The Last of Us: 10 differences between the series and the video game

Let's discover the most important differences between the video game and the TV series The Last of Us, available on streaming on NOW.

Image Credit: HBO

Live-action adaptations of video games have often suffered from a bad reputation, but things have started to change in recent years thanks to products like HBO's The Last of Us. Creative directors Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann decided to incorporate many of the fan-favorite storylines and gameplay moments, but add their own personal touches to give more fluidity to the typical television series format. Below, we have decided to list the most important differences between the series and The Last of Us video gameSome of the scenes seen are taken directly from the video game with dialogue taken word for word, while others focus on the exploration of concepts that are better suited to an HBO-style drama series.

1. The origin of Cordyceps is among the most important differences between the series and the video game The Last of Us

Image Credit: HBO

The first two episodes of the HBO series offer us a more in-depth exploration of the Cordyceps infection that led to the devastating pandemic at the heart of all the events in The Last of Us. The series opens with a monologue from a scientist, played by John Hannah, who provides a detailed explanation of the effects of the Cordyceps fungus on zombie ants under rising temperatures and how this fungus can, under certain conditions, potentially have similar effects on human beings. In the first episode, we hear about a problem with wheat in Jakarta, Indonesia, which strongly suggests to us that Cordyceps is in the flour. In the second episode, we are in Jakarta, where Dr. Ibu Ratna, a mycology doctor, is summoned to perform an autopsy on one of the first infected patients. This goes way beyond the newspaper clipping you might read on the subject while playing as Sarah.

2. Joel's wound

During the game, Joel is seriously injured during the events inside the University building. At that moment, the player takes control of Ellie's character while Joel recovers from his serious injury. This pivotal moment at the UEC in the show isn't as suspenseful as you might expect, coming across as almost anti-climactic in some ways as it aims to be more grounded in reality. In the game, Joel is caught by surprise and falls from the second floor of the building, ending up impaled on a metal bar. With Ellie's help, the player shoots his way out of the building. In the show's version, they face no enemies inside the building. Joel is stabbed during a fight while they are already close to the horse ready to escape.

3. Tess' death is among the most important differences between the series and The Last of Us video game

Image Credit: HBO

The Last of Us features many tragic moments for its characters, and Tess's comes after Sarah Miller's heartbreaking death in the prologue. Tess's fate is sealed with a bite from an infected in both versions, but her sacrifice to save Joel and Ellie in Boston's Capitol Building is rendered more tense and disturbing in the HBO show. In the game, PHEDRA soldiers break into the building, still searching for the trio. Tess kills as many as she can before being shot herself, allowing Joel and Ellie to escape unharmed. In the show, Tess comes face to face with a Clicker, who disturbingly kisses her with his tentacles made of Cordyceps as the Capitol is about to explode along with the other infected inside her.

4. Jackson's introduction

Image Credit: HBO

Jackson is an important location featured in The Last of Us Part 2, where Joel and Ellie settle alongside Tommy and the rest of the community following Joel's rescue of Ellie from the Luci medical facility. However, on the show, the community is introduced as early as episode six of the first season, when Joel and Tommy finally reunite. In the game, Joel and Tommy's reunion moment takes place at a hydroelectric power plant that supplies power to Jackson, but not in the actual community. This change paves a smoother path for introducing Season 2's story in a way that makes much more sense than it does in the games. Plus, we also got a possible cameo from Dina and Ellie's future horse, Shimmer.

5. Bill's fate and his backstory are among the most important differences between the series and The Last of Us video game

Image Credit: HBO

In the HBO adaptation, the big twist related to Bill's character is that he died shortly before Joel and Ellie arrived at his house. In the game, Bill is alive and plays an important role in Joel and Ellie's story, teaching them survivalist skills such as setting traps. Together, they encounter the first Bloater in an abandoned high school. Episode three of The Last of Us offers us a more in-depth development of Bill's backstory during the early days of the pandemic, showing us his relationship with his partner Frank and his initial interaction with Joel and Tess. It also shows us that he and Frank have faced and overcome many challenges together, and when Frank finds himself struggling with a terminal illness, Bill decides to end their lives together.

6. The Bloater scene

Image Credit: HBO

The Bloater was seen in teasers before the series even began, and the introduction sequence of this massive live-action infected was superbly tied into another section of the game. Instead of the aforementioned moment with Ellie and Joel together with Bill, when the first Bloater appears the duo is with brothers Henry and Sam, during the sniper sequence. Once Joel gets the sniper rifle from the shooter inside the bedroom, many of the people from Joel's group, who are chasing him, Ellie, and the two brothers, catch up to them. Joel manages to hit the driver of a large truck with his shotgun, which crashes into the house and sinks into the ground in a fiery explosion. From beneath the crater emerges a huge horde of Clickers with a Bloater at the forefront.

7. The involvement of Kathleen's character is among the most important differences between the series and the The Last of Us video game

Image Credit: HBO

Henry and Sam also have a more developed context on the show; In fact, Henry has a past history with Kathleen, the leader of the Kansas City resistance, who wants to bring down FEDRA and all those who collaborated with them. Henry handed Kathleen's brother, the original leader of the resistance, to PHEDRA in exchange for medicine to save the life of his younger brother, Sam. When Henry finds himself on the run from Kathleen, he sees Joel and Ellie for the first time while they are being attacked in a shop by the latter's men, and it is to escape the woman's fury that he decides to ask them for help.

8. The Clicker girl

Image Credit: HBO

The Bloater's entrance into the nocturnal horde scene with Kathleen and her gang was perhaps overshadowed by one of the show's best moments. Ellie has an intense confrontation with a frightening Clicker girl in the claustrophobic space of a car. What makes the situation even more disturbing is Little Clicker's speed and contortionist skills. There is plenty of talk about children growing up in this world and suffering its tragic consequences in The Last of Us, both with Ellie, Sarah, Riley, and Sam and with JJ in Part 2. However, the player should never rent one of the infected to defeat, neither in the form of Clicker nor Runner, so this change is a powerful and thoughtful concept that the showrunners decided to delve into.

9. Maria's pregnancy is among the most important differences between the series and The Last of Us video game

Image Credit: HBO

An important character Tommy that the player meets in the Jackson settlement is his wife, Maria. On the show, one of the first things Joel finds out about her and Tommy is that they are expecting a baby. Maria wasn't pregnant in the original game or the sequel, so this joyous occasion will create more drama in the season to come. Then considering the crucial storyline of the second game which sees Tommy go in desperate search of the WLF group, Maria's pregnancy could drastically change things and perhaps lead Tommy to be more cautious in making his decisions against this group.

10. The balance between action and character development

The lack of violence and action from the infected in the series represents a significant contrast and is where many of the viewers' complaints stem from. In the HBO series, we don't see Joel shooting waves of infected hanging upside down after falling into one of Bill's traps while Ellie tries to free him, nor defeating the infected in the sewers with Sam and shooting bandits in Tommy's hydroelectric dam. Most of the intense sections and main events involving the Clickers in the video game are noticeably absent from the TV series. This is because the video game's level design is focused on optimizing the gameplay experience, while it does not convincingly contribute to the progression of the characters' narrative arcs in a television context.