In 2004, when he was still a student at Carnegie Mellon University, Neil Druckmann participated in an exciting group project. One of his professors just happened to be friends with George Romero, widely regarded as the father of modern zombie movies, and he tasked his students with creating a game concept that would be pitched to the venerable director. Romero would then pick his favorite and the team behind it would build a prototype. Druckmann's idea was to merge three of the works that most influenced him as a creator: the game would feature the gameplay of PlayStation 2 classic Ico, a lead character much like John Hartigan from Sin City, and would be set during the zombie apocalypse of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.

The concept centered on a cop who would protect a young girl in a world full of flesh-eating monsters. Problem was, he had a heart condition, and whenever it would act up the player would take control of the girl, reversing the protector / protected roles. Ultimately, though, Romero chose another project. "The idea of these characters got shelved," says Druckmann. Nearly a decade later, that core concept would go on to become one of the PlayStation 3's most celebrated games.

This story contains spoilers, including details of the game's ending.