Music is an important element in both The Last of Us and The Last of Us: Part II. It is a connecting factor that brings the characters together and unites them in a world that is almost entirely broken. In the first game, Joel wants to teach Ellie to play guitar and he confides in her that he wanted to be a singer in his youth. This is intensified in the second game, with Ellie now being a competent guitar player and the player being able to indulge her love of music by strumming away if you come across a guitar. This connection with music is also apparent when it comes to rewards for the player for completing the game in certain modes.
If you finish The Last of Us: Part II normally, you will be able to listen to Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson in character as Joel and Ellie singing Johnny Cash’s “Wayfaring Stranger” together. This is an emotional gut punch considering the events of the game but it is still a nice touch. The recent update to the sequel added some more musical Easter eggs for the player if they can complete the game in ‘Grounded’ and ‘Permadeath’ mode. In ‘Grounded’ mode, the difficulty is raised significantly. Supplies are incredibly scarce and the ability to listen out for enemies through walls is removed entirely. If you can get through this mode, you will be able to listen to Troy Baker- as Joel- sing the full version of “Future Days” by Pearl Jam in the credits. This is the song that Joel plays a little bit of in the beginning of the game for Ellie before stopping when he feels embarrassed. It is an emotional character moment, as those who have played the first game will know how desperate Ellie was to get Joel to sing for her.
The ‘Permadeath’ mode is even more intense than ‘Grounded’. If you die even once, you have to go right back to the beginning of the mission/ day. Painful stuff. But if you do manage to make it through this mode, you can hear Ashely Johnson- as Ellie- perform the full version of “Through The Valley” by Shawn James. This song was used way back in 2016 in the announcement trailer for the sequel. So if you are brave enough to try and complete The Last of Us: Part II in these modes, at least you can sit back and get a nice bit of music for your efforts.