From Video Game to Television: The Adaptation of The Last of Us


Syd Reardon

Video games are being made into TV shows and movies much more often nowadays and The Last of Us is just another example of that. Let’s dive into the apocalyptic world that has captivated gamers around the world for a decade now.

The Last of Us takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, focusing on two survivors: Joel and Ellie. People have been infected by a cordyceps fungus that grows all over the brain and turns humans into zombie-like creatures. However, Ellie might be the only chance they have at finding a cure. Fourteen year old Ellie was bitten by one of these infected creatures but never turned into one, making her immune to the fungus. Joel is a smuggler who was asked to smuggle Ellie out of the city to bring her to a group called “the Fireflies” that are trying to find a cure.

The game came out in 2013 for Playstation 3, and has since been remastered for Playstation 4 and Playstation 5. A second game was also released in 2020. A few weeks ago, HBO released their TV series adaptation of the popular video game and it seems to be doing well.

The Mandalorian star Pedro Pascal takes on the role of Joel, who was famously voiced by Troy Baker in the video game version. His counterpart, Ellie, portrayed by Ashley Johnson in the game, is played by Game of Thrones’ star Bella Ramsey. Neil Druckmann, the writer and creative director of the game, served as an executive producer and director for the HBO series. 

Gamers and non-gamers alike are voicing their opinions about the adaptation and what it means to them. Cameron Rockwell ‘23, a film-connoisseur, says that he finds video games to series/movie adaptations as a great thing, “I think they’re cool! I think it’s similar to how books get adapted into films, which I love as a reader, so I’m happy for the gamers that get to see their favorite games turned into other media.”

Ella Gilbert ’23, a gamer, says that she likes the idea of video games to series/movie adaptations, but she is disappointed with how most people go about doing it. She says, “I think adaptations can be a good thing, but directors need to honor the source material and not stray from it. They should work closer with the game developers and writers.”

The Verge shares a compelling article reviewing the adaptation of The Last of Us. The article highlights the differences and similarities between the two versions, even noting that the series feels harder to get into due to the story having to be sped up and condensed to fit into a series format. They say, “though it probably wasn’t HBO’s intention, its spin on The Last of Us highlights how being able to actually interact with a narrative like this makes it far easier to become invested in it and see past how often it wanders into paternalistic savior territory.”

As a gamer myself and a long time fan of The Last of Us, the first game being my favorite game of all time, I’ve personally enjoyed the HBO adaptation so far. It stays true to the game with a few changes here and there, but overall honors the original story. Pedro and Bella filled Troy and Ashley’s shoes nicely and have made for an excellent Ellie and Joel. The heart and soul within my favorite story is still there in the show adaptation and it feels just as much like home to me as the games did. I wish it could be more interactive and longer like the game because I believe that every person that hasn’t played it that watches this show should get to go through the same experience that those of us who did play it did. It’s just surreal.

So, video game to television adaptations are becoming popular again and The Last of Us was only the beginning of a new era of these kinds of adaptations. The game goes down in video game history, but as for the show, we’ll just have to wait and see.