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How to unlock all characters in The Last of Us Part 2's No Return roguelike

How to play as Joel, Tommy, and Manny in No Return

Abby takes on a large group of Infected in Last of Us, Part 2 Image: Naughty Dog/PlayStation Studios
Ryan Gilliam (he/him) has worked at Polygon for nearly seven years. He primarily spends his time writing guides for massively popular games like Diablo 4 & Destiny 2.

You can choose to play as eight characters in No Return, the cool roguelike mode available in The Last of Us Part 2s remastered version for PlayStation 5, but only two are available from the start. You’ll have to unlock the other six.

In this The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered guide, we’ll walk you through how to unlock all characters in the No Return roguelike mode, and tell you what they can do.


How to unlock characters in TLOU 2’s No Return roguelike

The unlock menu in No Return for The Last of Us Part 2 Image: Naughty Dog/PlayStation Studios

When you first jump into No Return, you’ll only be able to play as Ellie or Abby. To unlock the rest of the characters, you’ll need to complete encounters as a specific character. For example, you can unlock Dina by successfully completing two encounters as Ellie.

If you’re focused on unlocking characters as fast as possible, you can simply complete the required number of encounters as one character and then quit the run. (Encounters refers to the individual fights during each run, not the entire run.)

That said, if you take this approach, I recommend that you let your character die to end the run instead of quitting out. There are certain features — like the Daily Run — that only unlock after you complete a certain number of runs. Quitting out via the main menu doesn’t count, but dying does.

Here are the two branches of unlockable characters in No Return:

Ellie branch

  • Dina — Complete two encounters as Ellie
  • Jesse — Complete three encounters as Dina
  • Tommy — Complete three encounters as Jesse
  • Joel — Complete four encounters as Tommy

Abby branch

  • Lev — Complete two encounters as Abby
  • Yara — Complete three encounters as Lev
  • Mel — Complete three encounters as Yara
  • Manny — Complete four encounters as Mel

Ellie unlock requirements and traits

A look at Ellie in The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered Image: Naughty Dog/PlayStation Studios

Starting Weapons: Semi-auto pistol, Molotov cocktail
How to Unlock: Available from the start

Ellie is the only character with the “balanced” playstyle, and there’s a reason for that. She’s just Ellie from The Last of Us Part 2, and she doesn’t have any special tools to help her succeed. She does, however, offer a very balanced game. Starting with a Molotov cocktail can really help you out of a bind — especially against some early Infected rounds. And getting double Supplements means you can upgrade a ton of different skills as you progress toward the boss round.

Ellie is a really strong character in No Return, though doesn’t bring anything unexpected to the table. If you’re looking for flashy, weird twists on the gameplay, you’ll have plenty of options as you unlock more characters. But as a starting place, you really can’t get much better than Ellie.


Dina unlock requirements and traits

A look at Dina in The Last of Us Part 2 Image: Naughty Dog/PlayStation Studios

Starting Weapons: Revolver, one and a half of all crafting components
How to Unlock: Complete two encounters as Ellie

Other than Ellie, Dina has the most “normal” playstyle in No Return — or at least one that will be familiar to The Last of Us Part 2 players. She starts with the revolver and some bonus crafting items, but she can also craft trap mines and stun bombs without needing to buy their recipes. Trap mines are extremely powerful in The Last of Us Part 2, especially in No Return, where the game tells you where the enemies spawn.

Dina is essentially just a resource management character. If you’re running around and collecting resources, crafting items, and using them, Dina can be extremely powerful and can help you blaze through a No Return run. On the flip side, if you’re not picking up many materials and trying to go fast, you’re really going to struggle as Dina in this mode.


Jesse unlock requirements and traits

A look at Jesse in The Last of Us Part 2 Image: Naughty Dog/PlayStation Studios

Starting Weapons: Military pistol (with silencer), pipe bomb
How to Unlock: Complete three encounters as Dina

Jesse has a pretty mediocre starting spread of abilities and tools, but that’s okay, because the goal with Jesse is to snowball by buying powerful items from the Trading Post. Jesse gets a 30% boost to currency, and he can re-roll the Trading Post an unlimited number of times. Currency isn’t usually a problem in No Return, but getting lucky enough for the Trading Post to have what you want in stock is. Jesse solves that RNG problem instantly with his traits.

Making it through the first few encounters as Jesse is a little rough, as you only have a silenced pistol and a pipe bomb. But once you get enough currency to start abusing the Trading Post, you can skyrocket your power level.


Tommy unlock requirements and traits

A look at Tommy in The Last of Us Part 2 Image: Naughty Dog/PlayStation Studios

Starting Weapons: Military pistol, custom sniper rifle
How to Unlock: Complete three encounters as Jesse

Tommy has a major boon and a major disadvantage: he comes with a custom sniper rifle, but he can’t dodge. The inability to dodge might seem very bad — and it’s not great, to be clear — but if you play Tommy right, you’ll never need to dodge because nobody will ever get that close to you.

The thing about Tommy is that his sniper rifle is a one-shot kill on most enemies no matter where you hit them. It also holds quite a bit of ammo, and, if you’re getting your mid-encounter caches, you’ll almost always have a reserve of ammo for it. You can sit back, take out a wave of enemies, and then move far away from the spawn point for the next wave.

He’s a very powerful character if you can position him correctly, but if you get a bad draw on a boss fight — like the Rat King Stalker — or a close-quarters encounter, you’re going to run into some trouble.


Joel unlock requirements and traits

A look at Joel in The Last of Us Part 2 Image: Naughty Dog/PlayStation Studios

Starting Weapons: Custom revolver, upgraded melee weapon, shiv, short gun holster
How to Unlock: Complete four encounters as Tommy

Like his younger brother, Joel has some very powerful tools paired with a major downside: he can’t dodge. If you tend to use a very dodge-heavy playstyle, this might automatically remove Joel from your No Return roster. But Joel has a lot of other things going for him, so don’t write him off too quickly.

Joel comes with a powerful revolver that has a ton of ammo. He also takes less damage from melee attacks, which offsets his inability to dodge in Infected encounters — the most dangerous kind of enemy for the Miller brothers. Joel starts with an upgraded melee weapon and a shiv as well, giving him some powerful close range options.

Joel has the “unstoppable” playstyle for a reason. He’s not particularly limber, but he starts with a huge leg up. And if you’re able to capitalize on that strong start by buying new weapons and crafting great tools, you can snowball and give yourself a much easier run.


Abby unlock requirements and traits

A look at Abby in The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered Image: Naughty Dog/PlayStation Studios

Starting Weapons: Military pistol, hammer
How to Unlock: Available from the start

Just like in the main campaign, Abby is a bit of a tank — in the best way possible. Not only does she start with a melee weapon, she also heals on melee kills and can upgrade her melee weapon with some materials you can find during encounters. This makes her a really effective brawler from the first encounter of your run, able to jump into combat and stay safe while killing foes with melee.

The downside to Abby is also her strength: a melee focus. While melee is very strong in one-on-one combat, in Hunted or group encounters, Abby’s unique tools aren’t particularly useful and can get you into trouble if you don’t adjust.


Lev unlock requirements and traits

A look at Lev in The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered Image: Naughty Dog/PlayStation Studios

Starting Weapons: Semi-auto pistol, bow
How to Unlock: Complete two encounters as Abby

Lev is No Return’s stealthy character. He starts with a pistol and, most importantly, the bow, which is a very powerful stealth tool. The starter bow for Lev also comes with the Bow Draw Speed upgrade already equipped, and he’s already adept at listening to his surroundings with the Improved Listen Mode trait.

Lev’s wide variety of tools make him a very economic character in No Return. He’s able to take out enemies without getting noticed, stay safe, and then collect his own arrows to continue the carnage from the shadows.


Yara unlock requirements and traits

A look at Yara in The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered Image: Naughty Dog/PlayStation Studios

Starting Weapons: Semi-auto pistol
How to Unlock: Complete three encounters as Lev

Yara is one of the more interesting characters in No Return, as she has a permanent ally in Lev, her little brother. However, Lev is essentially all Yara has going for her. It’s her only trait — outside of starting with the Ally upgrade branch, which just makes Lev better — and she only has the semi-auto pistol to defend herself.

Yara’s value depends largely on your playstyle. If you’re getting into scrapes and sticking close to Lev, you’re going to do well. However, you’re extremely underpowered on your own, and allies can be killed if you’re not careful (ending your run), giving you another parameter for failure in No Return.


Mel unlock requirements and traits

A look at Mel in The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered Image: Naughty Dog/PlayStation Studios

Starting Weapons: Revolver, 2x med packs
How to Unlock: Complete three encounters as Yara

Mel is all about healing and sustainability, and she starts with two med packs ready to go. Because of this, you can make a lot of mistakes while playing as Mel and manage to get away by using her healing bonuses.

However, Mel starts out with very few offensive options. Outside of your revolver, all you have is melee combat when you start. You’ll need to do some extra scavenging if you want to survive your first few combats with any of your med packs still intact, and you’ll probably want to spend most of your currency on increasing your offensive capabilities to offset how hard it is to die as Mel.


Manny unlock requirements and traits

A look at Manny in The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered Image: Naughty Dog/PlayStation Studios

Starting Weapons: Hunting pistol, semi-auto rifle
How to Unlock: Complete four encounters as Mel

Manny is all about weapons and having lots of health. He starts with a long gun, the most powerful short gun in the game — the hunting pistol — and he’s able to craft ammo for his Semi-Auto Rifle from the start. However, he is unable to craft Health Kits, so you’ll need to find your healing items in the field.

Like Joel and Tommy, Manny offers a risk/reward playstyle that can give you a very powerful start in exchange for a pretty serious disadvantage if things go sideways. If you’re very familiar with No Return, you shouldn’t be taking much damage anyway, so who needs health kits? But if you’ve just unlocked Manny and you’re still getting a handle on things, you might struggle to keep your health up without on-demand health kits.

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