by Dave Thier via Forbes

The Uncharted Series came to an end last week. We’ve been with Nathan Drake through thick and thin, through witty and morose. And with Uncharted 4 comes a moment to reflect on those adventures, their high points, and their low points. In many ways, Uncharted 4 is a reflection of where the industry stood in 2007, refined, polished and perfected for nearly a decade. But was it the best the series had to offer? There were five Uncharted games in total, all of them excellent, but not all of them equally so. And because ranking is a thing that one does from time to time, I’ve done so:


Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception: This one was sort of a mess. The game was a trip through giant set pieces, some of which were built before the developers had any idea how they would fit into the story, and it shows. Not quite sure if it wanted to end close a trilogy or not, and not quite sure if it wanted to delve into Drake’s darker side or not, it ended up lacking both focus and drive. Uncharted 3 made some important gameplay strides forward, but I found myself more irritated with Drake than ever while playing it.  A bad Uncharted game is still an excellent game, but for me Uncharted 3 just failed to capture that swashbuckling magic that defines this series. It felt stuck, and it felt, at times, like filler. And while the Atlantis of the Sands is certainly a thing, it felt like a odd attempt to toe the “lost city” line. Does it always have to be a lost city?


Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune: I debated the bottom two of this list for a while, because there are a lot of things we need to forgive about the first entry in this particular series. Naughty Dog hadn’t really figured the whole thing out yet, and neither the gunplay nor the navigation were quite there yet, and the pacing was all wrong. But it had that kernel to it that would later grow into Uncharted 2, and for all its faults, I had a better time with this game than I did with Uncharted 3. It was fun! It was flawed, but it was fun.  Fun is important, and that’s why I’m giving it no. 4.


Uncharted: Golden Abyss — Some will be surprised to see a Vita port quite so high on this list. Uncharted: Gold Abyss was meant to be a selling point for Sony’s quixotic portable, showing us a future where we all played “console-quality (whatever that means)” games on the go, on the toilet, or on the couch when we didn’t feel like turning on the console. We all know how that panned out, but the Vita did leave us with this one. Golden Abyss was stacked with odd vita-specific features showcasing motion controls, a light sensitive camera, the touchscreen, and more, and that whole rigamarole could get pretty tiring. But at the heart of that game was Drake’s purest adventure in the entire series. There was none of his troubled relationship with Elena, none of the broader emotional arcs that define the main series, just a good old fashioned adventure. Golden Abyss told a self-contained, satisfying story, and for that I give it number 3. The Uncharted series is a love letter to 30′s pulp adventure stories, and no game captured that better than Golden Abyss.


Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End — This game was a true accomplishment. It takes that emotional weight that bogged down Uncharted 3 and commits wholeheartedly, wrapping up Nathan Drake’s adventure with grace, charm and a a surprising maturity. It helps that the combat is the best in the series, it helps that the visuals are the best I’ve seen in any video game, ever, and it helps that Naughty Dog experimented with opening up the corridor shooter just enough to give us a hint of player agency. Uncharted 4 was a rough game to get through sometimes — knowing that you’re coming to the end of the adventure will do that to you. But Naughty Dog pulled it off in the most emotionally affecting game of the series. The treasure of Henry Avery, too, was the only goal in the series that felt like it had a story to tell every bit as interesting as the one in the present day.


Uncharted 2: Among Thieves — As you can see from my love of Golden Abyss, I prefer it when Uncharted sticks to the breezy pulp that inspired it, and we see that in spades with Uncharted 2. This the game that came to define the series, and for good reason: we were not yet weighed down with the broader character arcs that gave us such trouble in Uncharted 3, nor were we tasked with introducing the characters like we were in Uncharted. There are parts of this game that haven’t aged quite as well — the shooting could be improved, the stealth could seriously be improved, and you spend too much time crouched behind cover mowing down legions of enemies. But damn, was this an adventure. Grand, funny, exciting and quick, Naughty Dog managed to tell a story that didn’t lag for a single moment, from the opening moments on the train to a striking, quiet moment in a Tibetan village. This game, always, will be the masterpiece of the Uncharted series.

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