Naughty Dog is one of the most successful developers in the video game industry. The Santa Monica-based studio took a wild, ever-changing ride to get to where they are today.
Almost everyone who plays games will recognize Crash Bandicoot and Nathan Drake, but not everyone knows that both the goofy bandicoot and the charismatic treasure hunter come from the same company. Here are the games that defined Naughty Dog at each stage of their storied career.
Although they had been in business for a few years already, Naughty Dog’s first true step into the spotlight came in 1996 with the release of “Crash Bandicoot.” “Crash Bandicoot” is a platforming game starring a goofy, cartoon bandicoot who wears jorts and sneakers and tries to save his girlfriend, Tawna, from a mad scientist named Doctor Cortex. While the graphics might not hold up by today’s standards, “Crash Bandicoot,” with its colorful and smooth 3D models, was ground-breaking for its time and inspired Naughty Dog to make three more Crash games: “Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back,” Crash Bandicoot: Warped,” and “Crash Team Racing.” The “Crash Bandicoot” series is held in high regard by many people who were young when the games were being released. This can be seen by the overwhelmingly positive response to Sony’s announcement that the first three games would be remastered for the PS4. With this series, Naughty Dog got their foot in the door and established a connection with a generation of kids that they would continue to grow and mature with.
"Jak and Daxter"
Naughty Dog moved on from "Crash Bandicoot" to release “Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy” in 2001. “Jak and Daxter” is another 3D platformer, but it is much different than "Crash Bandicoot." “Jak and Daxter” boasts an open environment full of creatures, abilities and quests. The scale of the environment in “Jak and Daxter” was a spectacular feat for its time, and what is most impressive looking back is the game’s lack of load times. The player could go from section to section of the game and never see a single loading screen, even after dying or failing an objective. The first “Jak and Daxter” game had a similar light-hearted tone that the Crash games did with a little more complexity. The second and third games, however, took a huge turn and became gritty third-person shooter games with far more mature themes than the original game. While this decision was a bit divisive amongst fans, it undoubtedly showed a new side of Naughty Dog, as the darker tone and gun-shooting gameplay was far different from what they were known for. By the end of the “Jak and Daxter” series, Naughty Dog had taken several steps towards the sort of tone and gameplay that they are now known for.
“Crash Bandicoot” and “Jak and Daxter” created an impressive reputation for Naughty Dog, but the “Uncharted” games are what made them one of the most recognizable game developers in the world. “Uncharted” is a series of action-adventure games with platforming and third-person shooter elements that began in 2007. Gameplay wise, the “Uncharted” series is a culmination of everything Naughty Dog learned with “Crash Bandicoot” and “Jak and Daxter” with modern advancements, but where “Uncharted” truly stands out is in its story and cinematic style. The “Uncharted” games follow the adventures of an Indiana Jones-like treasure hunter named Nathan Drake and his older partner, Victor Sullivan. Unprecedented voice acting, beautiful set pieces and cutscenes with a level of cinematography never before seen in gaming make the “Uncharted” games often times feel more like movies than traditional games. Every game in the “Uncharted” series has won numerous awards and sold millions of copies, quickly becoming one of the most popular video game series of all time.
"The Last of Us"
In 2013, Naughty Dog released their most ambitious game yet with “The Last of Us.” “The Last of Us” is an action-adventure third person shooter game with a cinematic style similar to “Uncharted.” However, the tone and story of the game is far different than the developer’s previous work. “The Last of Us” is a dark tale that takes place in a post-apocalyptic America and follows Joel, a hardened and reserved survivor, and Ellie, a strong-willed young girl mature beyond her years. The story of “The Last of Us” is often referred to as one of the most emotionally impactful and well-designed narratives in gaming history. With the gameplay, Naughty Dog combined elements of the “Uncharted” series with survival horror and stealth elements to create a familiar but unique experience. “The Last of Us” is a feat in video game storytelling, which is especially impressive when considering that the game’s developer was at one point known for creating a game about a cartoon, jorts-wearing bandicoot going on a quest to save his girlfriend, Tawna, from a mad scientist.