While you’re waiting for a SNES Classic, take a look at one of the best player’s guides of all time.

EarthBound is my favorite game. It was the first RPG I played as a kid, and I vividly remember making a giant chart with a hundred empty boxes that I’d fill in each time I beat it. So yeah, I was a bit of a lonely child with a lot of free time, but I did fill up that chart eventually, just like EarthBound filled up my heart.

And honestly one of the reasons that I loved the game so much was because of the player’s guide that came bundled with it. Unlike other guides, this one wasn’t just a bunch of terrible “pro tips” mixed with grainy screenshots.

The guide for EarthBound is nothing less than a masterpiece, which may sound strange to say about a player’s guide, but it’s earned the accolade. It has gorgeous visuals, 3D clay models of almost every enemy, made-up newspapers and stories for each location, not to mention the hilariously-infamous scratch and sniff cards, great information, secrets, and inside jokes.

▼ Here’s the fake newspaper for Onett, the first town.
It doesn’t just give the story, but conveys the tone perfectly too.

Unfortunately many people who have only been introduced to EarthBound recently via virtual console have never been able to play through the game alongside the guide. It really is a different experience, kind of like watching a great movie then reading the great book it was based off.

But now, to go along with the recent release of the Super Nintendo Classic Edition (which has EarthBound as a playable game), Nintendo has officially put up a free PDF of the player’s guide for anyone to enjoy.

▼ The cover of the guide. A 90s Nickelodeon-esque green splat with a badass alien,
plus postcards from around the world somehow sums up the game perfectly.

It seems like the guide was uploaded by Nintendo due to a happy accident. All of the other SNES Classic games just have their instruction manuals uploaded, but since EarthBound never came with an instruction manual — it only ever came bundled with the strategy guide — we get the whole thing instead.

Up until now the guide has been prohibitively expensive for anyone wanting a hard copy, sometimes running over US$100 online. But now that Nintendo has just made it free online, anyone can follow along on their computer, tablet, or even printing it out and binding it together!

▼ Just look at this gorgeous page. The colors, the overlapping action, the details on
all of the miniatures, especially Frankystein Mark II in the bottom left. It’s amazing.

▼ I love how the guide isn’t afraid to just put in random real-world
photos next to screenshots. It’s hilarious and fits the game.

▼ Each location gets a step-by-step quick guide. I will say though that “Enlist King’s
Help” (fourth down) confused me as a kid (“King” being the default name for the dog).

▼ The guide does make a few other odd choices too. Like making a huge
deal out of how to get the Sword of Kings, Poo’s ultimate weapon…

▼ …but then relegating all of the other ultimate items
to the bottom left of a random newspaper page.

▼ And then saying you get the Gutsy Bat from Kraken, but you actually get it from Bionic Kraken later… which they said drops the “Legendary Bat” in the previous image!

But still, despite a few errors that probably came with the writers working with an earlier version of the game, we love this guide. In fact, we’re not pointing out its mistakes to be mean, we’re just remembering them fondly, like reminiscing with an old friend about stupid high school stuff you did together.

If you’ve never played EarthBound before, then you should get on that immediately, and be sure to play alongside the guide. And if you have played it before but never used the guide, then consider giving it another playthrough. It will make you feel like your first time playing the SNES all over again.

You can check out the EarthBound player’s guide here, and the instruction manuals for all the other SNES Classic games here.

Source: Nintendo via Polygon
Top image: Nintendo