Hello once again and welcome to a special edition of Clash at the Stash, a staff collaboration series from those of us here at The Nerd Stash. This series pits two of our writers against each other over hotly contested nerd culture topics that have been going on for days to decades. Here, you will see things like the Mario franchise vs. the Zelda franchise, Xbox exclusives vs. PlayStation exclusives, and Old School Assassin’s Creed games vs. New School Assassin’s Creed games.
I’m your host, Taylor Cole. At this point in the article, I usually go into a whole cheesy spiel, but we don’t have time for that today. Instead, we should quickly discuss this specific matchup.
This is sure to be a divisive debate due to their similar premises — Tomb Raider vs. Uncharted. We’re going to talk about the good, the bad, the ugly, and possibly even the failed movie franchises. Or in the case of Uncharted, a movie franchise that has yet to really get off the ground. I mean, the Uncharted movie has been in development hell for so long that Mark Wahlberg has gone from playing Nathan Drake to playing Sully.
This clearly cursed Uncharted movie just lost its 6th director. https://t.co/JuiqRtRGxC
— Johnny Reynolds (@Avatar_Johnny) December 30, 2019
Okay, scratch that. Are we sure that this movie will ever release?
Anyway, this specific matchup is also essential because it is our first-ever Clash at the Stash championship contest (or unintentionally acronymed as the C.A.T.S championship). Don’t worry, our C.A.T.S title will definitely look much better than the Cats movie. I can guarantee that.
The winner of this debate will become the first-ever C.A.T.S champion and end the decade on the highest of notes. On a side note, what am I doing with my life?
Over time, we’re hoping to add on another reward for the winner or a stipulation for the loser of these contests. So if anything comes to mind, be sure to let us know in the comments below.
Here are the rules. Both writers will have 500-1,000 words to argue for their side or to bash the opposition. After they are done with that, I’ll direct you to our three judges (other members on TNS staff), who’ll give out their final verdict based on what the writers said and how entertaining they were.
In the corner of Tomb Raider, sitting at 1-0 and with well over 100 hours exploring dangerous crypts for treasure, we have Johnny Reynolds. Then we have the also undefeated Shelby Royal, coming in at 1-0 and easily 150 hours exploring uncharted lands with Nathan Drake. Now that we have that covered, let’s start this championship contest with Tomb Raider:
There aren’t many game franchises that have as much in common as Tomb Raider and Uncharted do. Both are part of the action-adventure genre, both follow a scrappy treasure hunter, and both take place in exotic, awe-inspiring locales. And they seem to have both influenced each other for the better.
But what makes Tomb Raider the stronger franchise? Well, there’s the easy answer of how iconic Lara Croft is. She was designed by Toby Gard, but he had actually begun with a male character. He changed course because he wanted her to be more unique. And as much as I love Nathan Drake and Amy Hennig for creating him, he’s legitimately a mishmash of influences thrown together. Hennig took inspiration from Indiana Jones and other classic adventure stories to craft the series. There’s a reason that the character type of “charming jackass with a heart of gold” is so popular. Every time there’s a Han Solo or Malcolm Reynolds or Starlord, we all fall in love with them.
But Lara is different. When she debuted in 1996, she was one of the most strong-willed, confident, badass characters players had ever seen. She was on magazine covers and being talked about by everyone, not just the players. And this was over 20 years ago when gaming wasn’t nearly as widespread as it is today.
I’ll concede that Uncharted has more entertaining supporting characters. Sully and Elena are fantastic. They boost Drake’s personality as any good supporting character should. But when I think of Tomb Raider, I think of a more personal journey. Lara is usually surviving alone in harsh landscapes against terrifying odds. And even in these landscapes, the series has learned from Uncharted and evolved past it.
I’ve always felt that Tomb Raider has a much more profound respect for its setting and the cultures that exist there. Maybe this isn’t true of early entries, where Lara dual-wields pistols against wolves and t-rexes. But with the way the series has grown, it’s much more noticeable. Venturing off the beaten path will often earn you something extra in the form of relics, challenges, or journal entries that bolster the story. You’ll also find resources to improve your weapons. If you don’t care about increasing damage or ammo capacity or anything else that can help you, maybe stick to Uncharted.
You can find artifacts in Uncharted, but you learn nothing from them. Beginning with the 2013 reboot, Lara will always tell the player what the item is and how it connects to the area in an engaging, anecdotal way. None of these collectibles or challenges are required. But at least they offer players an extra something to do. In contrast, the collectibles in Uncharted may as well not exist at all. This also adds another layer to Lara’s character. She’s incredibly intelligent, but she also brings a sense of childlike wonder thanks to voice actress Camilla Luddington’s delivery. She’s excited about what she’s uncovered, and she wants you to be, too.
I grew up with Nintendo, where gameplay is always king over the story. I never owned a PlayStation, which, even in the mid-90s, was showing how powerful a storytelling medium games could be. I was closed off to what I didn’t know, which I’m sure is common for many of us. To me, games were one thing and one thing only: toys.
Incredible toys, but toys nonetheless. There were occasional exceptions, of course. Certain entries in The Legend of Zelda made me care about supporting characters as I rose into the role of the hero. But did I ever care about Link, the blank slate meant to connect the player to the world? Obviously not. And a friend’s old PlayStation 2 did introduce me to the God of War series, whose mythologically massive world fascinated me. But did I care about Kratos, the monstrous hothead who ripped apart everything good and pure? Hard no. Not until 2018, at least.
But in 2014, everything changed for me. I had just moved back home after completing a film internship in California that made me acutely aware that film was not the profession for me. I had always loved writing; I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about. It was in this time of uncertainty that my best friend (and new roommate) let me play the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider on his Xbox One.
I had played other games in the series before. But this was unlike anything I had ever experienced. This origin saw Lara Croft as new to the adventuring profession. But she was also unsure of her ability to survive on a harsh and unfriendly island. Throughout the course of the game, she grew from a girl riddled with self-doubt to a stone-cold survivor. Her progression was one of the most harrowing things I had ever seen, and it’s the first time I can remember genuinely rooting for a character to make it through. That might sound silly, given that I was in control of her, and rooting was unnecessary. But that’s how perfectly everything came together. My place in the real world, Lara’s place in her story, and Camilla Luddington’s sorrowful yet powerfully inspirational performance. It would take some time before I began writing about games, but the fuse had been lit.
The Uncharted series is an adrenaline shot of cinematic entertainment that I will forever hold dear. But Tomb Raider opened me up to what games could be. Yes, they’re highly interactive toys. But they can also be breathtaking works of art. It’s because of that game that I’m more passionate about video games and have experienced so many other creations. It’s because of that game that I find myself on my current career path. And it’s because of that game that you’re all here, reading my words.
Oh, Uncharted. For me, this is definitely one of those franchises that are near and dear to my heart. Perhaps it stems from a deep love for the Indiana Jones films, or perhaps it has to do with Nathan Drake’s relatability. Either way, whether climbing through ancient ruins or plundering secret pirate cities, it’s nearly impossible not to have a good time while playing an Uncharted game (Unfortunately for my competitor, the same cannot be said for Shadow of the Tomb Raider….)
When it comes to the Uncharted franchise, its shining star is Nathan Drake – who might easily be one of my favorite video game characters of all time. He isn’t a burly action hero who always has a plan; he isn’t a selfish, money-hungry thief (well… not entirely). One thing that makes Nathan Drake so great is his relatability. He’s a young kid who dreams of a big adventure. He’s a vulnerable hero who figures it out as he goes along. He deals with the pain of responsibility and the possibility of having to put those grand dreams aside. In a way, Nathan Drake has grown up with his audience, and, because of that, we’re able to put ourselves in his shoes… Even if those shoes are shooting bullets at yeti-like monsters. Nathan Drake is a well-written character, and it takes a special kind of man to bring him to life.
I could easily win this competition with just two words: Nolan. North. Nolan North is nothing short of a treasure, and his portrayal of Nathan Drake really brings the series of games to life. If Nolan wasn’t enough for you, Troy Baker, Emily Rose, Richard McGonagle, and numerous other voice actors deliver nothing short of spectacular performance after spectacular performance. In a series brimming with diverse, well-developed and interesting characters, the actors bringing them to life are crucial, and it’s one of Uncharted’s greatest strengths.
Before moving off of the topic of characters, I have to bring up something important: female characters. Especially in the newer franchise, Lara Croft is brilliant and resourceful, cunning, and cut-throat. That being said, we all know that something more… physical probably comes to mind when thinking of Lara. Uncharted is chock full of female characters that don’t rely on their bodies to make an impact. Elena Fisher, Chloe Frazer, and Nadine Ross are more than love interests. Not only are they perfectly capable of saving themselves, but they save Drake on more than one occasion.
At the end of the day, Uncharted is an adventure, and it never stops feeling that way. This series of games have dealt with its fair share of serious topics: betrayal, family, giving up, responsibility… the list goes on. However, it never stops being a thrilling joy ride. As much as I have enjoyed some of the Tomb Raider games, I feel like the light-hearted attitude of Uncharted is what makes it superior. It’s comical and heart-pounding, it’s exciting and thrilling. Really, it’s everything you want out of an action flick, but it still has the impact of a well-written narrative surrounding likable, relatable characters.
The Tomb Raider franchise has seen its fair share of facelifts. So, partially, I think it’s hard to fully compare the two. And I know the original franchise paved the way for games like Uncharted. But, there is something to be said about the fact that the most recent Tomb Raider games are fashioned a lot like the Uncharted games. So, even the developers think Naughty Dog did it better.
That concludes what may be our best debate yet (and I’m not just saying that because it is our final matchup of the year). Let’s see what our judges thought and who will end up as our first-ever C.A.T.S champion:
Having to judge Tomb Raider vs. Uncharted seemed unfair to me. I love both and didn’t have a clue who to pick. My decision is purely based on the arguments that were put before me. Both writers managed to put together great cases for their respective choice and the fact that Tomb Raider has inspired a whole career choice is a wonderful and touching moment.
Unfortunately, it can’t inspire a win, at least not for me.
Johnny’s argument relies too heavily on the rebooted Tomb Raider. Had he talked about the classics more, he may have been able to sway me as personally I find them a far greater experience. I’m awarding my point to Shelby. Not out of personal bias or favoritism to the old games, but for the words she said that convinced me.
Brandon Stephenson (Already nursing his New Year’s hangover) –
I’m not going to mince words here, Uncharted gets my vote. Not only is each game unforgettable, but Shelby knocks it out of the park with her arguments.
The cast of characters in the franchise are incredible, the voice acting is top-notch, and the overall thrill of each title. Who could ever forget the opening moments of Uncharted 2 or the plane flying over the desert in Uncharted 3? Naughty Dog set the bar for action-adventure games, and I’m not sure it’s been touched by any developer yet.
Of course, I should say there probably wouldn’t be Nathan Drake or Uncharted without Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider franchise, so the nod goes there. Still, Uncharted gets my vote.
Jeremy Harris (The Man, The Myth, The Legend, or something like that) –
I am happy to have the chance to be a judge here for this special Clash at the Stash championship. However, picking between two amazing franchises is always a challenge.
The two beloved franchises of Tomb Raider and Uncharted are personal favorites of mine. I can appreciate Johnny’s take on Tomb Raider. The rebooted franchise took a deep-dive into the evolution of Lara Croft as a character over the course of three major games. I have always been a fan of her character, how strong-willed she truly is, and her core survivalist skills when all the odds are stacked against her.
On the other hand, Shelby has so many great points about Nathan Drake. A character who does not lust for fame or attention. The story, the character, and the experiences make it something truly unique that sucks you in as a player. It is no wonder why this franchise is loved by so many and why it won me over years ago.
Uncharted vs. Tomb Raider? It’s a tough call due to these two awesome franchises but due to the arguments above, Uncharted has my vote.
WINNER: Shelby Royal and the Uncharted franchise
Like every other Clash at the Stash matchup, I had a brief interview with the winner. Here’s the transcript of that interview:
Taylor Cole: “Shelby, congrats on becoming the first-ever Clash at the Stash (C.A.T.S) champion! Looking back on the last decade, did you ever imagine reaching these heights and what kind of champion do you hope to be?”
Shelby Royal: “Thank you, thank you! I’d like to thank all the wonderful people at Naughty Dog, PlayStation, and Uncle Noly himself for this victory! I never would have imagined I would be the very first C.A.T.S champion, but I am so honored to have the opportunity to write about the things I love every day. As to what type of champion I hope to be… I hope to be the one who sees and appreciates the good in every competitor. Win or lose, we argue our points because these things mean something to us on a deep level, and I never want to discount that for anyone.”
Which franchise do you think is better? Uncharted or Tomb Raider? What do you want to see us argue about next? Let us know in the comments below!