Naughty Dog are a company that only seem to improve their games with each passing console generation. They evolve with the times and never stick to a formula once it has gotten old. Over the past 31 years, Naughty Dog has released 18 individual titles, and now it’s time to rank them all. This will, of course, all be my personal opinion but I’ll also consider sales numbers and general reception at the time of release.
18. Keef the Thief
Keef the Thief is a first person point-and-click RPG released in 1989 for the Apple IIGS console. Reviewers for this game at time of release actually gave it a ranking of ‘X’ meaning it wasn’t recommended due to poor gameplay and completely outdated mechanics. This is the only game on this list that received largely negative reception upon release, so rightfully deserves its place at the bottom of the barrel.
17. Rings of Power
Rings of Power is another RPG, but viewed isometrically rather than from a first person perspective (like Keef the Thief) and was released on the Sega Genesis in 1991. This game plays out largely like many PC RPGs of the time, rather than console games like Final Fantasy. This means that the world is fairly open from the start, with a large amount of NPCs, random in-game events and large numbers of quests. As much as this all sounds great, the game received very mixed reviews with some praising the amount of content and attention to detail. However, many thought the game was incredibly difficult with no location markers on the map and dated controls.
16. Way of the Warrior
Yeah, I didn’t expect this when doing my research either, but Naughty Dog jumped on the bandwagon of 2D fighters back in the early 90s and decided to make a Mortal Kombat clone. The game released in 1994 and was again met with mixed reviews. Some praised the music, 3D effects, and gore. However, others stated that no matter how good these latter things are, they don’t make up for bad gameplay and lack-lustre storytelling. The only really good thing to come out of this game was the deal with Universal for Naughty Dog to create three more games after Way of the Warrior — which would become the beloved original Crash Bandicoot trilogy.
15. Jak X: Combat Racing
Jak X is the fourth and (so far) final instalment in the Jak franchise. It was a weird decision to take the largely successful 3D platforming that the series was known for and to turn it into a racing game — but that’s nothing we hadn’t seen before with the Mario and Crash series doing the same. It had to be good, right? Not entirely.
This isn’t to say the game wasn’t received well, because it general was. However, difficulty spikes and bad handling mechanics would be cited by many critics. Jak X does manage to capture the in-game universe really well, but it feels like the game loses its way in comparison to the other three titles in the series. This largely does come down to it being an arcadey racer but that still doesn’t stop it from ranking relatively low on this list.
14. Crash Team Racing
CTR was heavily praised for its great gameplay, animation and art style. The only problem was that it had been seen a million times before. Mario Kart clones were being released left, right and centre at the end of the 90s — so as much as this game was incredibly fun to play, it didn’t bring anything new to the table.
You’ve got funny characters, zany karts and bright colourful tracks… but so did every other mildly popular IP of a similar nature. This game simply failed to mix things up enough and that’s why, even though it’s beloved by many (and even got remastered recently), it’s sitting down here at number 14.
13. Jak 3
The Jak series got generally worse reviews as the it went on. Jak 3, however, was still received well with many praising the return of the second game’s great gameplay and smooth animations and a generally well told story. Many also said the game had little to no glitches — which, of course, is never a bad thing.
Some criticised the game for being easier than the second, while others praised this as they felt Jak II was at times too difficult. It’s a great game that shouldn’t be overlooked, but simply gets beat out by many other games on this list.
12. Crash Bandicoot
This game deserves all the praise it gets, as it was Naughty Dog’s first major success and without it, we may not have masterpieces such as The Last of Us and Uncharted. However, this doesn’t mean the game is flawless and although it received generally positive reviews upon release (and even became PlayStation’s unofficial mascot) its gameplay was criticised for not being anything revolutionary, as well as not always behaving in a true 3D fashion.
Personally, this is my favourite Crash game and one I have endless memories with as a kid, but I’m not blind to its flaws and how later games in the series are more technically advanced.
11. Jak II
Jak II is arguably the most revolutionary game in the series as it took everything good about the first game and built on it. The game was praised for its new, darker tone and more mature, edgier story. Not only was the narrative great and at times emotional, but the game was also defined as one of the best-looking games on the PS2.
The game was only really criticised for one thing and that was its difficulty. Checkpoints were spread out very unfairly and there were a few too many instant death situations. On the other hand, some praised the game for this and enjoyed the challenge. These are probably the type of people who 100% every FromSoftware game and, honestly, you are a bunch of maniacs.
10. Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
Similarly to Jak II, Cortex Strikes Back takes the great stuff from the first game in the Crash series and refines it into an even better experience. The game received critical acclaim for its soundtrack, graphical enhancements and all-round gameplay improvements.
As with all games, though, there were some critiques. There is a fair amount of trial and error involved in the levels, where you must sacrifice lives to simply memorise the layout — some critics even called the game repetitive due to this flaw. Ultimately, I really liked Crash Bandicoot 2 and if this was a completely personal list it would have definitely ranked higher but, alas, it isn’t and it must sit here at the number 10 spot.
9. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is not a good game. In comparison to the latter games on this list, of course, it is technically superior, however considering its time of release I can’t rank it any higher than here.
The gameplay is bland with minimal weapon or enemy variety and some extremely basic third person cover shooting. The story is okay, if a little predictable. Where this game truly shines is in its main characters — Nate, Elena and Sully — and their interactions throughout the game. They are a group that I instantly fell in love with and a group that I have only found more love for as the series went on. Many people have tried to defend this game’s flaws, but I will call it what it is; a clunky mess which began one of the greatest game series of all time.
8. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy
This game received instant critical acclaim and quickly became one of the main three PlayStation 2 mascot franchises beside Ratchet and Clank and Sly Cooper. Jak and Daxter plays out very similarly to a 3D Super Mario game, however it doesn’t feel like a clone. It has its own identity which really helps to push it forward above others in this list.
By today’s standards, the gameplay is, of course, pretty dated. However, at the time a lot of the mechanics found in the game still felt new and fresh. Everything about the game compliments itself, from its looks to its gameplay, right down to the little dances Daxter will do occasionally. This game may not be the best on this list, but it is its own perfect little experience and a series that I regret overlooking as a kid.
7. Crash Bandicoot: Warped
This is the definitive Crash Bandicoot experience. Everything about this game was universally praised by critics. Gameplay, graphics, mechanics and even narrative fit so well together for a classic, challenging Crash experience. The Crash series went on a big downward spiral after this game, so it’s always good to go back and play this third title and just experience the right way to play a Crash game.
No part of the game was critiqued badly (or at least there isn’t a general consensus that any one part of this game is bad). It’s just a really good game.
6. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Some people would have you believe that the third game is the worst in the original trilogy of Uncharted games, but I simply cannot agree. The story does have its flaws, and this is where most of the bad reputation comes from, but no one can deny the gigantic leap in gameplay improvements. The gameplay was improved from the first to the second game, but Uncharted 3 bumps it up to the next level with more weapons and grander level design.
I still really enjoyed the story, and the ending still gets me a little choked up to this day. Sully really takes hold of his responsibilities as a father figure to Nate, and helps him and Elena fix their marriage. The plane set piece is still the best set piece in the entire series and no one’s going to change my mind. What’s more, this game easily has the best version of Nate’s theme to date.
5. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Another controversial pick in terms of Uncharted is ranking The Lost Legacy as highly as I do. I thought having an Uncharted game led by someone who wasn’t Nate would be bad, but I was so incredibly wrong.
You take control of fan-favourite Chloe Fraser on her own adventure alongside Uncharted 4’s Nadine Ross. Not only do you get to find out a ton of background info on Chloe, but the game even makes us like Nadine Ross (though I really couldn’t stand her in the fourth title). Lost Legacy doesn’t do anything revolutionary in terms of gameplay, as it basically copies the gameplay of the fourth title, however it really didn’t need any improvements. I commend Naughty Dog for knowing when they didn’t need to add much, and instead focused on making a great narrative.
4. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
I feel like it’s always going to be a battle between Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 4 for the best Uncharted game, however this game just has one too many flaws for me to be able to say it is the definitive Uncharted experience. The game improves heavily on the first game in every way. The gameplay doesn’t feel like a clunky mess and instead is more playable with a certain smoothness to it. There is more weapon and enemy variety which means you actually need to think out the situation that you’re in. The game also has some of the best and most memorable puzzles in the series.
The downsides are that even though the gameplay was certainly improved upon a lot, it still felt like a very generic third person shooter. When you compare Uncharted 2‘s gameplay to the only other Uncharted title left on this list, its apparent why this game gets the number 4 spot. The game is magnificent, but not quite perfect.
3. The Last of Us: Part 2
This game has received some of the most unfair hate that I’ve ever seen. It tells one of the most engaging, brutal, heart wrenching stories about forgiveness and revenge ever seen in gaming. In terms of its story, this game is only beat out by its predecessor. In fact, my issues with this game actually come more with the ease of the gameplay than the story.
The first game was a challenge (even on the easier difficulties), however I played The Last Of Us: Part 2 on ‘normal’ difficulty and it was an absolute cakewalk. I have been told that Naughty Dog made the game easier so the game would be more accessible to more people. This is fine, however it did take away from the experience when I was clearing large groups of enemies out while barely having to lift a finger. When compared to the first game where clearing out a room of four or five Runners/Clickers could be a challenge.
This is easily one of my favourite games of all time. I love all the new characters. I love Joel, and I absolutely love how they handled Ellie. This may not have been the story everyone expected but, my god, it is an absolute roller coaster of emotions.
2. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
This is the ultimate Uncharted experience. You take everything great about the entire first trilogy and mix it with an intense grounded story with themes of family, friendship and betrayal and you get the absolute masterpiece that is Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
Whenever I play this game it just makes me think about how much bigger and more detailed the story/world could have been if the original trilogy of games had been designed with the PS4 in mind. I love seeing how Nate and Elena have matured in their marriage. I love seeing how Sam is a dark version of Nate if he had gone down a path of obsession and hadn’t met Elena. And I love Sully because… well he’s Sully, what’s not to love?
1. The Last of Us
These top two are perfect games. I found it really hard to choose between the two for the top spot, but I just feel that The Last of Us has an edge over Uncharted 4. This game is renowned for being arguably the best game of all time. The story, just like its sequel, is so brutal, yet heart-warming, sad, yet happy, all at the same time.
So many games can make you feel something while playing through them but not many games will keep you feeling those emotions long after you’ve played them, and this game does this from the opening sequence right through to the last second. The gameplay is brilliant, the game looks brilliant and the story is perfect.
I don’t think anyone will make a game quite like The Last of Us ever again and that’s okay, it’s what makes it such a masterpiece.
Naughty Dog has had a massive effect on my life and I don’t think I properly realised it until I wrote this article. So many of their games have woven their way into my life in such a positive manner, and I honestly hope they continue to make more great titles for as long as I live.
Thank you, Naughty Dog, for all the memories.
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