For me I didn't have the pleasure of finding Earthbound early in life like many others. This would come much later, while I was in high school. I was playing smash bros 64 with my friends and my friend Tim was using Ness, which I wasn't familiar with then. Tim would always introduce me to new games and on that particular weekend he showed Earthbound, via emulator. Though his explanation of the classic was brief at best and his computer didn't have speakers, I sat down to try the thing for myself. Twenty minutes in I couldn't stop playing.
I remember the number one thing that attracted me was the setting. It's portrayal of contemporary America was such a reminder of all the things I loved as a kid: books, cartoons, 90s kid movies, adventures with my friends, video games, etc. What really drove that feeling home for me was the reflection of my imagination. As a kid growing up in Detroit I wasn't living in the safest neighborhood and was rarely allowed to venture outside of my block, especially not on my own. I always dreamed of exploring different parts of Detroit and other cities I've never been to, meeting interesting people I've never met before and going on adventures like the ones I read about. Earthbound somehow reminded me of that feeling when I used my thoughts to entertain myself, and brought back that childhood wonder during my high school years.
After beating Earthbound my love didn't stop there. I played the prequel, Earthbound Zero, and made it through despite how difficult the game is. When Mother 3 was happening I tuned into starmen.net for every update every week until the game was released and then waited patiently another 2 years for the translation. Even Mother 4, the fan created project in the works, excites me because it's made by the fans for the fans. Whenever they do finish it I'm sure it would make everyone, including Itoi, proud.
I'm glad years later, as I'm in my mid twenties now, people still think and care about this game. Earthbound has so much heart in the way it has touched so many people. There isn't a fan base out there that is more devoted, determined and patient as Earthbound fans. I truly believe I am a part of the one of the best fan bases in gaming today, going twenty years strong.
I was a late bloomer to the scene, but better late than never. My imagination hasn't slowed down much; neither has my love for the game.