THE LAST OF US PART III: Neil Druckmann Has an Exciting Concept, Is Naughty Dog Working on the Third Game Now?

Neil Druckmann has confirmed he has an idea for The Last of Us Part III that he feels is as exciting as its two predecessors.
The Last of Us Part 2

For years, it’s felt like it was Naughty Dog’s worst-kept secret that they are working on a third The Last of Us game. However, the process on The Last of Us Part III may not be as far along as we perhaps thought, or at least convinced ourselves, Neil Druckmann recently admitted. Despite that, he did confirm that he has a concept for the first game that he feels very passionate about, which is all that matters.

The reveal came at the end of the two-hour behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of The Last of Us Part II that was released on YouTube a few days ago. The doc focuses on the vast production work that went into making the 2020 sequel but left some room in the end for the future of the IP. After briefly discussing the HBO series, which is about to start filming its second season (based on that same video game), the focus turned to the future of the title on the gaming side.

RELATED: THE LAST OF US Season 2 Announces Directing Lineup

We don’t know when exactly in 2023 this was recorded, but when the question came about a possible third game, Neil Druckmann, director and writer on the first two games, said the following:

“I’ve been thinking about it: Is there a concept there? And for now years I haven’t been able to find that concept. But recently that’s changed. I don’t have a story, but I do have that concept that, to me, is as exciting as Part I, as exciting as Part II, is its own thing and yet has this through line for all three. So it does feel like there’s probably one more chapter to this story.”

– Neil Druckmann, President of Naughty Dog
The Last of Us Part 2
Image via Naughty Dog, Sony Interactive Entertainment

Also last year there were some early leaks about story beats from the third game (we won’t spoil them here), which, if true, meant that the rumors of Naughty Dog being deep into the development of a third game were true. Druckmann himself said the following during an interview with Kinda Funny in March 2023 when asked about a possible third game:

“I know the fans really want The Last of Us Part III. I hear about it all the time. All I can say is that, look, we’re already into our next project. The decision has already been made. I can’t say what it is, but that’s the process we went through, that there was a lot of consideration of different things and we picked the thing we were most excited for.”

– Neil Druckmann, President of Naughty Dog

Making Sense of The Last of Us Part III Timeline

Though at first sight, it might feel like both comments hint at Part III not being Naughty Dog’s priority at the moment, I actually feel like it’s the opposite. Maybe it’s because I want to believe it, but the timeline does make sense for both comments to be hinting at Druckmann being knee-deep into developing a third game.

We don’t know exactly when Druckmann recorded his interview for Grounded, but let’s assume it was after March. The point of the last few minutes of the BTS documentary was that the people at Naughty Dog were left exhausted after shipping The Last of Us Part II. It took all of their energy out of their systems, and the studio spent quite a bit of time trying to heal the mental health wounds that those years of work had caused them.

That might be why they decided to work on a PS5 remaster of The Last of Us Part II before they committed, full-time, to a new title. Druckmann said that, in March, that decision had already been made. So here’s how I’m looking at it.

The Last of Us Part 2
Image via Naughty Dog, Sony Interactive Entertainment

Another thing that the Grounded documentary taught us is that Druckmann and his entire team learned that planning the game way was massively helpful in the early stages. The story kept changing and iterating, but the team was already developing concept art and spitballing ideas in the very early days, even before they’d finished Uncharted 4. The timeline feels a bit reminiscent.

It’s possible that, by the time they recorded Grounded, Druckmann didn’t have the full story yet, because they are used to finding it as they go along in the process. But that doesn’t mean the studio is not heavily invested in it. They probably are. It’s no secret that this is the title that everyone feels the most passionate about over there, so if the creator is feeling that creative fire again, why would he embark on another project before it? I keep going back to those final words from last year: “We picked the thing we were most excited for.”

RELATED: THE LAST OF US Season 2: Kaitlyn Dever Officially Confirmed as Abby

Players who want to experience The Last of Us Part II can check out the special remastered edition, which is currently available on PlayStation 5. The first season of the hit HBO live-action television series adaptation of the franchise is also streaming now on Max. Season 2 is currently in the works.

What do you think about all of this? Is Naughty Dog fully in development of a third game for The Last of Us, or is this going to come many years down the line, once they’ve finished another game they’re now working on? And if they are working on The Last of Us Part III, when do you think they will announce it? Could it be September 26, Outbreak Day? Or is that day now reserved for announcements related to the HBO show? Let us know your thoughts via Twitter or on our Discord server!

SOURCE: YouTube, Naughty Dog

KEEP READING: The Last of Us Part 2: How Naughty Dog Created One of the Best Stories Ever Told