What Are The Different Types Of Infected In The Last Of Us?

"As Bad As Those Things Are, At Least They're Predictable. It's The Normal People That Scare Me." - Bill, The Last Of Us Part I

by Abhirup Sengupta
Image: HBO

Like most modern takes on the zombie genre, The Last Of Us games also showcased multiple types of infected. However, unlike mutated zombies featured in the Resident Evil series, TLOU has different stages of the infection that cause alteration in the appearance, behavior, and base biology of humans.

The Last Of Us also approaches the zombie concept with a different biological explanation. Unlike the zombies of most pop-culturally relevant IPs, TLOU’s infected are not “undead” version of humans. These infected, caused due to the Cordyceps brain infection, do not have much sustenance. Furthermore, the Cordyceps fungus in the games and the series can survive on next to no nutrients from the infected.

HBO’s The Last Of Us – All The Types Of Infected (Zombies)

In the first three episodes, The Last Of Us showcased infected in the three initial stages of the Cordyceps brain infection, where the fungus has taken over the bodies of humans. These zombified humans are categorized over the duration since they were infected. The duration of the fungus’ presence in their bodies also determines the appearance of the infected.

The Runners – Stage 1 Of The Infection

A Runner in Episode 1 | Image: HBO

According to The Last Of Us games, the first stage of the infection in the hosts causes them to turn into ‘Runners.’ The HBO series also follows the same criteria to label this stage of the infection.

In this stage, the host has been infected by the fungus for around two days. By the end of two days, the Cordyceps fungus hijacks the host’s brain and, thereby, the entire body’s motor functions. This enables the infected in this stage to run beyond what they could have been capable of prior to the infection. According to a FEDRA flier from The Last Of Us Part II, the Runners “usually travel in packs” and attempt to swarm those who are not infected.

While the Runners are based on the same concept, HBO’s TLOU series showcased that the infected in this stage can easily detect those who are not infected. This is likely because the Cordyceps brain infection and the mutation caused by it are yet to affect the eyes. Additionally, the series made a major change from the games and established that all types of the infected are connected with Cordyceps fungus. Thus, these infected operate with a hive mind, which can detect the presence of non-infected humans even if they step on some vines of the Cordyceps fungi.

The Stalkers – Stage 2 Of The Infection

A Stalker in Episode 2 | Image: HBO

This is the second stage of the Cordyceps brain infection, where the infected hosts have fungal growths throughout their bodies. Additionally, Stalkers retain some level of eye function as the stage occurs within the second week to a year of the infection. This further enables these infected to partially develop echolocation abilities, which fully develop in the later stages.

Stalkers are uniquely intelligent amongst the other stages of infection as they can utilize stealth to target survivors. In the game, these infected used to lurk as they detected an uninfected and waited to attack them. Additionally, the games showcased the Stalkers to be comparatively stronger and just as fast as the Runners.

Some of these infected can also be attached to walls, and depending on the decay of the host’s body, the Stalkers can also randomly attack survivors who dare to pass by them during these scenarios. A similar type of Stalker was showcased in the first episode of HBO’s The Last Of Us.

The Clickers – Stage 3 Of The Infection

A Clicker in Episode 2 | Image: HBO

This is a stage where the Cordyceps brain infection causes fungus growth on the host’s face after around a year since their infection. Since the growth covers most parts of the face barring the mouth area, the host’s eyes are mutated, leading to their blindness. Despite the blindness, these infected are somewhat aware of their surroundings as they have developed echolocation.

Thus, these infected rely on sound and use a distinct clicking noise to use in their echolocation. This is precisely why the infected in the third stage are known as ‘The Clickers’ in The Last Of Us universe. As per the games, the clickers are usually much more powerful and aggressive than those infected in the previous two stages.

The Bloaters / Shamblers – Stage 4 Of The Infection

A Bloater in TLOU (HBO) | Image: HBO

According to The Last Of Us Part I, Bloater is the fourth stage of the Cordyceps brain infection. While the exact time range of this stage’s beginning is unknown, it may take around a year to develop per a FEDRA flier from The Last Of Us Part II.

Bloaters are massive and completely covered with fungus growth on their body, which is extremely thick. The thickness of the fungus growing on their body also makes it much more difficult to kill them with low-caliber bullets.

However, these infected’s armor-like fungus growths are weakened if they are lit on fire. Following this, low-powered guns can be used to eliminate them finally. Being in such advanced stage, Bloaters are extremely strong compared to the other infected and are mostly fatal to humans in close range. Their strength and the aforementioned fungus growth throughout their body come with an obvious disadvantage of mass, which makes them much less agile.

While Bloaters are common, The Last of Us Part II introduced a further mutated form of them, i.e., the Shamblers. These newly mutated forms of Bloaters have spores that can spray acid-like substances when they detect human survivors close to them.

Rat King

Though Bloaters were seen in the promotional video of HBO’s The Last Of Us, the show may save this infected abomination for the second season. In the games, Rat King is basically a heavily mutated and highly rare version of the infected, where several Bloaters, Stalkers, and Clickers have fused together.

While HBO’s The Last Of Us has showcased most stages of the Cordyceps brain infection, it remains to be seen if the show would change certain characteristics of these infected. However, it has been confirmed that the series will feature a new type of infected zombie which was not seen in the games.

- This article was updated on February 10th, 2023