only players and enemies. However, since then, the game has received numerous updates and expansions, with new stories, new locations, and even the return of NPCs altogether in something of an overhaul update. It’s not the usual Bethesda RPG you might be looking for, but it’s absolutely an enjoyable game if you play it now.
Each of The Elder Scrolls games acts as a vital stepping stone for the overall series, and Morrowind was no different. This game solidified The Elder Scrolls into the 3D era, offering up a first-person adventure RPG like the world had never seen before.
With a world to explore, rich lore at every turn, and so much dialogue you could engage in to uncover quests and information, it truly was a game that encapsulated what the series is, even to this day. It might not hold up too well, with the graphics taking a dip and the menus and systems now being a little overwhelming, but it still stands strong as one of the grandparents of modern RPGs.
- PC, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S
- September 6, 2023
- Action, RPG
Starfield was an incredibly important Xbox exclusive that needed to land big. For the most part, it did, but there are a few things holding it back from reaching the top echelon of Bethesda games. The story, RPG elements, quests, and core gameplay loop are all phenomenally done.
The customization is impressive as well and might be the best Bethesda’s ever done, at least in the modern age. What’s holding the game back from being truly legendary is the space exploration. Simply put, you won’t find a lot of unique places far out in space, which is pretty disappointing. Still, with game updates and the expansion, Starfield could end up going higher later down the road.
4 Fallout 4
- PS4, Xbox One, PC
- November 10, 2015
- RPG, Action
Using a newer engine and attempting to streamline the experience for modern day, Fallout 4 was a fantastic game – though it didn’t stick as well with many fans as Fallout 3. Whether it be the art style, the gameplay, the lack of depth, or the voiced protagonist, most people enjoyed it but many just didn’t hold it as dearly.
That said, Fallout 4 is by no means a bad game. It’s still a fantastic open-world RPG with branching storylines, choice and consequence, and all of the charm you’d expect from a Bethesda Game Studios title. It’s not the best, but it’s still pretty darn good.
3 Fallout 3
- PS3, Xbox 360, PC
- October 28, 2008
While the first couple of games in the series were not made by Bethesda Game Studios, Fallout 3 marked the start of the turning point of these games. Ditching the isometric gameplay it had been known for, Bethesda took Fallout in a new direction, very much mirroring the open-world design of The Elder Scrolls series.
Set in the desolate post-war Washington DC, Fallout 3 offered a gripping storyline, exploration of an incredible world, and so many quests and characters to come across as you ventured further into the game. It still truly remains one of the best Fallout games – many of which hold equally with Fallout: New Vegas, the title developed by Obsidian Entertainment.
Yet another step for the series, Oblivion was the fourth adventure into The Elder Scrolls series, and offered an even bigger world with even more to do. This game was more streamlined for modern-day audiences and console players, but still retained the depth you’d expect from BGS.
Go and explore, take part in the story as you build up an order to protect those destined for great things, and make a name for yourself in this colossal and oftentimes unforgiving world. With so many secrets, features, and incredible stories, fans were left wondering how it could ever get better. And in many ways, this remains the peak of the series.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- PS5, PS4, PS3, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, Xbox One X, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, PC
- November 11, 2011
- Action, RPG, Adventure
Even if you hold Morrowind, Oblivion, or any of the other games highly as Bethesda’s best, there’s still no arguing that Skyrim has been the biggest title for the studio. One of the biggest titles in the world, in fact. With fans still actively playing, discussing, and even still developing mods over a decade since the launch, it’s hard to find a soul that has not played this game, or even heard of it.
Skyrim offered up Bethesda Game Studios’ biggest and most packed world to date, and had seemingly no end of things to discover. Though it’s had many different releases over the years, it’s hard to deny that it truly is one of the best things from the studio, and will probably remain so for an indefinite amount of time.
NEXT: The Most Powerful Enemies In Skyrim, Ranked