The Last of Us has sparked some smart fan theories. As is often the case with the majority of story-driven games, the narrative leads players to think of their detailed explanations, even for elements of the story that weren't mysterious. From thoughts that explain Ellie's past to possible crossovers from other video games.
A huge reason for all the fan theories is the moral uncertainty of the game. Joel, the hero, is forced into difficult positions where there's often no definite answer. Gamers search for clues and reasons why things turned out the way they did. When there isn't an obvious one, they often come up with their own theories to fill in the holes in just the same way people invent conspiracy theories for confounding events in the real world.
Not every The Last of Us theory is perfectly sound. Some seem pretty ridiculous while others appear to be pretty reasonable, but that's just the nature of fan theories. It goes without saying, but there are The Last of Us spoilers ahead.
'According to the Fireflies, Ellie needs to die so they could dissect her brain and discover the cure. According to this theory, that's only partly true. The Fireflies could derive a cure from Ellie without murdering her, but as long as she is alive, other factions, such as the military, can do the same. By killing her and becoming the only ones with the cure, the Fireflies would become the most influential organization in the world.'
'When Joel and Ellie arrive, the Fireflies almost immediately decide that she must die in order to produce a cure. The problem is, all of their reasoning is very, very flawed. Instead of scientifically studying the only known immune person in existence, they immediately want to kill her without first running comprehensive diagnostics or tests. It's likely that even if they did kill Ellie, they wouldn't have the knowledge, ability, or patience to develop a cure from her brain.'
'When you think about all the stuff that Joel has gone through, this theory makes a lot of sense. In addition to spending a lot of time with the infected Ellie, he's also constantly coming into contact with other afflicted folks. He fights them hand-to-hand on an all-too-regular basis, yet he somehow manages to avoid it himself. Either he is incredibly lucky, or he's immune. If he is immune, there's a question of whether or not he's aware of it'
'Fans love to consider the possibility that some of their favorite games are playing out in the same universe. In this theory, The Last of Us and the Uncharted series take place a few decades apart on the same timeline. The idea is that Nathan Drake is indirectly responsible for the infection. In Uncharted 3, Drake foils a plot to find a sunken vessel with what is essentially an ancient chemical weapon in it. If Drake failed, the villainous Marlowe would have uncovered the vessel and perhaps unleashed the Cordyceps virus on the world of The Last of Us. The chronology could work, but this Uncharted 4 newspaper Easter egg is the only real evidence of a shared universe.'
'In the end, Joel saves Ellie by potentially sacrificing the future of the species. Most people see this as a gesture of love and humanity in itself. However, one theory suggests that Joel didn't choose to save Ellie so much as he chose to let humanity die. He's seen firsthand the awfulness of which people are capable. They took his daughter from him, and now they're willing to murder another young girl right in front of him. He doesn't think that humanity deserves the cure that Ellie could provide.'
'There's something significant about Ellie's scar, but just what that remains a mystery. Many people assume it is the product of a school fight or something along those lines, but what if it is actually the source of her immunity? This could work two ways: either she was experimented on and that's a surgical scar, or she had an encounter with an infected at a young age and her body has somehow been fighting it off ever since.'
'On the surface, it appears that the state of the world in The Last of Us is a pretty clear result of one thing and one thing only, but what if the start of the infection coincided with a massive natural disaster? Something like a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami would cause a lot of damage and force many people into close quarters. The infection could then spread quickly and exponentially before anyone could do anything to prevent it. This would help explain how conditions deteriorated so quickly.'
'Many of the characters in the game that are supposedly not infected nonetheless exhibit early signs of infection. Specifically, many of the characters lack peripheral vision. This is likely just a way to make stealth gameplay more balanced, but could there be more to it? It's clear that the infected rely heavily on sound, as the Cordyceps fungus grows over the victims' eyes. It's possible that just about everyone in the game is infected to varying degrees and they just don't know it. Perhaps an airborne strand of the infection is affecting everyone's hearing without turning them into crazies?'
'There are a few theories about Joel being Ellie's biological father, but that would ruin a lot of what makes their relationship special. A variation on that too-obvious theory suggests not that Joel is Ellie's pop, but that Joel's ex-wife is actually Ellie's mother. Somewhere along the line, Joel and his wife separated, but he doesn't appear to harbor any lingering hostility towards her. Maybe long after they went their separate ways, she became pregnant and gave birth to Ellie?'
'This theory takes a little extra imagination. It purports that Ellie's mother is actually Jill Valentine from Resident Evil. The two key pieces of evidence supporting this theory are pretty simple: Ellie's appearance and the presence of zombies in each game. Ellie and Jill look quite similar in many ways, and there are zombie-like creatures, but there isn't much else to support this theory. It also doesn't help that Resident Evil is made by Capcom and not Naughty Dog.'
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