These are the biggest differences between The Last of Us series and game

the last of us tv show differences from game
How is The Last of Us TV series different to game?HBO/Warner Media

HBO's The Last of Us is fast becoming one of our favourite shows of 2023. The story of Joel (Pedro Pascal) transporting Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across a pandemic ridden United States, whilst fighting off numerous zombies, has got everyone captivated.

And it shouldn't be such a surprise, it's based on the wildly popular video game of the same name. But despite being based off The Last of Us game, how much inspiration has the video game actually had on the series?

These are the biggest differences between The Last of Us TV show and the game it's based on.

The timeline

Video game: The game begins in 2013 with a spotlight on Joel's backstory, before jumping 20 years into the future in 2033 where the rest of the game continues.

TV show: HBO's The Last of Us starts with a televised conversation about the possibility of a fungal outbreak in 1968. It then jumps to 2003 where we see Joel and his daughter Sarah (Nico Parker) just as the pandemic begins.

the last of us tv show differences from game

The rest of the series then takes place 20 years later in 2023, when Joel is helping Ellie travel across the United States.

Spores and cordyceps fibres

Video game: In the game the cordyceps spores are a very big threat as it's an airborne version of the virus. Meaning there are multiple different ways people can be infected.

TV Show: Thankfully in the TV show the spores aren't a thing, so that's at least one less thing to worry about. Except there is a different threat to be concerned with. In episode two Tess explains to Ellie there are cordyceps tendrils that can spread for miles. If someone steps on a tendril, it will cause a group of infected to immediately know where they are and come chasing after them.

Why Joel leaves quarantine zone

Video game: In the game Joel accepts the mission of transporting Ellie in order to get his weapons back from the Fireflies.

TV show: However, in the show, there's a slightly deeper meaning to it. Joel wants to leave to find out more about his brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna) who he hasn't heard from in a while. In the games Tommy and Joel don't speak after Tommy joined the Fireflies. However, in the series Joel and Tommy aren't speaking but we don't know why.

the last of us tv show differences from game

How the pandemic started

Video game: In the game there's not really an explanation for how the pandemic started.

TV show: In The Last Of Us HBO series episode two opens with an explanation of how the pandemic started with a tense scene based in Indonesia. In the scene a professor of mycology examines the body of a dead woman who has a bite on her foot and a tendril in her mouth. She tells the police officer to blow up the city to prevent the infection from spreading.

Joel also explains to Ellie in episode three the infection mutated so quickly because it got into the food supply.

Tess's sacrifice

Video game: In the game upon reaching the capitol building Joel, Tess and Ellie discover the Fireflies have been killed by the military. Tess reveals she has been infected and urges Joel to take Ellie and find his brother, who will connect them with the rest of the Fireflies. Joel eventually agrees and he and Ellie rush off. As they leave Tess attempts to fight off the military, killing two soldiers before being taken out herself.

TV show: In this heartbreaking TV scene Ellie guesses Tess has been bitten after they discover the capitol building is deserted as the Fireflies have been killed by the infected. Tess tries to convince Joel to carry on the mission without her, but Joel isn't having any of it.

the last of us tv show differences from game

Joel shoots an infected who tries to attack them, triggering many others to come after them. Tess tells Joel to take Ellie to Bill and Frank's, which he begrudgingly accepts.

As Ellie and Joel leave, Tess pours gasoline over the floor and sets the place alight as she is attacked by infected. The building explodes as Joel and Ellie watch on.

Bill and Frank's story

Video game: A big difference in the video game is that Bill is still alive when Joel and Ellie meet him. They meet up in Lincoln and Bill reveals Frank became upset with him, took a few things and left.

On his way to his hideout Frank got bitten and infected, he then killed himself before the infection took over.

the last of us tv show differences from game
HBO - Sky

TV show: HBO's show takes a very different angle to the story of Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett), which left everyone in tears.

In the series Bill is living alone in the small fortress town he's built for himself when Frank wanders into one of his traps. The pair soon form a relationship and spend nearly 20 years together before Frank gets sick with an incurable disease.

Frank decides he wants to end his life, and Bill decides he cannot live without Frank and so the pair decide to die together.

Upon discovering Bill and Frank are dead, Ellie and Joel find a note from Bill who has left Joel his possessions.

Kansas City and Kathleen

Video game: In the game Ellie and Joel are forced to stop in Pittsburgh rather than Kansas City and so Kathleen is not a character in the game.

the last of us tv show differences from game
HBO/Warner Media

TV Show: Kathleen is a new character to the TV series after Joel and Ellie end up in Kansas City. She is running a group of bandits who are hunting a man named Henry. She believes the two intruders, aka Ellie and Joel, are working with Henry because they attacked two of her men.

She is hunting Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard) because she believes Henry betrayed her brother to FEDRA in exchange for medication for Sam.

Ellie's first kill

Video game: In the game the first person Ellie kills is a man who is trying to drown Joel.

TV show: However, in the series, after watching Joel getting attacked Ellie steps in and injures the bandit, who Joel later kills. Ellie says this isn't her first time hurting someone, we saw her in the previous episode slice an infected person with a knife, whom she discovered in an abandoned store.

The portrayal of Sam and Henry's story

Video game: In the game Sam and Henry aren't being hunted by Kathleen, as her group and storyline don't exist. Instead Sam and Henry are being chased because the group called The Hunters because Henry and Sam walked into the area to find supplies.

Joel and Henry get into a fight each thinking the other is a Hunter, before agreeing to team up and help each other escape the city.

They face a similar ending to the show after running through the sewers only to be attacked by Hunters and infected.

the last of us tv show differences from game
HBO/Warner Media

TV show: However, in the show Sam and Henry are being hunted by Kathleen who believes Henry betrayed her brother in order to get medication for Sam, his own brother. Along with Joel and Ellie, they manage to make it out of Kansas City, whilst the bandits are killed by infected.

However, Henry and Joel miss the rather important detail that Sam was scratched by an infected. Ellie tries to cure Sam with her own blood, but by morning Sam has turned into an infected and faced with an impossible decision, Henry shoots Sam before turning the gun on himself.

Tommy and Joel's reunion

Video game: In the video game there is no warm and fuzzy family reunion, instead Joel and Tommy's reunion is interrupted by a group of bandits, which leads to a shoot out.

TV Show: As seen in episode six Tommy and Joel finally reunite after years apart. Tommy isn't with the group from the village, who whilst tense with Joel and Ellie, don't harm them. Instead Tommy and Joel reunite after being led back to the village.

The arrival of Shimmer

Video game: In the game the horse called Shimmer isn't seen until the second game The Last of Us II when Ellie and Dina travel to Seattle.

TV show: However, in the TV show we get a glimpse of Shimmer during episode six when Ellie and Joel arrive in the ranch town.

Joel's injury

Video game: In the game Joel falls from a balcony and injures himself on a piece of broken metal whilst trying to escape the university, which leads Ellie to looking after him.

TV show: As seen in episode six Joel is stabbed by a broken baseball bat with jagged edges, as they escape the university, which is definitely going to lead to some sort of injury and will probably see Ellie look after him.

Maria's pregnancy

Video game: Whilst Maria exists in the game at no point are she and Tommy expecting a baby.

TV show: Maria's pregnancy is a plot point invented purely for the HBO series. In the series Tommy uses it as a justification for why he can't take Ellie to the Fireflies.

the last of us tv show differences from game
HBO/Warner Media

The 'You have no idea what loss is' scene

Video game: This heartwarming and emotional scene takes place after Ellie overhears Tommy tell Maria about Joel's request for him to escort Ellie for the rest of the journey to the Fireflies. Upon hearing this Ellie steals a horse and runs away to an abandoned ranch, which is where Joel finds her.

TV show: Unlike in the game Ellie overhears Joel ask Tommy himself to take Ellie to the Fireflies. Rather than running away she sulks off to her room in the new house, before Joel confronts her.

Ellie and Riley's story

Video game: In The Last of Us game Ellie's flashback to her relationship with Riley is triggered when she goes into a shopping centre in Colorado in order to find medicine for Joel, and she's attacked by a group of raiders.

Ellie then reflects on her time with Riley which is only shown in the shopping centre, and they go through the various "wonders of the mall" in order of the fancy dress shop, the carousel, the photo-booth before ending at the arcade.

When in the arcade they don't actually play a game, instead they imagine themselves playing a fictional game called 'The Turning'. Ellie and Riley then kiss in an electronic shop.

the last of us tv show differences from game
HBO/Warner Media

TV show: In the HBO series Ellie's flashback is triggered whilst searching for medicine for Joel in the house they've hidden in. Her flashback starts with her memories from FEDRA, where she was lonely and constantly in trouble.

Riley returns for her, by sneaking into her bedroom and surprising her. Their journey to the mall is all completely made up for the series including the dead drunk guy.

In episode seven the order they go around the mall has changed, in the series they start with the carousel, then the photo-booth, then the arcade, before ending at the fancy dress shop, which is where they end up sharing a kiss.

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