HBO's Last of Us Creator Is Worried About Future Video Game Adaptations

By Nathan Johnson Posted:
The Last of Us, Pedro Pascal

Craig Mazin, the showrunner of HBO's hit series, The Last of Us, is concerned about the future of video game adaptations.

The Last of Us took the world by storm when it debuted on HBO in January, with many praising how faithfully it was adapted from the Naughty Dog video game of the same name.

Season 2 of the show is already in the works and will be largely adapted from the first game's sequel - The Last of Us Part II.

The HBO series garnered critical acclaim for its first season - something that pretty much every other video game adaptation has failed to do.

The Last of Us Showrunner Questions Future Adaptations

Last of Us, HBO

In an interview with Josh Horowitz on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, The Last of Us showrunner Craig Mazin talked about how the show's critical success makes him worried about other video game adaptations in the future.

Mazin was asked about other potential video games that could be adapted into a TV series, specifically the 2003 Star Wars game titled Knights of the Old Republic, and The Last of Us' showrunner first prefaced that there are "good adaptations" out there:

"I played ol’ 'KOTOR,' as I called it. Yep, sure… Well, to be fair, and I always like to point this out, there have been good adaptations of video games."

Mazin then praised adaptations such as Arcane and Detective Pikachu, but added that he is "nervous" because he believes The Last of Us is "the best story told in video games:"

"There are… Every time someone says this, 'Arcane' fans lose their shit and rightfully so… 'Castlevania' fans, as do 'Detective Pikachu' fans. But in terms of like a live-action television series or just live-action adaptation, we’re definitely up there, and I gotta tell you, I’m a little nervous, because we were working with, I think, what is, in my opinion, right, the best story told in video games. And I think for others certainly, people would have to admit it’s in the top 10."

The showrunner stated that there are "great" video games that may not "work" in the form of a movie or TV series, which could lead to two possible outcomes:

"There are a lot of video games that are great because of the gameplay and not necessarily, I think, ready for adaptation, or ready for an adaptation that’s going to work. So, look, best possible outcome is that we’re in for a lot of awesome adaptations. Worst possible outcome is there’s going to be a wave of bad adaptations."

Mazin then detailed what would make an adaptation fail:

"And look, it’s really especially in games where… either there’s so much convoluted plot, you get buried under it, or the main character is a faceless, voiceless cipher, or there’s a lack of a relationship in the story that is important, or the gameplay itself is based on high fantasy or high science-fiction to the point where it becomes a little bit disconnected from reality and and [isn’t] about the human condition."

However, Mazin made sure to say that adaptations of certain genres could definitely work, as they have in the past:

"These are the things that, if I were advising other people, I would be saying, ‘These are the things you have to be thinking about.’ And that doesn’t mean that you can’t make great high fantasy adaptations. You can. Some of the best adaptations are high fantasy and same for science-fiction. But the adaptation process is tricky and I think it’s very tricky for video games."

The Last of Us' showrunner opined why certain adaptations failed in the past, and what needs to happen in order for an adaptation to be great - and, according to him, it all comes down to "obsessively lov[ing] the source material:"

"The one thing I think we have definitely shaken, I hope, is the scourge of video games being adapted by people that don’t give a shit about the video game. I think that’s over. And if it’s not then, I don’t know what’s going on, because if there’s one thing I hope people can take away from what Neil [Druckmann] and I did with 'The Last of Us' is that you need to obsessively love the source material. You can’t just go, ‘It’s an IP.’ I hate IP. IP is a term that only lawyers should use… A beloved story with beloved characters; that’s what’s important, so people can love these things into existence. Then, I think there’s every chance for success."

Other Potential Video Game Adaptations

As Craig Mazin said, there are so many video games that were already adapted into either films or television shows.

At the current moment, there are also so many games that have the potential to be successfully adapted and could garner the same praise that The Last of Us did with its first season.

The first title that comes to mind is obviously God of War. It is one of the most popular game franchises of all time, and its most recent entry, God of War: Ragnarok, sold more than 5.1 million copies in its first week on store shelves.

The God of War series contains just what Mazin said is crucial for a great adaptation - it has strong characters that fans can get emotionally attached to, and it is always respectful of the story it is telling.

Another video game franchise that could definitely be turned into a TV show is the Red Ded Redemption franchise.

Arthur Morgan from Red Dead Redemption 2 is generally regarded as one of the most beloved protagonists of all time across all mediums, not just video games.

Having a strong lead like Arthur coupled with a tight, personal story set in the wild west would have dollar signs written all over it. However, as Mazin stated, whoever adapted it would have to "obsessively love the source material."

Season 1 of HBO's The Last of Us is streaming on Max.

- About The Author: Nathan Johnson
Nathan is a writer at The Direct where he covers Star Wars, the MCU, and DC news. He joined The Direct in April 2021 and currently writes news and feature articles about all three brands mentioned above, but his main specialty is his knowledge about anything and everything Star Wars.