Stalkers are the second stage of the infected in The Last of Us, The Last of Us Part II and Left Behind. They take between two weeks and one year to reach this stage after exposure to the Cordyceps brain infection.
Stalkers have the vision and speed of runners, with the ferocity of clickers. The most notable physical traits that define the stalkers are the distinct croaking noises they make, the beginning of fungal growths on the head and face, usually leaving the host with only one eye left, the development of pseudo-echolocation, and their discretion upon spotting a victim at a distance. They will strafe and take cover, displaying an agile and stealth-reliant nature. They eventually close in on their target, hence the name "stalker". Up close, stalkers are very aggressive and will charge directly at the victim. Stage 2 may take place anywhere between a week to a month after the start of the infection (Stage 1) and last up to a year (Stage 3).
Their strength is equal to a fit human being, as their attacks can interrupt actions made by the player. Although their grab attack can be shaken off, it will still result in an instant death from blood loss or infection if the stalker succeeds with the attack.
According to the Stages of Infection collectible, the modus operandi of a stalker is to "hide and ambush victims." The collectible implores readers to check their surroundings, but no other information is provided. Their croaking may be heard from a distance in various areas, but it only serves as ambiance rather than a threat.
Stalkers are rather rare and are only encountered as the main enemy twice in The Last of Us: once in the basement of the hotel in Pittsburgh with a bloater and once in the Sewers with a pair of clickers. They are also encountered in the Left Behind DLC by Ellie for the first time on their own. Strangely, all of these places are either flooded or located near water; stalkers often use this to their advantage, ambushing the player when they get close.
In Part II, stalkers behave differently and appear frequently in Seattle. They are typically found in abandoned, poorly lit buildings and parking lots, though they also appear in the sewers and subway areas. They are also prominent in the forest areas of the city, especially in Seraphite-controlled territory. Stalkers are difficult to detect in Listen Mode; when approached they will immediately run away and hide in the shadows, ensuring to maintain complete silence. They will only become aggressive when they are approached or provoked by a loud attack such as a gunshot or explosion. When encountered in groups, they will hide and attack their prey in a coordinated manner. Inside buildings, certain stalkers have become attached to walls, with fungus gradually growing out of them. Over time, they will eventually die and calcify. However, if found by survivors, they will break free and attack them.
There is a rare, unique stalker variant encountered in the hospital basement which pulls itself free from the rat king. This variant is stealthy and nimble like a stalker but boasts the increased durability and throwable acid pods of a bloater.
Some stalkers have a bioluminescent vein in the face which makes them easier to see in the dark. They are fast and deadly in combat, especially when confronted in numbers. Because of this, it is best for players to keep their distance when trying to confront a group of stalkers. The player may lure nearby stalkers and then use high powered guns like the shotgun or flamethrower as they approach Joel.
Stealth is an option, but not advised due to them being almost impossible to grab while moving because of their heightened awareness. They may also run away to take cover if they see the player approaching from a distance. There is a tag worth 100 in-game currency called The Hunter Becomes the Hunted for stealth killing a stalker from behind for the first time though this is not advised when there is a group of them because there is a high chance they will overwhelm the player.
Because they are stronger than runners, stalkers can override Joel's punches by grappling or striking him. One way to combat this is to throw a brick or bottle at them then attack, or simply use a melee weapon rather than fight barehanded. However, because they are often encountered in large numbers, it is best to rely on firearms. One blast from a shotgun is enough to take them down, as is a headshot from the hunting rifle.
Unlike the more able-bodied Joel, it is challenging for Ellie to combat them, as she only has her pistol when facing them. Because of this, it is best for Ellie to rely on bricks in the area, throwing them directly at the stalkers to stun them so she can stab them with her switchblade. In Part II however, the adult Ellie is able to outwrestle them in close-quarters combat and can swiftly dodge their surprise attacks.
As a step up in strength from runners, stalkers proved difficult foes for people to defeat. Many groups of military soldiers and Washington Liberation Front grunts have been killed by stalkers, particularly those that are forced to fight them in enclosed buildings where lighting is minimal and there are plenty of spaces for them to hide. Abby was an exception though, managing to kill the rat king-enhanced stalker. Ellie was also able to defeat the stalker form of Boris Legasov in close-quarters combat.
- Stalkers appear the least amount of times when compared with other types of infected, with the player encountering them a mere three times in the first game; twice in The Last of Us, and once in the Left Behind DLC.
- They appear more frequently in Part II, in the form of mini-boss battles.
- In the University Laboratory, an X-ray of a stalker displays the fungal growth on the head.
- Infected infographic
- The Art of The Last of Us Part II, Naughty Dog and Dark Horse Books, 2020, p.91
- The Last of Us NEW GAMEPLAY! Infected Details, Story, Crafting, and MORE! Adam Sessler Interview
- Demo. The Last of Us. May 31, 2013.
- Military pamphlet
- "The Outskirts"
- "So Close"
- "Seattle Day 2"
- "Seattle Day 2"
- Note: Players can only use the flamethrowers against stalkers on New Game+ as the player does not face any stalkers after the flamethrower is acquired.
- Field ops log
- TLOU Part II Demo, YouTube, (Accessed November, 2020)
- Fungal X-rays