‘The Last of Us’ Almost Had A Prequel Game

HBO’s The Last of Us finale was loaded with heartbreaking moments. True to form, the acclaimed adaptation refused to hold back when it came to tear-jerking scenes and shocking acts of violence. While many of those sequences were lifted directly from the original game, there was one that might have come as a surprise to even the most hardcore fans. In a beautifully dark cold open, viewers are treated to their first look at Ellie’s mother Anna, played by the incomparable Ashley Johnson, and the story of Ellie’s birth. Not included in any previous The Last of Us project, the tragic tale has had a long journey towards coming alive, and according to franchise creator Neil Druckmann, was almost its own game entirely.

With the mainline video games so focused on Ellie and Joel, very little time was left to explore the characters’ connections with anyone in the past. Ellie, specifically, teases multiple important relations from her life before Joel, but only one gets the time to shine. The prequel comic The Last of Us: American Dreams and its follow-up DLC, The Last of Us: Left Behind, detail Ellie’s friends-to-lovers romance with her childhood best friend, Riley, and have become massively popular with fans. Her mother, on the other hand, is often referenced but never shown. The potential telling of Anna’s story is something that Druckmann has spoken on in the past, and has formerly stated was planned to be an expansion of its own. In an interview with Gizmodo, Druckmann reconfirmed this, and added that Anna’s demise was first conceptualized as an animated short:

The short story of the origin of that little sequence is when we were wrapping up the game, there are these opportunities to do other pieces of art or storytelling to help promote the game. So we did this comic book called American Dreams, and that’s where we developed Riley, which later turned into the Left Behind additional chapter. And there was an opportunity to do an animated short. Trying to come up with a story, I wrote this short script about Ellie’s mom and how she gave birth to Ellie, was bitten at the same time, and wasn’t sure if she was infected during that birth. And it just became this little character drama that felt like it spoke to the same themes of parental love for their child, and how much you’re willing to do even when you’re on death’s door. [But] that deal fell apart.

Neil Druckmann

It was Druckmann‘s second attempt at telling Anna’s story, however, that’s likely the real bombshell for gamers. Hidden at the start of his follow-up answer, the creative director nonchalantly reveals he was having discussions about a full-blown prequel game for The Last of Us universe before transitioning to a live-action outlet:

Then we were talking to another game company to potentially do it as a whole other game. That deal fell apart to tell that story then. Then I became interested in live-action. So I’m like, maybe we should do this as a short. I was talking to Ashley Johnson about her starring in it, and then we both got busy, so that fell apart and I had just kind of forgotten about it until Mr. Mazin over here. We started meeting to talk about the show and he’s like, ‘What do you have that we haven’t seen? What is Ellie’s back story?’ And I was telling him all this stuff and was like, ‘Oh, right there’s this other story about Ellie’s mom,’ and blah blah blah, and kind of told him about it and he’s like, ‘Oh my God, that has to go in the show.’

Neil Druckmann

Pushed further by his interviewer, Druckmann elaborated that this mysterious prequel project got as far as some written material, and would have also pulled back the curtain on Ellie’s father. He remains hesitant to give away any more plot details, however, as he’s apparently holding out hope the game could still one day be made:

I will say there was some stuff written for the mom and the dad. Again, we were talking to this sort of game studio to potentially do a whole Anna game, the climax of which was this scene. So I’m reluctant to say anything about it because as I now found out several times, stories that I think are failures and will never see the light of day, sometimes see the light of day.

Neil Druckmann

While the game studio Druckmann is referring to goes unnamed, it seems notable that Naughty Dog – who have developed both existing games and their DLC – was not who the director was negotiating with. Either way, fans can only hope the story of Anna is told in full at some point in the future, with Druckmann at the helm as always.

All episodes of The Last of Us are now streaming on HBO Max.

Source: Gizmodo

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