The Last of Us Creators Tease How the Series Changes the Game

Co-creators for HBO's The Last of Us tease how story changes in the series will make gameplay different for fans.

Pedro Pascal as Joel Miller in The Last of Us HBO series
Photo: Liane Hentscher/HBO

Ever since HBO announced that they were adapting The Last of Us video game as a TV series, fans (myself included) have been eager to see both familiar parts of the story and what the series will change. With the Jan. 15 premiere date growing closer, the cast and creators recently attended CCXP Brazil to give fans insight into the series and how watching it will hopefully enrich the gaming experience for them.

During a panel hosted by Hyper Omelete, series co-creator Craig Mazin first reassured fans, saying that their goal was to make a TV show “just as compelling and beautiful as the game” and that “everything that made you feel and love and cry is all here [in the series].” Mazin then went on to say “I have played The Last of Us about 12 times. I know how it ends. I love the journey. And we promise, there will be surprises along the way. If you’ve played the game, I promise you there are things that you don’t know that are coming that will blow your mind.”

Co-creator for the series and creative director for the game, Neil Druckmann then followed Mazin’s statement adding “There’s stuff that was written that we didn’t get a chance to put in the game that is in the show. So, you’ll get to see an enrichment of these characters…It’s interesting, we’ve now talked to people who have watched the entire season and went back and played the game, and they said the game is now richer having watched the show.”

While they didn’t go into further detail on how these new elements would change the story of the series from what fans know from the game, we already know of a few things that are different between the two. First, we know that the timeline of the series is different from that of the game, with the cordyceps outbreak starting in 2003 in the series rather than 2013 as it does in the game. Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie’s (Bella Ramsey) journey is still set to take place twenty years after the onset of the outbreak, but the differences in timing could affect the look of the post-apocalyptic landscape that they have to traverse – there definitely won’t be any abandoned PS3 games or consoles scattered about.

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Another difference is Melanie Lynskey’s character, Kathleen, whom we first see in the series’ teaser trailer. She seems to be a new character created for the series, and her base of Kansas City is not a location that neither The Last of Us nor The Last of Us Part II has explored previously. However, now I can’t help but wonder if Kathleen and her revolutionary group in Kansas City were among the scrapped elements from the game that made it into the series.

Bill’s partner Frank also appears to feature more prominently in the series than he does in the game, with actor Murray Bartlett receiving his own character poster. The teaser and the most recent trailer also imply that we might get a glimpse into the early days of their relationship. In the game, we only see what happens after Frank leaves Bill because of his extreme survivalist methods – Frank dies by suicide before succumbing to the cordyceps infection. While I know better than to hope for a different, happier ending for the pair, hopefully we’ll at least get to see some glimpses of happiness for Bill and Frank in the series that we didn’t get to in the game.

The first season of The Last of Us is set to be nine episodes long, so it makes sense that Druckmann and Mazin would have to supplement the game’s core story with other scenes and plotlines not found in the first game or the Left Behind DLC. While I wouldn’t fault them for coming up with new characters, locations, etc. from scratch, it is nice to know that there were already some abandoned things from the original game that they were able to use. 

While these differences, and any others that appear throughout the series, will likely change the gameplay experience for fans who replay The Last of Us after watching the show as Mazin and Druckmann said, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The co-creators seem confident that any changes made will only enhance the experience, and give people an even greater appreciation for the world and story that connect the two projects.