To me, Uncharted developer Naughty Dog operates on another plane of existence in the gaming sphere. The studio’s story-driven, guided experiences aren’t for everyone, but its games are my Platonic ideal.
The Last of Us takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where a zombie-creating fungus has overwhelmed civilization. Arguably the best story ever told through a video game, the game follows Joel, a smuggler trying to make ends meet in overrun Boston, and Ellie, a teenager who is apparently immune to the infected, as they travel across the United States in hopes that Ellie’s immunity can lead to a cure.
Joel and Ellie’s pseudo-father/daughter relationship anchors the plot, and the game’s cover-based survival horror setting anchors the gameplay. Players will encounter a host of different infected and numerous groups of survivors in a game where there are always more problems than bullets. Avoiding confrontation isn’t a suggestion—it’s a necessity. Players must combine stealth, intimidation, and pacifism in order to survive.
Zombies may be played out, but Naughty Dog managed to craft one of the freshest games in recent memory around an oversaturated trope. Irrational Games’ masterpiece BioShock: Infinite was another contender for my Game of the Year, but ultimately no game from 2013 was more influential to the future of the industry than The Last of Us.