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.
One of the best game story's i've played.
It was a pleasure platinuming this game.
Just finished replaying the Remastered version the other day to remind myself, in preparation for Part II.
Thanks for the much needed recap. That prologue remains one of the most emotionally draining, powerful pieces of gaming i've ever played. Where naughty dog ascended to a different level and you knew this wasnt just uncharted mark 2.
Brutal but so compelling
Oh man, gaming memories coming back.
Such a good game!
I'm very tempted to replay this in time for the sequel - just reading the beginning of this article has made me remember the huge number of great moments in this game
Playing through this now and there are just so many standout moments. From the Henry and Sam story to Ellie being upset at Joel for trying to leave her. Even little things like Ellie learning to whistle. It's just really well done
They could have done a much better job.
No one seems to be covering how ND and Sony are taking strikes against channels that even speak of leaks, not even showing them. Last of us was great, changed my mind about getting the second at all.
I always loved Ellie winding Bill up and Joel having to parent them both. Good times.
I do love what they did with the ending, you get the happy outcome you want as you play through, but a completely messed up version of it. Looking forward to seeing where they take it.
@Neolit apparently when the music drowns out the speech at that point, he says "I will never leave you alone again" as well. But that 'baby girl' line was a huge moment.
Clickers, so many clickers!
It's very hard for me to talk about The Last of Us. I've probably played it more than any other game in my entire life. It's still impressive and gets me every time I play it.
I'm forever grateful for Neil Druckmann and Naughty Dog for bringing this game to life. And I absolutely can't wait to play Part II.
Great recap, except for the point dear Neolit mentioned too.
My favourite PlayStation exclusive of all time. Completed it twice, once on PS3 then again on PS4 with the remaster. I cannot wait to play Part 2 and hope it’s playable on PS5 which I’ll get once it’s got a decent amount of exclusives released.
One of the best games I have played, specifically for narrative driven gameplay. It was a game that you just wanted to keep playing because you want to know what is coming up next.
A victim of their massive success, Naughty Dog must feel so much pressure to delivery on part 2.
Thanks for this. It has been several years for me and I don’t think I will replay the game before TLoU2. I loved the game, but time is short, so this is a good refresher.
Nice summary, really made an impression on me at the time. Not sure Im ready for more from this harrowing world at the moment, but will want to play down the line, Im sure.
Thanks for writing this 👍🏼
Very nice summary. My friend and I were just trying to remember it all last night. We remembered most of it, but forgot how Joel lost Ellie to the Fireflys at the hospital.
To the person that leaked the spoilers, “Pretty selfish of you and you are not above reproach. Shame on you.” I haven’t seen/read them, so I don’t know them, but I can guess. To the people that are surprised TLOU 2 is a revenge story, must’ve never watch the first teaser trailer when Ellie is playing the guitar. She says it right there.
Going to start a replay later in preparation for part 2
Probably played this over 10 times, one of my favourite games of all time, recently got the platinum trophy for it, it was the online trophies that put me off Getting it at the start but finally thought might as well since I have platinum for most Nd games still need to get uncharted 4 and lost legacy might get round to those soon. Can't wait for part 2 I'm going to literally stay in my gaming room all weekend for this, might leave for some food lol.
I brought this game when it first came out. I thought it was great. So purchased the season pass which came with the promise of 4 DLC's. Only one ever came out, Left behind. I think after all the hype and then the fact that they did not deliver, I think I would not go for the next game.
@Yamyam1969 what are you talking about? They never said the DLCs were all single player. Only left behind was single player. The other DLCs were released as multiplayer content
Dear fans of The Last Of Us Part1, all of you, who think that the part 2 is absolutely ruined, who want to be heard and believes that story of TLOU2 is b*lsh*t! Such of You are disappointed about TLOU2 story, about agenda, about attitude to main characters and TLOU fans.I have created a petition in order to change what naughtydog did with our favorite characters, the story that is so loved by us. Naughtydog shut up our mouths by closing comments and ban users, but we must be heard!
********* Whoever fights can lose; who does not fight, already lost! ***********
Please, sign and share a petition addressed to Naughtydog and their 'genius' scenarist!We don't want such a "hero" that kills for revenge and hatred!!!Let's fight to change the story!Please, left your opinions under petition and I will add your point of view in petition!
Kinda preferred my version of the ending, although probably made that up as a defence mechanism after turning to the bottle post playing it.
@OlyaTwin Make up your own Game/story and take that in whichever direction you want.
Can't people just experience something without wanting things to go the way they want it to these days?
Didn't quite tell the story the way I remember. At the end, when the "doctors were too scared to move", each took a bullet between the eyes lol.
I was just looking for recap videos on YouTube, coincidentally. Then I decided to just buy the original since it's only £8.99 on PSN now.
I always think this. It's ND's story to tell, they owe us nothing. People always go on about having your own opinions, but try and stifle creativity and demand changes when it doesn't match up to their own ideas.
If you don't like the direction a story is taken, or if your favourite band has changed their sound, don't follow them anymore, and let new fans appreciate it. I'll make my own judgements on the story at the end of the game, and if I find that I didn't like it, I'll respect ND for their approach and move on.
@Crimson_Ridley yes this is how it should be.
@Crimson_Ridley Especially since we don’t even know the full story of TLOU 2 yet. It’s like bashing a movie before you even see it. People just like to complain too much these days. Choose your battles, man. There are bigger and more important things to apply your energy to, especially these days, than creating petitions about the direction of a video game. A. Video. Game. TLOU is one of my favorite games and I’m looking forward to joining Ellie on her journey; no matter which direction it takes—kind of like life, ya know?
I never played Left Behind, so I'm wondering, what exactly happens at the end of it after Riley and Ellie wait to succumb to infection? Does it end on a cliffhanger like the article suggests, or does it show Ellie having to kill Riley and escape?
Just this minute finished Left Behind again. It's still such a really good expansion piece. The ending might even hit harder than the main story, knowing the full context of it.
Just 6 more hours to go!
@NeoTokyo404 Firstly it's worth playing the DLC if you can. It'll only take a couple of hours.
It doesn't really end on a cliffhanger though because we already know what happens based on the main game. That context is makes the ending even more heartbreaking really.
@Neolit This. Was hoping to get more of it in the sequel...
@Crimson_Ridley I agree with you, but it's really simple. You go to a restaurant for their great chili. You eat it several times, then they announce they'll bring out a new chili. What you expect is a finer recipy, maybe some great homemade bread with it, you go there to eat, full expecting that joyful experience of their original chili, only upped a few notches.
Then you get sausage.
@starhops I get what you say, but arguing that people haven't played the game yet is a moot , when you haven't seen the leaks they have. I hope for those that avoided the spoilers, that they won't be disappointed.
I would be disappointed, sure, but their chilli isn't the only chilli I could eat, as great as it was before. There's plenty more chilli to seek out, and though I'd definitely miss my favourite chilli, in time I'm sure I'd find another that I like.
I couldn't demand the restaurant make the chilli that I want if the restaurant wanted to take their chilli in a different direction. I could review their new chilli or not buy the chilli to show them that I'm displeased with the new direction, in the hopes that in the future, it may make an impact, but it's still their chilli to make.
Side note, all this chilli talk has made me very hungry. 😂
@Crimson_Ridley Me too!
But... to push this further... if you knew a lot of your friends liked that chili, wouldn't you warn them about the sausage?!
@Neolit And I'd read it! Generally speaking that whole circle of violence is a dead horse to me, was old already when the bible was written (or summed up for that matter). Violence begets violence. There. I put the moral ofthe story in three words.
Besides that, what Joel and Ellie had going on was special. It tickled the protective father-bone in almost every male, regardless of age. Ellie was growing up and strong, she held her own, was one of my favourite female videogame heroines. She was vulnerable at first, but overcoming it, made her even tougher. I don't like broken-beyond-repair-characters because a) there's plenty of them in real life and b) it's a simple cliché.
Also I genuinely think that it's not a good idea to make your fans feel uncomfortable playing a game - which was Druckmans declared goal - when most of us, while still wanting an exciting narrative, ultimately want to "wind down" and get lost in a videogame world that's different to our real world. The real world is cruel enough.
Again. I'm curious to read "reviews" of pesky commoners!
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