Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us could easily be seen as the shining jewel of the last generation, still discussed to this day as one of the best action-adventure games ever made. It came packaged with fantastic puzzle design, crunchy combat and an unforgettable narrative that is often brought up when debating the best video game stories ever written. It’s easy to forget that this was a risk for Naughty Dog, a new IP that strode quite far from its reliable, consistently adrenaline-pumping Uncharted series. Instead, it chose to tell a heartbreaking story about surviving in the grim reality of a post-apocalypse. For this reason and many others, it has become iconic, influencing a host of games that came after it in a multitude of genres. Read on for a list of games like The Last of Us that you might want to check out, as well as some golden oldies that evoke similar themes.
Available on: PS4
Let’s start with its nearest neighbour, Uncharted 4. Nathan Drake’s last adventure was the series most introspective offering yet, and it really delivered in the story department. Clearly, Naughty Dog learned a lot of lessons from The Last of Us and applied them here to weave emotion into the narrative, which deals with growing up, settling down and the tenuous bonds of family. A bombastic sayonara that takes the player from Scotland to the lost city of Libertalia, if you want action Uncharted 4 has got it in droves, with the inclusion of the grappling hook invigorating the clever combat. With a stellar voice cast - Troy Baker who voiced The Last of Us' Joel plays Nate’s brother, Sam, - peerless graphics and fluid animations, Uncharted 4 is a blockbuster affair that should be right at the top of your list for games to play after The Last of Us.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Android, iOS
You probably best remember Josef Fares from when he said “F*&# the Oscars” at The Game Awards, but the reason he made it onto that stage in the first place was the runaway success of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, a delightful indie game he directed that may have flown under your radar. It’s another emotional affair just like The Last of Us where you control two brothers who have to seek out a cure for their father's illness. It’s a sprawling adventure where you control each brother with the thumb sticks, solving puzzles and thinking outside of the box to progress. The story is centred around mourning and grief and shares a kinship with The Last of Us despite being totally different, gameplay-wise. There’s also the shared DNA of two characters motivating each other in a harsh situation. If you missed it back in 2013, the game is headed to Switch on May 28, 2019 so you can check it out on the move.
Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Another narrative behemoth that preceded The Last of Us by a few months in 2013, Irrational’s Bioshock Infinite is an ambitious game within an already genre-defining series, an atmospheric, imagination-stoking story with an inspired Steampunk aesthetic. Again, the protagonist is played by Troy Baker (Joel in The Last of Us) and follows his attempts to rescue a younger woman with world-bending powers from a Utopia grounded in American exceptionalism. Ken Levine’s assessment of American society in Columbia is still fascinating to this day, and the well-paced story will keep you on your toes indefinitely. It’s a bit more eccentric than The Last of Us’s grounded, harsh world but is still totally worth it for the twists and turns of the gripping story. Couple that with the engaging combat of a Bioshock game and you’re onto a winner. Go on, bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt!
Telltale’s The Walking Dead
Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Mobile Devices
Clementine and Lee’s relationship is incredibly analogous to that of Ellie and Joel. A father figure and a young girl trying to survive in the post-apocalypse. In Telltale’s attempt, which recently capped off its fourth season, seven years after the release of its first episode, the drama is the focus over action, which is for the better in this case. A gargantuan tale that stumbled and fell towards the end, The Walking Dead is absolutely worth a playthrough if you care about narrative in games, especially if you’re keen on the kind of tale told by Naughty Dog. Unlike future Telltale titles the choices really do matter here, and you’ll be spending a while in the pause screen at multiple memorable narrative junctures when the game throws a crisis of conscience at you. A testament to it’s writing, It’s tremendously hard not to get invested in the troupe of endearing characters, and consequentially hate the antagonists who come to threaten them.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Available on: PS4, Xbox One
Set in the dying throes of the Old West, there is a similar apocalyptic tension to Rockstar’s latest - an epic novella of a game framed in one of the most feature-filled and gorgeous open world’s ever made. You play Arthur Morgan, a renegade cowpoke who appears trapped by dogma in his lifestyle, only to be liberated and brought to question his surroundings by a cast of well-written and emotionally probing characters. Sure, the controls can let you down now and then and it will most likely take you over 70 hours to beat, but that isn’t without its rewards. With similar triumphs in dialogue and long-haul storytelling, Red Dead Redemption 2 is well worth investing in if you’re the type that likes to get lost in a game like you would a good book - with high stakes and fantastic character development.
A Plague Tale: Innocence
Available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Having just dropped in May of this year, A Plague Tale: Innocence is a relatively recent addition to this list but a worthwhile one none-the less. It shares similar story beats to The Last of Us and you can tell its influence as soon as you play it. It follows brother-sister combo Amicia and Hugo as they attempt to survive in a historic setting against hordes of horrible, plague-infested rats. Hugo is naturally quite the naive young lad, dependent on you to survive in this grim world of horrors. It’s full of clever rat-based puzzles and has a gripping story to tide you through. The oppressive world really does work to make the protagonists feel helpless against the plague tide, which curates a grim dark atmosphere. Perhaps one for fans of The Last of Us looking for something a little darker, A Plague Tale takes what The Last of Us did right and steps boldly forward, injecting its own clever ideas.
Max Payne 3
Available on: PC, PS3, Xbox One
One of Rockstar’s most underrated games, Max Payne 3 preceded The Last of Us but offered a similar cinematic character study. It’s far more high-energy, a modern tale focused on drug addiction and unresolved grief which takes Max through the favelas and skyscrapers of Brazil. Its main relation to The Last of Us is the way in which it portrays a broken man struggling to come to terms with a new world. A well-told story and a masterclass in third-person shooting, Max Payne 3’s ultraviolet bass-boosted gunplay is the perfect chaser to Naughty Dog’s creeping stealth action. With visuals that still hold up and a magnificent soundtrack to boot, you should certainly consider sticking your nostalgia goggles on and diving headfirst into this hidden narrative gem.
Metro: Last Light
Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
The middle child of the Metro series (but arguably its apex,) Metro: Last Light came out mere months before The Last of Us but channelled the same style of environment design. If you loved exploring the ruins of society with Joel & Ellie, 4A Games passionately built world of crumbling architecture and underground subway tunnels will delight all of your senses. A far more lonely game than The Last of Us, Last Light relies more heavily on Survival Horror to curate its devastating atmosphere, with noises unexplained, radiation sickness and eldritch creatures all posing potent threats to the player. It’s a fight for survival that shouldn’t be missed, and even has an in-built morality system that weaves carefully within its fascinating story. If you loved Naughty Dog’s tense post-apocalypse, you’ll no doubt enjoy the oppressive, often claustrophobic atmosphere of Metro and it’s still remarkable visuals.
Available on: PlayStation 4
At first thought of as derivative of The Last of Us, Days Gone is another PS4 first-party exclusive that deals with the trouble of surviving a dangerous apocalypse, extrapolated into a wide open world. In fact, Bend Studio conceptualized of it before The Last of Us hit, but it has since been tarred with the same brush of expectations given its cinematic style and setting. Upon release last month it received middling praise and is mainly reflective of The Last of Us in its gripping open-world ravaged by zombies, or freakers as protagonist Deacon St. John likes to refer to them. Think of it as a jaunt into a more floral part of America that was turned on its head by the same virus as the one seen in Naughty Dog’s narrative epic and you’re bound to have some fun. With crafting on the fly and similar combat, you’ll feel right at home with this one, if not able to tinker with the gameplay in a more feature-filled open world setting. It’s not quite got the narrative chops, but it still provides a setting that will capture your imagination.
God of War
Available on: PS4
Cory Barlog and Sony Santa Monica’s beautiful baby, God of War is a masterpiece in its own right, but you can clearly see where The Last of Us paved the way for it. Another third-person game where you control an emotionally stunted father trying to protect a subordinate that he consistently underestimates, God of War is a lot like The Last of Us, if not for the whole Norse setting and adrenaline-pumping boss battles with dragons. Really, the shared DNA can be seen in the incredible storytelling and cinematic flair. God of War one-shot style is incredibly immersive and never lets up regardless of which ancient realm you find yourself in. Atreus’ snowy relationship with Kratos is a beautiful slow burn, which rewards the player with bursts of palpable emotion across the game’s 20 hour. If you’re a fan of The Last of Us but you haven’t yet caught this one, pull it straight from your backlog and get going.