Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Jason, that’s your favorite game of all time! Why would you start a series about underrated games with your favorite? Is it really all that underrated?” and I would say it has to be one of the most underrated RPGs that I can think of right off the top of my head, and one that really captured my attention. I’m going to try and look at it from a more neutral standpoint, though. Everyone knows I love it, and quite a few people might even know why. However, when EarthBound released back in June of 1995, that was what I’d consider the Golden Age of RPGs. Final Fantasy 2/4, Final Fantasy 3/6 was on the way. Chrono Trigger, 7th Saga, the Dragon Quest franchise, Illusion of Gaia, Lufia [another underrated title!], Phantasy Star over on the Sega Genesis. Almost every RPG at the time was incredibly serious though, with the exception of probably Secret of Evermore, with its fantastic B-Movie references.
Everything was serious, deadly, dark, and lacked a certain spark. There were funny moments in Final Fantasy 6, and Chrono Trigger for sure, but they had a pretty dark tone. Chrono Trigger was about the destruction/distortion of time itself, and how horrible man was over the ages. How no matter how far we go, things never change: We kill each other over greed, want of power, wanting to be on top of the food chain. There’s a lot of philosophy to unpack there, but it’ll have to wait for another day. EarthBound’s advertisements were pretty awful and gross, thanks to Nintendo trying to be edgy in the 90s. But the world was in peril, Gigyas trying to throw his influence over the whole of the world, clouding animal and man both with darkness. That’s pretty terrifying, right? A modern setting in Eagleland, modern tales were pretty rare in those days. But it bright, cheerful, and it didn’t look grimdark. All of the colors were vivid, sharp, light-hearted. The end-of-the-world threat was hidden behind a childlike appearance. And the main character was like. . . a ten year old boy and three friends he meets from around the world.
So that’s probably why the game was so cheerful looking: You are looking at it through the eyes of Ness, a young boy who misses his dad, and has a cute dog. He’s tasked with saving the world from a bee. Yes, from a bee. It’s a game that doesn’t take itself seriously, despite how dire the actual threat was. It was a collection of jokes, bad humor, puns and satire. Parody, satire, nothing was safe, not even the Blues Brothers, who were in the game as the “Runaway Five”, or the Tonzura Brothers. It was an adventure, a boy placed into circumstances he had no business being in, who had the will and gumption to tackle a task that even an adult would probably fail at. But he does it! No matter what is asked of him, this young boy takes care of business. The longer the game goes on, you can see [if you’re looking] some pretty depressing issues. They come across as very light, but if you’re looking, you can take something away from this game that you didn’t come into it thinking you’d find. Professor Andoughnuts basically has no idea who his son is, not remembering him since he shipped him off to a boarding school. Paula is kidnapped by the Blue Blue/Happy Happyism Cult. She was going to be a sacrifice to the Mani Mani Statue.
This game had hours of entertainment, philosophy, happiness, tear-jerking moments, and absolute sorrow. It was a game that was impossibly ahead of its time. When I tell people that EarthBound is my favorite game of all time, they don’t really get it at first. Well, unless they’re familiar with it anyway. It’s a part of a series that we really didn’t get here in America [except for a retranslation of Mother 3, and a ROM dump of Mother 1]. Smash Bros really helped increase awareness of the franchise, but EarthBound is a game that simply must be played to be believed. See the world through the eyes of a young boy who just wants to do the right thing. Want to see more on it? Then hop over to Bottom Tier, we’re doing a playthrough of it!