Years after its two successful PlayStation games, The Last of Us franchise has seen a huge surge in popularity due to the HBO series premiere. The debut season explores the events of the 2013 game while it has already been renewed for Season 2 to continue the story with an adaptation of 2020's Part 2.
Fans of the games waited seven full years to receive the PlayStation sequel, and the title ultimately proved controversial due to its story and character choices. But that hasn't stopped the craving for the post-apocalyptic story to continue in Part 3, although developer Naughty Dog has avoided making promises.
The Last of Us Creator Teases Part 3 Chances
Having been asked by IGN if the existence of HBO's The Last of Us TV show would impact his future efforts and storytelling in the gaming franchise, franchise creator Neil Druckmann gave "no comment," revealing his current focus is on the upcoming multiplayer spin-off which they will share more about "later this year:"
"That is like a coded 'Is there a Last of Us Part 3?' No comment. I'll just say our focus on... We have the multiplayer game coming out and we're going to reveal more about that later this year.
Concerning whether The Last of Us Part 3 may be on the table, Druckmann insisted that they would have to find "a really good, compelling story" to justify continuing, otherwise, Part 2 will mark the end of the franchise:
"Beyond that, it's the same prospect we've always had. We don't do something that we're not extremely passionate about. So unless we had a really good, compelling story to keep the story going, then it ends at 'Part 2.'"
Just weeks ago, Druckmann was similarly asked on the topic of The Last of Us Part 3 by Buzzfeed, revealing that publisher Sony has applied no pressure, leaving it up to developer Naughty Dog "whether [they] want to continue or not:"
“We’re very privileged that our publisher is Sony. They have supported us every step of the way to follow our passions — meaning that just because something is successful, people think there’s all this pressure and we have to make a sequel. That’s not the case. For us, Uncharted was insanely successful — 'Uncharted 4' was one of our best-selling games — and we’re able to put our final brushstroke on that story and say that we’re done. We’re moving on. Likewise, with 'The Last of Us,' it’s up to us whether we want to continue or not.”
However, the team continues to throw ideas back and forth in the hopes of finding the right story that has a "universal message and statement about love" just like the previous entries in the franchise did:
“Our process is the same thing we did when we did 'Part 2.' Which is if we can come up with a compelling story that has this universal message and statement about love — just like the first and second game did — then we will tell that story. If we can’t come up with something, we have a very strong ending with 'Part 2' and that will be the end.”
Druckmann offered a vague comment to The Hollywood Reporter amid the premiere of the HBO adaptation, simply hinting that he "[thinks] there’s more story to tell.”
Going further back to April 2021, one year after 'Part 2's release, Druckmann spoke to the Script Apart podcast noting that, at the time, an "outline for a story" had been written that "explores a little bit what happens after this game" and he hopes it "one day can see the light of day:"
"I don’t know how much I want to reveal... [co-writer Halley Gross] and I did write an outline for a story, that we're not making – but I hope one day can see the light of day – that explores a little bit what happens after this game. We’ll see.”
But whether Part 3 comes to pass or not, fans of HBO's The Last of Us should not expect the recently-announced Season 2 - which will obviously adapt the events of the Part 2 game - to mark the conclusion of the series.
Speaking to The Playlist, co-showrunner Craig Mazin shared his belief that the storyline after the first game - which is covered across Season 1 - becomes "quite a bit more involved and extensive:"
“We pretty much cover the first game in this first season. The remaining material is quite a bit more involved and rather extensive in comparison to the first game. There’s really no way to tell the story of the second game in one season. And when you look at how we adapted ‘The Last of Us’ in this season, you can already see where it’s not just the story that’s there, sometimes it’s these other stories we want to tell.”
While Mazin said he will always insist on "never boring people and never putting out filler episodes," he thinks the story of Part 2 "can't be told in just one season," implying that, if all goes well, Season 3 may come eventually:
“We really want the freedom to do it right. The one thing I insist on is never boring people and never putting out filler episodes. They’ve got to stand on their own and be compelling – always! But I think that as we continue, the rest of it can’t be told in just one season.”
Why The Last of Us 3 is Unlikely (For Now)
Naughty Dog has never been one to develop sequels for the sake of continuing a successful franchise, as can be seen with both The Last of Us and Uncharted franchises being on something of a hiatus. Clearly, the focus of Neil Druckmann and the studio is on telling the meaningful stories that are worth telling.
After all, it is the value behind those stories that has led Naughty Dog to become regarded among the best storytellers in gaming. That being said, they are clearly still keeping the door open to continuing The Last of Us franchise by floating ideas around the studio and throwing together potential story outlines.
Druckmann insists that Sony and PlayStation never pushed for Naughty Dog to bring back The Last of Us and Uncharted franchises, despite how much revenue they undoubtedly generated. Hopefully HBO will be a similarly supportive partner in not pushing to create Part 3 just to have more seasons of material.
From the sounds of it, unless something changes and any idea comes out of Druckmann's brain, fans shouldn't hold out hope for The Last of Us Part 3. But perhaps the mysterious multiplayer spin-off will hold a story of its own to satisfy that craving and expand the post-apocalyptic world.
Either way, the gap between 2013's The Last of Us and 2020's Part 2 came to seven years, with Naughty Dog developing 2016's Uncharted 4 in-between. Based on that wait time, even if Part 3 were to be on the table, fans shouldn't hold out hope for seeing the adventures of Ellie and company continue anytime soon.
But once that multiplayer game is eventually complete, Naughty Dog will undoubtably have more time spare to float ideas for its next single-player storyline experience. Whether that will be something from the worlds of Uncharted, The last of Us, or something new altogether, likely won't be clear for several years to come.
The first five episodes of The Last of Us are streaming now on HBO Max.