Ranking the Best Characters in The Last of Us Franchise
10 Best Characters in The Last of Us Series
The smash hit video game The Last of Us is nothing short of a masterpiece. Immersing its audiences in a post-apocalyptic zombie-infested world filled with exhilarating, jaw-dropping, and, more often than not, terrifying gameplay. Although The Last of Us’ gameplay is certainly admired, the video game certainly shines with its high-caliber writing, intriguing characters, and brilliant performances.
It’s undoubtedly rare to find a video game as remarkably written as The Last of Us. Its cinematic storytelling, engaging performances, and intricate characterizations make for one of the most unforgettable video game experiences. The franchise’s characters are deeply complex, mostly due to the franchise’s phenomenal writing and the utterly compelling mocap performances from the whole cast, making the franchise’s characters some of the best in gaming history. With the groundbreaking HBO series’ recent release, there is simply no better time to look back and rank the franchise’s best characters. So without further ado, here are the best characters in The Last of Us franchise.
**Full Spoilers ahead for The Last of Us Part 1 and Part 2**
It’s safe to say that Abby made controversial waves during The Last of Us Part 2’s release, as fans were forced to witness Abby mercilessly beat our beloved Joel to a bloody pulp with a golf club. From there, we immediately despised Abby, as we felt Ellie’s rage and were thrilled to see her get her revenge. However, what players never expected was to play as Joel’s murderer, something that turned players off the video game. Likewise, for those who carried on playing, we never expected to fall in love with Abby, played by Laura Bailey, and her tragic and badass journey through The Last of Us world. Laura Bailey brought much dimension and emotion to Abby, making Abby far more likable than we first thought. If only she didn’t kill Joel.
Marlene, the leader of the Fireflies, is a very interesting and important character in the game who serves as the main catalyst as to why Joel and Ellie meet and go on this perilous journey together. In the first sections of the game, fans find themselves taking a liking to Marlene as she protects Ellie by any means necessary. But by the end of the game, Marlene reveals to Joel that she has to sacrifice Ellie in order to save the rest of the world, posing many philosophical questions. Although her question is gut-wrenching, her heart is in the right place, and she is determined to do whatever it takes to save the rest of the world.
Deep into the apocalypse filled with flesh-hungry infected, and merciless killers, it’s rare to find a compassionate and kind survivor willing to put himself before others. Yet, here comes little Sam with so much heart, bringing some much-needed light into the bleak and deadly apocalypse. As Henry’s younger brother and Ellie’s friend, Sam proved himself as a competent survivor who empathized with the infected. Sadly, as hard he tried to keep his fellow survivors alive, Sam met his end as he suffered a bite turning him into one of the infected.
As the older brother to Sam, Henry was just as compassionate and efficient as his younger brother. Seeing both brothers together made for some of the happiest and most heartfelt moments in the game, which ultimately led to a truly emotional downfall for both, that proved even humanity’s compassion is not safe in this tragic world. The two brothers were so close that even when Sam became infected, Henry knew he wasn’t going anywhere without him. We’re not crying, you are.
The Last of Us constantly poses many brilliant questions about who really are the antagonists of the game, the infected? Joel? The fireflies? Well, while we can go back and forth on this debate, we can all certainly agree that David is most definitely an antagonist. At first, David seems like another compassionate survivor, offering Ellie food and medicine. However, it isn’t long before David’s true intentions arise. David is the leader of a group of cannibals who kidnap and kill roaming survivors to use as food. No character is quite as cold, violent, manipulative, or merciless as David, which is only enhanced by Nolan North’s chilling performance.
As Joel’s close friend and smuggling partner, Tess immediately proves she is not to be messed with. Tess is just as tough and as cold-hearted as her smuggling partner, yet she is the one to convince Joel to take Ellie to the Fireflies. After being bitten by an infected, Tess shows Joel that Ellie is completely immune as Tess’ bite is way more advanced than Ellie’s despite Tess being bitten only minutes before. Due to her bite, she sacrifices herself for Joel and Ellie in a truly badass way, making her death unforgettable to players.
The apocalypse may have profound effects on different individuals. Some may turn into cold-hearted survivalists, some into compassionate survivalists, and some may just go utterly crazy yet strategic, like Bill. Bill may lack any tenderness, yet his depth and characterization make for one of the most memorable characters in the series. After falling out with his partner Frank, Bill became much more hardened, and by having a whole town fit with booby traps, proved that he would do anything to survive the post-apocalyptic world.
Tommy, Joel’s estranged brother, may not be in the first game for very long, but his little presence is certainly memorable, and his long presence in the second made The Last of Us Part 2 far more mesmerizing. Tommy was with Joel in the games openings prologues and was there when Joel tragically lost Sarah, and after the two estranged brothers fell out, Tommy now runs a power plant in Wyoming with his wife. Tommy serves as an almost polar opposite to Joel, as Tommy proves to be more compassionate and chooses to embrace Sarah’s memory, something which Joel still struggles with. Likewise, players witnessed a more complex Tommy in The Last of Us Part 2, as we could feel his anger and need for vengeance over Joel’s death.
Ellie serves as the heart, to Joel’s gruff and cold nature, who first took to the post-apocalyptic world in a surprisingly positive way with her witty dialogue and compassion for others, despite growing up in the cruel world of The Last of Us. We get invested in her character and her story as players witness her character grow on-screen, learning more about the apocalyptic world, meeting new friends, as well as going up against some of the toughest enemies in the franchise. Ellie breaks the escort companion curse, as Ellie, despite most companions in video games, is completely captivating with her great intellect, witty humor, and battle efficiency.
Ellie’s character completely did a 180 in The Last of Us Part 2, as after Joel’s death, she grew into a more ruthless and vengeful character, which mirrored much of Joel’s characteristics. Ashley Johnson delivers a flawless performance as Ellie making us adore the character so much more.
Everyone’s favorite video game father figure and starring protagonist of the first game, Joel is perhaps the best character in modern gaming. Once a stubborn and flawed lone wolf, Joel was a character fans instantly fell in love with. Joel’s flaws and tragic journey are why we love him, and after losing his daughter Sarah, fans are presented with a very realistic character who connects with players.
His journey and paternal bond with Ellie deepened and softened his character, and when forced to let his new adoptive daughter get butchered to save the world, Joel couldn’t let another daughter go. This does pose many questions on his morality and whether Joel is technically the antagonist, but our deep-rooted connection to him and his endearing relationship with Ellie makes for a perfect video game protagonist. Troy Baker is at the top of his game, delivering an unrivaled performance that gives Joel far more dimension, and his chemistry with Ashley Johnson is infectious.