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Tips for Buying EarthBound

July 20th, 2013 | EarthBound

EarthBound for the Wii U Virtual Console was released out of the blue the other day, but that wasn’t the only surprise! The game, which was originally rated “K-A” (Kids to Adults) back in the old days, was rated as “E for Everyone” back in 2007 before the Wii VC version was canceled. But this recent release for the Wii U has it rated as “T for Teens”, which is a bit of a jump up the ratings scale.


So what’s different this time around that warranted the higher rating? The Wii U ESRB rating also says the game includes:

Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Suggestive Themes, Crude Humor

The violence in the game is almost entirely in text format, the only blood I can think of is a few pixels on the Kraken’s teeth, I’m not sure what could be “suggestive” aside from maaaaybe the lady in Threed, and okay EarthBound has fart and poop jokes I’ll give them that. Still, am I missing something? Is there blood in the game I’m not thinking of? If anything, I’m surprised they didn’t include gambling in the list, since that seems to be one of the things the ESRB looks for.

This actually reminds me of a few months ago when EarthBound was rated by the Australian ratings board. That rating of the game was kind of confusing too, in the same way as this.

I wonder if the ESRB and other ratings boards have been getting stricter these past few years or something. In the end, I doubt it matters much for EarthBound since it sounds like it’s doing really well on the Wii U VC right now, but it’s a strange little mystery I can’t figure out. Have any other re-released games gotten this same “heightened rating” treatment?


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62 Comments to EarthBound’s ESRB Rating Changed

Tyler B. said on Jul. 20, 2013

Well, the whole Mu Training sequence could’ve been thought of as cartoon violence. And the zombie dog also has blood on it (at least its overworld sprite). I do agree that it does seem a bit odd of a rating for such a lighthearted game. Should’ve gotten at most an E10+.

Zach said on Jul. 20, 2013

The ESRB probably are getting stricter. They even rated the new Ace Attorney game M for mature!

HpBoost said on Jul. 20, 2013

We Americans are quite sensitive to these things. Why, I almost fainted when a Police Officer attacked me in Onett!

On a serious note, the “you got your head handed to you* text is a bit strong, but you’re right that there isn’t too much in the game to fret about. They say “better safe than sorry” in a lot of these cases. I remember being surprised back in the day when Kingdom Hearts 2 got an E10+ rating, but now none of this surprises me.

Tyler B. said on Jul. 20, 2013

Just remembered the scene in Fourside with Venus. You hear one guy say she’s sexy and later sneak up on the stage in the middle of the show getting taken away by the guards. That could be suggestive, I guess.

MikAve94 said on Jul. 20, 2013

Mondo Mole has what looks like dripping from it’s mouth and claws.

A monkey in the monkey maze under Dusty Dunes desert says crap.

Everdread is hurt outside Jackie’s Cafe in Fourside, and is later reported on the newspaper that he died.

Flying Men die when you use them in Magicant, and have their own gravestone.

Frank has knives.

A guy introducing Venus calls her sexy.

Unassuming Local Guy stranger danger.

Police brutality from Onett.

Poo’s meditation.

Pokey and child abuse.

Drunk men and drinking so called cappucino.

The Chosen Four having their souls put into robots, but looks and sounds like they’re getting a lobotomy.


That’s all the stuff I’ve listed, that’s probably the reason for the rating. I don’t think it’s too far-fetched.

Dr. Ando said on Jul. 20, 2013

That, and Venus’s mother saying “I hope she keeps her clothes on” after telling Ness that her daughter is goign to a calendar photo shoot soon.

MikAve94 said on Jul. 20, 2013

Oh wait, I know a few more.

The magazine in the drawer, of the house, that a realtor sells to you.

Or how about the guy who played poker, said he lost his clothes.

And Ness’ mom on the phone saying she’s watching a steamy soap opera?

MikAve94 said on Jul. 20, 2013

I forgot to put what looks like “blood” from the Mondo Mole’s mouth and claws. Sorry for the double post!

Tonch said on Jul. 20, 2013

Yeah, Ace Attorney 5 being rated “M” in North America (when the entire series previous had been “T”) was weird, and seemingly just because it’s now in 3D rather than 2D (although the courtroom bombing thing may also have something to do with it, and just had poor timing).

I was surprised EarthBound was upped in rating– I fully expected “E10+”– but on the other hand, I suppose it’s good that they just let it go and didn’t censor it any further other than making some of the PSI attacks less seizure-inducing. I suppose in the end, it’s beneficial, although it does call the ESRB’s tactics into question.

MikAve94 said on Jul. 20, 2013

The drug tripping on Magic Cake, a guy from Summers keeps saying fall in love – after doing a certain thing, Paula’s kidnapping, and the Happy Happyists.

How about this EarthBound Game Theory video, that theorizes that the Onett Police and Happy Happyists are based on real events in human history?

If you haven’t seen it, give it a watch.

I think that’s all I can conjure up. I’ll stop now, so others can think of more, that I didn’t yet.

al kessel said on Jul. 20, 2013

man i wish i had a wii u just for this might still but one if they get a holiday price drop

MikAve94 said on Jul. 20, 2013

Aye, I really wish there was an edit button. Here’s the link to the EarthBound Game Theory video,

SuperGamingro64 said on Jul. 20, 2013

I don’t get it? Is this a joke? I don’t care I’m turning 13 soon so you know what, I don’t care I would’ve gotten it anyway.

Ailure said on Jul. 20, 2013

I would actually agree with the higher rating, though looking at the ratings available I think it would been more suitable with a E10+ rating.

It’s PEGI 12 in Europe which is a similar rating to the ESRB Teen.

Anonymous said on Jul. 20, 2013

Just so everyone here knows, the ESRB doesn’t actually play through the games it rates:


Dark Young Link said on Jul. 20, 2013

I kind of laughed when I saw that it was rated T and thought it was the craziest thing. Though I don’t care I bought it and I’m excited to replay it.

Clowkero said on Jul. 20, 2013

Actually They Put The Same On All T-Rated Labels

Maybe Is Just Giygas?

That Boss Is Not For Children, You Know?…

I Don’t Think ESRB Did All The Research That Every MOTHER Fan Already Know 😛

My Answer….Giygas…

Paul said on Jul. 20, 2013

I bet the folks at ESRB know more about EarthBound now (and information about it is easier to find than ever; there was nothing like that EarthBound Game Theory video back in 1995), and the change in rating was influenced by that decision.

Not that it really matters, does it? Has anyone ever gotten in trouble for selling a T game to a preteen?

Erikku8 said on Jul. 20, 2013

@ Clowkero> The ESRB is not made up of gaming experts. Their job is to rate games, not play through them, read uo everything they can on them, then make a final judgment. They don’t have that kind of time.

As for Giygas, having a weird/scary final boss is not unique to EarthBound and not everyone is going to see any subtext behind the boss fight.

Jonnycat said on Jul. 20, 2013

I really have no respect for the ESRB, they usually seem to be a bunch of jokers, or at least in the past few years. Some overly-protective parent is going to attack me, but seriously, look at Mario & Luigi Dream Team. 3 in Europe, E10 in America. I don’t think I need to say anything more on the subject.

Earthbounder said on Jul. 20, 2013

Its doing well? How well is well? Well enough to bring mother3 here?

Satsy said on Jul. 20, 2013

Jonnycat, the ESRB rates games based on who can legally purchase a game. Some parents may not want their nine year old buying certain games, though it seems silly because some kids buy these with their parents around. Good parents generally don’t pay attention to ratings and buy what THEY think is appropriate for their children.

WhatsHerFace said on Jul. 20, 2013

I think, in general, America has gotten stricter about these kinds of guidelines due to events and changes in regards to violence and the like. Remember, back in the 90s you could still say “Death” and “Die” and whatnot in cartoons marketed to kids and whereas now people are more socially sensitive to violence, I think. For example, in the old Mega Man cartoon, Roll would often jump into the fray and get thrown around by the bad guys, but for more recent re-airings, a lot of those scenes were cut.

It’s the same with videogames. Games that would have been considered appropriate for everyone back when a lot of us were younger are now looked at with more scrutiny. Even Chrono Trigger, which on the SNES was rated E was bumped up to to E10 on the DS and then Teen on the PSP and Vita.

I think it’s partially because a lot of people have realized that gaming is no longer just a “kids only” hobby. There are now games made and marketed specifically to older gamers and there is content that these days isn’t considered appropriate for younger children.

With AA5 in particular, it’s been theorized that instead of still images of murders, they’ll actually be in animated or recreated with 3D models, bumping up the rating. It IS kind of a huge jump from “Teen” to “Mature”, though.

Tommy Rosales said on Jul. 20, 2013

The big moles in the desert have a couple pixels of blood on there hands and coming from there mouth.

LuigiBlood said on Jul. 20, 2013

We got PEGI 12, which is pretty similar to T.

Magic Cake said on Jul. 20, 2013

No mention of thedrug references?

Douche McCallister said on Jul. 20, 2013

Personally, I think Mother 2 is a game for any and all ages. Especially the EarthBound version. The slogan even states it, “kids, adults, and even young women”. But I guess I could see it being geared towards a slightly older age group outside of Japan. We all know how the Japanese LOVE RPGs…

DJMankiewicz said on Jul. 20, 2013

Blah, while I was a teenager when I first played the game the year it came out, it was only just barely so, and frankly I never found anything in the game that would worry me should a kid play it.

It’s fine for most of us here, as the rating doesn’t affect us. However, kids may well have to pass on it if that rating makes parents concerned. There’s also the matter of how arbitrary the reviewers seem to be when they change ratings every couple of years. There is no promise at all that a game reviewed by them this year will have the same rating if reviewed next year, no standards.

Who am I kidding? The day a parent even looks at a game’s rating is the day I eat my hat. I wonder if the ESRB’s concern is more out of trying to get people to pay attention to ratings, since as many parents as ever still seem utterly oblivious to their very existence.

Here’s a suggestion. Stop with the “edgy cool” angled letters from the 90’s. I don’t think anyone considers the letters worth paying attention to if it looks like part of the advertising on the box.

Here’s another suggestion. Throw away the rating system and go with G, PG, and R as the ratings. That sounds major, but in reality it should be far easier to understand on site than the rating system they’ve been using since the middle of the 16 bit era. The letters should look more or less identical, and if that means a need to work out a deal with the movie ratings board to use those symbols, so be it. It seems that will be the only way parents will EVER pay attention to those things.

(For the record, I think Earthbound would fall under a solid “G” using such a system, like Disney’s Hercules.)

Neko Knight said on Jul. 20, 2013

Back in the old days, Disney movies were known for having scary sequences, violence, blood, mild suggestive humor, smoking and drinking, references to God, the devil, heaven, hell, etc. Yet they were still considered safe for kids for the most part. It’s both strange and intriguing to see how what we consider safe for kids and families has changed over the years.

Midna said on Jul. 20, 2013

I remember Secret of Mana being changed to an E10+ on the VC, because (judging from the “Suggestive Themes” descriptor) the ESRB caught the nude centerfold in the spellbook enemies this time around.

T is really a bit of an overreaction for EarthBound. I was expecting a rating change due to altered ratings standards since the ’90s, but there’s really nothing in the game that would warrant more than an E10+ rating. Besides maaaaaayyybe the lady in Threed.

(And no Giygas doesn’t count, the ESRB doesn’t bump ratings up just for the scare factor of things.)

Midna said on Jul. 20, 2013

But hey, the ESRB is kind of strict about some things. I’m still kind of puzzled as to why they saw fit to bump Pikmin 3 up to an E10+, nothing I’ve seen from the game would really warrant that.

BB Gang Zombie said on Jul. 20, 2013

Everyone keeps mentioning Chrono Trigger and the Final Fantasies as examples of games that were bumped up, but if you think about it, both of these make sense. These are both SNES games which had a lot of censorship that was removed in the retranslations. Chrono Trigger had alcohol as a minigame for one thing, which was censored in the original release. It makes sense for those games because they are using a different script now and didn’t have certain things cut out.

EarthBound makes a little less sense, though, because as far as I know it’s the same ol’ text and changes. I just think they payed closer attention to it. And if you look, it’s not hard to find “suggestive themes” in EarthBound, really, which my inkling is that this is where the rating bump came from.

Tatsu_Ace said on Jul. 20, 2013

Now my big question is what would Mother 3 be rated? If Earthbound got rated T, Mother 3’s rating seems to be a big concern (If we do ever get it overseas.) I think Earthbound is milder than Mother 3, at least compared to Mato’s translation.

Midna said on Jul. 20, 2013

If Nintendo does end up going with Tomato’s translation, which has all of the same things the ESRB lists EarthBound as having plus (what they’d refer to as) Mild Language and possibly Sexual Themes re: a one- or two-off mention of sexual harassment, although it never is depicted as or mentioned as having happened to any characters in particular…

…ehh. Still well within the boundaries of the T rating, in my opinion.

G.Wicks said on Jul. 20, 2013

I remember playin this as a kid, and was very surprised by the adult themes. However, that was the 90’s, and it’s pretty tame compared to modern games.

My twelve year old cousin says the boys in her class all love Call of Duty. My thought was “Parents are buying their 12 year old kids a M-rated game?!” I really don’t think many parents care about retricting their kids expoaure to mature themed things, which is not good. EarthBound is an example of an edgy game that is harmless though.

Still, that “pretty girl paper” line by the guy in the circus tent in Threed is kind of a subtle sexual assault joke. Even as a kid I knew he was hinting at rape.

Hameba said on Jul. 20, 2013

This was posted earlier, but I think we should bring it to attention again:


This is an excerpt from the entry for digitally-delivered games:
“Publishers of these digitally delivered games and apps complete a series of multiple-choice questions that address content across relevant categories (as described above). The questionnaire also asks questions related to a game’s interactive components, such as the enabling of user interactions or the sharing of a user’s physical location or personal information. Finally the developer indicates whether the game has a minimum age requirement. The responses to these questions automatically determine the game’s Rating Category, Content Descriptors and Interactive Elements, which are issued immediately upon completion of the questionnaire.”

Eclebright said on Jul. 20, 2013

No remakes come to mind, but the up coming 3DS game “Ace Attorney: Duel Destinies” is slated for an M rating, which is the first time the series has been anything but a T. I can’t really imagine why to be honest, nothing in the trailers suggest anything out of the ordinary, I think the ESRB is just getting fidgety with all this “Games are for violent kids” talk as of late.

Jason said on Jul. 20, 2013

I think an E10+ rating would make more sense, but I suppose I understand a T rating. If you verbally described all of the events of the game, they don’t sound good. Although I don’t think most kids under 13 would be damaged by playing it.

Mother 3 is heavier than Earthbound, except the stuff that happens is in more of a fantasy environment rather than Earthbound’s real life environment. I could easily see Mother 3 upsetting a 7 year old.

BusterTheFox said on Jul. 21, 2013

I had a hard time believing the T rating when I first read about it. I thought the person was just joking about it. “Lol, wouldn’t it be funny and weird if Earthbound got a T rating lol” … That kind of thing. Lo and behold, however…

I don’t personally think it should’ve gone above E10+ like many people here, but somehow a T rating doesn’t seem too terribly ill-fitting. I don’t have much of an opinion about it though, since, no matter what, I never, NEVER pay attention to anything’s rating (Unless it’s AO or a movie rated X or something, you know, that type of thing. Of course, you usually have to go out of your way to find that kind of thing anyway, so…). Of course, if I ever saw a T rated Pokemon game, I, as a fan of the series, would have to buy it immediately to check it out. But I don’t think The Pokemon Company will ever accept anything about E10+. Anyway, this isn’t about Pokemon. Haha…

Deraj626 said on Jul. 21, 2013

I think the ESRB has gotten more strict lately. Here’s a good quote from a Destructoid article though.

“EarthBound was originally released before the ESRB was in full effect. In 1995, it was rated KA (Kids to Adults). In 2013, it was rated T for teen. My guess is that upon initial review, the game was only scanned for nudity, blood, and swears, providing it with a “kid appropriate” stamp of approval. Somewhere along the line, the ESRB must have noticed all the stuff about America, politicians, post-traumatic stress, corporations, depression, capitalism, homosexuality, religious cults, and xenophobia. While I don’t agree with assessment that EarthBound is in any way inappropriate for children, I could see why some of this stuff could be seen as a little strong for some kids to process.

It’s hard to get into the better details without spoiling them, but I really want to. I really want to let you know that the last hour of EarthBound has had me thinking for years about my relationship with videogames, victims of child abuse, the meaning of evil, of heroism, of religion, and life in general.”

Porky Means Business said on Jul. 21, 2013

I’m pretty sure ESRB has lost their minds. The descriptors for the new M-rated Ace Attorney are the EXACT same as the first game in the series.

And nothing in this game warrants a T. More like E10+.

KingMike said on Jul. 21, 2013

After reading several comments, I have to say:
Stores can choose to enforce ESRB ratings, but they are not under a legal requirement to.
Even Jack Thompson knows that. 😛

DJMankiewicz said on Jul. 21, 2013

I just wanted to mention that Killer Instinct on SNES, which has all the blood and gore and fatalities of the arcade version (in 16 bit graphics, but still clear as day), was rated T. In other words, Earthbound is just as dangerous to the youth as Killer Instinct.

Vukadin said on Jul. 21, 2013

Let’s not forget the drug references in EarthBound, the LSD-like effects.

Chivi-chivik said on Jul. 21, 2013

Since I’m under PEGI ratings I’m pretty fine. But +12 is almost the same as T… ^^;
But I think it would have been better with a +7 (E+10), ’cause, I must admit it, a +12 surprised me a lot… o.o

Anonymous said on Jul. 22, 2013

Proof that the ESRB has no idea what they’re doing; they already gave it an E the first TWO times they rated it and now they give the exact same game a T. I don’t really care about this case but it’s just proof that their ratings aren’t even definitive or standard to themselves.

Max said on Jul. 22, 2013

I don’t know why everyone’s confused and/or complaining. EarthBound has some heavy stuff under those simple graphics, and I’m glad the ESRB caught it. Also, seeing a game like EB rated T might be to Nintendo’s benefit. Say, the typical shooter fan sees EB, a “game for kids”, sees it’s rated T, and reconsiders his assumption. I really think this change is for the better!

Gaffer Tape said on Jul. 22, 2013

I really don’t think the content in Mother 2 is all that “heavy” really. It’s no more risque or adult than anything you’d see in your average Nicktoon. Honestly, Mother 2 reminds me a lot of something like Rocko’s Modern Life or other such kids’ cartoons in the ’90s. That is to say, there are some elements in the game that could be considered very mildly suggestive (much tamer than Rocko’s Modern Life or even Animaniacs), but they’re hidden in a clever enough way that a child would not be able to comprehend it. And yet the examples I list have consistently been rated Y and Y7 (and Animaniacs once made a joke about performing manual sexual stimulation on the musician Prince), the “kiddie” ratings. I see nothing in Mother 2 that would require it to be recommended only for ages 13 and up. It’s ridiculous.

Mariotti said on Jul. 23, 2013


Takuya said on Jul. 23, 2013

Another odd thing lately is that the next Ace Attorney game will be rated M for the same reasons the rest of the series was rated T, so I’m sure they are more strict now. America has been getting more and more soft as of lately.

Alex said on Jul. 24, 2013

The ESRB are incompetent.

Nonon said on Jul. 28, 2013

In regards to Ace Attorney 5’s M/16 rating, as someone who’s been following the game closely, the rating is justified, trust me. Or at the least, I can see where they’re coming from here.

Opinionated Vector Chimera said on Jul. 28, 2013

If I remember correctly, ESRB ratings are allegedly done by adults who apparently have never played video games. Top that with crap flying around about EarthBound underneath the graphics, and I can see where they’re coming from.

Never Played Earthbound said on Jul. 30, 2013

Some people have said this already, but I bet they found out about the things in the Game Theory vid. Police brutality, the cult, and the Giygas theory. I’ve never played the game though, so idk.

Akuma said on Aug. 1, 2013

What was “E” about EarthBound in 1995 that’s “T” now?

Anonymous said on Aug. 8, 2013

What about Tony’s homosexuality (as subtle as it may be)?

Mariotti said on Aug. 17, 2013

Will this effect EarthBound’s sails for parents who listen to the ESRB no matter what?

LunarEklipse said on Aug. 24, 2013

I didn’t understand why it had such a high rating, and then Frank stabbed me to death. I get it now.

A guy said on Dec. 10, 2013

This is just a rumor I’ve heard, but isn’t the new Ace Attorney rated M due to some kind of teenage terrorism ring or something crazy like that?

A guy said on Dec. 10, 2013

Also, I have reason to believe that earthbound’s rating went up because (maybe) the censorship of things like the happy happy cult werent up to snuff for this day and age?
I mean, they’re still really reminiscent of the KKK

person said on Mar. 1, 2014

One of the band members in runaway 5 says your a playboy


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