The Last of Us was a landmark in video game storytelling. Detractors will claim that the game did nothing new in how it presented its narrative, but to fault the game for doing so would be missing the point. Gaming is an avenue for an entirely new sort of story, and yet many developers fail to truly grasp that concept.

Naughty Dog not only understood how it could use The Last of Us as a unique way to tell a new story, but the team behind the game came close to perfecting its technique along the way. As such, The Last of Us has been cited as one of the best games of the last console generation - in fact, the game was so good that it eclipsed Naughty Dog's own Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception.

It's been three years since The Last of Us originally launched on the PlayStation 3 - since then, Naughty Dog has been hard at work on the fourth and final entry in the Uncharted franchise. Considering just how successful The Last of Us was, it's not exactly shocking that the game helped shape Uncharted 4: A Thief's End - but you may be surprised at how that inspiration made the jump from one franchise to the other.


Before we go any further, know that we'll be discussing aspects of Uncharted 4′s story, including the ending. If you haven't beaten the game quite yet, bookmark this page and come back when you have!

It won't take Uncharted players long before they start running into the more obvious carry-overs from The Last of Us. There are plenty of interactive objects scattered throughout the world, all with their own tiny bits of story; there are optional conversations with NPCs, and each of them shed new light on their relationship with Nathan; there's also a seemingly endless supply of walls that can only be scaled with a conveniently sized crate.

These tweaks to the overall Uncharted formula are small, and range from smart additions (optional dialogue) to boring, overly used puzzle solutions (moving all those lovely crates). However, none of these influences make nearly as much of a difference as Naughty Dog's improved storytelling - and there's a perfect example of it right at the beginning of the game.

In the early hours of Uncharted 4, players learn that Nate has retired from his life of adventure and settled down with Elena. Nate holds a steady job, and for the most part, his life is relatively normal - but it's also obvious that he misses his high-risk life of adventure. It's a simple scene, and one that many players would have seen coming - but Naughty Dog made the wise choice of letting fans play through it, rather than simply watching a cutscene.

Players start in Nate's office, just as our hero finishes a long day of paperwork. The detail in this space is amazing: not only is it full of homages to previous games in the series, but it even includes a hidden dart-gun minigame. This establishes that Nate is still the goofy, wise-cracking scoundrel that gamers are familiar with (especially after the relatively serious opening chapters), but also that he still clings to his former life as a treasure hunter.

Moving on, the following sequence focuses on a conversation between Nate and Elena. Again, Naughty Dog could have made this a simple back-and-forth between the two characters - instead, the team opted to set up just how good Nate's new life can be. It helps the game steer away from the tired "a normal life is a boring life" routine and establishes the fact that Nate's current situation is actually pretty great: not only does he have steady, non-life-threatening work, but a wife that he genuinely loves and wants to spend time with.

It's a sweet, lovable sort of scene, but that's just the surface - it's also setting up the stakes, and letting players know that Nate actually has a lot on the line.

Really, the entire scene is an expanded and modified version of the opening moments of The Last of Us. There are some notable differences between the two, but a lot of the major story beats are still there - it's just that Naughty Dog uses those moments in vastly different ways.

For instance, when players are given free reign to look around Nate and Elena's home, it's to establish a sense of familiarity. Uncharted games are known for bringing gamers to far-off, forgotten lands - and while these locales are always a sight to behold, they're not exactly recognizable. Nate's house in Uncharted 4 sets up a very real world for the characters, and one that's worth fighting for.

In The Last of Us, however, controlling Sarah as she wanders through the house at night is all about creating a foreboding atmosphere. Looking back, it basically plays out like a horror movie: Sarah looks for her father all throughout the house, only to come face-to-face with the horror that lurks outside. It's similar in structure to the scene from Uncharted 4 - both characters simply walk around their homes - but they're used in different ways to evoke different feelings.

In the first three Uncharted games, story moments were relegated to cutscenes or snippets of in-game dialogue. However, with The Last of Us, Naughty Dog was free to slow down the pace a bit, and used that to give players a more interactive look at the story.

It was a risky move, but one that made more sense: had the studio tried to add such a drastic tonal shift into Uncharted with no middle ground beforehand, it probably would have stuck out like a sore thumb. Instead, The Last of Us provided the team with a different avenue and a chance to perfect the style before implementing it in another, very different series.

Of course, the above example is just one of many: Sam and Nate's talk upon arriving in Libertalia, the group's first pass through the marketplace in Madagascar, and the epilogue in particular are just a few of the story-heavy moments littered throughout the game. Granted, the pace in Uncharted 4 is a bit slower than some fans may expect, but the change is worth it. The story in A Thief's End is easily the best-told tale of the series - and it may never have happened if The Last of Us hadn't been such a runaway success.

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