Naughty Dog considered several names for their critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic survival action game before eventually settling on The Last of Us, according to a lost interview with game director Bruce Straley.
The information has come to light thanks to Riot Games’ senior writer Jason Killingsworth, who discussed the meaning of the game’s title during an interview conducted some time ago for Edge magazine in the UK. Although the segment in question didn’t make it to publication due to space constraints, Killingsworth recently uploaded it to Google Docs.
According to Straley, ‘Mankind’ and ‘Americana’ were both in the running for the game’s title, along with a number of “one-word ideas”, although “The Last of Us just felt right”. On the process of name development, he said:
“Picking names, it sucks, let’s just get that out there. It’s such a commitment. You’re putting it on paper, saying this is meaningful and you’re going to go with this for eternity, you know what I mean? So there’s a lot of weight on names. […]
“I think the name was originally on Neil [Druckmann, creative director]’s list, but we separately kept coming back to it. We whittled the list down and both he and I independently picked The Last Of Us. I don’t think everybody liked it but it was one of those things that could be read a lot of different ways. You can read into it referring to a personal story about Joel and Ellie and who they are. It can be read into as being about the world and the state of the population. It can be read into as being about dilemmas about morals. It’s a very open-ended, neat title, and like everything with this game, when you saw a list of names that had that one-word sort of approach, this was something different that did what we wanted it to do because one of the goals for this project was, can we dig into subtlety?”
Straley added that Naughty Dog like to compare their work to other forms of media, and as a result, questioned themselves on why they should constrain the game’s name to a “blunt, Neanderthal grunt”, when books and movies often have “very long, elaborate titles”. Ultimately, he said, “I’m actually proud of the name. It’s different, it’s unique, it stands out as a title.”