Uncharted 4 was released in May of 2016 and not long after that The Nathan Drake Collection followed, bringing the first three games to the PS4. I will be honest, I didn’t get caught up in the Uncharted story until the final game. Growing up, my favorite game was Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. I dreamed of being an archeologist; of digs in the desert and finding an object so important that it would change the course of history. What can I say…I was a gigantic nerd as a child and not much has changed in thirty years.
After A Thief’s End, I took it upon myself to start from the beginning. Through difficult controls and camera angles that are reminiscent of a late 90’s Capcom game, I started the story over and got sucked into the world of Nathan Drake, Victor “Sully” Sullivan and Elena Fisher.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory. –Sir Frances Drake 1587
Drake’s Fortune was released in 2007 on the PS3. While the graphics don’t touch that of the final game, Naughty Dog uses their game engine to the furthest reaches and far surpasses other games released in the same year. The game opens to a found footage style look at the coffin of Sir Frances Drake which is narrated by Elena. There, we are quickly introduced to the game’s protagonists: Nathan Drake (an ancestor of Sir Frances Drake and an artifact thief), Elena Fisher (a journalist funding the trip) and Victor Sullivan (the man who basically raised Nathan and mentored him and an artifact thief as well).
Without giving spoilers, this game follows the legend of El Dorado as the trio seeks to find the city of gold. As I was spoiled on the Uncharted 4 controls, the playability is a little clunky. I found myself rage quitting on more than one occasion as I go to jump across a ravine and dumb dumb baby Nathan doesn’t do WHAT I WANT HIM TO DO and I fall dramatically to my death…death horns initiate and I’m back at the checkpoint.
So aside from the controls that take about half the game to get used to, the story is amazing. I will say this about Uncharted and Naughty Dog as a whole; when it comes to their games, their writers cannot be beat in terms of dialogue. The conversation between Drake and any of the characters is real, snarky and hilarious. The excitement you can hear in the voice acting of legend Nolan North is palpable and he maintains it through every installation. My favorite character, Sully (voiced by Richard McGonagle in every installation) is the father figure but that doesn’t take away from his fluency in sarcasm. Elena (voiced by Emily Rose from Haven) works to destroy female tag-along stereotypes and proves she’s an asset to the group.
I truly loved this game and I am going to end up saying that about every one of them.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
I did not tell half of what I saw for I knew I would not be believed… -Marco Polo on his deathbed, 1324
Easily one of the most intense opening/tutorial scenes of any of the Uncharted series, this game was released in 2009 for PS3. Nathan wakes up freezing and shot on a train in a snowy mountain as it is dangling off a cliff. While fighting to climb to the top, he has flashbacks at what got him into that mess and we are introduced to our new main character Chloe Frazer (voiced by Claudia Black and one of the main characters of the standalone DLC Uncharted: The Lost Legacy) and Nathan’s love interest for the game.
In Among Thieves, Nathan is on the hunt for the Cintimani Stone and Shangri-La based on Marco Polo’s travels after his many years in China. We see familiar faces in Elena and Sully through his search as he races against Serbian mercenaries to find the fabled city first. While the controls improved on this installation, the improvement was slight. Still clunky controls and the worst camera angles that cannot be changed or controled will cause poor Nathan to fall to his untimely death on more than one occasion. This installation shows Naughty Dog increasing the cinematic nature of the Uncharted games and it only gets better from here.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
The dreamers of the day are dangerous men for they act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible. This I did. –T.E. Lawrence “Lawrence of Arabia”
Easily one of the most cinematic of Nathan Drake Collection (or possibly the entire series), Drake’s Deception was released in 2011 and was the last game for the PS3. With the graphic quality ever increasing and the dialogue holding strong in its own quality, this game relinquished some of the camera’s controls (FINALLY) to the player and made the controls even slightly better than before.
Nathan, Elena and Sully are back and this time they are searching for Iram of the Pillars in the Rub’ al Khali desert that was described by T.E. Lawrence during his archeological expeditions. Out of all of the games, which bounce from setting to setting, this one might be the most visually striking, both making you feel in awe by its size but also feels very lonely and isolated. This is by far the most difficult of the four games and took me the longest to get through despite not being the largest game.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
I am a man of fortune and I must seek my fortune. –Henry Avery, 1694
The final installation in the Nathan Drake story-line released in 2016 for PS4, this game is by far the most graphically stunning and the one with the most feels. A Thief’s End reaches way back into childhood where, for the first time in the series, where we see his beginnings and we find out that Nathan had a brother. He has never talked about him and this is new information. While you have seen Nathan as a child when he first met Sully, this is the first you’re seeing of the Drake past and what brought them to the point of artifact thieving.
Slight spoiler but it’s in the very beginning, during a stint in a prison trying to obtain an artifact, Samuel Drake, Nathan’s older brother voiced by the just as legendary Troy Baker (you may recognize him as Joel in The Last of Us) is shot and killed and Nathan must leave his body to escape a prison riot. The entire scene is heartbreaking. The game jumps to fifteen years later, after the first three games, Nathan has hung his hat on his adventure days and is living a peaceful married life with none other than Elena, when one morning at work he gets a knock on the door, and it is the last person he would ever expect to see.
The gang is back together as they search the seas for pirate captain Henry Avery’s lost treasure. As a kid that was obsessed with pirates, this game was totally nostalgic for me. When Nathan would get excited for something, I was right there with him, a big smile on my face like I was experiencing it too.
Even though Drake’s Deception was the most cinematic, A Thief’s End is my favorite game in the series. Visually it was wonderful, the controls were easy and you completely controlled the camera. There was even an Easter egg for old Naughty Dog fans as Nathan plays a game of Crash Bandicoot on an old PlayStation. The intro tugged your heartstrings as it showed drawings and images from all of his past adventures; everything you experienced along with them. It was truly the greatest sendoff we could ever ask for.
While I’m not including Lost Legacy in this retrospective, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. I just wanted to go over the main story that fans followed for a decade. If you haven’t played Uncharted before, do yourself a favor and experience the stories, the legends and the history that comes with these games. Get to love the characters, the exchanges and the artifacts that they love and you will truly experience something special.
Thank you to the Uncharted Wiki for information regarding release dates and voice actors.