Charted: Ranking All The Uncharted Games

Drake's done and Chloe's climbing, but which of the Uncharted games takes the treasure?

Last week marked the release of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, a game than began as downloadable content for Uncharted 4: A Thief's End and expanded into something bigger. Uncharted 4 saw the end of the adventures of Nathan Drake and The Lost Legacy offers a future where Chloe Frazer is the thief plundering treasures and shooting folks.

Between the release Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, Uncharted 4, and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, you can play most of the series on PlayStation 4. But which entries take the franchise to new heights and which ones are better left buried? Here's a ranking of every Uncharted game, from worst to best.

6. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

  • PlayStation 3, 2007

The game that started it all is probably the worst game in the series for me. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is Naughty Dog's first outing with Nathan Drake and this title defined the series' staples. The cover and shooting mechanics, the crazy action set pieces, the general tone, and the relationship between Nathan Drake, Sully, and Elena; it all started right here. I'd rate the story above the next entry in this list overall, but revisiting Uncharted in the Nathan Drake Collection showed me a game that simply didn't age well.

Gunplay and movement is imprecise, navigating around the world carries a high degree of jank, and the motion-controller mechanic to balance Drake was a bad idea. Uncharted also lacks the visual variety of its sequels, taking place largely within jungles and tombs. It was great for its time, but that time has passed and Drake's Fortune isn't worth as much anymore.

5. Uncharted: Golden Abyss

  • PlayStation Vita, 2011

The surprising thing about many personal Uncharted lists is how many folks have never played Uncharted: Golden Abyss. This was Sony Bend Studio's attempt to cram the PlayStation 3 adventures of Drake into a portable platform. What's surprising is that Golden Abyss is actually a pretty good game.

It's Uncharted on the go, with slightly tuned mechanics. It was a bit too full of Vita-specific features: aiming could be adjusted with motion controls and Drake had to create rubbings in his notebook using the Vita touchscreen. It was cool the first few times, but it gets tiring.

Where Golden Abyss improved upon the original is its pacing. Since it's smaller, it's also a bit shorter, but that focus leads to an overall better game. Also from a tonal perspective, while the Uncharted games feel like throwbacks to Indiana Jones, Golden Abyss feels like a throwback to the 1930s and 1940s adventures serials that inspired Lucas and Spielberg in the first place. Unfortunately this means Drake and his co-star, Marisa Chase, are a bit more straightforward and boring overall. Don't go out of your way to hunt it down, but if it's available, it's worth a shot.

4. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

  • PlayStation 3, 2011

As I said when I revisited the entire series, Uncharted 3 impressed me on its replay, jumping ahead of the first game. Prior to my replay, I had U3 firmly at the end of my list, but I actually found a game that improved upon the original significantly. Melee and stealth combat are improved in Uncharted 3, the villains are far more memorable, and the environmental variety is top-notch. Uncharted 3 offers a burning mansion, a tarmac chase onto a cargo plane that crashes into the desert, and a sinking cruise ship as amazing moments in the series' history.

It's story could stand to be a bit better. The switch between locations can feel a bit ham-handed at times. You never really get to enjoy a solid supporting cast through the whole game, as characters show up and then simply leave a chapter or two later. This is made worse by jumping into Drake and Sully's past, which offers some backstory, but feels like an odd tangent overall. It's not a bad game, but it needed a bit more tightening.

3. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

  • PlayStation 4, 2016

This was it, the first Uncharted title built for the PlayStation 4 and the end of Nathan Drake's story. Uncharted 4 had a lot riding on its shoulders and while the result is great, there is the feeling that perhaps the series was trying to do too much. It had to establish new mechanics like the grappling hook, new characters like Sam Drake and Nadine Ross, the fact that Nathan had a brother at all, and wrap up most of the relationships established over the course of the previous entries. It's a bit too stuffed at times and the overall pace suffered for it.

It was a clear winner when it came to graphics though. The environments were beautiful and huge, some of the best-looking stages seen in a game. The facial animation was equally up to snuff, portraying human characters with a wide range of emotions. The combat was overhauled as well, ending up as some of the best in the series. It's a great game, but it's one that was busy spinning too many plates. Still, when the credits rolled, I felt like it closed out Drake's adventure in style.

2. Uncharted: Lost Legacy

  • PlayStation 4, 2017

Everything about gameplay and presentations improvements that can be said about Uncharted 4 also applies here. In fact, Naughty Dog seems to have used the extra year to improve the facial animation and environmental art even more.

Like Golden Abyss before it, Lost Legacy leaps ahead of its predecessors by being more focused. This started as downloadable content, so it wasn't intended to be this huge epic that ended the entire franchise. It's just a great Uncharted adventure starring Chloe and Nadine. It's not too long, the story is told well, and it's a meaningful one for Chloe in particular, in a way that not all of Drake's adventures were. Sometimes, less is more and Lost Legacy beats Uncharted 4 because of that fact. There's no leaks here, no rough edges that need to be sanded off. Just pure adventure from beginning to end. The only issue is that it doesn't really add anything new to the series.

1. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

  • PlayStation 3, 2009

Despite being eight years old at this point, the king still sits on its throne. Uncharted 2 stands at the top of the series. It's not concerned with establishing Drake, his supporting cast, and an entire series like Uncharted. It's not trying to give added depth to character relationships and Drake's past like Uncharted 3. It's not even trying to end the series like Uncharted 4. Uncharted 2 just spins a damned good adventure from the beginning, with Drake climbing his way to survival in a trainwreck on the side of a snowy mountain.

As I said in another article, Uncharted 2's narrative economy is nearly perfect. Beyond that though, the game features some of the most memorable action set pieces in the franchise's history. The train sequence is still one of the best of all time, and the helicopter attack in the city gives it a good run for its money. This is the Uncharted game that most feels like a blockbuster adventure film. Uncharted 2 is a complete package, with great characters, great action scenes, a cool story, and a lot of variety. It's absolutely worth replaying in the Nathan Drake Collection and still stands as the benchmark to beat.

Tagged with Action Adventure, Feature, Naughty Dog, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Sony Computer Entertainment, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.

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