Why The Last of Us Is The Best Story Ever Told

Why The Last of Us Is The Best Story Ever Told

The Last of Us is not only the best video game in the last decade, it’s also the best story I’ve seen for a very long time. It single-handedly refutes the claim that video games don’t have great, original stories that cannot be told in another medium. Let me explain why.

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It’s a touching story about a man who loses his daughter when a zombie apocalypse breaks loose. It’s such a harrowing and well executed moment – right as they’re trying to flee their home and reach safety, the daughter is killed. It’s a deeper moment than just the death of a girl – in that scene and its build-up you sympathise with the military’s dilemma on how to treat the possibly infected.

Will Smith’s character is of course inconsolable – it’s a moment that achieves emotional poignancy due to its literally unprecedented originality. Sure – zombie stories are ten-a-penny these days, but have you ever seen this exact scenario played out in recent memory?

Joel-and-Ellie-the last of us 1We then skip to a few years later – to a city that’s now a post-zompocalyptic wasteland. Our main character is trying to go about his daily life, but is clearly still stricken with grief over what he’s lost. While we see him gathering what supplies he can during the day before returning to his fortified home, Smith’s character is clearly never safe in this horrible new world.

Of course, it’s not long before he meets an interesting young child and at the same time discovers that he’s potentially stumbled across the cure to the zombie plague. It’s such a unique and original twist – dangling hope in front of the audience and pushing the characters to see how far they’ll go to protect it.

Sure – the relationship between the main character and the young newcomer is tense at first. He’s been surviving for years with the death of his own daughter on his mind, so naturally it takes time for him to adjust. He needs convincing that the right thing to do is to leave his safe accommodation and travel to find true safety and an end to mankind’s waking nightmare.

We proceed to experience a heart-warming if not harrowing tale of Will Smith realising the gravity of his situation – eventually showing willing to sacrifice himself to save the youngster and ensure the cure can reach its destination.

In its review, Eurogamer quite rightly said that The Last of Us is about the death of a nation, and that:

“this melancholy twist is just one of several things that lifts The Last of Us far above its clichéd basis.”

I could not agree with this statement more. The review also says that “The Last of Us is Hollywood stuff” – and again, I’d agree. It belongs up there with Fast 6, or Avatar, or any other deeply original, story driven narrative experience.

The originality isn’t limited to the story, but also to the gameplay mechanics. Destructoid’s review praises the ability to pick up and throw environmental objects to tactically move and distract enemies. The review reads:

“While in most games, this option never seems to work properly, in The Last of Us it’s an efficient, crucial tactic”.

joel combat the last of us 1

It’s easy to see why Destructoid says this; it’s been ages since we’ve seen such a mechanic properly integrated into a triple-A game. Not since the old glory days of Far Cry 3 have we seen such a thing.

If you haven’t played through The Last of Us, I strongly recommend that you do. If you’re a fan of collecting bits of wood and metal to make surprisingly flimsy knives – it’s the game for you. Why would you waste even one day of the past decade since the outbreak on looking for an actual knife you can use? What would be the sense in that?

If you’re also a fan of moving pieces of furniture around to grant you access to the next room – you’ll fall in love with this game. There is so much gorgeously rendered furniture – from boxes and dumpsters through to pianos – and some of it can be moved slightly to solve a puzzle. But wait – there’s more!

For gamers who want a gritty, realistic survival horror – look no further. Naturally, your character has the supernatural ability of radar-ears (even through walls) – Will Smith Joel’s father was a WWII submarine, and his mother was a vampire bat, after all. I know what you’re thinking: that’s just a plot device put in to allow for a mechanic to balance the stealth requirements of the game. Well, you’re dead wrong.

The Last of Us deserves to be game of the year. Games like GTA V are insignificant next to it. It is completely worthy of all the praise it has received, specifically the ones that praise its storytelling ability.

Anthony Richardson


I'm Anthony, but you can call me Anthony. I once fit 20 grapes in my mouth, and 40 pencils in my hair. I haven't written a book, but if I did I would give it a confusing title, and I'd make every effort to ensure you hadn't a clue what relevance it had to gaming. Oh, and also I write about games.

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