The opening moments of The Last of Us are filled with unexpected surprises. One of them is the title sequence--a first for a Naughty Dog game.
According to creative director Neil Druckmann, plans for the title sequence came very late in production, after all the scenes were already in the game. However, given the significant time lapse that happens between the prologue and the rest of the story, Druckmann thought the break would ease players into the experience.
Druckmann says that players were "still recovering" from the end of the prologue, and that Naughty Dog had "underestimated the impact" of that moment. "So, we needed a way to create space between these two scenes," Druckmann told Art of the Title.
The title sequence also serves a dual purpose. Not only does it give players some breathing room, it also sets up the rest of the story. "We also decided that we could use the title sequence to give players a sense of what happened during the 20-year gap in the story. It would set up the state of the world, the quarantine zone, and the idea of this group called the Fireflies, before we meet back up with Joel. Hopefully, that would give players enough time to recover from the previous scene and pick up the story on the way."
The full article is a fascinating read, which goes into incredible detail on how the elaborate sequence was created. However, if you haven't played the game, do note that it does have spoilers.