So far, we have discussed the characters and the world of “The Last Of Us,” and now it’s time to take a look at its story. To say that we are hyped for the TV show would be an understatement at this point, right? I mean, after all, we are covering different facets of the first game, but among all the amazing things that the game did and delivered, one thing stood out the most, and that was the game’s story and its storytelling. It was gut-punching and emotional. It was relatable. It was somber at times and gloomy at others. It was a very human tale of survival, complete with all the highs and lows, all the good and evil, and all the warmth and cold we humans face and experience in our lives. Will the show be able to match the caliber of how well-written and executed the game was? Will it stay fully authentic to the source material, or will it add its own spin to it? These are the questions that will be answered on January 15th, 2023; until then, all we can do is hope, wait and speculate. Let’s have a quick recap of the entire story of “The Last Of Us” while we wait. It goes without saying that this article will be full of spoilers.
Before I start with the story recap, I would quickly like to thank Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson once again for their stellar performances as Joel and Ellie. You guys can’t get enough praise for how well you performed here. Major kudos! Without further ado, this is the entire story of “The Last Of Us.”
The year is 2013, and Joel, a single father and our protagonist, comes back to his house from work and is greeted by his daughter Sarah. It’s Joel’s birthday, so Sarah surprises him with a new watch that she bought by saving up money. When Joel asks Sarah where did she get the money from, she jokingly responds that she’s selling drugs to make all this money, and then he pranks her by saying that the watch isn’t working. A few laughs later, Sarah falls asleep watching TV, and Joel picks her up and drops her to her room. In the middle of the night, Sarah wakes up and calls out to her dad, only to get no response. She walks through the empty halls of her house and witnesses a massive explosion in the distance through the window. Panicked, she rushes downstairs and finds Joel as he charges inside the house, panicked and looking for his gun. Sarah gets scared and asks her dad what’s wrong, and before Joel can respond, someone breaks into their house through the window, only he doesn’t behave like a human. Joel shoots this feral man, and Sarah remarks that he is their neighbor. Before they have time to understand what’s going on, Tommy, Joel’s younger brother, shows up in his truck, and the family gets into it, to escape. Tommy explains the situation as best he understands it, letting them know that it’s some sort of disease or virus as they try to escape the area and find someplace safe. Their truck gets into an accident, and Sarah’s leg gets injured, forcing Joel to carry her as Tommy holds onto the gun, protecting them from the “monsters” as everything turns to chaos around them. Tommy asks Joel to leave with Sarah as he stays behind alone, trying to buy them some time by holding off these monsters alone and promising he’ll meet them up ahead. A few moments later, Joel and Sarah almost get surrounded by the monsters as a soldier saves them, and before they can tell him anything, he points his gun at them. He asks his commanding officer for orders, to which he is instructed to shoot them, and while he doesn’t like what he hears, he is left with no choice as he has to follow his orders. He opens fire on Joel and Sarah, which sends them both tumbling down, and before he can execute Joel, Tommy saves the day by shooting the soldier in the head. Unfortunately, Sarah gets shot and succumbs to the bullet wound on the spot.
After the intro, the game skips 20 years into the future to the year 2033. We are introduced to Tess, a fellow smuggler and Joel’s partner inside the Boston quarantine zone. Tess informs Joel that some people tried to kill her during her last mission, and the hit was made by Robert, another smuggler inside the walls. Tess and Joel go out to hunt Robert, and upon finding him, he tells them that he stole and sold their guns to the fireflies. In a fit of rage, Joel and Tess kill Robert and go on the lookout for the fireflies, where they find their leader, Marlene. They explain the situation to Marlene, and she promises to give them back the guns and double the payment if they can smuggle some cargo out for her. It is revealed that the cargo is a teenage girl named Ellie, Joel and Tess reluctantly agree to do as they are directed. Outside the walls, the three are stopped by a patrol that scans them for the virus. Before they could scan Ellie, she attacked them, and Joel and Tess were left with no choice but to quickly kill the patrolling soldiers. They escape underground, and Ellie reveals that she was bitten three weeks ago but is still not infected. Because of this, Marlene thinks that she may be immune and is the key to ending this outbreak. Though skeptical, the gang fights their way to the drop-off point, the Capitol building, only to find the group of Fireflies members they were supposed to hand Ellie over to dead. Joel wishes to return home, but Tess asks him to continue and reveals that she was bitten during their last encounter with the clickers. Tess asks Joel to hand Ellie over to Tommy as he runs with the fireflies for a while and may know what to do with Ellie as she sacrifices her life to cover for them.
Joel, mad at the loss of Tess, asks Ellie to keep her mouth shut and do as he says as they move forward to find Bill to get a working car. After a heated meeting with Bill, Joel and Ellie acquire a working car. On their way to Pittsburg, they get ambushed by a group of hunters, and while escaping from them, they come across a pair of brothers, Sam and Henry, who are also trying to escape. When things escalate, Sam and Henry abandon Joel and Ellie, and in a last-ditch effort to escape the hunters, they jump off a broken bridge into the water as the current drags them along, and Joel is knocked unconscious. Joel regains consciousness back up at the shore and meets Sam and Henry once again. Angry that they abandoned them, Joel tries to kill Sam, only for Henry and Ellie to calm him down and convince him not to do so. The two pairs shake hands once again as they continue with their journey toward an abandoned radio tower. Once they reach the tower, they spend the night there, having a few laughs and conversations. This moment is the most heartwarming and calm moment in the entire story. Ellie and Sam have a deep conversation in the other room, and all of them decide to call it a night. In the morning, Henry prepares breakfast for them, and Ellie goes to the other room to wake Sam up, only to find out that he is infected. Joel tries to shoot Sam, but Henry stops him before he can and shoots Sam instead. Angry and in grief at the loss of his younger brother, Henry blames it all on Joel, and before Joel can say anything, Henry points the gun to his head and pulls the trigger, committing suicide.
After some time, Joel and Ellie find themselves in front of a group of armed men near a dam, and a woman interrogates them. They explain their situation, and Tommy shows up as he recognizes Joel and hugs his brother. Tommy introduces this woman, Maria, to them and tells them she’s his wife. Maria and Ellie leave to get something to eat while Joel and Tommy reminisce about their past, with Tommy mentioning how he has nightmares about the things they did in the past and how Maria is his redemption. Joel tells Tommy about his and Ellie’s situation and asks him if he can finish this job for him. Tommy says no initially, but Joel manages to convince him, and Tommy agrees. Their conversation is cut short as a pack of bandits attacks their settlement, and they fight their way across to get back to Ellie and Maria. Once they are safe, Tommy tells Maria about their new plan, and Maria isn’t too happy to hear any of it. Ellie listens to the entire conversation and confronts Joel about him abandoning her; they both have an argument, and Ellie, in a gush of anger and disappointment, steals a horse and rides it alone into the woods. When Joel and Tommy learn about her disappearance, they both grab a horse to go look for her. They find Ellie in an abandoned ranch, where she accuses Joel of abandoning him and mentions that everyone who knew her abandoned her. Joel tries to convince her that it’s for the best, and Ellie brings up Sarah and asks him if he’d do the same if Ellie were Sarah. This angers Joel, and before you know it, more bandits show up to attack them. They fight and kill all the bandits and make their way back to the dam. Joel changes his mind and decides that he’ll be the one to finish the job, and Tommy lets them know that the firefly lab is located at the University of Eastern Colorado.
They borrow a horse and leave for the university, only to find that it’s been abandoned for a long time. They learn the whereabouts of the new location of the fireflies, which is Saint Mary’s Hospital, but before they can act, they are attacked by another group of survivors. Joel is attacked by a man, and they both fall down two stories, and Joel gets impaled by a beam through his stomach. Ellie picks Joel up and helps him get on the horse as they make their escape. After riding for some time, Ellie lets Joel know that they are safe, and Joel passes out due to a loss of blood, leaving Ellie alone and panicked.
It’s winter now, and the land is covered in snow as we see Ellie hunting a rabbit and then going for a buck. She shoots the buck twice and follows the trail of blood to an abandoned shack, where she finds the buck laying dead. She is then approached by two seemingly friendly men, David and Henry, who tell Ellie that they are willing to trade supplies with her in exchange for a buck. Ellie is highly cautious of their friendly nature and asks them for some antibiotics, and Henry leaves to get them for her. David tries to make conversation, but Ellie keeps quiet as a group of infected approaches them, and they fight them off. After the fight, David reveals that the people who attacked them back at the university were his and that he’s been tracking them down ever since. He hands Ellie the antibiotics and gives her a chance to flee, which she takes and rushes back to Joel, who is still extremely weak from his injury. Not long after David and his men catch up to Ellie, in an effort to save Joel, she draws their attention and runs off on her horse. They give chase, and the horse is shot, but Ellie manages to avoid them and escape on foot, only for David to find her and knock her unconscious.
Ellie wakes up in a cage and sees the horrifying sight of Henry butchering a human body. David shows up and reveals that he and his group are cannibals, and he tries to get on Ellie’s good side by playing nice and telling her that he won’t hurt her. Ellie, taking none of it, tries to fight them off, and that angers David as he instructs Henry to cut her into little pieces. On the other hand, Joel regains consciousness and frantically looks for Ellie. He kills the rest of the men who tracked them down and tortured one till he gives away the location of where David took Ellie. With the knowledge of the location, Joel rushes toward the resort where Ellie is being held. Ellie tries to fight the men as they lay her on the butcher table, and just as she’s about to get stabbed, she reveals that she’s infected and shows them her bite mark. David and Henry are left in a state of shock, and Ellie uses this opportunity to grab the knife and stabs Henry in the neck with it. Ellie tries to escape the resort and ends up in a restaurant, where David traps her, and the building is set ablaze. Ellie fights David here, and they both are rendered unconscious in the struggle.
Ellie gains consciousness again and finds a machete. As she grabs it, David overpowers her and pins her to the ground, kicking her a bunch of times in the process. David threatens to kill her and alludes to raping her, unaware of the fact that she’s holding his machete. Before David has a chance to do anything, Ellie hacks the machete at him and kills him violently. In a state of shock and fear, she keeps stabbing him with the machete even after he is long dead, with tears pouring out of her eyes as Joel shows up and stops her. Still in shock, she believes Joel to be one of David’s men and tries to attack him as Joel embraces her and calms her down. After reassuring Ellie of her safety with Joel’s remark, “I am here, kiddo,” they both leave as we get a tiny glimpse of the corpse of the monster, which was David.
It’s the summer of 2034 now, and Joel and Ellie have arrived at their destination. Joel points out the hospital in the distance, and Ellie pays no mind to it. They climb a ledge, and Ellie runs off as she gets a glimpse of something. Joel gets scared of this and quickly follows her to find Ellie petting a giraffe. They share a moment petting the giraffes together and notice an entire pack of them. How these beautiful animals survived through all of this is beyond me, but it is one of the most wholesome sights in the entire story for both us as viewers and the characters themselves. Joel mentions to Ellie how they can go back to the settlement and forget about all of this and live a normal and happy life with Tommy and his family as the pair grows very close to each other and finds solace in each other. Ellie says that they should see this through first and then go back as they arrive in an area full of medical tents. Joel is reminded of the horrors that he saw back when the outbreak broke, and Ellie hands him a picture of him and Sarah that she stole back at Tommy’s settlement. Joel accepts this without getting angry and mentions emotionally that no matter how hard he tries, he can’t escape his past.
They make their way further and go through a tunnel, where Joel falls into a bus and gets trapped. Ellie tries to help him and falls into the water. Joel frees himself and jumps into the water to rescue Ellies, as she doesn’t know how to swim, and brings her back. Ellie, who is now unconscious, lays there as Joel relentlessly tries to resuscitate her and is interrupted by a firefly patrol. Joel is hellbent on getting Ellie back to consciousness and pays no mind to all the guns pointed at him as he gets knocked out by the group of fireflies.
Joel regains consciousness and finds himself in a hospital. He is greeted by none other than Marlene, who thanks him for bringing Ellie all the way here and lets him know that she is safe as well. Joel wishes to see Ellie, but Marlene informs him that won’t be possible as she is being prepped for surgery. Joel asks Marlene what will happen to Ellie once the surgery is over, and Marlene lets him know that she’ll die. Joel gets angry and demands to see Ellie, telling Marlene to find someone else. Their argument escalates, and another member of the fireflies escorts Joel out of the building at gunpoint as Marlene instructs him to shoot Joel if he tries anything. On his way out, Joel sees his belongings and turns the tables on the Firefly member, interrogating him about Ellie’s location in the building before brutally killing him. The gunfire attracts the rest of the fireflies, and Joel makes his way across the building, killing everyone as he reaches the operation theater and finds Ellie unconscious, surrounded by a couple of doctors. The doctors try to stop Joel, but he kills them, too, and grabs Ellie in his arms before making a break for the elevator. Dodging bullets and avoiding other Firefly members, Joel reaches the parking lot of the building to look for a car to escape in and finds Marlene there, holding him at gunpoint. Marlene tries to reason with Joel once again and asks him if he’d want Ellie to live in this world where “she’ll eventually get torn to pieces by a pack of clickers, and that is if she isn’t raped and murdered first.” Marlene lowers her gun as Joel is left thinking about what she said.
Then we see Joel driving away alone, only he is not alone as Ellie gains consciousness in the back seat and asks him what happened back at the hospital. The scene shifts back to the parking lot, and we see Joel shooting Marlene and leaving with Ellie, but he tells her that the fireflies don’t need her anymore as they’ve found out that a whole bunch of people are immune to the Cordyceps virus. Joel asks Ellie to rest as they make their way back to Tommy’s. A little while later, we see Joel and Ellie as their car breaks down, and Joel informs Ellie that they’ll have to walk the rest of the way. Ellie, distraught, looks back at her scar and recalls how everyone they ever knew got a bit turned and asked Joel if he told her the truth. Joel reassures Ellie that he is telling her the truth, to which Ellie asks him to swear to her that he isn’t lying, and Joel says, “I swear,” which Ellie reluctantly accepts, and the screen fades to black.
What a story, am I right? “The Last Of Us” blew us away with how well they told this simple story of survival in an apocalypse, and we cannot wait to see its retelling when the show comes out. It’s such a simple, emotional, and human story that is sure to put tears in your eyes. No one’s a hero here, and no one’s a villain; everyone is trying to survive the best they can in ways that make them either a saint or a monster. That’s the power of video games: to tell stories that are mature and deep while giving the players full control over the actions of the protagonist. “The Last Of Us” made us cry, smile, and get angry in ways that not many stories can, and it’s safe to say that this is one tale that we have remembered and will remember for years to come. There’s more story here in the form of lore and other things Naughty Dog did in the name of world-building that you can check out online, and as you know, we took a brief look at the characters and the world of “The Last Of Us,” which you can find out on our website here if you are interested. I hope you are as excited about the show as we are, and with that, I’ll take my leave and see you at the next one!