The Definitive 50 SNES Games: #6 EarthBound

Click here to view our list of the Definitive 50 SNES games. Links to each video and write-up are included.

Few game franchises have led as tragic existences as EarthBound.

The original title, known as Mother in Japan, was released there on the Famicom in 1989. It was planned for a North American release, even getting a complete translation, but it never came out.

The second game in the series, EarthBound (or Mother 2), did come to North America in 1995, where it earned an especially dedicated, even fanatical following.

Those fans were led on for years with the promise of an N64 Mother 3 that never came. Japanese fans of the series were given some relief from the wait with the 2003 GameBoy Advance release of the Mother 1 + 2 compilation. Gamers in the West never got their hands on that one either.

Ultimately, Mother 3 did come out, being released on the GameBoy Advance in 2006. Oh, except that game was Japan only as well.

As for the one game that did come to North America, EarthBound, it takes sixth place on the list of Definitive 50 SNES games. Despite being listed by the ESRB hinting at a future Virtual Console release, it looks like the game will never be made available digitally to gamers in the West. Music reminiscent of copyrighted works is suspected to be the culprit keeping Nintendo from bringing the game back.

EarthBound is a lighthearted, touching parody of both American culture and role-playing video games. It was created by famed Japanese writer Shigesato Itoi.

In this title, you take on the role of Ness in the year 199X who has been awakened by a meteorite landing near his home. At the crash site, he encounters an alien who sends him on a quest to defeat the nefarious Giygas. Ness ultimately leads a team of kids across the world in their pursuit of this threat.

Quite uniquely, enemy encounters are not random. Enemies are viewable in the game world, and must be physically contacted for combat to begin. Indeed, the way in which enemies are run into can even produce tactical advantage. For example, running into an enemy from behind will give you priority in battle. Perhaps even more innovative than that, weaker enemies are defeated automatically by your characters once they become stronger.

EarthBound is fun, unique, innovative, and beloved. The fact that the franchise it belongs to is so thoroughly mistreated by the company that owns it is an offense to art itself.

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