RPGreatness: Earthbound

Welcome to RPGreatness, where each month I will give a brief recommendation of RPGs that I’ve enjoyed in my life or have affected me in some way. There will of course be some obvious choices in here, but I hope I can also recommend some more obscure stuff that you can try out.

This week I’ll be looking at Earthbound. In my experience, this game is a love-it-or-hate-it title. People seem to be greatly affected by it or completely bored. I’m in the former group, obviously, or this article wouldn’t exist. It’s hard to explain what I like about Earthbound, but I will try my best.

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On the surface, Earthbound is just a weird-looking Dragon Quest clone. Battles are fought in first person with your party stats listed at the bottom of the screen and the enemy on a generic background. Battle music is kinda quirky. The graphics of the game overall are pretty basic, almost NES-level. This is what seems to turn most people away from this game.

What is hidden beneath the surface of this title is where it gets me. Earthbound has more heart that any RPG I’ve played apart from the sequel, Mother 3 (which is a whole different article.) Ness and the inhabitants of his world are some of the most tragic and deep characters ever written. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory, but this game will make you cry, or at least think very seriously about it.

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Sure, the game is incredibly goofy. The adults in the game and very hard to take seriously. This is a game that focuses on children, and the adults are written as parodies and seem to reflect how many children view the adults in their life. They are selfish, rude, and annoying. They are made to look ugly or goofy. The goofiness is there to underline the fact that you are viewing a dark, uncertain world through the eyes of a child. The enemies are often nonsensical but are very real and menacing. By the end of this game, Ness and company have seen some crap.

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It’s not all dark though. There is a lot of humor in the game. Granted, most of it is 90s-style potty humor, but it’s there. The game is both incredibly deep and incredibly immature. That’s what I like about it, I guess. There’s nothing super deep going on here with the gameplay. The battle system is pretty straightforward. Grinding is a must. Pretty standard RPG fare. But that story. Those characters. I relate to them like few casts out there. I just…get them.

Earthbound may not resonate with you the way it did with me. I realize this. But the more people I can introduce to this game, the better. Because who knows, if you end up falling into the “love it” category like I did, it could just change your life for the better.


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