- "Tourist! He's got a fucking gun!"
- ―Hunters spotting Joel
Hunters are hostile survivors so named due to their tendency to brutally kill anyone entering their territory (referred to by hunters as "tourists") in order to steal their clothes, supplies, and food. Joel and Ellie encounter them in Pittsburgh.
Hunters seem to be distinguished from other hostile survivors (like Bandits) in that their ranks are made up of former citizens of Quarantine Zones that were abandoned by the Military. Many Hunters are implied to be the remnants of the non-Firefly rebels that caused their zone to collapse in the first place. After overthrowing a zone, attempts by these survivors to establish a better government often fail in the long run, likely due to the populace being unprepared for a reality where there is no army to guard them from the Infected. Therefore, it all eventually leads to the remaining people of the zone degrading into murderous Hunters who are forced to kill outsiders for supplies.
On the other hand, Bandits are most likely made up of survivors that lacked the fortune to get into a zone at all, and have been living in anarchy since the beginning of the outbreak. Though Bandits may be more hardened survivalists, they often don't have access to much of the stolen military equipment that is typically used by Hunters.
The Hunters encountered during the game used to be residents of Pittsburgh. After the outbreak of cordyceps brain infection, the people of Pittsburgh gradually became impatient with FEDRA, accusing them of being corrupt liars when they ran short on rations or simply did not distribute food regularly. Eventually, after a protest was violently put down with at least three people executed and branded as traitors, Fireflies caused the citizens rise up against the military and state of martial law. Large-scale fighting broke out, ending with FEDRA being overthrown and the military being driven out, with rebels executing any soldiers they captured. The rioting citizens didn't want to be controlled by FEDRA, nor take orders from the Fireflies. Thus, it wasn't long before they killed the Firefly agitators as well.
Now, the citizens had complete control over the city. According to a note, a couple of teenagers murdered a family, and when put on trial the leader praised them and claimed they had gathered food and supplies, and commanded everyone to take turns hunting tourists in packs. Two people spoke out, only to be brutally murdered in front of everyone. Because of this they are referred to as hunters.
Joel and Ellie encounter hunters when they drive into Pittsburgh in a Pick-up Truck. One pretends to be injured in an attempt to trick the pair into helping him, but Joel, knowing the ruse, simply drives through the group which begins to attack them. While fleeing the area, they crash after being rammed by a bus and are forced to escape and make their way through the city on foot. They head for a bridge leading out of the city and towards Wyoming, battling many hunters patrolling the city along the way. They also meet two other survivors, Henry and Sam, who were separated from their group passing through the city after being attacked and scattered by the hunters.
It is implied that most other Quarantine Zones ended up like Pittsburgh and became completely occupied by hunters. The hunters in Pittsburgh repeatedly mention that they are under the control of a leader, who is never seen or encountered by Joel or Ellie. It is also mentioned that they have had more than one leader over the course of time, suggesting that the previous leader or leaders died or got usurped by another hunter. More than once has the leader of the group attempted to expand the perimeter beyond the city limits, such attempts ending with multiple hunters getting killed, possibly by infected or other survivors.
The hunters in Pittsburgh possess a large arsenal of weaponry, including a modified military Humvee outfitted with the corpse of a tourist tied to the hood and, according to a note left by a military soldier, a stolen mortar launcher which is never seen being used in The Last of Us.
The Hunters are not especially strong and appear only to have strength in numbers as shown by how many were guarding the bridge. Despite defeating Fireflies and FEDRA alike, they appear to only have basic weaponry such as melee weapons, pistols, shotguns, hunting rifles and Molotovs. Some of the hunters wear body armor and helmets scavenged from dead military soldiers to temporarily protect themselves against bullets; they don't use any assault rifles that could have been scavenged, suggesting that they ran out of ammunition for them by the time Joel arrived.
They did, however, possess more effective weapons, such as a Humvee that they managed to repair, and a military sniper rifle with considerable amounts of ammunition. However, both of these were later lost thanks to Joel killing the sniper and using it to shoot the Humvee gunner, causing it to crash from a Molotov that explodes in it. The sniper rifle was lost due to many infected reaching the suburbs, surrounding the house and requiring a hasty retreat.
- Hunting Rifle
- Military Sniper
- 9mm Pistol
- Molotov Cocktail
- Smoke Bomb
- Baseball Bat
- .50 Caliber Machine Gun
- Hunters were the first hostile survivors revealed in gameplay demos.
- No female hunters are encountered as enemies in-game, but their existence is implied by their presence in the Factions multiplayer mode as well as numerous bits of concept art. Also, in-game, two hunters debated whether or not they should have let a dead female tourist live and become part of their group instead of killing her.