The quirky humor, innovative mix of role-playing and first-person shooter gameplay, and vivid space western fantasy setting have made the Borderlands series a fan favorite.
The first Borderlands game came out in 2009, and since then there have been three sequels, three spin-off games, countless DLC expansions, and even a live-action Borderlands movie in the works.
Here, we’ll take a look back at each Borderlands game in chronological order and discuss how each one shaped the series and the beloved looter shooter genre.
If Gearbox and 2K Games decide to try making Borderlands 4 again, we’ll update this schedule to reflect the new release window, so stay tuned!
History of Borderlands – GameSpot
Since its inception in 2009, Gearbox Software’s Borderlands games have featured hundreds of thousands of firearms, as well as explosions, eccentric characters, and mountains of loot. Now that the newest Borderlands spin-off, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, has arrived, we thought it would be fitting to reflect on the series’ origins and legacy.
Although it was released in 2009 alongside other games like Uncharted 2, Halo 3: ODST, and Modern Warfare 2, Borderlands was an unexpected success, and its sequel, spinoff, and original game haven’t. lagged too far behind. Borderlands is a popular adventure game because of its humorous writing, engaging gameplay, and customizable Vault Hunters. Characters in Borderlands range from the dashing Jack to the adorable Claptrap, the series’ mascot. Tales from the Borderlands, an interactive story developed by Telltale Games and published by Gearbox, was also utilized as an experiment in the series.
Darryn Bonthyus, writing for us, rated Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands 7 out of 10, calling it an “easy-to-digest adventure with a taste of fantasy” that “struggles to find its own identity.” Make sure to subscribe to GameSpot for updates on Borderlands and Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.
Dissemination Date: October 20, 2009
Hardware: Personal Computers, Playstations 3, 4, Xboxes 3, 4, Nintendo Switch, and Macs
Borderlands, the original game in the series, follows a motley crew of “Vault Hunters” as they travel to the planet Pandora in search of a legendary vault said to contain cutting-edge technology and untold riches.
Players can choose from four different characters, each with their own set of abilities, play style, and personality that affects the game and its exploration: Brick, Lilith, Mordecai, and Roland.
The game’s many different playable classes found common ground in the game’s extensive library of procedurally generated weapons, each of which had its own set of bonuses, statistics, and even elemental typings.
Borderlands received mostly positive reviews from gaming publications, with critics praising the game’s refined RPG mechanics, enjoyable first-person shooter gameplay, and gorgeous cel-shaded visuals.
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Borderlands 2, which came out three years later, takes place five years in the future and has players returning to Pandora with a new team of Vault Hunters: Axton, Maya, Salvador, and Zer0.
The players’ goal is to stop Handsome Jack from opening a new vault and unleashing its mysterious power with the help of a rebel group known as the Crimson Raiders.
Improved user interface, more visually distinct weapons, and a more focused story with an emphasis on environmental storytelling are just a few of the changes made to Borderlands 2 based on player feedback from the original game.
In the end, Borderlands 2 was a smashing success that vastly surpassed its predecessor in every conceivable way, particularly in the areas of weapon variety and satisfying gunplay.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
Date of Publication: October 14th, 2014
PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Mac, and Linux
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, the third main installment in the series, focuses on Jack, a worker for the Hyperion Corporation who becomes the villain Handsome Jack in the original game.
Jack joins forces with a group of Vault Hunters to reclaim the Helios space station after it is infiltrated by the Lost Legion and to find a vault hidden on Pandora’s moon.
The game uses the same engine and gameplay as Borderlands 2, but adds new features like low-gravity levels, elemental “Freeze” damage, oxygen restrictions, and more.
The game was lauded for its new additions, including features, character classes, and writing, but it was panned for its unintuitive level designs and lack of innovation when compared to its predecessors.
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PC, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox 360 S, and Mac
Including the original Borderlands, Borderlands 3’s six-year development period is the longest of any main series game.
The player takes control of one of four new Vault Hunters—Amara, Moze, Zane, or FL4K—seven years after the events of Borderlands 2, and must stop Troy and Tyreen Calypso from using the power of alien Vaults to take over the galaxy.
There are now many more possible character builds because each playable character has three unlockable skills instead of just one, and the ‘Slag’ elemental damage type has been replaced with ‘Radiation.’
Critics praised Borderlands 3’s improvements to character abilities, freedom of movement, and the game’s conclusion but criticized its inconsistent artificial intelligence and tedious “bullet sponge” enemies.
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Borderlands Legends, a four-player top-down strategy RPG for mobile devices, was released around the same time as Borderlands 2 and lets players take control of one of the original game’s Vault Hunters.
Each character keeps their primary and secondary abilities from Borderlands and is given a weapon that fits their play style.
To gain experience and level up, players must survive waves of various enemies such as Bandits, Skags, Psychos, Bruisers, and more in order to unlock new abilities, weapons, and other benefits.
Critics praised the concept behind Legends but panned the game for its poor execution and thin content.
Loot the World
Date of Publication:12/12/2013
Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android
Loot the World would provide players with extra rewards outside of Borderlands 2 by having them scan random product bar codes and QR codes.
A maximum of twenty items could be stored in the app before the player was required to connect their device to a Borderlands 2 SHiFT account in order to move their rewards.
Users could share their codes with others once an item had been located so that they could receive the same reward; however, codes could only be used a certain number of times before they were retired.
On October 18, 2015, two years after its release, the United States-only Loot the World app stopped accepting new users.
Tales from the Borderlands
November 25th, 2014 — Date of Release
PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Mac, iOS, and Android
Tales from the Borderlands is an episodic adventure game developed by Telltale Games, and it is without a doubt the most ambitious Borderlands spin-off to date.
A Hyperion employee named Rhys and a con artist named Fiona team up in this sequel to Borderlands 2 to find a new vault and steal its valuable contents.
Tales from the Borderlands, like Telltale’s The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, would save player decisions and incorporate them into the story at a later time.
Tales from the Borderlands received high marks for its writing and faithfulness to the source material, but it was criticized for using an outdated game engine and having repetitive gameplay.
DLC Story Campaigns
- Players in The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned are tasked with sifting through the evidence of Dr. Ned’s experiments on the locals of Jakobs Cove.
- Players compete in an arena tournament hosted by Moxxi, a crazed lover on the hunt for her fourth husband.
- While being pursued by General Knoxx, players join forces with Athena, Moxxi, and Scooter in The Secret Armory of General Knoxx in order to bring down Atlas.
- In Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution, players are tasked with eliminating a horde of renegade Claptraps who have been brainwashed into waging war against humanity.
- Treasures from the Vault of Captain Scarlett – Players join forces with Captain Scarlett, a sand pirate, to recover Captain Blade’s stolen treasure.
- In Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage, the CEO of the Torgue weapons company, Mr. Torgue, hosts a tournament for players to determine who will become Pandora’s Champion.
- In Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt, players join forces with the eponymous character to track down some of Pandora’s most unusual animals.
- In Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, Tiny Tina acts as game master for a session of the fantasy tabletop RPG Bunkers and Badasses, in which the players are coerced into playing.
- Handsome Collection: Commander Lilith and the Battle for Sanctuary – This DLC connects the events of Blacklight 2 and Blacklight 3, as players battle Hector to reclaim Sanctuary and the Vault map.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
- In Claptastic Voyage, the player enters Claptrap’s mind at Handsome Jack’s behest to recover a mysterious program known only as the H-Source.
- Players in Moxxi’s Heist of the Handsome Jackpot are tasked with rescuing Moxxi from Handsome Jack, who has absconded with her casino.
- Tentacles, Guns, and Love – Players help Wainwright and Sir Hammerlock organize their wedding on the planet Xylourgos in this Lovecraftian-themed downloadable content.
- Players in Bounty of Blood take on the role of protectors of Vestige, a town under attack by a band of bandits known as the Devil Riders.
- The goal of Psycho Krieg and the Fantastic Fustercluck is to help players solve the mystery of Vaulthalla by putting them in Krieg’s shattered mind.
10 essential Borderlands 3 tips to know before you play
1. Always check for alternate fire modes
It’s easy to overlook or forget about the game’s new feature, alternate fire modes for a variety of guns. This feature debuted in Borderlands 3. When switching weapons, always check the in-game description to see if it has any additional fire modes and what they do.
You can toggle between the two modes using the D-Pad if your gun supports it, but be sure to do so strategically. For example, if your sniper rifle can inflict both corrosive and shock damage, use the former against robot enemies and the latter against those protected by shields. Borderlands 3’s combat is much more manageable if you keep an eye out, switch wisely, and do so frequently.
2. Do your research for character builds
Each of the four playable Vault Hunters in Borderlands 3 has three skill trees that can be modified as the character levels up, as is standard for Borderlands games. However, Gearbox has already published each Vault Hunter’s skill tree on its website, and the Borderlands community has already gotten to work discovering the best and coolest builds for each hero, which they have compiled into a single mega-thread for your perusal on Reddit(opens in new tab).
For those who prefer a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach, characters like Dual Salamander Moze(opens in new tab) place a premium on damage output. In contrast, the new Hunter class in Borderlands 3 features a build called Perma Invisible Crit Fl4K(opens in new tab) that prioritizes stealth and concealment, making it well-suited for snipers thanks to its ability to allow players to remain undetected for as long as possible while landing devastating critical hits. Check out some guides online (or our own skill tree guides down below) to find a build that suits you before diving into Borderlands 3, and then begin wisely allocating your perk points.
3. Make use of the destructible environments
While Borderlands has never been known as a cover shooter, keep in mind that certain environments and objects in Borderlands 3 can be shot through or destroyed completely with bullets and explosives, effectively reducing the number of hiding spots for your enemies.
However, the opposite effect of this destructibility is that your Vault Hunter will have fewer safe areas in which to respawn, as your enemies will be able to destroy your cover with the same ease that you destroy theirs. Therefore, in Borderlands 3, it is highly recommended to maintain a constant state of motion, with smart forward-offensive positions often being the best strategy for combat; however, if a certain cover-obsessed enemy is beginning to wind you up, a simple grenade lob will easily and quickly make quick work of their defense.
4. Spice up co-op with co-opetition mode
Borderlands 3’s level scaling allows less experienced Vault Hunters to team up with more experienced ones without worrying about being overwhelmed, and Gearbox has made a big deal out of the fact that loot instancing is now separated between players during co-op, so you won’t have to share loot with friends and strangers (either online or in local splitscreen).
You can disable loot instancing and level scaling from the main menu of the game in Co-opetition Mode if you want to add a competitive edge to your Borderlands fraternizing or if you just want to keep things old school. If you want a little extra challenge in your multiplayer sessions, you can turn it on as soon as you like, but be warned: you will be competing with your friends for the best weapons in Borderlands 3, and any Vault Hunter who can’t keep up with their friend’s progress will have a hard time surviving firefights.
5. Elemental barrels don’t punch themselves
Because of improvements made to the Borderlands game engine for Borderlands 3, enemies and items now ragdoll across the environment like tumbleweed caught in a Pandoran sandstorm. The short version is that Vault Hunters can now send their enemies an explosive present that won’t end in smiles when they punch explosive barrels into them from a distance.
To set off a fireworks display, simply approach a barrel just before it explodes, face in the desired direction, and give it a good whack with the melee button. If you’re out of grenades, this is a great way to deal area-of-effect damage or close the distance on a particularly tough foe. Again, though, exercise caution lest this strategy (quite literally) backfire on you.
6. Don’t ignore your Crew Challenges
The new Crew Missions are Gearbox’s take on contextualized collectibles like Typhon Logs and Claptrap components, among other things. It’s straightforward: in exchange for completing the Crew Mission in a single zone, you’ll gain access to rare items.
Crew Missions can be tracked in the map menu, and most of the collectibles you need to complete them will be found naturally as you play through the main story and the optional missions in each area. You need only keep track of them as you move through a zone; however, you should not move on to the next planet until you have completed all of them, as the benefits will be well worth your time.
7. Recover lost loot from Sanctuary 3
Like in Destiny, some of the loot drops in Borderlands 3 that you might miss in the heat of battle will be brought back to the lost loot section of your headquarters on Sanctuary 3.
When the machine is opened, any weapons that were left behind can be retrieved at no cost. To purchase SDUs, which increase the lost loot inventory size and allow you to retrieve more weapons from the machine at once, visit Marcus’ shop on Sanctuary 3.
8. Instantly refill your ammo with the click of a button
While bullets aren’t hard to come by in Borderlands 3, there will be times when you want to load up your magazines to the brim. This could be in anticipation of a boss fight or simply because you’re having a hard time resisting the urge to use your new favorite weapon on everything in sight.
You can stock up on weapons and ammunition without having to browse the wares at the many Marcus Munitions vending machines strategically placed throughout each zone. While facing the machine, press the “Refill Ammo” button for instant replenishment, for a price.
9. Always complete the bonus objectives
The campaign and other missions in Borderlands 3 will feature optional bonus objectives that will increase the difficulty of your galactic questing. Killing a certain number of skags with explosive weapons, for example, or shooting an enemy boss in the rear end are both possible tasks.
Even though they look like empty checkboxes added to the mission briefing, completing these bonus objectives will earn you more experience and possibly even unique weapons that can’t be found anywhere else when the quest is complete. Don’t disregard them.
10. Get Legendary Loot with Borderlands 3 Shift Codes
Borderlands 3 is not an exception; Borderlands Shift Codes can be used to obtain Legendary skins and weapons, just like in every other game in the series. For instance, in Sanctuary 3, you can find a Golden Chest that can only be opened with one-time-use Golden Keys (obtained by redeeming Shift codes), but it promises to contain at the very least Epic loot within.
Fortunately, Gearbox is generous with these, offering them frequently and without restrictions as part of various online promotions and as freebies for their social media followers. Borderlands 3 Shift Codes can be redeemed from the Social section of the main menu, and you can find a complete list of active keys in our guide (opens in new tab).