Retrospective: A Look Back at the Uncharted Franchise

by Aaron Bilal

The Uncharted franchise began in 2007 with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. It was a sleeper-hit PlayStation exclusive video game created by the studio Naughty Dog, who had already been known for such games as Jak and Daxter, and Crash Bandicoot. But this game was different; it would revolutionize the gaming world. Naughty Dog would expertly craft a game that perfectly balanced gameplay and story, and it would create a legion of fans that still play the games to this day.

So, what made Uncharted so special? First of all, it was made unlike any other game before it. The way a game was made back in the day was the developers would create the world and the dynamics of the game, and then hire actors to come in and provide voices for the characters. The characters were simple, and the stories were even simpler. Uncharted changed this. Naughty Dog hired their actors and put them on a motion capture stage. All of the characters movements and ticks were the result of the actor’s choices on set. What was once all done in a recording booth was now done on a stage. The process was much closer to a theater experience than a simple voice over recording. As the years went by and the technology developed, they were able to capture the facial expressions of the actors, much like the work of Andy Serkis during the Planet of the Apes films.

Uncharted didn’t just change the creative process of video games, but the structure of them, as well. Video games had always strived to be as cinematic as possible, but the technology just wasn’t up to par yet with developers’ ambitions. By the time Drake’s Fortune came around, developers were just starting to dive deeper into cinematic games. When playing any of the four main Uncharted titles, it feels like you’re playing a movie. But it’s better than a movie because you get to be the main character. The star of Uncharted is Nathan Drake, an adventurer and treasure hunter much like Indiana Jones. He’s a wise-ass and charming character that players feel a deep emotional connection with. Players literally get to walk, climb, or kick, a mile in Nate’s shoes. Every time Nate gets punched, kicked, or falls down, the player feels every hit.

As the Uncharted franchise went on, it got better and better, both in terms of its technological advancement and its narrative complexity. Developers of other titles will often cite Uncharted as their biggest influence. When Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was released, head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, said “Congrats to Naughty Dog on another great Uncharted with Uncharted 4, amazing work.” When a video game franchise brings together both Xbox and PlayStation players, it’s nothing short of amazing.

The Uncharted franchise spawned a revolution in video games. It created the most cinematic experience, while at the same time providing one of the most enjoyable gameplay experiences. With remarkably lovable characters, lush environments, compelling story, and fluid gameplay, Uncharted deserves all of the praise it gets, and much more.