Is Joel a hero or villain in The Last of Us? The answer is probably not that black and white. However, I tend to lean towards hero. A flawed hero, but a hero. However, according to Troy Baker, the man who plays the character, Joel is more villain than hero in the PlayStation exclusive. Speaking at Manchester Comic Con earlier this month, Baker shared his opinion on the character and revealed his preference when it comes to playing good or evil characters.
“[In The Last of Us] you assume that Joel is the hero and David [played by Nolan North] is the villain, but…everyone is the hero of their own story," said Baker. "I firmly believe that David believes he’s doing what is best for his people, and he is the hero in his story."
“Joel, I don’t think deals in those terms at all. I don’t think Joel believes he’s a hero. If he was to lean anywhere I think that Joel would consider himself a villain, which is why he can say that he’s been on both sides. Like he can say ‘I’m just a guy trying to get by. I’m not here to save anybody, I’m not here to upset anyone’s plans. I’m just trying to live one day at a time.'”
Baker added that playing the villain to the player's perspective is "way more fun" than playing the hero, referencing his time as the Joker in the Batman: Arkham series.
That all said, while it's a bit ambiguous whether Joel is a hero or a villain, it's even more ambiguous what type of role he has in The Last of Us Part II, which is in development for the PS4 and possibly the PS5, and, at the moment of publishing, doesn't have a release date.
As you will know, we don't know much about the highly-anticipated sequel, however, Neil Druckmann, the game's creator, did have a few things to say about the title at the time of its reveal.
"I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to finally be able to say that Ellie and Joel are back for another intense, harrowing, and emotional adventure," said Druckmann. "Like many of you, we have a deep love for the world of The Last of Us and its characters, and while a sequel may have seemed like a foregone conclusion, it wasn’t the case. We knew that it needed to be a story worth telling and, perhaps more importantly, a story worthy of Joel and Ellie. After spending years on different ideas (and almost giving up), we finally uncovered a story that felt special—a story that evolved into an epic journey."