If, for whatever reason, you weren’t satisfied with the hopeful ambiguity of The Last of Us Part II’s ending, it sounds like Naughty Dog still thinks there’s at least one more bullet in the chamber for the series. Director Neil Druckmann has revealed in the Grounded II: The Making of The Last of Us Part II documentary that he still thinks there’s a third chapter in this story. And god, I wish he would just let protagonist Ellie sort her life out in peace.
In the documentary, Druckmann explained that while he was previously quoted saying that Naughty Dog had an outline for a third Last of Us game, this wasn’t actually the case back in 2021. At that point, he was referring to a side story that focused on Tommy, the brother of Part I protagonist Joel, who ends in a revenge-fueled rage with no closure. That concept has since been shelved, and Druckmann actually has a concept for a potential third game (thanks Gematsu).
“The first game had such a clean concept of the unconditional love a parent feels for their child,” Druckmann said. “The second one, once we landed on this idea of the pursuit of justice at any cost, justice for the ones you love, it felt like there’s a clean concept here and there’s a through-line from the first game about love. If we never get to do it again, this is a fine ending point. The last bite of the apple, the story’s done.”
“I’ve been thinking about, ‘Is there a concept there?’ And for now years, I haven’t been able to find that concept,” he continued. “But recently, that’s changed. I don’t have a story, but I do have that concept, that, to me…is its own thing, yet has this through-line for all three. So it does feel like there’s probably one more chapter to this story.”
Despite my vehement dislike of the reductive way Druckmann talks about The Last of Us, I do find Part II to be a worthwhile continuation of The Last of Us’ story. Part of me trusts that the team could do right by every character and story involved in a third game. But I also was so content with the full-circle ending Part II offered with its focus on forgiveness over grief-driven violence. My fear is that because AAA video games carry the expectation of combat, a hypothetical Last of Us Part III would have to undermine some of the lessons learned at the end of the second game to justify its existence in some people’s eyes. My ideal third Last of Us game would have no combat at all. It would show Ellie walking through Jackson, finding her estranged girlfriend, Dina, and seeing if bridges can be rebuilt.
But I don’t think I actually need to see that. I like ending The Last of Us at Ellie leaving the pain of both games behind and trying to find something in the pieces that are left. But capitalism dictates that big video game franchises must be dragged back onto the assembly line. Here’s hoping whatever Naughty Dog has planned manages to feel like a natural continuation of what’s come before.
Whatever The Last of Us Part III is, it’s not Naughty Dog’s next project. The team is working on a new IP, which is the first time the studio has done so since the original Last of Us in 2013.