Hey Devin! What would you say is the most disturbing final boss you’ve ever faced?
No matter how advanced graphics become and how gruesomely detailed video game monsters are, I don’t think they will hold a candle to Giygas, the final boss from the SNES RPG Earthbound.
Earthbound is a quirky game. It takes the medieval swords and sorcery aspect used in many RPGs and updates it to a modern, Americanized setting. The main characters, all of whom are children, use baseball bats, frying pans, slingshots and other childish weaponry while magical abilities are replaced with psychic powers. The enemies encountered by players include piles of puke, hippies, aliens, zombies, evil trees and, in one case, a demonic circus tent.
Before I get into the final battle of Earthbound I need to disclose two things.
One, this post will contain spoilers. If you want to play the game for yourself, you may want to stop reading and find a copy of the game.
Two, good luck finding a copy of the game outside of emulation. Earthbound has one of the most fanatical and outspoken cult followings of any game released. Even online, Earthbound cartridges are hard to come by and often fetch insane prices.
Nintendo has publicly stated they won’t rerelease the game on the Wii’s Virtual Console due to concerns the game’s background music infringes on copyrights held in the U.S.
So, with that out of the way – first things first: I need to give a short history lesson.
Earthbound is actually the second game in a Mother series of RPGs in Japan. The first game was released on the NES and features many similarities to Earthbound. It focuses on a boy named Ninten and his adventure to defeat a race of alien invaders wreaking havoc on his hometown. During his adventure, he learns that his great-grandparents were kidnapped by the same aliens 80 years before and George, his great-grandfather, escaped back to Earth to study the aliens’ psychic abilities in the hope of using their power against them.
Ninten learns eight melodies and forms a lullaby with the help of Queen Mary, the ruler of a kingdom known as Magicant. As he sings, Queen Mary reveals herself to be his great-grandmother Maria and tells Ninten of how she loved Giygas, the aliens’ leader, as if he was her own child. Giygas was a destructive child and was only calmed when Maria sang the lullaby to him.
After learning the song, Ninten and his friends face Giygas on his spaceship. The children are no match for Giygas’ incredible psychic power and sing the lullaby in a last-ditch effort to calm him. The tactic works and Giygas calls back the invading force, promising Ninten that he would return. Giygas then left Earth.
Between the events of Mother and Earthbound, Giygas’ mind and body are destroyed by his immense power and he is sealed away inside a biomechanical brain known as the Devil’s Machine. Giygas, no longer able to think rationally, becomes the embodiment of evil itself and decides plunge the universe into a chaotic darkness.
The game’s main character, Ness, discovers a small, time-travelling alien named Buzz Buzz while investigating a crashed meteor near his hometown. Buzz Buzz escaped from the apocalyptic future initiated by Giygas to tell Ness that he is the only person capable of defeating Giygas.
Much of Earthbound is a strange and comedic adventure, but the tone game makes a sudden 180-degree turn near the end. After Ness learns the eight melodies of the planet, he falls into a deep coma and wanders his version of Magicant, created by his thoughts and memories. He eventually has to fight the evil portion of his subconscious mind and he awakens.
Ness and his friends then find Giygas, but are unable to reach him directly because he’s located in the Earth’s past. Ness and company have their souls transferred to robotic bodies, as their natural bodies wouldn’t survive time travel, and they are sent to the past.
Once they reach Giygas, Ness’ next-door neighbor Porky appears in a large biomechanical spider-mech and challenges Ness in front of the Devil’s Machine, claiming to be Giygas’ right-hand man. Before he’s defeated, Porky shuts the Devil’s Machine down and releases Giygas. Everyone is then engulfed in an alternate dimension created by Giygas’s fractured mind. Porky teleports away while Ness and his friends fight the “all-mighty idiot.” As the battle rages on, Porky taunts Ness, saying no one can help him and that he and his friends are destined to become a meal for Giygas.
Ness’ companion Paula begins to pray and ask for help from everyone they’ve met on their adventure. Soon, the entire Earth is praying for the safety of Ness and his friends, which causes significant damage to Giygas. The player lands the final blow against Giygas, whose prayers inflict massive amounts of damage (we’re talking amounts in the five digit range) and destroy Giygas. Porky uses a time traveling devise to escape, eventually arriving on Nowhere Island to cause havoc in Mother 3.
What makes Giygas so disturbing is the mindless dialog he randomly spouts during the game. The game’s producer lifted the text from a violent murder scene in a film he accidently walked in on while at a theater as a child. The music starts with an 8-bit inspired track which blends into an almost heavy metal tune before becoming a chaotic mess of music and sound.
Giygas’ image itself becomes quite unnerving as well. An abstract background showing what looks like a demonic face with two overgrown fangs represents Giygas. The image swirls, multiplies and becomes unstable as the battle progresses. In the final stage of the battle, the image contorts and shows what many fans claim to be a fetus.
If you’re curious to see about what I’m talking about:
(Giygas battle part one)
(Giygas battle part two)
I should also note the game was rated E by the ESRB…
When I played a rental copy of Earthbound on the SNES in 1995, I remember being shaken by intensity of the fight. I was 12 at the time and can attest that Giygas’ haunting visage visited me in my sleep for about a month after I beat the game.
Earthbound is probably one of the most memorable games I’ve ever played. While the Mother series as a whole is probably finished, a few of the elements from the series are seen in the games’ spiritual successor – Pokemon. The idea of a child going on world-wide adventure borrows from the Mother series and Mewtwo’s design appears heavily influenced on Giygas’ first appearance in Mother.
If you have a chance to play the game, check it out. It’s really one of a kind.
Written by Dave