Don’t Forget, The Last of Us Part 2 Is Technically A Christmas Game

Highlights

  • The Last of Us Part 2 is a game that takes place over three days and explores the consequences of revenge from two different perspectives.
  • Despite not being set during Christmas, The Last of Us Part 2 still captures the Christmas spirit through symbolic moments and themes.
  • The game’s ability to juxtapose violence with moments of joy and love, including a Christmas celebration, makes its characters worth rooting for.


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The Last of Us Part 2 takes place over the course of three days, seen twice through the eyes of two different heroes as we wreak havoc on the trail of revenge first, then deal with its consequences through the opposite perspective. It’s a game in which the passage of time is key, imbued with a sense of chronology that other games regard as trivial. Notably, none of these three days are Christmas. And yet, The Last of Us Part 2 is still a Christmas game.

True Christmas games are rare. Unlike music or movies or television, where the holiday season is stuffed with classics like sage and onion in a turkey, there are few games that fully embody the Christmas spirit and can be returned to year on year. Instead, it is through tangential links or seasonal events that we can keep Christmas in our pixelated hearts. But even in these discussions, where Miles Morales or Saints Row are suggested as our Home Alone stand-ins, The Last of Us Part 2 is overlooked.

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Despite the importance of this three day cycle, The Last of Us Part 2 is also punctuated by flashbacks. From Ellie’s perspective, these serve to fill in the blanks between the two games, including the breakdown of her relationship with Joel, and her journey is shaped by her regret. Abby’s flashbacks are more complicated. Some serve to highlight her similarities to Ellie, with a zebra standing in for Ellie’s giraffe, and to show her connection to her father, which echoes Ellie and Joel’s story too.

However, these aren’t the only flashbacks Abby has. Some are far more recent, and depict her relationships within the WLF, including her heartbreak and loss, a key factor in alienating her from her peers, which gives her the distance she needs to connect with Lev and Yara, as well as motivating her to close herself off and think only of revenge. It’s in these moments that we get our glimmer of Christmas.

The Last of Us Part 2 Abby and Lev on a horse

In the aquarium that Abby and her friends use as a sanctuary from the violence of the world, Owen and Mel have decorated for Christmas. Owen takes Abby for a tour (Mel is conspicuously not present), showing her the tree, the windows lined with lights, and the stockings Mel made for herself and Owen. Abby picks one up sadly, and wishes she had someone who loved her enough to get her a stocking – it’s a rueful scene, one that hints that she misses Owen but also feels unworthy of a partner, and sees this reflected in how fulfilled he is with Mel.

It could be a scene from any Christmas romcom, the ex-lovers reminiscing in the warmth as the snow piles high outside, wondering about the steps and missteps they made along the road. It’s the sort of movie where you’re unsure if they’ll unite at the end or both find the one destined to make them happy. Then Abby mentions she has found Joel’s brother and aims to hunt him down, and the Christmas cheer is shattered by the nihilism of The Last of Us once more.

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But the misery of The Last of Us is only so powerful because its characters are also capable of great joy and love, and Abby’s brief Christmas celebration underlines why these characters are worth rooting for. We need to care for any of it to matter, and The Last of Us is as good at giving us hope as it is at ripping it away again.

We also see this in the recent trailer for the upcoming No Return expansion, where Abby is shown in the same room as this Christmas celebration, decorated with Christmas lights, while she crafts and prepares for battle. Of all the places Abby visits across the game, this is the area that Naughty Dog sees as her safe zone, underlining how important this Christmas is not only to Abby, but to our understanding of her.

We’re used to merging violence with the peace and goodwill of Christmas – it’s why we get movies like Violent Night and It’s A Wonderful Knife, and why Die Hard tops the lists of most popular Christmas movies. The Last of Us should be no different, especially as it uses Christmas as a sanctuary against this violence. It’s an important entry into the gaming Christmas canon, and should be remembered as such this holiday season.

last of us 2 box art

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