The Last Of Us co-creator and director teases a potential third entry: 'there's probably one more chapter to this story'

The Last of Us screenshot of Joel
(Image credit: Sony)

Naughty Dog's The Last of Us Part 2 recently received an all-singing all-dancing remaster for PlayStation 5, which was both something of a surprise (the game was only released in 2020) and managed to over-deliver with a slew of new modes, cut content, creator commentary, and of course native 4K. Sony hasn't yet announced whether the game will make its way to PC, but the remaster of the first game arrived on Steam just seven months after its console release.

As part of the TLOU2 Remastered celebrations, Naughty Dog has now released the documentary Grounded 2: Making The Last of Us Part 2. The full thing is above and, fair warning, it's two hours long and obviously contains every narrative spoiler going. Towards the end, series co-creator and co-director on both entries Neil Druckmann casually mentions the prospect of a third entry in the series.

To be clear Druckmann does not say The Last of Us Part 3 is in development, but that he has a "concept" for where it'll go in relation to the first two games. 

"The first game had such a clean concept of like, the unconditional love a parent feels for their child," says Druckmann. "The second one, once we landed on this idea of the pursuit of justice at any cost, justice for the ones you love, we felt like 'there's a clean concept here and there's a throughline from the first game, about love.' If we never get to do it again, this is a fine ending point. Last bite of the apple, the story's done."

Druckmann says the advantage of being at a studio like Naughty Dog is that "we don't have to" make another entry in the series unless there's the desire to do so. 

"I've been just thinking about it, 'is there a concept there?' And for years I haven't been able to find that concept, says Druckmann. "But recently, that's changed, and I don't have a story, but I do have that concept that to me is as exciting as [TLOU 1], as exciting as [TLOU 2], is its own thing, and yet has this throughline for all three. So it does feel like there's probably one more chapter to this story."

In the same documentary Druckmann also addresses some confusion over previous remarks he'd made about the character Tommy, Joel's brother, and a potential spinoff game post-TLOU2 starring him.

"The headlines across the industry were like 'Naughty Dog has outlined The Last of Us Part 3' and that's actually wrong," says Druckmann. "It was always a small story, it was never a full title. At the time, we had higher priorities at Naughty Dog to fix our pipeline, to fix work-life balance issues. Just based on where we were, I didn't want to prioritize the story, so that story was shelved. And I still believe one day, it'll see the light of day. I don't know if it'll be a game or a show."

Perhaps notable in this context is that The Last of Us received one major DLC, Left Behind, but TLOU 2 never did, and launched amid a wider context of accusations and controversy about crunch and the working expectations at Naughty Dog. The documentary is fairly candid about this time, and the studio's key figures seem sincere about the changes made to avoid another TLOU 2-style crunch period. So the Tommy story may well have been a casualty of this period of retrenchment, where getting the studio working in a healthier way was more important than getting another expansion out the door.

That doesn't mean it'll never happen. Druckmann finishes on the Tommy stuff by saying "I hope someday we get to make it." As for TLOU 3, the question seems less an "if" than a "when", but given industry lead times I wouldn't start booking time off work yet.

Well, I suppose everything's a trilogy these days. More prosaically The Last Of Us has become one of PlayStation's great prestige hits, the type of games we used to call system sellers, alongside a hugely successful TV show which is currently filing its second season (and diverging from the game's stories). This is now a juggernaut and, despite the recent cancellation of a multiplayer spin-off, it would almost be more surprising if Naughty Dog didn't return to this world.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."