"My mind can’t help but think about the next thing."
We haven't escaped The Last of Us just yet! While this PlayStation-exclusive franchise dominated video game discussions last year thanks to the launch of The Last of Us Part II, 2021 is already another busy year for the franchise. With announced projects continuing development and others still on the horizon, 2021 is a very exciting time to be a The Last of Us fan.
What's next for The Last of Us? Here's everything we can expect from Naughty Dog's post-apocalyptic franchise in the coming months and beyond.
The Last of Us Part 2 multiplayer
The most immediate The Last of Us project that we can expect is the standalone multiplayer follow-up to The Last of Us Part 2. Originally, Naughty Dog planned to include multiplayer in Part 2 just like they did in the original. In September 2019, Naughty Dog confirmed it wouldn't be in the game at launch.
"As development began on the evolution of our Factions mode from The Last of Us, the vision of the team grew beyond an additional mode that could be included with our enormous single-player campaign," a tweet explained. "Wanting to support both visions, we made the difficult choice that The Last of Us Part II would not include an online mode."
"However, you will eventually experience the fruits of our team's online ambition, but not as part of The Last of Us Part II," the message reads. That multiplayer mode is still very much in the pipeline, with footage leaking in August 2020. We haven't heard much about it since then, with Director Neil Druckmann only briefly affirming it was still on the way last September.
Still, it's very likely that we'll learn more about, and even play, a new multiplayer The Last of Us game in 2021.
The Last of Us HBO TV series
The other major confirmed The Last of Us project in the pipeline is the HBO show announced in March 2020. Early reports indicate it'll be a fairly faithful adaption of the first game's story, with Joel smuggling Ellie across the United States. The Last of Us on HBO is definitely one of the highest-profile video game adaptations slated for release in the coming years.
While there's still a fair bit of secrecy behind the project, we do know the creative forces and some of the actors behind the project. Craig Mazin, who created 2019's critically acclaimed Chernobyl series, is working on the project with series creator and game director Neil Druckmann.
In January 2021, it was confirmed that Beanpole Director Kantemir Balagov will direct the show's pilot. In February 2021, actors for Joel and Ellie were confirmed. Joel will be played by Pedro Pascal, best known for his role as the titular character The Mandalorian, Maxwell Lord in Wonder Woman 1984, and more.
Meanwhile, Ellie's actress is Bella Ramsey, who is known for playing Lyanna Mormont in Game of Thrones and the titular character in Netflix's animated series Hilda. It's a pretty impressive creative team, so hopefully, the show can differ from most video game movies and shows and actually be well made.
As the show was just greenlit in March 2020 and only getting casting news about one year later, it's unlikely that it will premiere this year. Still, we will hopefully get more information on its other directors, actors, and release window in 2021.
The Last of Us Part 2 on PS5
Currently, The Last of Us Part II is only playable on PS5 via PS4 backward compatibility. As such, gamers should experience better loading times and a slight boost to the game's visuals overall when played on the console, but it's far from a full next-gen remaster. Considering the fact that a remaster of the original The Last of Us was released just one year after launch, it's possible that the same will happen with its sequel in 2021.
That said, Sony has not confirmed a PS5 remaster of the game as of January 2021, and the company may not release one at all because the PS5 is backward compatible with PS4. Still, if any next-gen specific upgrades are coming to the game, they would likely be added this year. Over on Resetera forums in late January, renowned leaker Navtra did claim that a patch had been in development at one point, but it's unclear when it may be released.
It remains to be seen if Naughty Dog or Sony will remaster the game outright for PS5. If they do, will they charge players $70 for it when Microsoft does similar remasters for free? Still, if you want the smoothest The Last of Us Part II experience right now, you can try playing it on PS5.
The Last of Us Part 2 DLC or sequel
While all of these projects are exciting, many fans are wondering if there is another single-player The Last of Us experience in the pipeline. As of January 2021, it seems like a definite possibility, though nothing is confirmed to be in development. Shortly after The Last of Us Part 2's launch, Neil Druckmann told Kinda Funny that there are no plans for single-player DLC.
If you were hoping for a Left Behind-style expansion to The Last of Us Part II, Naughty Dog doesn't appear to be working on that right now. But what about The Last of Us Part III? Neil Druckmann definitely seems open to the idea but hadn't started work on it by the time The Last of Us Part II was launching.
"As you start wrapping things up, creatively there are fewer and fewer responsibilities and my mind can’t help but think about the next thing," he said to GQ in June 2020. "So, yeah, the next thing could be a Part III, the next thing could be some new IP."
With a multiplayer standalone game and HBO show on the horizon, we definitely haven't seen the last of this franchise. But another game set in the same world will likely be at least several years out.