Earthbound, a wacky psychdellic experience where one traverses time and space pursuing a pudgy, arrogant, and smelly rival...no wait, he just got in the way. It was a journey though. It was an exploration of the world, meeting the people of it, and growing as an individual as you found your innermost sanctuary. That and beating dinosaurs with a baseball bat.
In the end, you travel through time, through robotic avatars, to face the greatest evil the world has ever known. You don't face it alone though. Behind you stands hundreds if not thousands of other voices who have shared in your journey. The one most important, Pete Abrams...no, wait, that's the wrong card. The one most important to the entire journey: YOU the player. YOU the one who made things happen and went traveling with Ness to meet all of these hundreds of people around the world. And with YOUR help the enemy is brought low.
So how does this little metaplay end? How does the story wrap up? Is there a big sunset scene? Pictures perhaps? The journey, does it go on?
Earthbound sports one of the most elegant and brilliant endings of all time. To a hurried man, it just appears that you get to take Paula home and then go home yourself, get tucked in, and go to sleep.
That hurried man misses the real beauty of it. In the end of the game, Earthbound did something that didn't take a lot of code or a lot of new graphics, it played along the same theme. The importance of the journey is often in all the people you meet and influence and who in turn influence you, as the game hints. The ending does not forget this. Instead of a scripted event, Ness is free to travel, to wander around, to meet the people who he has saved. Each and every one of them is given new dialogue in this, every city down to the smallest mouse. They are all aware. They are all there to talk with you. You are part of a world that continues on past the scope of the story. There's no grand ending because of such. The world doesn't suddenly stall to a halt as you ride off into the sunset on your airship. It isn't destroyed. Instead the people you've met on your journey greet you and welcome you back. The ending is made to emphasize that the world and its people go on, even though your journey is over with your arrival at home.
The ending, in one interpretation, is a journey itself, as short or as long as you choose to make it with as many friends as you care to see again.