Naughty Dog have, since the beginning, always been a developer who have jumped into a genre after it’s been established, taken its best elements, and refined them to make a perfect game. First was the mascot platformer (Crash Bandicoot), then the collectathon (Jak & Daxter) and the open world mission-based game (Jak 2/3), and then the linear story-based action-adventure game.
Uncharted is absolutely beloved as one of the finest series across the PS3 and PS4 generations, and while they are some of the best-looking, most well-acted, and most balanced and paced series of games around, there are many out there that share the same spark for adventure, exploration, narrative, and character. Here are just a few!
10 Tomb Raider
To be clear, yes, Uncharted’s biggest influence was Tomb Raider. Likewise, the Tomb Raider reboot’s biggest influence was Uncharted. Maybe next gen we’ll get an Uncharted reboot in the vein of the Tomb Raider reboot called Rise of the Uncharted, and that’ll carry on until we’re all dead.
Regardless, it’s an obvious starting point: if you love Uncharted, you’ll love Tomb Raider. Especially the first one. The latest one got some seriously mixed reviews, but the first reboot was a tight, mostly linear, character-driven rollercoaster of a game with engaging combat, puzzles, and platforming. Also some gorgeous lighting effects as a bonus.
9 The Last Of Us
Naughty Dog’s follow-up to the initial Uncharted trilogy, The Last of Us took so many of the elements which made Uncharted a success and adapted them into a different genre altogether. From Uncharted to The Last of Us we have: a deep and progressive story with a driving forward momentum, stellar voice acting from the entire cast, characters that are given several dimensions and room for growth (this is perhaps truer of the latter than the former), and a focus on linear plot progression with room to be creative in combat scenarios. The Last of Us also builds on all of this with survival mechanics, stealth combat, escort missions which don’t suck, and a character dynamic rarely seen (and never told with such honesty and care) elsewhere in protagonists Joel and Ellie.
8 Horizon: Zero Dawn
This PS4 exclusive does so many things right, and it seems like it learned a lot of them from contemporaries like Uncharted. Horizon prioritizes telling a good story, and doing so with witty, expert writing, and sharp voice acting (from, amongst others, the glorious Ashly Burch). Another thing it does right is not to overload the player. Much like Uncharted opting for a linear progression with a narrow focus and only a few gameplay shifts, Horizon gives the player an open world but it’s not a playground with too many distractions; it’s an intimately crafted, lush and vibrant setting with a few varied and engaging quests, missions, and collectables. Like Naughty Dog, Guerrilla have observed those who came before and learned from them: what to do, and what not to do. They’re smart.
7 God Of War
The game that took home the Game of the Year trophy at the 2018 Video Game Awards is the perfect next step for anyone who has enjoyed Uncharted and The Last of Us. Yet another game with a dedication to providing a strong narrative thread for the player to get something real out of, God of War gifts us with what might be the best single player experience in years.
Its combat mechanics are easy to learn and have the kind of depth that pays to be explored; its narrative moves at a perfect click and tells a charming, original, gripping story; its world is alive with real color, vibrancy, and variety. It’s one of the few single player games that is without fault. Also, it’s always worth mentioning the ‘unblinking camera’, designed to not break even for a moment between cutscenes and combat. The entire game plays out in one uncut reel of footage, with no breaks – one constant recording from one single camera. Its effect is honestly chilling.
6 Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4 marked a moment where the single player experience upped its game and started delivering experiences that were more blended. With Resident Evil 4 we began to see each element of the single-player experience refined and mixed together a little – this was a game which took the best elements of survival, horror, action, and adventure, and not only mashed them all together, but made sure that each element actually worked well. This was the fourth in a long series of survival horror games, but the first to provide a manual camera, full control of aiming, a more open and inviting world to explore, and a villain that wasn’t just more zombies. You can see so much of what ended up becoming Uncharted right here in this game’s DNA. A true turning point for the single player experience, and a real inspiration for countless developers.
5 Metal Gear Solid 5
Every Metal Gear Solid game is worth mentioning here: single-player, narrative-driven action games with an emphasis on using experimental means to dispose of enemies and get from A to B. Perfect for fans of Uncharted. The fifth game specifically, however, offers the most experimentation possible in its gameplay (by a wide, wide margin), and is of this current generation, making it more relevant to today’s Uncharted fans. The games have always made an incredible effort with their twisty-turny narrative threads, absurd conspiracies, melodramatic dialogue, and voice work, and engaging, well-directed cutscenes. Once again, all of this should speak to the Uncharted lover in all of us.
4 Assassin’s Creed
This series is long, and arguably more popular than Uncharted, so it’s likely that any fan of Drake would also have walked alongside Ezio or Baek or one of the other hundred assassins we’ve seen. If you haven’t however, you absolutely should. The biggest criticism that can be levied against the Assassins Creed series is its formula: it has repeated itself on a yearly basis for a decade. That said, each game is slightly better than the last, the latest – Odyssey – being the best one yet, blending the ship combat of the open seas from fan-favorite Black Flag with actually good RPG skill progression and dialogue options. As open world games flooded with things to see and do, and a thousand plus ways of exploring and keeping busy, you can’t do better than Assassin’s Creed.
3 Crash Bandicoot
The game that skyrocketed Naughty Dog to gaming fame, and one which just received a fantastic makeover in the form of a full remake for this generation (including Switch!), Crash Bandicoot is an absolute legend, and if anyone were to fall in love with the Uncharted series and wanted to know the company behind it, this is where it all began. Its similarities to Uncharted are not that plentiful, of course, but it is a perfect first date for fans who want to get to know Naughty Dog a little more intimately. From there, we have (get ready for some fierce writer opinions) the best cart racer ever made, Crash Team Racing, and a trilogy which blends the mascot platformer with the GTA ‘guns + missions = fun fun fun’ formula. Now is the perfect time to revisit Naught Dog’s roots, what with Crash Team Racing also getting its own remake this year.
2 Batman: Arkham Asylum
All of the games on this list have one thing in common: engaging, absorbing single-player experiences. Games like this are often referred to as ‘cinematic’ because of their direction, dynamic cutscenes, orchestral soundtracks, strong narratives and dialogue, and so on. The real reason we use this word ‘cinematic’ is because these games do what cinema does: they draw a single member of the audience in to share a personal adventure with their protagonists. Arkham Asylum might just be the best example of this, with a voice cast that features long-running Batman stalwarts Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, and a setting that oozes grainy, gothic, atmosphere. The sound effects snap and creak; the set detail is distracting in the right way; the pacing is steady and smooth. Much like Uncharted, this is a contained story with a few variations on gameplay that each work well mechanically, and each engages the player completely. You cannot go wrong with this game, Bat-fan or not.
1 The Witcher 3
After its release, this game jumped to the top of more than a few ‘Best RPGs Ever’ lists, displacing legends like Skyrim and Final Fantasy VII. And with good reason. With The Witcher 3, developer CD Projekt Red did what Naughty Dog does best: learn from those that have established the genre, and build a game that celebrates all the finest elements of that genre, while cutting the fat and ditching the bad stuff. Here is a world steeped in mythology, a protagonist we want to stand by, and a story filled with quiet moments of contemplation and scenes of intense, bombastic action, in equal measure. Its missions and quests are clever, its setting is gorgeous, and its soundtrack is one of the best of this generation. Here is a flawless single-player experience in a world you could happily grow old and die in.