What Does the Success of HBO’s The Last of Us Mean for Video Game Adaptations?

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the last of us pedro pascal

The Last of Us premiered to critical acclaim and became the HBO’s second-largest debut after House of The Dragon since 2010 — drawing in 4.7 million viewers.

The premiere numbers for the post-apocalyptic video game adaptation, starring Pedro Pascal, were nearly double the season two debut night for Euphoria, which recorded 2.4 million viewers in January 2022.

Why does it matter?:: The Last of Us broke the “curse” of the bad video game adaption and proved it can make prestige television.

What did the critics say?

  • “Comfortably the best adaptation of a video-game ever made: one that deepens the game’s dystopian lore, while staying true to its emotional core. Like the game, it’s a masterpiece, too.” — Empire
  • It doesn’t feel even remotely controversial to call this the best video game adaptation ever made.” — The BBC
  • The Last of Us is simultaneously almost a verbatim adaptation of the game and a new story entirely. This is achieved not by changing anything, but by adding entire scenes and characters for which there simply would not be room for in a video game. These elements don’t rewrite anything we’ve seen before but add new levels of worldbuilding, storytelling, and depth.” — Inverse

What’s next?

  • With $180 billion in revenue in 2021, the video gaming industry is now bigger than Hollywood and the music industry combined.
  • The biggest problem with past videogame adaptations — such as Super Marios Bros (1993) — was that the source material did not offer narratives that were strong or moving enough for great television or cinema.
  • The first episode of The Last of Us showcased that the games industry is capable of telling compelling, complex, and mature stories on screen.
  • As the film industry continues to fight for relevance (especially among younger audiences) in 2023, HBO’s The Last of Us could prove that the gaming industry now rivals the work of Hollywood to newcomers and gamers alike.

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