Why I Love: Ordering a pizza in EarthBound

It’s such a simple thing. You’re hungry, and whether you’ve had a really long day at work or you’re just feeling particularly lazy, you want to exert as little possible effort to get food into your mouth. So you pick up the phone and call (or, more accurately, press a couple buttons on an app) for some pizza. It’s the American way.

It’s also something that almost never happens in video games. Games are about the fantastical – ancient caves and grottos full of mystical artifacts; apocalyptic wastelands; the far-flung future. Not so with EarthBound. Ness and his friends take on their fair share of aliens, monsters, and mutants, but they also shop for baseball bats and yo-yos in a giant department store, and ride their bikes through a sleepy suburban town. Instead of chugging health potions, Ness scarfs down cheeseburgers, fries – and yes, even pizza – to restore his health. The best part about EarthBound? The pizza comes to you.

Mach Pizza is easy to miss. It’s an unassuming building featuring what looks like the face of a carnival barker next to the word “PIZZA” displayed in blocky neon lettering, and you’d be forgiven if you just strolled right past it on the way to your next objective. Once you go inside, you’re informed that Mach Pizza only serves deliveries, and will only take orders over the phone. Why they even bother hiring an employee to helm the till when a simple note listing the store’s number on the door would suffice is a mystery to me, but ultimately, it’s not important. Armed with these important digits, you can now walk up to any phone in the game and order yourself a tasty HP-boosting carbohydrate delivery device, brought straight to wherever you are in the game. I love how ridiculous it is to wander through a desert or a jungle swamp and, within minutes, be greeted by the world’s most talented pizza delivery guy – though he can end up a bit lost if you get the munchies while exploring the game’s more remote locations. It’s silly, yes, but it’s also comforting to know that, just like in real life, a delicious video game pizza is only a phone call away, no matter where you are.

Delivery isn’t instantaneous, though. Pizzas don’t just require love to make – they take time. At least Mach Pizza is fast, with their delicious pies brought to you in three real-time minutes. They’re also ridiculously expensive, with large pizzas clocking in at $238 apiece. I’m guessing most of that comes in at the delivery fee, as I’m sure schlepping pizzas out to the middle of an underground cave causes Mach Pizza’s insurance costs to skyrocket. But if you can stomach the price, it’s worth it, as a large pizza will restore around 240 HP to every single member of the party when you consume it, and it only takes up one of your precious inventory slots.

A glorified restorative delivery service doesn’t sound like much, but the fact that it’s even in the game speaks volumes about EarthBound’s themes and what it finds important. Even though Ness is off on a grand adventure to stop an evil alien from levelling the planet, there are constant reminders littered around that you’re still on Earth, surrounded by all the modern conveniences of the late 20th century. EarthBound is as much a game about those exciting moments of victory that come from saving the world and fighting ferocious beasts as it is in finding the excitement in taking a stroll through a humble farmers market, of attending a concert, or eating gelato on a sunny beach. These moments evoke a feeling of familiarity and humanity, to keep you grounded, to remind you that this isn’t some strange fantasy world that needs protection. This is Earth. It’s our home. And yes, we need to keep it safe, but we also need to enjoy the things that make this strange blue-green planet so special.

Being able to order a piping hot Mach Pizza while poisionous snakes are breathing down your neck is absurd, but EarthBound is full of special moments like this – so many that you could write a book about them (and someone actually did – it’s pretty great!). It’s my favorite part of my favorite game, everything I love about EarthBound distilled into a single, simple action. It’s proof that you don’t need to set a game on distant planets just to make it interesting, that something as mundane as phoning for a pizza can be just as exciting and fun as slaying a dragon or crafting your own armor.

As long as it doesn’t have anchovies on it. Yuck.

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