Is Nathan Drake the new Lara Croft?

Being devastatingly good looking, proficient with firearms and adept at treasure hunting isn’t enough to warrant you a seat at the videogame adventurer’s table – you have to be popular too. Having been featured in movies, comic books, novels, and a series of animated short films, not to mention starring in no less than nine Tomb Raider games, British archaeologist and hot pants aficionado Lara Croft has certainly earned her seat at the head of the table, but a certain stubbly thrill-seeker might be looking to shakeup the lunchroom hierarchy. Could Nathan Drake, the wise-cracking central character of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted ever achieve the ubiquitous star status of Eidos’ Lara Croft?

“Why, do you think he’s not already there, if not beyond that point already, in terms of popularity?” questions game director Bruce Straley when asked if Drake would ever reach Croft’s iconic status. “I feel that Nathan Drake can stand on his own in any line up of the video game pantheon.”

“We’ve created something new with him by infusing him with traits more associated with a good movie protagonist than just a video game icon. It’s not just us drinking the kool-aid either – according to not an insignificant number of reviews, press, and forums, people have really taken to Nathan Drake’s character.”

“I think people like him because he’s compelling, and a much needed breath of fresh air in an industry that’s been a bit stale for a while, in terms of character.”

One system exclusive does not an icon make, but Straley stole the words from our fingertips in describing Uncharted”s hero as a breath of fresh air; the intelligent writing, nuanced animation and compelling characterization of Naughty Dog’s wise-cracking, treasure-hunting pulp hero made for the best gaming experience of 2008. That being said, will Nathan ever be as universally recognized as Lara?  There are two reasons to suspect not, and both are best appreciated in a tight tank top.

But even though Nathan clearly hasn’t reached the same level of “brand recognition” in the pop culture consciousness at large, and may never barring some pretty radical sexual reassignment surgery, he could well be on his way to becoming a videogame icon in his own right. With a sequel in the works and talk of a movie, Nathan Drake’s star is clearly on the rise.