Founded in 1986, Bethesda has been making video games for more than thirty years. As a publisher and a developer, their games have routinely found acclaim from fans and critics alike. To honor that history, we’re going to list some of the best Bethesda games of all time.
It’s important to note that this list will include games Bethesda has published and/or developed. If we stuck with just Bethesda Game Studios, we’d mostly be ranking the best Elder Scrolls games and we already made that list!
A handful of titles on this list will come from companies later acquired by Bethesda. If the publisher/developer has recently attempted to revive the franchise or released the game on new platforms, they’ll qualify.
As always, the list is curated based solely on my opinion. The ranking of the games is also completely arbitrary. You may agree with the titles included, you’ll probably disagree; just make sure you sound off in the comments.
Fallout 4 wasn’t the only release the franchise saw in 2015. Fallout Shelter earns its place among the best Bethesda games thanks to its simplicity.
There is no denying what Fallout Shelter is and isn’t. It’s a casual, light-hearted mobile game in the Fallout universe. Best played in short spurts, this is a great way to take a break for 30-60 minutes a day.
The game was never meant to be played in marathon sessions. Those impatient to wait the five months before Fallout 4’s release were met with a sub-optimal experience. Again, as I said earlier, that’s not how you are meant you play Fallout Shelter. It’s a casual mobile game through and through and there’s not anything wrong with that.
Most of us have moved on from playing Fallout Shelter, but the time spent will live on forever in our hearts. That’s what makes it one of the best Bethesda games ever.
Rage never met the incredibly lofty expectations the gaming world had for it. Many touted it as a hybrid between Borderlands and Fallout. In reality, the game played more like an outdoor version of DOOM. There’s nothing wrong with that at all.
While it didn’t leave the same impact on the shooter genre as its predecessors, Rage still delivers. The satisfying combat we all know and love from an id Software came is still there. Level design is good enough to keep the player engaged.
The story may be a bit lacking, even given more of a focus on narrative, but that’s not the end of the world. Rage is still a great time.
The Evil Within
When Shinji Mikami returns to survival horror, you take notice.
The creator of Resident Evil returns to his roots with The Evil Within. Developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda, Evil Within proves that survival horror still has a seat at the table.
Releasing at a time when Resident Evil was floundering around, Bethesda gave the fans what Capcom wouldn’t. The game wasn’t perfect, sometimes imperfections help make survival horror games better. The Evil Within was just that: an incredibly satisfying experience made better by its rough edges. That’s what makes it one of the best Bethesda games of all time.
Bethesda brought in Avalance Studios to develop Rage 2 alongside id Software. The result paid off in spades, delivering one of the best Bethesda games ever.
Combat was even more satisfying than its predecessor, thanks in part to excellent gunplay and satisfying open-world environments.
Rage 2 is the perfect example of the atmosphere and style in the late 2010s: completely over-the-top and self-aware of it.
The story is nothing to write home about, but people aren’t playing Rage for the story. Bethesda knew what worked and what didn’t with the original. Rage 2 isn’t an innovative, earth-shattering release, but it’s also not supposed to be. It’s an enjoyable romp that’s a great way to spend a weekend.
At launch, the notion that Fallout 76 could be in the discussion of best Bethesda games was laughable. Despite the hype surrounding the announcement and lead-up to release, Fallout 76 entered the world with a pretty big thud.
Since then, however, Bethesda has done well to support the game post-launch. They added in NPC characters and continuously updated the game. Instead of leaving it to die, Bethesda has allowed the game to flourish.
Fallout 76’s redemption falls into the same category as games like No Man’s Sky or Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Never judge a book by its cover; these titles are a good example of that.
The Evil Within 2
The sequel to Evil Within tries to build upon the success of the original. While Evil Within 2 doesn’t always succeed in this regard, it still earns its spot on the list of best Bethesda games.
It knows when to build tension and when to move in for the scale. The Evil Within 2 is one of the best survival horror games of all time.
While still rough around the edges, it cashes in on the untapped potential of the original.
Commander Keen Franchise
Commander Keen is an IP that Bethesda picked up from id Software. They attempted to revive the franchise a few years ago, but it was met with disastrous reactions.
So why are people excited about a new Commander Keen? It’s not just one of the best Bethesda games in their catalog, it’s a beloved cult classic. A satisfying side-scrolling platform, Commander Keen isn’t afraid to get a little weird at times.
People compared the platforming quality of Commander Keen to Super Mario Bros. While it’s not as tight and controlled as Mario, Commander keen is still incredibly solid. The light-hearted nature plays well to create unique and memorable platforming experiences.
While they didn’t continue The Evil Within franchise, developer Tango Gameworks stays in the survival horror genre with Ghostwire: Tokyo. Like its “predecessors,” Ghostwire is a solid experience that’s, you guessed it, rough around the edges.
Ghostwire: Tokyo looks the part. It’s stylish, and beautiful, and the game’s atmosphere hooks you in.
Compared to some of the other best Bethesda games, though, it feels lacking at times. The originality does enough to make it an enjoyable experience, however, it leaves us wanting more, and hopefully, we can get a sequel that can deliver.
Prey pulls double duty as a franchise where Bethesda acquired the rights and published a reboot. The 2006 version of the video game is adequate. The 2017 version is the one that truly shines as one of the best Bethesda games.
Developer Arkane Studios delivers a memorable experience. Environments, level design, characters, and gameplay are all engaging and well designed.
While story and narrative are on the thin side, they do just enough to keep the player interested. Is it a perfect game? No, but it’s a darn good one.
Prey features both style and substance that live in perfect harmony together. It’s a great experience we hope we revisit in the future.
Wolfenstein: The New Order
At a time when shooters tried to innovate forward, Wolfenstein: The New order was a throwback. Running around levels, acquiring power-ups, and killing Nazis is an absolute delight.
Instead of following the trend of cover-based shooters, New Order brings back old-school shooter gameplay. Stealth still exists but isn’t a mandatory part of the game. There’s a great blend of exploration, action, and tactical strategy.
Excellent level design really ties the room together here. The gameplay loop would fall apart without it. Progressing through missions is an absolute delight. There’s a reason the Wolfenstein franchise has become some of the best Bethesda games.
Like Wolfenstein, DOOM also saw a spiritual re-boot and a throwback to the franchise’s beginnings. In the case of DOOM 2016’s release, it paid off in spades. Not only is it one of the best Bethesda games of all time, but it’s also one of the best titles from the year.
Just as with The New Order, DOOM threw cover-shooted gameplay into the trash. Given the faster pace of the game, though, it took the action up to eleven.
Perhaps its best quality was the game’s attitude. It didn’t take itself seriously one bit. It knew what it was about. More importantly, it knew what it wasn’t about.
There’s no need for a deep, engrossing, serious narrative. DOOM is about shooting things and brutally killing them. That’s what it does, and it does it well.
The Elder Scrolls: Online
One of the best Bethesda games is also one of the best MMORPGs of all time.
The Elder Scrolls: Online is one of the best single-player experiences I’ve ever had in an MMO. It’s an authentic Elder Scrolls experience in MMORPG form.
Despite this, it stumbled a bit out of the gate. ESO had issues finding its footing. Bethesda and ZeniMax Online re-packaged the game as The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited.
Shifting away from the outdated subscription model and to a buy-to-play system paid well. ESO’s popularity, community, and quality of expansions have flourished. It took a while, but ESO finally found its footing. It has the right balance between traditional Elder Scrolls experience and online RPG adventure.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Depending on who you ask, Morrowind is the best Bethesda game and the discussion ends here.
Morrowind takes The Elder Scrolls franchise into a gigantic, inviting, and unique open world. The hardware limitations from the franchise’s prior games are a thing of the past. There is a sense of wonder and excitement from the world that awaits you in Morrowind.
Part of it is due to the fact that there’s a seemingly infinite amount of possibilities. It feels like you can do just about anything you put your mind to. Double that with the unique setting and memorable characters, you have the recipe for an all-time classic.
For all intents and purposes, Dishonored is Arkane Studios’ debut on the main stage. They delivered a memorable, unique, and enjoyable experience that’s also one of the best Bethesda games of all time.
Dishonored is a genuine work of art when it comes to both visuals and gameplay. The world of Dunwall is alive thanks to both a watercolor aesthetic and an everchanging landscape. Your actions and playstyles affect the environments; if you’re constantly in stealth, enemies are none the wiser of your presence. If you try to run in like an action hero, the city’s defenses are bolstered.
Starring the supernatural assassin Corvo, Dishonored blends stealth gameplay, action, and RPG experiences into one beautiful package. This is the type of game you love to come back to over and over, playing different builds every time.
It’s not a surprise to see all of their titles ranked amongst Bethesda’s best games out there.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
The New Colossus embraces what works in Wolfenstein: The New Order while becoming its own thing. The sequel does a great job of expanding beyond the original and embracing its own narrative.
New Colossus goes all-in on both an alternate history as well as sci-fi weaponry. B.J. Blazkowicz leads a revolution to liberate America from Nazi control. With him are not just fellow liberators, but also an insane arsenal of weapons.
Both Bethesda and developer MachineGames have done well with the Wolfenstein franchise. They know when to be serious and when to get crazy. We can’t wait to see if the next entry in the series can join the ranks of the best Bethesda games.
Fallout: New Vegas
When Bethesda Gameworks released Fallout 3, it was an enjoyable return for the franchise. Some thought the updates made the game a little too action-oriented, straying away from the series’ roots.
The Obsidian developed spin-off, Fallout: New Vegas is an RPG through and through. It delivers an amazing experience, filled with wonderful characters, memorable quests, and a stirring narrative. The world of New Vegas is worth exploring.
It’s a testament to how good this game is given the fact that the bugs cannot be ignored. Like other games on this list, it’s a bit rough around the edges.
In fact, you could say that it’s the poster child for a game that’s rough around the edges.
Despite this, any list of the best Bethesda games would not be complete without New Vegas.
DOOM Eternal is just more DOOM.
More environments, more enemies, more guns, more action, more platforming.
Okay, that last one is a bit weird; there are certain parts of DOOM Eternal that slow things down. Sometimes that can be a good thing, though! Taking some time to breathe is always welcome. After that, it’s time to get back to slaying demons.
This is how you do a sequel: deliver more of the same while expanding in new and exciting ways. DOOM Eternal is really, really, really good. It’s not just one of the best Bethesda games, but also one of the best shooters of all time.
Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory
Like Commander Keen, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory was an IP acquired by Bethesda. They’ve supported the game on both the Bethesda launcher and now Steam.
Originally released in 2003, Enemy Territory is a free-to-play classed based team shooter. Spun off from a planned expansion of Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Enemy Territory became a cult classic.
The objective-based class gameplay is addictive, accessible, and incredibly enjoyable. Map design is on-point, too. Natural chokeholds near objectives lead to entertaining firefights and skirmishes. Sightlines, natural cover, and branching pathways allow for plenty of varied gameplay.
What really pushes Enemy Territory over the top is that despite being free to play, it lacks the trappings of other similar games. There are no microtransactions or convoluted XP systems. The entire game is there, ready for you to dive in and enjoy.
If Bethesda can bring new life to the game, helping further establish it as one of the best Bethesda games of all time, I could be a very, very happy person.
One of the best Bethesda games is also a massive departure from an all-time RPG classic. Fallout: New Vegas is an amazing open-world RPG. Fallout 4 is a more mainstream, streamlined experience. That doesn’t mean it’s bad; far from it.
Fallout 4 toes the line between solid gameplay and engaging narrative. It’s not going to innovate the RPG genre, but also it doesn’t need to. The tighter controls and satisfying combat deliver an experience worth playing.
The characters and locales help make Fallout 4 so enjoyable. While The Commonwealth lacks the style and charm of New Vegas, it’s still worth exploring. Everything just clicks, even despite those ever-so-lovely Bethesda bugs and hiccups.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
It’s been over a decade since Skyrim was released. From day one, it firmly established itself as one of the best Bethesda games ever made.
While The Elder Scrolls had seen two open-world releases prior, Skyrim takes it to a new level. The environments are beautiful, the biomes are varied, and the characters are vibrant. That silly Oblivion issue of hearing the same five voice actors is a thing of the past.
What Skyrim does really how is how easily players can lose track of time. One minute you’re working on the main quest and the next minute you realize you’ve wasted hours messing around exploring and doing side quests.
Skyrim’s strength is the ability to hold the player captive and let them get lost in the game.
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
In typical Elder Scrolls fashion, Oblivion has you start the game in jail. From there, you realize you’re the chosen savior of Tamriel. It’s up to you to find the emperor’s illegitimate son and save the world from destruction.
Oblivion has defined the odds; the game has aged both poorly and exceptionally well. As mentioned earlier, the lack of variety in voice actors is noticeable almost immediately. While the graphics were revolutionary for the time, the lack of varied environments is disappointing. Oblivion makes up for this, though, thanks to its engaging story and gameplay.
Saving the world from oblivion ultimately comes down to venturing through demonic portals and closing them shut. You repeat this every so often until the world is saved. Yet despite sounding repetitive, it doesn’t get old. It sure helps that getting lost in those guild quests is very easy to do.
How do you improve one of the most innovative and best Bethesda games ever? You go bigger. You go harder. And you go deeper.
Dishonored 2 is more Dishonored. Alone, that’s a great thing. Arkane took it to another level with the sequel. The story expands with the ability to play as Corvo or Emily, opening up more ways to play an already replayable game.
Level design is what truly takes Dishonored 2 over the top. Adventuring through the twists and turns that await you is a delight.
Combat and action are a constant puzzle: what powers do I use? What route do I take? What’s my strategy here.
It’s hard to not play Dishonored 2 with a smile on your face.
From one Arkane Studios classic to another, Deathloop is an absolute gem of a title. An FPS that borrows inspiration from Dishonored, Arkane delivers one of the best games of 2021.
Often referred to as a combination of Hitman and Edge of Tomorrow, the description is spot on.
Deathloop brings the wonderful innovations, twists, and strategies Dishonored showcases to the shooter franchise. The gameplay loop could have easily run repetitive and dull, but developer Arkane is able to deliver.
The characters shine just as much as the game’s combat. Colt and Julianna play well off of each other and are perfect foils.
Bethesda’s seen nothing but home runs with Arkane Studios, so we didn’t expect anything less than one of the best Bethesda games from them here.
That’s our list. I’m sure you probably disagree with some of my choices and there are probably games I’ve missed so be sure to let me know your thoughts in our comments section.