Sic Parvis Magna: Ranking the Uncharted Series

As I waded through the gaming doldrums of the past few months in preparation for the imminent release of the next generation of consoles, it seemed like as good a time as any to revisit some of my personal favorites that helped define the last two generations of gaming, Naughty Dog’s high-flying, treasure hunting Uncharted series. The globe-trotting exploits of the self-proclaimed descendent of Sir Francis Drake have held a special place in my heart because they truly embody my belief that video games can be so much more than just mindless action. They can also be one of the highest forms of entertainment and storytelling – two tenants that the series has really helped usher into the mainstream over the last 15 years. After several years away, I was excited to spend a month or so revisiting my old friends like the womanizer with a heart of gold, Sully, and Elena, the tenacious reporter who just might be the only one capable of calling out our main protagonist Nathan Drake on his bullshit. However, simply enjoying them wouldn’t be nearly productive enough, so, naturally, I decided it was time to definitively rank them all through a combination of both gut feeling and 11 carefully crafted categories that epitomize what an Uncharted game should be.

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Story

The Uncharted games may have a lot of big, dumb, glorious action, but they also have a ton of heart thanks to intricate storytelling focused on both interpersonal relationships and thrilling archeological legends. The best entries in the series have just as many emotional explosions as they do physical ones, and, even when the storytelling falters, it’s still better than the majority of what you’ll see on TV or the big screen.

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5) Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

The search for El Dorado is confined to following a mythical statue through assorted jungles and German submarines. There are plenty of action movie tropes to be had, but it doesn’t all pay off including a fake out Sully death that fails to land both because we hardly know Sully at that point and because Nathan is cracking jokes within 5 seconds of it happening. Still, though, the ambition and fun are there, making it a breezy thieving jaunt and an excellent starting point for the greatness to come.

4) Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

We get our first look at young Nathan Drake and the start of his relationship with Sully here courtesy of some story-heavy flashback sequences. Following Lawrence of Arabia’s footsteps to Iram of the Pillars doesn’t hold quite the same gratification or sense of wonder as other destinations, but the inclusion of the secret society chasing you and the discovery that Nathan and Elena were married adds a lot of drama to the mix. While part of what makes the series so spectacular is how over-the-top it is, there are one too many convenient plot hole filled contrivances that do bring down the story a little but not enough to detract from all the great character moments.

3) Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

This reminds me of something I’d watch on TBS at like 1 AM and enjoy the hell out of. It’s not as big of a story as the other games, but it might be the most well done. The gorgeous India backdrop and inclusion of Hindu elements adds a lot to it all, and just try not to actively cheer on the budding friendship of our two strong yet stubborn heroines or tear up a little when Chloe realizes her deceased father actually made it to the hidden city he spent his life seeking. 

2) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Who knew Drake’s homelife was so rife with intrigue? Seeing a somewhat older Nathan Drake filling out paperwork and playing video games with his wife in their standard suburban home is not where I would have expected this game to go, but it’s a brilliant way to kick things off. Eventually the game suffers from Sam fatigue as your wayward brother’s antics get tired fast, but once it leans into the Goonies-like nature of your quest for the lost pirate city of Libertalia, it really takes off. While the latter half of the game has its detractors due to all the marital drama, I think those interactions between Elena and Nathan are so densely packed with emotion and history that they’re among the best parts of the entire series, and the poignant epilogue featuring their precocious tween daughter is a fitting send-off for our favorite thief.

1) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

While Uncharted 4 is probably a better overall story, Uncharted 2 is just plain more fun. It really comes across like you’re playing through a big budget 90’s action movie as you search for the lost city of Shambhala (Shangri-La). It opens magnificently by presenting you with the mystery of why you’re waking up shot on a train that is hanging off a cliff and never lets up from there. It’s also the only game that forces Nate to grapple with the consequences of his actions as his presence leads to the destruction of a Tibetan village. 

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Pacing

While they may tend to be thought of as very cinematic escapes, the Uncharted games are also highly episodic, relying on a chapter structure. How well each game balances a healthy mix of action, exploration, and character moments determines just how quickly we end up blowing through the particular adventure and how much we want to revisit them time and time again.

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5) Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Oftentimes, Drake’s Deception tries to go too big leading to overly drawn-out chapters and a middle section that overstays its welcome. The only time I genuinely struggled completing all these games in a rapid succession was that dragging mid-section that was thankfully saved by a thrilling ending.

4) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Drake’s first foray onto the PS4 definitely takes a while to get going. Plenty of the early chapters give the sense that they could have been split in two for a more cohesive and playable experience. However, once you get past the first 10ish middling chapters, those final dozen or so are among the best (if still a little overly-long) chapters the series has to offer. 

3) Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Originally intended to be DLC, the main story is noticeably shorter than most of the others in the series, but it pays huge dividends in easy to digest and extremely enjoyable chapters that make for a thrilling weekend getaway of a game.

2) Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

As the shortest of all the games, I actually finished my first playthrough of this several years ago in a single day. This is really all about the action that’s parsed out in bite-sized 10-25 minute chapters, and it’s easy to decide to keep playing just a little more until you realize several hours have passed.

1) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

From start to finish, Uncharted 2 is full of absolute bangers. While considerably longer than its predecessor, Among Thieves manages to keep chapters in the 20-40 minute range. I was surprised to realize playing it in the current day and age that it’s not like playing a movie. Rather, it’s much more like binging a stand-out Netflix series.

Supporting Cast

A hallmark of Naughty Dog games starting with the original Uncharted is that you’re almost never alone on your quest. You typically have at least one companion at your side to bounce jokes off of or marvel at the wonders before you that help make some of the quieter moments in these games the most rewarding. 

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5) Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

For the most part, this is just palling around with Elena as Sully is sidelined for the better part of the first 2/3 of the game. Elena isn’t as fully fleshed out as she’d get in later entries, and there is some clunky line reading strewn about in there, making it the least amazing supporting cast the series has offered.

4) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Despite being so far down, it’s important to note that there are no losers starting at this point in the list. Much like a Fast and the Furious film, this game is all about family. The surrogate father nature of Sully and his protectiveness of Drake in the presence of his screwup big brother Sam are phenomenal, but the true key is the performance of Elena who conveys but her exasperation with Nathan’s inability to just tell her what’s going on with her undeniable love for our bumbling thief. The only reason this ends up way back at number 4 is that for far too much of the game, Sam plays like Trey from Season 2 of The O.C..

3) Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

New addition Charlie Cutter with his cockney accent and street smarts is a fantastic surprise, and a less hyper-sexualized Chloe is a welcome change that paved the way for her even more considerable growth in The Lost Legacy.  Additionally, the wonderful Ocean’s Eleven vibe of the thieving team is a treat. While we do get some stellar mid-game interactions between the original trio of Nate, Elena, and Sully, the game could have done with even more of that now well established dynamic.

2) Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Again, much like Vin Diesel’s bread and butter series, The Lost Legacy builds up its impressive ensemble cast by turning a villain into a friend as Nadine is your partner in thievery this time around. This also pulls off the difficult feat of making me actually like Sam after he constantly brought down Nathan in A Thief’s End. Really, though, this gets propelled up to second place thanks to the adorable merchant girl who just wants pizza. 

1) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

The introduction of Chloe Frazer is probably what Uncharted 2 will be best remembered for from a character perspective, but the growth of Elena thanks to all that history with Drake and much stronger utilization of Sully are not to be overlooked. Furthermore, the dynamic with the Tibetan Sherpa Tenzin despite (or maybe because of) the language barrier is incredibly amusing. The real reason, though, that this gets first place is for the vibrant Tibetan village you find yourself in. It’s the most lived in the world of Uncharted has ever felt, and you can see its influence in many games since then.

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Villains

Some of gaming’s quintessential adventurers require proper foils to keep the tension going. The stakes are far higher when you’re trying to beat someone else in a mad dash to lost treasure, so just how good are each game’s foes?

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5) Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

The fact that, without looking it up, I cannot even begin to say who the villain of the first game is tells you enough about why it’s in last place being thoroughly lapped by the competition. British treasure hunter Gabriel Roman is such a piss-poor villain that even his shocking act of “killing” Sully doesn’t land because we have zero emotional investment in Sully that early in the series. Hell, he even dies before the big face-off leading to another random pirate person that I cared even less about filling in for the final battle. At least they learned their lesson for all the remaining baddies.

4) Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Yet again, being this low on the list isn’t actually a negative for this category. The Helen Mirren stand-in, Marlowe, is an intriguing main baddie, and her illuminati-like secret society is a fun and apt direction for this point of the series.

3) Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

I absolutely loved everything about Asav, the brutal yet brilliant militant at the heart of the game’s conflict. He’s just as intimidating for his cunning as for his grappling skills, and he seems like he actually has the best thought out plan of all the villains in the series.

2) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Yugoslavian tough guy Zoran Lazarevic would be right at home in an 80’s Schwarzenegger film. There’s nothing overly original about him, but his stereotypical portrayal helps add immensely to the cinematic feel of the second game, which is part of what makes it such a triumph. In spite of not being quite as strong or memorable, his sidekick, your former charming thief colleague Harry Flynn, serves as a prototype for the series’s premier antagonist.

1) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

There has never been a bad guy with a more punchable face than Rafe in Uncharted 4. He’s your average trust fund kid who has coasted through life on his parents’ hard work and is now trying very unsuccessfully to prove he can make something on his own by being a massive asshole. The connections to Drake’s past and understanding of what drives our hero help instill a sense of danger that the otherwise unimposing little punk would not warrant. Extra bonus points are given for the classic boss battle with cutlasses aboard a pirate galleon.

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Set Pieces

Sure, the vast majority of the action in these games utilize fairly standard cover shooter mechanics, but where they really shine and leave lasting impressions are in the gigantic over-the-top set pieces. A building isn’t truly a building in the Drake crew’s orbit if it’s not under imminent threat of collapsing.

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5) Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

There are three main set pieces in the original, and none of them are particularly exhilarating to play. This includes several clunky sequences where you get to do your best Kenny Powers impersonation on a jet ski, a jeep escape that plays about as well as the dash to freedom at the end of 1998’s Metal Gear Solid, and a strange nazi mutant horde battle that stands wildly out of place from the rest of the game. Understandably, they were just getting things started here, but they’d come to do things a lot better in the future.

4) Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

As a scaled back sojourn, there aren’t a whole lot of set pieces in this one, but there is a lovely train finale that pays beautiful homage to the iconic train sequence of Uncharted 2.

3) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

The chase sequence shortly after a thrilling clocktower collapse is one of the most breathtakingly stellar depictions of collateral damage ever in a game, but it kind of feels like they spent their entire set piece budget on that one sequences as the prison escapes and boat chase don’t quite live up to the standards of the series and make this firmly middle of the pack for the category.

2) Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Set pieces in Drake’s Deception somehow manage to both be impressive and give off the sense that the developers believe they’re a little too clever. Escaping the burning chateau, hanging out of a cargo plane, and reenacting The Poseidon Adventure on a sinking cruise ship are all done incredibly well, but they don’t feel anywhere near as revolutionary as those from the winner of the category. 

1) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

They could teach game development classes on the remarkable set pieces in this game that are still thrilling 11 years after its release. At the time, these coding miracles were unlike anything gamers had ever experienced. Being chased by a helicopter while the building you’re in collapses around you still feels next-gen, and the tank chase through the Nepalese village provides thrills and an emotional punch. The true star, though, is that iconic train sequence full of swerving tracks up the mountainside and punctuated by the absolute beauty when your journey finally reaches the snowy top that still takes my breath away.

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Exploration

An important part of living out your slightly more morally murky Indiana Jones fantasies through the wisecracking Nathan Drake and friends is all about the actual adventuring and not just the shooting. The more these games provide vibrant expanses to explore and mysteries to unlock, the better overall experience they deliver.

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5) Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

Aside from a weird sojourn into a Nazi sub, the locales consist mainly of generic island type environments that eventually start to wear out their welcome. There are also far fewer treasures to be found and much less incentive to leave no stone unturned.

4) Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Once again, being fourth on this list doesn’t mean you did anything poorly, rather it’s just a sign of how strong the other entries are. Uncharted 3 features lush environments and some bustling cities, but they don’t feel as vibrant as the more jungle/island heavy settings of other games, and the desert areas are kind of a drag. Still, there’s less of an emotional connection to any of it than in Among Thieves, so it ends up just slightly farther down the list.

3) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

There’s something dumbfoundedly beautiful about the environments in Uncharted 2 that let’s it compete even with the much higher-res PS4 entries. Whether its a random rooftop pool or a blown out laundromat, there’s a sense of wonder found at seemingly every turn making you want to search each nook and cranny not just for treasure but to see the loving detail the devs put into it all.

2) Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

While there is less overall to explore in this smaller adventure, what is there is incredible. The open world section is the stronger of the two PS4 games as it features a brilliant side quest filled with clever environmental puzzles that culminates in discovering a bracelet that notifies you anytime you’re near treasure, making exploring more welcoming for the remaining 5 hours or so of gameplay.

1) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Between the open world scenes in Uncharted 4, The Lost Legacy, and the incredible Downtown Seattle sequence in The Last of Us Part II, I would pay good money for an entirely open world Naughty Dog game. What drives the 4th entry over the top are the sheer joy of the Goonies-like nature of searching for a secret Pirate island with your brother and the incorporation of journal entries and notes that make you want to search every crevice for secrets. With all the little secretes waiting to be uncovered, this game contains the greatest sense of wanting to know what lies just around each corner. Plus, what other game lets a monkey steal an apple from you?

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Puzzles

Our heroes’ razor sharp brains aren’t just used for crafting perfect one-liners, they also are often needed to solve puzzles to reveal long lost treasure (or to lead the game’s villain to the treasure without them having to do any of the heavy lifting). Maybe Drake should just learn to employ dynamite, but noodling on ancient forms of sudoku is a lot more fun.

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5) Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

Puzzles are almost non-existent in the first game. There are a few small ones that involve turning statues or symbols the right way, and you can always find the answers in your handy official property of Francis Drake journal. Despite not adding much from a difficulty perspective, it is a solid way to introduce the importance of said journal and pave the way for grander expansion in the future.

4) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

In the second outing, we see the scope of puzzles increase and the importance of your handy journal grow further. There are several environmental puzzles of note like finding electrical boxes that make the game play like the most intricate technical college training course possible, and the influence in The Last of Us puzzles is evident when trying to cross a river with Chloe early on. Really, though, the top puzzles amaze for their sheer scale. Using your journal to adjust the arms of a giant statue and gain access to new areas  and a very clever light puzzle are the highlights and would reappear in more refined forms later in the series much to our puzzle-loving benefit.

3) Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

For the most part, the puzzles in The Lost Legacy play out like a greatest hits collection paying respects to all-star puzzles that came before it. We have more walking puzzles and shadow puzzles a la Uncharted 3 and Uncharted 4, and there are mirror puzzles and giant statue arm movement puzzles reminiscent of Among Thieves. Additionally there are some simple yet effective spinning disc puzzles in the open world area that provide a sense of accomplishment for reaching the deepest corners of the open world. The best puzzle, however, just might be the one where you get Ganesh to yield thanks to Chloe’s superior understanding of Hindu that helps establish that Nate isn’t the only one with brains in this series.

2) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

In A Thief’s End, the puzzle started to diverge from using your journal toward figuring things out through context clues, which was a fun and welcome change. There are some fairly basic puzzles in the jail and graveyard toward the beginning that do add a bit of that aforementioned Goonies vibe to the proceedings, but it really picks up with the spinning disc cross puzzle to prove your worth and a clock tower puzzle that’s cleverly incorporates climbing with a thrilling collapsing set piece finish. There are also some death maze puzzles that are more enjoyable here thanks to coming from a glorified pirates map, but the real pièce de rèsistance is the Wheel of the Founders that requires studying artwork and collaborating via phone with your brother. Moreover, the hunt for random treasures is the most like solving puzzles in this game thanks to some clever bits of level design.

1) Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

While the third game may have its faults, it hits its stride with puzzles. A lot of the standout puzzles from games 4 and 5 are built off of the template that this one created. We see our first version of the floor symbol maze and some more of our beloved standard using your journal to figure out what directions or symbols go with certain things. There’s also a wonderful map puzzle where you need to find just the right place to stand to get things to line up with a sketch, but, by far, the best puzzle is the original shadow puzzle requiring you to get statues in just the right locations to play out a scene and reveal the path forward.

Use of the Supernatural

Archeology is filled with mythical curses and other supernatural elements. Every now and then, the Uncharted series decides the action isn’t the only thing that should be unrealistic and adds a degree of the otherworldly to things with decidedly mixed results. 

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5) Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

WTF is up with those ark of the covenant things? Near the end of the game, things jump inexplicably off the deep end and into crazy amounts of supernatural phenomena that feel completely out of place as you find yourself on a submarine overrun with strange creatures.  It was a big shot that just did not pay off.

4) Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Even though there is some weirdness with the dessert and some seemingly supernatural encounters that are actually hallucinations driven by contaminated water, this game mostly steers clear of the supernatural much to its benefit.

T-2) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End 

T-2) Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Both just say no to utilizing any supernatural tropes, and the games are better for it.

1) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

I was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed the weird injection of the supernatural into the second’s story. The existence of mystic creatures in the Himalayas feel earned and makes sense as mythical protectors of Shambhala that add a foreboding sense to the finale. Combine those with the world conquering blue power substance and the results greatly add to the stakes and make the final boss battle a blast. 

Combat

When you’re not hanging dramatically from a cliff (and even sometimes when you are), you’re probably trying to survives waves of mercenaries or fellow thieves who are seeking the same treasure that you are. More than any other activity, you’re probably shooting at random people, so having tight combat is key to making a good Uncharted game.

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5) Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

Everything about the combat in the original handles a little too loose, but the extra explody physics when busting out the high-caliber weapons adds a degree of cartoony mayhem reminiscent of the long lost and beloved Syphon Filter.

4) Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

The series takes a step back in its third iteration due to an over-reliance on clunky fistfights that drags the proceedings down. Somewhat depressingly, I also encountered some peculiar collision detection issues when firing at enemies hiding near walls/boxes that was lacking the precision the rest of the games had and absolutely pummeled my all important accuracy stat.

3) Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Let’s be honest, this game is more about the exploring and budding friendship of Chloe and Nadine and less about the crazy firefights. Still, when it does have to bust out the guns, it provides the most polished version built off the previous 4 titles. Hell, even the fistfight scenes are hella fun thanks to the combined efforts of our two heroines. 

2) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

The jump to the next-gen also heralded a return to form for combat in the series. By simplifying fist fighting mechanics, they were able to make them a lot more interesting and engaging. The true highlight, though, is how they finally managed to make stealth enjoyable compliments of hiding in tall grass and using the grappling hook to sneak around during battles. The gunplay, meanwhile, is as smooth as ever, which actually, oddly enough, caused me to focus mainly on classics like the pistol instead of trying everything out because I had developed machinelike accuracy by this point.

1) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

The leap between combat in the first and second games is astounding. Everything feels far more delicately crafted, and the variety of weapons is probably the best in all the series. Opening up combat to also be against massive war machines like the helicopter and tank and throwing in wrenches like having to adjust your aim to compensate for an ever-swaying train elevate this to new levels.

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Which is the Least Murdery?

Many essays have been written on the Ludonarrative dissonance resulting from playing as a charming carefree thief who has sort of murdered over 2500 assorted nameless mercenaries over the course of the series. While this may not have felt like such a hinderance when some of the early games came out, it definitely is noticeable today. I mean, hell, they even made a trophy around it for Uncharted 4. So which games managed to best balance gunning down hundreds with not making you feel gross?

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5) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Somehow, despite having the fewest murders of any game in the series (538 murders in 15.5 hours for 34 murders/hour), this game suffers from feeling the most murdery of them all. This is primarily due to some prison escapes gone bad where you’re at the bare minimum an accomplice to straight up murder and a sequence fleeing an auction heist where you’re definitely just murdering the poor security guards. Mercifully, the murdery nature “dies” down after the first half of the game, so you can at least look at yourself in the mirror by the end. Maybe just don’t tell that kid of yours about all those minor genocides.

4) Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

This is a bit of a hard one to pinpoint as I believe the timer didn’t count cutscenes like I think the other games did. In just under 7 hours of gameplay, there were 694 murders for right at 100 murders/hour. Some of those early ones are especially extra murdery, though, as there’s no honor among any of the thieves in this game. The ending also hilariously tries to show Drake isn’t a murderer as he attempts to save the main bad Marlowe’s life to no avail. 

3) Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

This game features the fastest time to first murder of any in the series, as you’re cracking jokes and flirting with Elena whilst gunning down waves of pirates within 3 minutes of the game starting. With 750 murders in about 7 hours of gameplay (107 murders/hour) it also has one of the highest rates in the series, and, unfortunately, since the lion’s share of those are committed against generically ethnic pirates, it also comes across as a tad racist (although not quite Resident Evil 5 levels).

2) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

With 902 kills in 9 hours of gameplay, Among Thieves keeps Drake’s penchant for 100 murders/hour alive and well. Fortunately, though, those are all committed against the troops of the world’s most evil and power-hungry man, so you never experience particularly conflicted concerns about them. 

1) Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

At just 288 murders in approximately 8 hours of gameplay (36 murders/hour) this has the fewest total murders and second lowest rate in the series. Even the murders you do commit seem warranted as you’re stopping a group of terrible mercenaries who are committing atrocities throughout India. Hell, you even save a poor injured elephant and reunite it with its family, so you’re basically a Saint.

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Innovation

Part of the reason that the Uncharted series is so special is because it set the standard for what games could be. Some games truly embraced that call, while others may have rested a little too hard on their laurels.

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5) Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

The team at Naughty Dog clearly came in to Drake’s Deception thinking they’d make everything bigger and better than in their much heralded first sequel. Even though things are indeed bigger, they’re not necessarily always better as it mainly feels bloated and like more of the same.

4) Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Even though this is essentially a side game built off of A Thief’s End, the central relationship between Chloe and Nadine is (sadly) innovative from a storytelling perspective. It’s rare that we get to see a game focused on two female characters, and watching their friendship blossom is an absolute treat that more games could learn from. It also was one of the first games to legitimately take photo modes seriously, helping to establish a paradigm that is now considered standard for nearly all major releases.

3) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Without a doubt, this is technically the most impressive game in the series, but it feels more like polish over innovation. By this point, the rebooted Tomb Raider was already two titles in and was expanding on all of the amazing things the PS3-era Uncharted had brought to us, so it almost seems like we’re playing catchup here. 

2) Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

Despite this being the roughest of all the games, it helped usher in a new era of cinematic super motion-capture games where actors were not just carrying out simple motions but also delivering top-notch performances. I remember wanting a PS3 because this game existed. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and it still feels special as a result.

1) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Out of all of Drake’s adventures, this one represents the biggest leap forward. It set a new standard for just how big a game could be and how much action could take place. Additionally, noticeable improvements in the actors’ performances made this the closest to a movie yet, and I’ll never forget my roommates just sitting around watching me play waiting to see what happens next.

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Final Rankings

5) Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (Average Ranking: 4.3)

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There may clearly be a gulf of quality between the first entry in the series and the rest of its groundbreaking successors, but that doesn’t diminish everything that was accomplished with this release. Sure it’s far more uneven than the rest of the games, but it’s a worthy historical document to revisit. 

4) Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (Average Ranking: 3.6)

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Following the universal acclaim of Among Thieves, Drake’s Deception should have been Naughty Dog’s chance to drop the mic and claim full mastery of the PS3 era. In reality, they’d have to wait a few more years for The Last of Us to release to do so because this game plays as a more unnecessarily dense and less fluid follow-up to perfection. The team definitely was feeling themselves, and the lack of innovation hurts. But still, there are plenty of fantastic moments, especially the entire ship sequence that stands up there with anything the other games have to offer. While the combat may not be as sharp as the others, it makes up for it by bringing the puzzles to a new level that would be expanded upon over the course of the final two games and makes this title a Deception worth getting lost in.

3) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Average Ranking: 2.6)

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A Thief’s End is practically two very different games. The first 1/3 or so is a somewhat subpar tale that suffers from the bloat that plagued number 3, but once the ridiculousness of the search for the pirate island unfolds, it really gets rolling and only gets enhanced by the martial drama at its core. When it’s all said and done, I can’t think of a more fitting way to send off Nathan Drake or kick off the PS4-era for Naughty Dog.

2) Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (Average Ranking: 2.7)

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When it came to choosing between Uncharted 4 and The Lost Legacy, I let my gut make a minor adjustment to the numbers. If you asked me what game I’d rather replay right now, without hesitation I’d say The Lost Legacy. The fast pacing and somewhat scaled back nature make it a perfect bite-sized weekend adventure through India. It’s taken the best from the previous 4 titles and managed to trim the vast majority of the unnecessary fat. Plus, the freaking elephant scene gets me every time and only trails the giraffe scene from The Last of Us for Naughty Dog’s best emotional moment.

Read more about The Lost Legacy

1) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Average Ranking: 1.6)

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All of the Uncharted games are fantastic, but only one of them is hands-down an all-timer. I was surprised at just how far ahead it was in the rankings considering it’s far older than most of the others. To this day, no game has made me look on in awe and say “Wow” more times than Drake’s second caper, and those incredible moments still hold up 11 years later. Not only did it present the tightest, most action-packed affair of all the games, but it also helped establish enduring new characters like Chloe and better fleshed out the personalities of Nathan and Elena helping to make us invest in their romance that would go on to be the heart of the entire series. It’s not just Drake and Naughty Dog at their finest. Rather, it’s video games at their absolute peak.

A mere 5500 words later, that’s all I’ve got, dear readers (at least until the next time I decide to jump headfirst into the Drake clan’s adventures.) While the beginnings may not have been so small, they did undoubtedly lead to greatness. Let me know what you think the proper rankings and quintessential moments of the series are. 

cheers

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