Uncharted is now over ten years old, and in that time series protagonist Nathan Drake has climbed his way up the gaming recognition ladder, from plucky pretender to PlayStation superstar. Starting life on the PlayStation 3 all the way back in 2007, Naughty Dog’s daring action adventure franchise has fast become one of Sony’s most iconic brands, and with a number of instalments under the series’ belt, we thought it would be fun to rank the games – from best to worst, of course.
Released at a time when critics and consumers alike argued that console games don’t really make sense on handheld systems, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is the only game on this list not developed by series creator Naughty Dog. Honours instead were awarded to current Days Gone maker Sony Bend, with the aim being to bring Drake to the PS Vita’s small (but very beautiful at the time) OLED screen. The results were agreeable enough, with impressive visuals and all of the hallmarks of a full-size Uncharted adventure, but the game’s forgettable supporting cast and limited set-pieces make this comfortably the worst of the series so far.
The game that started it all, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune represented a bold new direction for developer Naughty Dog in 2007, as it ditched the cartoon mascots that had defined its catalogue for over a decade, and attempted something a little more realistic. Playing like a summer blockbuster, the first game revelled in its waxy PS3-powered flora, as it took you on an oversaturated tour of the Amazon in search of El Dorado. The light-hearted writing and stellar performances made it stand out compared to other games at the time, though its repetitive cover-based shootouts feel tedious by modern day standards.
With developer Naughty Dog divided into two teams while it prototyped Game of the Generation candidate The Last of Us, 2011’s Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception had mixed fortunes. The game was a spectacle on a level unprecedented even for the bombastic brand, as the protagonist leaped out of crashing planes and fought his way through a sinking ship. But where the series is known for its tight story-telling, the game felt like a patchwork of set-pieces, awkwardly stitched together in order to tell some semblance of a story. Drake and Sully’s fleshed out relationship served as a narrative highlight, but the title simply couldn’t match the consistency of its PS3 predecessor.
Originally planned as DLC for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End but expanded into its own thing, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy represented a changing of the guard, with Naughty Dog underlings promoted into directorial roles. And despite not starring the face of the franchise Nathan Drake, the game delivered a rip-roaring campaign, paced to perfection with the optimal balance between combat, exploration, and puzzle solving. Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross make for brilliant leads, and their pursuit of the Tusk of Ganesha is one rife with clashing personalities, contrasting motives, and fledgling friendships. This is arguably the most rounded Uncharted to date – even if it is the least unique.
The game that put Nathan Drake on the map: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves raised the bar for the action adventure genre. A real globe-trotting campaign that spans Nepal, Istanbul, and more, the game sees you out in pursuit of Shambhala, as you climb up crashed trains and fight your way through collapsing buildings. The title’s E3 2009 gameplay demo will go down as one of the greatest PlayStation press conference moments, but the full game somehow managed to exceed already sky high expectations, introducing innovative (at the time) gameplay segments, such as a slow walk through a busy village and a long platforming sequence with a non-English speaking AI companion.
With a problematic development cycle – series creator Amy Hennig departed the project not long after it was announced – and intense pressure to bring closure to Nathan Drake’s treasure hunting exploits, 2016’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End faced an uphill battle. Naughty Dog’s solution was to create its most personal – and simultaneously, its largest – campaign to date. Designed with the buzzword “wide linear” in mind, the game is by far the most varied and explorable entry in the series to date, capturing the spirit of real adventuring better than its predecessors. Pacing issues are the only real criticisms that can be pointed at a spectacular campaign, which is brave enough to tone down the brand’s iconic bombast with regularity, and is successfully able to steer the franchise towards a rare fitting and fulfilling conclusion.
What’s your favourite Uncharted game to date? Have we got the franchise’s rankings right, or do you disagree with our order? Puff on a cigar like Sully and post a comment below.
What's your favourite Uncharted game? (297 votes)
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (2007)
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (2011)
Uncharted: Golden Abyss (2012)
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (2016)
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (2017)
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