The Last of Us on HBO Reviews Are in and Scoring as High as the Games

Has HBO cracked the code for good video game adaptations?

by J.R. Waugh

The Last of Us is fast approaching, bringing us to its version of 2023, a world ravaged by a pandemic for over 20 years. While this might feel a bit on the nose, it’s certainly a timely experience, and it’s a beloved video game franchise being adapted to make it happen. Despite this, viewers are anxious, as the typical rule of thumb is that video game adaptations usually fall far short and don’t take the source material seriously. But The Last of Us seems to be saying otherwise, with its reviews suggesting that the HBO show has raised the bar, meeting the standard set by the original games.

What Are Rotten Tomatoes Reviews Saying for The Last of Us on HBO?

As of this writing, The Last of Us early reviews are bringing the Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ to an incredible 97% with 36 critics ratings for the HBO show. While it’s early to say the show will maintain such a high score, this is a review for the entire first season, so it strongly suggests you’ll be kept on the edge of your seat for the experience.

What Are Critics Saying About TLOU on HBO?

With prominent reviewers already having sent their impressions, viewers might be curious about what motivates their positive or negative scores. This is a good insight into what critics look for in a TV show based on a game, and how much of it is an analysis of it as strictly a TV show and art product rather than an appeal to the fandom.

From the performances to the storytelling to the aesthetic elements, it’s an exquisitely made adaptation. But it also asks viewers to absorb a whole lot of human misery without saying much that we haven’t already heard in similar shows.

Judy Berman, TIME Magazine

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.

John Nugent, EMPIRE Magazine

This series is its best-case scenario — the original creator, a proven HBO visionary, an A-list cast, and a script that found every heartstring it could possibly pull.

Dais Johnson, Inverse

Overall, the impressions are positive, acknowledging the quality about how good the game is. It promises to be an emotional experience, but not without a couple of drawbacks noted by a small number of reviewers. While the response early on has been overwhelmingly positive, there are still a couple of negative reviews.

[…]a series that not only often runs like a compilation of extended versions of the game’s cutscenes, but is also almost assertively middlebrow.

Pat Brown, Slant Magazine

There are complaints about the show stripping away the stronger elements of the games, ostensibly to focus on narrative. But one may argue that the gameplay and narrative go hand-in-hand, so the stealth and combat being less present can be off-putting, mainly since the game used television tropes in its storytelling. The result, for some viewers, can often be just the tropes, with less action in between.

But overall, the response is a healthy one, and easily the highest for any game adaptation in recent memory. The question that remains on everyone’s mind is what the Audience Score will be.

The Last of Us will premiere on January 15, 2023, exclusively on HBO and HBO Max.

- This article was updated on January 10th, 2023

Trending on AOTF