Nolan was approximately 10 years old when the Votanis Collective first arrived on Earth. A decade later, the war between the humans and Votans had begun. Nolan lost his parents not too long after the Pale Wars begun. This led to him and his older sister, Rebecca, joining the Earth Military Coalition. During the Battle of St. Louis she was killed by an Irathient Nolan let in the ammo depot they were both guarding during the Battle of St. Louis. These events left him profoundly scarred, and turned him into a ruthless soldier, earning the nicknames No man Nolan (no man left standing), and the Butcher of Yosemite (for his actions during the Massacre of Yosemite).
The following year, Nolan was a Private First Class in Delta Company during the Battle of Oklahoma City, where half his unit was killed. He was promoted to Corporal for his actions on the battlefield, and joined the 9th Mechanized Division, or Iron Demons, where he was promoted to Lieutenant, and met Jon Cooper. After the war ended, Nolan became an Ark Hunter.
Not long after the Battle of Defiance, a demoted Nolan and his unit raided a temple and interrupted a cultist ritual, killing several Votan worshippers, including the parents of Irisa Nyira. After rescuing her and taking her to a military hospital, the two bond quickly, and when Nolan learns that Irisa is bound for a refugee camp, he takes her and deserts the EMC. Though initially scared of Nolan, Irisa eventually accepts him as her father. The two continue to search for Arktech, hoping to find a Terrasphere (the most valuable form of Arkfall salvage), to finance a move to Antarctica. To this end, they join Karl von Bach's Bay Area Expedition. There, they are hired by Varus Soleptor, but ultimately find themselves indebted to him. Nolan and another Ark Hunter find a Libera Nova Gem, a crucial component in acquiring a Terrasphere. Eager to pay off Varus, Nolan steals it for himself, and he and Irisa travel toward St. Louis, where they use the Gem to retrieve a Terrasphere from a recently crashed Indogene ship. They are subsequently ambushed by Raiders who seek to claim their bounty for themselves. The ensuing battle leaves Irisa injured, and they are forced to take refuge in the woods, where they are attacked by Saberwolves . They are rescued by Lawkeepers and taken to the ruins of St. Louis, which has taken on new life as the frontier town Defiance. Nolan eventually becomes the Lawkeeper, with Irisa as his deputy.
Joshua Nolan was a boy enjoying a picnic with his parents when he saw arks arrive in the sky over St. Louis. His personal world changed when the war between the Humans and the Votans began. He was formerly a lieutenant who fought in the Earth Military Coalition as a member of The Ninth Mechanized Infantry Division, known also as “Iron Demons”, or "Defiant Few" after whom the Town is named.
After joining the Bay Area Expedition, Nolan and Irisa travel to San Francisco on board the EMS New Freedom, a former EMC Stratocarrier recommissioned under the E. Rep. The ship is attacked by Raiders, but they are able to eject via escape pods. Extricating themselves in short order, they appropriate a roller, and attempt to obtain enough Arkfall to finance a move to Antarctica. Eventually, Nolan and Irisa are hired by Varus Soleptor to retreive the Libera Nova Gem from the North Point Mine. Realizing the value of the gem, they steal it for themselves, then leave the Bay Area to escape Varus' wrath. In the game you may notice many AIs such as in Top Notch Toolworks, talk about his bounty a lot.
Nolan was driving across the badlands with Irisa when they saw a piece of ark fall to Earth. They acquired a terrasphere from the ark wreckage but are interrupted by Irathient Spirit Riders who try to take their property. Nolan and Irisa are able to escape but Irisa is wounded during a short firefight. The two are rescued by Garret Clancy and taken to the town of Defiance. Nolan begins a relationship with Kenya Rosewater. He is then a critical part of the success of The Second Battle of Defiance.
Nolan and Amanda Rosewater deliver Rynn to prison, along with funds from the town to support a mag-lev rail independent of E-Rep support. Along the way the roller is hijacked for the money, and Nolan gambles on Amanda's skill and comradeship to save himself and the town's future. It is revealed that Nolan rescued Irisa from a Votan cult, killing nearly all within, likely including her parents (as she indicated in "Pilot").
Nolan's former comrade Eddie Braddock arrives in Defiance seeking a Castithan fugitive. The two team up to apprehend the man, Nolan hoping to have him tried in town and Eddie hoping to turn him in for a substantial bounty with the E-Rep. It is revealed that Nolan was forced to turn Irisa over to a refugee camp but refused and escaped, with Eddie's help.
Nolan is known for being quick witted, sarcastic, straightforward, and intolerant of people's bullshitting him. He tries to be a responsible father towards Irisa, but sometimes ends up putting her in awkward situations due to his love of hooking up with prostitutes. But deep down he loves his adopted daughter and does his best to provide for both of them and has been known to threaten and/or kill anyone who has tried to harm her. As a former military man he has a personality that can be described as rather wolf-like; In that he is extremely loyal to his friends and comrades and can be quite wrathful when they are harmed or threatened and was formerly known to be merciless to his enemies. Although that part of him seems to have been tempered by the time he adopted Irisa. He is fond of his custom pistol which he carries at all times. He is known to have a dislike of Datak Tarr, whom he has noted to be rather underhanded and has been able to astutely and accurately predict and anticipate his tactics and strategies in the past.
Nolan is cunning, and in his own right, very wise. He is a man who tries to enjoy life and works hard to ensure he does good by others. His relationships with the human folks of Defiance are often strained by his loyalty to his daughter since she is an Irathian whose race is somewhat shunned by humans and Votans alike.
- In "Pilot", Nolan's first name is not used.
- In "Brothers in Arms", it is revealed that Nolan's nickname is "No Man." This is in reference to his "no one left standing" policy during the Pale Wars, and potentially his time during the war trapped in "No Man's Land."