The show will doubtless draw new viewers and fans into Joel and Ellie’s story, perhaps people who have never even picked up a video game controller in their lives. Now could be the time to do so.
So what exactly is the original game like, what is it all about, and more importantly - how can you play it for yourself? Here is everything you need to know about it.
What is The Last of Us?
First released in 2023, The Last of Us is an action-adventure game that fuses exploration and combat with stealthier sections and a large dose of tense, horror-tinged threat. Players control Joel as he escorts the teenage Ellie across a broken down, post-apocalyptic America, much like in the TV show.
With limited resources and ammunition to scavenge throughout the game’s world, sneaking past enemies - hostile humans and cannibalistic creatures infected by a mutated fungus - or taking them down silently with improvised weaponry is often preferable to engaging in all out firefights.
The game is regarded as a modern-day classic, and received rave reviews upon its release. It currently sits as the fifth best-rated PlayStation 3 game on Metacritic, and you will often find The Last of Us charting high in lists of the greatest video games of all time.
Character performances throughout the game are impressive, delivering a taut, thrilling narrative usually reserved for the big-screen, and The Last of Us’ visuals remain polished and eye-catching, a decade on from its release (though the game has since been remastered, taking advantage of new games console technology to deliver ever more impressive versions of an already near-flawless experience).
It received critical acclaim, with praise for its narrative, gameplay, visuals, sound design, score, characterisation, and depiction of female characters, and became one of the best-selling video games of all time, selling over 1.3 million units in its first week. The series as a whole has shipped over 37 million copies worldwide.
A sequel, The Last of Us Part II, was released in 2020, and similarly vacuumed up critical praise and end-of-year awards.
How much is it?
Depending on which version of the game you buy, prices will vary, with the cost going up the more recently released the version you wish to purchase is.
The original, PS3 version of the game can be found quite cheaply (£4 second-hand from Cex). But of course, while the core game remains a fantastic slice of survival horror, it is starting to show its age slightly from a graphical standpoint.
Those with a PlayStation 4 could opt for the PS4’s The Last of Us Remastered, released a year after the initial game, and updated to take advantage of the more powerful console, allowing for crisper visuals. We found prices around £10 for this one.
The most recent edition of the game is The Last of Us Part I, a complete overhaul of the first game which sees not just graphical updates, but tweaks to the way the game is designed and plays too, bringing it in line with more modern standards.
This is a recent, 2022 release, so expect to pay top dollar for this one (£52.95 through The Game Collection was the best deal we could find at time of writing).
But it is arguably the best way to play the game, with the development team going back and overhauling everything, rebuilding the game on the modern tech used to power 2020’s sequel. Enhanced combat and exploration and expanded accessibility options are just some of the features on offer, and the improvements to animations and character designs make the gripping story more immersive than ever.
Can I play it on Xbox or PC?
Unfortunately for gamers on Microsoft’s Xbox ecosystem of consoles, The Last of Us is a PlayStation exclusive series, meaning the games are only playable on Sony’s machines.
However, there is hope for those playing on PC, with The Last of Us Part I (for clarity, this is the 2022 remake of the first game) coming to PC on Friday 3 March 2023.
In recent years, Sony have brought a number of their big-name console exclusives to PC after a year or so, so it’s possible that The Last of Us Part II will also be available there relatively shortly, though nothing official has been announced at this point.
What’s different from the TV show?
The television adaptation of the game was overseen by creator Neil Druckmann, who wrote the series alongside Craig Mazin (Chernobyl).
Druckmann was originally working on a film adaptation of the game, when Mazin told him he felt the game’s story could only be told with the length and tempo of a television series - Druckmann agreed.
He felt the most important element of adapting the game was to "keep the soul", and has said translating the gameplay and action sequences to the screen were of minimal importance, with the development of character relationships taking much of the focus.
According to Mazin, the adjustments made for the TV adaptation "are designed to fill things out and expand, not to undo, but enhance.” He has also said that content originally planned for the game but ultimately cut has been added to the show, including one "jaw drop" moment Druckmann described to him.
In the original game, the fungal outbreak first takes place in 2013, with players picking up the action 20-years later in 2033. This was changed for the TV series to 2003 and 2023, an adjustment that Druckmann and Mazin felt was more interesting and real without fundamentally changing the story.
Following Covid-19, the writers also realised that audiences are now more educated than they formerly were about viral pandemics, and made some changes to the way The Last of Us’ contagion works. Instead of the propagating spores of the games, the virus is now spread through tendrils that create a cohesive, interconnected network.