A good story can make you feel like its characters and world are real, and when it’s over, you don’t want to say goodbye. With today’s screenwriting, the sensation of loss that follows the end of a good TV series is not uncommon. Gamers, however, don’t often get to feel that way. Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series is one of the few exceptions – especially because, apart from Tomb Raider, few games have tried so hard to capture the flavor of pulp adventure serials.
If you’re a fan of the genre, that’s a problem. For better or worse, a new Tomb Raider sequel will undoubtedly come out in the next few years (accompanied by a rebooted movie, likely of dubious quality). Other interactive prospects are pretty slim.
Although pulp adventure is still rarely used in contemporary media – try looking for a comprehensive guide to it online! – just about everyone loves the genre made famous by Indiana Jones. These stylized, far-flung tales of fantastic spectacle, bareknuckle action and MacGuffins are typically irresistible to anyone that enjoys a good yarn, which makes the end of the Uncharted series that much harder to stomach.
In that spirit, here are some other pulpy trips to take.
Out of the relatively few interactive takes on genre that have been made, most are, for whatever reason, point-and-clicks. Lost Horizon – which incidentally is also the name of a book and subsequent film of the same name, as well as where Shangri-La comes from – is a lesser-known one that nevertheless has the ring of pulpy authenticity with a period story starring the aptly-named Brit smuggler Fenton Paddock. Could be a nice alternative to Uncharted 2’s take on the fabled city, whose inspiration came in part from the 1937 film adaptation.
Flight of the Amazon Queen
Another point-and-click, this time inspired more directly inspired (obviously) by LucasArts own Monkey Island as well as Indy’s graphic adventures. It was ported to iOS in 2014, too.
While I wouldn’t characterize La-Mulana as pulp per se, it’s still an endlessly engrossing homage to everything you want from a rollicking adventure. Sprawling, labyrinthine ruins filled with dangerous traps and maddeningly obscure puzzles force you to think organically like Nate or Indy, (unless you cheat your way through puzzles by looking up the answers online, which you absolutely shouldn’t do) and the atmosphere is killer. A word of warning that the game is punishingly difficult, but it’s worth it.
Broken Sword series
Probably the most well-known of any point-and-click adventure series (and the best competition Uncharted has for great character writing), Broken Sword first beat Dan Brown to the punch in 1994 with an international mystery involving the Knights Templar, co-starring an American civilian and a French journalist, whose adventures would eventually span the globe over five games. An excellent director’s cut of the original was released in 2010; thats the best place to start this well-loved series.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss
You probably forgot that there’s an Uncharted Vita game. Or you dont have a Vita. Either way it’s pretty good, despite some goofy Vita-centric design gimmicks and and Nate’s doofy backpack. Sony would do well to port it to PS4.
LEGO Indiana Jones
Brick Harrison Ford in a brick fedora. LEGO games hadn’t implemented voice acting yet, so even better.
Way back when, Rudyard Kipling essentially became synonymous with exploration fiction. 1939s Gunga Din, based on one of his poems, stars a horribly hammy Cary Grant as one of three British soldiers looking for a golden temple in India, pitted against the same Thugee death cult that Indy would eventually face in Temple of Doom. Overtones of colonial racism aside (see also Sean Connery and Michael Caine’s excellent 1975 The Man Who Would Be King), this one is pretty good – and interestingly makes a strong case for the crazy shootouts Uncharted has been criticized for over the years.
King Solomon’s Mines
The first appearance of H. Rider Haggard’s British hunter Allan Quartermain, who would eventually become a character in Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. There’s no doubt the trailer for the 1950 adaptation is, problematically, uh, quaint, but the story itself is still one of the most influential of the genre.
Lawrence of Arabia
David Lean’s nearly four-hour epic isnt pulp and still manages to be one hell of an incredible adventure. (Not to mention that it, along with the more-pulpy and just as enjoyable Poseidon Adventure, were huge inspirations for Uncharted 3.) All those Oscars Lawrence won probably prove that point, though.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
A down-on-his luck Bogey wears a fedora throughout this character-driven treasure hunt in the mountains of Mexico. Uncharted took a lot of inspiration from the characterizations here.
Not to be confused with Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt novel (or the Matthew McConaughey adaptation), 1943’s Sahara also stars Bogart leading an international crew trapped with a rundown tank in the middle of the African desert during WWII. Interestingly, the MacGuffin in this one is a well the allies are defending from the Nazis – an interesting twist on the typical trope in an already unique war film departure. Another one full of great character moments.
Ever wonder where “dead man’s chest” comes from or why X marks the spot? Because Robert Louis Stevenson said so. Even today Treasure Island is a swashbuckling classic.
The first in the long-running Ethan Gage series of adventure novels, kind of like a more literary Dan Brown or Clive Cussler, where Gage is tasked with solving an centuries-old mystery with an ancient medallion. If you like this one, there are about 20 more.
Uncharted: The Fourth Labyrinth
Uncharted’s first and only literary foray into cross-media, this is thematically about as Uncharted as you can get: lost labyrinths, ancient riddles, the call of a possibly cursed treasure and a murder to solve. I wish they’d made more of these (though there are a number of Indiana Jones novels too, at least).
The Adventures of Tintin
The amazing tales of Herge’s boy journalist and adventurer need no introduction. Just go read them. Watch the 2011 CG film, while you’re at it – Steven Spielberg’s adaptation is a much more spirited Indy with much better set pieces – than Crystal Skull could hope to be.