The Last of Us: All game Easter eggs in TV series

An image of a Shambler in The Last of Us Part 2 game.Naughty Dog

The Last of Us TV show has some creative nods to the videogame series of the same name. Here are all the Easter eggs in The Last of Us TV series.

So far, The Last of Us TV series has been faithful to the game in all the ways that matter, while also doing its own thing in a fresh but respectful way. However, HBO’s adaptation pays homage to the source material in more ways than simply copying the story. The show is full of clever Easter eggs that have been added to make fans of the games smile – or to break our hearts all over again.

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Below, we’ll keep track of every The Last of Us game Easter eggs in the TV series, recording them every week after a new episode airs. Some of these are very easy to spot, but others will only be noticed by the most eagle-eyed viewer. Therefore, we’ll keep an eye out for them for you every week. Be warned, spoilers for both below.

Bella Ramsey and Ellie in The Last of Us HBO show and gameHBO/Sony
Ellie may hold the key to humanities future in The Last of Us.

All Easter eggs in The Last of Us TV series

Here’s every Easter egg in The Last of Us per episode:

Episode 1

The Escape – During the chaos of the Cordyceps outbreak, Joel, Sarah, and Tommy try to escape Austin in both the game and TV series. During the TV show escape scene, certain moments mirror the game, especially the car scene which is angled to look like something out of the game. You see, in the first game, we’re still playing as Sarah at this point, so the TV show attempts to pay homage to this classic moment in its own way.

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Sarah wakes up – Sarah waking up is when the horror of The Last of Us truly begins in both the game and TV series. While this plays out differently in the TV show, Sarah waking up is a clear nod to those who’ve played the games that something is about to go down – and it will tragically end with Sarah sleeping forever.

Halican Drops – Those who’ve played The Last of Us Part 1 may remember Sarah’s T-shirt showed a fictional band known as Halican Drops. The character is also wearing this band’s T-shirt in the TV show. Not only that, the back of the shirt shows the band’s tour stops – each one being a destination on Joel and Ellie’s journey in the game.

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The birthday card – In the games, you can view the birthday card Sarah picked up for Joel when you explore the house as her during the prologue. This same birthday card can be seen on Sarah’s desk in the TV series.

Joel’s wrench drop – In The Last of Us TV show, Joel dispatches an infected with a heavy wrench but then overtly and strangely discards it rather than keeping hold of the weapon for future melees. Some fans believe this is a nod to the game’s survival mechanics, such as when items break and need to be thrown away after a small amount of use. It’s a stretch, but entirely possible.

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Pedro Pascal in The Last of Us HBO show and Joel in the gameHBO/Sony
Joel’s journey has some similarities in both adaptations of The Last of Us.

Being stealthy – The Last of Us game features a pretty iconic moment when the protagonists need to sneak past some searchlights to avoid being captured by the authorities. The TV show mirrors this very faithfully at times and really gets across the same feelings of dread that the game evoked in players during that first fateful playthrough.

Joel and Ellie’s dialogue – There are a few moments in the TV adaptation of The Last of Us where the dialogue is lifted directly from the game. This is totally understandable, as the game has some classic exchanges that shouldn’t be rewritten. One of the easiest to spot is when Joel asks Ellie if she’s a “bigwigs daughter” to which the teen replies, “something like that.” Of course, this is a lie with the true reason for their mission being revealed later.

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Curtis and Viper – In the TV show, Sarah picks up a copy of Curtis and Viper 2 when she’s at the neighbor’s house. This is a reference to The Last of Us Part 2 game where the old movie has a lot of significance to Joel and Ellie.

Marlene’s actor – If you’ve both played The Last of Us and watched the show, you may notice that the voice actor for Marlene sounds very similar. That’s because Merle Dandridge portrays the character in both adaptations, making her an actor who’s played the same role in both the game and the TV series.

Episode 2

Tess’s lighter – One of the coolest Easter Eggs of the episode isn’t even from the original game. In the episode, viewers get a look at Tess’s lighter, which has a star and the number 76 branded onto the side. This is the same lighter that Sam Drake, the older brother of Nathan Drake, had in the fourth Uncharted game! Naughty Dog studios is, of course, the game developer behind both The Last of Us and Uncharted franchises.

The Museum – One of the most tense scenes of the episode was the trio navigating through the museum in the ruined remains of Boston. This scene was also present in the original game, as the player was forced to sneak around infected, bandits, and clickers alike.

Ellie can’t swim – In the episode, Ellie reveals to Joel that she doesn’t know how to swim. This is actually somewhat important in the game, as Joel is constantly forced to find objects (usually pallets) for Ellie to stand on so he can pull her across deep water.

Stuffed giraffe – This is slightly spoiler-ish so we won’t go too much into detail, but in one shot a small, stuffed giraffe can be seen. For fans of the game, this seems to be an indication that one of the most heart-warming scenes in the game will probably appear later this season.

Ellie’s infection – When traveling through Boston, Ellie tells Joel and Tess that she was infected after breaking into an off-limits mall in the Boston QZ. Tess asks if Ellie was alone when she was bitten and it seems from her reaction that Ellie lied when she said she was alone in the mall. Fans of the games know that Ellie was not alone in that mall, both she and her best friend Riley were bitten and Riley died while Ellie did not. This story took place in the Last of Us: Left Behind, an expansion pack to the original game. It appears that we will see Ellie and Riley become infected in a future episode.

Bloaters – We got to see clickers for the first time in episode 2, but Ellie also may have dropped a hint that we will see another type of infected in the future. Ellie asks Joel and Tess “[s]o there aren’t superinfected that explode fungus spores on you?” Tess replies that she hopes not, but fans of the game know that there is a variant of infected called a bloater that does exactly this. It’s possible that Tess and Joel have not yet encountered a bloater in the wild, but they might be coming in the future.

Hotel check-in – In the lobby of the ruined hotel, Ellie pretends to check in like former guests would before the infection overtook the world. This interaction is almost entirely taken from the game, complete with Joel calling Ellie “a weird kid,” which she retorts in kind.

Give me a boost – Joel gives Tess a boost through the small crawlspace in the Boston hotel, which is something that he does quite often in the game to Tess and later Ellie.

Episode 3

A still of Bill in The Last of Us Episode 3HBO / Naughty Dog
Bill plays a huge role in Episode 3.

Curtain callback – Fans of the original game will remember the menu screen was a shot of a post-apocalyptic window as the curtain sways in the breeze. This image was actually the final shot of Episode 3, once Frank and Bill’s story has reached its sad conclusion.

Frank’s shirt – Wondering where you’ve seen Frank’s shirt before? It was Joel’s shirt from the first The Last of Us game.

Ellie’s shirt – Similarly, the shirt Ellie wears after she showers at Bill’s house should also look familiar. It’s the same one she wears in the game.

Mortal Kombat – Ellie’s affinity for Mortal Kombat and arcade games is a reference not only to the first game’s Left Behind DLC, but a poster on her wall in The Last of Us: Part 2. In the game, Ellie also geeks out when she sees an old arcade game just like she does at the safehouse in this episode. However, in the game, it was not Mortal Kombat but a fictional game called The Turning that drew Ellie’s attention.

The safehouse – While at the safehouse, Ellie splits off from Joel to scavenge for supplies much like players do in the game.

Bill’s wire trap – Bill’s traps are a direct reference to his compound in the games, a place his rigs with explosives to keep out the infected – and the non-infected.

Ellie and guns – Ellie has been persistent throughout the series in asking Joel for a gun. This is also a theme in the game where Joel is reluctant to give her a firearm.

Bill’s note – In the game, we don’t ever get to see Frank and Bill’s relationship. We only meet Bill and eventually come upon Frank’s body after he commits suicide following infection, not wanting to turn into one of the creatures. His suicide note, to Frank, actually has some lines that were used in Bill’s note to Joel, such as Bill “always hating” him and needing to not be stuck in his ways.

A walk in the woods – A small detail, but at the beginning of the episode Ellie confesses to Joel that she’s never been in the woods. Ellie says the same thing to Joel in the game after the two leave Boston.

Joel’s rules – At the end of the episode, Joel tells Ellie there will be three rules if the two are to continue on together out west: don’t mention Tess, don’t tell anyone about her condition (being infected but immune), and do what he says when he says it.

Ellie and space – Ellie tells Joel that she’s never been in a car before, describing it as a “spaceship.” She also marvels at how, in the past, people got to fly in the sky on airplanes. Now, in the game Ellie had been in cars before, but the spaceship description is actually a nod to The Last of Us Part II, in which Ellie admits that she has always wanted to be an astronaut and leads to one of the best moments in the game.

The tape – The last scene in the car, where Ellie finds a tape to play music for her and Joel, also happens in the game. The difference is that, in the last of us the cassette was of Hank Williams, whereas in the show it was Linda Ronstadt, whose song “Long Long Time” was the title of the episode.

So there you have it, all the changes in between the Last of Us games and TV show. 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