Top 100 SNES Review: #9 – Earthbound (1995)

Everything is a Struggle.

I’ve never seen a game so intentionally trip itself up.

Earthbound SNES Title Screen.pngSydlexia’s Ranking: #21/100
My Rating: StarStar

We’ve all seen the meme where the person puts a stick in their own bicycle spoke which causes an accident as the person lays on the ground feigning for attention as if the universe is out to get them.

Welcome to Earthbound.

In the world of 1995 gaming, game developers had caught on to a few things:

  • New characters added later in the game shouldn’t be introduced at level 1 to be mercilessly killed by bears.
  • No one ever gives five star ratings to games that make you backtrack out of dungeons.
  • Human psychology proves humans have an affinity for things that are fun.

Everything from inventory, battles, saving, and money (ESPECIALLY MONEY) is made more difficulty than necessary. Shame on whoever made this game: it would be forgivable in the late 80s but inexcusable for something that came out a year before the N64. It’s reason for being so popular? A group of rabid fans that appeared years after its release.

Earthbound SNES Pencil Eraser
The pencil eraser helps you remove pencil statues from within the game world. Maaaaaan, so cool. <(“<)


A meteor lands in Ness’s neighborhood and he checks it out. He needs to capture the sounds of 8 locations in Earth to unlock something another to defeat Giygas or whatever.


If the trolls from a subreddit made a game in the mid 90s, it would probably be Earthbound. It’s all about irreverence, mocking, and pop-culture references. It’s the counter-culture entry in the SNES catalog. While quirky and fun, who gives a shit when the game is worse than running errands.

Here’s my favorite WTF game mechanic. I understand stopping at an ATM was a very 90s thing to do, but no one actually liked DOING it. In Earthbound, this tiresome task takes on a center role. Before you purchase that  14 dollar hamburger, you have to hike across town to withdraw it from your free checking account.

As much as I miss having to go to the bank to cash my check, I kind of like having more time in my life to do things I enjoy, like playing piece of crap video games like this.

Earthbound SNES battles
Maxed HP against a random enemy you’ve defeated ten times before? You’ll probably die.

Don’t worry, it’s not only money that’s screwed up. The battle system operates on a razor thin margin. Nothing has truly made me feel how indifferent the universe is to our well-being than battle encounters in Earthbound.

Since the dodge rate is so high for all parties, it only takes a little bit of misfortune to completely devastate your team. In the beginning, your party only consists of Ness. If he misses three or four hits in a row (which happens quite frequently), you are toast. To counter this, you should be able to use the game’s version of MP to heal yourself.

This is how the it all comes together to screw you in every way possible.

When you die, you lose all your MP. To restore it, you have to go to a hotel and sleep. The problem: you need money for a hotel. That means you have to go the ATM and withdraw money since you don’t keep it on you. Then, you have to travel to the hotel and actually sleep. Afterwards, you can return to the field, but since the encounters are thin margins of victory, all of this could be for naught.

Lots of wasted time.

SNES Earthbound Inflation
The more important story in Earthbound: inflation. Fourteen dollars for a hamburger at the mall??? In 1995!?

This game is known for its quirky and fun dialogue. Hey, no false advertisement there — some of the lines are hilarious. The problem is that is such a small slice of your time. Most of the game is wasted time doing aforementioned monotonous tasks that could have been modified to save hours.

I struggle with when to cut the cord on video games. Some might say I only played the game through the first two towns, how could I even write a review? What’ I’d say in return is that as I grow older, my time is very protective. This is my first day off in 19 (nineteen!) days. Why struggle with anymore bullshit than I have to?

While The Angry Video Game Nerd overall liked the game, he gives plenty of space to the plethora of problems. I think I made the right choice — going any further would have only made me angry.


If you’d like to experience how it was to run errands before smartphone technology, I have the game or you.

Other People’s Takes:

  • Recollections of Play: ” I eagerly set off with little Ness and his neighbor, Pokey, as they investigated a strange happening in their small town called Onette. And……that’s about as far as I got. Didn’t even make it out of Onette”
  • Guardian Acorn: EarthBound is still the game that I just enjoy playing the most. Maybe this might not apply to those who just don’t like menu based RPGs and prefer something look flashier or have more interaction, but I’ve always emphasized substance over aesthetic.”
  • Mistranslations from Modern Gamer: Earthbound is one of those great SNES JRPGs that you hear people droning on about. Along with the aforementioned Chrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy VI, Earthbound joins a very small list of must-play RPGs from that generation.”


  1. Your points are definitely valid; I remember, as a kid, finding much of this game maddening. Allow me to reassure you that Earthbound/Mother 2 is vastly superior to the original Famicom game, Mother, that was only recently released via Virtual Console in the USA as “Earthbound Zero.”

    That being said, believe it or not, this is my favorite video game of all time, but for nostalgic reasons more than anything, and I have a particular fondness for how everything’s set in a kind of 90s modern style.

    Replays of Earthbound later on using emulators made the experience much more enjoyable; as a rule, I despise mindless grinding, and being able to speed through that part helped a great deal.

    I definitely think the entire Mother series (1, 2, and 3) should be remade into an action RPG, but that’s probably never going to happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. OH, and I almost forgot something else that’s extremely important: when this game came out in the USA, it was packaged in a gigantic box the included the game along with the official Nintendo guidebook. And the truth is, that made the game somewhat easier as you would have an idea of where to go and all that jazz.

    That being said, another huge issue is the final part of the final battle. Without the guidebook (or looking at online guides), there’s literally NO WAY TO KNOW how to beat the game without just testing out every possible option. There are no in-game hints or anything.

    Also, the battle system, for all its flaws, has the one exceptional aspect that I appreciate and haven’t seen in other games: once you significantly out-level the enemies of a given area, they run from you, and you can simply approach them from behind and win the battle immediately without actually having to play through the slog of it all.


    1. It is nice to just skip the worthless battles, and there are some other cool things the game tries to do, like ending the fight before mortal damage can take all of your HP.

      After seeing some other reviews for the game, I’m glad I stopped because I tend to not play with guides. I would have only grown more frustrated the more obscure the game became ☠️.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. i recently reviewed this too, I definitely agree with a lot of the criticism here, especially the ATMs. Overall, I think the age of the title might have led me to give the benefit of the doubt a little too often, but man, that ending.


    1. It’s quite an accomplishment to be able to put up with the frustrating parts of the game to get to the end. I think I was so disappointed in the tedious that the charm of the game fell flat: I don’t care about the funny dialogue if I have to do 20 monotonous tasks before I get to see it. Cheers!


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