The Last of Us: 7 Most Heartbreaking Moments

Moments that stay with you (like it or not) in Naughty Dog's post-apocalyptic smash hit, The Last of Us...

This Last of Us article contains spoilers.

It’s been six years since Naughty Dog brought us its beautifully crafted, narrative-driven, post-apocalyptic masterpiece, The Last of Us. After an outpouring of Game of the Year awards and acclaim from both fans and critics alike, it quickly became one of the glittering gems of the last year of the previous console generation. As it stands, this survival horror title is one of the best gaming experiences that Sony has ever blessed us with, boasting gorgeous level design, nuanced characters, and an enthralling narrative.

So when The Last of Us Part II was announced almost three years ago, our excitement levels went through the roof. There is so much to this compelling world and the characters that Naughty Dog has so masterfully created that we were left wanting much more. Therefore, we absolutely cannot wait to see how this story with these characters (as well as some new faces) will continue.

But before then, let’s take a walk down a clicker-infested memory lane and look back on the most heartbreaking moments from The Last of Us as well as its equally captivating story-based DLC, Left Behind:

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Sarah’s Death

Talk about an emotional opening. Before the opening credit sequence even rears its head, we are served a huge helping of heartbreak as the outbreak occurs and Joel, his daughter Sarah, and his brother Tommy are trying to escape the chaos. After a cute father-daughter moment between Joel and Sarah, tragedy strikes and you begin to understand just what kind of adventure you’re in for – it sets the tone for the rest of the game.

After running from a soldier during a very intense segment, Sarah ends up being shot and dying in Joel’s arms. And this is just the first few minutes of the game…

Tess’ Death

After a huge 20-year time jump, we are introduced to Tess before we meet Ellie. Tess works alongside Joel as a smuggler and thus becomes our AI partner for a small portion of the game. 

Unfortunately for Tess, our time with her is very short-lived and she ends up getting killed: she reveals she’s been bitten and surrenders herself to the numerous soldiers in hot pursuit. It was very sad to see her go, but at the same time it shows that the stakes are always high and heartbreak is never far away.

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Then we are introduced to a character named Bill, another smuggler and survivor who has a penchant for setting a lot of traps as a form of protection. He has a rather tentative alliance with Joel and Ellie.

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While escape a horde of clickers, the trio run into a house where they find a hanging corpse, revealed to be Frank, Bill’s former partner, who hung himself after becoming infected. Bill is clearly devastated at this loss as he looks over at his corpse. There is also a suicide note near the body in which Frank tells Bill that he hated his guts. Bill brushes this off, trying not to let it get to him, but the emotions are intense for the players at home.

Sam and Henry’s Death

With so many enemies, we need a few friends, especially in times like these. Throughout our journey through Pittsburgh, we become acquainted with two brothers named Sam and Henry, who are also survivors. They join in on the adventures and we end up becoming accustomed to them.

During a heartfelt bonding session and a blossoming bromance between Joel and Henry, Sam and Ellie also talk about living in a post-pandemic society. Alas, tragedy then arrives as it is revealed that Sam has been bitten. He attacks Ellie and Henry, but is consumed by guilt and grief, and ends up taking his own life after reluctantly killing his brother. This was an extremely painful moment, to say the least.

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Ellie and David

After Ellie and Joel are ambushed by hunters, Joel is impaled on a piece of metal and need emergency medical treatment. Ellie must strike out on her own to find supplies for Joel during winter. This is when she encounters David and his cannibalistic camp. We quickly see David is a very nasty piece of work as he reveals his true intentions as he kidnaps Ellie. Luckily for her, Joel, semi-recovered from his injuries, is able to wipe out David’s men and rescue her.

After enduring a very traumatic experience and a tense showdown with David in a restaurant, Ellie is comforted by Joel, who tenderly refers to her as “baby girl,” cementing their deep, newly-developed familial relationship. It’s clear from this moment that Joel sees Ellie as more than just cargo.

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Riley and Ellie

The relationship between these two characters is the core of the game’s prequel DLC, Left Behind, which is set before the events of the main game. In this DLC, we learn more about Ellie and her friend Riley – their friendship provides another hard-hitting example of what it’s really like living in a post-pandemic world. It all starts to go wrong when Riley explains to Ellie that she has joined the Fireflies.

After some shenanigans at an abandoned mall, their bubble bursts when Riley tells Ellie that she has been assigned to a group of Fireflies in another city, breaking Ellie’s heart. However, after an affectionate moment during a dance session at the mall, the pair are chased by a group of infected and Riley gets bitten. This, of course, leads to her death.

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The Ending

This is possibly one of the most powerful and intriguing endings in all of video games. When Joel finds out that in order to save humanity it will come at the ultimate cost of Ellie’s life, he becomes enraged and refuses to let it happen. What follows is an intense gameplay segment where you have to get past many Fireflies who stand in your way in order to rescue Ellie.

When Joel finally arrives in the operating theater where Ellie is being prepped for her surgery, he rescues her but not before brutally murdering the doctors (depending on the player’s choice.) He then kills the leader of the Fireflies, Marlene, to stop her from coming after them.

The final scene takes place in a lush, picturesque environment where Joel lies to Ellie about the Fireflies’ true intentions in order to give her hope for the future. This lie will undoubtedly play a big role in Joel and Ellie’s relationship in the sequel. How will Ellie react when she finally learns the truth about the Fireflies?

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So, there you have it. That’s our list for the most heart-breaking moments of The Last of Us. What moments in the game made it a masterpiece for you? Let us know in the comments below…