Why’d EarthBound bomb? Well, critics at the time didn’t help…

Yellow on Metacritic

If Metacritic had existed when EarthBound launched in 1995, the cult-classic RPG would be rocking a 72%. Over at The Video Game Preservation Dump, Frank Cifaldi scanned every timely review, “to try and figure out why it failed.” The last ditch effort marketing might’ve helped.

“The biggest takeaway I get, slapping all these magazines on my desk and reading them back-to-back, is just how completely offended the critics were by the game’s art direction,” Cifaldi notes. “The ‘infantile graphics’ made VideoGames’ Geoff Higgins ‘want to gag,’ apparently. EGM’s John Gurka ‘laughed out loud’ when he first saw the game, while GameFan capsule reviewer Skid’s initial impression was ‘no way! These graphics are just to [sic] fruity.’  Not one reviewer seemed to like the art direction, though some – particularly at GameFan – were able to power through it and enjoy the game underneath.”

As Cifaldi notes, EarthBound came out around a time where role-playing games were closely linked to the “serious” fantasy aesthetic, while the recently released Saturn and PlayStation meant hype was turned towards the new explosion of horrible 3D graphics. The trends led to EarthBound feeling low rent to the handful of critics who wrote on it at the time. Sad!

The Video Game Preservation Dump

Steven Hansen