Why Were Crosses Removed from EarthBound?

EarthBound Poo

In the NES and SNES eras, there’s a strange, little-known history of crosses being edited out of Nintendo games before their international release. Apparently, this was due to Nintendo’s strict policy for keeping modern, real-world religions out of their games.

For example, the crosses in Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts were changed to ankh symbols (which is also a religious symbol, but one that apparently passed muster at Nintendo in the 1990s). Crosses in the Transylvania stage in Capcom’s DuckTales were changed to say “R.I.P.” Additionally, crosses were just straight-up deleted from tombstones in Super Castlevania IV. (The below image comes courtesy tcrf.net.)

Super Castlevania IV Crosses

EarthBound (the localized version of Mother 2) is another game that had crosses removed during the localization process, but for an entirely different reason. Religious references were indeed removed from EarthBound, according to Legends of Localization, but the motivation for deleting these particular crosses had nothing to do with religion at all.

EarthBound Crosses

As you can see in the image above (courtesy WikiBound), the hospitals in Mother 2 had the red cross symbol on them, while EarthBound‘s hospitals are red-cross-free.

This is because the red cross is a protected symbol under international law. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (or ICRC):

The red cross and red crescent emblems are protected symbols under international humanitarian law and national laws. Any use that is not expressly authorized by the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols constitutes a misuse of the emblem. Use of these emblems by unauthorized persons is strictly forbidden. Please contact the ICRC for more information.

The red cross is so commonly misused in video games, in fact, that Red Cross of Canada had to release an article specifically related to the symbol’s use in gaming. In the article, titled “It may just be a game to you but, it means the world to us” the organization argues:

Recently, the misuse of the red cross emblem in video games has received media attention. But the issue of protecting the red cross emblem is not new. Despite the efforts of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement over many years, the emblem has been improperly displayed by individuals, businesses and organizations in a vast range of uses from first aid suppliers through to children’s toys. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly assume that the red cross is in the “public domain” and can be used by anyone.

In fact, the red cross emblem is an important symbol of humanitarian protection. It is recognized as such in both Canadian and international law which prohibit its unauthorized use. Misuse of this valued symbol distorts its meaning and its protective value for victims of conflict and the aid workers that assist them.

The symbol is quite simple, just a red plus sign on a white background, and it’s also immediately recognizable as being related to healthcare. This is likely why it would be assumed that it’s free to use in any type of media.

But it’s not.

EarthBound Onett Hospital

Apparently, this is a conversation that’s been happening for a while now in the realm of gaming, and the games industry at large, over time, has been moving away from using the cross symbol (many times, it is replaced with a red H). In fact, at the tail end of 2016, Mark Morris and Chris Delay, of Prison Architect fame, received an email from the British Red Cross stating they had violated the Geneva Conventions due to the red crosses in their game.


So, yes, Nintendo absolutely has a history of removing religious symbols from their games, especially in the NES and SNES era, but in the case of EarthBound, there was something else going on. To avoid violating the Geneva Conventions, those red crosses had to be removed. I think Nintendo made the right call here.

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