A guide to ‘The Last of Us’ Easter eggs

A guide to ‘The Last of Us’ Easter eggs

From the Uncharted lighter to the giraffe plushie.

Nick Romano

By Nick Romano Updated March 06, 2023 at 05:55 PM EST

The Last of Us Pedro Pascal

Warning: Spoilers from The Last of Us season 1 are discussed in this article.

Most of the crew working to make HBO’s The Last of Us are fans of the source material, 2013’s The Last of Us and 2020’s The Last of Us Part II video games. The developers behind those titles have even noticed that passion, remarking how accurate many of the recreations are in the trailers alone. Since the sci-fi drama premiered in January, it’s clear those details are packed into each scene.

Easter eggs that pay homage to the games abound as viewers follow the journey of Joel (Pedro Pascal), a survivor in a Boston quarantine zone, and Ellie (Bella Ramsey), the young girl immune to the zombie-like fungal plague he’s been tasked with ferrying across America.

EW has compiled a running list of these The Last of Us Easter eggs, with some exceptions. One-to-one scene or setting recreations won’t be counted, since that’s the majority of what the show is. The recreation of the Boston museum, for example, is a major plot point in the show, so it’s not really an Easter egg. We’re talking about small details that aren’t as prominently displayed.

This article will be updated throughout the season.

Sarah’s shirt

Appears in season 1, episode 1.

Sarah (Nico Parker), Joel’s daughter, is seen wearing the same Halican Drops band t-shirt as the character in the opening of 2013’s The Last of Us. The back, featuring a list of tour stops, foreshadows the destinations Joel and Ellie visit throughout the game.

Birthday card

Appears in season 1, episode 1.

The opening of The Last of Us, the game, sees players exploring Joel’s home through the eyes of Sarah. You can interact with various objects, one of which is a dinosaur-themed birthday card for her dad. A recreation of that card can be seen on Sarah’s desk in her room for the HBO drama.

Curtis and Viper 2

Appears in season 1, episode 1.

To surprise her dad after working late, Sarah borrows one of their favorite films, Curtis and Viper 2, from their neighbor — the one with the deleted scenes. It’s one of the fictional movies made for the game.

At the start of The Last of Us Part II, Ellie and the character Dina are scavenging in the snow when Ellie brings up Curtis and Viper 2. She explains it’s one of the “cheesy ’80s action movies” that Joel likes. “Two former commandoes that go rogue to fight bad guys,” she says.

Backseat driving

Appears in season 1, episode 1.

As a visual homage to the game, the crew of the HBO drama strapped cinematographer Ksenia Sereda in the backseat of Joel’s truck with a camera next to Parker’s Sarah. Sereda was able to capture a similar perspective gamers see as they play through the hectic car sequence in 2013’s The Last of Us.

Tess’ lighter

Appears in season 1, episode 2.

The lighter Tess (Anna Torv) uses in The Last of Us, the one with the 76 engraving, is a replica of the lighter used by treasure-seeker Sam Drake in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. That video game was made by Naughty Dog, the same developers behind The Last of Us.

“When the props department asked me if there’s any particular design I’d like on Tess’s lighter… I couldn’t help myself,” Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann, who worked on both video games and executive produces HBO’s The Last of Us with Craig Mazin, tweeted.

Uncharted Easter eggs can be found in the Last of Us games as well. Notably, Nathan Drake’s “sic parvis magna” ring lies in an abandoned bank in Part II.

Giraffe plushie

Appears in season 1, episode 2.

As Joel, Tess, and Ellie traverse Boston outside of the QZ, a roughed-up giraffe stuffed animal can be seen under a car tire. The plushie pops up in the game, as well. A giraffe doll rests against Sarah’s bedroom bureau. It also could be referencing a moment that comes near the end of the first game between Joel and Ellie. (No spoilers in case this moment will be adapted in the show.)

Drowned hotel

Appears in season 1, episode 2.

Joel, Tess, and Ellie come across a flooded hotel as they leave the Boston QZ. A similar flooded hotel is seen in The Last of Us video game, though it’s not a part of the Tess arc. It becomes a setting later on in Pittsburgh.

Health kits

Appears in season 1, episode 2.

Health kits serve as a major function of the video games. When injured, the player has to scavenge for materials (duct tape, rags, alcohol, etc.) in order to heal wounds. Having suffered injuries in episode 2, Joel gives Ellie a rag to cover her bite wound and uses duct tape to wrap up Tess’ foot in a similar fashion as the game.

Clicker actors return

Appears in season 1, episode 2.

Misty Lee and Phillip Kovats are credited among the cast of the second episode as “Female Clicker” and “Male Clicker.” Lee and Kovats are both voice actors who provided the noises for the Clickers in the original game.

The arcade game

Appears in season 1, episode 3.

Before the Bill and Frank story arc kicks off, Joel and Ellie enter a Cumberland Farms where the teen spots a Mortal Kombat 2 arcade game. She mentions a friend who knows everything there is about it.

The exchange is a reference to the Left Behind DLC (downloadable content) from The Last of Us that arrived after the game’s initial release. It’s a side story about Ellie and her relationship with Riley, a character to be played by Storm Reid on the show later in season 1. The main difference is that the arcade game in the source material is called The Turning.

Contaminated crops

Heard in season 1, episode 3.

Joel explains the working theory behind the origin of the cordyceps brain infection that caused this viral plague. He says the fungi transmitted to humans through every day food supplies, such as flour and sugar.

This is confirmation that we didn’t get fully laid out in the game. However, as Sarah, players can find a newspaper in the first installment with headlines reporting contaminated crops.

Joel’s “hero shirt”

Appears in season 1, episode 3.

Joel can sport various outfits in The Last of Us game. The player’s progress determines which clothes they have access to. One of them is a red plaid shirt, which looks very similar to the one worn by Frank on the show.

Director Peter Hoar confirmed in a Q&A (reported by SFX magazine) that it is indeed Joel’s “hero shirt” that Frank is wearing.

“There are lots of game things in the episode,” Hoar told an audience. “I don’t want to spoil it for you, but there’s loads. We did, both of us, geek out a little bit because we were like ‘Oh, we’re doing that bit…’ ‘That’s that shirt…’ You [to Bartlett] actually wear the shirt that Joel eventually wears… which is his ‘hero shirt’ in the game.”

Bill/Frank’s letter

Appears in season 1, episode 3.

The Frank of 2013’s The Last of Us kills himself, and players never get to meet him. However, those curious enough to explore their surroundings of Frank’s garage will find a letter in which he explains that he hated Bill’s guts and wanted more from life than Bill could provide.

Druckmann told EW they wouldn’t have adapted this strictly for the show. Instead, the team pulled some details from that letter and revamped them into dialogue. Bartlett’s Frank yells at Offerman’s Bill that he wants to zhuzh up their home and to make friends.

Bill, in the show, is the one who ends up writing a letter that he leaves for Joel, explaining how he and Frank died peacefully.

Bill and Frank’s window

Appears in season 1, episode 3.

Towards the end of the episode, the camera hones in on the open window of Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank’s (Murray Bartlett) bedroom. They left it open before killing themselves so their bodies wouldn’t stink up the place. Cinematographer Eben Bolter confirms this shot is a nod to the image of the window featured on the start screen from the game. 

“I wanted to somehow honor the famous shot of the window from The Last of Us title screen,” Bolter told SlashFilm. “And I saw an opportunity to do an interesting crane shot that was about Joel and Ellie driving off into the next episode.”

Outfit change

Appears in season 1, episode 3.

Joel and Ellie get a wardrobe change after showering at Bill and Frank’s. Joel dons a green, plaid shirt, while Ellie puts on a red tee with a palm tree on the front over a long-sleeve shirt. These are the outfits the characters wear for the majority of the first game.

No Pun Intended: Vol. Too

Appears in season 1, episode 4.

“It doesn’t matter how much you push the envelope — it’ll still be stationary.” That’s a joke Ellie reads to Joel from a book of puns titled No Pun Intended: Vol. Too. The book comes directly from the games. Riley gives it to Ellie in the Left Behind DLC.

Hank Williams

Appears in season 1, episode 4.

As Joel and Ellie are driving towards Kansas City, Ellie mentions that she “got something.” It’s a Hank Williams cassette tape, which is inspired by the game. In the same scene, Joel pops it in the truck’s tape deck and listens to “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.” In the show, the song that plays is a different tune from Williams, “Alone and Forsaken.”

Coffee lover

Appears in season 1, episode 4.

Among the items Joel and Ellie find while scavenging for supplies? Coffee grinds. Ellie wakes up at their campsite to find Joel brewing it and comments on how gross it smells.

Joel is a massive coffee lover in the video game. During one moment that takes place inside an abandoned coffee shop, he tells Ellie how often he would go to the café and get “just coffee.” In another moment, Joel spots an old cappuccino maker and remarks, “God, I miss coffee.” 

The bridge

Appears in season 1, episode 4.

On their way to Kansas City, Joel and Ellie are seen riding the truck over a bridge, signaling a location change that happens in the show.

The events of the first game see Joel and Ellie dealing with a group known as the Hunters in Pittsburgh. They team up with brother survivors Henry and Sam, and flee across a bridge to escape their pursuers. The show trades Pittsburgh for Kansas City, but the bridge Joel and Ellie pass over seems to be a visual nod to the bridge of the game.

The Hunters’ backstory

Appears in season 1, episodes 4 and 5.

Melanie Lynskey makes her debut as Kathleen. She was the sister of a man who led a rebel movement in Kansas City that overthrew the FEDRA military operation exploiting survivors in the QZ. Her brother died at the hands of FEDRA soldiers after Henry (Lamar Johnson) ratted him out in exchange for lifesaving medicine for his brother Sam (Keivonn Woodard). Kathleen then took over and led the rebels to push out FEDRA and claim the city.

This faction is referred to as the Hunters in the video game; they operate in Pittsburgh. Through scattered messages found in the world, players pick up details about the Hunters and how they similarly led a revolt against FEDRA that began over dwindling resources. This backstory is expanded upon in the show with the inclusion of Kathleen. 


Appears in season 1, episodes 4 and 5.

Kathleen has a right-hand man named Perry, who’s played by actor Jeffrey Pierce. He voiced Joel’s brother Tommy in The Last of Us video game and The Last of Us Part II. Gabriel Luna plays Tommy in the show.

“They got f—ing Ryan!”

Heard in season 1, episode 4.

Joel and Ellie go into hiding after the ambush in Kansas City. As they sneak by Kathleen’s forces undetected, viewers can hear another assailant stumbling over the wreckage of the attack. “Body! Body! They got f—ing Ryan!” a man shouts.

This kind of function was introduced in The Last of Us Part II. When players kill human attackers in the game, the victims’ comrades will often mourn the loss of their friends in real time (e.g., “They got f—ing Ryan!”) It’s meant for the players to feel more conflicted about offing people in the game.


Appears in season 1, episode 5.

Joel and Ellie team up with Henry and Sam to escape Kansas City. They go underground, where they find the remains of a group of people who built a community for themselves in the tunnels. In one area that seems to be a classroom is a drawing of two men, Danny and Ish, whom the kids had named their “protectors.”

Ish is a character The Last of Us players can learn about by discovering various notes left in this same part of the game. Ish was a man who went out to sea at the start of the outbreak, and when he came back to shore, he made a home for himself in the sewers. Over time, he would welcome others to join his safe house, including a man named Danny. They decided to protect the community by scavenging for supplies. At some point, a door to their hideout was left open and a horde of Infected got inside. Only Ish, a woman named Susan, and several kids escaped.

Speaking about this on the official The Last of Us podcast companion series, Druckmann explained, “We just couldn’t tell this story in the show. There was just no way we could do it, but we wanted to honor that this place existed.”


Appears in season 1, episode 5.

In the tunnels beneath Kansas City, Joel and Henry sit and watch Ellie and Sam play soccer with a chalk drawing on the wall used as the goal. A similar scene plays out in the game between them. Joel’s daughter Sarah used to be a soccer player, which likely feeds into Joel’s emotions during the moment.

There’s more to this Clicker

Appears in season 1, episode 5.

The child Clicker who attacks Ellie during the Infected swarm on the show is seen wearing a Blue’s Clues t-shirt. Lynskey confirmed on Twitter that the child was a member of Ish’s community who died when the Infected got in.

Savage Starlight

Appears in season 1, episode 5.

Ellie and Sam bond over their mutual love of a comic book series called Savage Starlight. They share how many issues each of them has read. Savage Starlight is a comic book created for the game, and it’s Ellie’s favorite. Players can find various issues of it as they explore their surroundings. Joel gives the comics to Ellie as gifts.

Cut to black

Appears in season 1, episode 6

A flashback to Henry and Sam’s deaths opens the episode, only this time instead of the camera lingering on Ellie’s distraught face once Henry shoots himself, the frame cuts to black.

This is how the game handled Henry’s death: the camera cuts to black seconds after the gun fires.

The answer better be the same

Heard in season 1, episode 6

Joel and Ellie discover Marlon (Graham Greene) and Florence (Elaine Miles), a married couple surviving in the wilds of Wyoming. They are characters newly created for the series adaptation, but something Joel says is a callback to a particularly gnarly moment in the first video game. Holding the pair at gunpoint in their home, Joel demands Marlon tell him where they are on a map and warns that his answer better be the same as his wife’s.

This is a favored interrogation tactic Joel implements in the game and speaks to his dark past. Joel tortures two adversaries for information about Ellie after she gets kidnapped. He stabs one in the knee with a knife. He then puts the blade in his mouth and tells him to circle Ellie’s location on a map. “And it better be the same exact spot your buddy points to,” he warns.


Appears in season 1, episode 6

Joel and Ellie make camp in the wilds of Wyoming with the aurora borealis overhead. This scene is a new addition to the show that doesn’t appear in the game.

An early concept design for The Last of Us video game features a campfire moment like this between the two characters. Druckmann spoke about adapting this unused moment for the show in an interview with Decider.

“There’s concept art of Joel and Ellie sitting by a campfire and talking and laughing. There was no point we were able to fit into the game,” he said. “There’s another concept art that was very famous where we see Joel showing Ellie how to use a rifle. Then it became, ‘How do we dramatize these moments?’ Now we get to realize them as we retell this story.”

Hydroelectric power plant

Appears in season 1, episode 6

Joel and Ellie pass an abandoned hydroelectric power plant in the distance. He tells her he doesn’t know how exactly water creates electricity so she shouldn’t ask.

In the 2013 video game, Joel and Ellie find Tommy living with a group based in a similar hydroelectric plant. He has a similar response to Ellie about how it works. In the show, however, they find Tommy’s group is based in a location that gamers will recognize as their home base in The Last of Us Part II. At the start of that game, enough time has passed and Tommy and Maria’s group had grown so big that they relocated from the hydroelectric plant to a small frontier town bordered by a giant wooden wall.

The staring girl

Appears in season 1, episode 6

Maria and Tommy give Joel and Ellie a hot meal, their first in a long time. Ellie spies a girl staring at her from behind a pillar. She shouts at the girl, scaring her off. The unnamed character, identified in the credits as “Staring Girl,” is played by Paolina Van Kleef.

An actress has not been announced in the role of Dina, a prominent character from The Last of Us Part II, for season 2 of the drama. However, it seems like an intentional move on the part of the showrunners to have the gamer crowd guessing the identity of the staring girl, given the character’s similar look to Dina.

On the February 19 episode of HBO’s The Last of Us Podcast, Mazin and Druckmann sure made it sound like the staring girl might be Dina. “In Part II, there is a story about the first time Dina met Ellie that is very similar to what happens here,” teased Druckmann. Mazin added, “That doesn’t mean that that’s Dina. Doesn’t mean it’s not.”

The Tipsy Bison

Appears in season 1, episode 6

Joel and Ellie pass by a bar called the Tipsy Bison on their tour of Maria’s community.

The Tipsy Bison appears in The Last of Us Part II and is the setting of a moment that happens early on in the game. We’ll avoid spoilers, but players will recognize the phrase “bigot sandwiches.”

Snowball fight

Appears in season 1, episode 6

Maria and Tommy give Joel and Ellie a tour of the commune. There are many one-to-one recreations of storefronts from the game to the show. A sly Easter egg that sticks out are the kids locked in a snowball fight in the background as they pass by.

One of the first challenges that players are presented with at the start of The Last of Us Part II is to beat a group of kids in a snowball fight before going on patrol.

Raising sheep

Heard in season 1, episode 6

Joel shares with Ellie how he would like to settle down in a farm house somewhere and raise sheep.

Without getting into spoilers, this is a major moment of a certain character’s journey in The Last of Us Part II.


Appears in season 1, episode 6

Tommy and Maria lead Joel and Ellie to the stables, where Ellie pets a horse by the name of Shimmer.

Shimmer is the name of the steed Ellie bonds with and mounts in The Last of Us Part II. The horse Ellie and Joel use in The Last of Us Part I as they depart Tommy and Maria is a different animal named Callus.


Appears in season 1, episode 6

Ellie gets a wardrobe change as she settles into Maria’s commune in Wyoming. Part of her new outfit is a pink-and-white hoodie, which is another recognizable look for the character in the video game.

Naughty Dog

Appears in season 1, episode 7

Captain Kwong (Terry Chen) calls Ellie into his office after she punches a bully. As he explains the two paths the girl can take, he drops his keys on the desk. A keychain with a dog print is spotted.

This is the logo for Naughty Dog, the gaming company that develops The Last of Us games.

Wall decor

Appears in season 1, episode 7

Ellie’s bedroom wall at FEDRA academy is covered with images that speak to her interests. Among them are clippings of multiple dinosaurs and an astronaut helmet. A level in The Last of Us Part II brings Ellie to an abandoned museum where she interacts with various dinosaur skeletons and a space exhibit. The wall decor also has a small image of a giraffe, which, like the giraffe plushie spotted earlier in the season, speaks to a moment that happens later in the first game. The big highlight is the Mortal Kombat II poster, which is taken from the Left Behind DLC and is a reference to Riley’s love of that arcade game.

Flickering flashlight

Appears in season 1, episode 7

While traversing the mall, Ellie repeatedly has to smack her flashlight when it starts to flicker.

At various points in the video games, the players flashlight will also flicker to the point when you’re prompted to smack your controller in order to turn it back on.

Dawn of the Wolf: Part II

Appears in season 1, episode 7

Among the many elements to the mall set is a poster for a movie called Dawn of the Wolf: Part II. It was seemingly playing at the mall theater when the outbreak hit.

Dawn of the Wolf is a fake movie franchise created for the games. Players will stumble upon various posters for one of the sequels throughout the world. It’s clearly inspired by Twilight. At one point, Joel alludes that Sarah made him go see it with her.

Pipe bombs

Appears in season 1, episode 7

Ellie’s trip to the mall with Riley turns sour when she discovers her friend has been making pipe bombs for the Fireflies to use on FEDRA soldiers, which one day could include Ellie.

Pipe bombs don’t appear in this same capacity in the Left Behind DLC. However, they become a chief weapon that players can utilize in one of the story lines for The Last of Us Part II.

The original Joel

Appears in season 1, episode 8

Actor Troy Baker appears as James, the right-hand man of Scott Shepherd’s David.

Baker originated the role of Joel in 2013’s The Last of Us video game and reprised the voice and motion-capture part for 2020’s The Last of Us Part II. He received two BAFTA Game Award nominations for his performance.

Speaking of HBO casting Pascal in the role, Baker told EW, “The thing that I would’ve lamented is if whoever was tapped to play Joel didn’t teach me something new, that they just did the same thing that I did and it became an impression of a performance rather than a character. That’s the thing that I’ve been the most delighted about with Pedro.”

“When We Are in Need He Shall Provide”

Appears in season 1, episode 8

David is the leader of a group of starving survivors Ellie encounters. An early scene shows David preaching to his cultish flock with a banner behind him that reads, “When We Are in Need He Shall Provide.”

A similar banner is found in Todd’s Steakhouse and Bar, which is the setting for Ellie’s final confrontation with David in both the show and the 2013 video game. Its background isn’t explained in the context of the game, though Mazin and Druckmann have clearly incorporated this imagery into the origin of David’s group for the adaptation.

Crouch and hide

Appears in season 1, episode 8

Having killed James and escaped David’s butcher table, Ellie flees into Todd’s Steakhouse and Bar. A close-up shot sees Ellie crouched behind restaurant furniture clutching her knife.

This is a big visual reference to Ellie’s final battle with David in the game. David surprises Ellie and disarms her of her gun. With only Ellie’s knife for defense, the player must hide amongst the tables and backroom as the place slowly begins to burn down. The goal is to use the environment to sneak up on David until you’re close enough to stab him. If you take him head on, you’ll be shot and killed. Each time Ellie stabs David, the difficulty level becomes harder.

David’s true nature

Appears in season 1, episode 8

This one admittedly isn’t your typical Easter egg. Technically speaking, it’s more something that was expanded on from the game.

After David kidnaps Ellie in the show, she comes to realize that he’s a pedophile and his attempt to molest her in the burning steakhouse leaves her scarred. This is a stark change from the context of the source material.

In the 2013 game, David isn’t overtly depicted as a sexual predator. However, one of his henchmen tells Joel that Ellie has become “David’s newest pet,” which is a big implication. The game doesn’t include a molestation attempt in the final Ellie-David battle, either.

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