Caution: This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us and The Last of Us: Left Behind
Downloadable Content or DLC has become quite a recurring piece of videogames in the modern era. In many cases it has been quite helpful in creating a better experience, and in other cases it has done nothing more than be simply in there for the sake of it, adding nothing of value to the game as a whole. More often than not additional content is just thrown into the game for no reason and there are even situations where developers use it in order to make us pay more for a product because they have not done everything they wanted. Though there are cases when downloadable content does actually serve a purpose and creates a decent expansion to a game that builds upon it in a part that would make sense in the game as a whole, especially when the game is about going forward and not confusing the player with a shoehorned in section that completely destroys the experience.
For this I can think of no better example than Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, the game already weaves an incredible story to follow with several other stories weaved throughout (which is a point for another article), but at many points also leaves us wanting to know more as certain moments are jumped over and as we learn is for good reason. It would not work with the actual game to place in to the story what Left Behind presents to the player, in fact it honestly would just confuse us. Instead the main game sets up the idea of downloadable content with a missing detail about halfway through and even a reference at the end of the game which in turn all set up the downloadable content of The Last of Us Left Behind.
Left Behind worked hard to fill in a couple of missing pieces in the story of the main game, while also presenting us with a moment that couldn’t have been done in the source game. Left Behind detailed the story of Ellie and how she came to be bitten as well as telling the story of a friend of hers who was there at the time. But this is not all, the content was split into two sections that would switch around at specific moments, one side of the story presented more childlike fun of a more innocent Ellie, while the other side played along a more serious tone more in the vein of the Last of Us. The thing that tied this together perfectly was the shared location of both sections being set in a rundown shopping centre, based on the two sections alone is why this would not have worked as part of the main story, but that is okay.
One thing many of us said upon completing the Last of Us was that we wanted more from the game, not because it was not enough it was just that good. The expansion of Left Behind provided us with what would be the necessary components to continue our time with the game. Whether this was the form of gameplay provided which mostly echoed the original game, or the story which allowed us to see deeper and do what the game did best and continue to present just what we wanted.
This is why it presents itself as the best example of downloadable content done right, at no point is the content ever pushy, it simply stays as what it is, a much more knowledgeable expansion of the source game. All it ever does and tries to do is continue to build on the already well laid foundation of The Last of Us and build more into the story and the characters to provide a richer experience.