Introduced in The Last of Us Part II, this infected anomaly, dubbed the rat king, is a super-organism composed of multiple stalkers, clickers, and a bloater that have been connected together by the Cordyceps fungus.
The rat king possesses incredible strength and resilience, surpassing that of a bloater, shown in how it could easily smash through and destroy much of the lower levels of the hospital, including an ambulance, and was capable of taking extensive damage before dying.
After taking enough damage, some of the intertwined infected can break off from the larger mass. Once an infected has detached, it can have traits shared with other types of infected. For instance, one infected which detached resembled a stalker in behavior and appearance but was able to throw sacks of mycotoxin similar to bloaters. It appears every single infected connected to the mass are their own entity as opposed to the mass being a single one.
Given Nora's comments, it appears the rat king is made up of some of the first people ever be infected by Cordyceps brain infection in the city of Seattle, meaning it developed into this state after 25 years of infection. It appears to have formed by being sealed in a room so full of spores that as the fungal growths bloomed and spread, the infected were merged into each other. The rat king found in the basement of the Seattle hospital is the only known case of conjoined infected.
The rat king is the strongest known infected and as such can take gargantuan amounts of damage. It is advised the player save bombs, flamethrower ammunition and craft incendiary rounds in order to deal massive damage to this infected quickly. The player should also run often and keep their distance because the rat king can charge through all types of attacks, even fire assaults. If the player does not escape, the rat king will kill Abby either by corroding her skin with mycotoxin, emitting it like how shamblers do, or grabbing her to snap her neck and violently rip off her limbs.
After the first phase of the fight, the rat king will split into two parts: a bloater and stalker part. This is the second phase. As the stalker is invincible until the bloater half is killed, the player should focus on luring the bloater half into the supply room in the back left corner of the basement to funnel it into the corridor and resupply on ammunition in the area.
Once the bloater half is killed, the stalker half will flee into another room. The player should ensure they collect all the supplies in the basement before pursuing the stalker. When the player reaches the vents, the stalker half will attack them, starting the third phase of the fight. As the stalker can hide and throw spore bombs from a distance, the player should focus on closing such distance. If the player is skilled enough, combating the stalker in melee combat will prove an efficient method as it prevents the stalker from using its spore bombs. However, this should only be done if the player can effectively dodge attacks. Alternately, the player can use their weapons to shoot the stalker half from a distance, though this requires some work to avoid its projectiles.
- According to co-directors Anthony Newman and Kurt Margenau, the rat king's appearance took inspiration from the films Zygote and Annihilation, as well as the video game Inside. Additionally, its battle took inspiration from the boss fights of Magni and Modi from God of War and Elieen the Crow from Bloodborne. A note hinting that were more rat kings elsewhere, as well as a line from Abby that explicitly names the creature ("Fuck this... Rat... King?!") were cut from the game.
- As the rat king, the stunt performers were tied to each other while performing mocap with Kelli Barksdale stacked on top of Jesse La Flair and Walter Gray IV. But for the separation, Chris Robbins and Amy Johnston each played the bloater and stalker half respectively.
- The rat king is based on a real life phenomenon, where numerous rats are found constrained together because their tails intertwine or are bound together. Like the sole "rat king" infected seen in the game, real-life rat kings are rarely seen.
- "Seattle Day 2"
- "The making of a Rat King: How Naughty Dog created its scariest foe in The Last of Us Part 2", GameRadar, (Accessed August, 2020)
- Becky Dodd (@thebeckydodd), Twitter, (Accessed December, 2020)
- Jeremy Yates @Jeremy_Yates, Twitter, (Accessed January, 2021)
- Rat king - Wikipedia