Naughty Dog has delivered consistent hits over the years, from the globetrotting adventures of Nathan Drake in the Uncharted franchise to the gutwrenching story of Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us. And I can’t forget Crash Bandicoot and Jak, of course. However, what the studio hasn’t delivered is a mark on the PS5 era, and I’m starting to think it might never come.
Across different PlayStation generations, Naughty Dog has given players some of the best games available on PS2, PS3, and PS4 respectively. Many of them often showed off the studio’s dazzling array of talents. Crash Bandicoot reconstructed the notion of the platform genre, while Jak 2 demonstrated just how far you could push the PlayStation 2’s capabilities. That isn’t a small feat considering system definers like Metal Gear Solid 2 and Grand Theft Auto 3 had done the same only in the last 2 years before it. It was Uncharted that truly blind-sighted me, though.
It feels like a rite of passage in reflection to dive into Uncharted 2 first, before retroactively journeying through the first entry. Like many playing Uncharted 2, that opening train sequence was a gateway to an unbelievable experience full of white-knuckle action, blockbuster-level adventures, and a cast of characters that’d make Steven Spielberg proud. After all, Uncharted is the biggest form of flattery toward Indiana Jones outside of Tomb Raider. But Naughty Dog didn’t triumph itself with one superb PS3 banger, because all know that The Last of Us would change things forever.
The impact of The Last of Us franchise could never have been predicted, let alone the earthquake its sequel would provide years later. Who would have thought that an acclaimed HBO TV show would be on the cards either? But it feels like the glory trail ends there. Uncharted and Jak lay dormant like the relics Nathan Drake collected, while The Last of Us remains a staple of pop culture, despite no meaningful contiuations. Well, there have been remasters and remakes, giving Bethesda a run for its money when it comes to Skyrim’s persistence across the last decade. Meanwhile, other powerhouse studios like Santa Monica Studio and Insomniac Games are continuing to push the goalposts.
The recent God of War games stand tall as definitive reasons to own a PS5, with Santa Monica Studio avoiding the remake route for its first soft reboot entry. Instead, a patch brings it up to current standards. And now you’ve got the new Valhalla DLC for God of War Ragnarok, a considerably important step forward for Kratos’ story, undersold as a mere roguelite add-on during The Game Awards – and it’s completely free of charge. Meanwhile, Insomniac Games has managed to ship 3 Spider-Man titles (and a remaster) and a fresh Ratchet & Clank game since 2018. Oh, and an excursion into VR with Stormland. Now, it is full steam ahead for Marvel’s Wolverine release date.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales was just a taster, but Spider-Man 2 is an incredible mark within the PS5’s library. Whether you’re part of the u-turn on the game’s reception as of late or not, Spider-Man 2 is a game that will bring people over to the PlayStation 5. Cited amid the best pS5 games around, the record-breaking Spider-Man 2 sales statistics are proof of that. Where is that kind of reputation for Naughty Dog’s relationship with the console? The only Naughty Dog games on the PS5 are remasters and remakes, starting with the Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection last year, to be followed by The Last of Us Part 1. We’ll soon be in the epicenter of The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered, too.
It just doesn’t feel like enough. Perhaps Naughty Dog could have had a similar upward swing for the PS5 with its now-canceled The Last of Us multiplayer game, but that will remain only as a ‘what if?’ in the minds of players going forward. The Uncharted series ended with a genuinely beautiful conclusion, one that I’m not afraid to say left me misty-eyed in its last moments. The Last of Us could continue, but with such a devastatingly emotional ending, do we need another chapter in Ellie’s saga? Naughty Dog needs a distinctly new IP to debut on the PS5 as we approach 4 years of the console’s lifespan.
Rumors of another Naughty Dog IP permeate the air for fans, with potential nods to a fantasy game emerging in The Last of Us Part 1 remake. Though, speculative nods are all they are for now. Co-president Neil Druckmann said at Summer Game Fest in 2022 that “unless Sony wants to leak it, then we can’t talk about it right now.” So, as it stands, expectations for Naughty Dog’s PS5 related future are hanging in the balance. There are only so many games the studio can revisit, feeding into the growing market of current-gen remakes.
I want Naughty Dog to have another moment of widespread acclaim, a title that everyone talks about, whether they love or hate it. We’re seeing what the PS5 is capable of now we’re nearly 4 years deep into its generation, and Naughty Dog could be at the forefront of that discussion. But time is ticking, and it might be long before a PS5 Pro model arrives before we eventually welcome what Sony has planned next after that. So, the ball is Naughty Dog’s quote, and just like Sully once said: “Real greatness is what you do with the hand you’re dealt.”