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February 22nd, 2013 | EarthBound, Images, MOTHER 3, Uncommon Knowledge


Before EarthBound’s title screen is a picture of some sort of small town being invaded by flying saucers. A question that comes up sometimes – and that’s currently being pondered on the Starmen.Net forums – is where, if anywhere, this image originates. Is it taken from somewhere, drawn by hand based on something, or is it all just an original creation?

For reference, here’s a look at the screen with the other things taken out:


MOTHER 3 actually had something similar – a photo of a real-life cafe/diner. It was never used in the final game, but fans dug it up:


It was easy to find out that this particular image is of the Ostrich Burgers Historic Summit Inn Cafe, but the origin of the image in EarthBound is still a mystery.

Anyone have any thoughts or ideas?


Other Related Posts:


40 Comments to The Gas Station Screen Mystery

Earth Saturn said on Feb. 22, 2013

It’s obviously inspired by simple, tiny American towns, but I don’t think it was based off one in particular. Who knows though?

Mr Rex said on Feb. 22, 2013

Sorry I don’t know anything!

May said on Feb. 22, 2013

It was obviously inspired by a real alien invasion 😛

Mrs. Saturn said on Feb. 22, 2013

I always wondered about that screen. When I first played EB (as a child), I literally knew nothing about the game and the opening actually frightened me. It made me think this was going to be a serious game, like Super Metroid or something 😀

I wonder what the story behind the MOTHER 3 screen is, too!

Blue Toad said on Feb. 22, 2013

It honestly looks like Baltimore in the 90s.

Jdaster64 said on Feb. 22, 2013

That “GAS” sign looks awfully distinctive, you’d think identifying it would be fairly easy if it was based on a real station. At the same time, it does have that generic “small-town America” vibe, as well.

Opinionated Vector Chimera said on Feb. 22, 2013

@Mrs. Saturn

The MOTHER 3 real-life cafe image was probably some sort of insertion to test the graphical system of the game.

Nesskid said on Feb. 22, 2013

Google has a thing now where you can upload a picture and it shows where else on the web it is and also if there are similar images, some one should try that.

sagyiG said on Feb. 22, 2013

Nothing came up but starmen threads.

thelucaskid482 said on Feb. 22, 2013

What I think it looks like is something from War of the Worlds, which, I believe was
set in San Francisco, but I’m not sure (I’m only 12). But what I do know, is that War of the Worlds had an extremely large impact on the game. I think this is partially because of how stupid we Americans looked when we scared our selves silly when a radio station was reading the book over the radio and all the people who tuned in to the radio station late had no idea that it was a book so they thought it was really happening. I think Mr. Itoi found that funny-I mean, who wouldn’t, right?- and put some War of the Worlds stuff in because of it. But what I would like to know is if that screen was in Mother 2 in Japan. If it wasn’t, then we could probably consider that it was maybe the street that someone from NOA (possibly a game designer or something) lived on or saw when he/she went to work every day, or something like that, and decided to put it in the game.

DJMankiwitz said on Feb. 22, 2013

I always saw it as a sort of homage or parody of those old sci fi movie posters. I thought it fit the game quite well, even if that EXACT scene doesn’t happen in the game.

DJMankiwitz said on Feb. 22, 2013

(For that matter, most movie posters depict scenes that never happen in the movies themselves. They’re meant instead to give a broad stroke of the sort of things you might see in the movie. Well, I actually prefer older movie posters to most modern ones. With a few noteworthy exceptions, today’s movie posters are just still shots of the actors staring at you.)

Earth Saturn said on Feb. 22, 2013

@thelucaskid482, That screen is in Mother 2 as well. So I think it was just Itoi adding to the American feel of the game.

Sato said on Feb. 22, 2013

@thelucaskid482 It was in mother 2, but with different text.

Good theory by the way 🙂

thelucaskid482 said on Feb. 22, 2013

That’s true. I just hate to consider the fact that he added all this American texture and people here in 1995 couldn’t even bother themselves enough to buy the darn game.

flintlockdoorknob said on Feb. 22, 2013

I always thought that this was supposed to be an homage to those old Mars Attacks cards or pulp fiction or science fiction in general. It would make a fantastic art print or poster, I don’t know why nobody has done this yet. After playing Smash Bros Melee I always thought it was a nice touch that they added UFOs. It’s probably just supposed to be a town, maybe Fourside.

Mrs. Saturn said on Feb. 22, 2013

@Opinionated Vector Chimera: Oh, that makes sense. I didn’t know if there was some story-related reason. Thanks!

Mr. Tenda said on Feb. 22, 2013

I think it’s just an original image they made

segaman2 said on Feb. 22, 2013

I strongly believe that this is the “ten years in the future all is devastation” thing that Buzz Buzz was talking about

me said on Feb. 22, 2013

I suspect it’s Roswell New Mexico based on the theme. It looks like a New Mexico town, and the picture fron the previous game is from route 66, right?

joe said on Feb. 23, 2013

i would think it would be itois hometown. but looking at the “GAS” sign, i would think it would be a fake real life onett photo. or any other town in the game.

joe said on Feb. 23, 2013

and if its baltimore, i would think that it actually representing big bill hell trying to force people to buy his used cars. [see the big bill hells cars video on youtube to get the joke]

Hejiru said on Feb. 23, 2013

The war against giyGAS prices.

Crysta said on Feb. 23, 2013

The internet wasn’t exactly major yet back in the early 90’s, so wouldn’t starting with print sources of American photographs from somewhere between the 40’s and 60’s (the cars seem like they’d be from around then) that were available in Japan be the best way to figure out for sure what it is? Going that route and focusing on sources that would seem “distinctly American” would be the best way, IMO.

thelucaskid482 said on Feb. 23, 2013

@segaman2: I think if it was ten years in the future where Giygas was unstoppable then he would have destroyed this puny town earlier. Maybe it wasn’t a full ten years in the future but instead 2 or 3 when he was only growing stronger.

Anonymous said on Feb. 23, 2013

We could figure this out if we knew what the text on the other signs say. Anybody make out anything?

Burglin Pork said on Feb. 23, 2013

Looking at the picture, it strikes me as not looking exactly authentic. Although it does resemble Onett in architecture, there’s no gas stations in the game. Perhaps there was at one point?

Saturnome said on Feb. 23, 2013

I can read “Market” on the right of the picture..
I always thought it was from some US place with a mexican look. The street is very large, some sort of main street of a small place…. It’s obviously in the game to reference 1950s Sci-Fi posters.

Or maybe movies. I say that because of the curved look of the pictures: Cinemascope movies in the 1950s had this curve.

NintendoFan122 said on Feb. 23, 2013

The street looks like a place in maybe Chicago

Anonymous said on Feb. 23, 2013

The middle sign appears to say
However, I’m not sure.
Do you think this is a reference to Coca-Cola?

Tricksyer2599 said on Feb. 24, 2013

I don’t know what town the Earthbound pic is from, but the Mother 3 1, I assume would have been used in the rundown bar…

Gilbert Smith said on Feb. 24, 2013

It definitely has a New Mexico, Route 66 feel to it. I spent most of my teen years between Grants and Gallup and it looks a LOT like that area, but it also looks a lot like a lot of Southwestern towns.

Anonymous said on Feb. 24, 2013

Why is everything covered in purple goo?

WheatThinEthan said on Feb. 24, 2013

Oh it for sure has to be New Mexico. The buildings and sky say it all. It is also obviously paying homage to those sci-fi B movies, but that doesn’t really say anything about an actual location.

Mato, you live in Tucson. Be a dear and take a roadtrip. Make sure you take your cracked bat.

NickelDime said on Feb. 24, 2013

I suppose I don’t know anything (The War of the Worlds theory was great, though!), but I might provide a personal theory to the MOTHER 3 one. I thought maybe it was going to be a homage to the first picture, possibly in New Pork City. I don’t think the theory would be all that far off, either. I mean, look at all those throwbacks to the previous game! But, I dunno, it’s just a theory.

Anonymous said on Feb. 26, 2013

The purple goo looks like it’s from the “The Cat in the Hat” movie.

majoragamer99 said on Feb. 27, 2013

The buildings in the front seem much too realistic to be created by the graphic artists. But I just may be underestimating the abilities of the beloved EarthBound’s staff.

AnnK said on Feb. 28, 2013

Hey yous
I’m coming in this to comment on what I can offer from my own observations.

We have the same kind of architecture in my home town, you can tell by the windows and corbel roofs that it is done in Italianate style- popular durring the Victorian revival 150 years ago.

This is what I can piece together assuming this was a photograph and not an artists rendition of what an American Historical Downtown would look like

And it has to be a Historical Downtown as there are too many Italianate styles going on.

Look at what is not there as well, no trees and no defining skyline. No trees should either hint to a warmer climate (California) or fast Urban explosion (they didn’t save trees in the 1950’s unless the community had money or beautification programs).

Look at the cars- if this is a photograph, I could date those cars to be in the 1980’s and on.

The street lights- very common style of late 70’s and 80’s we don’t give a crap. This is a nice street where people do shop & use to drive, but Tourism and attracting people to their downtown is still not a focus. Townships and Cities only put up fancy Street Lights if the budget calls for it, and if it’s a working community, they just stick up plain ones.

Big thing to point out: no telephone poles (which normally squat next to street lights or are doubled as telephone poles) and no electrical wires.Possibly the wires could have been removed for the photo.

now look at the stils from the 1953 WotW



I keep thinking California.

Anonymous said on Mar. 3, 2013

The Annoying Song
->Willy Wonka,
Willy Wonka,
He’s the man with the purple face->
Repeat Ad Infinitium

mvit said on Mar. 5, 2013

I did find a similar sign to that gas station one, http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrchriscornwell/2491691298/in/set-72157602594247998/
It may set the location to the iconic Texas, the lack of trees and quick urbanization also seem to match up.


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