The Last of Us HBO show is finally here, and it seems that the curse of video game adaptations for TV screens is broken. The show is already getting great reviews—it scores 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 96% of average audience score.
However, the TV version is bound to be at least somewhat different from the original material. This is usually the point where video game adaptations get it wrong, so let’s explore how the game is different from the TV show in The Last of Us episode 1.
Be warned—the rest of the article contains major spoilers for the TV show and the game.
Differences Between Opening Scenes in The Last of Us Game and TV Show
The TV show opens with a talk show interview with two scientists in the 1960s. They are discussing the threats of a global pandemic, with one scientist expressing fears of a theoretical, widespread fungal brain infection that would be much more devastating than anything coming from a virus or bacteria.
The game, on the other hand, doesn’t include this scene at all, and it opens with Sarah giving Joel a watch for his birthday. The TV show elaborates more on these familial events and relationships, and we get to focus more on Sarah’s perception that something is seriously wrong in the world, perfectly building the sense of impending doom.
Timeline Differences Between The Last of Us Game and TV Show
The timeline is also somewhat changed in the TV show. The pandemic in the show starts in 2003, as opposed to the game’s 2013. However, both the game and the TV show jump ahead 20 years after Joel, Sarah, and Tommy try to escape and Sarah loses her life in Joel’s hands—the scene which is equally devastating in the game as it is in the TV series.
Joel’s Age in The Last of Us TV Show and the Game
A minor difference is also Joel’s age because the show starts with his 36th birthday (which makes him 56 after the time jump) yet the game opens with Sarah giving him a gift for his 32nd birthday. Even though they don’t explicitly mention Joel’s age in the game, we got to see his birth date on his FEDRA ID card in The Last of Us: Part 1 remake for PS5, which reads September 26, 1981. Also, Joel’s beard is much bushier in the game than the one Pedro Pascal sports in the TV show, if that matters.
The Last of Us Game and TV Show Differences—Cordyceps Infection
One of the major changes in the TV show relates to how people get infected by the lethal fungus cordyceps. In the game, airborne spores are the main culprit of the infection while in the series, people get bitten by the infected. The show sets the horror of it all quite nicely in the scene where Sarah witnesses her old and frail infected neighbor latch onto her family members via some type of fungal vines coming from her mouth.
Fireflies Introduction in the Game and the Show
Players of the game hear about the rebel group Fireflies right during the narration that follows the opening credits after Sarah’s death. In the TV show, we have to wait a bit more to learn about who Fireflies are and what they want even though we see hints of their existence in the graffiti and the slogan before we see Ellie or Marlene for the first time.
Besides these differences, there are several more changes that The Last of Us TV show makes in its first episode, including new supporting characters and a much closer relationship between Tess and Joel. Still, the show follows the game quite closely, with some scenes looking shot-for-shot identical. And that might be the reason for its success—when you have a masterpiece like The Last of Us: Part 1 as the source material, you don’t need to change too much.