Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a fantastic game. When it was announced I didn’t think I wanted another game in the franchise, because Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception ended so well and then Uncharted 4 proved me wrong. It looks astonishing on the PS4, plays the best it ever has, and continues that cinematic thrilling narrative we all love. With that said, it’s not without faults. While it does everything spectacularly well, it’s still just another Uncharted game going through the usual highs and lows. As great as it was, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is still my favorite in the franchise. There are also a lot of other games better than it in just its specific genre.
It's commonly categorized as an action-adventure game, but what does that really mean? First of all, when I think of pure adventure games, I imagine the point and click variety of the Sierra and LucasArts era. Typically these games focus on puzzles and story rather than any sort of action, which sums up a good portion of the Uncharted franchise. The action can be sub categorized down to stealth, open-world, or non-linear sandboxes, and third-person cover shooters. With those categories in mind, I found fifteen games I like just above Uncharted 4. Before you point out that some games on there are not action-adventure games in your eyes, it’s important to note I took suggestions from listings found on PSN just as a reference. Don’t shoot the messenger as it were. Most genres nowadays, including Uncharted 4, are a melting pot of genres anyway, so what’s in a name anyway. Right? Right. Time to start this escapade.
While indie studios are trying to bring back more classic examples of point and click adventure games, Telltale has masterfully evolved the genre, creating games more about tough choices, deep characters, and ever engrossing stories without mind boggling puzzles. Their reign began with the first season of The Walking Dead, which is still great, but my favorite now is Tales From the Borderlands. I'm someone who couldn't care less about Borderlands’ lore and, when this was announced, I dismissed it quickly. However, after it got good buzz, I checked it out and it's pretty amazing. The characters are all fantastic and it's actually funny and well told. Plus it has one of my favorite moments in video games ever involving an invisible finger gunfight. I'm cracking up just thinking about it.
Here’s an example of someone actually brining back the pure point and click adventure game with Broken Age. Before that, here's a little fact about me. This genre fascinates me, but admittedly I'm awful at puzzle games and not afraid to scan GameFAQs for clues. I tried getting into Tim Schafer's previous adventure games, like Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango, and while charming, they’re pretty obscure when it comes to puzzles (aka hard as hell). His return to the genre with Broken Age finds a good balance of old and new school that had me hooked though. No puzzle was ever too hard or too easy and I felt rewarded each time. The story was kind of whatever, but the characters and voice acting were suburb, plus I love that watercolor esque aesthetic. I played both episodes on the PS Vita and it was gorgeous on that OLED screen!
The game most people compare to Uncharted is Tomb Raider, to the point where it's gotten the nickname of Dude Raider. While Drake and his pals made me care about adventure games to a degree Lara Croft never could, Tomb Raider, the 2013 reboot, made me really love the genre again. I pretty much had distaste for the series because of the awful controls, but the reboot fixed all that combining Uncharted with Resident Evil 4 into one hell of an experience. The sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider, is also quite good but there's nothing like this first game that made me change thoughts on the genre. It came out at just the right time, as I also discovered the majesty of sloppy tacos one night while playing it, but that's another story.
Uncharted borrows a lot from Tomb Raider, but it's also heavily inspired by the Prince of Persia franchise as well, notably with the desert settings that appear in almost every game. And like the Tomb Raider reboot, this 2008 game was also a restart that borrowed from Uncharted. It’s a cycle of inspiration. I’m looking forward to the next Uncharted, if there is one, being inspired by this game and Tomb Raider. Anyway, as for Prince of Persia itself, the most notable homage to Uncharted is using Nolan North, Drake’s voice actor, to voice the Prince and it’s basically the same delivery too. That’s partly why I like the game, having no interest in the others - plus I’m a sucker for cel-shading in video games.
Ubisoft is back again with another hit franchise. Now all of the Assassin's Creed games are action-adventures to a degree. Instead of raiding tombs from centuries ago, you’re actually living in them while they’re still thriving societies. Assassin’s Creed II is probably still the best, but for the point of compassion here, Assassins’ Creed IV: Black Flag closest resembles Uncharted 4. The obvious thing here is the pirate motif. Chasing after pirate treasure is cool, but being a pirate and actually sailing the seven seas while your crew sings little ditties as you attack other pirates, hunt for animals and treasure, and explore the world is way cooler. In this regard, I’d take Captain Kenway over Drake any day of the week.
Plundering through the ruins of lost forgotten societies is all well and good, but it's been done to death. Relatively speaking, so has the post apocalyptic world decimated with wreckage and loads of sand, but not so much when it comes to the overgrown post apocalyptic setting. Enslaved was one of the first games to imagine our world like this and while messed up, it was stunning. The game is another retelling of the ancient novel, Journey to the West. Another example of that would be Dragon Ball, which more people are probably more familiar with. It’s a fun little journey across North America with robot carnage aplenty, but the setting of Enslaved is the true star here.
The next big game to use this setting also perfected it and it's also a Naughty Dog venture. While the characters of Joel and Ellie aren't as fun to be around as Drake and Sully, they're more real and the overall narrative is more engrossing. Naughty Dog took a chance on weaving a darker tale in a post apocalypse setting with zombie-like creatures no less and they managed to pull it off masterfully. There are moments in this game that will stick with me forever and it proved the team was capable of more than typical adventure games. It opened new doors for other developers to try their hand at this combination too, like the upcoming PS4 exclusive Days Gone. It pretty much looks like a sequel in all but name, but there is The Last of Us 2 coming as well. I wonder which one will be better... Yeah, nevermind, it'll definitely be The Last Of Us 2.
Our most recent example of the overgrown post apocalypse is Horizon Zero Dawn, which broadens the scope even further. Yes, there are decrepit cities and rust covered machines scatted across lush forests, but it’s also very mountainous reminiscent of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and there’s even deserts too. It also adds a new antagonistic creature to the genre, with animalistic machines that actually behave like animals to some degree. It’s kind of weird to hunt machines as a faux savage while there are actually real animals running around too. There’s a weird dichotomy here in more ways than this, but overall it’s another really good open world adventure with some pretty well thought out RPG mechanics. It’s almost like a combination of Tomb Raider, Skyrim, and The Last of Us. Like I said in the beginning, video games are a melting pot and they continue to amaze me.
One of the worst mechanics that has persisted throughout the Uncharted series is stealth, although each entry has made it more tolerable to the point of being pretty decent in Uncharted 4. However, pretty decent is nothing compared to the perfection of the Metal Gear series. While there are a lot of controversies surrounding Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, especially regarding the blatantly obvious unfinished story, there's no question how tight the gameplay is. With several open environments across forests, deserts, camps, and more, there's secrets behind every corner. They may not be as awe inspiring as visiting ancients ruins with Drake, but the adventures of Snake are no less harrowing. Plus you get a sexy plant lady, a wolf puppy with an eye patch, and a mini Metal Gear you can cruise around in. What more could you want?
Let's lighten things up with Ratchet and Clank. I'm a hardcore fan of this series from the first title on PS2, which this is a remake of. It looks phenomenal on PS4 and really puts Drake's platforming elements to shame. Also this pair is traversing the Galaxy. It's irrefutable that Ratchet and Clank’s otherworldly adventures are more mesmerizing than trouncing around boring old Earth. It came out a month before Uncharted 4 too and got shamefully overlooked in a lot of Game of the Year discussions. Shameful! It’s basically like playing a Pixar game that is fun for all ages. This game has fewer puzzles than other games in the series and is more about the action, which is kind of a give or take for me, but again this duo’s journey is fantastic all the way through.
Another fun little adventure platformer that unfortunately got passed up not once, but twice by the general populous is Tearaway. It first launched for the PS Vita in 2013 and an enhanced port, Tearaway Unfolded, released in 2014. Each version is spectacular and involves traveling the ends of the earth in order to deliver a letter in a brilliantly crafted world made entirely out of paper. It’s pure joy and, sadly, nobody played it! It’s on PS4’s PS Plus list this month, so you have no more excuses. If you have the system and PS Plus, please for the love of God, try it out, or at least download it before April 1sy. Oh and if you have a camera, it’s infinitely better. I don’t want to give it away, but just trust me on that one.
I'm not too entirely positive on the entirety of The Last Guardian, but I do admit it's a further evolution of the adventure game, past even what Telltale has accomplished. My biggest issues are that the controls feel off, Trico doesn't listen to you, and the fighting is ho hum, but if you get past those gripes, there's a truly magical experience. A friendship blooms in the midst of ancient ruins and you need to piece together the story for yourself. Exploring this gigantic maze is a sign of sheer beauty and the puzzles are brilliant, neither too hard, nor too easy (just like in the case of Broken Age). It’s a game that nearly took a decade to make and it’s clear a lot of passion was pumped into it.
This one is going way out there, but it is technically considered an action adventure game. Replace ruins with the somewhat modern city of Seattle and you've got Infamous Second Son. It's a little unfair to compare Drake with Infamous Second Son's protagonist Delsin Rowe because he has super powers. While you could call Drake’s feats somewhat superhuman, in the very least that he can survive falls and walk them off, he still can't literally use super powers, so he’s not as powerful as Rowe. I don’t think Rowe is as iconic, or likable, but like Ratchet and Clank, I just like to go around exploding bad guys with new, flashy powers. It was the first PS4 game I bought and it was a great choice.
Here's another superhero game to give Drake an inferiority complex. Batman: Arkham Knight is basically a prettier version of this, but it's not as good, thanks to the Batmobile, so that's why I went for the middle chapter. What started out as a fun Metroidvania trapped in a prison with Batman: Arkham Asylum was extended to allow Batman to fully explore Gotham in Batman: Arkham City, albeit in a more confined area of it. Soaring around with your cape, beating up baddies with combo based attacks, and putting your detective skills to work makes this the best Batman game ever made. I truly felt immersed in this world as if I was Bruce Wayne himself. Again Batman: Arkham Knight was a letdown., but because of this high point I eagerly look forward to the developer’s, Rocksteady Studios, next project.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the best action adventure game to come out in decades. Period. I’ve already written two lists about my love of it and it’s simple. Exploring every nook and cranny will produce an amazing story to tell that will be different than someone else's particular experience. While it can't compare to the cinematic thrill ride of Uncharted 4, there’s simply no adventure game better than this. And it’s not just the exploring either. Even the puzzles are miraculously brilliant, similar to puzzles from Portal. It’s a gem and is, without a doubt, at the top of my list for Game of the Year nominations already, even with all its flaws. I look forward to playing a game in 2017 that can dethrone it, but at this point I don’t think that’s possible.