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Naughty Dog first came to fame in the late ’90s developing the immensely popular Crash Bandicoot trilogy on PSOne and the Jax and Daxter series on PS2, but it was the 2007 release of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune that cemented the studio as a blockbuster hit-maker. It was a much-needed shot of adrenaline for the fledgling PS3, and the lush graphics and impressive motion-capture work showed off what the pricy console was capable of.
Uncharted introduced the world to Nathan Drake, a smart-aleck treasure hunter brought vividly to life by actor Nolan North, and we’ve been following his globe-hopping adventures until he retired in Uncharted 4. Fortunately, new characters are continuing Drake’s legacy with this week’s release of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.
Let’s see how it stacks up with the other games in the series over the last decade, ranked from trinket to treasure.
6. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (2007; PS3)
The original game sets up the swashbuckling template that the series follows to this day and introduces the holy trinity of adventurer Nathan Drake, his cigar-chomping mentor, Victor Sullivan, and intrepid reporter Elena Fisher. Although all of the pieces are there, it doesn’t hold up particularly well, especially the game’s tedious combat. But it’s still a rolicking good time that forms a solid foundation that will lead to later excellence.
5. Uncharted: Golden Abyss (2012; PS Vita)
This launch title for Sony’s handheld Vita is the only game not developed by Naughty Dog, but Sony Bend Studio admirably translated the series to the small screen, even if the portable’s limitations hold it back at times. There’s also way too much of a focus on the Vita’s touch and motion controls, but if you ever wanted to vigorously rub the Vita’s screen in order to clean dirt off of objects, go nuts. Still, it’s a nice way to get your fix of adventure on the go.
4. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (2011; PS3)
The third game in the series is perhaps the most ambitious, but it’s also all over the place. The globe-hopping adventure jumps around so much — including a flashback to young Drake’s first meeting with Sully — that it’s hard to keep up. But it also has some of the series’ very best action setpieces, such as a thrilling airplane battle that eventually leaves you stranded in the desert chasing mirages. And Uncharted 3 features hands-down the best villain in the entire series: Katherine Marlowe, who is basically evil Helen Mirren.
3. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (2017; PS4)
The first game in the series not to star Nathan Drake, The Lost Legacy puts you in control of fan-favorite character Chloe Frazer, who teams with Uncharted 4 villain Nadine Ross for an odd-couple road trip through the Western Ghats of India. Although the gameplay hews a bit too closely to Uncharted 4, Chloe and Nadine prove to be charismatic leads, and some open-world elements provide a refreshing change of pace from the series’ rigid linearity. At a brisk but engaging seven to nine hours, it’s easily the most tightly paced Uncharted game ever made.
2. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (2016; PS4)
Naughty Dog wasn’t kidding with that subtitle; Uncharted 4 really is the end of Nathan Drake’s adventuring days. Fortunately, there’s roughly 15 hours of running, jumping and quipping your way through collapsing buildings and ancient ruins to get through before he retires. There’s also a death-defying, rope-swinging, car-hopping chase sequence in Madagascar that ranks among the series’ best setpieces. Sure, the introduction of Nate’s never-mentioned brother Sam feels like a retconned plot catalyst (The Lost Legacy even pokes fun at it), but when it comes to the series’ three core characters — Nathan, Sully, and Elena — the game delivers satisfying character arcs for each, and the epilogue is a sweet sendoff for gaming’s most charming thieves.
1. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009; PS3)
Naughty Dog’s second game in the series starts in media res with a bloodied Nathan Drake waking up on a train that’s dangling off the side of a cliff. You’ll spend the next several hours finding out what led to that explosive train ride — and then actually playing through it — and it’s one hell of a rollercoaster. But this is contrasted with quieter moments, such as a combat-free exploration of a Tibetan village. Uncharted 2 resonates on an emotional level, putting Nate and Elena’s relationship through the ringer, aided by fantastic motion-capture performances from the cast. It’s the perfect combination of action, adventure, heart, and humor that the series is known for, and it’s the best Uncharted game ever made.