‘The Last Of Us’ stands among the best game to-screen adaptations

HBO’s new show is a breath of fresh air for video game fans


(L-R) Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and Joel (Pedro Pascal) looking out at post-apocalyptic Boston. They are about set out for an adventure that will change both of their lives (Photo courtesy, Sony Pictures)

Hailey Valdivia

Disclaimer: light spoilers for the game and show below

The light from the TV illuminates the otherwise pitch black space as I hold my friend’s hand in a death grip, nervously watching the characters on screen.

Guitar chords reverberate through the room — a sound we’d both heard when we held controllers instead of each other’s hands.The music is the sound of a story of tragedy, horror and humanity.

“If only my thirteen year old self could see this,” my friend said in awe and excitement.

Despite a decade since its release, “The Last Of Us” has been able to remain relevant in pop culture because it has a story that resonates with people. 

HBO’s “The Last Of Us” follows Joel (Pedro Pascal), who, on his way to find his brother, escorts the teenage Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across a post-apocalyptic United States. 

The world has been ravaged by a fungal infection, creating people into zombie-like creatures. 

The series is based on the 2013 video game of the same name developed by Naughty Dog and written by Neil Druckmann. The game has received unanimous acclaim, selling almost 20 million copies for the PlayStation.

In November 2022, when HBO announced the show, people were excited. There was also a sense of nervousness brewing. 

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Fans have been waiting with bated breath to see if the show would follow other video games adaptions’ fatal flaws. 

So far, we’ve seen that “The Last Of Us” does what good adaptations should do: recreate what works and fix what doesn’t. 

The show faithfully sticks to the source material when it matters.

As someone who has played the game, watching this come to life has been surreal.

You can see the attention and care from the smallest details, like Sarah (Nico Parker) wearing the exact T-shirt from the game — fictional singer and all — to the set designs. 

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Tommy (Gabriel Luna) and Joel (Pedro Pascal) in an almost exact recreation of the 2013 game of the same name. This attention to detail can be seen throughout the show like when Sarah (Nico Parker) wears the exact t-shirt from the game.(Photo courtesy, Sony Pictures)

In episode one, we get the escape scene from Sarah’s perspective almost shot for shot.

Freedom Museum of Boston overrun by the nature and fungus disease. Tess (Anna Torv) is forced to detour through the museum, facing the infected inside. (Photo courtesy, Sony Pictures)

Generally, when you deviate too far from the source material, issues arise. Recent adaptations such as Netflix’s ‘Resident Evil’ and 2016’s Assassin’s Creed both are examples of this. 

However, this is not the case for “The Last Of Us.”

So far the biggest deviation from the source material is in episode three, an episode that features the story of Bill (played by Nick Offerman).

The episode gives a minor character in the game a fully fleshed backstory. The result is one of the most touching love stories depicted for television. 

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In the fourth episode, two characters are introduced: Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) and Perry (Jeffrey Pierce). The latter of the two was the original voice actor for Tommy in the game.

In the game, the important narrative beats are spread out between hours of gameplay.

The reason why the show works so well as an adaptation is because it replaces the action with meaningful world building and depth instead of merely trying to recreate the same action from the game.

Pascal, as Joel, delivers a nuanced take of a father who has lost his daughter and is desperately trying (and failing) not to open his heart again.

Ramsey captures the essence of Ellie, as she’s able to play up all of the teenage girl snark and hit the emotional beats that made the audience fall in love with Ellie all those years ago.

“The Last Of Us” is not just about Joel and Ellie. Fundamentally, to its core, it’s a story about humanity —- that even in the face of a zombie-esque apocalypse, humanity lives on.