With rumors swirling about a potential The Last of Us Part 3, here is everything we know about the potential post-apocalyptic threequel's release.
The game series centered on the plights of humanity following the outbreak of a cataclysmic infection has gone on to sell over 37 million total units across its two games (via Game Developer) and has spawned a critically acclaimed HBO TV adaptation starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey.
While a third game in the franchise (colloquially known as The Last of Us Part 3) has not been announced, given the franchise's uber popularity, another game in the series feels like an inevitability at this point.
Will The Last of Us Part 3 Actually Release?
The Last of Us Part 3 is one of the worst-kept gaming secrets going right now.
Developer Naughty Dog has remained coy about working on a sequel, pushing the focus onto the (potentially ill-fated) Last of Us multiplayer game the team is working on.
When asked about Part 3 in February 2023, the director of the first two games Neil Druckmann offered a simple "no comment:"
"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."
According to Druckmann, PlayStation has not pressured the studio whatsoever about working on a third game, apparently leaving it up to the team whether "[they] want to continue or not" (via Buzzfeed)
“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.”
Talks of The Last of Us 3 have been going on for year however. Druckmann told the ScriptApart podcast back in 2021 he has an "outline for a story" for Part 3, and that he "hope one day can see the light of day," but never confirmed if it would or would not happen:
"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."
The renowned game director recently confirmed he is working on something at the studio, though he has yet to reveal what it actually is.
Druckmann turned heads in August 2023 when he updated his Instagram bio (via Gaming Bible) to say, "Writer/director unannounced game." While the Naughty Dog team could be working on a new IP, this could also be the first indication of a Last of Us 3 coming from the studio.
If this does happen to be The Last of Us Part 3, fans should not hold their breath for a release any time soon.
The Last of Us Part 2 released in 2020, with Uncharted 4 coming three years before that (a project Druckmann and The Last of Us (TLOU) team took over mid-development).
Following the release of TLOU 2 Naughty Dog leadership (including Druckmann) talked about taking more time with their next game, following rampant crunch on the last two Naughty Dog titles (per GamesIndustry.biz).
That would mean if everything went to plan, gamers still would likely not see The Last of Us Part 3 until late 2025 (five years after the release of Part 2).
But with the Last of Us multiplayer game in production - a title that has faced a fair share of turmoil over the last couple of years (via Game Informer) - and rumors of a new IP from Naughty Dog, it could be even longer before The Last of Us Part 3 is ever released.
What Will The Last of Us Part 3's Story Be?
While The Last of Us Part 2 did a solid job at wrapping up its story, there are a few hanging threads that could be explored in a potential threequel.
Of course, one direction the team could go would be to follow the protagonist of the first to games again, Ellie Williams.
After travelling across the country alongside the grizzled Joel Miller (who would go on to become a pseudo father figure), Ellie had to say goodbye to the man to had opened his heart to her during the events of Part 2.
This led the teen on quest for revenge that would result in her losing just about everything. The Last of Us 2 ended with Ellie returning to her farmstead home with her first love Dina gone, taking her adopted daughter along wit her.
Going from here, The Last of Us Part 3 could pick up with Ellie searching for purpose again, following her turning her back on everything and everyone just to see Joel's killer brought to justice.
Another narrative string the Last of Us team could tug on in Part 3 could center around the 'villain' of Part 2, Abby. Despite being the killer of Joel in TLOU 2, gamers were force to play through half the game as the revenge-striken survivor.
This offered a glimpse of the other side of Ellie's revenge quest coin. Part 2 closed with Ellie sparing Abby, as she boated off into the distance with her young companion Lev.
If Part 3 were to focus on Abby and Lev it would likely center on the survival of the Catelina Islan Firefly colony, of which the pair of survivors escaped to after their confrontation with Ellie.
There is also the chance the game could focus on a whole new cast. According to leaker DanielRPK, The Last of Us Part 3 will center on a group of five survivors named " Lucas, Mason, Val, Ezra and Gracie."
This 'leaked' plot described the group has holding of on the outskirts of a post-apocalyptic American city, using an old victorian house as home base; however, not much else was revealed by the insider.
Will Ellie Return in The Last of Us Part 3?
While there is always the chance The Last of Us Part 3 focuses on a set of new characters, or Part 2 additions like Abby and Lev, it seems highly unlikely Naughty Dog would put out a game in the hit series without the inclusion of franchise figurehead Ellie Williams.
Ashley Johnson's Ellie (played by Bella Ramsey on the HBO adaptation of the games) has become one of the most recognizable figures in gaming, so it would make sense she would be a part of any potential sequel.
According to leaker ViewerAnon (via Eurogamer), Ellie "at least as important" in The Last of Us 3 as she was in Part 3. This means fans need not worry about the potential of the beloved character not making an appearance a Last of Us threequel.
On if characters like Ellie would return for a third game, game director Neil Druckmann previously said (via IGN), after two games "there's starting to be a pattern" of characters and "thematic themes you would have to stick to if you were making a third game:"
"We've now had two games that I feel speak to something universal as well as telling a very personal story for these characters. With one game, there's no pattern of what a franchise is. With two games, now there's starting to be a pattern - now I feel like there are some structural and thematic themes you would have to stick to if you were making a third game."
While no confirmation of Ellie's return has been made public, if a Last of Us Part 3 happens, one can likely expect the character to be there in some form another.
The Last of Us Part 3 is currently rumored to be in production.