In 2007, game developer Naughty Dog (best known for their Crash Bandicoot series at the time) released Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. It met with critical acclaim and set the studio on a new path—away from its history of cartoony adventure games.
Naughty Dog is known for working on very few games at any given time—usually no more than two—and giving them full attention. That's part of the reason why Naughty Dog has become one of the world's most venerated gaming studios.
Given their pedigree, it wouldn't be wrong to place Naughty Dog in the same eschelon as other game developers like Rockstar Games and Kojima Productions—famous names that even casual gamers worth their salt have heard of and understand.
Naughty Dog has produced a lot of stuff over the decades. Here are our picks for the best Naughty Dog games ever made!
8. Jak 2 (2003)
Naughty Dog's stories have always been their greatest strength, and Jak 2 is enduring proof of that. This game took what the first game of the series did and improved upon it.
With better gameplay mechanics and a more fully fleshed-out world, Jak 2 imbued the Jak and Daxter universe with more depth and helped it grow into the mature story the game sets out to tell.
The only downside was how incredibly difficult it was to complete—a sentiment that Naughty Dog agreed with some years later.
7. Crash Bandicoot: Warped (1998)
The third game in the franchise just edged out the other two to become the best Crash Bandicoot game developed by Naughty Dog. Warped takes the player through multiple places in time to collect crystals and save the world from Uka Uka.
The gameplay here feels the most honed, as lessons from the previous two games combined to result in a purely fun experience for the gamer—and Crash himself becoming like an old friend for those who had enjoyed the first two games.
Naughty Dog stopped developing Crash Bandicoot games soon after. Fans of the series implored Naughty Dog for many years to bring him back, only for another studio to do it instead.
6. Jak and Daxter (2001)
The first game in the Jak and Daxter series is still the franchise's best. The sequels weren't far off, but nothing can top the experience provided by that first game: a distilled action game with a hefty dose of wonderful humor, capped off with a bold story for good measure.
Jak and Daxter's journey epitomizes early-2000s Naughty Dog, with the graphics and animations feeling like they were inspired by previous Naughty Dog games.
Jak and Daxter was the last video game series by Naughty Dog that felt made for younger audiences. After this, Naughty Dog shifted focus to more adult games with more adult themes—which feels like a loss when looking back at the Jak series.
5. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (2011)
The Uncharted series deserves a place in the pantheon of gaming legend. Naughty Dog's stories throughout this franchise—which makes the gamer feel like a version of Indiana Jones—are as well-crafted as many great Hollywood movies.
The third game in the series, Drake's Deception, sees Nathan and Sully fight against an old organization that Sir Frances Drake had belonged to when he was ordered by Elizabeth the First to retrieve an ancient power from the Middle East.
This epic adventure was met with wide critical acclaim upon release, with the refined gameplay and grand story singled out for praise.
4. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (2016)
The final entry in the Nathan Drake saga had no room for error, as the gamers who loved the first three games waited patiently for Naughty Dog to give them a satisfying ending to the overall story.
Naughty Dog duly obliged and delivered a powerhouse of a finale, with Nathan and Sully enduring one final adventure together.
The story follows Nathan and the return of his supposedly dead brother, Samuel, in their search for pirate treasure—combined with the usual amount of betrayal and twists thrown in, too.
The mechanics of the game were inch-perfect for controller addicts sat before their screens to play out the last adventure of Nathan Drake. A Thief's End was a stunning achievement on its own, but when taken as the endcap of a series, it remains all the more impressive.
3. The Last of Us Part 2 (2020)
Some called this the best video game since its predecessor. Others couldn't believe the scale of Naughty Dog's failure to deliver a narrative that naturally followed the original's story.
The Last of Us Part 2 had an impossible job of pleasing a fanbase who widely called the first entry the greatest game of all time.
Following Ellie and her tale of revenge against the people who killed her surrogate father, The Last of Us Part 2 is a vicious and bloodthirsty continuation of the series that leaves the gamer with multiple complex emotional challenges upon completion.
It's undoubtedly a stunning achievement, with the mechanics feeling like a big step forward and the story written to subvert expectations. While the narrative was polarizing, The Last of Us Part 2 managed a level of storytelling reserved for Hollywood auteurs.
2. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)
For anyone who wants to play a video game that feels like an adventure straight out of a Hollywood movie featuring Harrison Ford, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the perfect pick.
Showcasing Nathan Drake and his journey to discover the lost treasure of Marco Polo, the game leads the gamer on a full-on fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants thriller that culminates in finding The Tree of Life.
Such things are always exciting to play through when Naughty Dog develops them. Improving on every aspect of the first entry, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the best of the Uncharted series and showed that Naughty Dog's future truly was in mature action-adventure games.
1. The Last of Us (2013)
Few video games are even in the running as competitors to The Last of Us when it comes to "the best video game ever made." It achieved a kind of morally complex narrative unlike any video game before it—one that wasn't just morally complex, but also emotionally devastating.
Joel and Ellie's journey might have ended controversially in the sequel, but their story in the original is an example of how tightly a video game can grip a person's emotions.
When playing as Joel, it's the player's job to protect Ellie at all times, and as the game progresses, that mindset infects the gamer—just as it does Joel—as Ellie becomes the one thing that holds the fragile, visceral experience together.
No game has ever quite managed to strike a person in the same way that The Last of Us did. For that reason, as far as we're concerned, that makes The Last of Us the best video game ever made.