Fallout: New Vegas is a great game; arguably the best of the franchise. The issue is the game is unfinished in both a literal and figurative sense. It was a rush job that Obsidian did their best with but wasn't given enough time to realize their vision fully. Unlike a lot of Bethesda games, mods feel less like an extra and more like a necessity to keep the game fresh after a single run through, since everything in New Vegas is nearly inextricably hooked into the main quest. Almost every quest that first appears to be optional is still related to the main conflict in some way, with few exceptions. Some are even mandatory; you can just choose to do them out of order.
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However, from that flawed yet amazing shell, a lot of modders have created mods that push the game closer to its more definitive version. Many fix bugs and common crashes or add extra content or even things that were intended to be added but were never finished. In any case, from the simple quality of life improvements to necessary bug fixes, and fun gameplay tweaks, here are the top New Vegas mods.
If you want more, bigger, and more complex mods, you need the New Vegas Script Extender (NVSE). It's only technically a mod, since it's more like an extra bit of software modders use for most complex New Vegas mods, but deserves a spot for how ubiquitous it is and how much it improves the modding scene.
Sadly, a necessary mod rather than a fun one. New Vegas is an excellent game, but clearly rushed and unstable. The 4 GB Patcher allows it to use more memory, increasing stability and reducing script lag and crashes from memory overload, a problem New Vegas shares with Skyrim where save bloat increases over time (exponentially so with mods) until eventually a given save file is too large for the game to process.
Another necessary one, this mod (NVAC) does what it says on the tin. The game will crash less. Mind, it only reduces a specific kind of crash (though it is a common one), but combined with the 4 GB Patcher and NVSE you're in pretty good shape.
Now that the game is more stable, why not upgrade its looks? Let's be honest, New Vegas is an old game and wasn't particularly a looker at the time of its release anyway. Given the limited time Obsidian had to work with, it's understandable they focused more on gameplay than visuals, but modders have no such time constraints. While I never dive deep into heavily modded visuals for Bethesda games (I don't even use ENBs), I do appreciate a little upgrade after all these years, and NMC's Texture Pack hits the perfect middle ground between being easy to install and having wide-reaching changes to the game's visuals. Taking the game to vanilla Skyrim levels is quite the achievement, and looks plenty good enough for me. Plus if you want more, it plays well with most other graphic overhaul mods, as long as they don't replace the same textures of course.
What NMC's Texture Pack does to most textures, FCO does to the people of the Mojave. Given you spend a good 40% of this game zoomed in on these people's faces, it's a pretty good idea to make sure you like what you're looking at. Similar to NMCTP, this boosts New Vegas to roughly vanilla Skyrim levels in terms of what each NPC (and your own character) looks like, which is perfectly tolerable for me.
One last boost to the visuals and we're good to go. This one (EVE) is primarily about weapon effects. Not weapon textures themselves, but bullet impacts, explosion textures, lasers, ash and goo piles on kill, and even character reactions to being shot. Given the lion's share of the other 60% of this game besides talking to people is shooting them, this will be sure to make your experience more enjoyable if you like seeing people get killed in flashy ways, like seeing brief skeletal outlines of people that get ashed by your laser criticals!
All right, we're into the fun stuff now. Project Nevada is the overhaul for New Vegas. It expands on existing mechanics (the cybernetic implants available from the Clinic, for example), adds a boatload of new ones (like using explosives to unlock doors and chests), and also functions as a rebalance to the game, making combat more challenging and inventory space more precious.
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The best part about it? It's fully customizable. Every feature can be changed, activated, or deactivated at will from its mod page. I don't like the reduced carrying capacity, so I crank it up, so I never have to worry about it again. You can make your movement speed faster, change how much health you get from Endurance and leveling, and everything else the mod touches.
It's the one mod I recommend everyone install because there's something there for every kind of player. For a while, it was the only New Vegas mod I ever installed since it did so much of what I look for in other modded Bethesda games already.
This is a master mod for all of the quests and companion mods made by someguy2000. Which mods you install after are up to you, but all are great. His quests and companions are fully voice acted and are quite interesting plot-wise after the first (New Vegas Bounties I is pretty bare bones) and just keep getting better both in voice acting quality, complexity, and plot as time goes on. It's very fun to play from the start and see how the mods evolve as he gets better at creating the quests.
Like the Someguy series, New Vegas Uncut is not one mod, but a collection. The entire purpose of this mod series is to complete and add content that was meant to be added to New Vegas, but was never released, usually due to lack of time on Obsidian's part. From weapons to entire quests, this nine mod series adds a lot to the game that's all lore friendly and could even be considered canon content. The only one I don't recommend is Freeside Open. While a very cool mod that interconnects all of Freeside's parts so there aren't so many loading screens to go through (similar to the Open Cities mods for the Elder Scrolls/malaysia-online-casino-and-sport-betting/. games) it is notoriously incompatible with a lot of other mods. Basically any mod that adds new quests, areas, some items, or NPCs to Freeside (which is a lot) breaks with Freeside Open in the mix. This includes one quest deep into New Vegas Bounties I (mentioned above) and makes the quest impossible to complete without going into the mod's files, sifting through the quest stages, and using the console to move the quest ahead.
Other than that, though, they're all worth a look.
Wait wait wait, before you let the silly name throw you off, hear me out. Beyond Boulder Dome is an excellent, DLC sized (about the size and quest length of the official Honest Hearts DLC) quest and locations mod based on the Boulder Dome location from Fallout: Van Buren (a sadly never realized third Fallout game from Black Isles Studios before they went under, that has extensive notes on what a lot of Fallout's world looks like and was the partial basis for New Vegas itself) that has an interesting and disturbing atmosphere. Definitely worth at least one playthrough.
This WMX mod adds more weapon customizations for existing weapons, and even adds a few new ones. This is another mod I consider almost official content. The mod author (Antistar) is actually the reason why weapon mods are in New Vegas at all! He made a mod adding weapon mod kits to Fallout 3, and Obsidian liked the idea so much they implemented them as a base part of New Vegas. That makes this sort of a third generation mod; a modification of a core system based on an original mod. Which is pretty cool to me.
Moreover, it greatly expands the limited weapon mods of New Vegas (there were only three per weapon before if that since some weapons were left out entirely) and adds a lot of new variety and options to weaponry. Only three mods can be added to any one weapon still, so rather than adding the only three mods to a weapon and calling it fully kitted and never touching it again, there are actual trade-offs to modifying a weapon, since adding one mod means precluding another. It's not a deep change, but it adds enough, and in such a way that I sometimes forget it's not part of the base game, in much the same way I feel about Project Nevada.
New Vegas is a buggy game. No fan will deny that. But thankfully, there are patches. A lot of them, in fact, making New Vegas pretty unique among Bethesda's games with active modding scenes. Oblivion and Skyrim, for example, have one big Unofficial Patch team that made it their mission to patch as many bugs as possible. New Vegas, perhaps fittingly, was more like the wild west, a bunch of dedicated individuals stomping out problems as they came across them.
YUP is but one of many extensive New Vegas patches, but it is my preferred for one big reason: it's easily compatible with the last mod on this list. If you don't use the below, then any of the other patches will do you pretty much just as well.
Recreating a previous game in the series in the newest game's engine iteration is kind of the holy grail of Bethesda game modding. The Elder Scrolls series has had many failed, abandoned, or stalled projects from Morrowblivion to Skyblivion and Skywind, and several others that have produced little results over the years. Even the New Vegas recreation in Fallout 4's engine has borne little fruit since it was initially revealed.
A Tale of Two Wastelands is the exception. To be fair, they had it a little easier: Fallout 3 and New Vegas use almost identical engines and assets, and they got permission early from Bethesda to work on the project. That isn't to undersell their accomplishment though; successfully linking two games (Fallout 3 and New Vegas in this case) into one enormous, seamless game is no small task.
Still updated, this is the way to play the previous generation Fallout games in my opinion. Starting in Vault 101 and making your way to the Mojave is quite satisfying, especially with its compatibility with certain other mods (Project Nevada being the big standout). You can always go in reverse as well, though that gets a bit weird, narratively speaking.
It is an excellent, ambitious mod and improves on both games by applying New Vegas' new mechanics and more interesting perks to Fallout 3's gameplay, and let you enjoy an improved version of 3 while carrying over many of the fun weapons and other items from 3 to its sequel.
And that's the list! Happy modding!