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The Definitive Naughty Dog Games You Absolutely Need To Play

The Definitive Naughty Dog Games You Absolutely Need To Play

From Crash to The Last Of Us.

Ewan Moore

Ewan Moore

I don't know if you've seen, but Naughty Dog released a pretty big game this weekend. The Last Of Us Part II is finally out in the wild, and is sure to ignite discussion between fans everywhere for the foreseeable.

I've yet to check it out myself, but I'm very much looking forward to doing so. In the meantime, the gritty and gruesome release got me thinking about Naughty Dog's history. It still honestly blows my mind that this is the same studio that used to develop Crash Bandicoot games.

So I figured why not take a look at six of Naughty Dog's "definitive" games throughout the years? The following titles aren't in any particular order other than chronological, but I reckon these are the games to play if you want to get the best sense of where NG has been, how far it's come, and maybe even where it's going.

Crash Bandicoot (1996)

Crash Bandicoot /
Naughty Dog

The original Crash Bandicoot might not the be the best of the bunch (I'd give that honour to the sequel), but it remains the most important. Certainly, if you're only going to play one Crash Bandicoot game, this is the one you should play - if only to see how far Naughty Dog has come in the last few decades.

Crash Bandicoot is hard. Brutally, unrelentingly hard. It's so hard, it makes Vinnie Jones look like a geography teacher in a Cornish village. And yet, an entire generation of us were obsessed with this game. We couldn't get enough of the funny orange bandicoot and his colourful world, no matter how many times that world killed us. And it killed us a lot.

If that's not a testament to the amount of work Naughty Dog put into making Crash Bandicoot an engaging and endlessly playable piece of work... I don't know what is.

Crash Team Racing (1999)

Crash Team Racing /
Naughty Dog

Some people reckon Crash Team Racing is better than Mario Kart. It's not. Still, it is a pretty damn great racing game, and easily the best of the Mario Kart-inspired games floating around out there. If you owned an original PlayStation as a kid and weren't really into Nintendo, this was the game to play with friends on Saturday afternoons.

Tight controls and a gorgeous cartoony aesthetic that still holds up today blend well with some brilliantly designed tracks and all your favourite characters. We've got Crash! We've got Cortex! We've got... um, Komodo Joe? The roster isn't important. As far as mascot racers go, CTR really does nail it, to the point that I can understand why some people say it's superior to Mario Kart, even though I'll never, ever agree with them.

Jak And Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (2001)

Jak And Daxter: The Precursor Legacy  /
Naughty Dog

Naughty Dog's first post-Bandicoot effort was a natural evolution for the developer, and a sign of its growing maturity and confidence. Jak And Daxter: The Precursor Legacy kept everything that made the Crash Bandicoot games so engaging, while also throwing in a ton of new features and ideas, opening up the world in ways that blew my mind when I first played it on PlayStation 2.

Free from the restrictive camera angles of Crash, Naughty Dog crafted massive levels that have players the freedom to explore and enjoy the world at their own pace. This was also the first Naughty Dog game with something resembling an ambitious narrative, with some great writing that showed us early on Naughty Dog was a studio interested in telling stories.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)

Uncharted 2 /
Naughty Dog

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was a vast improvement on its predecessor in every way. That's not to say the first Uncharted isn't a good game, but the sequel is a leaner, meaner, and much more ambitious piece of work. There are larger environments to explore, combat is a lot more enjoyable, and the set-pieces are so much more exciting... even if the two best ones somehow involve the exact same train.

This was also the game that really nailed the character of Nathan Drake and his pals Sully and Elena. The excellent writing really helped to bring out the easy chemistry between Nolan North, Richard Francis McGonagle, and Emily Rose, who immediately became one of gaming's most lovable teams.

Oh, this is also the game that introduced us to Chloe Frazer, voiced by the incredible Claudia Black. Bonus points for that.

The Last Of Us (2013)

The Last of Us /
Naughty Dog

Where do I even start with this one? The Last Of Us is a masterpiece. A sprawling, shocking, gruesome epic that was made by a studio at the very top of its game. The writing and performances in this 2013 PS3 exclusive raised the bar for the entire industry, and rightly established Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson as one to watch as two unlikely companions travelling through a broken America.

The Last Of Us also amazed on a technical level - and still does to this day. The animations, environments, and sound design pulled gamers into the post-apocalyptic world with such terrifying clarity. From the moments of quiet serenity right through to the brutal flashes of extreme violence, we felt every painful step of Joel and Ellie's journey.

I have no idea if The Last Of Us Part II can live up to its predecessor, or if we even needed a sequel in the first place. The Last Of Us was such a beautifully self-contained story that I'm almost scared to see where Naughty Dog takes it next... but I don't think this is a studio would have worked on a follow-up in the first place if it didn't have the right story to tell.

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (2016)

Uncharted 4 /
Naughty Dog

It can't be easy wrapping up a franchise that spanned multiple games and spinoffs over the course of just under a decade, but Naughty Dog nailed it. In a world where most video game series keep going forever, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End felt like a definitive, well, end - if not for the series itself, than at least for roguish treasure hunter Nathan Drake.

Once you swallow the massive contrivance that Nathan has a long-lost brother that he never bothered to mention for three entire games, you learn to lose yourself in his most personal adventure yet. The relationship between the two brothers (Nolan North and Troy Baker nailing it as always) is a highlight, and Nathan's reluctance to let go of "the life" is an obvious reflection of those of us playing at home, and our unwillingness to part ways with the character.

But if things keep rolling on forever as they are, we'll never truly appreciate them. And so it is that Uncharted 4 gives a perfect ending that not only gives our favourite characters everything they deserve, but also looks towards the future - should Naughty Dog ever decide to return to this world.

Maybe in a week or so I'll consider adding The Last Of Us Part II to this list... but as I say, I personally haven't played it yet so I really can't comment on whether it's worth a look or not. Until then, you can read our GAMINGbible review here, or find out what other critics had to say about the much-anticipated game here.

Featured Image Credit: Naughty Dog

Topics: Crash Bandicoot, Uncharted, Naughty Dog, The Last Of Us