One of the most hotly-anticipated games of the year is out this week: The Last of Us Part II, available on the PlayStation 4. If you aren’t sure why everyone’s so hyped about it, let us explain.
In 2013, Sony and Naughty Dog released “The Last of Us” for PlayStation 3: an action/adventure/survival game set in a post-pandemic world where a decimated human race defends itself against a zombie-like horde of so-called “Infected.” It may sound like yet another zombie thriller now, but back in 2013 — when AMC’s “The Walking Dead” was just hitting its stride and when “World War Z” was blowing up the box office — the genre was reaching its fever pitch. The Last of Us wasn’t just cashing in on a fad, though: Even if you came for the brutal zombie violence, you stayed for the intense-yet-heartwarming story. You play as Joel, a smuggler trekking across America with a young girl named Ellie, who is coming of age in this post-apocalyptic wasteland. And while the gameplay involved lots of action, few video games have matched the storytelling abilities of The Last of Us, which made it a huge hit.
In fact, it’s regularly hailed as the best game of the PS3 generation, if not this generation too — it eventually got a remastered version for the PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro, with upgraded graphics in 4K and HDR. With so much staying power, you can imagine how long people have been itching for a sequel, with The Last of Us Part II winning multiple “most anticipated” awards the year after its announcement in 2016. Everyone’s been on the edge of their seats ever since, with the suspense only exacerbated by multiple delays wrought by a very real global pandemic: COVID-19. (The game was initially set to release in February 2020, but distribution challenges pushed it to summer.)
The second game in Naughty Dog’s survival horror series picks up five years after the first game left off. This time around, you play Ellie. You’ll make use of guns, improvised weapons and stealth to defend yourself against the Infected. The sequel also includes more varied movement and combat mechanics to keep things fresh.
If the ultra-violent, post-pandemic world of “The Last of Us” feels a bit too close to reality right now — or if you end up binging through the entire game in two days — here are a few other recent games that might help scratch the same itch.
The Uncharted Series is Naughty Dog’s other big franchise, with fewer zombies and more Indiana Jones-esque treasure hunting. If you like the way they handled gameplay and story in “The Last of Us,” “Uncharted 4” on the PlayStation 4 (and its predecessors) are an easy pickup.
If “The Last of Us” was Sony’s big win on the PlayStation 3, the 2018 “God of War” reboot is its counterpart for the PS4 generation (so far, anyway). You play Kratos, the former god of war, and you traverse the beautiful lands of ancient Norway with your son, Atreus. The result is a relationship-fueled story not entirely unlike that of “The Last of Us.”
If dealing with the undead is your jam, the Resident Evil series is arguably the harbinger of the modern zombie revival. “Resident Evil 2” was initially released in 1998, but a 2019 remake brings the story into the new millennium with brand new graphics, controls, and gameplay on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Post-apocalyptic worlds are nothing new, but few games have tackled the setting quite like 4A Games’ Metro series. Humans live in the tunnels of Russia’s abandoned metro system, fighting amongst themselves while defending humanity from mutated monsters that have taken over the surface world. Metro: Exodus is the latest installment, but you can also pick up remasters of the first two games for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead came out a year before The Last of Us, and redefined what a story-driven video game could look like. There’s very little action in this game. Instead, it’s more like an interactive movie, driven by a series of choices you make as the story progresses. The Definitive Edition includes all four seasons and DLC, so you can get the whole story in one go.