In our time exploring the universe aboard the Astral Express, we’ve noticed plenty of easter eggs, references, and callbacks to other Hoyoverse games and beyond. We’re not talking about a light sprinkling either, we’re talking about a galaxy of references waiting at each destination as the lightspeed locomotive careens across the depths of space. So, we thought we’d take a look at some of our favourite easter eggs, and try and figure out why exactly there are so many in Hoyoverse’s latest hit.
As you might expect for a game set in the cosmos, Honkai Star Rail is chock-full of sci-fi references in the same way that a dark night sky is full of stars. Some are more obvious than others, though. Quest titles seem to be where the Hoyoverse writers have their most fun, from ‘Fahrenheit 451’, referencing Ray Bradbury’s iconic tale of burning books, to ‘Lost Like Tears in the Rain’, referencing the final part of Rutger Hauer’s heart-wrenching monologue as Roy Batty during the crux of Blade Runner.
Star Rail’s achievements also use literary and pop-culture easter eggs, with some breaking away from the realms of science fiction. There are achievement titles like ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’, ‘Full Metal Jacket’, and ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, showcasing a breadth of influence. Despite these blockbuster references, Star Rail isn’t afraid to get niche with its easter eggs either, including references to a Virginia Woolf essay with the ‘A Room of One’s Own’ achievement, and another named after the Pablo Neruda book ‘Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair’. Evidently, someone in translation at Hoyoverse majored in English literature.
While we can expect and anticipate sci-fi references, Honkai Star Rail has some fun with a couple of nods to classic horror fiction too. Exploring the Goethe Hotel for the first time, I ran into a couple of eerie kids – twin girls to be exact – speaking in frightening unison. Of all Star Rails references, this nod to The Shining is one of the least subtle, but it does provide quite a surprise when you first bump into the creepy pair. Still, at least Dan Heng isn’t trying to break through any doors with an axe.
It’s not just achievements that Star Rail slips cheeky references into, but conversations and interactions too. My favourite is a nod to Breaking Bad, where you can sign your name as Heisenberg while filling in the feedback form at the Goethe Hotel. We thought it might be more difficult to forge a link between a sci-fi set on an intergalactic sleeper train and a neo-western set in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but hey, go off Hoyo team.
Of course, no game set in the cosmos would be complete without a Star Wars reference. While it’s only a fleeting mention, and those with only a passing familiarity with Lucas’ series might not even notice it, there is one here. In the Exalting Sanctum, you can overhear two kids talking, with one bragging about his dad flying “The Grey Sky route in 12 parsecs”, referencing a classic Han Solo line from A New Hope. Is this child actually Han Solo’s kid? We’re pretty sure he’s not, but if Chewy pops up in a future companion mission, we won’t be complaining.
Unsurprisingly, considering Star Rail’s demographic, there are a couple of anime easter eggs laying in wait as you trailblaze across the galaxy. A quest in the administrative district of Jarilo-VI sees you collect seven posters (including ones referencing classic anime such as Sailor Moon), only to get the message “Unfortunately, despite finding all seven of these, no Supreme Guardian pops out of nowhere to grant fulfilment of your wishes”. Qliphoth isn’t as giving as Dragon Ball’s Shenron, it seems.
While most of Star Rail’s easter eggs are polite nods, there is some snark occasionally, and you know that we love a bit of snark here at Pocket Tactics. You can throw some shade at Mark Zuckerberg and the Meta gang when Herta asks for your opinion on her idea to rename the simulated universe as the ‘Metaverse’. One of the two possible responses is ‘Seriously? Don’t ride that train’. Sick burn.
Despite the interesting outward gazing, some of Star Rail’s most apparent easter eggs link bank to other Hoyoverse titles, especially the studio’s smash hit Genshin Impact. Some of these are staring you in the face from the off, like the Traveler’s glider on exhibition in Herta’s space station storage zone, but others are less obvious.
Apparently not content with helping you out in Teyvat alone, Paimon’s on hand in Star Rail to keep you from going off the tracks. If you investigate a specific blockage in Jarilo-VI’s administrative district, a notification pops up reading “For some reason, a sweet female voice pops into your head: ‘How about we explore the area ahead of us later?’” Even in a new universe, Paimon is trying to help out. That’s why we love her – well, kinda. You can check out our Genshin Impact Paimon guide to read some of the theories about her ties to literal demons, though we’re not ones to judge.
Surprisingly, the most referenced non-Hoyo IP throughout Star Rail is Pokémon, with plenty of references in conversations, quest titles, achievements, and more. The most on-the-nose allusions to the Nintendo and Game Freak series are the ‘Master Ball’ and “Who Moves My Pokéballl” achievements, but there’s another one hiding in Boulder Town’s fight club. Here you meet Ash the Mechanic, who fights alongside his “electrifying robot partner Beet-Ka-Choo”. The Hoyo team are seemingly so proud of this one they don’t want you to miss it, with the Trailblazer uttering the line “this name seems familiar…” before the battle begins.
Still, there’s one piece of fiction that Star Rail seemingly alludes to that I want to concentrate on – Kenji Miyazawa’s Night on the Galactic Railroad. First published in 1934 with a 1985 anime feature film adaptation, this heartbreaking tale tells the story of two friends boarding something very similar to the Astral Express, and is a cult hit for fans of Japanese literature and anime.
The most obvious reference to Miyazawa’s classic, outside of the fact you’re riding a space train, is in 5-star light cone Night on the Milky Way, which combines various translations of the tale’s title to form something that feels at home in Star Rail. In fact, if you search for the term “Night on the Milky Way” right now, you find the Wikipedia entry for Mizawa’s tale still sitting above guides detailing how best to use this light cone.
The Galactic Railroad reference strikes me the most as it feels like the only one written into the core of Star Rail. After all, both stories share a rotating cast of characters, they delve into philosophical concepts like existentialism and gods, and, most obviously, they both take place on a space train. While many believe that the Astral Express is really referencing the locomotive from Galaxy Express 999, that itself is a piece of work whose creator has directly admitted to taking influence from Night on the Galactic Railroad. Even if Honkai just adopts the galactic locomotive as a trope to further the narrative, that trope starts with Miyazawa, making his work pivotal in the core concept of this game.
At this point, you’re probably wondering why we’re so interested in Honkai Star Rail’s litany of easter eggs and references. Well, in my opinion, it’s kind of like finding out what a Michelin-star chef has for breakfast before you go for dinner at their restaurant. We’re never going to get the chance to sit down with all the Star Rail writers and translators and ask them about their backgrounds, training, education, and experiences, but this way, we at least know what content they themselves are consuming or hold dear. It’s a little insight, and for me, that’s enough.
It also slightly answers the existential question of easter eggs. Why are they there? In Star Rail, they’re there to let you know you’re with friends. Oh, you love Blade Runner, Star Wars, Pokémon, and Ray Bradbury? Guess what? The Honkai team does too. Each time you find one of these references, it’s like finding a note that says “hey! We’re similar”’ and Star Rail just becomes that bit more inviting.
Of course, easter eggs are also there to make you laugh. There’s no better case for the giggle-inducing reference than Star Rail’s rickrolling of its entire player base. I don’t want to spoil the fun here, but next time you’ve got a spare in-game minute, take yourself to the data bank, hit factions, and scroll down to ‘Masked Fool – Elation” to find some beautiful words from Ast Rickley. Yes, Ast Rickley. Oh, and have you managed to find the toilet in Herta Space Station? If not, be sure to take it for a spin.
Either way, whether it’s to make us laugh, to relate to another piece of fiction, or even just to say “yeah, we like that thing too!”, we’re glad Honkai Star Rail is full of easter eggs and references. It makes an already fun game that bit more engaging. So, we’re keeping our eyes peeled as the Astral Express continues to chug along through the unending cosmos, looking out for Paimon, Pokémon, and any other pop culture references, and you should do the same.
For a little assistance getting your gacha on, be sure to check out our Honkai Star Rail tier list and Honkai Star Raid codes guide, with the latter offering out some freebies for fellow trailblazers. Or, if you’re looking for another exciting title, see our Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom review.