Top 100 Games of All-Time: #20

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Release Date: October 13, 2009

Platform Played On: PS3

2018 Placement: #18 (-2)


What It Is:

A third-person action shooter that arguably put the franchise on the map, Uncharted 2 is Nathan Drake’s second adventure from Naughty Dog. The first Uncharted did fine, but came out in the first year of the PS3’s life and didn’t set the world on fire. When Uncharted 2 came out, though, the gaming world went wild. It took the established formula and cranked it up to 11, letting you play through some crazy setpieces that up until this point would likely have been relegated to cut scenes in an action game. From taking on a helicopter on a train, to shooting enemies while a building falls down around you, it was a masterpiece of game design and an important indicator of where games could be going in the future.

Nathan Drake is an Indiana Jones-esque adventurer who goes on Indiana Jones-esque adventures, complete with having to take on a tank with only a gun. In Among Thieves, Drake is searching for the city of Shambhala and the treasure it may hold. The game is mostly shooting at things, but is complimented by the multitude of character interactions: his grizzled yet horny mentor Sully, his rival Flynn, and of course the introduction of Chloe, a femme fatale that switches sides so many times it’s impossible to trust her. It is all put together in an action-packed pulpy package that was absolutely impressive on the PS3.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I love Indiana Jones, and more importantly I love pulp action about lost cities and weird moments in history. I love when stories revolve around weird, unexplained things from a thousand years ago and people have to hunt through conspiracies and ancient puzzles to open tombs that lead to a dagger that opens another tomb. I live for that shit.

And that’s what Uncharted 2 is at its core. It’s a playable Indiana Jones action game. While Drake’s Fortune didn’t wow me when I played through it, Among Thieves grabbed me from the outset with its in media res opening. Why is Drake shot and left for dead in a train hanging from a cliff? More importantly, why do they make us replay it halfway through the game. Ahem. Anyway. I’ve gone over a lot of the generalities in my previous Uncharted 4 entry. Specifically Uncharted 2 was the game that made me sit up and go “I’m following this franchise to the end of its road.” It was the first game that really made me feel like I was in the action movies that I love so much and not just watching the fun in cut scenes.

My Strongest Memory:

If I had written this entry a year ago like I’d planned to, the text in this box would be very different. But within the last year I actually went back and played Uncharted 2 for the first time in a while and I was surprised at how little emotion it evoked when I replayed it. I still enjoyed it (for the most part) but certain sequences that blew me away the first time I now found grating. I remembered the helicopter set piece on the train making me giddy with joy the first time around at how cool it was. But ten years later, I was more annoyed at the helicopter’s bullet tracking and how much I died to it.

And maybe that’s just a function of re-experiencing something, especially a video game. I don’t remember how often I died the first time I fought the helicopter on my initial playthrough: I just remember the exhilaration of the action and how awesome it was to actually be getting to play through this myself. But coming back around to it, I don’t have any exhilaration: just relief that I can move on to the next section once it’s done. And it’s weird that’s my strongest memory of Uncharted 2 now: that maybe my memory isn’t as reliable as I thought. (Who thought you’d get waxing philosophical on an Uncharted 2 entry, eh?)

Why It’s #20:

Honestly, even though I’m reconsidering my opinion on Uncharted 2 after a replay, it’s still a game that delivers an experience like no other game. Not many games lean into the pulp action hero the way Naughty Dog did Nathan Drake. I still think they’re better at lighter action fare than broody apocalypse sad dad stories, but that’s just me. The characters of U2 are still the best in the series, it’s still an important game to me, and it was still a revelation the first time I played it. Would it be #20 on an updated list? I dunno, come back to me in 2025, I guess.