In 2009, Gearbox Software sent players on the hunt for a mysterious Vault, said to be stocked with alien technology and weapons. Little did players know at the time, but this trip to the feral planet of Pandora would blossom into an expansive series of spin-offs, sequels, remasters, and collections. Like any series, though, Borderlands is marked by its highs and lows, the experiences we hold onto for years and those we wish to forget moments after putting them down.
This list is all-encompassing, ranking the series from worst to best, and will include mobile options that some players may appreciate.
Without further ado, here’s all seven Borderlands games, ranked:
7. Borderlands Legends
While Borderlands lived and thrived on consoles and PC, Gearbox opted to try something different with Borderlands: Legends. It was an admirable effort in many ways, but being a mobile-only experience stunted the game’s growth and kept it from being anything substantial. Leaving behind the first-person viewpoint for a real-time strategy experience, Legends supported up to four players and integrated much of the series’ humor and charm.
Compared to the base games, Legends was quite simplistic, providing little to no challenge with an equally disappointing amount of content. Had Gearbox really sunk some effort into this mobile outing, it may have carried some weight in the series. As it stands, though, the game is largely forgotten and overlooked in favor of its more robust brethren.
6. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
When players first dove into Borderlands, it was unlikely they expected to still be exploring the series’ lore five years later. And yet, the zaniness that unraveled on Pandora wound up being exactly what Gearbox Software needed to follow up its beloved Brothers in Arms series (and salvage the bad taste of Aliens: Colonial Marines).
The Pre-Sequel proved the staying power of this quirky first-person shooter, though it lacked some of the variety and scope of the core trilogy. If anything, it felt too similar to the original Borderlands, which isn’t much of a compliment, given it released five years after the first game and in the wake of the far-superior Borderlands 2.
The Pre-Sequel is certainly worth playing, so long as it doesn’t hinder diving into any of the other Borderlands games.
The title that started it all. At the time, it was hard to grasp whether Borderlands would be a one-and-done game or something sure to spawn an entire series. It was fun if not a little repetitive, the loot was largely rewarding, and the story provided players plenty to sink their teeth into. But was it enough to warrant returning?
Clearly, yes. Psychos and creatures of Pandora alike provided just enough variety in Borderlands to pique interest in a follow-up. It may not be the best in the trilogy, but it laid the groundwork for the very successful sequels and spin-offs.
By the time we were done with the Vault Hunters’ journey, it was hard not to want more, especially since the minor faults of the game could easily be fixed in a sequel.
4. Tales from the Borderlands
Following the success of The Walking Dead, Telltale Games could do no wrong; whenever the studio released a new title, players were wise to pay attention. Combine the developer’s penchant for storytelling and interactive fiction with Gearbox Software’s world-building, and you have an almost guaranteed hit.
And Tales From The Borderlands was certainly a hit. Though the core trilogy often overshadows it, Tales From The Borderlands is a unique telling of the events that unfolded between Borderlands 2 and its sequel.
Whereas the first two games put an emphasis on action, Tales From The Borderlands is all about the story. The point-and-click-style gameplay Telltale Games is known for works surprisingly well in a universe we’re so used to blowing things up in. Sure, there’s a bit of gunplay, but it’s nowhere near as fluid as the rest of the series.
Still, the five-part episodic experience serves the universe well, utilizing new and recognizable characters of Pandora to flesh out the hunt for access to Vaults scattered across the galaxy.
3. Borderlands 3
It’s very easy for a series’ popularity to taper off after the second entry—especially if that sequel simply wasn’t entertaining. Thankfully for Gearbox, that wasn’t the case, and Borderlands 3 was every bit as anticipated as its predecessor. Still, Gearbox was left with a challenge: How do you improve upon what players already loved?
The answer was simple: Improve the loot system. There’s a lot to love about Borderlands 2, but the shared loot system left many players without a sizable score for their efforts. Borderlands 3 ensures everyone gets a cut, which creates a more balanced multiplayer experience.
Borderlands 3 is an enjoyable game all around, but a largely forgettable story drops it down this list a little. However, the addition of vehicle customization, smooth combat, and, of course, improved visuals really pump up the final entry in the trilogy.
2. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands
Tiny Tina was one of the most memorable characters of Borderlands 2 and 3, and Gearbox leveraged that popularity with the series’ most unique entry yet. Replacing the typical Vault Hunters with multiclass, customizable heroes and swapping out the streamlined first-person view with a blend of FPS action and a tabletop overworld, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands caters to a diverse player base. It’s fascinating to see how Gearbox worked the two genres together, creating a sort of Borderlands Dungeons & Dragons first-person shooter.
Wonderlands is all about building the best hero to bring down the Dragon Lord. To build that hero, players will need to engage the enemy in random encounters, secure loot, and complete quests. The old-school RPG elements work surprisingly well, and Gearbox once again delivers on a fun story that is replayable, thanks to the variety in spells, guns, and heroes.
1. Borderlands 2
As stated above, all of the minor faults of Borderlands were fixable. All Gearbox needed to do was invest in a sequel—which it obviously did. And as suspected, many of the problems players had with Borderlands were rectified in the action-packed follow-up.
Not only did Borderlands 2 offer a better experience, but it felt bigger, with a sizable roster of weirdos who help flesh out the universe. The introduction of Handsome Jack and Tiny Tina were game-changers for the series, and the new Vault Hunters were more dynamic than those in the original.
Unlike Borderlands (and even Borderlands 3), the sequel is replayable without feeling like you’re experiencing the same thing over and over. It’s a testament to the amount of content Gearbox integrated into the bigger story, and the more robust and diverse assortment of firearms on offer.
With more engaging characters, and a story that never lets up from the opening intro to the credits, Borderlands 2 winds up being the pinnacle Vault Hunter experience.
There you have it—the Borderlands games ranked from worst to best! May this ranking help you decide which game to try out first in the franchise. If you have differing opinions, do let us know in the comments below.
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