When does The Last of Us take place? HBO timeline explained

Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey as Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us HBO showHBO

When does The Last of Us HBO timeline take place? The long-awaited adaptation has finally dropped, but when exactly does it take place, and is it different from the video game?

Nearly 10 years after the release of the original acclaimed game, and coming from Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann and Chernobyl showrunner Craig Mazin, The Last of Us is finally here – and it’s extraordinary.

In our review, we wrote: “This is the show you’ve been waiting for: The Last of Us promises a video game adaptation experience like no other from its exceptional, emotional opener.”

Players of the first game and newcomers may be wondering: when does The Last of Us take place? Well, we’re here to answer that for you.

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The Last of Us: HBO and game timeline explained

The Last of Us HBO show takes place in 2023, 20 years after Outbreak Day on September 26, 2003.

This is different from the original game, which is primarily set in 2033, following Outbreak Day on September 26, 2013. This is also celebrated as The Last of Us Day by fans.

It’s worth bearing in mind: the game was released in 2013, so as a creative decision, having the Cordyceps infection emerge in the present day was effective – and bloody scary.

In a roundtable interview reported by Inverse, Mazin explained why he decided to make this change in the series. “I have this thing about jumping into the future,” he explained.

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“I feel like, if I’m watching a show and the year is 2023, and the show takes place in 2043, it’s just a little less real. Even if I’m watching a show in 2023 and it takes place in 2016, it’s a little less real.”

The prologue with Joel and Sarah takes place in a not-too-distant past, with small references dotted around each frame, like a Destiny’s Child ‘Survivor’ poster and Al Gore/Joseph Lieberman campaign t-shirt. The main story takes place in the present day, which the showrunner believed to be more compelling.

“I thought it might be interesting to just say, ‘Hey, look, in this parallel universe, this is happening right now. This is happening this year,” Mazin added.

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That said, The Last of Us is not intended as a commentary on our real-world pandemic of recent years. “We wanted to make something that’s more universal than that,” Druckmann explained.

“Spanish flu was a big influence as far as how it affected people, how people died, how they became very segregated, how they became xenophobic, and their towns.”

The Last of Us Episode 1 is available to stream now. Each episode will be released weekly on HBO and regional platforms.

For more TLOU content, check out some of our below guides:

Joel & Tess explained | Sarah spoilers | Fungus threat is terrifying | The dog’s fate | Who is Marlene? | Why is Ellie so important? | Soundtrack choice | FEDRA & the Fireflies explained

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