The Last of Us (opens in new tab) won’t come to PC for a couple months yet—it’s slated to launch on Steam on March 3, a full decade after its original PS3 debut. The TV adaptation arrives next week, though, and by all reports it’ll be a very good way to get your Naughty Dog fix while you wait for the game to arrive.
Movies based on videogames haven’t exactly set the world on fire, but it’s been a very different story with television adaptations in recent years. Shows like Arcane (opens in new tab) and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (opens in new tab) have received widespread acclaim, the Halo TV series (opens in new tab) is not bad (and it gave us the opportunity to do this (opens in new tab)), and while The (opens in new tab) Witcher series on Netflix is based on the books and not the games, I’m claiming it as one of ours anyway.
If the critical response is any indication, The Last of Us is set to join those ranks, and may even be the best television rework yet. It holds a 98% rating at Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab) across dozens of critic ratings, and enjoys breathless superlatives like:
- “A Triumphant and Heart-Shattering Videogame Adaptation” – Bloody Disgusting
- “Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey Are Perfect in HBO’s Faithful Adaptation” – The Wrap
- “The Last Of Us Is the Best Videogame Adaptation Ever, But It’s So Much More” – Gizmodo
- “The Last of Us is a sprawling, emotional epic that captures the game’s spirit while expanding on the narrative in surprising and rewarding ways.” – Screen Rant
- “Everything a Great Adaptation Should Be” – Collider
- “HBO’s Masterful ‘The Last of Us’ Is the Best Videogame Adaptation Ever” – The Daily Beast
- “A Thrilling, Character-Driven Achievement For Game Fans And Newcomers Alike” – Slashfilm
- “Comfortably the best adaptation of a videogame ever made: one that deepens the game’s dystopian lore, while staying true to its emotional core” – Empire (opens in new tab)
- “HBO’s The Last of Us stays true to the game, and hits just as hard” – Washington Post
- “The best videogame adaptation ever” (Are you noticing a pattern here?) – BBC
- “The first videogame adaptation that can stand on its own” – Sports Illustrated, because apparently they’re doing game stuff now too.
#TheLastOfUs is a finer version of ‘The Walking Dead’ — and HBO’s next big hit https://t.co/AUdI7PNh7pJanuary 10, 2023
The first reviews are in for #TheLastOfUs – currently it’s #Fresh at 100% on the #Tomatometer, with 28 reviews: https://t.co/Kl2ea45dh8 pic.twitter.com/oWVpPXP5FkJanuary 10, 2023
‘The Last of Us’ Review: Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in HBO’s Powerful Video Game Adaptation https://t.co/PETRH29JgRJanuary 10, 2023
there is an early episode of The Last of Us that every review will talk about, and when it airs, i think everyone will talk about it too. that one episode alone, imo, almost justifies the entire project. it’s very very good. https://t.co/tPkacR7swMJanuary 10, 2023
The show isn’t perfect, of course. The BBC said in its review that some scenes “feel too gamey for television,” while the latter half of the series feels a bit rushed. And of course the intensity of being “immersed in that world” via gameplay is absent in the non-interactive version of the story.
“And yet, it doesn’t feel even remotely controversial to call this the best videogame adaptation ever made,” reviewer Stephen Kelly wrote, steering things back into the ‘pretty close to perfect’ lane. “For fans of the game, it is an adaptation of the utmost skill and reverence, yet one still capable of surprise; for people who have never picked up a controller, it is an encapsulation of the game’s heart and soul—its full-blooded characters, its neat plotting, its mature themes of love and loss. It is, to finish Ellie’s joke, ‘outstanding in its field’.”
That’s not bad, eh? Critics aren’t infallible and your mileage may vary, but when you see this kind of across-the-board consensus, you have to start thinking that maybe they’re on to something.
The Last of Us will debut in the US on HBO (opens in new tab) and HBO Max on January 15, and in the UK on Sky Atlantic and Now on January 16. Fair warning to PC gamers who plan to play The Last of Us for the first time in March: Though the TV adaptation does apparently diverge from the game in some ways, I suspect it’ll still give away major story moments, so you might want to steer clear of the show until you’re fully caught up.