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I desperately need to go to this JRPG Taco Bell

How a random Taco Bell in South Dakota became a meme

a Taco Bell sign with blue sky behind it Photo: Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images
Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

You never know when something is going to pop off on the internet. This is what I thought when I saw a photo of a solitary Taco Bell set against a sweeping Midwestern landscape. It had been shared by a person with two toilet emojis in their Twitter name. I just knew this was going places.

The joke read, “Anybody wants something from the jrpg world map tacobell?” It blew up because it was believable, receiving over 60,000 likes, and inspiring a batch of memes where people photoshopped images of JRPG landscapes onto the Taco Bell photo.

Twitter user A Jay Holmgren shared the original image in the summer of 2021, with the caption, “i love when hotels have a great view.” He and his fiancée, Carlyn Haffey, had been staying at a hotel outside of Rapid City, South Dakota, when she decided to snap a photo of the vista and told him to post it with the joke. Holmgren, who is a professor of medicine and health policy at the University of California, San Francisco, told Polygon via Twitter, “Years of posting my research and my twitter legacy will forever be the aesthetic Taco Bell.”

The image took off on Jan. 8, years later, when user Punished Joj shared the image and compared it to a JRPG landscape. It fit a little too well, and now loads of people online are talking about the “JRPG Taco Bell.” Here is an image of Shulk from Xenoblade Chronicles walking through the vast plains of South Dakota, I mean, Gaur Plain.

As is the rule with any good internet joke, everyone has to get in on the fun. People have been making images of their own and editing various landscapes from other JRPGs into the scene. People have edited in Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Final Fantasy 14, and Monster Hunter Generations, but I like Xenoblade the most.

You know, you can spend your whole life seeking adventure only to find it in your backyard. As a fellow Midwesterner and someone who doesn’t live all that far from South Dakota, I get a lot of shit for living in a place that’s not a coast or major city. Next time I face that attitude, I can look someone dead in the eyes and say: But we have the JRPG Taco Bell.

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