The Last of Us 3 could be coming – but how should the trilogy end?

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(Image credit: Sony)

Is The Last Of Us 3 really happening? Another survival horror sequel following The Last of Us 2 seems on the cards, after a seemingly reliable leaker took to Twitter to share the good news – stating that Ellie's journey would continue on PS5 in the years ahead. Twitter user @ViewerAnon (opens in new tab) claims that developer Naughty Dog is already working on The Last of Us 3, a rumor we're inclined to pay attention to, given their track record regarding other Naughty Dog projects. 

They previously revealed the existence of Crash Bandicoot 4 ahead of an official announcement, as well as Ashley Johnson's casting in HBO's The Last of Us show, which lands on our TV screens this coming January.

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So, is it possible? Are we getting a third (possibly final) entry in the The Last of Us franchise? 

Part II released back in 2020, and given the game's sales figures we fully expected Naughty Dog to entertain the idea of a follow-up. In early 2021, creative director Neil Druckmann confirmed that there was already "an outline for a story" after the events of TLOU 2, but that nothing was being done with it just yet; a year and a half later, something could well have changed.

The last of the last of us

The Last of Us 2

(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

It would no doubt take a while for another TLOU game to release, and we likely won't see an official announcement on the game's existence in the near future. There was a seven-year gap between the original game and its sequel, so don't expect The Last of Us 3 until 2027, if Naughty Dog follows a similar production schedule – but it's exciting to think ahead to what a conclusion to The Last of Us trilogy could be.

Warning: spoilers for The Last of Us Part I and Part II ahead.

The Last of Us games so far have offered tight, linear levels with emotive mo-capped performances, big dramatic stakes, and a mix of stealth and combat in gorgeously-realized environments that boast a technical mastery of the latest PlayStation console. With two games having set the mold, we don't expect a big departure in the gameplay, or narrative style.

We also don't expect an endless production line of TLOU releases in the years ahead. These are stories intentionally told, and not iterative, biannual RPGs; if a third TLOU game is coming, it may well be the end of Ellie's story for good. TLOU 2 is a truly dark game, even if it comes with brief flashes of hope – similar to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, a mid-trilogy movie that makes things a lot worse before they can get better. If TLOU 1 was about the lengths we go for those we love, and TLOU 2 was about the hurt we inflict on those who've hurt us, TLOU 3 seems best placed to be about escaping that cycle of violence, of creating community in a new, expansive way. Offering some kind of redemption, or peace, to the characters who remain – or at least a way forward for them.

The Fireflies offer the clearest signpost of where TLOU 3 could go. A murky resistance group in the first game, a hollow ghost of one in the second, they now seem to be rebanding with new recruits – offering Abbey a future away from her vengeful stalker and memories of her lost friends. With Abbey and Lev's future yet to be decided, it'd make sense to follow the formation of a new Fireflies community, with Ellie coming across them – learning to work with a group that contains Joel's killer, and make some kind of peace with them.

Ellie is still haunted by the fact she could have helped to develop a virus, and this plot point could yet rear its head, with Ellie sacrificing herself for the good of humanity. A game ending with a vaccination programme would certainly be emotive, in our current climate; however, this might be a little too neat for a franchise known for twisting the knife into its players' hearts. (Prepare to cry, whatever happens.)

Lev-olution

The Last of Us 2

(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

"Much of TLOU 2's impact was in its ability to swap viewpoints, to see you inhabit the rage, hurt and revenge of opposing forces. We can't imagine Ellie being absent, but it seems likely that TLOU 3 will also find a way to pivot into someone else's shoes".

The protagonist will be key to where the story goes, and TLOU already has a reputation for swapping up your avatar – between Joel and Ellie in the first game, and then Ellie / Abbey in the second. We left the latter two characters breathless after a near-fatal encounter on the beach, with Abbey and young cult escapee Lev leaving in a boat while Ellie seemingly abandons her revenge at the last moment. I think this is a clear indicator of where the next game will go – either following Abbey or Lev as a new playable character in her company. 

Much of TLOU 2's impact was in its ability to swap viewpoints, to see you inhabit the rage, hurt and revenge of opposing forces. We can't imagine Ellie being absent – she'll almost certainly be the face of the next game, and take up half of the playtime – but it seems likely that TLOU 3 will also find a way to pivot into someone else's shoes, and it'd be incredible to see a transmasc character put center stage in this way. With TLOU 2 having been review-bombed on Metacritic at one stage, by players hating on a conspicuously muscular woman (heavens!), or a transmasculine teenager, we certainly hope Naughty Dog will hold its nerve with the kind of representation it's offered so far. But the main change we're after is less about the games' characters and more about the people making them. Naughty Dog got a lot of bad press around TLOU 2's release due to a crunch culture that saw devs working 12-hour days. There's been plenty of noise from Druckmann about improving this in future titles at the studio, and we hope to see that implemented in concrete ways if TLOU 3 comes to pass – early reports from devs working on the TLOU 1 remake on PS5 certainly point to a brighter, healthier environment for studio staff.

Regardless, given the gut punches of the last game, we could certainly use a few more years to recover before we inflict that on ourselves again. In the meantime, with The Last of Us TV show landing this January, and TLOU 1 coming to PC in March, there's plenty of opportunity to delve into this impactful franchise's world in the months ahead.


Check out the best games like The Last of Us while you wait for number 3

Freelance Writer

Henry St Leger is a freelance write who has written for sites including NBC News, The Times, Little White Lies, and Edge Magazine, alongside GamesRadar. Henry is a former staffer at our sister site TechRadar too, where started out as Home Technology Writer before moving up to Home Cinema Editor. Before he left to go full-time freelancer, he was News and Features Editor reporting on TVs, projectors, smart speakers and other technology.