Is The Last of Us Worth Playing on Easy Mode?

HBO's The Last of Us has new fans wondering if they should play the game, but is The Last of Us worth playing on its easiest modes?

The Last of Us Joel and Ellie
Photo: Sony Interactive Entertainment

It seems safe to say that HBO’s The Last of Us is already a hit. While we’ll see what future weeks bring, millions will likely continue to watch the adaptation. As they do, millions of new fans will also likely wonder if they should finally play the games. Many of those new fans may also soon find themselves asking if The Last of Us‘ “Easy” modes are a good way to play those games.

Honestly, that’s a great question. Most popular adaptations trigger renewed interest in the source material, but the barrier to entry in a video game is a little trickier than it can be for something like a book. If you’re not experienced with video games, you may find that you’re simply not able to get through even the early parts of the adventure. While an “Easy Mode” could theoretically solve those problems, you may also wonder if such a mode eliminates the thrill or joy of that same adventure.

To get right to the point, I can pretty comfortably tell you that The Last of Us is very much worth playing on easier difficulty modes. In fact, some of the game’s easier modes may be the preferred way to play the game for many people. However, you may be surprised to learn that the best Last of Us difficulty mode for you may not be the absolute easiest one available.

Before we get into that, though, here’s a little more you should know about The Last of Us‘ general difficulty as well as the specific difficulty modes the various versions of the game offer. Just keep in mind that we’re limiting this conversation to the first Last of Us game at the moment. We’ll almost certainly get to discuss the sequel yet again by the time we get to the show’s second season.

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Is The Last of Us a Difficult Video Game?

The Last of Us is not generally considered to be an especially difficult video game. That is to say that it’s not a Dark Souls-like experience or anything that is inherently designed to appeal to gamers seeking a special kind of challenge. The Last of Us was clearly intended to reach a slightly broader audience.

However, you should also know that The Last of Us features many gameplay elements typically found in survival horror titles. Among other things, that means that the game asks you to manage an often limited amount of resources. There will be times when you’ll need a health pack or special item and will simply not have access to one. Easier difficulty modes limit the burden of that system somewhat, but it still exists and can certainly be frustrating to some.

Furthermore, many combat sections in The Last of Us require you to utilize some level of stealth rather than simply shoot your way through waves of foes (though there are shootouts against human foes as well). The difficulty of the game’s combat depends on your chosen difficulty options (more on that in a bit), but every difficulty option the game offers will require you to navigate stealth-based sections as well as shootouts. If you know that you struggle with (or simply don’t enjoy) any of those concepts in a game, you should factor your preferences into your decision to play this game on a particular difficulty mode or not play it at all.

Every Difficulty Option in The Last of Us and The Last of Us Remastered

If you’re playing the original version of The Last of Us or The Last of Us Remastered, your difficulty options will be as follows:


If you’re looking to experience The Last of Us‘ beloved story in its original form, you can safely ignore the Hard, Survivor, and Grounded difficulty modes. Grounded and Survivor are meant for incredibly experienced players looking for a catered challenge. Grounded is so difficult that it’s almost like a practical joke. Hard is a little more reasonable, but it’s certainly not for those looking to enjoy the full Last of Us experience with relatively few hurdles.

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The Easy vs. Normal debate is a little more difficult. If you’re somewhat comfortable with the basics of modern 3D gameplay (independently controlling cameras and characters, aiming weapons, etc.), you may find that Normal is best for you. It’s designed with that kind of player in mind.

Easy, meanwhile, is for absolute beginners. It’s not a guided game mode that does all the work for you, and it won’t make you invincible. However, it makes enemies significantly weaker and grants you access to significantly more resources. Given that combat and resource management are the two most difficult parts of The Last of Us, that mode certainly reduces the impact of the game’s biggest hurdles (even if it doesn’t eliminate them entirely). In other words, it offers you a lot of room to make mistakes.

Every Diffictuly Option in The Last of Us Part 1 PS5 Remake

If you’ve decided to splurge on The Last of Us Part 1 for PS5, you’ll find the following difficulty options available to you in that remake:

Very Light

In addition to those modes, The Last of Us Part 1 also allows you to access a New Game+ mode as well as a variety of “sliders” that allow you to alter specific aspects of the game’s overall difficulty. The New Game+ mode is only available if someone has beaten the game previously, but it can make a second playthrough even easier. The sliders, meanwhile, are fantastic additions that allow you to tweak the game based on your preference as you play.

Just as before, you can safely skip Grounded, Survivor, and Hard unless you’re looking for a pretty notable video game challenge. They’re roughly the same as they were in the original game. “Moderate” is also the new “Normal,” so all the comments that applied to that mode before remain roughly the same.

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Light and Very Light are where things get interesting. Light is essentially the new “Easy” mode, though its impact on the game has been altered somewhat by the presence of the Very Light option. Whereas Easy used to be the default option for anyone looking for the least resistance possible, Very Light effectively assumes that role in the remake. While it’s still possible to die in Very Light mode, that mode reduces the challenge of combat to a bare minimum, offers you the maximum amount of resources, and even enables aim and camera assistance options by default.

Actually, Very Light mode is so easy that it brings us back to that question I briefly mentioned at the beginning of this article.

Is It Better to Play The Last of Us on Easy Mode or Just Watch Someone Play the Game?

If you are planning on playing The Last of Us for the first time on Normal/Moderate or Easy/Light mode, I highly recommend you do so. The choice is obviously up to you, but I’ve found that those modes offer just enough of a challenge (for the right person, that is) to allow you to feel the intended interactive experience of the game. If you’re looking to see what all the fuss is about beyond the basics of the game’s exceptional narrative, those modes will still allow you to experience the full scope of the game in its original form.

It’s the “Very Light” mode where things get interesting. I generally tend to feel that some level of challenge is required to really get the full flavor of the The Last of Us experience. In other words, The Last of Us plays best at the difficulty level that offers the most level of challenge that you’re still generally comfortable with. There are parts of the game that are meant to invoke a certain level of tension in order to properly sell the story, characters, and environment.

Gamers with less experience will still be able to “enjoy” that tension (such as it is) on slightly easier modes. The Hard mode crowd will balk at that statement, but this is where perspective matters most. The thrill that you may get playing the game on Hard mode is equal to the thrill someone else may get playing the game on one of those other modes. Those “easier” modes are well-designed with the right type of players in mind.

Very Light is, almost literally, a slightly different story. It seems to be intended for those who want to experience The Last of Us story with as few hurdles as possible, but I’d argue that there’s a good chance the show will eventually fill that void. There will be some differences between the two narratives, but the big advantage is that the show can more effectively offer the aforementioned levels of tension (in different ways) than the easiest possible mode of the game necessarily can.

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If you really just want to know what happens in The Last of Us video game story without just reading an article or summary, I’d generally recommend watching a playthrough or cinematic compilation of the game rather than going with Very Light. That’s especially true for those who don’t own The Last of Us Part 1 already and are thinking about spending a whopping $70 to play the game in that way. I love that the Very Light option exists, especially for those who need to be able to access such modes due to specific accessibility requirements. If your concerns regarding The Last of Us are based more on your experience with games rather than any such requirements, though, it’s not necessarily the best option for you.

Ultimately, you can (and perhaps should) play The Last of Us at whatever difficulty you’d like. You should just know that you may be able to play the game at a slightly higher difficulty level than you’d suspect. Of course, you’re free to change your mind (and the difficulty) as you go along.