10 Hidden Secrets In The Last Of Us
VOICE OVER: Johnny Reynolds
WRITTEN BY: Johnny Reynolds
With a PS5 remake now out, it's time to highlight our favorite secrets found in "The Last of Us." For this list, we're exploring Easter Eggs and hidden details in Naughty Dog's celebrated survival Horror game. Our list includes Master of Unlocking, Clementine's House, Naughty Dog Characters, Area 5's Significance, and more!
Script written by Johnny Reynolds
Welcome to MojoPlays, and today we’re looking at 10 Hidden Secrets in The Last of Us. With a PS5 remake now out, it’s time to explore some of our favorite Easter Eggs and hidden details in Naughty Dog’s celebrated survival Horror game. Know of any other awesome Easter Eggs in “The Last of Us?” Share them with us in the comments below!
O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub
When “The Last of Us” launched, “Uncharted” was going strong with 3 entries released on the PS3. So it’s natural that Naughty Dog wanted to include a ton of nods to it. One of the coolest comes during the Pittsburgh chapter, where Joel and Ellie can find a bar called O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub. The name is a clear reference to Victor Sullivan, Nathan Drake’s partner and father figure. What’s really neat is that it’s extremely similar in layout and design to the bar seen at the beginning of “Uncharted 3,” in which Nate and Sully get into a brawl. Funnily enough, “Uncharted 3” includes a “Last of Us” Easter Egg in its bar as well: a newspaper headline that warns of a deadly fungus.
Master of Unlocking
Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world, “The Last of Us” has scarce resources, so you better grab everything you can. There are 13 locked doors throughout the game that hold a bounty of useful items. But Joel can only unlock them with a shiv, itself a precious resource. Doing so is definitely worth it, and unlocking all 13 will earn you the ‘Master of Unlocking’ trophy. The title is a reference to the very first “Resident Evil,” whose campy dialogue and voice acting is legendary. Towards the beginning of the game, Barry will give Jill a lockpick and say, [SOUNDBITE PLAYS]. It’s no ‘Jill Sandwich’ line, but it’s pretty bad. It was cool that Naughty Dog referenced a beloved zombie game, though it wouldn’t be the only one.
Naughty Dog Characters
There are multiple references to “Uncharted” and “Jak & Daxter'' in “The Last of Us,” showing they were pretty popular before the world fell apart. Going through the Serenity Apartments after meeting Henry and Sam, you can find a bedroom with plushies for all three characters. Later, in the toy store, you can spot board games for both franchises. These Easter Eggs carry over to the game’s DLC, “Left Behind.” Inside the Halloween store, Ellie can come across costumes for both Jak and Nathan Drake. Finally, Ellie can find “Jak X: Combat Racing” inside Raja’s Arcade (itself a reference to Eddie Raja from the first “Uncharted”). Ellie can actually pretend to play it, and subsequently make fun of its premise.
Eye Chart Message
“The Last of Us” has one of the most intense, morally gray climaxes in all of gaming. So it’s understandable if you weren’t looking around while sneaking through Fireflies and trying to save Ellie’s life. While you’d expect to see eye charts inside a hospital, the ones inside the group’s base hold a supportive message. Instead of random letters descending in size, these read ‘RUN YOU R NEARLY THERE DON’T QUIT!!’ It’s a clever Easter Egg, but also tells you that you’re near the end of your very long, very distraught journey. Although, the ending is one of heartbreak and devastation, so hiding a positive message for us to keep going is a tad ironic.
Not Really Pest Control
Any time a phone number is shown in a movie, tv show, or video game, you can bet tons of people are going to call it. This can lead to cool Easter Eggs, like a voice message from one of the characters. Not so much in “The Last of Us.” During the Pittsburgh section, players would pass by flier-covered cork boards in some of the buildings, one of which advertised pest control services. However, the phone numbers were actually for phone sex hotlines. Naughty Dog removed the numbers via a patch a few months after release. Writer and co-director Neil Druckmann believed it to be an artist's mistake, stating they must’ve changed the area code to 555 to invalidate the number, but that didn’t work for 1-800 numbers.
Area 5’s Significance
Before Joel meets Ellie, he goes along with his ally Tess to track down Robert, a man who ripped them off. The early level serves to showcase how some big cities became Quarantine Zones after the outbreak. Boston is broken up into areas, though most of the action takes place in Area 5 as that’s where Robert is hiding out. This could be coincidence, but Area 5 has significance outside of the game. It’s the name of the documentary company that chronicled Naughty Dog’s creation of “The Last of Us.” Leading up to release, Area 5 worked with the studio to release several behind-the-scenes featurettes, as well as 2014’s “Grounded,” a feature-length making of documentary.
“Resident Evil” isn’t the only zombie game “The Last of Us” pays homage to. When traveling through Lincoln, Massachusetts with Bill, Joel and Ellie can find multiple houses just waiting to be picked clean of their resources. One of the most distinct seems to have been based on Clementine’s house from Telltale’s “The Walking Dead,” which was released the previous year. It’s most obvious in the backyard; the tree house, pool, and paint color of the house are all near identical. But even inside, the layout is extremely close. As both games feature flesh-eating, walking corpses and endings that rip out the hearts of players and stomp on them, this was certainly a cool reference to discover.
Naughty Dog’s Existence
One could safely assume that if Naughty Dog characters exist within “The Last of Us,” so too does Naughty Dog itself. There are a handful of nods to the team behind the game. Some are small references, such as finding a Naughty Dog mouse pad or the building labeled ND Corp. Others are much more blatant and specific. Sarah’s bedroom at the beginning of the game has photos plastered across the walls, some of which are of staff members who worked on the game. Later in Pittsburgh, Henry will lead you through what seems to be a Naughty Dog office. Here you’ll find a lot more staff photos and name plates across the desks.
There are several novels that influenced the somber, post-apocalyptic nature of “The Last of Us.” One of the game’s strongest examples of environmental storytelling is the tale of Ish, a doomed survivor whose footsteps the heroes follow in. Ish was named for the protagonist of George Stewart’s 1949 novel, “Earth Abides.” In the University section, Joel can find a newspaper clipping by Lev Benioff. Lev is the main character in “City of Thieves” by David Benioff, who is also referenced through a character in Part II. One of the more obvious influences was the work of Cormac McCarthy. The film “No Country for Old Men'' inspired certain characterization choices. But the post-apocalyptic “The Road'' clearly inspired its tone. Among Ellie’s items is a kids book titled “To Get to the Other Side!” by Kathryn McCormack.
A Hint of What’s to Come
Hanging above Joel’s bedroom in the prologue is a painting that looks remarkably like the section in which we control Ellie for the first time. However, another hint towards future game events wasn’t discovered for years. Hidden within the first chapter is a nod to the real-life Cordyceps virus that inspired the in-game version. While playing as Sarah, you’ll have to descend the stairs to reach a checkpoint. If you quit, reload the save, and go back upstairs, you’ll find a still image of an infected ant on the TV. Designer Kurt Margenau commented on the Easter Egg when it began making the rounds in 2021, believing it to be left over from a shader test. Still, it’s pretty cool that the plot’s biggest source of inspiration is hiding right at the beginning.