The Uncharted series has swept up numerous Game of the Year awards, universal critical acclaim and has been not only one of the biggest exclusive franchises on the PlayStation platform, but one of the biggest franchises in gaming. So it’s only natural that the series has had a huge impact on how developers make games, being a standard for many developers to live up to and a source of inspiration.
But it’s very important to remember what’s true in reverse. The series is very much a mix of several different types of gameplay. Third-person action adventure is the best way to describe its genre, but it’s really a mix of platforming, brawling, third-person shooting, stealth, puzzle solving and (very occasionally) vehicle driving sequences. It’s a mix that combined is greater than the sum of its parts, but each of these elements have existed before.
Uncharted has taken inspiration from all sorts of media. One can easily draw comparisons to many films, but it’s also important to make the links between several games that came before Uncharted to make up the epic franchise we all know and love. Here, we remember four of those games that made Uncharted what it is now.
Prince of Persia
Platforming in the Uncharted series is based on much more realistic movement than in Naughty Dog’s previous platforming titles. Nathan Drake’s platforming is less about double jumping to higher ledges while dodging obstacles, and more about realistically climbing tall structures and jumping frantically through temples. This more realistic platforming is very reminiscent of that of the Prince from Prince of Persia. Barring the obvious difference in that Nate can’t run across walls or control time, and has more guns, it’s easy to spot similarities in their movements as they traverse the environment.
Gears of War
Third-person shooters in the post-Gears of War gaming world have often used very similar cover mechanics to those of Gears, so it’s no surprise that Uncharted did as well. The cover mechanics in Uncharted are a necessary addition to a game that’s meant to be as realistic-looking as possible. The third-person shooting makes not only for great single-player campaigns, but also for great multiplayer battles and co-operative play, much of which is similar to what can be found in the Gears series.
Jak and Daxter
Naughty Dog’s Jak and Daxter series (which they need to bring back!) may seem far removed from Uncharted at first glance, given how one is a sci-fi fantasy animated film-like game, and the other is a real-world action film-like game, and the gameplay drastically differs. But in fact, the two have a little in common beyond the odd easter egg or two. One is the weapons selection via the D-Pad, which was initially done in the Jak series and left mostly intact for Uncharted with, of course, a different variety of weapons and the ability to switch them a lot more. Another is the seamlessness of both games. While Jak and Daxter features an open world and Uncharted a linear one, both games have no load screens (or in Uncharted’s case, only a single load screen to get into the game, after which there are none during gameplay), and both forego prerendered cutscenes to create them directly in the game engine. Although, this one may be less an inspiration from Jak and Daxter and more just Naughty Dog showing off their absurd technical prowess.
And finally, for the most obvious comparison. It’s impossible to think of Uncharted without Tomb Raider. Indeed, when the first Uncharted game was announced, many gave it the name of “Dude Raider” – and with how iconic Lara Croft is, it certainly had to make a case for why one should buy it over the latest Tomb Raider game. Tomb Raider has a very similar real-world setting, and also follows the format of an Indiana Jones-like adventure plot with a James Bond-style adversary. Both games also have a mix of platforming and shooting. But gameplay-wise, Uncharted mostly borrowed from Tomb Raider’s puzzle solving within ancient ruins, which have very clear similarities, as the shooting and platforming are both handled very differently. Other obvious inspirations include being able to pick up secret relics while traversing the levels, giving both games a form of replayability.
Many other games and films can be credited to Uncharted‘s success, and many other games following it will also credit Uncharted to their success. Whether that’s in its blockbuster film-style set pieces or its mix of so many great gameplay mechanics, the impact of Uncharted is inescapable. Most notably, in an ironic turn of events, the Tomb Raider 2013 reboot and following games have often been called “Uncharted clones.” While the newer entries have more open worlds, very different shooting mechanics, and their own survival and equipment systems, they borrow very much from the platforming. The primary inspiration Tomb Raider took from the Uncharted series was its storytelling and presentation.
It’s interesting to see how Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End may continue to draw inspiration from other games on the market, and how the reverse will be true.