One writer dissects the third act of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, and comes to the conclusion that Nathan Drake's true fate is not what it seems on the surface.
Like many PS4 owners, I spent a good deal of the last couple of weeks playing Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. While I mostly loved the game, something felt off to me in the game's third act, and after thinking on it more, I think that its final moments are not as straight forward as they seem.
Be warned that in order to explain my theory about what really happened at the end of Uncharted 4, I have to venture pretty deep into spoiler territory. If you don't want Uncharted 4's ending spoiled for you, then I suggest finishing it up before returning. Everyone else, feel free to join me as I dissect the conspiracy of Uncharted 4's ending, and what I think is the true of fate of our hero, Nathan Drake – though keep in mind that this is just a theory.
Before I get to the events of the ending, however, I need to talk a bit about what was going on before the game released, in order to set the stage. First of all, the game's creative team had a significant shakeup a couple of years back. Series writer and creative director Amy Hennig left Naughty Dog, and not long after that, Uncharted 4's game director departed from the studio as well.
In order for the game to be finished, the duo that directed The Last of Us, Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann, stepped in to fill the creative void left in the Uncharted 4 team. The Last of Us is much more focused on storytelling than the Uncharted series, and has various complexities simply not present in Nathan Drake's adventures. However, with The Last of Us directors at the helm of Uncharted 4, it's reasonable to think that one of their goals would be to add more depth to the story.
The pre-release speculation of Uncharted 4 led many to believe that this would be accomplished by offing main characters, specifically Nathan Drake. Naughty Dog itself hinted that Uncharted 4 would see the death of Nathan Drake, but as anyone that has completed the game can attest, that doesn't come to pass. What happens instead is all of the characters have their issues resolved, all the heroes get a happy ending, and the story is tied up in a neat little bow. This stands in stark contrast to the polarizing, complex ending of The Last of Us, and based on the previous work of Straley and Druckmann, I don't think things in Uncharted 4's finale are quite that simple.
So, with the Uncharted 4 team welcoming the visceral storytellers of Druckmann and Straley, and the insistence from Naughty Dog that Uncharted 4 would be Nathan's last adventure, many fans assumed that Nathan Drake would die in Uncharted 4. Those that have finished the game will say, "Well, he didn't die. They tricked us! Those sly, naughty dogs!" However, I think that Nathan Drake did die in Uncharted 4, and I can even pinpoint the exact moment it happened.
In Uncharted 4, Nathan lies to his wife Elena in order to go on a grand treasure hunt with his brother Sam Drake. Elena becomes wise to Nathan's exploits, and confronts him at King's Bay. She indicates that she is deeply hurt by Nathan's betrayal, and she leaves, fidgeting with her wedding ring. Nathan then tells his friend Sully to leave as well, and the Drake brothers resolve to find the hidden treasure of legendary pirate captain Henry Avery themselves.
Unfortunately for the Drake brothers, not all goes as planned. They run into rival treasure hunter Rafe Adler, who attempts to shoot Nate. Sam jumps in the way of the bullet, though accidentally knocks Nathan off a cliff in the process. Nathan has a pretty perilous tumble, smacks his head on a jagged rock, and then falls to the jungle floor below. In my theory, this is where Nathan Drake dies, and what proceeds is his version of an afterlife.
Before this incident occurs, nothing is going right for Nate. Elena is on the verge of leaving him, Sully is mad at him, he finds out his brother was lying to him the whole time, and he just got knocked off the side of a cliff. However, right after this occurs, Elena just so happens to be in the exact right spot in the jungle to tend to his wounds. She's also no longer upset with him, and neither is Sully, who has returned to help everyone escape Rafe and his goons.
My question is: How did Sully and Elena know where Sam and Nate are?
Unless I am forgetting a line of dialogue or something that explains this away, Sully and Elena should have no idea where Sam and Nate are. That's because the brothers had to solve more puzzles and find more clues in order to find their way to the correct island where Avery's treasure is stashed. Elena does say that she "followed the gunfire," but the ocean is a big place, and her being in exactly the right place at the right time is a little farfetched, even for this bombastic series.
Elena shows up, I think, because that's what Nate's bliss is. His eternal happiness consists of him and his wife going on crazy adventures together - and more importantly his wife wanting to go on these adventures, which clearly wasn't the case before he fell and smacked his head on a rock. His happiness is Sully and Sam getting along, which again, wasn't really the case before he hit his head on the rock. His happiness is finding Avery's treasure, defeating Rafe, and nothing bad ever really happening to him again - and from this point on in the story, nothing bad happens to Nathan Drake.
Nathan and his friends defeat the bad guys, get some treasure, and live happily ever after. Elena manages to pull some strings to get some permits for Nate to do legitimate work in Malaysia, and his old boss is able to retire. Anything that could go right does go right for Nathan Drake after he busts his head on that rock in the jungle, and I think that is further proof that he is experiencing the afterlife - not reality.
Even when it looks like something bad could happen, it just doesn't. Take, for example, Sam almost dying on Avery's pirate ship. We are shown that it is impossible for Nate to lift the beam off Sam's body, and it looks as though Sam is done for. Instead Nate is able to use a cannon to blow a hole in the floor of the ship. The cannon still works perfectly, despite being hundreds of years old at this point. The gunpowder inside the cannon probably would have deteriorated by the time Nate needed to use it to save his brother's life. Of course, it hasn't in Uncharted 4, and that is because, in my opinion, none of these things are actually happening.
And then in the game's epilogue, players take control of Nate and Elena's daughter, Cassie. They all live together on a gorgeous beach that could be Nathan Drake's idea of Heaven. Cassie's room doesn't have many modern knickknacks despite it being many years after the events of Uncharted 4 - in fact, she plays Crash Bandicoot on a PS1 for her entertainment, and she only plays the same level that Drake played decades earlier with Elena.
Why is this? I would argue that their beach properties don't have many newer items because it can only have items Nate himself is familiar with. If he can't visualize an item, then it can't exist in his Heaven, so to speak. That's why Cassie is playing a PlayStation 1. That's why she's playing Crash Bandicoot on that PlayStation 1. And that's why she just so happens to be playing a very specific level of Crash Bandicoot on that PlayStation 1 - because that is the only level Nathan Drake played before he died.
Of course, I could be completely off base here. Perhaps what Naughty Dog presented to us is exactly what happened, and Nathan Drake and his family and friends lived happily ever after. After all, Nate has survived much more traumatic things than smacking his head on a rock, and the Uncharted series isn't exactly known for having hidden story meanings or anything like that. Whatever the case may be, I think that this particular video game conspiracy theory is at least a little interesting, and who knows, maybe others will find even more evidence to back up the "Nathan Drake is dead" theory in their own Uncharted 4 adventures.
What do you think of my theory? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is available now as a PlayStation 4 exclusive.