The Last of Us is an action-adventure survival horror game played from a third-person perspective. The player traverses post-apocalyptic environments such as towns, buildings, forests, and sewers to advance the story. The player can use firearms, improvised weapons, and stealth to defend against hostile humans and cannibalisticcreatures infected by a mutated strain of the Cordyceps fungus. For most of the game, the player takes control of Joel, a man tasked with escorting a young girl, Ellie, across the United States.The player also controls Ellie throughout the game's winter segment, and briefly controls Joel's daughter Sarah in the opening sequence.
In combat, the player can use long-range weapons, such as a rifle, a shotgun, and a bow, and short-range weapons such as a handgun and a short-barreled shotgun. The player is able to scavenge limited-use melee weapons, such as pipes and baseball bats, and throw bottles and bricks to distract, stun, or attack enemies. The player can upgrade weapons at workbenches using collected items. Equipment such as health kits, shivs, and Molotov cocktails can be found or crafted using collected items. Attributes such as the health meter and crafting speed can be upgraded by collecting pills and medicinal plants. Health can be recharged through the use of health kits.