Best Games to Play If You Love The Last of Us

Games

The Last of Us is in the middle of a fungal zombie renaissance. HBO’s The Last of Us TV series has so far received stellar reviews and only gets better with each episode. We even now know that we can expect a second season. And if that’s still not enough, the show’s source material game (or at least a remake of it) will finally be released on Steam later this year. Truly, it’s no better time to be a Last of Us fan. Unless, of course, you already played The Last of Us Part 2 and still want more.

While we’re all waiting on pins and needles for The Last of Us Part 3 (assuming Naughty Dog ever makes it), at least there are quite a few games that can help you fill that Last of Us void in the meantime. While it’s hard to find a game that does everything that The Last of Us does, those looking for a bleak world, grizzled characters with questionable morality, zombies, and gripping narrative yarns will find those things in these games.

Uncharted 4

The Uncharted Franchise

Before Naughty Dog developed The Last of Us, the studio worked on the beloved Uncharted franchise: a series of action/adventure games that offered an almost Indiana Jones-like cinematic experience. They’re completely unconnected from The Last of Us’s post-apocalypse (aside from some Easter eggs), but that’s hardly a complaint.

In hindsight, the Uncharted series serves as a solid missing link between The Last of Us and Naughty Dog’s PS2 Jak franchise. Uncharted combined the latter’s platforming with the former’s stealth and gunplay to create a sprawling love letter to the genre. {rotagonist Nathan Drake is no Joel Miller, but he is just as likable thanks to his goofy charm and encyclopedic knowledge of history. If you want to know how Naughty Dog honed its skills to produce the beloved Last of Us games, playing the Uncharted series should give you a good idea.

A Plague Tale Innocence

A Plague Tale Innocence/Requiem

Like The Last of Us, A Plague Tale: Innocence and Requiem are survival horror games where resources are limited and far too many NPCs die in gruesome fashion. Unlike The Last of Us, where survivors are hounded by zombies, A Plague Tale’s apocalyptic force is far more dangerous: Enough hungry rats to eat all of France.

A Plague Tale’s entries hit many of the same beats as The Last of Us. The games star a young protagonist who has to guard a younger sidekick they don’t initially like but eventually care for, and, in order to survive, they have to make many questionable decisions. Just like The Last of Us, the game’s story is a memorable tale about the loss of innocence that will tug at your heartstrings.

God of War: Ragnarok

God of War (2018) and God of War: Ragnarök

While the God of War franchise started as a hack-and-slash power fantasy, the series was semi-rebooted in 2018 and turned Kratos into a father. That new trait elevated the series to higher heights than ever before.

At first glance, the recent God of War games have little to do with The Last of Us, but they both tell the story of a broken man who lost a child and is given a second chance. But while The Last of Us’ Joel initially has no intention of connecting to Ellie, God of War’s Kratos is trying to be the best father he can, despite the complications. Two different ways of exploring the same theme. Of course, The Last of Us also doesn’t feature the epic battles against gods and mythical creatures that God of War does.

State of Decay

State of Decay

Unlike most zombie apocalypse games, the State of Decay series focuses on a community of survivors instead of a lone hero. Every character plays a part, half of the game’s fun (and challenge) stems from giving them assignments. Recruit allies who shore up existing weaknesses, and you’ll keep everyone alive and happy.

Instead of growing attached to characters through a tightly-woven narrative as you do in The Last of Us, State of Decay lets these bonds grow organically. Players never know what they will run into, so when an extremely useful character falls sick, how far will players go to save them? Can they even be saved, and will the community survive or crumble without them? State of Decay specializes in that kind of emergent storytelling.

Telltale's The Walking Dead

Telltale’s The Walking Dead

The Last of Us is arguably the most popular story about a man adopting a young girl and trying to survive in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, but it wasn’t gaming’s first incredible example of that concept. That honor belongs to Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead series.

Released half a year before The Last of Us, Telltale’s The Walking Dead is a narrative-driven adventure that solidified the formula the studio used for subsequent titles (unfortunately to its detriment). The game hits many of the same thematic beats as The Last of Us but with the added bonus of decisions that can alter the narrative. Few of those decisions fall into “good” or bad” categories; they’re just the result of survivors trying to do their best. Joel would probably make the same choices if he had to.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Like The Last of Us, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is all about the relationship between two central characters, though this game focuses on two brothers rather than a father and his surrogate daughter. However, while The Last of Us shows its characters growing connection through cutscenes, Brothers makes players cultivate it through gameplay.

Instead of controlling one character and making the other tag along, players are in command of both brothers in this game. That design choice shows the relationship instead of telling it, which makes several plot twists and events hit home much more effectively than even The Last of Us manages (and with minimal dialogue to boot).

This War of Mine

This War of Mine

A zombie post-apocalypse is scary, but a zombie-free post-apocalypse can be even scarier, as This War of Mine demonstrates. Like State of Decay, This War of Mine tasks players with maintaining a group of survivors but in a different way.

As the title suggests, This War of Mine takes place during an ongoing war and stars a group of survivors just trying to make it until a time of peace. Even if they have enough supplies to stay alive, will they remain sane enough to want to see the war end? The story here is mostly emergent and pieced together by milestone events and the player’s constant duty of giving their fellow survivors the right tasks at the right time in order to keep them alive.

Deadlight

Deadlight

Part of what makes Joel so fascinating in The Last of Us is the fact that he’s not always a great person. He makes a ton of bad choices, but more of them are made for the right reason: Ellie. Deadlight is perhaps best thought of as what would happen if Ellie wasn’t there to partially balance Joel out (and if The Last of Us were a 2D platformer).

Like The Last of Us, Deadlight stars a gruff, scarred man with a troubling past trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. As events play out, gamers learn just how haunted the main character is. If Joel had never met Ellie, it’s not a stretch to assume his path may have echoed the one we see play out in this atmospheric indie title.

Dap

Dap

Dap is the indie game result of giving Pikmin a horror paint job. In Dap, players control a forest spirit, one of the titular dap, that embarks on a quest to save the woods from an evil, corrupting presence.

This game excels in its presentation. Even though Dap is an isometric title, its sound design and art style create a haunting world that feels alien and unwelcoming, but its crowning achievement is its ability to nail the horror of infection. While Ellie is immune to the cordyceps in The Last of Us, Joel isn’t, so that’s one character players have to worry about. In Dap, though, nobody is immune. Every Dap can turn feral because of the corrupting force, so while controlling a full army sounds akin to stuffing Joel’s pockets with ammo, it can easily backfire with one wrong turn.

The Metro Franchise

The Metro Franchise

At first glance, the Metro franchise has more in common with the Fallout series since they both feature a world where human civilization moved underground to escape an irradiated surface filled with mutants. But Metro games, especially the first two, hit some of the same emotional and narrative beats as The Last of Us despite predating it.

Both The Last of Us and the Metro games are all about surviving an unforgiving future. Scavenging resources is a must as supplies are so scarce that bullets essentially double as currency. While the games’ protagonists are completely different people, they both have to make bad choices for presumably the right reasons. The operative word there is “presumably.” 

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