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The Last of Us Raises the Bar for Game Adaptations

by Lethbridge College

You’re coming home from school at the end of the week in 2013, eagerly moving your way towards your room and instantly powering on your well used PlayStation 3. A game by the same publishers that made the Uncharted series just released and you figured you would give it a try. They were an impressive set of adventure games, so you are ready to strap in for another one. Little did you know but you were about to play one of the best story driven games of the decade.

The Last of Us brought a beautifully unique and impactful story to the world of gaming in 2013 and pushed games as a medium of storytelling to new heights. The game follows two main characters: Joel, who heartbreakingly lost his daughter in the opening moments of the game, causing him to become cold and hardened by the new world, and Ellie, a 14 year-old girl who has lost everyone important to her, and can never trust anyone again. We follow them as they reluctantly travel together in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, fighting each other tooth and nail but slowly over time we see them rely on one another, opening themselves up and strengthening their bond. Ellie then becomes Joel’s surrogate daughter who he is willing to protect at any cost as we see in the climax of the game.

Almost a decade later HBO announced that they were going to attempt to make a live action show based on the game. These game-to-show adaptations have a reputation of being out of touch with the source material but on January 15, 2023, the curse of bad adaptations was broken. Even only being four episodes in, the show has delivered a strong opening that was faithful to the original game yet still was able to implement its own original touches that fit perfectly within the narrative of the story.

A die-hard fan of the game and show, Ben Scott, viewed just the first episode to be a fantastic representation of an adaptation done right.

“The first episode is one of the best episodes in TV show history and perfectly captures what’s important from the game and sets up what’s to come,” Scott said.

In the first episode we get to see an expansion on the opening of the game which takes place before the fungal outbreak began, taking an even closer look at Joel and his daughter’s relationship. All four episodes released have been faithful to the original story and additions like in episode three title ‘Long, Long Time’ gave a beautiful backstory to a character named Bill and was a great way to provide some inclusivity of the LGBTQ community.

So far, The Last of Us has raised the bar as to what is expected when creating an adaptation of a game by including all the subtle details that made the original a masterpiece. There are five episodes left of The Last of Us and as they come out weekly, we will see if they are able to continue this momentum and do the ending of the first game justice. If they can pull it off, there is a good chance that they will adapt the sequel game as well.

Written by Zachary Peters-Robinson, Lethbridge College

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