Update: I just found out that today (the day I published this post) is the 21st anniversary of the release of this game! Crazy!
The first time I picked up Earthbound from my local video rental store, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The cover looks cartoony and fun like this:
And then the game’s opening animation looks like this:
Much scarier, right?
Next, I was asked to answer a bunch of strange questions like: “what is your favorite food?” and the some what mysterious “what is your favorite thing?”
Earthbound was a special favorite of my brother’s. He used to sit and watch me play, helping me to explore and demanding that I talk to every single person in every single town just so that we could see their weird dialogue (this was no big chore for me because I was eager to hear what they had to say as well).
Copies of the game are crazy expensive today, but my brother still has his copy and our old SNES and replays the game regularly.
I remember being extremely moved at the game’s conclusion when I discovered, entirely by accident, that I would be unable to rely on my powers in battle if I wanted to beat the evil alien Giygas. Instead, I had to pray for help, depending on the love and support of all the colorful NPCs that I met along the way. When the final prayer calls on the player a la Tinkerbell in Peter Pan I remember shouting with joy.
I was rooting for those kids 1000%.
Earthbound is full of so many unforgettable characters, from the Mr. Saturns with their bizarre loopy speech (based on the handwriting the lead designer’s young daughter) and their psychedelic “coffee” to the Blues Brothers-style band the Runaway Five to Jeff’s gentle best friend Tony (I ‘ship them so hard!) to Pokey, my generation’s Prince Joffrey.
And of course, you knew it was coming, the music and sound effects are emblazoned forever in my heart.
The amazing and wonderful Smiles and Tears
and the terrifying Pokey Means Business! (just listen to the entire first minute. I promise you won’t be disappointed)
There is so much to love about Earthbound that it has inspired a number of amazing fan projects.
Boss Fight Books recently released an awesome account of the game’s unlikely production, rocky initial reception, and ultimate induction into the classic gaming hall of fame.
Earthbound, USA is a documentary film about the game’s fans set to come out in 2016.
Fans even took it upon themselves to translate Mother 3, the sequel that was never released in the US! You can read more about how to find it and play it here.
But I think my favorite is this sweet little cartoon. Watch it and smile.