Why you should remember The Last of Us on its tenth birthday

The Last of Us: A Decade of Impact

Why you should remember The Last of Us on its tenth birthday
Published by Liam @ PC Game Spotlight a year ago

The Last of Us: A Decade of Impact

The Last of Us turns ten this week, and it’s tough to think of any game that’s had a more profound impact on the gaming industry – and for better or worse. Some lament the “Last of Us effect” that’s given us countless linear mashers that push technical boundaries but ultimately aren’t very fun to play, while others praise the concept that games can be art without broadening the medium.

And while an argument can be made that The Last of Us is regularly overlooked when discussing the most groundbreaking games, it is a true gem that should be celebrated on its birthday. Even though the changes it brought about are more apparent in the past couple of years, the “Last of Us effect” still continues to shape the best games for the past decade. Looking ahead, developers hope to move beyond its impact and discover new ideas and avenues, because The Last of Us’ inspiration is beginning to feel stale.

The gameplay itself may not have felt particularly revolutionary – linear third-person shooting, kick-ass melee combat, a lengthy campaign, and a sequel that showcased amazing co-op – but it excelled in every area. The Last of Us set the standard for every PlayStation prestige game that followed, Sony’s ultimate answer to Halo for an audience that cared more about the story and characters than Halo did.

But was The Last of Us the first game to be treated as a work of art? No, that certainly goes to BioShock and Shadow of the Colossus among others, with all three of those games proving shooters can tell meaningful stories. However, as we look at Sony’s output over the past ten years, we can see The Last of Us’ impact.

Numerous AAA games follow similar formulas that The Last of Us introduced back in 2013. We’re talking realistic, action-adventure gameplay; linear stories that take place with high stakes; gritty protagonists who feel slightly more alive than Gears of War’s space marines.

Uncharted 4 looks a bit different, and The Last of Us Part 2 is even more experimental, but the rest of Sony’s output follows these tropes laid down by Naughty Dog. What makes this more concerning is that there seems to be little room for change, with PlayStation 5 titles like Sly Cooper and Call of Duty Next already shaping up to be more Last of Us-like than usual.

Now, I’m not saying The Last of Us is one of the worst games of all time, or that it’s the reason exclusives seem to be the only way big publishers see fit to cater to console gamers. I just think that it’s time to look beyond it for inspiration, whether it’s games like Breath of the Wild, Tears of the Kingdom, or Death Stranding.

Of course, this could all be said to extenuate The Last of Us’ influence on other parts of the industry. I’m not sure how Sony’s output compares to Microsoft’s, and Xbox adopts a similar exclusive-focused release strategy that perhaps would have occurred without The Last of Us.

Regardless, The Last of Us left its mark on some of the best games of the past decade and certainly deserves recognition on its birthday. And hey, the game is actually pretty fun to play, so it’s worth revisiting if you haven’t in a while. Just make sure you have time to complete both of its excellent DLC chapters, Left Behind and Part 2, because they’re some of the best hours you can spend in a video game.

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