The US game The Last of Us Part I has been a hit with Sony PlayStation gamers since it first hit the shelves back in 2013. With the intense combat encounters, Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker’s brilliant voice acting, the amazing emotional storytelling, and incredible visual detail, there was no question that the younger sibling to the Uncharted series had become a beloved game.
So, when the next game was released in 2020, and people swarmed in so that they could get their hands on it and continue with Joel and Ellie’s story, it came as a surprise to no one. Even new players who had never previously heard of the game went mad over it, and The Last of Us Part II ended up winning the Game of the Year award.
With players having formed emotional attachments to the characters in the previous game and knowing a lot more about the world this time around, it gave writers both an opportunity to do more with their original story and a bit of a challenge with how they were going to make the new game and the plans they had for it, work in a way that wouldn’t have players absolutely hating the decisions they’d made. Thankfully, they were successful in their endeavours and managed to create a game that caused both the players and characters the perfect amount of heartache without taking anything away from the story or original vision of the game.
With The Last of Us Part II having such an open-ended ending, Part 3 became the most anticipated game, and it wasn’t even in the works yet. Fortunately for fans, in April of 2021, Oops Leaks reported that it was confirmed by Neil Druckmann (the co-president of Naughty Dog and Creative Director of The Last of Us Part II) that he and his co-writer Halley Gross had already started on the story and outline of the script for Part 3, but the game itself wouldn’t actually be in development until Naughty Dog was finished with the upcoming projects they were already working on at the time.
Based on the time frame between Part 1 and Part 2, players can probably assume that it will be a long time before we get The Last of Us Part 3 on the PlayStation 5, especially with all the new additions to the upcoming game. At this point, the earliest and most likely time we will news about the release date of the game will probably be anytime after 2026. While this is frustrating for fans, we are more than happy to wait for Naughty Dog to complete their new game because the time, effort, and love that goes into every piece of their games are very clear to players who decide to travel through the different worlds they’ve created.
While we wait for the official announcement about the third game from Naughty Dog, why don’t we take a deep dive into the previous two games and take a look at some of the things we’re hoping will make a reappearance and some of the storylines that should be tied off to give players a satisfying ending to a game they have come to love.
Warning: Spoilers for the first two games ahead. Proceed with Caution. Unless you’re here for the spoilers, then have at it, my friend.
A deep dive into what happened in the previous two games
In the first game, we’re introduced to two new characters, Joel, a ruthless and cynical survivor in a post-apocalyptic world, and 14-year-old Ellie, the young girl (who he later learns is immune to the virus) that he is tasked to protect and smuggle across the country. and he eventually ends up forming a very strong bond with her. In The Last of Us Part I, they are faced with a constant struggle for survival, avoiding people and the infected alike in the ravaged civilization.
Ellie begins to bring out a softer and more compassionate side to Joel while Joel teaches her how to use a weapon properly. They have a couple of clashes as they go, but Joel soon learns that he is unable to leave the teenage girl, and begins to think of her as his daughter, going so far as to use the same pet name he once used for his daughter Sarah before he lost her on the day of the outbreak.
The bond that he has formed over the course of the game becomes a problem for the Fireflies after Joel learns that they want to use her to create a vaccine so that humanity might stand a chance against this infection. While he knows that this is something that Ellie would have wanted to do, in a moment of selfishness, Joel refuses to let her sacrifice herself and lies to her about what happened at the lab, telling her that they had stopped looking for a cure.
This would come back to bite Joel in the second game when Ellie finally learns the truth about what happened at the hospital. In her anger she cuts Joel out of her life, leaving the man shattered. Despite this, he would still do what he could to make sure she was safe and let her know that he supported her no matter what. Unfortunately, for players and characters alike, in The Last of Us Part II, Joel doesn’t make it to the end to make amends.
Players then continue to follow Ellie and Abby, swapping between the different perspectives throughout the game as they deal with their loss at different stages, though in very similar ways. Ellie is on a revenge path and looking for Abby and anyone that stops her from doing so, losing a bit of the compassion that was much a part of her in Part 1. Abby has already had her revenge and is now dealing with the consequences of it and trying to become a better person.
The girls finally clash, and Abby comes out on top but warns Ellie off of coming for her again with the words, “Don’t ever let me see you again.” For a good 18 months, neither of the women sees the other.
We get a glimpse at the life that Ellie is living with Dina, but the peacefulness of it is quickly ruined by the PTSD that she is experiencing that was caused by Joel’s passing and the news Tommy (Joel’s brother) brings about Abby’s last known location. In an attempt to finally get closure, she travels to California, determined to end her revenge quest no matter what it takes, despite her choice upsetting Dina. Things don’t quite go according to plan.
She finds Abby worse for wear, nowhere near what she was on their first encounter, strung up and left for dead. In a moment of compassion, Ellie releases her, but she can’t get past the images of Joel that are haunting her, so she forces Abby into a duel. Both women are broken and desperate, trying to survive, and Ellie gains the upper hand.
Just as she is about to exact her revenge against the person who took her father figure from her, she is faced with a memory of him that reminds her of who she is. She remembers that she is capable of mercy and forgiveness and manages to look passed her need for revenge, and lets Abby live. They go their separate ways, Abby escaping with Lev via boat and Ellie returning home to Dina, who is nowhere to be found when she gets back.
After struggling to play a song, thanks to the fingers she lost during the brawl with Abby, she puts the guitar down, and we watch as she walks back into the Wilderness.
Players were then left staring at their screens, with a somewhat melancholy feeling settling in as they wondered what they were going to do now. While the ending of The Last of Us Part II was a bit more definitive than the much more violent ending of Part 1, it was a lot more open-ended and left fans with a lot more questions.
As a result, speculation about where Naughty Dog was going to take Ellie and the rest of her story in The Last of Us Part 3 began circulating.
When Ellie returns to her farmstead at the end of The Last of Us Part II, she finds her home has been completely vacated except for their studio. No Dina or JJ (the baby they were raising together and had named in honour of Joel and Jesse) in sight, no parting note to give her an explanation of where they had gone, just an empty house with a couple of memories left inside.
Looking at the last scene in the game, we can assume two things:
One, Ellie has accepted Joel’s death and is walking away from the anger that she let consume her. She has forgiven him for what he did and moving on from it.
Two, she is most definitely going off to find Dina and JJ so she can fix the relationship that she broke after she made the decision to go after Abby.
The question we should really be asking is whether she is actually going to recover from the trauma of this game and if Dina will actually forgive Ellie for what she put her through. It may take some time, but we’re hoping that Naughty Dog will have a change of heart about what seems to have become a theme of tragic endings and give their main character the happy ending she deserves in The Last of Us Part 3, especially after all the nonsense she’s been through.
Why the sudden introduction of a brutal group of mercenaries?
Naughty Dog has always gone through great efforts to flesh out and add colour to each of their characters and all the faction in The Last of Us, going above and beyond with details outside of the main story. Each of them has some sort of code or a set of moral beliefs that they go by, and it allows us to connect and have sympathy for the groups as we play and helps players understand why the different factions do what they do. It puts us more in Ellie’s headspace and causes us to feel guilty when we deal with different members, so to be suddenly presented with the Rattlers near the end of The Last of Us Part 2 is a bit odd.
The reason for the inclusion of the ruthless group of mercenaries is probably to set them up as the main antagonistic group for The Last of Us Part 3. We do get a bit of insight into how they run, but there doesn’t seem to be anything good about them in sight. Instead, we’re given a group of people who seem to have completely lost their humanity and will do anything and everything to discourage the survivors they have captured from going against them.
This does mean that players end up feeling significantly less guilty when they deal with a mercenary from the Rattlers than they did with a member of the Seraphites or WLF. They are definitely going to bring about a couple of new ethical, physical, and emotional challenges for Ellie in The Last of Us Part 3, and I’m very excited to see how Naughty Dog handles that. It’ll be interesting to see how Ellie’s newly re-found compassion holds up against people who have zero compassion for her and probably consider her as little more than a labourer.
It has been theorised that the change in the menu screen after you have completed the game is actually giving us a bit of a hint at what exactly happened to Abby and Leb. If we take a close look at the scene, that acts as a background for the menu screen, in the background of it you can very easily spot the Catalina Casino, which indicates that the coastline we are seeing is not random, but rather it belongs to the island of Santa Cataline.
Combine that with the image of the boat sitting on the beach, and I think it would be safe for players to assume that not only did Abby and Lev make it to the Fireflies’ new base of operations, but there is also a very high chance that we are going to see them again in the third act. It will be very interesting to see what will happen between the two women if they ever cross paths again and how they will interact with each other.
There’s still plenty of trauma and unresolved issues that the two of them will have to work through in The Last of Us Part 3. It will be especially challenging for both of them if, at some point, they are forced to work together, but it’ll be a great moment for the writers to explore how the characters have developed, grown, and healed since their last interaction.
Is finding a vaccine going to come back into play in The Last of Us Part 3?
Unlike its predecessor, The Last of Us Part II was significantly less focused on the Cordyceps pandemic. The infected play a much smaller role in this one, becoming more of a background enemy than the main enemy that needs to be dealt with. They still make an appearance and are just as much of a challenge to escape as they were in the previous game, but trying to find a way to cure them is not as much of a priority for characters anymore.
While Ellie is focused on taking her revenge on Abby for taking Joel from her, Abby is more focused on becoming a better person after taking her own revenge and returning to the light after it was pointed out to her by Owen (the boy, then man, she had loved) that she’d stopped looking for it.
With the story focus being more on both women conquering their grief, there isn’t a chance for talk of the cure to really be brought up again in The Last of Us Part 3. It is still a possibility, however, as Abby could take up her father’s cause for developing a cure, and Ellie’s blood still holds the antibody for the Cordyceps fungus.
We’re hoping that The Last of Us Part 3 will bring the story full circle and return us to the original goal and why Joel was tasked with smuggling Ellie across the country in the first place: trying to find a cure for the mess that humanity had managed to get themselves into. With Abby back at the Fireflies, it may be her time to take on the legacy of her father and try to finally develop the cure that will save the world or what remains of it at this point.
There are plenty of opportunities for new problems to arise for the third instalment of the game. Will Ellie still be willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good of humanity, or will she have developed new priorities now that she has found her soulmate?
There is a chance that problems may even arise from outside the main characters this time, and rather than a father not wanting his adopted daughter to sacrifice herself for the greater good, it’ll be The Rattlers who don’t want a cure to be found as they try to establish their new order and reign of terror. Why would they want to save the world from the very thing that put them on top? How would that benefit them? They may decide that Ellie is too much of a potential threat to have around and send hunters after her.
There are so many places and areas for potential conflicts to arise and plenty of ways for everything to go wrong, as is often the case in Naughty Dog’s games. With so much of the story still left unsolved and everything that has arisen in the last two games, Neil Druckmann has plenty to work with, and we can’t wait to see how he ties up Ellie’s story in The Last of Us Part 3.
Unfortunately, there has been some talk that the third game might not even happen. In several interviews and podcasts, Neil Druckmann has mentioned that the decision to make another tame is entirely up to them and that they are putting a lot of thought into what might happen. Apparently, he and his co-author Halley Gross have already outlined a possible story for the sequel but aren’t sure whether the story will ever be realized.
During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Druckmann mentioned that there is a lot more story that they want to share and suggested that Naughty Dog might be planning a third game but quickly backpedalled on that.
In an interview with Buzzfeed, Druckmann mentioned, “I know there’s a bunch of people wondering about The Last of Us Part 3 and whether that will be a thing or not. It’s up to us whether we want to continue or not. Our process is the same thing we did when we did Part 2, which is if we can come up with a compelling story that has this universal message and statement about love – just like the first and second game did – then we will tell that story. If we can’t come up with something, we have a very strong ending with Part 2 and that will be the end.”
In the meantime, with HBO’s TV adaptation going strong, we at least have some The Last of Us content to enjoy, and there are rumours that Naughty Dog is working on a The Last of Us standalone multiplayer that will be free to play. If they have their hands busy with that, it could be years until a third part of the series could see the light of day.
Luckily for us, according to a leak by famed and reliable leaker @ViewerAnon, there might be a third game in the series that is in active production at the moment, but we will have to wait and see.