It's one of the most critically acclaimed and emotionally powerful video games in recent memory, and many thought 'The Last of Us' was perfect as a standalone title. With the recent leak that a sequel is in the works, Mat Ombler asks, "Do we really need it?"

When voice actor Nolan North (the voice of Uncharted’s Nathan Drake) let slip that a sequel to The Last of Us (TLoU) was being made during a Metrocon 2015 panel discussion, I was initially full of excitement. One of the greatest games I have ever had the pleasure of playing was getting a sequel, and I couldn’t wait to re-live the experience. Or, so I thought…

North’s confirmation itself was direct, but pretty short on details; he simply stated “I know they’re making The Last of Us 2.” Neither he, nor anyone else, has given any further details on the game since, and it could yet turn out to be an erroneous slip of the tongue. That said, the more I’ve sat and thought about a sequel to TLoU, the more I found myself wishing that to be the case, and after replaying the game for a third time I’m more convinced than ever that it doesn’t need a sequel.

TLoU is one of the most refreshing releases to hit the gaming industry in years. It's incredibly crafted narrative coupled with a rich gaming experience leaves you completely immersed in both its world and its characters. Ellie and Joel’s complex and delicate relationship feels astoundingly real. So real, in fact, that playing the game feels emotionally draining at times. Never before have I felt such a strong sense of attachment to characters in a video game, nor cared for them as much.

It’s Ellie and Joel’s relationship that is the central focus of TLoU, and it is that focus that makes the game so great. As the characters grow, we too grow with them; the game is a journey – a journey through our understanding of Ellie and Joel’s relationship. It’s also a journey of Joel learning to deal with his feelings for Ellie as a second daughter, and Ellie learning to trust – something all the more powerful after the events of the game’s opening section.

It’s a complex narrative that touches upon a variety of themes, all well handled and approached with appropriate sensibility, never once feeling trite or overly sentimental. At the end of the game **SPOILER ALERT** it’s Joel’s emotional attachment to Ellie that ultimately leads to his climactic decision to spare her life at the cost of saving what remains of humanity.

Not only is the game’s ending beautifully bleak, the best thing about it is how uncertain it feels. With so many factors left open to interpretation, we’re ultimately left to determine the characters’ fate in our own minds. This is perhaps the best possible ending the game could’ve had – we as the audience get to determine whether or not it was a happy ending.

In term’s of Ellie and Joel’s relationship, The Last of Us has all the closure it needs. While, in theory, a sequel could take the form of a prologue or even focus on an entirely different set of protagonists altogether, any expansion on the original story risks tarnishing the complete and wonderfully satisfying impression it left. Like over-seasoning a dish that your guests have already told you is perfect.

But let’s assume Naughty Dog and writer Neil Druckmann are aware of this, and that they aren’t going to risk going near the plotline of the original title. What does that leave them? Certainly, setting the opening scenes of the first game 20 years before we meet Ellie left plenty of gaps in the story. Hints are made towards Joel’s supposedly dark past in his interactions with other characters, and there are areas of this that could be gainfully explored. There’s also plenty of potential in exploring the rise of The Fireflies. Perhaps most obviously, a sequel could choose to focus again on Ellie, only several years later and without Joel at her side.

Beyond that, if you take away the focus from Ellie and Joel then you’re left with a universe we don’t actually know that much about. In a post-apocalyptic environment as hopeless as the one seen in TLoU, you can’t help but feel there are plenty of other stories that could be told. I’m in little doubt that Duckmann possesses the skill to craft an equally poignant and meaningful tale using entirely new characters as he did the first time around.

The Last of Us should be left to stand on its own.

Yet, in my honest opinion, in a market that’s fast becoming saturated with unnecessary sequels, TLoU should be left to stand on its own. These days it’s a profound rarity that successful, self-contained games aren left untarnished by sequels. Those that have, such as the likes of Shadow of the Colossus or Eternal Darkness, often find themselves attracting almost cult-like appreciation amongst their fans, specifically for the fact that they resisted such an urge and gave the world over to the fans themselves. In my eyes, TLoU should be left to stand tall on its own merits.

Given how seldom it is that we see new intellectual property show up on our shelves (indie developers being the rare exception) it feels like many publishers are scared to invest in new titles out of fear of competing with the existing established franchises. The huge commercial success of TLoU proves that there is room for new IP to enter the market and succeed, and it would be a huge shame for this shining example of innovation to be diluted by a series of sequels that reduce it to yet another tired franchise.

I totally get that the excitement of re-living this game all over again is a difficult prospect to turn down, but stop and think about this for a second – what if the experience falls far short of the first? Would it have been worth it? The bar is raised so incredibly high, and people’s expectations are so exacting, that any sequel has a lot to live up to. The original title was produced free from any of these pressures, and perhaps that’s why it turned out so great. This is the classic “difficult second album,” and we all know how that one frequently plays out…

Sometimes it’s best to leave things unsaid. Having so many gaps in the storyline of The Last of Us provided a unique talking point among fans, and the game’s open ending was as powerful as anything we've seen in recent memory. For me, Joel and Ellie’s journey has come to an end, and I, for one, think it would be best to leave it that way.

Words by Mat Ombler for Highsnobiety.com

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