It’s plausible that one might hear a massive sigh of disgust if The Last of Us Part III is even mentioned aloud, given the multitude of reasons gamers have for wanting to move past this particular property. The Last of Us Part II did have a somewhat open-ended conclusion, but storylines can easily be dragged out and grow tiresome. Furthermore, even among players who enjoyed Part II, there is a sizable contingent of people who want Naughty Dog to move on to other projects. Despite the wishes of various players, however, it appears further adventures in the world of The Last of Us are on the horizon.
Naughty Dog’s co-president Neil Druckmann has indicated that the groundwork is being laid for a full sequel, though details remain scarce at this time. The Last of Us Part III has a script, though it isn’t in production and nothing has been said of the exact premise. Nevertheless, Druckmann’s teases have left us curious enough that we’ve set out to revisit some of the best characters from the series, examining their potential to become the next game’s protagonist.
Major spoilers for The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II to follow.
Henry and Sam
Towards the end of the first chapter in The Last of Us, Ellie and Joel run across another pair of survivors: Henry and Sam. Their first interaction puts the survivors at odds, as Henry struggles to put Joel in a headlock and Sam steadies a handgun pointed at the disgruntled protagonist. Following a daring escape from Pittsburg and a trek through an abandoned sewer system, the tension between the two pairs begins to subside. This initially combative dynamic soon gives way to a compelling relationship explored for the remainder of the chapter.
For such a rocky start, the two duos quickly bond over their shared circumstances. Joel discusses motorcycles with Henry in a brief scene of levity, while Henry finally has a friend his age in Ellie. These brothers pulled at our heartstrings when they were on-screen, but they left us too soon.
There’s an unexplored backstory here that’s worth a deep dive. Henry’s over-protection and Sam’s innocence could be developed into an emotional storyline and heated arguments between the brothers. We could also learn more about the Hartford Quarantine Zone and how the brothers wound up in Pittsburg. This potential narrative thread is prime for endearing moments with shades of melancholy, considering that we know how this one ends.
Throughout both the original game and the sequel, Tommy is the source of several unexplored plot threads. Joel’s kind yet broken brother deserves his own adventure, which would span from The Last of Us’ opening moments to beyond the sequel. Of course, there needs to be a sense of focus to the narrative in order to make the most of Tommy and his history.
To that end, Naughty Dog would be wise to explore Tommy’s experiences during the early years of the outbreak, as well as his reaction to Joel’s brutal survival techniques. As we know, Tommy wanted more to life than survival, so he left Joel and joined the Fireflies. Given how underdeveloped this aspect of Tommy’s life has been to date, a third game could easily fill in the gaps while being engaging in the process.
Here’s the catch, though: the preceding plot should be portrayed through flashbacks while the main crux of The Last of Us Part III will be Tommy’s adventures after the trauma he experienced in Part II. Consider that Tommy miraculously survived a bullet through the eye, lost his marriage, and missed his chance at revenge. He was left in a bad spot physically and emotionally, becoming the type of broken character that Naughty Dog loves to evaluate. We’d love to see what Tommy does now, our hope being that it involves a happy ending.
Some people may hate Abby and Lev in The Last of Us Part II, but Lev was one of our favorite characters in the series. The young child was competent, compassionate, encouraging, and ultimately a catalyst for positive change in the life of the hate-fueled Abby. He provided Abby with advice regarding the purpose of fear and helped the character break a cycle of revenge. Contrary to what the more senseless voices in gaming discourse may say, Lev was more than a stereotypical video game child.
Such a profound character needs a story of their own, something that The Last of Us Part III is in an ideal position to deliver. After Abby and Lev survive Ellie’s relentless pursuit, they urgently search for a better life with the Fireflies. That aspiration, and the hurdles that stand in the way, could drive the plot forward. It’s a risky move to base a game on a divisive character, but when has that stopped Naughty Dog?
JJ and Dina
One of the sweetest scenes in Part II featured JJ, the infant son of Dina and adopted child of Ellie. Ellie and JJ sit on a tractor as the sun edges behind a distant mountain. As Ellie talks and sings to JJ, the child coos in response. It was a moment of brief respite after an unceasing stream of sadness, brutality, and despair.
For obvious reasons JJ was not involved much in the story, but his presence was the focal point for major developments concerning Dina and Ellie. The revelation that Dina was pregnant with JJ during her and Ellie’s excursion to Seattle adds stakes to their efforts, leading the couple to eventually leave in search of a place to try and live in peace. He is a beam of hope in an otherwise dark world, making JJ the perfect character to end the series on an optimistic note.
While all the characters above would make for some fascinating character analysis, it makes the most sense to follow the game’s primary character. After all, everything that happens in Part II – even the long sequence spent playing as Abby – feeds into Ellie’s character arc and her final decision. Part II’s insistence that Ellie is the series’ true protagonist seems all the more pertinent considering the construction of its ending.
Naughty Dog balanced a conclusive ending with an open-ended finale, leaving the door open for Ellie to undertake at least one more adventure. After returning home from her vengeful journey, Ellie found exactly what she expected: an abandoned house with Dina and JJ nowhere in sight. Having lost everything good in her life thanks to the toxicity of revenge and spite, Ellie decides to leave home once more, her future uncertain. A third installment could put a final cap on Ellie’s story as she grapples with the lessons learned on her travels and tries to find peace at last.