This post contains spoilers for The Last of Us

“I’ve struggled a long time with survivin’, but no matter what, you have to find something to fight for.”

– Joel

There has never been a game that has affected me like The Last of Us. I recall sitting there after the concluding scene speechless as the credits rolled amongst the back drop of a poignant soundtrack. I couldn’t move. All I could do was think, “That’s not how it can end.”

The game crescendos as you take Joel and Ellie across the country in a hope to find a cure for the plague that’s killing off humanity. It’s a dangerous journey, rought with loss and despare, yet somehow… some way, these two characters find each other.

Ellie played by Ashley Johnson

The culminating moment occurs in the hospital. Ellie is about to undergo surgery, believing that she’s the key to the cure. Ellie has accepted that her life is worth giving up to save the world, but as Joel quickly realizes that there’s no way Ellie will survive the process, he’s forced to make a choice. It’s either Ellie or the chance for a cure. Save humanity or save the girl.

You’ve spent the whole game trying to get to this moment. After all, what’s the point of a game if not to save the day?

Joel never asked for this job. He never asked to take care of Ellie, but he did, and along the way she’s become more than just a package he’s set to deliver. She’s become someone he cares about, someone he cares for, and he’s willing to fight for her.

That’s the moment where he decides to save Ellie. He can’t lose her so he kidnaps her from the hospital, even killing the doctors to take her away.

That’s the moment the game really shocked me. I tried every button I could to simply knock the doctor out, but you can’t. You have to kill the doctor because that’s what Joel would have done. He’d do anything to save this little girl.

You’ve spent hours on this journey, coming in contact with people grasping the final threads of humanity and monsters that only have one instint: to kill. You’ve killed dozens because that’s what you needed to do to survive.

The world isn’t a happy place. The world isn’t a safe place. The world isn’t a place where you have the luxury of putting the needs of others before your own. It’s kill or be killed.

Joel rescues Ellie

Still, Joel has to toss all of that aside. He can’t see the world take the final person he cares about. He lost a daughter once and won’t let that happen again.

That’s what pushed this game into brilliance. It doesn’t give you a choice. There will be no alternate ending because Joel only had one course of action.

In a world where hope and love are at a minimum, Joel takes a chance. Some say it’s the selfish choice, and they would ultimately be right. But isn’t it the choice we all would make?

What do you think? Have you played the game? Would you chose as Joel did? What was your reaction to those final moments?

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