OPINION: ‘The Last of Us’ HBO series could only happen now

Nick Thompson | Contributing Writer

To those who know me, I am an avid video gamer and have been for most of my life. I received my first console— a Nintendo 64— when I was around 7, and I have been hooked ever since.

But before the N64 came along, there was already a hunger in the U.S. entertainment industry to adapt video games into movies or TV shows. In 1989, the cartoon series “The Super Mario Bros. Super Show” aired on TV as an adaptation of the Super Mario Bros. video game series by Nintendo. It would be a few years later that a “Sonic the Hedgehog” cartoon series would also come on the airwaves, based off of the titular character from Sega. 

Nevertheless, there was also a desire to make video games into blockbuster movies as well— cue the “Super Mario Bros.” movie released in 1993. This was a movie that continues to live in infamy amongst fans of the Mario series and even movie critics due to its significant straying from the source material. 

So began the pattern of movie adaptations of video games in the coming years, many of which did relatively well at the box office, but all received negative or mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike.

But then something changed.

The struggle with adapting video games into movies and making them actually good is that there are many games that either have a very basic and straightforward story or no story at all. It leaves it up to writers in Hollywood to turn a proverbial ant hill into a molehill when it comes to a story. 

But as the technological capabilities and budgets have increased in the video game industry in recent years, it’s become more commonplace that video games are able to tell captivating stories that add to a fun gaming experience.

From its original release on the PlayStation 3 back in 2013, “The Last of Us” was a survival-horror game that not only entertained and kept players on the edge of their seats, but it told a captivating story that kept them coming back for more. Only by telling such an enthralling story in the original games was the TV series able to thrive and be as good as it is, though it also helps that some of the showrunners worked on the games as well.

If anything, the storytelling capabilities of games make the transition to a movie or TV adaptation much easier because the structure of the story is already there. This is why many reviews for “The Last of Us” have hailed it as arguably the best adaptation of a video game to date (although we will see what happens when new “The Super Mario Bro. Movie” releases in April).

You don’t have to have played “The Last of Us” games in order to fully appreciate the TV show for what it is because the overall story is the same, but perhaps even better with more exploration into the characters themselves that cannot be done as effectively in the medium of video games, such as the relationship between Bill and Frank in episode three.

I imagine as the storytelling of video games continues to improve, there will be more and more adaptations to come. And if “The Last of Us” is any sign of what that next level looks like, then we’ll hopefully be in store for more achievements.

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