10 essential Fallout 3 mods

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Giant mutant geckos, plasma guns that dissolve your enemies, thunderstorms and bullet time are just a few of the many additions made by this collection of top updates. Used in combination, they can bring new life to the Capital Wasteland and turn your copy of Fallout 3 into a desperate fight for survival.

1. Fallout 3 Mod Manager

Wait! Step away from the mods! If you install them now you'll have to spend hours rummaging through the guts of Fallout 3's file structure, changing .ini files and hitting it with a stick to make it work. For the sake of your sanity, make sure you have the Fallout 3 mod manager installed first. It gives you complete control of which mods are active and does all of the fiddly file altering stuff for you. The load order of the mods you have installed is important, too, so it's a good idea to check each mod's readme file for details of where they feature on the list. It's compatible with New Vegas too.

2. Fallout 3 Wanderer's Edition

This huge overhaul turns Fallout 3 into a survivalist nightmare. Enemies are tougher, weapons are more powerful, ammo is scarce and you'll have to eat, drink and sleep to stay alive. Fortunately, you're given a host of new skills to help you cope, including the perfectly implemented, if unexplained ability to use your AP points to enter bullet time. Depending on how high your charisma is you can also recruit up to 5 followers, and kit them out to form your own personal roaming death squad. Wanderer's Edition changes the game a lot, but almost all of the new features can be tweaked or turned off completely, so you can simply discard updates you don't like. This mod is especially effective when used in combination with Mart's superb Mutant Mod. This mod won't work without Fallout Script Extender, so be sure to grab that first.

3. Mart's Mutant Mod

Do you miss the cute gecko things from Fallout 2? Do you miss shooting them in their stupid, lizard faces? If the answer is yes then Mart's Mutant Mod is for you. It adds dozens of new species of creature to the Capital Wasteland and extensively revamps their AI. Many monsters will now hunt each other and smarter enemies will loot corpses for better weapons. Monster size has also been randomised, so you might occasionally find yourself up against a twenty-foot long scorpion, or a house-sized Super Mutant. In an earlier build, the mod's creator, Martigen, found that the wandering traders kept getting killed by the aggressive new wildlife, and has given them a fearsome retinue of power-armoured mercenaries as added protection.

4. Fallout 3 Reanimated

Once you notice the animation flaws in Fallout 3, you can't unnotice them. From the rigid idle poses to the way soldiers seem to break their own wrists when aiming assault rifles, there are dozens of immersion breaking niggles throughout the game. Professional animator, Alendor, decided to hone his skills and fix one of his favourite games at the same time with Fallout 3 Re-Animated.

5. Fallout 3 Redesigned (formerly Project Beauty)

Fallout 3's NPCs are a huge improvement on Oblivion's potato-faced citizens, but many still linger uncomfortably in the uncanny valley. Fallout 3 Redesigned (formerly known as Project Beauty) replaces many of the faces with carefully tailored high-resolution versions designed to fix unnatural complexions, add detail and generally make everyone look more like people, and less like weird, plastic-faced Autons.

6. NMC's Texture Pack

NeilMC is the very definition of a dedicated modder. Over the course of a year he has single-handedly replaced almost every environmental texture in the game with a new, high resolution version. The resulting texture packmakes the Capital Wasteland a vastly more beautiful place, while still retaining Bethesda's original art direction. The pack comes in several sizes, so be sure to download the version that best suits the power of your PC.

7. FOOK 2

The first Fallout Overhaul Kit was a ramshackle arrangement of different updates, moulded into one solid gold mod. FOOK 2 improves on every aspect of the first overhaul, adding over 150 new weapons, 30 new items of clothing and 80-odd shiny new textures for existing items. Factions and NPCs will now use a much greater range of weaponry and the new clothing adds even more variety to the wasteland. FOOK 2 manages to enhance the core Fallout 3 experience and bring more variety and colour to the wasteland, without changing the game you love. Note that it will conflict with the total overhaul of Wanderer's edition.

8. Fellout

Sometimes the smallest changes can have a huge effect. Fellout removes the mucky green smog that hangs over the Capital Wasteland, replacing it with bright, arid sunshine. The beautiful new sunsets alone make this worth a download. A word of warning, though: With Fellout installed, night time truly is dark. Be sure to make use of the upgraded pip boy torch or the night vision modes supplied in FOOK2 and Fallout Wanderer's Edition, or just hide indoors when night falls.

9. Energy Visuals Enhanced and Energy Weapons Advanced

Nothing says “please stop attacking me” like a white hot death ray to your enemy's face. Modder 'Your Evil Twin' realises this, and has revamped energy weapon special effects to make them look and feel even more devastating. Spectacular new critical hit animations can flay the flesh from your enemy's bones, or dissolve them into a cloud of glowing green bubbles. Energy Weapons Enhanced, by the same author, adds dozens of excellent new energy weapons, from energy bolt sniper rifles to plasma cannons, giving you the perfect excuse to enjoy the new effects.

10. Enhanced Weather

The calamitous thunderstorms added by Enhanced Weather can make even a casual stroll sound like the end of the world. Snow storms and radioactive rain have also been added along with a dynamic weather system that makes the slow transition between different types of weather feel realistic. You even get a stealth bonus from the new thunderstorms, your enemies will be so unsettled by the lightning they'll never see you coming.

That's just ten of the best chosen from hundreds of excellent Fallout 3 mods. Head over to the Fallout 3 Nexus for more.

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.