Editorial: Is Naughty Dog the Game Critic’s Darling?

These games are indeed fantastic, but do critics sometimes give them free passes?

These games are indeed fantastic, but do critics sometimes give them free passes?

Every industry has a “darling” in regards to their artists. Sometimes, it’s an underdog actor that beat the odds and landed an Oscar nomination. Other times, it might be a blind author who stuns the world with amazingly descriptive writing.

In video games, it could be argued that the industry’s current darling is the team at Naughty Dog.

Having produced several amazing and Game of the Year-worthy productions over the past seven years or so, this developer has been praised and lauded many times over. Before The Last Of Us, one could argue they were a one-trick pony, having only tilted the popularity and critical scales with one franchise: Uncharted.

The Last Of Us won countless awards...but there's a very good reason for that.

The Last Of Us won countless awards…but there’s a very good reason for that.

But they proved they could rule the roost with another incredible game, and therefore ended up producing two nearly unparalleled new IPs in the same generation.

However, there are many gamers who accuse critics of letting such titles slide on the errors, simply because Naughty Dog was at the helm. I’m old enough to remember a time when gamers accused critics of doing this whenever a Squaresoft title hit the shelves. Didn’t matter what it was; in those days, anything Squaresoft touched turned to gold. That included non-RPGs, too (remember Einhander?).

So, is Naughty Dog the recipient of undue acclaim due to an industry-wide bias favoring their work?

We at VGRHQ have thought about this for some time, and our conclusion is that in fact, the Uncharted games and TLoU have received the proper amount of praise. Now, we can point to some reviews that clearly profess a love for the games in question, and may perhaps overlook a few obvious flaws. That being said, in all fairness, how many “obvious flaws” do such titles have? Really?

The Uncharted franchise is highly revered and respected, as it should be.

The Uncharted franchise is highly revered and respected, as it should be.

The bottom line is that in this instance, Naughty Dog has earned this acclaim. Whenever there’s a “darling” design team out there, people are quick to pick things apart, quick to point to “paid off” critics who are either “fanboys” or somehow in the developer’s pocket. That really doesn’t happen to begin with (as we make plain in our Mission Statement) and in general, we think the vast majority of critics are merely expressing their legitimate, genuine admiration.

That’s our take on the matter. As many of us here have reviewed all of Naughty Dog’s games, we know they’re not perfect. We also know that in comparison to 99.9 percent of the games out there, Naughty Dog’s efforts are generally a cut above. All the time.

Yeah, that’s worthy of lots of recognition, we say.

5 thoughts on “Editorial: Is Naughty Dog the Game Critic’s Darling?”

I think the only time we see a critical bias was with Uncharted 3. That game had a few issues that most critics just decided to ignore, presumably because it was made by Naughty Dog.

The same could almost be said for The Last Of Us, but it was so good that it can be forgiven.

Naughty Dog deserves every ounce of acclaim they’ve received.

Uncharted and TLoU are just a cut above and that’s that.

Well said!

And I second that. 🙂

One of the few developers that have routinely pushed the industry forward, raised the bar and exceeded expectations with every new title. I couldn’t agree more WheresPortal3.

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