How ‘EarthBound’ Left a Massive Impact on the World of Indie Games (2024)


The original indie RPG!

This post might contain affiliation links. If you buy something through this post, the publisher may get a share of the sale.

byDale Bashir

Posted Aug. 26, 2022, 5:30 p.m.

What was once an obscure part of Nintendo history has become one of the most enduring legacies the company has ever produced in video game history. EarthBound on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System has created an entire ecosystem within the indie game industry.

Like how Super Mario Bros. popularised the platformer genre or how Metroid became one half of the indie favourite Metroidvania genre, EarthBound has also left a massive impact on the gaming industry even 28 years after its release.

With its bright and cheery visuals, Americana-inspired characters and locations, and a battle system that is similar to the one seen in Dragon Quest, it was clear that EarthBound was striving to be different.

How ‘EarthBound’ Left a Massive Impact on the World of Indie Games (2)

So what makes EarthBound such a momentous video game and how did its rabid fanbase influence the trajectory of indie games moving forward? Let’s take a closer look.

Different Flavours

Before Final Fantasy VII, EarthBound was seen as one of the first post-modern role-playing games. Unlike its contemporaries, EarthBound was set in modern times and dealt with existentialism, instead of the usual hero's journey in a fantasy world.

This is all thanks to the creator of EarthBound, Shigesato Itoi, a well-known copywriter in the world of Japanese advertising. Itoi’s outsider perspective is what gave EarthBound its signature flair for the surreal and peculiar.

Known in Japan as Mother 2: Gigu no Gyakushu, the middle child of the Mother series is still the most well-known since it was the only one to be localised for non-Japanese speakers. The first Mother game has since been rereleased, but Mother 3 has not seen a release outside of Japan.

While being a sequel to the first game, EarthBound stands out on its own, even today. The journey of Ness and his friends travelling the world before fighting the alien menace known as Giygas is encapsulated impeccably throughout the 30-hour adventure.

PK Fire

How ‘EarthBound’ Left a Massive Impact on the World of Indie Games (3)Upon its English release, EarthBound was not met with the best reception from critics and gamers, but through online fandoms, EarthBound became a true cult classic in the early 2000s as word spread of an unorthodox RPG.

This led to fan translations of the Japan-only Mother 3, as well as a number of ROM hacks and fanmade sequels to EarthBound. Similarly seen with the Sonic fandom, these passionate fans soon began making their own EarthBound-inspired games.

The biggest of these indie games is definitely Undertale, and to a certain extent its spiritual successor Deltarune. Undertale creator Toby Fox created a number of his own EarthBound ROM hacks before deciding to make Undertale.

Another major indie game that took inspiration from EarthBound is Omori, which shares EarthBound’s suburban adventure with an underlying tone of despair. Lisa: The Painful, Costume Quest, and upcoming games like Oddity and Oddventure, are other examples of EarthBound-inspired RPGs.

Hooked On a Feeling

So even though games like Undertale and Omori are inspired by Earthbound, they all definitely don’t play exactly the same. As much as they do feature top-down exploration and turn-based combat, these games are emulating another major quality of Earthbound.

This quality is the overall feeling of the game, the tones, and themes players will feel as they play Earthbound. The coming-of-age story of finding friends before facing despair together is what really codifies the experience.

For a game called Mother in Japanese, it is fitting to see that it has birthed a whole entire sub-genre of sorts for the RPG genre. As much as one would want a sci-fi experience or a fantasy adventure, sometimes an adventure set in a semi-realistic world and tackling more down-to-earth themes is a great break from the high-octane norm of video games.

On a macro level, we have seen the rise of more wholesome, introspective, and non-combative experiences like Night in the Woods and Celeste that have also shaped the modern indie game landscape.

How ‘EarthBound’ Left a Massive Impact on the World of Indie Games (4)

So if you’re an indie games developer, EarthBound still makes for an interesting case study, especially if you’re looking to present a familiar genre in a whole new way. It goes far beyond the realm of RPGs, and the EarthBound blueprint will continue to inspire more in the future.

This post might contain affiliation links. If you buy something through this post, the publisher may get a share of the sale.

More Like This

5hours, 19minutes Comments Level Up Your Gaming Space: The Ultimate Guide to Building Your Gamer's Paradise

22hours, 33minutes Comments Top Gaming Speakers to Elevate Your Gaming Experience in 2024

5months, 1week Comments Lego Unleashes the Dragon in Their Incredible 2024 Lunar New Year Sets

8months Comments Enter the World of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora – A Thrilling Gameplay Preview
How ‘EarthBound’ Left a Massive Impact on the World of Indie Games (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Merrill Bechtelar CPA

Last Updated:

Views: 6099

Rating: 5 / 5 (70 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Merrill Bechtelar CPA

Birthday: 1996-05-19

Address: Apt. 114 873 White Lodge, Libbyfurt, CA 93006

Phone: +5983010455207

Job: Legacy Representative

Hobby: Blacksmithing, Urban exploration, Sudoku, Slacklining, Creative writing, Community, Letterboxing

Introduction: My name is Merrill Bechtelar CPA, I am a clean, agreeable, glorious, magnificent, witty, enchanting, comfortable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.