In the past 12 months, The Last of Us has scored an Emmy-nominated TV show adaptation (which was instantly renewed), a PS5 remake and a walkthrough maze at Halloween Horror Nights. Despite the PlayStation game’s release being 10 years ago, The Last of Us is bigger than ever in 2023.
That extends to today, September 26, which fans know as The Last of Us Day, aka the day that the cordyceps outbreak began within the game.
It’s a testament to the impact of The Last of Us that a day like this is acknowledged every year. The game’s developer, Naughty Dog, often fuels the fire with special announcements and new product drops, but it’s often a day made by the fans for the fans, who come together to share their love of the game.
Speaking for myself, I can easily say The Last of Us has been influential on me as a person. I’ve played these games more times than any other in my life. Ellie was the first cosplay I ever attempted. I have TLOU merchandise in my wardrobe, art framed on my walls, and ink tattooed on my body. I’ve recapped, podcasted and written extensively about it, which probably says a lot more about my relationship with fandom than it does about The Last of Us, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t something special that started it all.
I recognise that some statements claiming The Last of Us to be the “greatest story ever told in video games” are exaggerated. Video games are a subjective experience, after all. But for many people, this statement bears truth and on this The Last of Us Day I wanted to hear what the game meant to them:
“The Last of Us is a story of devastation, both literally in the depiction of its world and thematically in the brutal outcome of its characters’ journeys. And what makes its story so special to me is behind every glimmer of hope and joy, there is an unrelenting feeling of devastation and doubt lurking to keep them in check that feels oh-so-satisfyingly bittersweet.” – Tom
“I thought it would be all gore and zombie horror, but The Last of Us is beautiful, human-led storytelling.” – Melissa
“Without The Last of Us, I would never have met my amazing partner. It really is an understatement to say that this video game has changed my life.” – Amanda
“The Last of Us series has helped many people navigate a confusing and scary world over its ten years. Brutal and unforgiving, the game breaks away with moments of pure wonder and humanity, reminding fans to look for the light. It forced us to find something to fight for and, in the end, to let go of a painful past to look towards the future, holding on to any glimpse of hope that things can change for the better. It has brought me in contact with friends throughout the world, as well as a partner who has fought tooth and nail, along with me, against the world.” – Diss
“The Last of Us is more than just a zombie game or TV show. Even though I haven’t actively played the game I still felt like I was immersed [while watching my partner play]. It stayed riveting the entire time, it was basically like watching a 12-hour-long film. I think it’s rare for a game to have that. I think the way The Last of Us sets itself apart is how it delves into the emotional side. I love the way it explores relationships between people.” – Taj
“I remember having a conversation with my dad about animation around the time TLOU 1 first released. He was impressed by the quality of a made-for-TV animated movie he’d seen flipping channels one afternoon home crook from work. In a very ‘you’re not gonna believe this’ moment, I fired up the intro sequence of TLOU 1 for him to show him what games were doing. It completely turned him around on what he’d considered a silly hobby for me. It showed him there was artistry involved in creating these experiences and that they could draw emotions out of a person like any other art. The game’s still really important to me for that reason, especially now that he’s not around anymore.” – David
“To me, The Last of Us is proof that gaming can be more than just a collection of polygons taking up a screen. It’s something that – while taking place at the end of the world – feels incredibly relatable and tells a human story of hope, proving that even in the darkest of places all you have to do is look for the light.” – Klein
“The Last of Us makes brain go brrr.” – Kiki
“TLOU 1 came out when I was a pretty similar age to in-game Ellie, and I was immediately obsessed with the in-depth story – it was when the Left Behind expansion released that I think the game really changed my brain chemistry though. Seeing Ellie and Riley kiss at a time when I was struggling with my sexuality was a really defining moment, and TLOU Part 2 really drove things home with Ellie and Dina’s relationship (particularly as Ellie aged up with me, in essence). Representation is so vital, and I’m forever thankful I had such a profound and visually gorgeous piece of media available when there honestly hadn’t been that much beforehand. Playing TLOU 2 during the early days of the 2020 lockdowns was like transporting myself back to being 15 years old sitting in front of my crappy TV and being immersed in a totally different world – and I don’t think there ever has been and may well never again be a set of games that has such a real-world impact on me after completing them like TLOU 1 and 2 did.” – Emily
The Last of Us is far from the only game to inspire testimonials like these, but it serves as a reminder of the power video games can have as a medium.
All of this is to say, take time to celebrate the games you love. They don’t come around all that often.
Image credit: Naughty Dog