Warning: The following contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the first The Last of Us video game and likely spoilers for The Last of Us TV series.
With HBO’s live-action adaptation of Naughty Dog’s acclaimed game The Last of Us headed our way – premiering Sunday, January 15 – the TV landscape is once again about to be taken over by roaming hordes of undead zombies. Different zombies, however, than the traditional George Romero or Walking Dead type ones. These “infected” people have had their minds hijacked by a parasitic fungus that turns its host into a murderous puppet. And the longer these infected stick around, the more their bodies are transformed into mushroomed monstrosities.
Though fans of the game are naturally super-stoked for the series, the show is most definitely designed to also engage viewers who’ve never played the 2013 dystopian classic. Still, that doesn’t mean that gamers don’t have a wish list of things they’d love to see play out in the series given the way things unfold in the game. From tragic deaths to unexpected beauty to big time deception, here are 8 of the most memorable moments from the first Last of Us game, complete with comments from Fandom’s The Last of Us Wiki community!
The Last of Us kicked things off with a gruesome, nerve-shattering bang as we first played things out as Joel’s teenage daughter Sarah, waking up in her house during the outset of full world collapse. The prologue for the game sets everything in horrific motion and helps inform Joel’s entire story trajectory: it breaks our hearts, shatters his completely, and lets us know why he’s so closed off. And it teases why, strictly from a greater good standpoint, he does what many would say is the absolute wrong thing at the end of the game.
“For me it was the intro,” Gunsman wrote. “All of the marketing for the game focused on Joel and Ellie. When we started the game off as Sarah I already knew something bad might happen… Was an absolute gut punch still when it happened.”
Nico Parker plays Sarah on the series so we expect her story to more or less mirror that from the game. The Last of Us broke the mold by having players not only control victims, but also fully control protagonists doing bad bad things.
Ellie the Infected
While The Walking Dead was purposefully never about finding a cure, The Last of Us held humanity in the balance. The survivors of this world don’t have to seek out meager morsels of hope, they have their very own Ellie, a fourteen-year-old seemingly immune to the Cordyceps fungus. Of course, this is after a full 20-year time jump. We kind of skip over the world’s most desperate, depraved moments and right into a hellscape of military rule and/or bandit violence.
Still, when Ellie’s “secret” finally comes out, in front of the super bitter and paranoid Joel and Tess, it’s a miracle no one thought would ever arrive. Three weeks after having been bitten, Ellie shows no sign of changing. Her bio-analysis reads “infected,” but she’s anything but. Now it’s up to Joel to get her to a lab out west that’s working on a cure.
This is slightly cheating since the Ellie/Riley story doesn’t happen in the game proper, but instead in the Left Behind DLC from 2014. Elements of this will arrive in Season 1 however since Storm Reid is playing Riley and the shot of Ellie and Riley in the photo booth can be seen in the trailer.
Left Behind is a stunning addition to the saga, taking place three weeks before Ellie meets up with Joel and Tess. It follows two lovesick teens through an abandoned mall, exploring elements of a dead world they never knew. It’s the perfect balance of heart and horror and will always remain one of the most memorable parts of the first game.
Henry and Sam
Most people you meet on the road in a zompocalypse aren’t going to be the friendly type. And those who are friendly, well… They’re probably not long for this world. Such was the case of Henry and his younger brother Sam, whose exit from the first game was quick and shocking. Even for a game full of moments that make you jump, this abrupt end was a hammer drop. One made all the more tragic by the friendship that Ellie was building with Sam. Quite often odysseys present our heroes with distorted versions of themselves, or others whose plight parallel their own, just to show us the truly awful outcomes that are capable of occurring.
“I’ll never forget the sheer amount of astonishment I was in when Henry kills himself after shooting Sam,” Steven is Strange wrote. “The way the scene just cuts to black after hearing his body thud and that hauntingly calm music starting will always give me goosebumps.”
Ellie may not have had to worry about getting bitten, but poor Sam didn’t have that luxury. And the instant grief over having to put his own brother down was too much for Henry to live with.
Joel “Saves” Ellie
Ellie defeating cannibal crew leader David was a big memorable boss fight from the first game, what with the harsh winter outside, the flaming tavern setting, and Ellie going full Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter’s Tommy Jarvis on her foe, machete and all. But when Joel raced in, with the intent of saving Ellie himself, only to discover that she’d done the diabolical deed herself, he just hugged her close and comforted her.
Calling her “baby girl.”
Many users cited this scene in particular as a standout.
“When Joel calls Ellie “baby girl” for the first time,” suggested Acj1225.
Dyshanae Brown echoed that with “The most memorable moment for me is the cutscene after Ellie kills the cannibal guy and Joel comes in to save her, but ends up comforting her instead. Seeing the growth of their relationship to that point in the game was satisfying and beautiful. 😢😔💔”
Right before the final act of the game, things come to a precious pause as Joel and Ellie discover wild giraffes, even getting close enough to one to pet. There’s an eerie beauty to the new world, with the mostly-abandoned cities having been reclaimed by nature and this was definitely a breathtaking moment from our heroes’ long trek to Salt Lake City. In fact, aside from the occasional stalker, clicker, or bloater (or just evil f’n humans), the obliterated world holds a ton of beauty within it.
Do No Harm
For many folks who play The Last of Us, the most memorable part is Joel’s breakdown at the end, where players actually control him as he outright murders doctors, nurses, and Firefly soldiers to save Ellie from dying on an operating table… even though this was being done to her so the entire world could have a cure. He rushes into surgery and scalpels to death the one man who holds the salvation of the world in his hands because, to Joel, Ellie is the world. He then carries her out of the hospital, much like he’d done 20 years previous with Sarah, murdering Marlene on the way out. It’s a menacingly haunting finish for a game already rife with violence and tough choices.
“For me, one of the moments that really stuck with me was having to kill the doctor in the Firefly hospital,” RinasaurusRex wrote. “It was one of those moments where, like… this kill is unavoidable, this doctor has to die for the game to progress, they could have just started a cutscene from the moment you walk through the surgery door and let you just watch it play out. Instead, you have to take the action to kill him.”
For IelNexistePasseur, this whole section was also a rough ride: “I’d say the end of it, at the hospital, this whole section was filled with emotions.”
To make things even worse (or better, depending how salty you like your stories), Joel then lies to Ellie after she wakes up. “Swear to me that everything you said about the Fireflies is true” she says to Joel, after he’s told her that there were other immune people out there and that none of them led to a cure. “I swear,” he lies, relying on the fact that they were now far away from Utah and that Ellie was unconscious during the massacre to cover his tracks.
Friedsage got right to the point with “When he hides the truth from Ellie in the car at the last moment after the hospital scene.”
If there had only been one game, this would have been a devious devine closing moment in its own right, but as it is the “lie” moves forward, through time, and into the exceptional sequel, The Last of Us Part II, with ungodly ramifications.
“When Ellie asks Joel if he has told her the truth and a not very sure Joel answers yes. For me that ending is great,” wrote Halib3lSchiffer.