Guide: The Last of Us - Full Recap

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Dustin Hansen
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The Last of Us: Part II is almost upon us, finally continuing Joel and Ellie's story. The first game was a dark, unflinching tale of a man and a girl as they travel across the United States devastated by a fungal infection. We'll be diving back into this dark and desperate setting soon, but it's been a long time since the first game. You may not have played The Last of Us in seven years, or even played at all.

If you need a recap of the events leading up to the incoming sequel, you've come to the right place. In this feature, we're going to provide you with a full story recap, telling you everything you need to know ahead of The Last of Us 2. Naturally, there will be spoilers for the full story of the first game below, so if you don't want to see them, you should look elsewhere now. Without further ado, let's review Joel and Ellie's story so far.

The prologue

The Last of Us prologue introduces us to Joel, who lives in Austin, Texas with his daughter Sarah. Joel comes home late, and Sarah is waiting for him to give her his birthday present. The two joke around and watch TV together until Sarah falls asleep.

Sarah wakes up in her bed when her phone rings. On the other side, Tommy, Joel's brother. He tells her that he needs to speak to Joel urgently before he cuts himself. Sarah then searches the house for her father, but there is no sign of him. Eventually he appears, running inside after fending off… Something. Joel tells Sarah to get ready to leave.

The pair get into Tommy's car and the three of them drive through town, which is wrong. It turns out that people are infected with a mutated cordyceps fungus, which takes over the brain and turns people into lifeless carriers stripped of humanity. Eventually, the fungus sprouts from the head and face of the infected.

As they drive through the town, which is in complete chaos, they are hit by another vehicle and are forced to escape on foot. Tommy backs up to hold off the infected while Joel and Sarah are stopped by a soldier, who is tasked with killing them. They walk away from the gunfire, but Sarah is hit. Tommy kills the soldier, saving Joel, but it is too late for Sarah, who dies in her father's arms.

20 years later...

We then fast forward two decades, where Joel lives in Boston, Massachusetts, as a smuggler in a post-pandemic world. North America is very dangerous outside the quarantine zones and other colonies, where the rest of the population lives. Joel and his partner Tess go in search of Robert, an arms dealer who owes them weapons. When they find him, he confesses to having sold their weapons to the Fireflies, an independent militia opposed to authority.

The leader of the group, Marlene, appears and promises Joel and Tess to double the gun count if they take a job. After following her, it turns out that she wants the couple to take Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, to a nearby meeting point. Along the way, Joel and Tess discover that Ellie has been bitten by an infected. Her wound is three weeks old, way beyond when people usually turn up – Ellie is immune, hence why she is so important. She could be the key to developing a cure for the infection.

Once they arrive at the meeting point, they find that the fireflies they were supposed to meet have been killed. Tess reveals that she has been infected and tells Joel to take Ellie and find the fireflies while she stays to buy them for some time. Joel and Ellie are forced to escape while Tess holds off pursuing soldiers, dying in the process.

The day begins

Joel reluctantly continues the journey with Ellie, and the first port of call is to find an old acquaintance, Bill, who owes him a favor. The hope is that this paranoid survivor can provide them with a work vehicle. Things aren't that simple, and a stubborn Ellie confronts Bill several times, but ultimately the pair escape Bill's territory in a van.

Joel and Ellie are on the road heading west for a while, aiming to find Joel's brother, Tommy - a former Firefly. Eventually, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, they are ambushed by a group of bandits and their vehicle is wrecked. They must flee the city, which is under heavy patrol and full of infected people. After being separated in a ruined hotel, the pair reunite when Ellie saves Joel from attack. Joel gives Ellie a gun while he takes out other bandits on their way to the Fort Pitt bridge.

Henry & Sam

The pair meet two brothers, Henry and Sam, who are also trying to leave Pittsburgh. Joel and Ellie join them and the brothers take them to their hideout. Henry and Joel come up with a plan to escape through a security checkpoint at night. Before that, the group heads to an old radio station. They are discovered, and the two pairs separate as they escape. Ellie and Joel jump into the river and wash up on a beach, where Henry and Sam find them.

The group eventually reaches the radio tower, where they can finally relax. As Joel shares pre-pandemic stories, Ellie checks in on Sam, who takes stock of his supplies. After telling him about their fears, Ellie says good evening. Turns out Sam was bitten by an Infected, but didn't tell anyone.

In the morning, Ellie goes to see Sam, who has returned overnight. Infected Sam attacks Ellie, and before Joel can retrieve his gun, Henry shoots Sam. Overcome by grief and guilt, Henry then shoots himself.


Several months have passed and Joel and Ellie are now in Jackson County, Wyoming. They are near Tommy's settlement in the city of Jackson, but have to cross an abandoned hydroelectric plant. As they approach the main gate, it turns out that it isn't abandoned at all; Tommy and his people are there, trying to get the factory back online and producing electricity. Joel takes Tommy aside and asks him if he can leave Ellie with him, because she'll be safer and he knows where the fireflies are. After the invaders attack the plant, Tommy agrees to take care of Ellie. However, she took off after hearing the conversation.

After catching up with her, Joel and Ellie argue with Tommy instead. However, they are cut short when more bandits approach. On the ride back, Joel decides to take Ellie to the Fireflies himself. Tommy tells them that the fireflies can be found at the University of Eastern Colorado science lab. The pair ride off on one of Tommy's horses.

Joel and Ellie find the university and explore the campus until they find the science building. Turns out the fireflies have abandoned the site, and there's no sign of them. Joel finds a dictaphone with the last words of a deceased Firefly, which says the group has returned to St. Mary's Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. Unfortunately, they are spotted before they can leave, so Joel and Ellie fight their way out of college.

In a struggle, Joel falls over a railing and lands on a metal pipe, impaling it. Ellie defends Joel and helps him up, and they barely escape. Joel, in severe pain and loss of blood, collapses as he walks away.


We are once again moving forward in time. Ellie now cares for a badly injured Joel. She searches for food in a snowy wood with a bow and arrows. After chasing a rabbit, Ellie spots a deer and tracks it down. The deer runs through the trees towards a colony. Ellie reaches the animal, but hears that she is not alone. David appears with his friend James. They want the deer for their people, but Ellie doesn't budge. David offers to switch and Ellie asks for drugs. While James goes back to get some, Ellie and David take shelter from the cold inside a cabin. A group of infected emerges and forces them to work together to survive.

After dealing with the infected, David tells Ellie that a group of his men were killed by "a madman who was traveling with a little girl". Clearly antagonistic, David lets Ellie use the drug as promised. She runs away and leaves with her horse.

Ellie comes back to Joel and gives him penicillin. Later, Ellie overhears some men outside – they've been stalking her and are looking for her. Ellie decides to throw them off the track on the way back up, but she is spotted and the horse is killed. She fights to join Joel, but is captured by David.

She wakes up in a cell and watches someone slaughter humans. David brings food to Ellie, making sure it's only deer meat. He confesses his cannibalism, but tells Ellie that he can help her live if she can earn the trust of her people. She breaks his finger. David threatens to kill her.

Meanwhile, Joel wakes up and notices that Ellie is missing. Still hurt, he gets up and starts looking for her, meeting David's men at the same time. He captures a few of them and asks them about Ellie. Torturingly forcing them to tell her, the men reveal Ellie's location before Joel kills them both.

Ellie is forced onto a table and held down. She tells David she is infected and shows him her arm. With the men distracted, she breaks her away and tries to find a way to get back and join Joel. Meanwhile, Joel approaches. Eventually, Ellie and David chase each other into a burning restaurant, but Ellie grabs her machete and brutally kills him. Joel eventually catches up to her and they return to the Fireflies path.


Joel and Ellie reach Salt Lake City and head to the hospital where the fireflies are. Along the way, they pass through an old zoo, where they spot a herd of giraffes walking peacefully through the site. Joel talks to Ellie and says they don't have to follow the Fireflies plan; they can just live peacefully with Tommy in his camp. Ellie tells him that everything they've been through "can't be for nothing".

The pair approach the hospital through partially submerged ruins. They both fall into the flowing water and Ellie nearly drowns. As he tries to revive her, the fireflies approach and knock Joel out.

He wakes up in a hospital room, where Marlene greets him. She assures Joel that Ellie is fine and getting ready for surgery. Marlene explains that to study the infection for a potential cure, they need to remove it from Ellie's brain, which will kill her. Angry, Joel demands to see Ellie, but Marlene refuses and asks her men to send him away.

Leaving the hospital, Joel overpowers the Firefly and learns that Ellie is on the top floor. He then goes up to the hospital through heavily guarded areas.

Finally finding the operating room, Joel enters the room to find Ellie unconscious lying on the table. A doctor threatens Joel, but he shoots him. The other surgeons are too afraid to move and Joel takes Ellie. Walking through the hospital, Joel enters the elevator and descends to the parking lot. Marlene confronts Joel, begging him to reconsider his actions, but he kills her to stop the Fireflies from pursuing them. He moves away.

Ellie wakes up as Joel backs up to Tommy's settlement. She asks what happened. Joel tells her that the Fireflies found many other people immune to the infection, but had no luck finding a cure and stopped trying.

As the pair approach Tommy's camp, Ellie arrests Joel and makes him swear what he said about the fireflies was true. Joel says, "I swear it". Ellie simply responds, "Okay."

The Last of Us: Left Out

In this standalone story, we learn how Ellie was bitten shortly before the events of the main game. Let's review the story here to get the full picture.

After Joel is critically injured just before the Winter Chapter, we see Ellie exploring a mall for supplies, such as sutures and bandages. As she makes her way through various stores, destroying infected people, she discovers a military helicopter. Inside, she finds a stored first aid kit, but has to fight her way to Joel when bandits begin to search the area.

This is intercut with flashbacks before Joel and Ellie's journey. We see Ellie sleeping in the quarantine zone where she lives, when her best friend Riley scares her. Ellie had assumed she was dead, but it turns out she was inducted into the Fireflies. Wanting to fix the way they left things the last time they met, Riley takes Ellie out of the quarantine zone to explore an abandoned mall.

As they walk through the mall, they find the trigger and restore power to the building. They chat and laugh as they have fun exploring the illuminated mall, throwing bricks at cars, pretending to play a broken arcade game and fighting with a water gun. Riley reveals that she was assigned to a Firefly group in another part of the country and asks Ellie what to do. Ellie tells him to leave.

Riley plugs Ellie's walkman into a store's sound system and they dance together. Ellie changes her mind and asks Riley not to leave. Riley rips off his Firefly dog ​​tag and Ellie kisses him. Before the pair can leave in peace, the infected are drawn to the music and they flee.

In their escape attempt, Ellie and Riley are bitten. Knowing their fate is sealed, they sit down and decide what to do. Rather than commit suicide, they decide to get rid of the infection and "lose their minds together". They don't know that Ellie is immune.

That sums up the full recap of The Last of Us. The story so far leads us to Part II, which is due out on June 19. The sequel takes place five years after the end of the first game, so it will be interesting to see how things have developed in that time. Are you ready to play The Last of Us 2? Relive the story in the comments section below.

Audio Video Guide: The Last of Us - Full Recap
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