The Last of Us Timeline Explained

With The Last of Us Part II on its way in less than two weeks, we go through the timeline of The Last of Us. This will cover the events that occur in the first game and its DLC, Left Behind, and everything leading up to the end of the world from the Cordyceps outbreak. You will learn about characters, get refamiliarized with the story, and learn some lore along the way.

Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us

We are close to the release of The Last of Us Part 2, seven years after the release of the first game. To catch up on the story so far, we will go through the entire timeline of The Last of Us (part one) and its DLC Left Behind. This will go through the events in the game while going into those deeper, unsaid details that happened before and after the fungal zombie outbreak. 

Do note that not all of these details are concrete. For example, not all of the dates can be specified, so this will give you a general idea of the universe that Naughty Dog crafted. All of the information comes from the game, the comic book titled American Dreams, and the Fandom Wiki.

September 26, 1984, or 1985

Joel (Troy Baker) is born.

Between 1986 and 1989

Tommy (Jeffrey Pierce) is born.

Between the 1990s and 2000

Joel meets and eventually marries an unnamed woman.


 Joel and his wife have their first and only child, a girl named Sarah (Hana Hayes).

Early to Mid-2000s

Joel’s wife, Sarah’s mother, leaves for an unknown reason, leaving Joel to being a single father.


Henry (Brandon Scott) is born.

Sometime in 2013

Newspaper in The Last of Us

News reports of infection across America

The fungus known as Cordyceps mutates somewhere in South American crops, leading to the first human to become infected. It soon spreads into Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. After some time of the infection grows, it leads to the first stage with the Runners, which can appear within the first day or two of infection. This type of enemy is fast with quick reflexes.

September 2013

  • The infection has spread into the United States. Between September 1 and 26, it has reached Austin, Texas, the city where Joel and Sarah live.
  • September 26 is Joel’s birthday, the day the game starts. Sarah gifts him a watch and later on gets put to bed by her father.
  • It is the next day, September 27. Sarah wakes up with hints to the chaos from a TV broadcast and seeing texts from Tommy. Joel soon enters their house and is talking about a neighbor who has been acting strangely. The infected neighbor almost immediately bursts into their home. Joel shoots the man, killing him in front of Sarah.
  • Tommy picks them up, and they drive through the city. After a car accident, Joel carries Sarah due to a possible broken leg and has Tommy protect them as they run through destruction and chaos. Tommy falls behind to fight off infected while his brother and niece go out the back of a bar. They go through a dirt road into a U.S. soldier who has an order to kill them both. Sarah is fatally shot, and Tommy saves Joel.
  • The city officially goes into quarantine that same day.

October 4, 2013

Lincoln in The Last of Us

A view of Lincoln 20 years after the world ended

Schools are closed in Lincoln, where Joel and Ellie (Ashley Johnson) will later reach to meet Bill (W. Earl Brown).

Later in 2013

  • Anyone who did not leave Lincoln was infected. The game only shows Bill as a survivor, and he mentions his partner Frank, who commits suicide later on.
  • More quarantine zones appear in the U.S. from the military and Federal Disaster Response Agency with Boston, Massachusetts, and Hartford, Connecticut. Both of those cities have infections shortly before a military takeover.

Between the end of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014

  • Marlene (Merle Dandridge) starts up a militia group called the Fireflies. Shortly after its inception, the military and FE.D.R.A. start to have a conflict between the Fireflies. 
  • The specific date is unknown, but between this time frame is when the first infection appears at the University of Eastern Colorado
  • The infection reached Salt Lake City, Utah, and  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Both cities are quarantined by the military and FE.D.R.A.
  • The second stage of infection starts to show with Stalkers. The fungus is starting to sprout out of the skin while still maintaining the same energy as the Runners. A Runner can turn into a Stalker anywhere between a week and a month since getting infected.

April 2014

University of Eastern Colorado in The Last of Us

Joel and Ellie go to college

Survivors at the University of Eastern Colorado wait for a rescue team.

October 17, 2014

The military and FE.D.R.A. make it to Lincoln and secure a quarantine zone.


University of Eastern Colorado students find the last bit of food on January 15. By late February or early March, a survivor goes into town to search for supplies.

Between 2016 and 2017

Riley Abel (Yaani King Mondschein) is born.

Between January and April 2019

Ellie is born from an unknown father and her mother, Anna, a nurse who was also friends with Marlene. Between these months is when her parents die, and Marlene takes care of her.

Between 2019 and 2020

  • Sam (Nadji Jeter), Henry’s brother, is born.
  • The third stage of infection mutates into Clickers, which takes about a year to develop after someone is infected. The fungus has grown so much that it hinders its senses like sight completely. The movement is slower, and it makes a distinct clicking sound. It relies entirely on its hearing. These types are stronger than the average human due to the prolonged exposure to the fungus.

Between 2018 and 2023

Joel attacked by a Hunter

Hunters can pack a punch

  • Due to rations running low in Pittsburgh, the city is eventually taken over by rioters, who were backed up by the Fireflies. This leads to a new group of hostile humans, the Hunters. Civilians either joined the new faction or were killed for opposing the group.
  • The fourth stage of infection has started with Bloaters. This type of infection begins to show up after years of infection and is quite rare to find. They shoot out explosive spores that can infect people. It is an aggressive creature that has brute force when not utilizing its ranged attack.
  • The Fireflies make the University of Eastern Colorado a new base. They send supplies there from other bases for seven months. People are recruited to the location. Between this time, a scientist is infected by a monkey, and everyone eventually leaves to Salt Lake City.

Between 2013 and 2033

  • Joel becomes a Hunter. The things he does with Tommy to survive causes the two to go their separate ways. Tommy joins the Fireflies.
  • Bill and Frank are taking over Lincoln by placing traps across the city.
  • Joel meets Tess (Annie Wersching), and the two of them become a smuggling duo. The two sometimes would work with Bill to smuggle things between Lincoln and Boston.
  • David (Nolan North) finds a group of survivors and start relying on cannibalism to survive.


Tess buys the guns from Robert (Robin Atkin Downes). Those same guns eventually are bought behind Tess’ back from Marlene.

Summer 2033

Rile and Ellie in The Last of Us

Two best friends, Riley and Ellie

  • Riley comes to see Ellie after months of not talking due to a falling out. She reveals that she is leaving to join the Fireflies, so the two of them go out to an abandoned mall for one last hang out. During all of the fun with shooting squirt guns and taking silly pictures, the two of them kiss, revealing their feelings for one another and their sexuality. This moment is quickly interrupted as some infected chase them. This ends with the two friends getting infected, and only Ellie survives.
  • Boston is one of the last quarantined zones, and there is a war raging on between the military and Fireflies. The Fireflies are nearly wiped out of the city, but there is one last plan. They find out Ellie is immune and need smugglers to get her out of the city.
  • Tess comes back to Joel with a few cuts and bruises. She was attacked by Robert’s men, who she ended up killing. The two of them go out to take down Robert. Once they find out Robert sold their guns, Tess kills him. Marlene then reveals herself and gets the two smugglers to follow her.
  • They reach a safe house where they meet Ellie. Without revealing her immunity, the queen of the Fireflies convinces Joel and Tess to smuggle the girl to the Massachusetts State House in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston. The deal is that they get their guns if the Firefly team at the State House gets the girl.
  • After evading the military, they are caught by two soldiers. As they begin tests to see if the three escapees are infected, Ellie engages while Tess and Joel finish them off. They find out Ellie is infected. Tess starts to see the bigger picture, while Joel is in denial.
Tess and Joel in The Last of Us

Tess’ final moment with Joel

  • The group discovers that there is nothing for them there, but it is the last stop for Tess because of an early encounter with some infected, she was bitten. She holds off some soldiers to let Ellie and Joel escape. Tess is killed by the military.
  • After traveling, Joel and Ellie meet Bill. They go on a mission for a car battery that is a local school. It fails as the battery was already gone. After evading infected through the ruined city, they come across a house with a man hanging from the ceiling. It is Frank, Bill’s partner who became infected and later committed suicide. This is where they discover that Frank took the battery they were looking for. The three of them start the car, leading to Joel and Ellie to drive out of Lincoln.
  • Joel and Ellie meet Henry and Sam when they arrive in Pittsburgh. The four of them stick together. They go through a Hunter camp, which holds a heavily armored truck with a mounted machine gun. When trying to escape, Henry and Sam leave Joel behind. Ellie sticks by his side, and they eventually get chased off a bridge.
  • The two of them wake up with Henry and Sam, who saved their lives. They go through a sewer system, where a group of survivors once were holding up before infected started to invade. The people were left to either become infected, kill themselves, or mercifully kill others.
  • After dealing with some more Hunters and a sniper in a neighborhood, the truck returns. Joel kills off the Hunters, but infected are alerted by all of the gunfire. Sam ends up infected but does not tell anyone.
  • They settle up in a building. The next morning Sam attacks Ellie as he has turned. Henry kills his brother and commits suicide.

Fall 2033

Jackson in The Last of Us

Joel and Ellie make it to the dam

  • Joel and Ellie are in Jackson County, Wyoming.  They are trying to search for Tommy in hopes that he has an idea where to find the Fireflies. When trying to go through a seemingly empty hydroelectric dam, they come across a community of people who are lead by Tommy and his wife Maria (Ashley Scott). 
  • Joel and Tommy have a discussion about Ellie, which gets disrupted due to an attack from bandits. After fighting them off and furthering the discussion, Ellie runs away with a horse as she figured out Joel wanted to hand her off to Tommy to finish off the job of delivering her.
  • They find her at a house on some farmland. After a heartfelt conversation with Ellie and fighting off more hostile survivors, Joel reconsiders his plan. Tommy goes back home while his brother and Ellie go off to what Tommy suggests as the best place to find Fireflies, University of Eastern Colorado.
  • Once they arrive at the university, it is empty. Through a voice recording of the scientist who was bitten by an infected monkey, they find out that the Fireflies are held up at Salt Lake City. 
  • The two of them are attacked by a group of people. This fight leads to Joel falling onto a piece of rebar that impales him. Once everyone is fought off, Ellie must take care of Joel in his time of need.

Winter 2033

Ellie is hunting in The Last of Us

Ellie needs food and medicine

  • Ellie is all alone as Joel is recovering from his wound. She is in search of food and medicine. After hunting down a buck, she comes across David and James (Reuben Langdon). They make an agreement that they get the meat if she can get some medicine. James goes off to collect what she needs.
  • David and Ellie are attacked by a horde of undead. Once things settle down and they wait for James to return, David, reveals some information about how a man and little girl have been killing his men. She gets away briefly but is eventually captured by the group.
  • She is held in a building where David’s crew of cannibals call home. She manages to escape briefly before having a showdown with David. The two fight, but end up with Ellie killing him.
  • Joel wakes up and finds that Ellie not there, so he heads out in search of her. He captures two people who attack him and interrogates them to find where they are keeping her. Time passes of him torturing them is when he gets his answers, then kills the two men.
  • When he looks, he sees a burning building, knowing Ellie is there. He finds her right as she is chopping David’s face into tiny pieces.

March 2034

Salt Lake City in The Last of Us

A view of Salt Lake City

Marlene details in her journal that she and a group of her Fireflies arrive in Utah on March 15. Despite losing people along the way during the journey across the country, the group and their leader make it to the Firefly base in Salt Lake City by March 23.

April 28, 2034

  • Joel and Ellie have reached Salt Lake City. Ellie is silent, trying to internalize that they are nearly at the end of their goal. Joel is wrestling with the idea that they should turn back to Tommy, forgetting everything with the cure and Fireflies. He tries to talk Ellie into it, but she wants to go forward.
  • Ellie gives Joel a picture of Sarah, something she took back in Jackson. Joel has now reconciled with the death of his daughter.
  • The two of them face infected in a tunnel. Once they make it past the undead, they see the rest is flooded, a typical obstacle for them as Ellie cannot swim. After Joel falls inside of a bus and Ellie tries to save him, everything tips over, sending them downstream. He manages to bring her to the surface, but she is not awake. As he tries to perform CPR, a group of Fireflies finds them. They knock Joel out, and they wake up at the hospital that the militia group has made into a base.
Joel, Marlene, and Ethan in The Last of Us

Joel and Marlene argue about Ellie’s surgery

  • Joel is with Marlene and a Firefly. She informs him that Ellie being prepped for surgery. Joel is upset; he wants to see her and does not want her to die as the procedure will lead to her death. Due to his behavior, Marlene orders the Firefly, Ethan (Downes) to escort Joel out of the building, if he does anything stupid then to kill him.
  • Joel attacks Ethan to figure out where they are operating on Ellie, he then kills Ethan after getting his answers. He is now running through the hospital, taking down anyone in his path, to stop the surgery. He ends up killing the surgeon as the rest of the medical staff back off. He picks up Ellie and runs through the building, being chased along the way by every Firefly available. 
  • He gets down into the parking garage through an elevator and is met with Marlene. Joel kills her, knowing that she would just come after them. When Ellie wakes up in the car ride to Jackson, Joel lies about how there were others like her and that the militia group has stopped looking for a cure.
  • Once they reach Jackson, Ellie asks Joel if what he said was true. Joel stands his ground, and the credits roll, making it an end of the timeline of The Last of Us until the sequel launches.

Winter 2039

The Last of Us Part II begins. You can see how the story itself unfolds on June 19 only on PlayStation.


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