Sony’s ace in the hole, Naughty Dog, has been around since the inception of the PlayStation, creating some of the consoles most beloved and iconic mascots, from the likes of Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Daxter, and Nathan Drake. The acclaimed developer has helped put Sony on the map with each successful iteration in their database, and it goes without saying that every entry on this list has earned major critical acclaim – a feat uncommon in today’s industry where the slightest misstep on a developer’s part could spell uncertain disaster. However, Naughty Dog have always been at the top of their game, constantly evolving for the better as a well-rounded developer with a collection of games packed with irresistible charm, personality, and above all, masterful game design. Let’s take a look at the top 10 best of the best from Naughty Dog.
10. JAK II
Kicking off this list in an explosion of nostalgia is Jak II, the sequel to PlayStation 2’s answer to Crash Bandicoot. Jak II proved to be a worthy sequel to the Jak & Daxter game that further solidified Naughty Dog’s ability to create great sequels that in many aspects overshadowed the predecessor. In this case, despite being an exceptionally well-crafted sequel, it didn’t quite measure up to the first Jak & Daxter, but left just as big of an impression on us. One thing that did vastly improve in this sequel was the graphics, showcasing the developers extraordinary attention to detail that came to define the graphical power of the PlayStation 2 at the time.
9. UNCHARTED: DRAKE’S FORTUNE
PlayStation 3 welcomed its mascot in the form of the proclaimed “dude raider”, Nathan Drake, in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Taking everything that made Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider series successful and one-upping them in almost every department, Uncharted saw Naughty Dog at their creative best when it came to developing extraordinary new IP’s with lasting appeal. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune did just that, leaving a lasting impression gamers perhaps yearning for the gaming equivalent of Indiana Jones mixed with the same zany, over-the-top antics that Naughty Dog injected into Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter, but with a far more human touch that was explored fully in its sequels.
8. UNCHARTED 3: DRAKE’S DECEPTION
Hype can be the end game for a promising trilogy if it fails to live up to expectations. As a follow-up to the monumental success of Uncharted 2, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception had quite a bit to live up to. As the third game in a such a critically acclaimed series, Uncharted 3 had to not only improve in the gameplay department, but also deliver a compelling and satisfactory story – and boy, what an improvement it was. While it never brought that same dizzying ambition of Uncharted 2, the third adventure for Nathan Drake was as emotionally satisfying as it was groundbreaking for PlayStation 3 graphics (until The Last of Us came along).
7. JAK & DAXTER: THE PRECURSOR LEGACY
After the first PlayStation ended its run on a very high note with Crash Bandicoot: Warped, there was a bit of pressure for Naughty Dog to create a new IP for the PlayStation 2 that would prove to be on par with their anthropomorphic icon. The answer was Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, a landmark title for the PlayStation 2 that proved the consoles early graphical power on top of the developers ability to remain consistently flexible and articulate in their game design. Even though Jak & Daxter didn’t build as much nostalgic steam as their previous critically acclaimed trilogy, Naughty Dog’s keen eye for tight gameplay, eye-popping graphics and overall appealing characters continued their success well into the next generations.
6. CRASH BANDICOOT
The game that started it all. Crash Bandicoot was nothing short of a phenomenon in the early years of the PlayStation, proving to be the definitive 90’s icon that even overthrew Nintendo’s colourful roster of protagonists. Crash Bandicoot single-handedly spearheaded unique game design that took the shortcomings of the PlayStation 1 such as its limited draw distance and used it to their advantage. Crash Bandicoot is still regarded as the platformer that changed gaming forever, and for a very good reason. Packed with charisma and revolutionary game design, the game had all the beginnings of a legendary franchise.
5. CRASH BANDICOOT 2: CORTEX STRIKES BACK
On a list of sequels that not only surpassed its predecessor, but completely reinvented the formula too, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back deserves to take a well-deserved high rank. Taking everything that made the first game so appealing, such as its colourful and immaculate level design, tight controls, and crazy factor, Cortex Strikes Back delivered an astoundingly well-rounded and creative experience. Time and location hopping became its greatest draw, allowing Crash to travel to various eras in history. This also gave Naughty Dog incentive to get as imaginative as possible, not just restrained to the first games’ jungle setting. It pushed Crash well into the forefront of the mainstream and sealed PlayStation as the leading console to own.
4. UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF’S END
The most recent entry on this list and presumably the last Uncharted game in the series revolving around explorer Nathan Drake, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End proved to be a fitting end to the legendary series. High expectations were abound for the final game to have a great emotional payoff, and it certainly managed that and more. A Thief’s End sees Naughty Dog at their best in the graphical department, delivering the best looking game in their collection to date. The final moments left plenty of tears in my eyes, mainly tears of joy but also sadness that we may never quite get as damn near perfect of a send-off for a series in gaming ever.
3. CRASH BANDICOOT: WARPED
If the first Crash Bandicoot revolutionized platformers and its sequel perfected it, Crash Bandicoot: Warped, the third and final Crash game to be developed by the company, somehow pulled off the impossible and went beyond that. Warped proved to be the critical heavy-hitter of the series and set Naughty Dog’s name in stone as a juggernaut developer oozing with creative ideas and endless possibilities. Warped smoothened out whatever creases were left in prior games to create not only the most solid Crash Bandicoot game ever, but the most outlandish and risky. The leap paid off in many ways that’s nothing short of an insanity-induced masterpiece and a must-own PlayStation 1 title.
2. THE LAST OF US
Going against the usual formula of over-the-top adventures and platforming, Naughty Dog chose to tell a more personal tale of human grief and tragedy set amidst the backdrop of a horrendous apocalypse. The Last Of Us breathed new life into the mostly stagnant zombie apocalypse tale in gaming, focusing on the gripping, emotional tale about a rugged man with a tragic history in the care of a young girl who possesses the key to the world’s salvation. The developer stepped outside of their comfort zone and crafted one of the greatest video games of our generation – a powerhouse blend of creativity, hefty emotional heights, and devastating lows that all beautifully culminated in this crowning achievement in storytelling.
1. UNCHARTED 2: AMONG THIEVES
When gamers fondly look back at the moment when Naughty Dog went from being an acclaimed developer to a force of nature, they need look no further than Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. The first Uncharted set up its characters and world perfectly for the sequel to springboard off of, taking protagonist Nathan Drake to dangerous places, both emotionally and physically. Everything that Naughty Dog had learned through trial and error is brought to fruition in this action adventure masterpiece, and nothing less than that. Uncharted 2 was a huge turning point for gaming that ushered in a new era of ambition and attentive game design – a gamble that had Naughty Dog roll the dice with the winning formula… consistently.