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

Sam Smith
Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us Episode 9

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.

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 game
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.

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.

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.

Pedro Pascal in The Last of Us HBO show and Joel in the game
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.

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.

Episode 3

A still of Bill in The Last of Us Episode 3
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.

Episode 4

Melanie Lynskey as Kathleen in The Last of Us
Kathleen is a new character in episode 4.

No Pun Intended joke book – The joke book Ellie pulls out in Episode 4 is actually a reference to a collectible item from The Last of Us Part 1 and Left Behind. The book can also be spotted in TLOU Part 2. Ellie uses various puns throughout the episode in an effort to make Joel crack a smile, which he eventually does, showing that the duo’s father-daughter dynamic is beginning to grow.

Bill’s adult magazine – In a scene that’s lifted straight from the first TLOU game, Ellie finds an adult magazine in Bill’s cache of supplies he left for Joel. Ellie asks, “Why are the pages stuck together?” before disposing of the material out the window. While the audience knows she’s messing with him, Joel is less than impressed and finds the whole situation awkward.

Joel’s affinity for coffee – Those who played TLOU Part 1 may remember a piece of optional dialogue that can be triggered if Joel approaches an old coffee machine. Joel exclaims, “I really miss coffee”, indicating he’s not tasted any since the world was overrun by fungal zombies. In the TV show, Ellie wakes up and smells the coffee Joel is brewing, suggesting this is the first time she’s ever experienced it. It’s also likely the first cup of coffee Joel has had in many years.

Give me a boost – Boosting is a classic video game trick to reach something high up. It involves one character standing on another for a few more feet of height. In games like The Last of Us and Resident Evil, giving someone a boost has become a cliche, but that doesn’t stop Ellie from giving Joel one to reach a high window in the TV series. It’s a nice nod to TLOU’s survival horror game origins.

Alone and Forsaken – Hank Williams’ haunting track ‘Alone and Forsaken’ has become synonymous with The Last of Us franchise. The TV show also recreates the classic scene of Ellie playing a tape of the song while she and Joel travel in a car. The scene ends with Williams singing “Please hold my hand” which is also the name of the episode.

Burnt bodies – The Last of Us game often features piles of burnt, dead people as a way of warning players that they’re about to enter an area where the uninfected are more dangerous than the infected. Clickers are weak against fire, so these charred corpses were likely uninfected people, murdered by their hosts. This same trope is repeated in the TV series, meaning Kathleen is likely more dangerous than we realize.

Jeffery Piece’s casting – In TLOU TV show, Jeffery Piece is cast as one of Kathleen’s goons, but in the games, he voiced Joel’s brother Tommy who’s played by a different actor this time around. It’s a nice easter egg for fans and a way to honor one of the actors who helped make the original The Last of Us so iconic.

Episode 5

Sam in The Last of Us Episode 5
Sam is a new character, not from the games.

Bloaters arrive – Episode 5 gave us our first look at a classic TLOU enemy, the Bloater. As the name implies, these are rather rotund infected that are much larger than the average. They also take more damage and can explode, spreading their fungal particles and the infection further. Like the Clickers, Bloaters are an iconic monster in the franchise, so it was only a matter of time until we saw one. The easter egg isn’t the creature itself, but the way it kills the bandit Perry by ripping off his head – which is a Bloater death animation from the first TLOU game.

Sam and Henry – It seems like everyone Joel and Ellie goes near is destined to die tragic deaths, and brothers Sam and Henry are next on the chopping block. While the events leading up to this are different, ultimately, Sam and Henry’s fates echo what happens to them in the game.

The escape tunnels – While the tunnels Joel, Ellie, Sam, and Henry use to escape the infected, and Kathleen in the TV show, is located in a different place from the games, they bear a resemblance to the tunnels from the source material. The paintings on the walls are taken right out of the first TLOU game, and the fates of those that made them are also the same.

The story of Ish – In the game, Ish is an unseen character who lived in the underground tunnels of Pittsburgh. Through a series of notes, Joel discovers that Ish helped a thriving community live in the tunnels before they were overrun by infected. In the show, one of the pictures drawn by a child is of Danny and Ish, indicating that Ish existed in both version of The Last of Us.

Endure and Survive – This week’s episode title is a reference from the superhero comic book Savage Starlight, something that appears in both the game and TV series. “Endure and Survive” is the superhero’s motto, as well as something Ellie and Sam both bond over due to their shared circumstances.

Joel vs. Sniper – In TLOU games, Joel must outflank a sniper on a residential street and take him out, all while avoiding the sharpshooter’s potshots. In the TV series, the sniper is one of Kathleen’s goons, giving the character more motivation for attacking Joel and raising the stakes. Of course, Joel overcomes the threat, to the delight of traumatized Part 1 players everywhere.

“Are you scared?” – This final interaction between Sam and Ellie takes place almost exactly the same in TLOU the game, where Ellie confesses to Sam that, although she may not look it, she is scared all the time. The one difference is that, in the game, they do not use the writing pad, as Sam is not deaf in the game.

Episode 6

Tommy in The Last of Us Episode 6
Tommy makes a return in episode 6.

A horse called Shimmer – The Last of Us Part 2 features a horse called Shimmer that travels with Ellie and Dina on their journey to Seattle. In the TV series, Shimmer appears early and is currently owned by Tommy’s allies. Ellie and Joel do end up riding Shimmer later in the episode, which now may mean the horse stays in Ellie’s possession until the TV universe tackles the events from TLOU Part 2.

Rabbits for dinner – When Joel is injured in the game, Ellie must take charge so that they can both survive the winter. The game sees her hunting rabbits with a bow and arrows before bringing them home to Joel. The TV show references this with Ellie and Joel sharing some rabbit stew with an elderly couple before Ellie asks Joel if he can teach her how to hunt.

Ellie learns to whistle – While Ellie and Joel are traveling Ellie tells Joel she’s trying to learn to whistle. The scene is lifted directly from The Last of Us game, although it took place in a different location rather than out in the mountain air.

The “loss” conversation – When Ellie goes to consider Joel leaving her with Tommy, the two have a deep conversation where Joe opens up to his young charge about his past, telling her, “You have no idea what loss is.” This emotionally charged scene is straight out of the game and marks a turning point in Ellie and Joel’s relationship. This is the moment (in both the game and the show) when Ellie realizes there’s much more to her gruff protector than she knew, and that Joel is carrying a lot of pain.

Joel’s love of music – Country and folk music is something Joel loves. It also features in the soundtrack of both the games and TLOU TV show. In another warm moment that’s lifted directly from the first game, Joel tells Ellie he would have loved to be a famous singer. Ellie also comes to appreciate Joe’s taste in music, especially the acoustic guitar.

“First time seeing a monkey?” – The first The Last of Us game has several moments when Ellie sees certain animals for the first time including giraffes and monkeys that have managed to survive and thrive since the downfall of humanity. Like in the game, Ellie is mesmerized by the monkeys she sees, which prompts Joel to ask her the iconic question.

Dina from TLOU2 – While it’s not confirmed yet, Ellie spots a girl at the Jackson settlement that looks an awful lot like Dina, her love interest from the second game. We even catch a glimpse of where Dina and Ellie share their dance at the start of TLOU2 – before things take a tragic turn.

Ellie and the stars – In the Last of Us Part 2, Joel takes Ellie to a museum for her birthday and knowing she’s fascinated by the stars. Ellie also has this fascination with the TV series with her admiration for sci-fi hero Sally Ride.

Sheep Farm – In episode 6, Ellie asks Joel what he’s going to do once their mission is complete, he tells her he’d like to just retire to a sheep farm and live in peace. This is a reference to Ellie and Dina’s ending in TLOU Part 2 when both characters achieve this dream together.

Episode 7

The Last of Us epsiode 7
Ellie’s backstory is explored in Episode 7

Ellie’s Walkman – At the beginning of the episode, we see Ellie listening to Pearl Jam on her Sony Walkman. Ellie also carries a Walkman with her throughout the game, and you can find one during the Lakeside Resort chapter as an artifact.

Naught Dog logo – After Ellie punches Bethany, she goes to Captain Kwong’s office for a pep talk. On his table, one of his keychains has the Naughty Dog paw print on it.

No Pun Intended – Ellie’s joke book makes another appearance in Episode 7. The first volume can be seen on her bedroom table, and Riley gives her “Volume Too” later in the episode. You can read more about her joke book here.

Take On Me – In Ellie’s bedroom, we can see A-Ha’s debut album ‘High and Low’. Later, we get a needle drop with ‘Take On Me’ as she plays on the escalators. ‘Take On Me’ is a hugely significant song for the franchise, given extra emotional context in The Last of Us Part 2. It was also used in the trailer for the show.

Savage Starlight – Ellie can be seen reading an issue of Savage Starlight, the comic book series that earlier appeared in Episode 5. Read more about it here.

Dawn of the Wolf Part 2 – As Ellie and Riley are exploring the mall, its theater was last showing Dawn of the Wolf Part 2. This is a fictional movie franchise from the game, and you can read more about it here.

Macho Nacho – Ellie and Riley go to a Mexican restaurant called Macho Nacho in Episode 7. This has a bit of a history in Naughty Dog games, as it was first seen in Left Behind, before being referenced in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End in a conversation between Nate and Elena.

Masks – When Ellie and Riley are in the fancy-dress shop, they wear the exact same masks as they do in the game.

Episode 8

David delivering a sermon in The Last of Us Episode 8
This episode has plenty of haunting Easter Eggs.

Troy Baker – Probably the biggest Easter Egg for video game’s fans is the appearance of Troy Baker, who actually plays Joel in the game, in terms of voice work and motion capture. He wasn’t able to play Joel in the show for certain reasons, but here he plays James, David’s right hand man.

When we are in need – In the town that David runs, there is a sign that states “When we are in need, he shall provide” which gamers will remember seeing in the restaurant that Ellie has her boss fight with David in.

Pittsburgh – David mentions that he used to live in a Pittsburgh QZ, before it fell apart in 2017. This seems like a nod to the game, which has Joel, Ellie, Henry, and Sam attempting to escape a Pittsburgh that is overrun by thugs, which gets changed to freedom fighters in Kansas City in the show.

Callus – While the horse is never named, gaming fans will know – and weep for – Ellie’s horse from the game, which is called Callus, who dies in the same manner as in the show. And for those fans that know Shimmer, the horse that appeared last episode, it only makes this horse’s death even harder.

Baby Girl – The emotional crux of the episode has Joel comforting a traumatised Ellie, while calling her “Baby girl.” This was of course the pet name that he used for his daughter Sarah before she died, which shows how Joel now views Ellie as his daughter. It’s arguably the best moment in the whole game.

Episode 9

Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us Episode 9

Ashley Johnson as Anna – Episode 9 stars Ashley Johnson, the original actor who played Ellie in the game, as her mother Anna. In the game, everything we know about her character is learned in tidbits and a findable note, but the finale expands on it, explaining Ellie’s immunity.

Joel wanting to teach Ellie guitar – As Joel and Ellie approach Salt Lake City, he says he wants to teach her how to play guitar once they’re done with the Fireflies. This stems from Part 2, with Joel playing ‘Future Days’ for Ellie early in the game.

Outfits – Joel and Ellie are wearing the same outfits they wear in the penultimate chapter of the game.

Ladder – As Joel and Ellie ascend the Salt Lake City building, Joel gives Ellie a boost to a higher floor so she can lower down a ladder. While only a small detail, this mirrors the gameplay of the game.

Giraffes – Joel and Ellie then encounter a herd of giraffes in a scene that’s lifted from the original game – you can find out more about that here.

Original Abby – Laura Bailey, who plays Abby in The Last of Us Part 2, makes an appearance as one of the nurses in the operating theater in Episode 9.

The Last of Us Season 1 is available to stream in its entirety now. In the meantime, you can find out more about Season 2 here, and check out the rest of our coverage here.