The Vault 111 entrance in Fallout 4.
Image Source: Bethesda

The Top 10 Worst Vaults in the Fallout Universe

Is survival even worth it?

Vaults are a core part of Fallout’s lore. These nuclear shelters were designed by Vault-Tec before the nuclear war. Unbeknownst to most of the public, Vault-Tec had an obsession with experiments that would make Aperture Science blush. To that end, the majority of the shelters were created to conduct scientific experiments on their inhabitants. Here’s our list of the ten most horrifying vaults from the Fallout universe.

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10. Vault 101 (Fallout 3)

Fallout 3 cover art
Image source: Bethesda via IGDB

Vault 101 stands out from the others as the only one that wasn’t intended to open again. Instead, the Overseer would be given complete control over a facility that would remain closed indefinitely.

Unfortunately, as the old adage goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely. The overseer of Vault 101 during the events of Fallout 3, Alphonse Almodovar, grew increasingly controlling, eventually having those who opposed him killed. Following the escape of The Lone Wanderer and their father, James, the inhabitants of Vault 101 learn that life on the surface is possible, and quickly take sides. Almodovar’s faction wanted to maintain their isolationist policies. A second faction, led by Almodovar’s daughter Amata, demanded the right to interact with the wider world.

Fortunately, Vault 101 has a (somewhat) happy ending. Depending on the player’s actions, it’s either sealed for another generation, or Amata becomes overseer and opens it for trade.

9: Vault 19 (Fallout: New Vegas)

Fallout New Vegas NCR Flag
Image Source: Bethesda via IGDB

It’s no surprise that people tend to form groups, and this experiment took that to the extreme.

Vault 19 was separated into two sectors, Red and Blue, with limited contact and separate overseers. Each sector was then subjected to gaslighting and subliminal messaging with the intent of creating a sense of paranoia through non-violent and non-chemical means, such as high-pitched noises, lights blinking in strange patterns, and fake acts of sabotage blamed on the opposing sector.

While Vault 19 is occupied by Powder Gangers by the time you discover it in Fallout: New Vegas, notes found within hint that the experiment was a success, with medical notes indicating that many of its inhabitants exhibited high levels of psychosis and aggression. However, the true fate of the former inhabitants is unknown.

8: Vault 95 (Fallout 4)

Dogmeat and the main character in Fallout 4
Image Source: Bethesda

Vault 95 is a Vault which, on the surface, doesn’t seem so bad. The inhabitants were addicted to chems, and given experimental but compulsory treatment through the Vault-Tec Rehabilitation Program, with the intent to wean the inhabitants off of their dependencies. The treatment proved successful, with the Vault dwellers being generally cooperative.

Unfortunately, as is usually the case where Vault-Tec is involved, there was a twist. Namely, a hidden stash of drugs was “discovered” by a Vault-Tec plant five years into the program. This immediately led to the Vault being torn apart by violence. Some Vault dwellers succumbed to their addiction while others attempted to stick to the program. While the ultimate fate of the inhabitants of Vault 95 is unknown, the vault itself is occupied by a group of Gunners by the time of Fallout 4.

7: Vault 108 (Fallout 3)

Fallout 3 armour
Image Source: Bethesda via IGDB

Vault 108 may be one of the more comedic vaults, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t horrifying in its own way.

This Vault was designed to study the effects of leadership conflicts. To this end, it was designed to fail from the start. The overseer of the Vault, Brody Jones, was projected to die after three years, and given responsibility for almost every position within the facility. The primary power supply was designed to fail after twenty years, while the backup power supply wasn’t powerful enough to power the entire facility. Even worse, the Vault had no standard means of entertainment, three times the normal amount of weapons, and a cloning machine.

Eventually, scientists decided to start experimenting with cloning, repeatedly cloning an inhabitant named Gary. Each of the clones was hostile to all non-clones, with each successive Gary becoming increasingly violent. Regardless, perhaps out of pure boredom, they kept going until there were 54 clones of Gary locked up in the facility, each more violent than the last.

By the time the Lone Wanderer discovers Vault 108, Garys have overrun the entire facility, forcing them to fight if they want to uncover what happened.

6: Vault 87 (Fallout 3)

Fallout 3 super mutant
Image Source: Bethesda via IGDB

One of Fallout’s most iconic creations is Super Mutants. These hulking creatures are the result of humans being infected with the Forced Evolutionary Virus (FEV), which greatly increases their size, strength, and endurance, as well as granting them immunity to disease and radiation. The cost of these benefits is modified intelligence. While friendly and smart Super Mutants exist in all Fallout games, those that appear in Fallout 3 are almost invariably hostile and incapable of speech or social cohesion. We have Vault 87 to thank for that.

While the original purpose of Vault 87 is unknown, 2076 saw the implementation of the Evolutionary Experimentation Program. Vault dwellers were forcibly infected with FEV and transformed into Super Mutants. The program was eventually abandoned, with the subjects being terminated  – but not before some of the newly-created Super Mutants overwhelmed security forces and escaped.

200 years later, Vault 87 is a wreck inhabited by Super Mutants, who roam the Capital wasteland in search of humans they can take back to the vault and forcibly infect with FEV. It proves that once again, Vault-Tec should have been careful what it wished for.

5: Vault 51 (Fallout 76)

Fallout 76 power armour
Image Source: Bethesda

Vault 51 didn’t have an overseer when it was sealed. Instead, Vault 51 had a supercomputer, ZAX 1.3c. It would select the best possible overseer from among the Vault’s residents, assisted by Sergeant Robert Baker.

Baker’s initial idea was to host an election. However, this failed when the candidates voted for themselves. Other democratic means of selecting a leader similarly failed, leading to Baker stating that a leader was someone who stepped up in times of crisis. Unfortunately, ZAX took this statement to heart and began devising social experiments to identify which Vault dweller would make the best candidate.

These experiments included forcing contestants in a talent competition to put their living quarters on the line, meddling in the lives and affairs of the dwellers, disrupting their sleep schedules, and even engineering a food crisis and acts of violence, all in its efforts to find someone who would take control and assume the leadership position the Vault needed. The Vault devolved into anarchy, and it wasn’t until a single inhabitant, Reuben, remained that ZAX found an overseer – and promptly began to punish him for his lack of efficiency.

By the time of Fallout 76, Reuben has successfully escaped from ZAX’s clutches, and Vault 51 is inhabited by a group of Scorched. Whether an overseer has been chosen remains to be seen.

4: Vault 92 (Fallout 3)

Fallout 3 battling in a factory
Image Source: Bethesda via Steam

On the surface, Vault 92 had a noble mission: to protect mankind’s musical legacy by housing 245 of musicians and providing them with instruments, recording equipment, and everything else necessary to create music.

However, as always, Vault-Tec had more nefarious goals. Once the vault was sealed, Vault-Tec Confidential Plan WNMSCE (White Noise Mind Suggestion Combat Experimentation) was launched. It utilized low-frequency white noise to implant subliminal messages into the minds of the Vault dwellers, with effectiveness at close to 100%.

Unfortunately, the Vault staff were unaware that the white noise was causing a number of negative symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and eventually psychosis. One of the musicians soon lost their mind, murdering three of his fellow Vault dwellers and surviving twenty-three gunshots before succumbing to his wounds. Soon, 30% of the Vault’s population had been driven insane, with 35 dead. Predictably, things only got worse from there, eventually leading to the destruction of the Vault – and the deaths of all its inhabitants.

3: Vault 75 (Fallout 4)

Fallout 4 outside the Memory Den
Image Source: Bethesda via Steam

Eugenics is a topic that tends to come up a lot in fiction, and it’s never a good thing. The idea of breeding desirable traits raises the question of what desirable means, and what happens to those with undesirable traits.

Vault 75, located beneath a middle school in Massachusetts, was open to staff, students, and their families. The first act of the security staff was to execute every adult. The inhabitants were then inducted into a eugenics program that involved selective breeding, hormone treatments, and genetic modification.

 The children were then raised to fear the outside world – or Uptopland – and trained to survive, with those that the vault staff deemed insufficient executed when they turned eighteen. The most exceptional students weren’t in the clear, either. The most physically and mentally gifted were subjected to harvesting – a process that involved organic specimens being stored away. Although notes also mention organ theft, so perhaps the tallest poppies get cut, even after the apocalypse.

2: Vault 112 (Fallout 3)

Fallout 3 burning man
Image Source: Bethesda via IGDB

Vault 112 is among the smallest vaults, with a capacity of just 85 people in virtual reality, among them overseer Dr. Stanislaus Braun. In practice, this vault would allow the inhabitants to spend a virtual eternity in utopia.

Unfortunately, Braun’s status as overseer gave him complete control of the simulation and everyone within it. Over the next two centuries, Braun proceeded to toy with his captives, only to eventually “murder” them, wipe their memories, and resurrect them in a brand new simulation to do it all over again. By the time the Lone Wanderer discovers Vault 112, the simulation is titled Tranquility Lane. It’s a quaint fifties suburb where Braun assumes the role of Betty, a sadistic little girl with an iron grasp over the inhabitants who commands you to torment and murder the inhabitants.

Alternatively, you can activate the failsafe, in which case a simulated invasion will kill the inhabitants, at the cost of them dying in real life. Sadly, this is the happiest ending available, as evidenced by the 300 karma awarded for selecting this option.

1: Vault 11 (Fallout: New Vegas)

Fallout New Vegas Skyline
Image Source: Bethesda via IGDB

Situated in the Mojave Desert, Vault 11 stands as the most horrifying of the known Vaults, experimenting on the inhabitants’ willingness to sacrifice individuals for the good of the group. Every year, inhabitants were required to sacrifice one of their own, or the Vault computer would kill everyone. The horrified inhabitants decided that the first sacrifice would be the overseer, the only person among them who was initially aware of the Vault’s purpose. This began a long tradition of annual elections, with the Vault Dwellers choosing the next person to serve as overseer and die for the good of the group.

Factions began to form, with each selecting an overseer based on their own goals and engaging in smear campaigns, blackmail, and libel to garner the votes they needed to have their chosen candidate killed. This ended when the last overseer dissolved the election process, with the position of overseer being chosen at random. This led to one faction, the Justice Bloc, engaging in an armed coup that resulted in the deaths of all but five survivors. The horrors they witnessed led to these survivors refusing to sacrifice another life… only for the computer to congratulate them for their selflessness and unlock the Vault. This led four of the survivors to commit suicide out of despair, with one lone survivor escaping into the desert.

What other Vaults are out in the wilderness waiting to be discovered? That’s uncertain. At the very least, we know there are dozens we don’t know about, but how high could that number climb? There could be vaults more horrifying than any of the ones listed here, or even some that prove not to be so bad.

Last week saw the release of the long-awaited Fallout series on Amazon Prime. Check out what we thought about it here, and what it makes us hope for in Fallout 5.


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