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Nathan Drake has gone on a lot of action-packed adventures, making the PlayStation exclusive Uncharted series one of the hallmarks of the past decade of gaming. With four critically acclaimed titles in the main series, it's time to dig down and discover which of these gems shines the brightest.
When it comes to high-flying platforming, frantic firefights and ferocious fisticuffs, some would argue that no game series has nailed the action blockbuster formula quite like the Uncharted series. With Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection set to bring enhanced versions of the series' three core games to the PlayStation 4 on Oct. 7, not to mention the launch of the highly-anticipated and supposedly final chapter in the series, Uncharted 4, come March 18 of next year, it's time to take a whirlwind tour through the treasure-hunting world of Nathan Drake and determine which game in the series is the crown jewel.
4. Uncharted: Golden AbyssWhen Uncharted: Golden Abyss launched for the PlayStation Vita back in 2012, it proved two main things. First, that a game starring Nathan Drake can apparently do no wrong. Second, that the Vita was capable of handling games that were every bit as entertaining as their console counterparts. Golden Abyss is actually a prequel to the series, developed by Bend Studio (Syphon Filter, Resistance: Retribution).
Working with an old pal by the name of Dante, Drake finds himself swept up in one dangerous encounter after another when he tries to protect an archeological dig site that's under attack by a local warlord who aims to use pilfered treasures to fund his evil empire. With the young and adventurous Marisa Chase at his side, Drake soon discovers that the dig site has ties to the fabled City of Gold. Pretty much everything from the console games finds its way into Golden Abyss, including loads of vertigo-inducing platforming and great shooting. There's actually an insanely rewarding fine-tuning mechanic that lets you slightly shift your Vita to land more precise shots, as well as a nifty way to “draw” a climb route for Drake to follow. The only lame mechanic was creating copious rubbings to solve puzzles along the way. Neat the first time you do it, but not so much the 10th time. Also, that final showdown was a little disappointing after an otherwise fantastic campaign.
3. Uncharted: Drake's FortuneThe game that started it all, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, hit the PlayStation 3 in 2007 and took pretty much everybody by surprise. Naughty Dog helped define the PS1-era with the Crash Bandicoot series and the PS2-era with the Jak and Daxter games. With Uncharted, they made it clear that they'd be working their magic all over again for the PlayStation 3.
Drake's first console outing introduced players to staple companions Sully and Elena as the trio traipsed through the jungle in search of the lost city of El Dorado. Guided by the journal of Nathan's supposed ancestor, Sir Francis Drake, the first Uncharted game set the bar for the series' trademark combat and Spider-Man-esque platforming, as well as fun environmental puzzle solving. All of these systems would be greatly refined in future outings, which is why Drake's Fortune falls to the bottom half of this list.
Similar to the Vita game, this first outing on the PS3 also had a tacked-on mechanic that took advantage of the new hardware, namely a less-than-fantastic balancing system that utilized the motion controller. Earning Drake's Fortune major brownie points, though, is the introduction of golden pistol-toting mercenary rival, Eddie Raja. That guy was just too much fun.
2. Uncharted 3: Drake's DeceptionWhile many aspects of the Uncharted games tend to get better between entries, Naughty Dog simply made too good a game in Uncharted 2 for it to be so easily dethroned by Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. That's not to say this 2011 release isn't fantastic in its own ways, though, as Drake and Sully's globe-trotting antics were intense, varied and offered much more character development than in the previous games.
While Uncharted 2's icy settings were its best, some of the most memorable action in Uncharted 3 takes place in the middle of the desert. London and France are also on the flight plan, however, meaning that you're constantly taking out mercenaries in new and interesting settings. This time guided by the writings of T.E. Lawrence, Drake and his cohorts find themselves on a quest to locate the Iram of the Pillars, yet another fabled city pulled straight out of actual history and legend.
Uncharted 3 is best noted for a couple of things. For starters, the hand-to-hand combat and shooting has never been more varied than in Drake's Deception, meaning that players got to enjoy some insanely dialed-in action between lots and lots of climbing. And while the story may not quite reach the heights of Uncharted 2, there's still plenty of memorable moments to be had, including a fantastic set of scenes where you get to play as a young Nathan Drake.
Final encounters in the Uncharted series are often less noteworthy than many of the adventures that precede them, and this holds true for the closing hours of Uncharted 3. While I was actually happy to see Drake's Deception step away from the somewhat ridiculous paranormal twists of previous entries, I felt that undoing a certain major event at the end of the game dulled what could have otherwise been a fantastic and gut-wrenching conclusion. I'll just leave it at that, in case any of our readers have not yet played the game.
1. Uncharted 2: Among ThievesAnd here it is, folks; the absolute best in the series, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. This game began with an unforgettable climb up a bunch of train cars that were dangling off the side of a snowy mountain and almost never let up throughout the remainder of the campaign. Everything that made the original Drake's Fortune such a fantastic game was cranked up to 11 in Among Thieves, including better shooting, better climbing, bigger puzzles and one insane set piece after the next.
There was a bit of a weird love triangle going between Drake, Elena and newcomer Chloe, which was only bothersome because Drake and Elena's falling out was never really explained. Otherwise, the story was aces, dragging the player around the globe on a bright and colorful quest to discover the Chintimani Stone and the city of Shangri-La.
The journeys of Marco Polo serve as your guide this time around, helping Nate and Co. pick their way through cities and ancient ruins while trying not to let Serbian mercenaries get the upper hand. As far as action adventure games go, you can't get much better than Uncharted 2.
Also introduced in this outing was an online component that was way better than it had any right to be. In an era when pretty much every game was getting a crummy competitive mode tacked on, fans feared the worst when it was first announced Uncharted 2 would feature online options. Turns out there was no cause for concern, though, as the game's competitive and cooperative adventures were every bit as exciting as the campaign.
In short, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the total package and, until we find out what Uncharted 4: A Thief's End has to offer, the ultimate entry in a modern classic series.