Celebrating A Decade Of The Last Of Us
The Last Of Us as a franchise has been an incredible ride, with the tall tales beginning before the game had even launched. In 2011 Naughty Dog, the developers of The Last Of Us, and the Uncharted franchise launched the third (and quietly the best) in their PS3 trilogy of Uncharted titles, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. In one of the games’ earliest scenes, a bar brawl, there was a newspaper left on the counter that spoke of an breakout of a virus, one we would come to know as the cordyceps virus, and the underpinning element of The Last Of Us. That newspaper wasn’t supposed to make the cut of Uncharted 3, and was supposed to be an inside joke of sorts amongst the team, but it slipped through the cracks and made it to the final release. With the easter egg available for all to see, Naughty Dog sat there in silence, fearful of patching it out in case its removal and inevitable discovery would prompt questioning. Thankfully for them, fans made very little of this tease, and on December 10, 2011, The Last Of Us revealed to the world, astounding fans who never knew that Naughty Dog had formed a second team and were working on a parallel product.
Since that moment, there was an instilled frenzy in the PlayStation fanbase. Every time a PlayStationn event would surface, the expectation was that The Last Of Us would feature, but Naughty Dog were careful not to over-expose the crowd. Restraint was shown, and their discipline, as well as the fan patience, was rewarded with an outstanding demo six months later at E3 with Naughty Dog showing off the dark, dour, and depressing world, littered with remnants of humanity and the result of an uncontrolled pandemic to the masses. Expectations of the next Naughty Dog title, following the incredible heights that Uncharted 2 and 3 had both reached, were already sky high, and yet, what was shown of The Last Of Us, somehow elevated everyone’s expectations higher again. But, a little more than 12 months later, following a month long delay from the games’ initial May 5, 2013 release date to June 14, 2013, The Last Of Us launched, and a decade of dominance began.
The launch of The Last Of Us, despite it being an achievement rivalling the best the industry as ever seen, was merely the tip of the iceberg for the franchise. Less than a year after the launch of The Last Of Us, the PlayStation 4 arrived, and shortly following it came the arrival of The Last Of Us Remastered, a game that was long considered the definitive version of the 2013 masterpiece.
It would be a long three years before we would again hear about The Last Of Us, with the closing moments of the original game making it seem as though we might never see a sequel, and yet, during PlayStation Experience on December 3, 2016, Naughty Dog stunned the world with the revelation that The Last Of Us Part II was in development. The 3.5 year wait would be an unbearable one for fans, with several variables delaying the game in its final stages. An initial May 29, 2020 release date slid to June 19th of that year, while in late April an enormous breach led to several huge spoilers, and a number of videos of The Last Of Us Part II spilling over the internet with fans ducking for cover in the hopes of avoiding sensitive narrative details entering their orbit before they had the chance to play the game themselves.
Thankfully, for many, including yours truly, the game remained unspoiled, and some of The Last Of Us Part II’s heaviest moments were able to impact us, just as Naughty Dog had always intended, and the game deservedly was heaped with praise that rivaled the initial release, solidifying the franchise and its developer’s places as champions of this industry. A planned multiplayer mode for The Last Of Us Part II was scrapped and to this very day, remains in development as a planned separate project, though recent news would suggest that the game remains in a complicated point of development.
Our walk through The Last Of Us now brings us to 2022-23 where the original game once again got some additional love, in the form of the new definitive release of the original game with The Last Of Us Part I, coming to PS5 in 2022 to universal praise, and the PC version in 2023 which has been plagued by bugs and assorted other problems. While Naughty Dog and partner Iron Galaxy continue to work around the clock to get the PC version into a state that matches or perhaps even exceeds what we can experience on the PS5, we also saw the launch of The Last Of Us, the HBO television adaptation of the original game, that, just like the game’s themselves, has demanded the attention of millions of viewers, all enthralled by the world that Neil Druckmann and the team conceived a decade prior.
For a series that has seen the release of only two core games in the decade, the relevance of the franchise, and in particular the first game, has never been greater. With fan hopes and expectations exceedingly high for a third chapter in the story of Ellie, and the constant noise around the multiplayer project, with of course an upcoming second season of the HBO series, fans still have plenty to devour from this acclaimed franchise.
I still remember the day that I picked up The Last Of Us on June 14, 2013. I still remember the excitement of inserting the disc into my PS3, and I still remember the incredible moments (both good and devastating) washing over me and the feeling of the controller slipping from my hands on multiple occasions as I sat there, transfixed by what had just played out in front of me. To this day, The Last Of Us stands as one of the greatest pieces of fiction in the video game realm, and more broadly across all artforms. It’s impact is being felt by new audiences all of the time, and it’s legacy will live on well beyond the final time we see Ellie.
Thank you Naughty Dog for all that you’ve done, congratulations on a decade of dominance, and good luck with whatever comes next for the IP.