“The Last of Us” series is only 2 episodes in, but it’s already clear: The show is superior to the game in every way. That is not a knock against one of the best video games of all time, but rather a testament to the skill of showrunners Craig Mazin, who directed Chernobyl, and Neil Druckmann, who penned the original story for the 2013 game.
Such a thought might be blasphemous for gamers who have been traumatized by video game adaptations since the dawn of time. But for every cringe Super Mario Bros or flimsy Resident Evil movie are prayers hoping that someday, someone will give justice to these beloved stories. That day has come, ladies and gents, and it’s gleefully more than what we asked for.
We care about Sarah
Before we get accused of being heartless monsters, yes, we shed tears when Sarah died in the 2013 game. But most of the heartbreak was contextual. Kids barely died in AAA games back then, and certainly not as graphic as in The Last of Us. It was also a shock because we played as Sarah for a good 20 minutes, thinking she was the protagonist, and protagonists don’t die.
In the adaptation, we see Sarah bond with Joel over eggs, his prized watch, and fave movie. She interacts with her neighbors, who ultimately succumb to the fungus. These scenes may be mere sprinkles on a 1hr and 30min cake, but they added depth to Sarah’s character, which made losing her even more painful.
Speaking of depth…
The flashbacks are awesome
The scariest scene in the first episode of The Last of Us didn’t feature any zombies. It was the talk show scene at the beginning where scientists discussed the possibilities of a worldwide pandemic ending the human race.
The reference hit hard given that we’re in the middle of one, but the bone-chilling part was the idea that climate change could introduce extinction-level problems for humanity. We already see the real-life effects in hotter summers, more violent typhoons, and increasingly potent diseases. What if COVID-19 is just the teaser, and the main event is yet to come?
I would hate to be around when “we lose.”
The show compliments the game
The Last of Us series obviously has a narrative advantage over the game – it’s easier to tell a cohesive story when shoot-em-ups don’t pop up every few minutes. But the beauty of the show is that it feels like an opportunity for the game’s writers to include details that were omitted due to gameplay constraints.
Joel has a better reason to escort Ellie because he needs the supplies to get to his brother, Tommy. In the game, he takes the job because he needs guns for…something. Where was patient zero from? Oh, Indonesia most likely. How do the infected seemingly know where our protagonists are? Mushroom landmines, now those up the creep factor.
The Last of Us knows it has something great and chose to sprinkle upgrades instead of completely deviating from the source material. Unlike 99% of adaptations, the series realizes that video games are compelling on their own, and only need a few tweaks to fit the medium they’re being translated into.
The Last of Us is the game at its most complete, making it superior in every way.