HBO's 'The Last of Us' Turns a Beloved Game Into a TV Ratings Powerhouse

The Last of Us

HBO's latest hit, "The Last of Us," isn't just any ordinary drama series. The headline-stealing show is proving to be, as critics are hailing, one of the best live-action video game adaptions ever made. 

The first installment of the game—developed by Naughty Dog—came out in 2013 and was considered a breakthrough for cinematic and dramatic storytelling. The PlayStation game drew critical acclaim from gamers who eagerly anticipated the second game's release in 2020. This was followed by even more accolades as the sequel sold more than 10 million copies worldwide in just two years.

Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world where a fungus that infects humans causes a worldwide outbreak and destroys civilization, the story's narrative and character development is incredibly layered, action-packed, and emotionally explosive—all the right ingredients for a groundbreaking show. 

And HBO took on the challenge to translate the game's story to the screen. From the casting to the production design to the powerful writing, TV critics, gamers and audiences continue to sing the praises of the network’s adaptation.

Two episodes in and the results already speak volumes:

  • "The Last of Us" premiere on January 15 was the second-biggest debut for HBO in the last 13 years, garnering 4.7 million U.S. viewers, only behind "House of the Dragon," according to Nielsen.
    • To put this in perspective, not even "Game of Thrones" drew this large of an audience during its premiere in 2011 with 4.2 million viewers. 
  • Two days after the premiere episode, viewership jumped to 10 million, and after one full week, jumped up to 18 million viewers, as reported by Warner Bros. Discovery.
  • The second episode on January 22 brought in 5.7 million viewers, which HBO stated is the "largest week 2 audience growth for an HBO Original drama series in the history of the network."
  • The show currently has a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes among critics and a 96% rating among the audience. 

"We are thrilled to see fans of the series and game alike experience this iconic story in a new way, and we extend our gratitude to them for helping to make it a success," said Casey Bloys, chairman and CEO, HBO & HBO Max Content. "Congratulations to Craig, Neil and the brilliant cast and crew who worked tirelessly to bring this show to life. We look forward to fans around the world enjoying the rest of the season."

Season one of "The Last of Us" will run for nine episodes, with the third episode airing this Sunday on HBO at 9 p.m. ET.