The Last of Us gets called "phenomenal" and "near-perfect" in glowing first reviews

The Last of Us
(Image credit: HBO)

The Last of Us reviews are in – and they're calling the eagerly anticipated HBO show "heartbreaking", "powerful", and the "first-ever great video game adaptation". 

From Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin and Naughty Dog's Neil Druckmann, the post-apocalyptic drama is set to star Pedro Pascal (as Joel) and Bella Ramsey (as Ellie), while the likes of Merle Dandridge, Elaine Miles, Lamar Johnson, Graham Greene, Anna Torv, Murray Bartlett, Nico Parker, Keivonn Woodard, Storm Reid, Jeffrey Pierce, Gabriel Luna, and Nick Offerman round out the supporting cast.

Critics, and others who attended the LA premiere on January 9, took to social media recently to praise the new series, and Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey's "beautiful" performances in particular. But many were quick to point out that the twosome aren't the sole protagonists this time round thanks to the showrunners' willingness to develop other characters' narratives within the story.

"I wanted #TheLastOfUs to be good yet never dreamed it could be THIS good," Digital Spy's Ian Sandwell wrote on Twitter. "It's faithful, but not wedded to the games, expanding the world in impactful ways so it's not just about Joel and Ellie. They're still the main focus though, and Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey are perfect."

"I've been lucky enough to get previews of #TheLastOfUs and oh my life, it is PHENOMENAL," Sky News' Chris Lockyer tweeted. "I'm such a huge lover of the games, so I was nervous to see it, but the show is beautiful and tense, while staying true to the source. Plus Pedro Pascal is an incredible force."

"[Craig Mazin] has done it again. His adaptation, with game creator Neil Druckmann, of #TheLastOfUs is phenomenal," said Pop Culture Confidential's Christina Jeurling Birro. "Frightening, so moving, stunning acting by #PedroPascal & #bellaramsey. A special shout out to #MurrayBartlett & #nickofferman, for the best hour of TV in a long time."

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And that's just Twitter, too. At the point of writing this, The Last of Us currently has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, from 24, admittedly slightly less rave, reviews. 

"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," penned TIME magazine's Judy Berman.

"The Last of Us series does not feel like a revolution of any kind—it is simply well-made television that elevates itself slightly above some of its genre peers," said Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson.

"Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann's The Last of US TV series is a faithful adaptation of the beloved video game, but it doesn't feel especially distinct as a zombie-filled, apocalyptic survival series," agrees The Verge's Charles Pulliam-Moore.

The Last of Us is set to premiere on HBO and HBO Max in the US on January 15, and Sky and NOW in the UK the following day. While we wait, check out our guide to the most exciting new TV shows coming our way in 2022 and beyond.

Amy West

I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things TV and film across our Total Film and SFX sections. Elsewhere, my words have been published by the likes of Digital Spy, SciFiNow, PinkNews, FANDOM, Radio Times, and Total Film magazine.