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A Last of Us prequel game about Ellie’s mom was once in talks

And Naughty Dog wouldn’t have been the studio to develop it, Neil Druckmann said

Ashley Johnson playing Ellie’s mom Anna in The Last of Us. A pregnant woman in a yellow dress stands in the woods, looking scared. Photo: Liane Hentscher/HBO
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

In its final episode, HBO’s The Last of Us went deeper into a character who was left unexplored in the original video game: Ellie’s mom, Anna. Still, her scenes were only a small part of the show, leaving plenty of unanswered questions — questions that could have been answered in a prequel game that The Last of Us creative director Neil Druckmann said was briefly in the works.

Druckmann told video game podcast Kinda Funny that he wanted to write Anna’s fuller backstory into a video game to be developed outside of Naughty Dog, but it just didn’t pan out. Druckmann said he talked to the unnamed studio for “quite a while” before the talks fell apart.

[Ed. note: This story contains spoilers for the ninth episode of The Last of Us.]

There’s a lot of material there to work with, given how little of Anna’s story is outlined. In the show, we see her pregnant and running through the woods, chased by an infected person. She hides out in a run-down house where she realizes she’s in active labor: a harrowing experience of bringing life into such violence. She’s bitten shortly before she gives birth to Ellie, cutting the umbilical cord soon after — presumably the reason that Ellie’s immune.

That’s when Marlene comes in, moments too late, and agrees to take the baby. A prequel video game could have explored everything leading up to these moments.

While Druckmann didn’t write the idea off entirely, it feels unlikely to happen. Naughty Dog is at work on an unannounced game, which he also shared on the Kinda Funny Spoilercast. Druckmann didn’t share what the game is, despite saying he knows fans want The Last of Us: Part 3.

“We’re already into our next project, so the decision has already been made,” Druckmann said. “I can’t say what it is, but [...] there was a lot of consideration of different things, and we picked the thing we were most excited for.”

Ahead of that, Naughty Dog is also gearing up to show its The Last of Us multiplayer project, said to be due for a reveal this year.