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HBO's hit isn't the only show that does apocalypses right
The Last of Us is the television world's newest obsession, and it's the rare adaptation of a video game — in this case, the 2013 PlayStation 3 game The Last of Us — that works. The HBO series took the beloved game's story and, well, didn't do much to it, which turned out to be a fantastic decision. Following Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) as they cross the country avoiding mushroom-controlled hosts and opportunistic bandits living off the weak, The Last of Us adds an engaging story about the bond formed by two unlikely road trippers to the usual mix of doom and danger, a formula that has made it the most popular new show of the year.
But if the wait between episodes is too much and you'd like more stories of life during the hardest of times, don't worry. We've put together a list of shows like The Last of Us to tide you over until the next episode.
The influx of people on my Twitter timeline encouraging fans of The Last of Us to check out Station Eleven have all been correct. The HBO Max limited series, an adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel's novel of the same name, tells its story across two timelines, one amid a global pandemic, and the other 20 years later as the survivors go on with their lives. The series takes care to explore not just human endurance, but the things worth enduring for, highlighted both by its focus on art as an essential part of life and by the bond between Kirsten (played as a child by Matilda Lawler and as an adult by Mackenzie Davis) and Jeevan (Himesh Patel), who took her in the night the flu began to spread. If you like what The Last of Us has to say about finding connection in a devastated world, you'll love Station Eleven. -Allison Picurro
The Last of Us isn't just another zombie show, and neither is Netflix's Black Summer — for completely different reasons. But if you're interested in HBO's hit because it plays differently in the genre, then Black Summer might also be refreshing... well, if total chaos can be refreshing. Ostensibly a spin-off of the zany Syfy series Z Nation, Black Summer is set during a zombie apocalypse and focuses on white-knuckle action and mental fortitude rather than philosophical ruminating on what it means to be human and what it takes to survive. (*cough The Walking Dead cough*) This means long scenes of zombie-slaughtering and human-eating mayhem peppered with mind games between human factions vying for control, all well-shot and presented. It also means less character work and plot. But the stripped-down approach works well, as it accomplishes what it sets out to do: deliver the intense zombie experience you have been looking for. –Tim Surette
The similarities between The Last of Us and HBO's award-winning miniseries Chernobyl go beyond the "oh geez, we're hosed!" inciting disaster that puts lives in danger. The Last of Us was adapted by Craig Mazin, who was behind Chernobyl and is now HBO's favorite son. Mazin brought his sense of harnessing chaos and doom in Chernobyl to The Last of Us, particularly in the table-setting cold opens that begin the two first episodes, making him a true master of disaster. In Chernobyl, Mazin works historical fiction into the real story of humankind's worst nuclear disaster, and the gloomy aesthetic will be familiar to any fan of The Last of Us. And if you thought running away from mushroom-controlled hosts was horrifying, wait until you get to the Chernobyl episode about dogs. Chilling. -Tim Surette
The Last of Us drew comparisons to The Leftovers with its format-breaking third episode, "Long, Long Time." It's no surprise. Both HBO dramas adapt stories about the people left behind after a mass casualty event — if people disappearing into thin air count as casualties. The Leftovers, co-created by Lost's Damon Lindelof and author Tom Perrotta, is set in the aftermath of the sudden vanishing of 2% of the world's population, an unexplained phenomenon so incomprehensible it upends normal life. The first season is famously depressing, but the series digs deep to unearth tentative hope, evolving into something surreal and gorgeous. It's less cynical than The Last of Us is, but it shares the same interest in how people make themselves vulnerable to love in the face of certain loss. It also understands the power of a good Max Richter instrumental track and excels at episodes that depart from the norm. If you liked "Long, Long Time," The Leftovers takes that concept, makes it even better, and turns it into a whole show. -Kelly Connolly
You've seen the memes: Pedro Pascal's thing is shlepping kids around wastelands. Before he was escorting Bella Ramsey's Ellie to safer pastures in The Last of Us, Pascal became a Star Wars fandom favorite in Disney+'s The Mandalorian, playing a bounty hunter who comes across some truly precious cargo and, more importantly, merchandisable cuteness in "baby Yoda." Yeah, the Lone Wolf and Cub plot will be overly familiar, but it's a storytelling standard for a reason. Just don't expect to see Pascal's handsome mug too often; that helmet doesn't come off too easily. –Tim Surette
For more stories of a survivalist badass taking a vulnerable young companion across a post-apocalyptic danger zone, but with fewer horrifying homicidal mutants in their way, Netflix's Sweet Tooth serves as a more suitable family-friendly show (it still deals with heavy issues, but has fewer victims getting torn apart by zombies). The fantasy series is set in a world where a virus has wiped out much of the population, and 10 years later, animal-human hybrid creatures are birthed, which scares the bejeezus out of the normies who hunt them down. Gus (Christian Convery), a young part-deer-part-boy, sets out on a quest to find his mother in Colorado, and is reluctantly helped by a man (Nonso Anozie) who must protect him from poachers. –Tim Surette
We didn't put The Walking Dead (or Fear the Walking Dead or The Walking Dead: World Beyond) on this list, even though it's a perfectly fine recommendation for The Last of Us fans. Instead, we're going with Tales of the Walking Dead, which more closely resembles The Last of Us' episodic format, whereas The Walking Dead has a tendency to drag things out over entire seasons. No, nothing here will be close to the quality of "Long, Long Time," but as Ellie and Joel traverse the country, the characters they meet and the stories they have to tell almost feel anthological, like individual chapters in a bigger story. Also like The Last of Us, you don't know what familiar faces will show up in Tales of the Walking Dead. The first season boasts guest stars Terry Crews, Olivia Munn, Parker Posey, Jillian Bell, Anthony Edwards, and more. -Tim Surette
The apocalypse is a tricky place to live in, but what if it could be avoided after it happened? Syfy's 12 Monkeys, an adaptation of the French film La Jetée and a new take on the Terry Gilliam classic sci-fi film, adds time travel on top of the aftermath of a viral outbreak that catapulted civilization back into the dark ages, weaving a complicated story that retains all the themes of other shows in its genre while throwing in an epic love story to boot. No, there are no zombies, but there are various sects jockeying for power and conspiracies aplenty, making it similar to The Last of Us in the way it tackles the human free-for-all after everything goes downhill. –Tim Surette