"EarthBound is not just one of the greatest RPGs of all time. And EarthBound is not just one of the greatest games on the Super Nintendo. EarthBound is, quite simply, one of the greatest games ever made."
Some games go underappreciated. Fewer games go on to become cult classics. A small number of games even have fanbases devoted enough to go to any lengths necessary to spread the word for anyone with an ear to listen....and then there'sEarthBound.EarthBound is a SNES RPG that follows the story of Ness, a seemingly normal boy who lives in Eagleland. Late one night, a meteorite landing outside town awakens Ness. The meteorite brings with it a bee (or not) from the future, who tells Ness of its devastation at the hands of an indestructible being called Giygas — a being Ness is destined to defeat. Ness' journey to stop Giygas will take him through time and space to meet the remainder of the Chosen Four (Paula, Jeff, and Poo) and collect the Eight Melodies for his Sound Stone to unite the power of the Earth as his own.EarthBound is also the second of a series of Japanese role playing games known as MOTHER, an experiment in storytelling in a different medium by Japanese essayist Shigesato Itoi. MOTHER 2: Gyiyg Strikes Back (Earthbound's Japanese title) serves as a loose sequel to MOTHER, since the two games share the same essential setting (an affectionate homage to 1950s America). Of the three games in the MOTHER series, only EarthBound has received an official release in North America (as Nintendo has no plans for a North American release for MOTHER 3).Nintendo initially planned to releaseMOTHER 1 in North America as Earth Bound, but Nintendo of America scrapped release plans after finishing work on its translation (the Super Nintendo had already launched, making it Nintendo's major focus). A prototype of the translation surfaced years later in the hands of a collector. The ROM of this translation eventually became known as Earthbound Zero.Fans remember EarthBound primarily for its unusual gameplay: fantasy monster-slaying gives way to a modern-day urban setting. Slingshots, frying pans, and baseball bats take the place of swords, axes, and magic staffs. Rather than goblins and orcs and other fantasy creatures, Ness and his friends battle drunks, hippies, angry taxicabs, a cult dedicated to worshipping the color blue, and a giant circus tent. Most of EarthBound's famed humor focuses on how other parts of the world (particularly the Asian region and Japan specifically) views the West. The game also contains references to The Beatles to The Blues Brothers scattered throughout. As much as fans remember that humor, they also remember EarthBound's high level of Nightmare Fuel. Amongst the major sources of terror: a profoundly disturbing final dungeon and a final boss whose genuinely chilling Mind Screw horror has led to tons and tons of Memetic Mutation.The original North American release of EarthBound included an official Strategy Guide with every copy despite costing as much as other games of its day (a sign of how much faith Nintendo had in the game's ability to sell). Because of an odd (and failed) advertising campaign, a simplistic visual style (Earthbound came out when Donkey Kong Country's advanced graphics had wowed the world), and a general lack of interest in RPGs (at the time), EarthBound didn't sell anywhere near enough copies to pay back Nintendo's significant advertising investment. In the intervening years, EarthBound has become a Cult Classic (to say the least) that fans fondly remember (and recommend) for its diverse soundtrack, unique gameplay, and undeniable charm. The Happy Video Game Nerd's half-hour, spoiler-free EarthBound review (found at Retroware TV or YouTube) touches on all of those aspects and more.EarthBound spent years sitting on the unofficial list of Most-Requested Virtual Console Titles, most likely due to legal issues surrounding several songs on the soundtrack, including one battle song that contains a Chuck Berry sample. MOTHER 2 eventually popped up on the Wii U Virtual Console in Japan, but EarthBound got no such love......until the 17th of April 2013, when Nintendo confirmed that it would release Earthbound for the WiiU Virtual Console in North America. It also announced a similar release for the game in Europe, marking the first release of Earthbound in that region. While fans wait for the Virtual Console release, they'll have to content themselves with a ROM of the game or track down an original cartridge — which, due to intense demand and limited supply, usually doesn't go for less than $200 outside of garage sales and such. (That price usually just means the cartridge itself, too.)As a side note: Ness and Lucas (the protagonist of MOTHER 3) are probably best known to Western audiences via their appearances in the Super Smash Bros games.*
They're only known this way in European audiences: EarthBound was never released in Europe to begin with, though at least the continent is seeing a release in the near future.
Earthbound contains examples of the following tropes:
Abusive Parents: In the Japanese version, Porky and his brother are spanked off camera by their father after you bring them back home at the start of the game. In the American version, the sound effect was changed to the one later used when enemies use "speaking attacks", the idea being that he's just scolding them.
Also, when you talk to Porky after that off-camera incident, he'll say, "My butt hurts!" in the original version, while in the U.S. version, Pokey says, "My dad really got after me. He said I get no dessert for the rest of the decade..."
Talk to the Sanchez brothers in the desert between Threed and Fourside. In order, their names are Pancho, Pincho, and Tomas Jefferson.
A.I. Roulette: More striking because there are multiple AI moves that do nothing, and still more that inflict bad status effects on the enemy that uses them. Much of this, though, serves to enhance the game's odd world and contribute to the Rule of Funny.
Arc Villain: Prominent in the first half of the game, with Frank in Onett, Mr. Carpainter in Twoson and Happy Happy Village, Master Belch in Threed, and Monotoli in Fourside. Though the real Arc Villain of the first half of the game is the Mani Mani Statue, a corrupting illusion device.
Ash Face: Colliding with a person or obstacle when attempting to teleport causes the user to turn black with soot and a smile.
Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: When you get to the lost world, your size shrinks thanks to how huge everything (including the enemies) are compared to your normal size.
Autobots, Rock Out!: Pokey's battle music starts out 8-bit and simple, reminiscent of Dragon Warrior, the series which inspired this one. A minute in, the instrumentals revert to heavy metal.
Award Bait Song: "Smiles and Tears". It had official lyrics in the Japanese instruction booklet, but it didn't have official vocals until 2010.
The higher levels of PK Rockin' can feel like this because it requires significantly more PP than any other PSI move in the game. And unlike Paula and Poo, Ness doesn't have access to PSI Magnet to replenish PP. It does have its uses, like when you REALLY need to kill something fast, or when all the enemies are on separate "rows", making it impossible to hit everything with PK Fire.
Awesome Yet Practical: Bags of Dragonite, the Bottle Rockets, and Jeff's Heavy Bazooka are among some of things.
Bad Future: According to Buzz Buzz, this was the state of the future under Giygas's control. It was presumably averted with Giygas's defeat.
Beam Me Up, Scotty!: Giygas never actually said "I feel... h...a...p...p...y...", although many people quote him on this. He said "I'm h...a...p...p...y..." and "I feel... g... o... o... d..." but he never actually said "I feel... h...a...p...p...y...".
Blah Blah Blah: If you talk to the officer next to Chief Strong who had scolded you for entering Giant Step, he'll say the following dialogue:
Police Officer: So here you are. You're the little delinquent that came back from Giant Step! Now you listen here... "Don't Enter" means just that— DO NOT ENTER! You got that? And furthermore... Blah blah Blah blah It's usually those tax evaders who... Blah blah Blah blah We don't enjoy blocking off the roads, you know... Blah blah Blah blah It's usually the local whiners that make a big deal about emergencies and meteorites! Blah blah Blah blah Blah blah
If you talk to him again:
Police Officer: Didn't you see the "Don't Enter" sign? That means I'm there to stop you when you're on your way out! So pay attention next time... And furthermore... Blah, blah Blah, blah
Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: When Ness takes Paula back to her house and talks to her mother, she says that she has made "a hand-made band-aid. Oooh! That rhymes! I'll call it a Hand-Aid!" This was actually added to the English translation, as the Japanese version did not give a reason for the Hand-Aid's name.
In the beginning of the game, if you have your bat without having it equipped and talk to Pokey before leaving your house, he'll specifically tell you to equip it. If you respond no to his question of if you know what equip means, he'll say "'Equip' is used a lot in games like this, but you already knew that..."
In the First Town, a dog tells Ness that he's been possessed by the spirit of the game designer to explain something.
Those good moles who give you game advice. "Oh, I mean in front of you!!"
You, the player, enter your name multiple times throughout the game, under the guise of Jeff's friend Tony contacting you via phone.
Finally, the player helps to destroy Giygas, and is thanked by name, as per above.
Broken Bridge: Lampshaded - the Onett police department is famous for closing roads, and are reportedly going for the world record of most roads closed because of emergency.
Also played straight, in that there is also a literal broken bridge in Peaceful Rest Valley. When you first enter the dungeon, you must take the long way around the bridge, but after you complete the dungeon, it gets fixed and acts as a shortcut back through.
But Thou Must: When Pokey wakes Ness up in the middle of the night, he asks him to help find his younger brother, Picky. If you refuse to help him, Pokey says he will say something that will "cut you like a knife", and then bring up the Yes/No choice again. If you refuse again, he will say that he was just kidding, and won't actually say anything like that, and then asks you again, keeping you in a looped conversation until you say Yes.
Celebrity Endorsement: In Japan, EarthBound was heavily promoted by TakuyaKimura (who is still the ideal man of most Japanese women today) of the boy band SMAP. He was on the advertisements and commercials — granted that the game was also advertised towards young women, there's a likely chance that many women started playing the game because of him. Not only that, but all the nameable characters could be named after the members of SMAP using the "Don't Care" option!
Similarly, one of the biggest selling points for the series as a whole in Japan was that Itoi is a popular celebrity and the games were something he made, to the point where tagging his name onto the ads was a big part of the campaign.
Chekhov's Gun: The meteor that kicks off the adventure is used much, much later to provide what you need for time travel.
Church of Happyology: The Happy-Happyists, who are dedicated to painting everything blue, to the exclusion of all else — including spouses, children, and even their own needs.
The first time you leave your house during the day, "Pollyanna" (the outdoor theme from MOTHER before you get any other party members) plays for a few bars before segueing into the Onett theme.
Copy Protection: Legendary for its unusually fiendish brutality. If you ran the game from a copied cartridge or cartridge-copying device, bad things would happen. Like the game suddenly crashing and all your saves getting deleted during the final boss fight, for instance.
It is possible that the face is Giygas's and not Ness's; Giygas can and does have Ness's face at one point, and Final Starman can be directly taking its orders. The face seems to be inside a sphere, as well.
Cut the Juice: When Ness and Jeff inflict enough damage, the Runaway Five burst in, and turn it off by flipping a switch on its back. If you inflict enough damage by its own attack, the Runaway Five turn the robot off a second time because of a glitch.
Damage Over Time: Whenever a character receives damage or healing, their Life Meter rolls down or up to the new value over time (rather than instantly), the speed of which is governed by the character's individual "Guts" stat. Side effects like Critical Existence Failure do not trigger based on the raw damage a character has received, but the value that's currently shown on their meter instead.
Damage Sponge Boss: The Clumsy Robot - your party is incomplete for this fight, and the Robot can take a lot of punishment. Worse, sometimes it eats a bologna sandwich (somehow) and maxes out its HP again . . . Except it doesn't. The sandwich does nothing, and the battle dialog actually lies to your face about it.
Dark World: Moonside, though it's a hallucination caused by the Mani Mani Statue.
Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: While you lose half your money when your party is defeated, the ability to keep your money in an ATM basically means that you never need to lose ANY amount of money. A game over is more or less an inconvenience, rather than any sort of peril to avoid.
However, near the end of the game the AT Ms are replaced by people that charge ridiculous handling fees, which encourages you to carry your hard earned cash on you at all times.
It's worth it to note that dying and continuing leads to only your front character being alive (and with no PP). In certain areas, this leads to some difficult situations.
Debug Room: Fairly elaborate, accessible only with these Game Genie codes: 6B88-54D4, 3188-5404, 3E88-5464. This menu contains, among other things, a Kirby sprite as the menu cursor — an artifact left by a HAL Laboratory programmer, perhaps.
Although, another more well-known debug menu exists as well — one intended to be used during the game, similar to Super Mario RPG. This menu is also reachable via one of the options from the former... and is significantly trickier to figure out, since it remains untranslated from Japanese despite the lack of a Japanese font. Only a few words are recognisable as compressed garbled Engrish — "SUND" for Sound, "TRP-T" for Teleport, and "GtZStTI" for Goods Edit, for example.
Desert Skull: You can actually have a conversation with a cattle skeleton in the Dusty Dunes Desert.
Determinator: Any character, if their Guts stat is sufficiently high, will hang in there through repeated mortal blows for a very long times - enough, usually, to heal them completely.
The Hit Points in this game rolls down, much like a odometer in your car. When a character takes enough damage to be knocked out, it will say "X has taken Y points of mortal damage!" but they won't actually die until the meter rolls down to zero. This will lead to you rushing to heal the party member or end the battle before their HP counter rolls down to zero and they die. There's a chance that the game will omit the "mortal" part in the message and the meter will stop at one instead of zero, the chances of this happening depends on the character's Guts stat.
There's also an item called the "Sudden Guts Pill" that, when used in battle, will temporarily double the character's Guts stat for the duration. However, it's incredibly rare, and the one shop that has it sells it at a ridiculous price.
If you take said bike into the rain forest in said epilogue and ride it through the puddles, it gets its own unique sound effect that never plays at any other point in the game.
You're in a cave, where you need to give monkeys a certain item so they'll let you pass. Depending on the items that you have, this may or may not turn into a Chain of Deals-type quest. There are two monkeys that ask for Hamburgers... however, Double Burgers also fit the requirement.
Don't Explain the Joke: In the Japanese version, the welcome sign for Twoson tells you that it is the second town and asks, "Did you notice?" The English version handles this by saying, "We got this name because we weren't first."
Dub Name Change: Too many to list, but worthy of note is that the trope-naming New Age Retro Hippie was more simply known as a "carefree guy" in the Japanese version, with the English translation giving the trope name. Threek was changed to Threed due to an oversight by the original writers — although it was most likely intended to sound like a combination of "three" and "eek!" due to the zombies, Nintendo of America didn't want people misreading it as "Three K," in other words, "KKK."
Duel Boss: Ness's Nightmare. Also, the bosses encountered before rescuing Paula - Frank Fly, Frankystein Mk. II, Titanic Ant, and Mr. Carpainter.
One of the Sharks, a local gang Ness fights early in the game, asks if you'd like to join. The correct response in order to continue the plot is "no". Answering "yes" will prompt the gang member to tell you to come back after completing EarthBound.
Eldritch Location: Moonside. Also, it's entirely possible that Giygas is sufficiently large and amorphous that once he's released from the Devil's Machine, he is one of these of his own accord instead of being just an Eldritch Abomination.
Elemental Tiers: Elemental attacks have different areas of effect. Ice is a single-target, Fire hits a whole row but does less damage, and Lightning targets a random enemy and is prone to missing frequently unless there are many enemies. So even if you're facing a lightning-vulnerable boss you probably want to use ice, and same goes for if the fire-weak enemies are on multiple rows.
Emergency Transformation: Dr. Andonuts transplants the heroes' souls into robot bodies. Without them, you can't chase Giygas into the distant past.
Everyone Join The Party: While fighting the Big Bad, the only way to beat him is to use the up until then useless skill "Pray," which causes all the NPCs in the world, plus the player, to pray together, which destroys him.
Expy: Ness, Paula and Jeff are near-identical to their original Mother counterparts Ninten, Ana, and Loid, and even hold many of the same abilities. Frank Fly appears to be an expy of Teddy, but he's not playable.
The main two of The Runaway Five (Lucky and Gorgeous) bare a striking resemblance to The Blues Brothers.
Winters has features of Britain (albeit with even worse weather), and Summers is a vaguely southern European resort town.
Fight Woosh: There are four different kinds. The gray woosh means that the battle will go on as normal. Sneak up behind an enemy to get a green woosh and a surprise attack. Don't let the enemy sneak up behind you or you'll get a red woosh and they'll get a surprise attack on you! The fourth kind is the spiky one used for bosses.
Follow the Leader: The Tengi Makyou/Far East Of Eden, which shares this series's offbeat humour, with hilarious writings, taking place in a fictional Japan based on exaggerated conceptions by the west. The fourth one even takes place in a fictional America, with hilarious results. The first game appeared after Mother 1, in 1989. It unfortunately shares its No Export for You status.
"You will be gone, and you'll be burning in... Well, you'll go to heaven!"
"You strange, unmasked fellow! Don't go to heaven!" Actually, this line was left intact from the Japanese version.
One grandma asks Ness if he has grandchildren. If he answers "Yes", her answer is hilarious. Also, when you control Jeff for the first time, Tony's attempt to help you escape is rather... um.
On some occasions, they had literally got the word "Crap" past the radar.
When Picky and Pokey's father beats them, the sound effect was changed to something sounding a bit more cartoony in the American release. However, the implications of child abuse was not lost on any older gamer.
Girl of My Dreams: Can happen with Ness — if he sleeps in inns before he battles the Happy Happyists, he will receive psychic pleas from the imprisoned Paula. And it also happens with Jeff, who receives similar psychic pleas from Paula when she and Ness are trapped in Threed.
Global Currency: Slightly more acceptable here. Sure, the world only uses one currency, but it's dollars. And stuff in other countries is more expensive, but this may be because of the Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness, and one of the last towns is a tourist resort. The signs for stores in other countries also make a point of stating that they do indeed accept Eagleland currency, something real foreign stores would do to promote tourist spending.)
It starts to get ridiculous though when a FLOATING KINGDOM only accessible by teleportation is seen to accept them...
In the last moments of the final battle with Giygas, the player — as in, the one holding the controller — as in, YOU join the party. And it is awesome.
Guide Dang It: Figuring out that you're supposed to pray in the final battle can be tough without checking a guide, as the game only drops a few subtle hints.
Pokey: Do you want to scream for help here in the dark?! ... I know you have telepathy or something, so just try and call for help!
Buzz Buzz does somewhat tell you even from the start. His final words are of you having to "unite with the Earth's power". This can be seen as both having to find all Eight Melodies and as uniting all as one in prayer.
Possibly making it even tougher is when, the eighth time you pray, you get a message saying "Paula's prayer was absorbed by the darkness." This can make players think that prayer no longer works and you're supposed to return to simply beating Giygas up again. Actually, you're supposed to pray AGAIN, one last time, to finish the battle.
Original copies of the game were bundled with the complete strategy guide at no extra charge. So if you must shout "guide dang it!" you need not shout too loudly.
The Heartless: Many of the enemies in the game are influenced to fight Ness through Giygas's control over their inherent evil. Right before Ness gets charged with a great deal of power, he has to fight Giygas's influence over the evil in his mind via a boss battle.
Heel Face Revolving Door: Pokey seems to like trying to pretend he's ready to repent of his misdeeds for just long enough to make a getaway. And boy, does he ever run fast for a little fat kid.
Heroic Mime: Whoever the player is controlling at the time. As soon as they meet up with the main group, they start talking and introduce themselves. The only exception is at two points in the game, where a special wall displays Ness' thoughts, and where Ness talks to himself telling him where he needs to go next near the end of the game.
Later on is another parody, where the blockade is an eraser statue. Originally, it was a statue of a type of doll (the item to remove it forms a play on words in Japanese). The English versionretains that sort of pun—the pencil statues are removed using a Pencil Eraser. No prizes for guessing what removes the eraser statue.
Also, if any player character gets mushroomized, the game's interpretation of D-pad inputs will rotate 90 degrees clockwise every thirty seconds. This can only be cured by the healer in the hospital, and you will have a hard time getting there.
Item Amplifier: Using the right condiment with the appropriate food increases the healing power of the latter.
Kid Hero: All the main cast. Lampshaded in Ness's case - he randomly suffers homesickness as a status effect. This is cured by calling or visiting his mom.
Kleptomaniac Hero: Parodied, when the protagonist Ness can get items from trash cans. And this includes food items. He also gets the chance to properly steal food items, but will be attacked for it.
There is also an NPC (in Summers, if memory serves) that lampshades the use of this trope in "other" games.
Leitmotif: The Runaway Five, Pokey, and Paula all have theme music - the latter's doesn't play all that often, though.
Paula's theme is actually a Shout Out of the theme of Youngtown, a place where only children live because all of the parents were abducted by Giygas. So it's saying that she's tied down to a place with no adults to guide her and she's scared, helpless. Its only major appearance was in Paula's cell. Get why now?
The Apple of Enlightenment, mentioned several times throughout the game, is revealed towards the end to be a future-telling machine used by the evil forces. In the English translation, this line is removed, and as a result fans speculated for years about what the Apple was meant to be.
Also, Pokey's motive. After rescuing Paula the first time, Pokey says "Let's be friends again. Just kidding!" and is pretty much the bad guy for the rest of the game and the next game. In the original Japanese version, it wasn't because Pokey was a jerk, but because Ness was. Pokey asked Ness if they could be friends again, but Ness refused to answer, causing Pokey to storm off angrily.
Lucky Translation: A sign in Threed advertising a hint shop features a pun based on the cry of a horse that works in both English and Japanese.
Money Spider: Averted. As with the previous game, money is not dropped by monsters, but is instead received through transactions with your father. However, enemies will still drop... odd items at times.
Mood Whiplash: One of the most memorable examples in gaming. It's nowhere near as sudden as many assume and there's a good deal of buildup to it, but it's there.
Musical Pastiche and Sampling: It's used so frequently that the resulting legal muck is the most common theory behind why this game would not see an international re-release until 2013!This video shows the nearly insane amount of sampling that's gone into the soundtrack. It's amazing how being a small unheard-of RPG that's a commercial disaster in the USA allows this sort of Getting Unlicensed Sampling Past the Radar. Most notably:
The almost surely lawsuit-inducing BeatlesSuspiciously Similar Song version (the Saturn Valley music is supposedly inspired by "Wild Honey Pie", the "waking up in a hotel theme" starts with a short quote from "Good Morning, Good Morning", and the shop theme resembles "When I'm Sixty-Four") and samples (the Dungeon Man theme samples the beats from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)", entering Giygas' lair gives a short sample from the opening Marseillaise bit of "All You Need Is Love").
The "Sky Runner" theme uncomfortably resembling the opening synth from The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again", one of the battle themes being an outright rip from The Champs' 1956 hit "Tequila", the naming screen theme using a short sample from the Monty Python's Flying Circus theme, "Moonside Swing" sampling from Ric Ocasek's song "Keep On Laughing"
The Sky Runner theme gets a special mention in that, according to this, it and the "Johnny B. Goode" soundalikes are the only things on the soundtrack that are considered a little bit too risky on the copyright side of things for the game to get rereleased (the one problem not pertaining to the soundtrack is the painting mentioned below). Considering just how much sampling and general musical grey area this game is dabbling in, it's quite amazing.
The Jackie's Cafe song sampling the Our Gang theme and interpolating "The Star-Spangled Banner"
The Runaway Five's final performance resembling The Doors' "The Changeling"
One of the most widely-remembered ones is the passing resemblance the Frank / New Age Retro Hippie theme bears to Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode", but they're not even close to identical as so many assume
Ironically, it's been said that it isn't music that's problem for re-release in the United States... it's the fact that one of the monsters is based on a real-life painting that's currently surrounded in legal red-tape.
The Cave of the Past is made entirely out of manipulating the opening to The Beach Boys' Diedre.
The slogan for the game is "This Game Stinks", for an example.
There's maybe two parts of the game with any kind of Toilet Humor, and even then it's never too over-the-top.
Nice Job Breaking It, Herod: Giygas receives a prediction of his defeat and begins his invasion early in an attempt to reverse this. This likely would've worked, except that Ness is visited by an alien bee from the future and the two events end up canceling out.
Nintendo Hard: Especially early game and during the Zombie part of Threed.
Non Standard Skill Learning: Spells are acquired by leveling up, except for the two tiers of Teleport for Ness. The first Teleport must be learned from a talking monkey, and the second one is automatically acquired after completing the Magicant level.
Nostalgic Musicbox: The final rendition of the Eight Melodies, just before entering Magicant.
NPC Roadblock: The Happy Happyists' hideout contains a maze made of cultists; you have to talk to them or battle them to get them to move.
Only the American guide says he's 13. Although that is a reasonable age (since he is supposed to be the same age as Jeff, who is in boarding school and has been separated from his father for around ten years), it's not actually his official one.
Ominous Message From The Future: The events of the game are set in motion when Buzz Buzz comes from the future to warn Ness that Giygas has destroyed the world in the future and that a boy named Ness would defeat him.
Outside The Box Tactic: Continuing the series-wide trend, the Final Boss, Master Giygas cannot be defeated via normal tactics. You must use Paula's Pray command ten times before you, the player, defeat him.
Palette Swap: Several enemies are like this, including a stronger version of the Territorial Oak, Foppies and Fobbies, and the Mani Mani Statue/Ness's Nightmare.
Parental Abandonment: Ness' father communicates over the phone often enough, but is never home. Jeff's father hasn't seen him in ten years despite living fairly near his boarding school (and this is a twelve to fourteen year old boy) and seems to think nothing of it; his mother is never mentioned. Poo's parents are nowhere in sight—affairs of state, perhaps? Paula is the only one of the four protagonists to have parents that are both alive and present.
Parental Bonus: Oh God. Too many to list. A yellow submarine, the Runaway Five, the New Age Retro Hippie's battle music...
The Password Is Always Swordfish: The one password was not of the "easily guessed" type, but was ridiculous nonetheless: It consisted of waiting three minutes. Who would guess that?
This is later subverted by another character asking for the password. As the Player Character does not answer, he (or it) attacks ("someone so quiet is either extremely shy, or extremely dangerous").
Police Brutality: When Onett's police force is asked by a little boy to remove a roadblock and help him get to the next town, they decide it'd be fun to take him to the back room of the station and beat him up. They quickly learn challenging Ness to a fight is a bad idea if you don't want your butt kicked.
The Power of Friendship: How Giygas is defeated. In some way or another, isn't this trope the lesson learned in every Mother game?
The first four towns are called Onett, Twoson, Threed, and Fourside.
And what are those numbers added up? NinTendo! Although that might not have been intentional.
And then there's Summers and Tenda (possibly also a pun on "tender"). Think about that for a while.
The main character, named after the NES. Alternately, the main character's name is an anagram of the system he first appeared on (SNES).
The bicycle shop in Twoson is called "Punk-Sure".
One removed from the American version: the third town was originally named Threek, combining both the numerical theme along with a scream of surprise and alarm. Perfect for a haunted town. Nintendo had it changed to "Threed" out of fears that it could be read as a reference to the KKK.
Random Drop: The infamous 1/128 items are this. The list of enemies that dropped items at a 1/128 rate in this game is huge, and most of those enemies dropped arguably worthless items. Some enemies that dropped valuable equipment at this rate had methods of expending your time...
Retraux: Giygas and Heavily Armed Pokey's battle theme starts out with some NESchiptune-sounding music (ironically, nothing from Earthbound Zero, though, where Giygas actually just had an incessant screech as his "battle theme") before spontaneously jumping into a rock version of the same tune.
The song that plays inside the Minch household would also count.
Sinister Geometry: Giygas's robots appear in the overworld as blue octahedrons (presumably they're inside; there's an unused capsule sprite that might have been originally used, same as the starman capsules from MOTHER 1)
Skippable Boss: Many players don't even realize they can just not fight Everdred.
Song Style Shift: Pokey's battle theme, Cease to Exist, starts out as an 8 bit tune and then shifts into hard rock/metal one minute in.
Spinning out of Here: Like in MOTHER, teleporting requires rapid, uninterrupted acceleration before zooming off to the destination, so areas with limited space to build speed require moving in circles to avoid crashing. One teleport ability requires the player to turn manually, the other one automatically makes the party move in a tight spiral.
Squishy Wizard: Paula. Her PSI Freeze spells rip enemies into shreds, but her HP is so low that even two hits of PSI Thunder obliterate her.
Standard Status Effects: as well as many non-standard ones. Characters can be affected by sickness, heat stroke, ghostly possession, homesickness (in Ness' case — this happens at random, and it's cured by calling Mom), mushroom growth, the common cold, uncontrollable crying...
Sudden Downer Ending: Its horrifying final level is probably what it's best known for. The actual ending once Giygas is out of the way definitely doesn't fall into this, though.
Surprise Creepy: Most of the game is a gloriously strange and funny romp through childhood, and then you enter Giygas' Lair.
Tactical Suicide Boss: Mr. Carpainter, although it's still possible to damage him without reflecting his lightning.
Terminator Twosome: Giygas apparently destroys the universe, forcing Buzz Buzz to go back in time to find someone who can stop him, and Starman Junior goes back in time to stop Buzz Buzz. Starman Junior fails although Buzz Buzz ends up dying anyway.
Theme Naming: The towns are named by numbers, for their climate, or for musical references. Also, in the Japanese version, the "Don't Care" preset names for the main characters were grouped by the following themes: The Beatles, Super Mario Bros., primates, the Japanese band SMAP, the character's signature head ornament, and dog commands, in addition the starting "Ness, Paula, Jeff, etc." Of course, those sets, like some other things, got Lost in Translation.
Parodied with Slot Machine Brothers — Pincho, Pancho, and Tomás Jefferson.
Some fans have noticed the following in the town names: Onett + Twoson + Threed + FoursideSummers/= Tenda Village. It probably wasn't intentional given that the Tenda were originally called "Gumi" in Japanese.
Toilet Humor: While there's a bit in the game itself, with its talking piles of vomit and the ability to root through trash cans, the game's infamous American ad campaign made it seem like this was all there was to the game.
Too Dumb to Live: Exactly why does Buzz Buzz hover over to Lardna after Pokey and Picky are sent to their room?
Tortured Abomination: Giygas. "...It hurts, ...it hurts... Ness, Ness, Ness, Ness, Ness... I'm... h... a... p... p... y..." It's even worse if you've played the game before this, because you'll understand why.
Trauma Inn: Subverted; hotels restore HP and MP, but don't heal status effects — you have to go to a hospital for that.
Two Guys and a Girl: Although in fact it would be three guys and a girl, for a long part of the game this is the basic formation.
It even goes back to Two Guys and a Girl later in the game, as Poo leaves temporarily in order to learn PK Starstorm and re-joins them later.
Underground Monkey: Many later enemies are palette swaps of earlier ones, like the Manly Fish and the Manly Fish's Brother. Most notable with the Starmen.
Undisclosed Funds: Played straight in MOTHER 2, but not in EarthBound. During localization, for some reason a couple of vague references meaning roughly "a bajillion dollars" were changed to real numbers (Ness' family's debt to Pokey's family is "a hundred thousand dollars or more" and the Diamond "could pay off a million dollar debt easily").
Unobtanium: The Phase Converter runs on this — it's called Zexonyte and you get it backtracking to the meteorite.
The Maze: Talah Rama's monkey tunnels and the mole maze in the Dusty Dunes Desert, Brick Road's dunegon (and his insides as Dungeon Man), Moonside's teleportation NPCs, and the inside of the Stonehenge Base, just to name a few.
You Bastard: Mocked with the food stand in Happy Happy Village. 'Forget' to pay, and the salesman will hover over you and claim that you'll never know righteousness again.
The sign asking people not to trample the flowers — that can only be read when Ness is standing right in the flowerbed.
Younger Than They Look: Frank Fly is said to be about 20 years old in some of the literature based off the games.
Zillion Dollar Bill: You are at one point given ten thousand dollars in cash and later an extremely valuable diamond, both of which you must use shortly afterwards to get the Runaway Five out of a bum contract. You'd think they'd have learned their lesson the first time.