EarthBound (known as Mother 2 in Japan)[nb 1] is a role-playing video game developed by Ape Inc. and HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The second entry in the Mother series, it was first released in Japan in August 1994, and in North America in June 1995. As Ness and his party of four, the player travels the world to collect melodies from eight Sanctuaries in order to defeat the evil alien force Giygas.
EarthBound had a lengthy development period that spanned five years. Its returning staff from Mother (1989) included writer/director Shigesato Itoi and lead programmer Satoru Iwata, as well as composers Keiichi Suzuki and Hirokazu Tanaka, who incorporated a diverse range of styles into the soundtrack, including salsa, reggae, and dub. Most of the other staff members had not worked on the original Mother, and the game came under repeated threats of cancellation until Iwata joined the team. Originally scheduled for release in January 1993, the game was completed around May 1994.
Themed around an idiosyncratic portrayal of Americana and Western culture, EarthBound subverted popular role-playing game traditions by featuring a real world setting while parodying numerous staples of the genre. Itoi wanted the game to reach non-gamers with its intentionally goofy tone; for example, the player uses items such as the Pencil Eraser to remove pencil statues, experiences in-game hallucinations, and battles piles of vomit, taxi cabs, and walking nooses. For its American release, the game was marketed with a $2 million promotional campaign that sardonically proclaimed “this game stinks”. Additionally, the game’s puns and humor were reworked by localizer Marcus Lindblom, and the title was changed from Mother 2 to avoid confusion about what it was a sequel to.
Initial reviewers had little praise for EarthBound in the United States, where it sold half as many copies as in Japan. Critics attributed this to a combination of its simple graphics, satirical marketing campaign, and a lack of market interest in the genre. However, in ensuing years, a dedicated fan community spawned which advocated for the series’s recognition. Starting with the first installment in 1999, Ness has appeared as a playable character in each entry of the Super Smash Bros. series, which helped popularize EarthBound. By the 2000s, the game had become regarded as a “sacred cow amongst gaming’s cognoscenti”, with multiple reader polls and critics naming it one of the greatest video games of all time. It was followed by the Japan-only sequel Mother 3 for the Game Boy Advance in 2006. In 2013, EarthBound was given a worldwide release on the Wii U Virtual Consolefollowing years of fan lobbying, marking its debut in territories including Europe.