This Last of Us article contains spoilers.
While The Last of Us Part III hasn’t officially been announced yet, the odds of getting a third game in the popular Naughty Dog series have slightly increased. In the documentary Grounded II: Making The Last of Us Part II, Neil Druckmann, vice president of developer Naughty Dog and creative director and co-writer for The Last of Us Part I and Part II, talked briefly about the prospect of a third game. He said, “I don’t have a story, but I do have that concept that, to me, is as exciting as 1, as exciting as 2, is its own thing, yet has this through-line for all three. So it does feel like there’s probably one more chapter to this story.”
We don’t know much beyond that or what this concept might be, but we’re definitely excited about what The Last of Us Part III could look like.
There are many, including Druckmann himself, who are satisfied with the finality The Last of Us Part II’s ending, and would be okay if the series concluded there. The game doesn’t have a happy ending by any means, but it wraps up the two-part overarching story of love, the cycle of violence, and forgiveness thoughtfully and leaves the player with a lot to think about. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t potentially plenty more story to tell.
The Last of Us Part II ends with Abby and Lev, emaciated and wounded from their run-in with the Rattlers and subsequent fight with Ellie, sailing off toward the Catalina Islands of California. While in Santa Barbara, they discovered that surviving Fireflies are gathering there to regroup. After tracking Abby to Santa Barbara and nearly killing her, Ellie has flashbacks of Joel and decides to spare her. Ellie returns to her and Dina’s farmhouse outside of Jackson, Wyoming and finds it abandoned aside from a few of her belongings. Dina has presumably returned to the Jackson settlement with her son JJ, leaving Ellie to deal with the consequences of leaving them behind in search of vengeance. Ellie walks away from the farmhouse soon after, but it’s not clear where she’s going.
According to Druckmann, The Last of Us Part I is about “the unconditional love a parent feels for their child” and Part II is about “the pursuit of justice at any cost, justice for the ones you love,” with love being the through-line between the two. Thematically, it makes sense to continue this through-line in Part III – love is a powerful motivator, for better and for worse as both games have clearly depicted.
During Ellie’s return to the farmhouse at the end of Part II, there’s a flashback to her last real conversation with Joel before his death. In this moment on Joel’s porch, she tells him that she wants to try and forgive him for lying to her about her immunity and what happened to the Fireflies in Salt Lake City. This clearly isn’t easy for her to say, but she loves Joel and doesn’t want to lose him.
Finding forgiveness in an unforgiving world feels like a likely concept for Part III to expand upon, especially since Abby’s arc in Part II also sees her learning to trust and forgive people she was taught to hate and fear. Lev and Abby are forced to rely on each other after seeing those they love die in the endless cycles of violence they’ve grown up in. Abby and Ellie may not be able to forgive each other by the time their story is over, but they’ll certainly have to learn how to forgive themselves for the things they’ve done and the people they’ve killed in the name of love.
Depending on how much time passes between games – there are roughly five years between Part I and Part II – Lev and Abby could already be part of the new Fireflies or still on the search for them. Ellie could be trying to make her way on her own, not feeling worthy of returning to Jackson, or she could have gone back to try and make amends with Dina and those she left behind.
Regardless of where Abby and Ellie’s respective arcs may begin, should they return as protagonists for the third game, the Fireflies could be a connecting force between them. Ellie may seek them out as a way to make amends for what happened all those years ago in Salt Lake City. Or Abby or someone else in the Fireflies could have made headway with her father’s research and found a way to study Ellie’s immunity without killing her, and now Abby has to track her down and convince her to help.
It doesn’t seem likely that Tommy would become a playable character in Part III, as Druckmann already has a spinoff story in mind for the character, either as a video game or TV series, that takes place after Part II, but Lev or Dina could easily be. They could also introduce an entirely new character, just as Part II did with Abby, who is a member of the Fireflies or a new faction altogether.
That said, if Grounded II is any indication, we’ll likely be waiting a while for The Last of Us Part III to come out if it does happen, especially with Druckmann so heavily involved in the HBO adaptation of the games. Naughty Dog is working to improve quality of life for their employees, and if that means it’ll take several years for even a glimpse of another game in this series, then so be it.
The Last of Us Part III isn’t necessary for this story to feel complete, but fans of the games (myself included) would love another chapter – even if it is the end of a trilogy. Selfishly, I could spend hundreds more hours in this world, but I’ll settle for at least 25-30 more. No matter what direction this game may go, it’s sure to be just as emotionally raw and compelling as the last two installments.