Having just spent a lot of time recently with the Uncharted series, I began to think back on not only those games, but what I would guess was the primary inspiration of that series - Tomb Raider. I played a handful of the Tomb Raider games in the past, back Lara was much more stiff and her world far less exciting to explore. All the same, her ability to explore and interact with her environment was exciting and largely new at the time.
However, the Tomb Raider games did not age very well, and the series suffered a series of missteps along the way. Tomb Raider did eventually start to regain its footing, but not long after the Uncharted series blasted onto the PlayStation 3 scene, and the parallels were glaring.
Uncharted learned a lot of lessons from Tomb Raider. The combination of platforming and gun play while trying to explore exotic locales and dusty ruins have the Tomb Raider fingerprints all over it. While both Lara and Nathan are ridiculously acrobatic, their personalities come across very differently as Nathan is a more approachable, less serious personality while Lara quite often comes across as all business.
Uncharted became a huge success for the PlayStation 3. Tomb Raider had seen some successful games but the development team saw an opportunity to reinvent Lara Croft with a prequel, showing her as a younger, different person while also leveraging the current generation hardware to make a movie-like experience.
Tomb Raider was even turned into a pair of movies, and there has been talk about an Uncharted movie for years now. The action is all well and good, but these games do rely on their stories as well. That is not to say these games are clones of one another - but the similarities from handguns to hanging on walls to searching for artifacts do make the comparisons a bit easier to sell.
I really liked Uncharted, and the follow-ups were very entertaining as well. However, Tomb Raider eventually learned lessons now from Nathan Drake's adventures. The cinema quality adventure had a lot in common with Uncharted, but Tomb Raider expanded things by offering an experience/progression system, offering more flexible environments and more exploration. I really enjoyed Tomb Raider, and as a game I like it just a bit more than Uncharted. The ability to interact with more of the environment (uncharted can be quite linear), the way you can level up - all of it makes for a more entertaining gameplay experience.
However, despite this younger, more vulnerable Lara, I think Nathan's antics still resonate better with people. Lara has been around a lot longer, and she is a strong female lead in an industry that still has more male leads than not. Drake however, is a warmer, friendlier personality. The stories are generally a bit better as well, with far more fleshed out characters along the way. If Tomb Raider is the better game, then Uncharted is still the better experience.
I find myself hoping that both franchises continue to learn from one another. I do not want the titles to become carbon copies of each other, but I think both series can improve. Nathan learned from Lara, then Lara learned from Nathan. My hope now is that both will continue to evolve. I am certain they will continue to be compared to one another for years to come. Just take a look at the images I found in about fifteen seconds of surfing the web. Fans often think of one of these franchises, then the other. I am sure more than a few would love to see a crossover.
Have you played games from one or both of these series? Did you like one more than the other - if so why?