The Uncharted series has long been considered one of the most popular video game franchises there is. It may not have the longevity as other mainstay classics like Halo or Lara Croft, but from the first game's release in 2007 onward, Uncharted has earned a special place in many gamers' hearts across the globe.
In a game that feels like an updated version of Lara Croft with a dash of Indiana Jones thrown in for good measure, players take on the role of an intrepid treasure hunter, Nathan Drake, whose epic quests to find some of history's most renowned treasures take him from the jungles of South America to the snow-swept mountains of Nepal.
One of the most critically and commercially successful games ever released to the PlayStation systems, Uncharted has been praised for its more lighthearted tone (Drake makes plenty of comedic quips throughout), high-quality storylines, immersive settings, and cinematic presentation, complete with a fantastic original score and top-notch voice acting.
It's also credited with cementing the game's developers at Naughty Dog as one of the top video game publishers currently working today.
Over the years, Uncharted has released several memorable games, nearly all of which remain immensely enjoyable in their own right. The games’ unwavering popularity has even resulted in a film adaptation starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, set to release on February 18.
With this upcoming Uncharted film right around the corner, we thought we'd take a look back at all of the Uncharted games since the series began in 2007, ranking them from worst to best. (Although with how great the series is, it's probably more fitting to say “from good to absolute modern classics.”)
Uncharted: Golden Abyss
Unlike every other Uncharted game on this list, Golden Abyss wasn't released as a console game, instead coming out exclusively for the PlayStation Vita.
Adapting any game that fans know and recognize as a console game to a handheld device is always going to be somewhat iffy. Yet with Golden Abyss, the game's developers actually did a phenomenal job translating the action, gameplay, and graphics to the PS Vita, delivering a game that was fantastic for its time.
Released in 2011, Uncharted: Golden Abyss acts as a prequel set before the events of the series' first game (Drake's Fortune), following Drake as he searches for Quivira, a lost city said to house a vast fortune that Spanish conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado went looking for in 1541.
Though Naughty Dog wasn't directly responsible for developing the game (that task was assigned to Bend Studio), Naughty Dog's skilled staff worked closely with the developers in adapting as much of the series' gameplay to the Vita as possible. Because of this, the game retains many gameplay aspects pioneered in the first three Uncharted games, including puzzle-solving and cover-based, third-person shooting.
For its time, Uncharted: Golden Abyss was a huge success, with notable praise directed at its action and graphics. To date, it's also the only Uncharted game not released for a main PlayStation console, nor has it ever been remastered.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
Naughty Dog's most famous series (not counting The Last of Us) officially began in 2007 with the release of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune.
Looking back at Drake’s Fortune today, it's truly amazing to see how ahead of its time the game was, as well as how well it's aged since then. It's a fun game that still remains immensely replayable even now.
Set on an uncharted island off the coast of Panama, Drake's Fortune introduces players to the character of Nathan Drake, his mentor/best friend Victor “Sully” Sullivan, and journalist/eventual love interest, Elena Fisher, as they search for the mythical El Dorado.
In a time when multiplayer games were fast becoming the norm, Naughty Dog released a game that was exclusively story-driven, utilizing higher production values, carefully crafted levels and maps, and talented voice acting performances.
To set it apart from other single-player-based games, Naughty Dog looked at various films and pulp fiction stories to create an aesthetic that was reminiscent of old-fashioned action-movies. As a result, the game’s central plot felt more akin to a big-budget adventure film than any other video game you’d find on the market.
On its own, Drake's Fortune is the perfect introduction into the world of Uncharted, one that earned almost entirely positive reviews from both critics and gamers. However, it's the game's very minor flaws (mainly, its fairly short length) that account for its relatively low ranking on this list—although, again, it's still a very enjoyable game.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End’s mammoth-sized DLC, The Lost Legacy, was a very different kind of Uncharted game than any other that Naughty Dog had released previously.
For starters, the DLC is so large, it basically operates as its own standalone game. Secondly, it is the first entry in the Uncharted series not to feature the franchise's regular protagonist, Nathan Drake, as the main playable character. Lastly, it also built upon Uncharted 4‘s attempts at creating an open-world environment, resulting in this DLC allowing players greater opportunities to explore their surroundings.
The game follows treasure hunter Chloe Frazer (an ally, former love interest, and close friend to Nathan Drake), who travels to the mountain ranges of India to find the fabled Tusk of Ganesh. Accompanying her is former antagonist-turned-ally Nadine Cross and Nate's older brother, Sam, both of whom assist Chloe in stopping a local warlord from causing a civil war to break out in the country.
The most recent in the Uncharted series, The Lost Legacy is an incredibly fun DLC that pushed the boundaries of the Uncharted series further, building the universe a bit more and adding more dimension to several series main characters (Chloe, especially).
While its action, story, and characters were all entertaining, the game was somewhat hindered by the lack of appearances by characters like Nate, Sully, or Elena—who players had come to so closely associate with the Uncharted series, seeing them absent from this DLC leave a minor bad taste in some gamers’ mouths.
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
In 2011, Naughty Dog pulled off a successful hat trick by drawing the initial trilogy of Uncharted games to a satisfactory conclusion (something few gaming trilogies are able to pull off). Similar to how Uncharted 2: Among Thieves pushed the franchise in new, exciting directions, Drake's Deception continued to strive towards a more cinematic story, basing its plot and action on more grounded emotions and dramatic plotlines.
Two years after Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Drake joins his friends and allies from the previous games (including Elena, Chloe, and Sully) in a race to find the desert city of Iram of the Pillars, competing against Sully's former employer, Katherine Marlowe, along the way.
As had been the case with Among Thieves and later with A Thief's End, Drake’s Deception gives a ton of development to pretty much every character involved. It also continues to further explore Nate's personality, giving him more depth and illustrating the origins of his relationship with Sully (who the game also provides a ton of backstory for).
Aside from the story, Drake's Deception also has—like nearly all the Uncharted games—an endlessly impressive visual design, including immersive desert settings that feel straight out of Lawrence of Arabia. The story and gameplay are extremely enjoyable—featuring that now-famous scene where Nate struggles to climb back inside a cargo plane mid-flight—yet some critics complained the game felt inferior to Uncharted 2.
However, with how amazing Uncharted 2 really was, that's like saying the lemon soufflé at the Ritz Carlton wasn't as good as the porterhouse steak dinner. (Both are amazing on their own, but inevitably one's going to be better than the other when you compare and contrast them.)
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End isn't only a fantastic entry in the Uncharted series—it's also one of the best games ever. It has some of the finest gameplay features in the series, a fantastic and emotional story, and an ending that could feasibly end Nathan Drake's entire arc within the Uncharted universe.
Years after the end of Drake's Deception, Nate has officially retired from treasure hunting to settle down with his wife, Elena, though he still longs for the adventurous days he's left behind. When his older brother, Sam (who Nate had assumed dead for most of his life), shows up again, asking for Nate's help to find the long-lost treasure of 17th-century pirate, Henry Avery, Nate agrees.
Joined by Nate's partner, Sully, the three journey from Italy to Scotland to Madagascar searching for the treasure, battling a ruthless drug lord Sam is connected with. Like the best next-gen console games of recent memory, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is a virtually flawless game, boasting some of the series' best action sequences, level design, character development, vocal performances, and meticulously crafted landscapes the player traverses through.
A Thief's End also introduces a few new elements into the series' gameplay, including larger settings that Nate can explore rather than simply being limited to the inside of a temple, museum, or jungle, as had been the case with past games.
At its heart, it's also likely the most emotional of all the Uncharted games, revolving heavily around Nate's past, his relationship with his brother, and the struggle he feels to leave his old life behind for the sake of his marriage to Elena.
As of now, it's unknown what Naughty Dog's plans are for the future of Uncharted. However, if they do decide to end it with A Thief's End, fans will be left with arguably the best possible ending for Nate and Elena's characters there is.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Widely considered one of the best games ever released to the PlayStation 3 as well as one of the greatest games ever made, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the game that established Uncharted as the ultra-popular series people know it as today. Like A Thief's End, it's a flawless game that possesses no weaknesses, every single mission as entertaining and beautifully designed as some of the most noteworthy action movies to come out of Hollywood.
Two years after the events of Drake's Fortune, Nate finds himself competing against a former friend turned bitter rival to find the mythic city of Shambhala in Nepal. Joining him are several former friends and allies (Elena, Sully, and Chloe, who makes her first appearance in this game) who help him on his journey, taking them from Istanbul to the remote mountains of Nepal.
In many ways, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is like The Empire Strikes Back of the Uncharted series. Sure, the first entry in the franchise was good, but Among Thieves earned the series a prestigious position as one of the highest-quality video games on the market.
Its elaborate landscapes and settings, suspenseful missions, graphics, gameplay, and story were all universally praised by critics. Its overwhelming critical response also led it to win several Game of the Year awards from numerous gaming magazines and institutions.
Plus, it also has easily one of the absolute best openings to a video game ever, featuring Nate having to climb through a derailed train dangling precariously off the edge of a snow-covered cliff.
It's a testament to any game to have players hooked from the very get-go, but Uncharted 2 goes above and beyond, maintaining that initial scene’s high level of intensity throughout the remainder of the game.
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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.