The Last of Us is a captivating post-apocalyptic story that has gained critical acclaim as both a video game and a TV show. though still in its first season, it's easy to see why this game would translate so well to TV. 

The story they follow is both cinematic and character-driven. We follow Joel (Pedro Pascal), a hardened survivor, and Ellie (Bella Ramsey), a young girl, as they navigate the dangers of a world ravaged by a fungal outbreak that has turned most of the population into zombie-like creatures.

But there are so many more elements that translate perfectly from game to show. 

Let's take a look at a few now. 

What Are The Core Storytelling Elements in 'The Last of Us' Game and TV Show?

I have a confession to make. I'm not much of a gamer. But during the pandemic, I was stuck at home with nothing to do with my roommate's PlayStation. I got deep into The Last of Us, and it was just traveling to a world that felt like the apocalypse I was already stuck inside - but more fun to play my way out of it.

Until it got really sad. 

But what I love about the adaptation is that both the game and the TV show share many core storytelling elements. 

Post-apocalyptic setting

The story takes place in a world where a fungal outbreak has turned most of the population into zombie-like creatures. The setting is desolate and dangerous, with survivors struggling to eke out an existence in a hostile world. This kind of worldbuilding helps people tune out everything around them and be absorbed into the story. 

This was going to translate from the game to the show, but I have been struck by how they use desolate spaces to build something in both. It's not just about the collapse of society but what people have left and how that reflects on humanity. 

The_last_of_us_hbo_adaptation'The Last of Us'Credit: Naughty Dog


The Last of Us features complex, multi-dimensional characters who must navigate the dangers of the post-apocalyptic world. The protagonists are Joel, a hardened survivor who has lost everything, and Ellie, a young girl who represents hope for the future. Their relationship is at the heart of the story.

The storytelling elements of The Last of Us include complex, multi-dimensional characters, an emotionally resonant story, and a post-apocalyptic setting that underscores the precariousness of human existence.

In the show, they get more of a chance to explore nuanced interactions with these characters in a scripted way. While gameplay allows you to control those interactions, the show has spent a long time showing why these two trust each other, and how they see damage in one another as well. 

This kind of character development is crucial to a successful adaptation, especially when you don't have the inherent bond of playing as one of these people. 

Breaking down 'TLOU' screenwriting'The Last of Us'Credit: Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution


The story explores themes of survival, loss, and the lengths people will go to protect those they love. It also touches on the consequences of our actions and the ethical dilemmas that arise in a world where the old rules no longer apply.

Both the video game and series handle this in different and similar ways. 

The first is that the show has an omniscient point of view of what happens. We get flashbacks and side stories that are just for the audience or maybe singular to one character. Instead of a game-like focus on who you're playing as and what they're dealing with. 

I also think that since the show was made in a post-COVID world, there are more echoes of the pandemic as a theme than the game focuses on. Even though we don't have the spores for the game, we see governmental control, public uprisings, and the breakdown of civilization through a COVID lens we didn't have in the gameplay. 

The_last_of_us'The Last of Us'Credit: Naughty Dog

Emotional resonance

Both the game and the TV show have already shown us they have no problem breaking out hearts. From romances about strawberries to little brothers we can't save, and daughters who die in our arms, neither iteration is afraid to pull punches. 

The story is emotionally resonant, with moments of tenderness and heartbreak, and the characters' struggles feel real and grounded.

At its core, both versions of The Last of Us are stories about the lengths people will go to protect those they love, the consequences of our actions, and the ethical dilemmas that arise when the old rules no longer apply. 

Whether experienced through the immersive gameplay mechanics of the video game or watching the TV show, The Last of Us promises to be a powerful and moving exploration of the human condition in a world where survival is the only goal.

How to adapt a video game for TV'The Last of Us'Credit: Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution

"What Would You Do?" Situations

The best part about video games is that a portion of the story is left up to you. The video game includes gameplay mechanics that reinforce the storytelling elements. For example, the player must scavenge for supplies, craft weapons, and navigate dangerous areas to survive.

When this happens, you are in control, essentially playing a movie that may last over ten hours. 

The TV show has no way to do that - so how do they use that storytelling element to their advantage? 

Well, I think they do it by watching characters make clear choices during impossible situations. After every episode, my wife and I discuss what we would do in those scenarios or how we would react. Having those moral choices decided by writers is very different than a game, but they still allow for debate and conversation long after the episode fades to black. 

The-last-of-us'The Last of Us'Credit: Naughty Dog

Summing It All Up 

Overall, The Last of Us is a gripping and emotionally engaging story that explores the human condition in a world where survival is the only goal. Both the video game and the upcoming TV show promise to deliver a powerful and moving experience for audiences.

What are some parts you think they've handled well in both areas? Or parts you wish they kept from the game or even changed? 

Let us know in the comments.