Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for the first three Uncharted games ahead.
Shambhala, which was also known as the mythical city of Shangri-La, was a fantastic location in the Uncharted series for many reasons. For one, the architecture of this city was absolutely stunning. Stone staircases bridged towering structures, nature had slowly made its claim on the stone beauties, and gorgeous waterfalls cascaded into the center of it all. But journeying deeper into this protected city’s confines revealed even more to behold.
The roots of the Tree of Life held up this legendary city, and attracted endless hordes of treasure hunters and would-be violators of this ancient location. It was where the final battle of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, the toughest showdown in the series, would take place. After drinking in the majesty of Shambhala, hiding its source of power and watching the city crumble is just as beautiful.
Atlantis of the Sands
Atlantis of the Sands, also known as the Iram of the Pillars you spend Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception searching for, is yet another impossibly beautiful location. Where Shambhala’s beauty shined through the nature that had reclaimed it, the magnificence of Atlantis could be seen in every cloud of sand, gold idol, and stone pillar. It’s not very often a backdrop of beige and gold can deliver such magnificence, but Naughty Dog nailed it with this location.
Housed within this decayed memory of yesteryear was a vessel in which Solomon, the great king, had imprisoned the Djinn. The lore of the mad city that tore itself apart, and the power hidden within its walls only lent to the greatness of the location.
The Treasure Vault
The Treasure Vault found during the first Uncharted game, Drake’s Fortune, is dark and puzzling. There are large wooden pillars and archways which connect dilapidated stone structures. Swinging fire traps keep the player cautious as narrow walkways are navigated in order to get to the Heart of the Vault.
It’s at the Heart of the Vault where Nate and Elena discover something grand, although it isn’t the treasure they were initially looking for. The body of Francis Drake lies here, a discovery that lies core to Nate’s identity. Between its early complex design and thematic significance, this vault is one of Drake’s most important finds.
The Museo Maritimo, located in Cartagena, Colombia, is both beautiful and central to the Uncharted series. This is where a young Nathan Drake first finds Francis Drake’s ring, and meets one Victor Sullivan, a man who would become like a father to the budding thief. It helps that these two events take place in one lovely museum and the surrounding city.
Sneaking through the exhibits and finding holes in the security in order to examine Francis’ belongings helped change the pace of the series, if only for a moment. Running on the brightly colored rooftops while ducking between structures helped to ramp everything back up to speed afterwards.
Hotel Shangri-La is a lot like Museo Maritimo, in that it provides a beautiful location that changes the pace shortly before letting you loose within a large, well-crafted city. Found in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, this hotel is one of the best set pieces in the game.
Making your way up the tower, fighting foes and searching for clues allows for the platforming in the Uncharted series to shine. To top it off, the homicidal helicopter that makes your acquaintance as you try to find a way out makes for a memorable chase. A crumbling tower, persistent enemies, and ziplines you pray won’t snap are elements fans are sure to reminisce over.
It’s difficult to forget the train in Uncharted 2. After all, you find yourself about to die with its wreckage at the very beginning of the game. This opening moment serves as both a tutorial and a demonstration of great things to come later on.
Graphically, it’s both impressive and terrifying, but proceeding through the story and playing the events that led to the accident are just as praiseworthy.
Train-Wrecked, the fifteenth chapter of the game, lets you fight through the train as it barrels along the tracks. Shooting, platforming, fist-fighting, and avoiding death yourself are intense as everything rocks back and forth and pretty scenery races by. The train may not be a location in the same sense as other places you visit in the series, but fighting along its isles and atop its cars is just as memorable as any hidden temple.
Quivira, an ancient city found in Panama, is uncovered during Uncharted: Golden Abyss on the PS Vita. From the moment it is first revealed, the city is candy for the eyes. The large temple surrounding the Pyramid of Omatihicoya is as grand as one would expect for a god. Entering the hallowed walls allows players to delve deep into the maze-like caverns, which are no less beautiful thanks to the serpentine sculptures amidst the natural cave formations.
At its greatest depths lies the Golden Abyss, the legendary room of pure gold where men have killed one another for a chance at its riches. Quivira is a location that becomes more beautiful the deeper you go, although that, in this case, also means deadlier.
To be completely honest, London doesn’t need much of an explanation for why it’s one of the greatest locations in the Uncharted series. The city has made quite a few appearances in games over the years, and has even served as the primary backdrop for a few, such as The Getaway and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Naughty Dog still managed to make London special in its own way, however.
The rain-slicked streets are beautiful to take in as the lamps reflect off of the glossy surface. Peering out into the city is just as rewarding as one would imagine, and the different locations that players encounter in this city are just as pleasing to the eye. The Pelican Inn, the train station, the secret library – all moments that help to set the tone for the beauty of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. The fact that you get to meet Charlie Cutter for the first time here as well only makes it even better.
The Sky (The Crashing Plane)
The burning plane segment of Uncharted 3 is easily one of the most memorable. What would be the end for your average adventure manages to be the setting for a truly awe-inspiring level.
Not many would think the sky could serve as a great location, unless you built a city on clouds, but the developers managed to craft a platforming, survival section right in the air. The large desert expanse below rapidly approaching, the dark plume of smoke from each of the plane’s engines, the cargo presenting the false hope of something to hold onto. It’s all fantastic.
There’s just something about seeing a ship graveyard that leaves its mark on you. Watching these great advancements in naval technology lie there, forever destroyed and lost to time, is saddening yet eerily beautiful. Waves crash upon bows which will never be steered, while hulls full of holes and masts snapped in half make up a maze of wood and iron.
Nathan Drake is brought here after been captured by Rameses, and it is clear that he is meant to become as the ships, dead and forgotten. It’s the perfect setting for Nate to show off his determination and skill as he fights to live.
After a long day fighting other thieves, escaping from ship graveyards, falling out of planes, and just getting your ass handed to you, a cruise sounds like a good idea. This particular cruise was as luxurious as they come. Spacious rooms, golden light fixtures, a full-sized swimming pool on the top deck. If given the opportunity, we’re sure that the catering would have proved to be just as impeccable. Unfortunately, things don’t usually go well for Nathan Drake, and his voyage onto The Seaward ends up being one of Uncharted’s most dynamic set-pieces as he races against rushing waters for his life.
As the cruse ship starts to sink, Nate is left navigating the rotating wreckage. One minute you’re sneaking through a beautiful ballroom, only to find yourself clinging to its extravagant chandeliers the next. It’s interesting to watch the ship slowly reduced to a heap of twisted steel as the monstrous ocean swallows it whole. Of course, Nate would have probably preferred to watch the transformation from a distance, but where’s the fun in that?