The Uncharted series is now, surprisingly, 13 years old. It remains one of the greatest selling PlayStation original series and one of the most acclaimed for the developer Naughty Dog. It seems an apt time to rank the output of the series to date (excluding The Lost Legacy spin-off in 2017) and provide an overview of the series.
4. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (2007)
This game is obviously crucial to the fabric of the whole series and introduced many core elements and characters that would come to be crucial. The fact it’s ranked so low is more reflective of the series finding its feet after the release than any glaring failures of this particular game. It is merely eclipsed by the latter entries.
Drake’s Fortune introduced us to Nathan Drake and Sully’s world and set the tone for the series – think Lara Croft meets Indiana Jones with a hint of Jason Bourne chucked in and you’d be along the right sort of lines. The game is action packed and full of intelligent puzzles. The gameplay mechanics would obviously improve over the course of the series and there are also some tonal shifts that sit uneasily and don’t quite work – in particular the Nazi-zombie segments of the game towards the tail end of the adventure. These sections feel more akin to something from a Call of Duty game.
3. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (2011)
Possibly the most action packed and adrenaline fueled entry in the series, Drake’s Deception had the unenviable task of picking up after Uncharted 2: Among Thieves but proved to be a critical darling and fan favourite. While never quite scaling the same heights as its predecessor, it’s a fine game on its own merit.
This is Uncharted at its most Indy-esque, full of breathtaking set pieces and stunning visuals that show how far gaming progressed between the franchise’s start and this 2011 entry. It is, perhaps, lacking in some of the more tender and introspective moments that are found in the next two entries on this list – although, as pieces of cinematic gaming go, and for pure spectacle, this installment is a complete joy.
2. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)
One of the best gaming intros I have ever experienced and the pace never lets up with a series of dazzling action sequences. This is quite simply one of the finest PlayStation exclusive games.
The snow-scape introduction to the game as Nate clambers his way up a falling train is something lifted straight out of the movies and could quite easily have been a scene from the Bond or Mission Impossible series. This introduction is a strong indicator that the upcoming Uncharted movie could be one of the finest video game adaptations if those behind it get the basics right.
It’s not just the intro to be awed by, the story went deeper than its predecessor offering a more complex fare and a wide range of landscapes and encounters. There is also more humour than the first Uncharted game, which helps balance out its heavier moments. Overall, the story feels less bogged down when introducing us to the world.
Among Thieves is not a perfect game, however, and its age is perhaps evident in certain places, particularly the shooting mechanics and stealth. That said, it is a great game that has aged incredibly well for the most part and helped set the series apart from others of its type.
1. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (2016)
It was a toss up between Among Thieves and A Thief’s End for the crown of best Uncharted game, but A Thief’s End takes everything that worked for the first three entries and ups the ante; you have the blend of action, adventure of puzzle solving, and globe trotting. The visuals are stunning and this is without doubt the best looking entry in the series.
The added personal backstory to Nate, and introduction of his brother Sam, gives the series a boost and raises the personal stakes. Having Nate over the hill and reluctant to take on a new adventure gives him an air of world weariness. This is in stark contrast to the series opener and makes the falls and aches hit harder than they had in other installments. Sam adds to the protagonist roster and is a great character in his own right – and hence was used to heavy effect in the spin-off The Lost Legacy.
The mechanics are the most polished they have been at any point in the series, making this game flow better than its predecessors. Additionally, the tone is more mature, while never losing the sense of fun that made the series such a joy in the first place.
Words by Chris Connor