When Does 'The Last of Us' Take Place — and How Old Is Joel? Tracking the Timeline


Sep. 8 2022, Published 2:20 p.m. ET

The Last of Us
Source: Sony PlayStation

With an HBO series on the way and two excellent games out on PlayStation, The Last of Us is shaping up to be one of the more successful media properties of the last decade.

With The Last of Us having a near-present timeline, it's worth asking when exactly these games take place.

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The Last of Us — Sony PlayStation's premier high drama and fine grit video game series — is set after the outbreak of a deadly cordyceps-based zombie infection that crumbles the governing infrastructure of the United States down into a series of martial law–governed quarantine zones. The story follows Joel Miller, a once loving father turned gruff and defeated smuggler, as he smuggles Ellie, a teenage girl who may be the key to curing the viral infection, from the Boston quarantine zone to doctors in Salt Lake City, Utah. A sequel game followed Ellie five years after the events of the first one.

Here's what to know about the The Last of Us's timeline.

The Last of Us tv series
Source: HBO

A still from the 'Last of US' TV series for HBO.

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'The Last of Us' timeline explored:

The plot of The Last of Us first opens in 2013 during the initial outbreak of the cordyceps as Joel hurriedly tries to rush his daughter Sarah to safety. Obviously, things don't end well for Joel's daughter and the game jumps forward 20 years to 2033, where Joel has been surviving by smuggling contraband between the quarantine zones and doing other dodgy jobs. Eventually Joel is a given a mysterious job of smuggling a teenage girl, Ellie, to Salt Lake City to be seen by doctors there for a potential cure to the cordyceps outbreak.

The game proper takes place in the four seasons leading up to spring 2034 when Joel and Ellie arrive in Salt Lake City. The Last of Us 2 takes place five years after what happens in Salt Lake City at the end of the first game and follows Ellie this time around instead of Joel. The first Last of Us game also had a prequel DLC, The Last of Us: Left Behind, which is set three weeks before Ellie joins Joel in 2033.

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The Last of Us
Source: Sony PlayStation

'The Last of Us'

How old is Joel in 'The Last of Us'?

One of the main achievements of The Last of Us is following Joel Miller from the start of the cordyceps pandemic into the aftermath from events in the first game in The Last of Us 2. Part of what of course comes with this are questions about Joel's age from the start of the first game and into the second.

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After surviving the initial outbreak in Boston at the very start of the game series, it's widely assumed that Joel is in his late 20s but more likely the start of his 30s. After the outbreak in Boston the game jumps ahead 20 years following the collapse, which we can assume puts Joel in his mid to late 40s plus the time span of the first game which is about a year. Coming into The Last of Us 2 which takes place in 2038, five years after the events of the first game — this puts Joel comfortably in his mid 50s to hopefully age gracefully into his twilight years. Hopefully.

Fans who are looking forward to the prestige HBO drama adaptation of The Last of Us can expect the show to arrive in 2023.

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