List of The Last of Us characters

The Last of Us, an action-adventure survival horror video game developed by Naughty Dog, deals with the relationship between an older man, Joel, and a teenaged girl, Ellie. Joel is tasked with escorting Ellie across a post-apocalyptic United States in an attempt to create a potential cure against an infection to which Ellie is immune. The relationship between the two characters became the basis of the game's development.
Joel is the primary playable character of the game, though players assume control of Ellie for a short portion. Throughout their journey, Joel and Ellie meet various characters: Tess, a survivor who is closely acquainted with Joel, Marlene, leader of the militia group the Fireflies; Bill, a survivor who fortified his own town; Henry and Sam, brothers from Hartford; Joel's brother Tommy and his wife Maria who have built their own settlement; and David, the leader of a group of cannibals. In addition, Joel's daughter Sarah appears in the game's prologue, and Ellie's friend Riley Abel is featured in the downloadable content pack .
A team at Naughty Dog designed the character appearances, and creative director Neil Druckmann was the main writer of their personalities and mannerisms. The actors were given considerable license to improvise the lines and influence character personality, simultaneously performing the motion capture work for their characters. Various characters were influenced by the story progression, ultimately becoming completely different from the initial vision. The relationship of the characters received praise from several gaming publications, and the acting has resulted in multiple awards, including two BAFTAs and a DICE Award.

Creation and conception

The relationship between the characters of Joel and Ellie, portrayed by Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, respectively, was the central focus of the game's development. Creative director Neil Druckmann wrote the game's script, particularly focusing on the characters. Though the development team quickly felt that Johnson fit the role of Ellie, they spent more time selecting the actor of Joel, as the chemistry between the two characters was imperative to the game. After Baker and Johnson played alongside each other, the team realized that the former perfectly fit the role of Joel, despite the actor's young age. Baker and Johnson contributed greatly to the development of the characters. For example, Baker convinced Druckmann that Joel would care for Tess due to his loneliness, and Johnson convinced Druckmann to re-write the character of Ellie in a stronger and more defensive manner. Some of the dialogue between the duo was improvised by the actors; Druckmann attributed this to the fact that the script included an unnecessary number of lines during gameplay sections, and he allowed the actors to choose what they felt was necessary. From the beginning of development, the team intended for The Last of Us to feature dual protagonists with strong individual story arcs. The character interactions were inspired by the relationship between Nathan Drake and Tenzin in , in turn inspired by the video game Ico. The game's protagonists represent the two eras that are shown in the game; Joel represents the world before the outbreak, having spent most of his life during this period, while Ellie represents the world after the outbreak, as she was born in the post-apocalyptic world. While the former is emotionally damaged due to the loss that he has experienced, the latter maintains an optimistic view of life, having become familiar to the damaged world; spending time with each other saw these qualities overlapping, with Joel become more lively, and Ellie learning more survival skills.
The character's performances were mostly recorded using motion capture technology; approximately 85% of the game's animations were recorded using motion capture, with remaining audio elements recorded later in a studio.
The development team felt that the post-apocalyptic world and the survival horror genre gave them the opportunity to better develop the characters. Taking inspiration from their work on the Uncharted games, the team used their knowledge of paralleling characters with the conflict in both gameplay and stories when developing The Last of Us. They also took inspiration from the books The Road and City of Thieves, and the film No Country for Old Men, noting that they all include memorable characters and using this as a point of inspiration. "e can make you as a player feel more of what it's truly like to exist inside of a world where every bullet counts and each step you take is a conscious choice that's going to make or break your existence," said Straley. The team also felt that the "pressures of the world" allowed them to better develop their characters. They felt that the pressure forced the characters to make interesting decisions, allowing better development.

Lead characters


Joel Miller is the protagonist of The Last of Us. Originally from Texas, Joel was a single father in his late 20s when the initial Cordyceps outbreak occurred. Fleeing with his brother Tommy and his twelve-year-old daughter Sarah, they got involved in a firefight with a soldier, and Sarah was mortally wounded and died in his arms, leaving him traumatized. In the 20 years that follow, Joel did whatever he had to do to survive. In the time spent in the brutal post-apocalyptic world, still bitter from his daughter's death, Joel became a hardened survivor, physically and mentally tough. He has a brutal fighting style and is capable of taking on and defeating much younger men in hand-to-hand combat.
Twenty years after Sarah's death, Joel works as a smuggler in the Boston quarantine zone with his friend and partner Tess. While out searching for a former accomplice who stole some of their merchandise, Joel and Tess are tasked by Marlene, an acquaintance and leader of a rebel militia called the Fireflies, to smuggle Ellie to a rendezvous point at the Massachusetts State House. Making their way there, Joel discovers that Ellie is immune to the infection. Upon their arrival, Tess reveals that she has sustained a bite on the journey, and insists Joel finds Tommy, a former Firefly, in order to continue the mission. Joel is initially surly and short towards Ellie, though he begins to warm up to her as their journey continues. This is compounded when Joel, having initially asked Tommy to carry on in his place after meeting up with him at his settlement in Jackson County, Colorado, changes his mind and carries on as planned. Their bond deepens when Ellie nearly loses Joel to a severe injury, and when he comes to her aid after she is nearly killed by a band of cannibals. Ultimately, Joel shows his devotion to Ellie when he chooses to rescue her from the doctors who plan to remove and examine her brain, as opposed to allowing her to die. To ensure they are not pursued, Joel kills Marlene. Driving away, Ellie wakes up, after which Joel tells her the doctors gave up on discovering a cure. Ellie later confronts him about the events, and Joel swears to her that he was telling the truth.
When designing Joel's physical appearance, the team tried to make him look "flexible enough" to allow for him to appear as both a "ruthless operator in the underground of a quarantined city" as well as a "caring father figure to Ellie". His appearance was aimed to evoke "rural Americana", referencing values of self-reliance and ingenuity when facing hardship and deprivation. When writing the character of Joel, Druckmann initially took inspiration from Josh Brolin's portrayal of Llewelyn Moss in No Country for Old Men, which he saw as "very quiet, very cool under pressure". However, Baker's interpretation of Joel as a more emotional person evolved the character in a different way. Ultimately, the narrative became an exploration of how willing a father is to save a child; initially, Joel is willing to sacrifice himself, before evolving where he is willing to sacrifice his friends, until finally feeling that he would sacrifice all of humanity in order to save Ellie.
Druckmann felt that players, specifically parents, would be able to relate to Joel's character and his bonding with Ellie. Baker believes that Joel discovers morality throughout the game's narrative, working out the difference between loss and sacrifice, and his true personality begins to show. Druckmann became intrigued by players who discussed Joel's morality, distinguishing him as a hero or villain; Druckmann felt that Joel was only "a complex person who's made good and bad decisions", but allowed it to be open to interpretation. When auditioning for the role, Baker read a phrase on the character sheet that stated Joel had "few moral lines left to cross", which became the "anchor point" to the character for him. Baker found great difficulty in filming the game's prologue, which features scenes with Joel and his daughter Sarah, portrayed by Hana Hayes. Upon later viewing of the first day of footage from the scene, Druckmann felt that it could still be improved. When filming the scene again, Druckmann explained to Baker how to perform it, and felt that it was the best take upon doing so. Though Baker initially found the take too "mechanical", he retroactively realized that he had been previously trying to impress audiences by his acting, and that it was "not what the scene needed".


Ellie is a fourteen-year-old orphan and the other main playable character in the game, and one of the few characters to have never known life before the infection. Much of her backstory is revealed in the additional content ' and the comic book miniseries '.
After surviving a bite from the Infected, Ellie is tasked to Joel to be escorted to the Fireflies. Initially annoyed by Joel's surliness, Ellie starts to feel a strong attachment to him. After experiencing a traumatizing encounter in the Winter, in which Ellie is nearly raped and murdered by a band of cannibals, she becomes withdrawn and introverted. When Joel finally gets her to the Fireflies, it is discovered that she has a mutant strain of the Cordyceps fungus growing on her brain, which may be used to create a vaccine; in order to extract the fungi, an operation on Ellie's brain is required, that will likely kill her. While she is being prepared for surgery, Joel makes his way to the operating room and carries her to safety. When Ellie awakens from unconsciousness, Joel lies by telling her that the Fireflies found many other subjects, and had stopped looking for a cure. Ellie later confronts him about it, demanding to know the truth. When he reassures her that he is telling the truth, she replies with "Okay".
The team felt that the establishing of the physical appearance of Ellie was "critical"; they felt that she needed to appear young enough to make her relationship with Joel believable, but old enough to be credible as a resourceful teenager capable of surviving. When questioned about the inspiration for Ellie as a gameplay feature, Druckmann recalled when he and Straley were brainstorming ideas for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and created a mute character who would summon the player to follow them, creating a "beautiful" relationship through gameplay alone. Though this concept was never included in the final game, the idea was raised when the team were discussing a new project, ultimately inspiring Ellie. Following the release of Left Behind, in which Ellie is seen kissing her friend Riley, Druckmann has confirmed that she is gay.

Secondary characters


Tommy is Joel's brother. At the initial outbreak, he picked Joel and Sarah up in his car to take them to safety. When the car is hit by a truck, he defends Joel as he carries Sarah, whose leg is badly hurt. After Sarah's death, Joel and Tommy initially survive together, but differing outlooks and Joel's hardened ways led to their estrangement, and Tommy left to join the Fireflies. After becoming disillusioned, he subsequently left them as well, and built a settlement around a working power plant in Wyoming with his wife, Maria. Many years later, Joel arrives at Tommy's settlement, and the brothers are reunited. Tommy initially refuses to take Ellie off Joel's hands, but upon seeing their close bond and realizing that Joel doesn't trust himself to protect Ellie, he agrees to take her to Marlene himself. However, Ellie confronts Joel about Sarah and, after having a change of heart, Joel and Ellie continue their journey after Tommy promises them sanctuary should they need it.
The development team aimed for Tommy's physical appearance to resemble Joel "in stature and rugged toughness", but also to express his compassionate approach to the world. While Tommy shares Joel's "gritty masculinity", he also has a gentleness which Joel lacks. Pierce originally auditioned for the role of Joel, which was later given to Troy Baker. When the team was required to cast an actor for the role of Tommy, they immediately contacted Pierce, as they were impressed by his audition. Baker felt that the chemistry between him and Pierce assisted in the realistic relationship between Joel and Tommy.


Marlene is the leader of the Fireflies, a militia movement hoping to wrest control of the Quarantine Zones from the military. She was tasked by Ellie's mother, a close friend of hers, to look out for her daughter, but Ellie only met her after her infection. After being wounded in Boston, she offers to sell Joel and Tess the merchandise Robert stole from them and sold to her in return for smuggling Ellie out of the Quarantine Zone. Joel meets Marlene again at the Firefly hospital in Salt Lake City, where scientists are running tests on Ellie. Marlene reveals that they will operate on Ellie, which will result in her death; Joel disagrees with the operation and fights back. After Joel rescues Ellie, Marlene tries to stop him from leaving, insisting that taking Ellie will merely delay her death until a more gruesome one occurs, and Ellie's return to her would help to create a cure against the infection. Joel disregards her and instead shoots her in the stomach. She begs for her life, but Joel executes her with a shot to the head, ensuring that no-one is left to come after them.
The team aimed for Marlene's physical design to make her look "capable and in control", while conveying compassion, to result in players believing that she does care for Ellie. Dandridge found the character of Marlene to be complex, believing that she "wants to do the best thing for the greater good", but events in her life have resulted in a confused moral standing. Though she personally believed that Marlene is a fundamentally "good" person, Dandridge felt that the ambiguous morality of the characters is a significant contributor to the interest in their humanity. Dandridge also appreciated the use of motion capture, comparing it to theater productions.


Tess is Joel's smuggling partner and friend. After chasing down and killing Robert, a former accomplice who stole their merchandise, Tess and Joel are offered their merchandise back from Robert's buyer Marlene if they agree to help smuggle Ellie to the State Capitol building outside of the Quarantine Zone with Joel. She and Joel successfully make it to the Capitol building, only to discover upon arrival that the people they are meant to rendezvous with are all dead. When Joel protests that they must return, Tess insists that she cannot go any further and reveals she was bitten on the journey. As soldiers arrive at the building, Tess orders Joel, as a last obligation to her, to find Tommy and get Ellie to the Fireflies, before sending them off while she covers them. Tess is then killed in the subsequent gunfight, ensuring she never turns.
When designing the physical appearance of Tess, the team aimed to make her look "tough and capable", striving to add an element of strength in order to show that she might be more ruthless than Joel. Tess was originally intended to be featured as the main antagonist of The Last of Us, pursuing Joel for a year before a final confrontation in which she is killed by Ellie. However, the team found it difficult to believe that Tess would dispute with Joel and pursue him for a year; this was solved by majorly altering the story. Wersching was impressed by the script, and Druckmann's ability to write unique female characters. When writing the game's female characters, particularly Tess and Ellie, Druckmann avoided external influences, such as the media's portrayal of women, as he wished to write his own story.


Bill is a survivor who lives just outside Boston, and is a business partner of Joel and Tess. A paranoid, aggressive and distrustful man in his late forties, Bill lives alone in a heavily fortified town, laden with booby traps that include some captured Infected. During the game, Joel finds Bill in the hope that he will pay off a debt by fixing up a car for them to drive to Tommy's, but Bill insists that the only working car battery is in the unexplored part of town. After fighting their way to the local high school, Bill discovers the battery he was going to use is missing. They escape the swarms of infected surrounding the school, and find themselves in an abandoned house, where Bill discovers his partner, Frank, has committed suicide by hanging there, and it is revealed that the two had had a falling out and Frank had been planning to escape in Bill's car. After getting the car started, Joel drops Bill off, and expresses sympathy for what happened between him and Frank. Bill merely responds by ensuring that their debt is settled and then ordering Joel to leave the town.
Bill's appearance was designed to reflect practicality, as opposed to self-expression; most of his clothing and gear can also be used as a survival tool. Bill is revealed to be homosexual at one point in the game. Druckmann initially left this vague in the script, but was inspired at the script read-through to alter a few lines to further reflect Bill's sexuality. To make Bill interesting, Druckmann explored the concept of contradictory statements; while Bill states that becoming attached to people will lower chances of survival, it is revealed that he had a partner that he really cared for. Bill's role in the game was also to voice Joel's concerns about escorting Ellie, as Joel doesn't voice them. "he reason to have Bill there is that Bill can actually say that to Joel, and warn Joel about that stuff," Druckmann said. Sam Einhorn of felt that the revelation of Bill's sexuality "added to his character... without really tokenizing him". American organization GLAAD named Bill one of the "most intriguing new LGBT characters of 2013", calling him "deeply flawed but wholly unique".

Henry and Sam

Henry and Sam are two brothers that Ellie and Joel encounter while trying to escape from a group of hunters in Pittsburgh. Henry is 25 years old, while Sam is thirteen. Joel and Henry initially think each other are hostile, until they see Sam and Ellie, respectively. Like Joel, Henry is an experienced survivor, and the two decide to team up, since both pairs are looking for the Fireflies. They work together to overpower the bandits guarding the exit to the Quarantine Zone, and escape to an abandoned radio tower in the Suburbs. There, Joel and Henry bond over their mutual love of motorbikes, but Sam becomes morose and introverted, particularly after a conversation with Ellie over death and the Infected. The next day, it emerges that Sam was bitten while escaping the Suburbs, and he attacks Ellie, forcing Henry to kill him. Overcome with grief and guilt at his brother's death, Henry commits suicide with his gun.
Both the physical appearance and behavior of Henry and Sam were designed to reflect that of Joel and Ellie; the backpack and jeans worn by both duos reflect the physical resemblance, while the behavioral resemblance was in that they are both forced to make tough decisions over time. After Brandon Scott was chosen to portray Henry, the team only showed him some artistic sketches of the game, avoiding specific details about the story. Scott enjoyed portraying the character, particularly due to the fact that he was allowed to introduce elements of his own personality. "You don't have to plan ... because you get to just be the character," Scott said. He also felt that recording the voice and actions simultaneously was "exciting" and helpful. The team felt that Henry's actions are dedicated to protecting Sam, and that Scott introduced that dedication to the character. Druckmann stated that Henry and Sam's relationship mirrored that of Joel and Ellie's. Ellie was seen by the team as a mentor to Sam. Johnson felt that Sam was "genuinely scared", admiring this significant difference from the game's other characters.


David is the leader of a group of cannibals that Ellie runs into at the Lakeside Resort where she is sheltering Joel while he recovers from a grievous wound. Initially, Ellie runs into him and a fellow hunter after killing a deer, and he offers to trade the deer for some penicillin for Joel. After he and Ellie are forced to fend off a swarm of infected, David reveals that he is actually the leader of the gang of hunters that Ellie and Joel had killed previously at the University of Eastern Colorado, when Joel was injured. He allows Ellie to get away, but later tracks her down and kidnaps her, taking her to his base in the town. There, Ellie discovers that David's gang are cannibals. She resists their attempts, manages to kill his assistant and flees into the town, while David and his gang stalk her. David eventually corners her in a restaurant, and stalks her for several minutes, as it burns down. Eventually, he manages to pin her down and tries to strangle her, but she catches hold of his machete and swings it, knocking him off her, and brutally hacks him to death, before Joel arrives and pulls her off.
David's physical posture and gestures were specifically designed to suggest a warm and caring nature, making players believe his acceptance to welcome Ellie to his community. Veteran voice actor Nolan North, who portrays protagonist Nathan Drake in Naughty Dog's Uncharted series, was chosen to play the role of David. When approached by Druckmann about the role, North immediately accepted the part, appreciating its diversity from his previous acting roles. When portraying David, North was required to change his voice to fit the role. The first voice he proposed to Druckmann was ultimately chosen for the game; he describes it as "very quiet... and the voice can break a little". To portray the character, North approached his personality from multiple perspectives, viewing David as a "survivor". North empathized with David, stating that most of David's actions were understandable when considering the apocalyptic situation. He felt that David was initially attempting to protect Ellie, who was viewed as a "glimmer of hope". Prior to the writing of the script, David was referred to as the "cannibal king", and it was known that Ellie would encounter an enemy that would change her. When North was cast, the team found it interesting to make David charismatic, and infatuated with Ellie.


Riley Abel is Ellie's best friend. Appearing in the Left Behind additional content, Ellie and Riley became friends at the military boarding school where Ellie was sent when she turned thirteen, where at some point Riley left to join the Fireflies. At the start of Left Behind, she returns after a long absence, and ambushes Ellie in her room. The two go to their old hangout in an abandoned shopping mall, where they fight over Riley's revelation that she will soon be posted to another city. Ellie eventually supports her decision, but as the two dance together before parting, Ellie becomes tearful, and begs Riley not to leave. Without hesitation, Riley rips her dog tags off, deciding to choose Ellie instead of the Fireflies. Moved, Ellie impulsively kisses her, which she returns. Overjoyed, Riley and Ellie are pondering how to proceed when they are attacked by infected. Both sustain bites, and decide to embrace in their final hours together. Riley turns, while Ellie does not.
King prepared for the role of Riley by studying the single-player campaign of The Last of Us, as well as the comic book . She stated that Riley has "an extremely strong personality, very driven, very confident for a 16-year-old". King felt that Riley and Ellie have a really close friendship, requiring each other to survive. She noted that they care about each other, and that they can both rely on their relationship. She also saw Riley as Ellie's mentor, helping her discover new perspectives in the world.


Sarah is Joel's twelve-year-old daughter, whom he had when he was in his late teens, and the game's first playable character. The posters and photos on her wall suggest that she was a keen soccer player. At the start of the game, she gives her father a new watch for his birthday. In the early hours of the next day, she is awoken by a commotion and the sound of Tommy phoning Joel. Later, Joel bursts into his office, pulls a revolver out of his desk drawer and shoots their neighbor. Sarah leaves with Tommy and Joel, but her leg is hurt in a crash, forcing Joel to carry her. On the outskirts of their hometown, they come across a soldier, who follows his orders and shoots at them. Sarah is fatally wounded by bullets and dies in Joel's arms.
The team felt that Sarah's physical appearance should feel authentic, displaying her relationship with Joel, while simultaneously establishing her as a distinct character. They aimed to establish the character as "a down-to-earth girl who shares many qualities with Ellie". On the relationship between Joel and Sarah, Hayes felt that they are "more like best friends than father and daughter", citing their playfulness and humor with each other. Hayes felt intimidated during her audition, due to her inexperience with video game performances. She found it difficult to perform lines in the recording studio, preferring to perform them with the body movements; she believed that the latter felt more natural. To perform Sarah's death, Hayes forced herself to remember and experience previous moments in her life, such as her grandfather's death.

Other characters


The characters received acclaim. Eurogamer's Welsh found that the characters were developed with "real patience and skill", appreciating their emotional value, and Joystiq's Mitchell found the relationships "genuine" and emotional. Kelly of Computer and Video Games found the characters "richly painted", feeling invested in their stories. GameSpot's Carolyn Petit felt that the game's sense of humanity is positively reflected through the characters. Tom Hoggins of The Daily Telegraph called the characters "complex" and "flawed", stating that they help the game maintain "its own identity".
The character performances also received praise, with Edge noting that the script improved as a result. Eurogamer's Oli Welsh repeated similar remarks, naming the performances "sympathetic and understated". IGN's Colin Moriarty called the voice acting "consistently superb", and Matt Helgeson of Game Informer felt that the actors realistically "convey the heavy emotional toll placed on each character". Jim Sterling of Destructoid felt that the voice acting is "impeccably performed", resulting in "genuine and credible" characters. Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton remarked that the actors "have an uncommon chemistry and fearlessly tackle their roles", praising their delivery of the emotional material. Some of the actors were awarded for their performances; Troy Baker won awards from Hardcore Gamer and the Spike VGX 2013, while Ashley Johnson received two BAFTAs and a DICE Award, as well as awards from the Spike VGX and The Daily Telegraph.
Many critics discussed the game's depiction of female characters. Jason Killingsworth of Edge praised its lack of sexualized female characters, writing that it "offers a refreshing antidote to the sexism and regressive gender attitudes of most blockbuster videogames". Eurogamer's Ellie Gibson praised Ellie as "sometimes strong, sometimes vulnerable, but never a cliché". She felt that Ellie is initially established as a "damsel in distress", but that this concept is subverted. GameSpot's Carolyn Petit praised the female characters as morally conflicted and sympathetic, but wrote that gender in video games should be evaluated "based on their actual merits, not in relation to other games". Chris Suellentrop of The New York Times acknowledged that Ellie was a likable and "sometimes powerful" character, but argued that The Last of Us is "actually the story of Joel", stating that it's "another video game by men, for men and about men". The Last of Us was also praised for its depiction of LGBT characters. A kiss between two female characters in Left Behind was met with positive reactions.