Originally released in 2013, The Last of Us is set amidst the ravages of a post-apocalyptic US, 20 years after a parasitic fungus called Cordyceps has turned most of the population into mindless monsters. It follows a hardened smuggler named Joel, played in the show by Pedro Pascal, who has been tasked with escorting Ellie (Bella Ramsey), a teenage girl with an apparent rare immunity to the infection, across the country.
In an interview with The New Yorker, creator Neil Druckmann recalled how, in 2014, a film adaptation fell through because executives wanted to make it bigger and "sexier", like the Brad Pitt film, World War Z. The game, however, offers a more intimate story. It is a character study of astonishing depth, offering around 15 hours of gameplay. It burns dark, violent, slow; thick with an atmosphere of melancholy and dread; heavily influenced by the aesthetics of prestige television and cinema.
It is a faithful adaptation in everything from look to score to feel, with the early episodes in particular following the game almost beat-for-beat. We meet loving father Joel on the day of the outbreak, as he desperately tries to keep his daughter Sarah (Nico Parker) safe from a chaotic, crumbling Texas. The infected are fast and rabid at first, but cut to 20 years later and the Cordyceps has spread from the brain to all over the body, creating an array of monstrosities.
It is not a perfect adaptation. Yet, it doesn't feel even remotely controversial to call this the best video game adaptation ever made.