We Need More Stories Like "The Last of Us"
I am a big fan of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us franchise, even the sequel. I would like to talk about how these games added depth to survival horror in the grand scheme of the entertainment world and where it can lead to in the future.
The story and world of The Last of Us is certainly horrific. The entire story is set during the outbreak and leads to the apocalypse. The zombies are scary and always a tangible threat in the world. The other human survivors can be anywhere from untrustworthy to dangerous.
However, the heart of this franchise is Ellie and her past along with her relationship with Joel. Their characters are incredibly deep and their interaction is a major driving force of the overarching story.
I contend that the biggest threat in this world is other people. This is a similar theme to The Walking Dead universe, Days Gone, and other apocalypse stories. I think that it is very present here. Everything that Ellie goes through is heartbreaking and it is easy to relate to her. A large reason I liked the sequel so much was how Ellie’s inner turmoil is presented to us in a compelling way, how her surroundings directly affect her, and the decisions she makes due to her circumstances. This is what makes her feel very human in addition to Ashley Johnson’s phenomenal performance. You care so much about Ellie and the other characters that the zombies become more of a background threat.
Also, the themes explored are very thought provoking. Notably how love always prevails, the cycle of violence, and how grief can affect people. These are all relatable themes that the average person may experience in their life.the setting of the apocalypse is perfect because they are weaved in fluidly.
I believe that the closest survival horror outside of other apocalypse media stories that have come out in the past few years similar to the humanity, horror, and characterization of The Last of Us are two other characters. Ethan Winters’ arc from Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil 8 and Miles Upshur’s story from Outlast. These are two instances that really understand how to have an intriguing story, themes, and relationships. Yet the major threat is other humans, but they still feel very human all while being scary survival horror games.
I would like to see more horror content embrace this type of setup and deeper exploration. I have high hopes that The Last of Us series coming to HBO Max can encapsulate the feelings and storytelling of the first game and show that those ideas and storytelling can be seamlessly translated to movies and television.
Ellie is an incredible character and her characterization aligns with the story being told, but that does not mean a character like her can be confined to only zombie stories. Even amongst the apocalypse, she can make jokes, but also still has very real problems.
I believe that Joel’s fate was right for him. We got to follow him enough and we see the aftermath of his arc along with the impact he made on those around him. Ellie is the one that has to directly move on in her life. It has been proven that Elle can thrive on her own. Furthermore, Ellie’s reactions are completely normal. This naturally results in Ellie becoming ultimately highly independent in the new world.
The Last of Us deals with trauma in a complex, but understandable way that serves the story being told. The choice to tell this story through Ellie’s perspective is interesting. This is a game that other mediums can learn from and incorporate certain elements into future media.
All in all, we need more stories with protagonists like Ellie in horror media. She is very brave, but grounded. She is also highly capable and interesting while being in a world with zombies.
Stories with a protagonist that is very courageous while dealing with unthinkable threats adds a lot to the survival horror formula.
If you have not, consider playing at least the first game available on PlayStation. Also check out The Last of Us on HBO Max when it comes out.
The Last of Us (2022) HBO Series Teaser Trailer