The Last of Us: Part II is almost upon us, finally continuing Joel and Ellie's story. The first game was a bleak and unflinching tale of a man and a girl as they travel across a United States devastated by a ferocious fungal infection. We'll soon be diving back into this grim and desperate setting, but it's been a long time since the first game. You may not have played The Last of Us for seven years, or even played it at all.
If you're in need of a recap of the events leading up to the incoming sequel, you've come to the right place. As part of our The Last of Us 2 guide, we're going to provide you with a full story recap, telling you everything you need to know before The Last of Us 2. Naturally, there will be spoilers for the first game's full story below, so if you don't want to see them, you should look away now. Without further ado, let's go through Joel and Ellie's story so far.
The Last of Us' prologue introduces us to Joel, who lives in Austin, Texas with his daughter Sarah. Joel comes home late, and Sarah is waiting for him to give him his birthday gift. The two joke around and watch TV together until Sarah falls asleep.
Sarah wakes up in her bed when her phone rings. On the other line is Tommy, Joel's brother. He tells her he needs to talk to Joel urgently before getting cut off. Sarah then searches the house for her father, but there's no sign of him. Eventually he appears, running inside after fending off... Something. Joel tells Sarah to get ready to leave.
The pair get into Tommy's car and the three of them drive through the city, which is in a bad way. It turns out people are being infected by a mutated cordyceps fungus, which takes control of the brain and turns people into lifeless carriers stripped of humanity. Eventually, the fungus sprouts from the head and face of the infected.
As they drive through the city, which is in complete chaos, they're struck by another vehicle and are forced to make their escape on foot. Tommy hangs back to hold off the infected while Joel and Sarah are stopped by a soldier, who is instructed to kill them. They dive away from the gunshots, but Sarah is hit. Tommy kills the soldier, saving Joel, but it's too late for Sarah, who dies in her father's arms.
20 Years Later...
We then fast forward two decades, where Joel lives in Boston, Massachusetts as a smuggler in a post-pandemic world. North America is highly dangerous outside of quarantine zones and other settlements, where the remainder of the population live. Joel and his partner Tess go searching for Robert, an arms dealer who owes them some weapons. When they find him, he confesses to selling their weapons to the Fireflies, an independent militia group opposing authority.
The group's leader, Marlene, appears and promises Joel and Tess double the number of weapons if they take on a job. After following her, it turns out she wants the pair to take Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, to a nearby meeting point. On the way there, Joel and Tess find out Ellie has been bitten by an infected. Her wound is three weeks old, far beyond when people usually turn — Ellie is immune, hence why she is so important. She could be key to developing a cure for the infection.
Once they get to the meeting point, they discover the Fireflies they were meant to meet have been killed. Tess reveals she's been infected, and tells Joel to take Ellie and find the Fireflies while she stays behind to buy them some time. Joel and Ellie are forced to escape while Tess holds off pursuing soldiers, dying in the process.
The Journey Begins
Joel reluctantly continues the journey with Ellie, and the first port of call is to find an old acquaintance, Bill, who owes him a favour. The hope is that this paranoid survivalist can provide them with a working vehicle. Things aren't quite that straightforward, and a headstrong Ellie clashes with Bill several times, but eventually the duo escape Bill's territory in a pickup truck.
Joel and Ellie are on the road heading west for some time, aiming to find Joel's brother Tommy — a former Firefly. Eventually, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, they're ambushed by a group of bandits and their vehicle is ruined. They need to escape the city, which is under heavy patrol and full of infected. After being separated in a ruined hotel, the pair reunite when Ellie saves Joel from attack. Joel entrusts Ellie with a rifle while he clears out some more bandits on their path to the Fort Pitt Bridge.
Henry and Sam
The pair runs into a couple of brothers, Henry and Sam, who are also trying to leave Pittsburgh. Joel and Ellie join them, and the brothers take them to their hideout. Henry and Joel come up with a plan to escape via a security checkpoint during the night. Before that, the group makes their way to an old radio station. They're discovered, and the two pairs are split up as they make their escape. Ellie and Joel jump into the river and wash up on a beach, where Henry and Sam meet them again.
The group eventually reaches the radio tower, where they are finally able to relax. As Joel shares stories from before the pandemic, Ellie checks in on Sam, who's taking stock of their supplies. After talking to him about their fears, Ellie says goodnight. It transpires Sam has been bitten by an infected, but hasn't told anyone.
In the morning, Ellie goes to check on Sam, who has turned overnight. The infected Sam attacks Ellie, and before Joel can get his gun, Henry shoots Sam. Overcome with grief and guilt, Henry then shoots himself.
Several months have passed, and Joel and Ellie are now in Jackson County, Wyoming. They're near Tommy's settlement in Jackson city, but need to make their way through an abandoned hydroelectric plant. As they approach the main gate, it turns out it's not abandoned at all; Tommy and his people are there, attempting to get the plant back online and generating power. Joel takes Tommy to one side and asks if he can entrust Ellie to him, as she'll be safer and he knows the whereabouts of the Fireflies. After invaders raid the plant, Tommy agrees to take care of Ellie. However, she's taken off after overhearing the conversation.
After catching up with her, Joel and Ellie argue about her going with Tommy instead. They're cut short, however, when more bandits approach. On the horse ride back, Joel decides to take Ellie to the Fireflies himself. Tommy tells them that the Fireflies can be found at the science lab at the University of Eastern Colorado. The pair rides off on one of Tommy's horses.
Joel and Ellie find the university and explore the campus until they find the science building. It turns out the Fireflies abandoned the site, and there's no sign of them. Joel finds a dictaphone with the final words of a deceased Firefly, who says the group has moved back to St. Mary's Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. Unfortunately, they're spotted before they can leave, and so Joel and Ellie fight to escape the university.
In a struggle, Joel falls over a railing and lands on a metal pipe, impaling him. Ellie defends Joel and helps him up, and they just barely escape. Joel, in severe pain and losing blood, collapses as they ride away.
We fast forward in time once again. Ellie is now looking after a badly injured Joel. She hunts for food in a snowy woods with a bow and arrows. After hunting a rabbit, Ellie spots a deer, and tracks it down. The deer runs through the trees towards a settlement. Ellie reaches the animal, but hears that she isn't alone. David appears with his friend James. They want the deer for their people, but Ellie isn't budging. David offers to trade, and Ellie asks for medicine. While James goes back to get some, Ellie and David shelter from the cold inside a cabin. A group of infected emerge and force them to work together to survive.
After they deal with the infected, David tells Ellie that a group of his men were killed by "a crazy man travelling with a little girl". Clearly antagonistic, David lets Ellie go with the medicine as promised. She runs away and leaves with her horse.
Ellie gets back to Joel and gives him some penicillin. Later on, Ellie overhears some men outside — they've tracked her and are looking for her. Ellie decides to throw them off the trail by riding back out, but she's spotted and the horse is killed. She fights to get back to Joel, but is captured by David.
She wakes up in a cell and watches someone butchering humans. David brings Ellie some food, assuring that it's just deer meat. He confesses to cannibalism, but tells Ellie he can help her live if she can gain the trust of his people. She breaks his finger. David threatens to kill her.
Meanwhile, Joel wakes up and notices Ellie is missing. Still hurt, he gets up and begins searching for her, running into David's men in the process. He captures a couple of them and interrogates them about Ellie. Forcing them to tell him with torture, the men reveal Ellie's location before Joel kills them both.
Ellie is forced onto a table and held down. She tells David she's infected, and shows him her arm. With the men distracted, she makes her escape, and tries to find a way out and back to Joel. Meanwhile, Joel is approaching. Eventually, Ellie and David hunt each other in a burning restaurant, but Ellie grabs his machete and brutally kills him. Joel finally catches up to her and they head back on the path of the Fireflies.
Joel and Ellie reach Salt Lake City and are heading to the hospital where the Fireflies are. On their way, they head through an old zoo, where they spot a herd of giraffes peacefully walking through the site. Joel talks to Ellie, and says they don't have to go through with the Fireflies plan; they can simply live peacefully with Tommy in his encampment. Ellie tells him that everything they've been through "can't be for nothing".
The pair approaches the hospital through partially submerged ruins. They both fall into flowing water, and Ellie almost drowns. As he tries to revive her, Fireflies approach and knock Joel out.
He wakes up in a hospital room, where Marlene greets him. She assures Joel that Ellie is fine, and that she is being prepared for surgery. Marlene explains that to study the infection for a potential cure, they need to remove it from Ellie's brain, which will kill her. Growing angry, Joel demands to see Ellie, but Marlene refuses, and instructs her men to make him leave.
On the way out of the hospital, Joel overpowers the Firefly and learns Ellie is on the top floor. He then makes his way up the hospital through heavily guarded areas.
Finally finding the operating room, Joel enters the room to find Ellie lying unconscious on the table. One doctor threatens Joel, but he shoots him. The other surgeons are too scared to move, and Joel picks Ellie up. Running through the hospital, Joel enters the elevator and descends to the parking lot. Marlene confronts Joel, begging him to reconsider his actions, but he kills her to prevent the Fireflies from pursuing them. He drives away.
Ellie wakes up as Joel drives back towards Tommy's settlement. She asks what happened. Joel tells her that the Fireflies had found many other people with immunity to the infection, but that they had no luck producing a cure, and they've stopped trying.
As the pair approach Tommy's camp, Ellie stops Joel and makes him swear that what he said about the Fireflies was true. Joel says, "I swear". Ellie simply replies, "Okay".
The Last of Us: Left Behind
In this standalone story, we learn about how Ellie came to be bitten shortly before the events of the main game. Let's go through the story here to get the full picture.
After Joel is badly hurt just before the Winter chapter, we see Ellie exploring a shopping mall looking for supplies, such as sutures and bandages. As she makes her way through various stores, taking down infected, she discovers a military helicopter. Inside, she finds a stocked first aid kit, but must fight her way back to Joel when bandits begin searching the area.
This is interspersed with flashbacks to before Joel and Ellie's journey. We see Ellie asleep in the quarantine zone where she lives, when her best friend Riley scares her awake. Ellie had assumed she was dead, but it turns out she's been inducted into the Fireflies. Wanting to make amends for how they left things the last time they met, Riley takes Ellie out of the quarantine zone to explore an abandoned mall.
As they go through the shopping centre, they find the trip switch and restore power to the building. The pair talk and laugh as they have fun exploring the lit-up mall, throwing bricks at cars, pretending to play a broken arcade game, and having a water gun fight. Riley reveals she has been assigned to a Firefly group in a different part of the country, and asks Ellie what to do. Ellie tells her to go.
Riley plugs Ellie's walkman into a store's sound system and they dance together. Ellie changes her mind and asks Riley not to leave. Riley rips off her Firefly dog tag, and Ellie kisses her. Before the pair can leave in peace, infected are attracted to the music, and they run away.
In their attempt to escape, both Ellie and Riley are bitten. Knowing their fates are sealed, they sit down and decide what to do. Rather than commit suicide, they decide to ride out the infection and "lose our minds together". Little do they know that Ellie is immune.
That about wraps it up for the full story recap of The Last of Us. The story so far leads us into Part II, which is due out on 19th June. The sequel is set five years after the end of the first game, so it'll be interesting to see how things have developed in that time. Are you ready to play The Last of Us 2? Relive the story in the comments section below, and be sure to check out our The Last of Us 2 guide for much more on Naughty Dog's latest game.