The Last Of Us: What You Need To Know About The Video Game Before The HBO Series

Ellie and Joel in The Last Of Us

Video game fans around the world let out a collective "Oh. My. God." when HBO announced that Craig Mazin, the creative mind behind Chernobyl, would be teaming up with legendary video game writer Neil Druckmann to develop an adaptation of the critically acclaimed Sony PlayStation exclusive survival horror game The Last Of Us.

The news couldn't have come at a better time for Druckmann and Naughty Dog Studios as they put the finishing touches on the followup to the 2014 BAFTA Best Game, The Last Of Us: Part II, which is slated to be released on the PlayStation 4 home console on May 29, 2020. With two highly anticipated projects attached to The Last Of Us, fans of the game are going to be pretty busy over the next year or so.

But outside of the PlayStation universe, a lot of people may not be aware as to what The Last Of Us is or what the game set in a post-apocalyptic America is all about. Those who saw the trailers leading up to the 2013 release of the first game or saw bits about the franchise in the HBO show's announcement might think it's just another story about a zombie outbreak. I can assure you that The Last Of Us is much more complex and emotional than most properties that fit into the genre.

Here is everything you need to know about The Last Of Us before the new HBO series is released.

Joel in The Last Of Us

The United States Has Been Brought To Its Knees By A Mutated Fungus

Outside of the heartbreaking prologue that opens The Last Of Us, the game primarily takes place 20 years after a mutated cordyceps fungus turned most American citizens into aggressive creatures who want nothing more than to kill everyone not infected. America's major cities have turned into urban wastelands aside from a few quarantine zones where survivors are held like prisoners under the threat of death by the government and the Infected outside the cities' now crumbling walls.

The world in which the game is quite similar to the shape of things in movies like The Road and Children Of Men, in the sense that in the years following the great calamity, survivors have stripped away all sense of humanity that once kept societies afloat. The only source of hope in this world is possibility of a cure to the infection that could potentially restore the natural order of things.

Ellie in The Last Of Us

The Game Follows Joel And Ellie As They Embark On A Journey Across America

The Last Of Us centers around the cross-country journey of Joel, an emotionally scarred smuggler who has reluctantly agreed to escort Ellie, a teenage girl who could potentially be the cure of the infection, across an American landscape that is populated by blood-thirsty maniacs, and then there are the Infected.

Over the course of their difficult journey, Joel (Troy Baker) and Ellie (Ashley Johnson) form a strong bond that, through many trials and tribulations, becomes more like a father/daughter relationship than anything else. The game follows Joel and Ellie as they escape a nearly unrecognizable Boston and head west towards a special medical facility in Salt Lake City.

Ellie and Joel in The Last Of Us

The Last Of Us Will Break Your Heart, Body, And Spirit

The Last Of Us may be one of the best-selling and most highly decorated games ever released on a PlayStation console, but there's nothing about this game that can be considered fun. This emotional story of hope, survival, and redemption will break not only your heart, it will break your body and spirit until the point where you are surrounded by a pile of tissues and sore tear ducts. 


From the very beginning of the game, the player is forced to watch as Joel's young daughter is shot and killed during the chaos of the initial outbreak. I have since gone back and played The Last Of Us multiple times, and each time, I stretch out the prologue as long as possible to prolong the inevitable. As a father myself, the game's opening kills me each and every time I start a new file.

Pain and regret are the two threads that weave the story together as the emotionally numbed Joel learns what it's like to be a father-figure in another young girl's life. After Joel initially tries to remain shut off to the innocence of Ellie's character, he slowly begins to care for the abandoned teenager on their epic journey. By the time the story wraps up, Joel, who earlier in the game cared only for himself, is forced to make a decision that only a father could make. But even then, if it's the right decision remains to be seen.

Joel and Sarah in one of the most emotional scenes in The Last Of Us

The Game's Developer, Naughty Dog, Is Known For Its Storytelling

The studio behind The Last Of Us, is a premiere video game developer in the Sony Playstation stable of first-party studios. Over the course of the past 35 years, Naughty Dog, which was founded as JAM Software in 1984, has produced some of the most best video games in terms of both story and gameplay.

The studio's vice president, Neil Druckmann wrote and co-directed the first The Last Of Us game and is doing the same with The Last Of Us: Part II, has been with the studio since 2004, and during that time has gone from a gameplay programmer on Jak 3 to a more senior role in the Uncharted series, including Uncharted 4: A Thief's End where he served as the game's creative director as well as lead co-writer.

This is why it's not surprising that we're seeing multiple Naughty Dog franchises receiving adaptations on the silver screen and television. With the Uncharted film adaptation set to enter production in March 2020 for a March 5, 2021, release, and The Last Of Us being developed for television series on HBO, it is about time those who don't play video games get to enjoy the stories that gamers have been privy to for years now.

Philip Sledge
Content Writer

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or chatting about professional wrestling to his wife. Writing gigs with school newspapers, multiple daily newspapers, and other varied job experiences led him to this point where he actually gets to write about movies, shows, wrestling, and documentaries (which is a huge win in his eyes). If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.