The Last of Us stands out for its imaginative stages of Cordyceps infection slowly transforming humans. Once the fungus takes over the brain, the victim passes through various phases as the contagion evolves over time, creating distinct classes of the Infected. These range from the newly turned savage Runners to the towering monstrosity known as the Rat King.
1. Runners – The Frenzied First Phase
Runners represent the initial transition into mindless violence as infection sets in. They act much like a frenzied human, capable of infecting others through bites. Since their physical abilities match an average person, conventional weapons like knives and guns can kill them.
2. The Ambushing Horror of Stalkers
Over weeks, they enter the Stalker phase, losing facial features as fungal growths emerge. Though more subdued, Stalkers still ambush prey aggressively. Many eventually become dormant as the Cordyceps anchors them to walls, either dying or reanimating later as Clickers.
3. Managing the Menace of Clickers
The dreaded Clickers represent years of infection. With mushroom protuberances replacing eyes, blindness forces them to echolocate prey through characteristic clicking. Their fungal plates also make melee attacks nearly useless, demanding creative tactics. Fire is ideal for breaking down Clicker defenses.
4. Bloaters – Walking Spore Sacks
When the fungus spreads across the entire body, the host becomes a Bloater. Though slow, their projectile sacks of toxic spores can rapidly kill while closing distance to strike. Only high-powered weaponry takes them down, with fire again being most effective against their durable form.
5. Shamblers – Acidic Speed Demons
The Last of Us Part II added the nightmarish Shambler variant. Initially slow like Bloaters, they can charge with surprising speed once alerted. Their acid spray attack requires keeping distance, with pipe bombs proving an excellent tool.
6. The Rat King – Apex of Infection
Finally, the Rat King represents total infection convergence. Multiple Cordyceps victims fused into this colossal beast armed with acidic gas bursts and detachable Infected extensions of itself. Patience and fire once more are key to stopping this embodiment of the pandemic’s grim end stage.
By realistically evolving the infection process, The Last of Us manages to keep players on edge with an array of unpredictable, deadly foes. Each transition represents the creeping horror of humanity lost to an insidious invader. No matter their shape, complicating the Infected’s life cycle ensures confronting them never gets easier as their numbers spread.
The Last of Us Part I is available on PS4, PS5, and PC, Part II only on PS4.
About The Author
I'm a passionate content writer dedicated to the world of video games.
My heart beats to the rhythm of the virtual landscapes, and my true gaming obsessions are "Horizon Franchise", Zero Dawn and Forbidden West, and "The Last of Us Series". You can always find me exploring the breathtaking horizons of Ellie's and Aloy's adventures.