The Last of Us Story Explained (Quick Version)

Everyone's favourite father-daughter dynamic, Joel and Ellie

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the plot of much-loved game The Last of Us, from beginning to end, explained - expect spoilers!


1. The virus

Sarah in her bedroom at the beginning of the game, blissfully unaware of the chaos about to be unleashed...

The game opens in 2013, with a fungus looming like a dark cloud over the United States; Cordyceps. The fungus is beginning to take over the human population, changing people’s behaviour and appearance. These people are referred to as the “infected”.

In this strange world, we come across Joel, the character we primarily play as and control for most of the game. As the fungus worsens and more people become infected, Joel runs from his home in Texas with his brother Tommy and his daughter Sarah. 

On their way out of their town, the trio battle through roads filled with the infected as well as soldiers patrolling the area. When trying to escape, their car is no longer useful, and so they go on foot. The soldiers are suspicious, and they shoot Sarah, who dies in Joel’s arms.


2. 20 years later

Joel and Tess, whose relationship is unclear at the best of times.

We then cut to twenty years later, where the world is in ruins. There is no real civilisation anymore; every town is run differently, usually through dictatorship. 

Joel is now a smuggler, working with his partner Tess. They track down a stolen weapons cache, but it is revealed that the cache had been traded with the Fireflies, a rebel group fighting back against thr main group governing the US, FEDRA..

When Joel and Tess go to the Fireflies to get revenge, the Fireflies’ leader Marlene says she will double their cache if they smuggle Ellie, a young teenager, to a group of Fireflies hiding out beyond one of the quarantine zones - and this is where our next part begins…


3. Joel and Tess meet Ellie

Ellie and Joel meet for the first time.

Ellie, Joel and Tess manage to sneak out when it gets dark. Soon, Joel and Tess find out that Ellie is infected, but she tells them the bite is three weeks old and the immunity she seems to have could be a cure for the Cordyceps fungus.

The three of them then have to fight their way through teeming swarms of infected, which sets the tone for a lot of the infected-based gameplay.

Eventually, Ellie, Joel and Tess make their way to their destination, but the Fireflies hiding there have been killed.


4. Tess’ Death

Joel and Tess; the ultimate apocalypse-survival team

Tess then reveals she was bitten by one of the infected earlier, and she sacrifices herself for Ellie, causing the FEDRA soldiers pursuing them to descend on her while Joel and Ellie flee.

Joel then decides to try and find Tommy, hoping that he can help them find the other Fireflies.The now-duo’s journey begins again as they head out into the barren wilderness.


5. Bill and other friends

Henry and Sam, two of Joel and Ellie's allies on their travels.

On their travels, Joel and Ellie find Bill, a smuggler still indebted to Joel from the past. Bill gives them a car, which is then wrecked by bandits.

Then, the duo meet brothers Henry and Sam, but soon enough, Sam is bitten, and he turns on Ellie, causing Henry to shoot him, killing him instantly. Henry then takes his own life. 


6. Finding Tommy

We'll meet again: Joel and Tommy are reunited.

Finally, Ellie and Joel find Tommy, who now lives in a settlement in Wyoming with his wife. 

Joel grapples with what to do with Ellie, but he ends up taking her with him, and the two begin their travels to another place under Firefly territory. 

However, they don’t get far, as they are attacked by bandits and Joel is hurt pretty badly.


7. Ellie cares for Joel

Ellie looks after Joel.

Ellie and Joel then hide out in the mountains as Ellie cares for Joel and tends to his wounds. He relies on her for food and water, and she goes out hunting to keep them both going. 

When out hunting, Ellie comes across two men, David and James, who are happy to give her medicine if she gives them food in a trade-off. 

Everything seems to be looking good with these new people, but then David reveals the bandits who attacked Joel were part of his group, and Ellie becomes very hostile and defensive, and so the next part begins.


8. David’s group

Ellie still isn't too sure about David...

Ellie manages to lead the group away from where Joel is hiding in the mountains, but she is then captured herself. It is then revealed that this is a cannibal group.

Ellie kills James and manages to flee, but she is then trapped with David in a restaurant that’s been set on fire.

Meanwhile, Joel begins to recover from his wounds, and he leaves to find Ellie.

Joel reaches Ellie and finds her killing David with a machete.


9. Captured by the Fireflies

Joel wakes up in Firefly territory, next to Marlene.

As Joel and Ellie continue on their journey, they are captured by the Fireflies, who take them to the hospital they have taken over.

Marlene is waiting for them there, and she tells Joel that Ellie is now being prepared for surgery. She explains that, for Ellie to have a chance of helping produce a vaccine for the Cordyceps infection, they must remove the infected part of her brain, which will kill her.

Realising he has developed a strong bond with Ellie, Joel refuses to let her die - and this is when the final battle takes place.


10. Final battle

The Final Battle...

This is one of the most thrilling part of the gameplay, as it is the most emotionally-charged part of the game.

In this section, Joel makes his way through the hospital, killing everyone who shoots at him. Once he’s in the operation theatre, Joel kills the main surgeon prepping Ellie, and he takes her, unconscious, into the parking area downstairs, where Marlene is waiting.

He shoots Marlene, killing her so the Fireflies don’t try to follow them. 

As Ellie wakes up in the back of the car, she asks what happened. Joel lies, telling her there are many other immune people, but no cure was found, and the Fireflies have therefore stopped trying.


The Last of Us is a heart-wrenching story-driven game which has been even more popularised by the HBO TV show, but the game itself has an incredible storyline with twists and turns along the way which support the excellent gameplay.


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With a penchant for impressive graphics and heart-wrenching storylines, I have had the pleasure of delving deep into the philosophy and storytelling of my favourite games through my writing.
Gamer Since: 2007
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: BioShock
Top 3 Favorite Games:BioShock, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, BioShock 2

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