Sony has partly built its games industry reputation on high quality PlayStation exclusives, and a major contributor has been the Uncharted series from developer Naughty Dog. Calling Uncharted a game version of the Indiana Jones films makes them sound a bit a derivative, because the games more than stand on their own as a great franchise, but the inspiration is very plain to see. In terms of consistency though, Uncharted might just have an advantage, since there isn’t an Uncharted game that screwed it up as badly as Kingdom of the Crystal Skull did for Indiana Jones.
The Uncharted games are undoubtedly of consistently high quality, which players have come to expect from Naughty Dog, but some are still better than others. The adventure games’ highlights are the characters and stories that take the Uncharted series to fantastic locations, supported by satisfying exploration and extremely cinematic set pieces. Occasionally hampered by less-than-stellar shooting mechanics and unnecessary motion controls, Uncharted continually perseveres to deliver a heartfelt tale.
Nathan Drake and company have come a long way since their debut in 2007, and have since become some of the most beloved characters in gaming. There’s no telling when the next Uncharted game might arrive, since Naughty Dog is supposedly still working on The Last of Us Part II‘s multiplayer. Until the next bit of Uncharted news, consider this list of every Uncharted game, ranked worst to best.
Bend Studios teamed up with One Loop Games to deliver an Uncharted trading card game to the PS Vita. Although the Uncharted charm is there and its a unique attempt at bringing the series to a new genre, Fight for Fortune ultimately doesn’t stand up against other trading card games. Uncharted: Fight for Fortune lacks depth, and has some balancing issues.
Uncharted: Fortune Hunter is a mobile puzzle game released alongside Uncharted 4. It’s got some fun puzzle elements, and gets quite challenging. It is thematically closer to the rest of the series than the trading card game, since it centers on Nathan Drake treasure hunting, but the lack of any significant story and the series’ noteworthy voice acting leaves it lacking. The frequent mobile game pitfall of time-gated mechanics also plagues Uncharted: Fortune Hunter.
The original Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is the game that started it all and introduced one of the best PlayStation protagonists. The first game is, unfortunately, the worst of the mainline Uncharted games. Drake’s Fortune‘s story, voice acting, set pieces, and level design are all still spectacular, but the gameplay is a clunky mess.
The shooting mechanics are terribly unreliable, and movement on the ground and climbing is unresponsive. To top it all off, there is some downright horrible Sixaxis controller integration which requires players to tilt their gamepad to keep Nathan Drake balanced. Luckily the motion controls can be toggled off, and their use is few and far between.
Many of the same criticisms for Drake’s Fortune can be said about the series’ more traditional PS Vita title, Golden Abyss. The movement and shooting mechanics are a bit sluggish overall, but it’s upheld by a decent story. Many of the more gimmicky elements, such as motion controls and touch screen integration, work a fair bit better than they did in Drake’s Fortune. Although their use is a bit too frequent, and sometimes unnecessary, the motion controls and touch screen offer some creative immersion.
The rest of the Uncharted games on this list are entering masterpiece territory, and any fan of the series will almost certainly have a differing opinion on which is the best. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception marked the last Uncharted game to release on the PlayStation 3, and brought an unprecedented scale to the game’s environments.
Despite the perceived openness, the game tragically feels a bit too linear. The woeful shooting mechanics from the first game reappeared in Drake’s Deception, but an alternate aiming setting was patched in shortly after release after player feedback was taken into consideration.
Drake’s Deception, and its prominently featured desert setting, are heavily inspired by T.E. Lawrence, a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia. The third Uncharted also contains some unforgettable action sequences, such navigating the inside of a sinking cruise ship or desperately clinging to a plane as it falls out of the sky over the Arabian Desert.
The biggest strength of Uncharted 4 is the depth at which it portrays its characters. The relationship between Nathan Drake and his wife Elena Fisher (a decidedly not-so-perfect couple) is noticeably more nuanced than it was in previous entries.
A Thief’s End succeeds where its predecessor fell short in creating truly open gameplay sections. This is due in large part thanks to the introduction of driving mechanics, which allow the player to explore large swaths of land, emphasizing Drake’s role as an adventurer. The driving mechanics also help the game have some of the best action sequences in the entire Uncharted series.
A Thief’s End brought a truly next-gen Uncharted onto the PlayStation 4, and was widely praised for its phenomenal animations and use of motion capture. The aforementioned relationships truly blossom because of the game’s detailed facial expressions and some sequences where the player unexpectedly switches roles, which help make Uncharted 4 the most emotionally-charged entry in the series.
Originally conceived as DLC for Uncharted 4, The Lost Legacy became a standalone title intended to placate Naughty Dog fans between the releases of Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us Part II (which fans think could take place in the same universe). The Lost Legacy shares the refined gameplay of its predecessor, but delivers a more streamlined package.
It may be blasphemy to criticize the beautiful ending of Nathan Drake’s tale, but The Lost Legacy‘s story meanders much less than that of A Thief’s End. The game is a bit shorter, which makes the entire experience more concise. The large, drivable areas are also much better than those in A Thief’s End.
The narrative in The Lost Legacy is a breath of fresh air after four games of Nathan Drake somehow managing to not completely alienate all of his loved ones. Uncharted 2 heartthrob Chloe Frazer and Uncharted 4 antagonist Nadine Frazer team up to hunt for treasure in India with some help from Nathan’s brother, Sam Drake. The budding friendship between Chloe and Nadine is an absolute joy to experience and an indication of Uncharted‘s bright future if it leaves the book closed on Nathan Drake’s story and decides to change the protagonist again.
Uncharted‘s second installment has yet to be surpassed. Among Thieves is an absolute masterclass in blending action-adventure gameplay and narrative. The game opens with a quote from legendary explorer Marco Polo, which reads, “I did not tell half of what I saw for I knew I would not be believed…” The sentiment is mirrored in Uncharted 2, a game that must be experienced firsthand.
Said quote fades before a scene materializes showing a gravely wounded and disoriented Nathan Drake in a train car hanging precariously above a chasm. Among Thieves wastes little time in getting to the action and never lets up until the credits roll. The game improved on Drake’s Fortune in every way, and delivered the most complete and engaging entry in the series. The game was an absolute sensation when it came out, throwing into question the boundary between video games and cinema. It advances the complicated life of Drake and fleshes out his relationships, all during a high-stakes adventure to find the mythical city of Shambhala.
The Uncharted series alone is an excuse to get a PlayStation 4, since all of the mainline games are available on it thanks to the first three being remastered in The Nathan Drake Collection. Though some may validly criticize the games for comparatively shallow gameplay, the Uncharted franchise provides an unparalleled cinematic experience in video gaming, the height of which comes in Among Thieves.