It’s tempting to say that Earthbound has no cut scenes, because that’s not really true. But it robs control of the player very rarely, and only in specific instances.
• Introducing a new playable character (in the cases of Ness and Jeff)
• Carrying the player to a new location (when traveling by bus or the Sky Runner)
• When there’s a musical concert going on
• Otherwise showing the passage of time.
For the most part, events in the game are limited to dialog, which the player can advance at will, or battles, which require direct participation.
When the control is denied at any other points, usually these points are unusual and require our attention. And they stand out! As when Captain Strong leads you into the back room to get pummeled by cops. Or when you get captured by zombies in Threed.
Even some time sensitive events that you think would require some sort of cut scene – a beginning to end pantomime depicting a particular event – are instead presented simply through the suggestion by the placement of NPCs.
When you defeat Master Belch and liberate the Mr. Saturns of Saturn Valley (Belch was in charge of the zombie-siege of Threed, and the Saturns were slaves in a Fly Honey factory… Take my word for it), rather than cutting away to show some sort of exodus or mass escape, Ness and gang simply exit Belch’s lair and find Mr. Saturns lining the pathway, as they each express their gratitude for their freedom.
The layout of the Saturns kind of act as a static Zoetrope; each Saturn stands alone as an individual, but as you walk past them, they also representing a Saturn (or multiple Saturns) in motion, escaping from captivity.
The movement of many characters is made apparent without the use of complex programming, the denial of control, or the loss of meaning. As a result, the player keeps playing, meaning more game and less cut scene.
Earthbound’s not lackin’ any meat!