Today Naughty Dog has become a household name for its stunning games like The Last Of Us and the Uncharted series that tell emotional stories and pack in lots of action. With these epic titles that generate instant buzz and as much hype as Half-Life 3 rumors, some may forget they were originally known for producing some truly bizarre games.
The types of games they produced spanned various genres such as role-playing, sports, platformers, and even education. In their early years Naughty Dog produced some interesting titles that seem wildly different from their first Uncharted game.
10 Math Jam
Every game development team has to start somewhere and the first game produced by Naughty Dog, although they were known as Jam Software at the time, was an educational game about math. Created in 1985 for the Apple II it was called Math Jam.
It’s weird to think the company known for the high action adventures of Nathan Drake and that harrowing journey of Joel and Ellie got their start teaching kids math through a video game. After failing to get it approved in schools the game has largely faded away and few if any copies exist today.
9 Keef The Thief
Keef The Thief is the title that convinced Jam Software to change their name to Naughty Dog in 1989. It was a sword and sorcery role-playing game where players took control of the main character Keef who embarks on a quest to steal anything and everything he can find.
It included very sarcastic dialogue that is said to have been put in as temporary filler but was surprisingly approved by EA and went on to shape the rest of the game. It was a tongue in cheek title that performed very well and gave the newly branded Naughty Dog their comedic and weird direction for future games.
8 Dream Zone
The plot of Dream Zone is one of the more abstract stories on this list. In Dream Zone the character is poisoned by an elixir that causes him to get stuck inside his own dreams. Within that dream world are horrific creatures, magic, a floating castle, and a world where reality doesn’t function as it does in the real world.
Sort of a mix between Howls Moving Castle and Inception it was a weird game with lots of strangeness and imagination. Even more amazing is that the Naughty Dog Developers were juniors in high school when they made the game.
7 Jak And Daxter
Perhaps one of the more recognizable titles on this list, Jak and Daxter was a fun platformer with a weird story and equally strange characters. The world is a mix of fantasy, science fiction, and post-apocalypse. The main character Jak is mute and his partner in crime Daxter falls into a vat of Dark Eco and becomes an Ottsel, an otter/weasel hybrid.
It was a fun game with laugh out loud moments from Daxter as he adjusts to his new life as an Ottsel. It had a great and well thought out story, but it was definitely weird.
6 Rings Of Power
Rings Of Power was created back when Naughty Dog was employed by EA to produce video games. In this title the player is a chosen one on a quest to find eleven rings of great power to destroy a great and terrible evil called the Void.
Apart from the obvious similarities to Lord Of The Rings it was a strange title in that the player was never given location markers, quest journals, or any sort of tracking or guidance system to let them know what they were doing and where to go. Some liked this lack of hand-holding, but more players were frustrated by getting lost and the game struggled.
5 Crash Bandicoot
Easily the most recognizable game on this list, most adult gamers have fond memories of this quirky platformer from the nineties, while today’s young gamers know it from the remastered version as a supposed ‘rage’ game by today’s standards.
That original game of a mutated bandicoot fighting to save his love from an evil genius intent on creating an army of sentient animals was ludicrously fun and very bizzare. From enemies like the morbidly obese Papu to the eerily insane Ripper Roo, this was a strange game.
4 Way Of The Warrior
By itself Way Of The Warrior isn’t all that strange of a game, it’s a fighting game that has numerous similarities to the Mortal Kombat series. It has fighters competing against each other to have their names included in the Book of Warriors for glory and immortality.
What makes the game weird is that all of the characters in the game are recreations of the Naughty Dog staff, their friends and family. This was done because of funding issues and it’s weird to think that the employees were developing brutal and gory finishing moves to be performed by and on their family and friends.
3 Crash Team Racing
With titles like Mario Kart making racing games a profitable venture, Naughty Dog decided to dip their toes in the same waters by taking their iconic Crash Bandicoot characters and have them race each other in Crash Team Racing.
Apart from the zany characters the story premise itself was truly bizarre. A powerful extraterrestrial racer named Nitros Oxide plans to enslave the inhabitants of earth and turn the planet into a giant parking lot. It’s the kind of dilemma that would only be plausible in the world of Crash Bandicoot and it was a great game.
2 Ski Crazed
The second game ever produced Ski Crazed, originally called Ski Stud, was a very basic game produced by Naughty Dog when they were still called Jam Software. The player is competing in a ski tournament on mount Kilimanjaro and must race down to the bottom without crashing into snow drifts or getting swallowed by an avalanche. Supposedly the character was trying to pick up girls and the game ended with the player having won the tournament enjoying the company of the various girls in a hot tub.
It’s the kind of game you’d expect two entrepreneurial high school boys to produce and it did well enough commercially to keep the company running and produce other titles.
1 Jak 3
With the success of the first two games, Naughty Dog rounded out the series with Jak 3. For the entire series the characters have been drawn to the mysterious ancient race of powerful beings known as the Precursors. These Precursors were said to have created powerful artifacts using Eco and were responsible for the Planetary Defense System protecting the planet from hostile aliens.
Well major spoiler warning, it turns out the Precursors are in fact a race of Ottsels who were indeed powerful creators, but were worried their true nature wouldn’t live up to the hype and created the myth of god-like towering beings to maintain their rule and legendary status. It was a hilarious plot twist that had players equal parts stunned and giggling like fools.