MOTHER 3’s Timeline of Hope

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EarthBound hints at a sequel in several places. That sequel, known as MOTHER 3, has never been officially translated or released outside of Japan.
In 1995, Nintendo translated and released a game called EarthBound for the Super NES. The game ended with a hint of a sequel that would tell the rest of the story, so fans quietly hoped and waited for this continuation. EarthBound didn’t sell as well as Nintendo had hoped, however, and the game quickly fell into obscurity outside of Japan.

In the 23 years since, EarthBound has skyrocketed in popularity, as has hope for its sequel. That sequel, known as MOTHER 3, was finally produced and released in 2006… but it was never translated or released outside of Japan.

Today, MOTHER 3 sits at the top of almost every “most wanted game translation” list, and fans ask Nintendo about translating MOTHER 3 so much that it’s almost a running joke at this point. This undying hope for MOTHER 3 has even broken into mainstream media.

This change from a quiet hope to a thundering roar didn’t happen overnight. Trickles of information and rumors created a cycle of hope, hype, and disappointment that has repeated more times than I can count. But as a fan who’s worked on EarthBound-related sites and projects for most of those 23 years, I thought I’d try to document those ups and downs for newer fans and everyone wondering what the whole MOTHER 3 hoopla is about.

Page Index

There’s a lot to cover, so I’ve broken my write-up into five parts.

A Quick Note

I originally intended for this to be a simple article on my EarthBound Central site. It quickly grew so big that I was going to give it its own dedicated section on the site instead. But then it eventually grew so big that I decided to turn it into another of my Legends of Localization books. It was going to be titled “C’mon Nintendo, Give Us Mother 3”, and it even hit a bunch of news sites when I first announced it.

Unfortunately, due to schedule conflicts and other boring stuff, I had to drop the book plan. I’d rather share my findings than sit on it and do nothing, so I decided to package my raw notes and share them here in celebration of the 10th anniversary of of the MOTHER 3 fan translation.

I have no doubt the book version would’ve been far better, but hopefully these raw notes will still be interesting and useful in some way.

Also note that EarthBound‘s sequel sometimes goes by different names: EarthBound 2, MOTHER 3, and EarthBound 64.

“MOTHER 3” is what most fans call the sequel today. “EarthBound 64” was what fans called it when it was being developed for the Nintendo 64. For a series refresher, see here.

1995

Hopes for a sequel have existed ever since EarthBound‘s release in 1995: the game ends on a cliffhanger that strongly suggests a sequel is in the works, and it even literally refers to an EarthBound sequel elsewhere in the game.

So, for these earliest fans, it was perfectly logical to assume that an EarthBound sequel might be released in the near future.

1996

Outside of Japan, there was no mention of EarthBound‘s sequel this year. Fans could only continue to speculate and hope for one.

At one point I had a handful of fan posts from Usenet groups, AOL clubs, and the like with brief discussion about the EarthBound sequel, but I can’t remember where I saved them to. If I find them later on I’ll be sure to add them here.

1997

EarthBound fans were excited when news of an EarthBound sequel for the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive began to hit gaming magazines. There were some claims that the game was set to be released in 1997 in Japan.

Other magazines, including Nintendo Power, covered this news too, but claimed that the sequel was on track for a 1998 release date. From the way these articles were worded, fans understandably believed that the game would be produced and that it would likely get a translated release:

The expectations were so strong that worldwide releases were considered obvious:

"There will be a definite release for the USA and with the introduction of the 64DD there will surely be a ‘third mother’ even for us German speaking people."

1998

A 1997 release never materialized, but hope for EarthBound 64 remained. It seemed like 1998 would be the year for sure:

Some magazines expected EarthBound 64 to appear at E3:

E3 passed without any information about EarthBound 64, but as Internet gaming sites began to sprout up, expectations for a release remained very high.

What We Think: N64 owners will never have an RPG that can challenge the likes of Square’s offerings. Earthbound 64 may come close next year, but the hard truth of the matter is that PSX is much better equipped to handle the epic storylines and cinematics behind today’s RPGs.

– IGN

Unfortunately, the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive’s release was delayed again, which meant EarthBound 64 would be delayed as well. All signs began to point toward a spring 1999 release in Japan. In general, there was still a strong expectation that EarthBound 64 was set to be released soon.

1999

1999 began with a comment from Shigeru Miyamoto stating that EarthBound 64 could be released by the end of the year:

Not long after, Miyamoto suggested the game might instead get delayed to 2000:

The development team is working on Mother 3 releasing somewhere around the end of this year or next spring. It depends on the 64DD’s launch date. But from a software development standpoint, we’re on schedule. As for Mother 3, it will use a system like we do in Zelda 64.

–Game Walker Magazine

1999 also marked the start of Starmen.Net, the biggest EarthBound fan community online. Thanks to some old backup files I have, we can get a direct look at what fans thought back then.

Despite the constant delays over the past several years, many fans still held strong to their hope for EarthBound 64‘s release.

There’s no way Nintendo is THAT stupid not to release EB 64. Much more coverage has been done compared to the original Mother. Plus Nintendo has already reserved earthbound64.com. Unless they did it just for sick and twisted…fun?

The first seeds of frustration and doubt began to take root in other fans’ minds:

Yeah, I seriously doubt that too. They’ve lied about EB64 release date too many times to count already, I think they’re trying to cancel it without anyone noticing. Of course, I’m also typing this at 1:00 AM, and everyone knows that your head isn’t always right at that time of night.

—While you’re waiting for EarthBound 64…— Ugh, once again the great and wonderful Nintendo has decided to yank EB 64 from the ‘Future Release’ page, which leads me to think we’re going to be waiting a loooong time before this comes out.

In the summer, series creator Shigesato Itoi posted on a Japanese fan site about the state of the sequel’s progress. He also mentioned that the game would be appearing at an upcoming game show and that it would be in playable form. This eased fans’ doubts and brought hope back for many.

MOTHER 3 is also coming along nicely now. Just like every other time, it’s taking a long time to come out. This one has quite a different “taste” than MOTHER 1 and 2, so it might not go over well with long-time fans. But I think it may be the very best one in terms of sheer excitement. But, I’m always worried, of course.

A playable version of the game is planned for an August game expo, whose name escapes me at the moment. It’s a bit of a dilemma, because a lot of time will be spent focusing on the demo and not the game. But I think it will show how things are.

–Shigesato Itoi (translated)

Shortly after, Nintendo announced that EarthBound 64 was being revamped as a standard Nintendo 64 cartridge rather than as a Nintendo 64 Disk Drive game as was originally planned. This suggested further delays. Fans’ hopes were kept up by the additional surprise announcement of a “MOTHER 3.5” expansion game, which would be released later for the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive.

Indeed, playable demo versions of the game were available at Nintendo’s 1999 Space World event. Photos and information from the event poured in. Seeing the game in this state brought back the feeling that EarthBound 64 was real, was finally coming together, and would be released soon after all:

Official Nintendo advertisements stated that the Nintendo 64 version of MOTHER 3 would be released in Japan in May 2000. This official announcement further convinced fans that the game was finally coming out:

Gaming magazines and sites reported similar information about the game’s Japanese release:

And, most exciting of all, Nintendo released an official trailer for the game online:

By the end of 1999, EarthBound 64‘s release in 2000 felt like an absolute sure thing again.

2000

A 2000 release date seemed inevitable as the new year began. A specific release date remained hazy, though – some reports claimed EarthBound‘s sequel would be released in May, while others said June. Some outlets simply said “sometime this year”. Interviews with the game’s development staff also indicated that the game was just around the corner.

Naturally, fans were excited by this news:

I will definately be of the first people to import EB64. I don’t really care how much it will cost and I don’t give a [don’t swear] if it’s in Japanese! I have been waiting for this game for 3 years and if it doesn’t get made by this year I myself will fly right over to Japan and finish the darn game myself!!!

Why are we obsessed with it? Well, it seems that people either LOVE EarthBound, or don’t really care for it. Anyway, another reason is that we’ve come too far to just get sick of it. Especially since Mother 3 is FINALLY coming out in June. EarthBound has brought out a lot of creativeness in people. This ranges from music, art, fanfics, websites, games, and other weird stuff ☺. We’re going to keep on truckin’.

New signs indicated the game’s upcoming release too. Japanese game stores began to feature advertisements for MOTHER 3. They even began to take pre-orders for it:

I was studying in Japan at the time, so I pre-ordered the game as soon as I could. My pre-order slip lists the release date as "December 2000 TBA".

The EarthBound sequel was coming together, and everyone expected it to appear at Nintendo’s 2000 Space World event.

Suddenly, two days before Space World, Nintendo cancelled MOTHER 3 entirely.

Shigeru Miyamoto stated that the project was completely cancelled, but then tried to keep hope alive by adding that he was attempting to get it released in some other format:

With the rumored game out of the way, the next game mentioned was the ill-fated Mother 3, or Earthbound 64. Miyamoto stated that the game had in fact been cancelled, saying that the team was simply needed on other projects. While Nintendo would like to see the remnents of the game get put to use in one way or another, it is unlikely that they will see the light of day in the Mother series. He also said that negotiations are going on right now with the original creator of Mother to see if some sort of licensing could be worked out so that the project could be salvaged in some way.

Gaming Intelligence Agency

After over five years of anticipation and delays, fans were distraught. Many fans lost all hope. Others refused to give up and turned their hope toward Nintendo’s upcoming new systems, the GameCube and the Game Boy Advance. Either way, there was no question that EarthBound 64 was dead.

I’m leaning towards no. EB64 probably won’t come out on GameCube, but we should expect somthing similar to the EarthBound series. I mean come on, Mr. Itoi hasn’t retired yet. Nintendo will probably be making him work overtime to make up for the EB64 cancellation. Then again, why was EB64 cancelled in the first place? One of the reasons was due to “Other projects” the development team was working on. Even if they are not in the EB series, they should share some simularity with it. (The humor f or istance)

Note that after EarthBound 64‘s cancellation, fans slowly began to call it by its planned Japanese name: MOTHER 3.

Although fans were shocked and disappointed by EarthBound 64‘s sudden cancellation, not all hope was lost. The next several years would go from gloominess to excitement to confusion. You can read all about it in the next section, Part #2: 2001 to 2005.
56 Comments
  1. (I still need to edit this article and renovate the final section but I wanted to get this out in time to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Mother 3 fan translation’s release. So please overlook any cracks in the walls at the moment!)

    Reply
    1. Ah ok, I was going to say…

      “surprise appearance’s” (page 2)

      Reply
    2. I think it’s amazing you chronicled all this, Clyde. Thank you for sharing the storied history of a little GBA title that has eluded localization for over a decade. It is really sad that they ignored and continue to ignore all this love for a game that many fans want so badly. They even turned their noses up at your generous offer of providing your translation efforts as a base to work from.

      Looking at this, it’s funny how, in another example, the PC version of Ys: The Oath in Felghana was originally fan translated by Deuce and Nightwolve because the PC versions of Ys games had trouble coming here. Because Ys was making a new boom overseas, XSeed purchased that fan translation and revised it to flow even more naturally in English, and then released it on PSP. It’s a shame a different company couldn’t do the same with your work, since Nintendo is just yawning and not listening.

      Reply
    3. Tomato,

      I just want to say following you guys for all these years has been an up and down process, but we all love the same thing and some great stuff was born from all this. Thank you guys for keeping the community alive!

      Leo

      Reply
  2. what an incredible, heartbreaking read!! thank you so much for putting all of
    this together! i was a newborn when this whole thing started back in 1997, so it was really fascinating (and sad) to learn about the beginning of where we are now as mother fans. i used to think rumor season was fun, but reading through all of this has given it new meaning. i hope that one day, for all the fans who have been waiting since day one and for all the people like me who were born after that but who became fans pretty much as soon as they could, we will get some kind of closure; whether it be an official translation or confirmation that it will never happen. no crying until the end! and thank you so much for all the work you and the other veteran mother fans have done over the years!

    Reply
  3. how to debunk a rumor/leak list:

    look out for Mother 3

    Reply
  4. Translation of Dutch article:

    MOTHER 3

    Blurb: STICKS OUT BECAUSE: This game will probably come to Europe, but won’t appear in America.

    Article: The bizarre Mother-RPG-series is very popular in Japan, and was developed by the, there, widely loved artist and media personality Shigesato Itoi. In the West, the series is barely known – part 2 appeared here for the Super Nintendo under the name Earthbound, but sold badly. That game world is really primarily known from Super Smash Bros. Melee, hero Ness in the forefront. Strange then that Mother 3 is heading this way (probably under the name Earthbound 2). But we’re happy with it, because the Mother-series manages to sell a kind of bizarre and self-deprecating humor that we can appreciate. An evil masked pig army invades Nowhere Island and some inhabitants – including the boy Lucas, thief Duster and monkey Salsa – revolt.

    Bought the handbook ten years ago. Thanks for the memories.

    Reply
  5. C’mon Nintendo, give us Luigi’s Pie Factory

    Reply
  6. Nintendo’s marketing for Earthbound was terrible. During a time where I sucked up just about any JRPG, I skipped over Earthbound due to the gimmicky ad campaign with the rancid scratch and sniff stickers. I stopped subscribing to Nintendo Power a year or so later due to decreasing quality, and the Earthbound campaign was a definite contributing factor.

    I remember when Neo Demiforce crowdfunded something like $500 to borrow the English-translated Mother prototype board around 1998. That was some of the hugest news in emulation. Xodnizel, Starmen.net admin and eventual FCE Ultra author, had to hack the game to make it work in Nesticle because of then-infamous “mapper 4” problems, which is also why Demiforce’s Final Fantasy II intro works correctly only in Nesticle (though there is a corrective patch now). Then, the game hacking tripped Mother’s anti-piracy protection, so that had to be hacked, too.

    Back on topic, I hear Mother 3 is co-branding with Half-Life 3 to be released simultaneously. Against all odds, Robert Guillaume will present these games at E3.

    Reply
  7. I remember being pretty excited for this game back in the day. I loved Earthbound, though I have never been as ardent a fan as there are nowadays, but the idea of wandering a drug store in three dimensions really excited me back then.

    These days, I mostly want Mother 3 to be released here, if only for the catharsis of the fans who have built a community around the series. I have the first two games (Haven’t played Zero, even though I have it on my Wii U, and I haven’t played EB since about 1998), so having the third would make for a fine occasion to play through the series for me.

    Thanks for the (very loooong) article!

    Reply
  8. I’m honestly glad it ended up being released for the GBA instead of the N64. If you ask me, the N64 version just looks SO ugly compared to the beautiful sprites of the final product. A 3D Mother title would’ve been neat, but 2D fits the series’ aesthetic so well somehow.

    Of course, I wasn’t a fan yet back during the EB64 drama, so I suppose I was spared the agony of constant rumors, delays, and cancellations. It might be a different story for people who were really invested in seeing EB on the N64. But hey, now I get to hope and pray for an official English version like the rest of us!

    Reply
  9. Heh, the “sadfly” misspelling under the Dutch article capture really makes me want a Sadfly emote or cartoon to appear somewhere.

    What a rollercoaster this one game has been for the Earthbound community.

    Reply
  10. Seeing how I became a Mother fan years after the release of Mother 3, it really was something to read this and fully see the adventure which was the hype behind Mother 3 and it’s translation (that probably won’t happen). I have replayed the translation so many times, and I thank you for translating it, so many people could finally play it after all of the waiting. All there is to do now is to hope!

    Reply
  11. Is there any way to get the Wii U VC sales numbers on the games?

    Reply
    1. I remember there were running threads on NeoGAF that would take what little information was known (if an indie spilled hard data on sales numbers, or if Nintendo announced a landmark number to investors) and would extrapolate from there — if Game #5 on the chart sold this much, Game #4 sold at least more than that.

      So to answer your question, no.

      Reply
  12. I remember when shit blew up so much a few years back. I never believed that lying Emily [person] for a second, and laughed my ass off a the 90% of the internet that actually believed she was actually some credible insider source.

    Reply
    1. I’m also upset that nothing came of those rumors, but please let’s not start name-calling. I edited your post and replaced that word.

      Reply
      1. Sorry, I didn’t really mean anything that malicious about it. I guess i’m just used to talking that way on other websites. Again, i apologize for my colorful language.

        Reply
        1. No problem, thank you for understanding 🙂

          Reply
    2. I forgot how many people were trying to make a name by promising a Mother 3 release. I don’t really get the internet rumour myth-making thing either.

      Reply
  13. I remember seeing a broadcast in the Radio PSI archives from the day M3 came out in Japan, and everyone’s on there talking about it and looking back, kind of like this. And being emotional, of course, since it was FINALLY finished! Apparently there isn’t enough space to host the archives anymore but hopefully I’ll be able to hear that broadcast again one of these days.

    Reply
    1. I was reading through this again, and I was reminded of the ice cream comic, that’d be a good thing to add after the “fan generational divide” mention

      Reply
  14. I never got caught up with the online gaming community growing up, and never had to experience these repreated rounds of excitement and disappointment. I long awaited Earthbound 64 since its announcement, only to be heartbroken upon its cancellation. The GBA release coupled with a professional quality fan translation made up for it all (Thank you, Mato and programming team). The 32- and 64-bit era graphics have not aged well over time, while the 16-bit era retains a charming quality, and Mother 3 definitely benefits from the aesthetic we’ve come to love from Earthbound–amusingly, at the time, we were told to ignore the mediocre graphics of Earthbound to uncover the gem from within.

    I suppose nothing could ever match my disappointment with how Final Fantasy IV has been handled: an initial release with cut content and stripped dialogue (the one that brought me into RPGs), a poor fan translation, several ports stateside with subpar translations, and, finally, a seemingly polished translation for the DS with additional backstory included, but at the expense of its visual nostalgia.

    Reply
  15. That was quite an emotional ride. I’ve been a diehard Mother fan since playing and falling in love with Earthbound in the mid 90s… I’ve been one of those delusional fans that has believed forever that Mother 3 was always just right around the corner. Heck, the last couple nintendo consoles I’ve purchased were almost solely because of Mother 3 rumors. I’m a man in my mid 30s now, and I pretty much feel like that hope is dead, and find it increasingly hard to give a crap about what nintendo does anymore. It’s sad.

    Reply
  16. I understand being too busy to make this into a full book, but if you ever do decide to take this information and turn it into a printed publication later down the line, I will absolutely still buy it.

    Reply
  17. If only Starfy had this big of a fan base and documented of a history

    Reply
    1. Starfy is easy.
      First game was planned for Game Boy, then Game Boy Color, then released on the GBA. Everything else is straightforward for the Japanese releases up until 5. Then Nintendo had him appear in Super Mario Maker. Some cameos in Mario and Luigi (as “Legend of Starfy”), Super Princess Peach (also TOSE) and the Smash Bros series since Brawl, which was the point that probably convinced Nintendo to bring the last fifth game and only that overseas.

      The other games were repeatedly pitched by TOSE to Nintendo, with awkward preliminary English translations with profanities like shit and fuck, we know of the existence of one for the first game and for the fifth game, and probably more. While some rumors said it was due for a 2005 Western release, nothing came of it. TOSE said NoA rejected the series because it was “too Japanese”. Series director said “stafy is NOT starfy or a starfish” but the sole published localization, and even those early prototypes used the “starfy” name. (by the way, one thing the article doesn’t mention is the rumors about Brownie Brown pitching unfinished localized prototypes, but in 5 languages, of Mother 3 GBA to overseas branches for approval)

      What Starfy’s localization trials and tribulations lack compared to Mother 3 (or even 1 and 2, really) was the dramatic momentum, unexpected plot twists (who could have foreseen Nintendo cancelling the CONSOLE the game was supposed to release on?) the passion, and Nintendo actually enjoying keeping that suspense. The bogus rumors supported by a media blitz that was a repost of just one source’s rumor helped keep that alive.

      I don’t personally think Nintendo will ever release Mother 3 in English.
      IF, and that’s a big if, the 2015 Virtual Console version really existed, that means it was made around the same period of time Fire Emblem Fates was done. Nintendo’s localization policies around that period were really controversial and they did efforts to distance themselves from their negative PR and future projects, down to abandoning Fates’s DLC content. If Mother 3 was translated following those guidelines, er, it wouldn’t be a pretty sight for the fanbase.
      On the other hand, once I saw Kotaku’s 2017 article here “Why it’s okay to release Mother 3 in 2017”, I immediately remembered some articles, posts by those same writers, tweets months after that that sound like sword rattling in anticipation for an upcoming controversy. Things like “there’s so much problematic content that needs to be changed” in Mother 3, like so and so, that aren’t even unanimously agreed to be problematic but still assumed to be so.
      If Nintendo is controversy-averse, and they still are to this day for some subjects even though they softened their recent policies, a Mother 3 localization sounds like very bad news.

      Reply
    2. You think Starfy has it bad? At least Starfy had one of his games localized and earned himself a physical appearance in Smash Bros. Poor Lip _still_ doesn’t have any of that. Panel de Pon is, to this day, one of Nintendo’s most overlooked classics, and it’s a crime that it isn’t more recognized.

      Reply
  18. Post-Apolcalyptic Nu

    Great article; it brought back memories of those mysterious blue carts and grainy Mr. Saturn fish tank images. That was around the time I first joined too, and I haven’t seen those images since then.
    In an old Starmen thread written when EB64 was recently cancelled, I read some kids talking about whether it could move to PlayStation like FF did. The replies were something like “What, do you want it to be filled to the brim with FMVs??” not to mention a Nintendo franchise would never cross over like that… but I still thought that was funny.

    Anyway, I’m not really clamoring for an official MOTHER3 localization anymore. I played your version when it first came out, Mato—Loved it, and I haven’t looked back since. It’s like how you framed it in the last paragraphs; Older fans have already seen the rumors come and go, they’re nothing new. I’d welcome an official release of course, but right now I have no expectations.

    “But… the future refused to change.” sums up the whole article nicely.

    With the Wii U discontinued, right now there’s no avenue to re-release a GBA game like MOTHER 3. Maybe if they ever made a “GBA classic” of some sort, they could use it as a system-seller ala Star Fox 2.

    Reply
  19. Great work as always!

    I think the death of the VC has officially killed any Mother 3 hype for me. The only way I could see it being a viable product is if Nintendo releases all three games as part of a collection (kind of the like the Seiken Densetsu collection in Japan).

    I also wonder whether EarthBound Beginnings will be added to the Switch Online service, or whether EarthBound will be if they add SNES games?

    Reply
  20. Reading this was a journey. Thank you for taking the time to document it.

    My heart can’t bear pinning my hopes on rumors anymore, but I’ll never stop hoping in the back of my mind.

    Reply
  21. 10 years since the fan translation wow. I’ve only been a Mother fan for 13 years when I first played Earthbound so reading about fan reaction to Earthbound 2/64 was really insightful. I had given up on an official Mother 3 release since 2016 when the 10 year anniversary game on wii u was revealed to be Twilight Princess. This article however sparked that small hope in me that laid dormant for so long. Just thinking about an official mother 3 localisation makes me feel younger again. Seems like not long ago I was inspired by a video to use PK Call and ask Nintendo about Earthbound and mother 3.

    Reply
  22. The Claus cosplayer from last Camp Fangamer

    That was an awesome article.

    Reply
  23. Being a Mother fan in the states has always been a strange thing. I realized sort of how we’re viewed in Nintendo when the tag line for the Wii U Virtually console release of Earthbound was “You’re Not Dreaming.” Mother releases in the states these years are sort of “in case of emergency” type things. I can see an official release happen if adoption of say Switch online is poor and having that be the only way to play Mother 3 possible be part of a future thing, but honestly Smash will push that more. Will Mother 3 get an official US release: maybe, but it’ll happen when Nintendo needs to summon the most “ride or die” fan base. Great read.

    Reply
  24. Christian Hendrickson

    Dismaying article. But good article.

    Reply
  25. 10 years since I was on my break at work and decided to pull up starmen.net on my nokia’s primitive phone browser. I saw that the translation was out, and I was so excited I couldn’t contain myself.

    I left work that day and wouldn’t you know it, the flash cart I’d ordered literally two months prior had arrived as well.

    I spent the next two days completely absorbed in Mother 3. It’s all I did outside of working, sleeping and eating. I’d take my lunch breaks at work and just play Mother 3 in the backroom. And I cried giant tears at the ending.

    No other game has been simultaneously such a delight to me, and also so heartbreaking. I always wanted an official translation, but the chances of that happening are less and less every single day. But, that’s okay. I had my “Mother 3 translated” moment. 10 years ago, on my break at work, on that busted old Nokia phone.

    It’d be easy to say that the series has changed my life, and honestly it has. I’ve met people who are also fans of the series, I’ve made lifelong friendships that have carried across the world thanks to this series. I couldn’t be more grateful.

    Reply
    1. Pretty much my story. I was a Schwan’s driver in 2008 when the fan translation was released. My GBA flash cart had died by then, but I loaded Mother 3 onto my trusty Dingoo A320 and brought it to work every day so I could play it on my lunch breaks. It was hilarious and heartbreaking, and quickly became my all time favorite video game.
      I haven’t touched it since that first play through…has it been 10 years already?
      If there’s ever an official release, it’ll be the perfect excuse to play it again. If not… I’ll still come back to it eventually, because it’s just too good to not replay it at some point.

      Reply
  26. The Mother 3 FAM translation is great – no doubt – and I am thankful for the (what must have been) tireless work that went into it, that I finally got to play the game.
    Here’s the thing about the game, though: Earthbound is sooooo much better IMO. I see and can appreciate what Itoi was trying to do, but I think in the end the project was too ambitious. The final product seems to reflect a (I can’t think of a better way to put it and yes, I recognize the irony) rush to market. It’s cool that the different chapters focus on different PCs, but we don’t get to spend enough time with most of them to end up caring much about them. This could have been at least partially remedied by granting these characters a larger presence as NPCs, but in many cases it seems the game goes out of its way to avoid doing this. That brings me to my next issue with the game – the world feels way too small when compared to Earthbound. Part of the fun of Earthbound was the open-world feel. There were a slew of different towns to visit, and each had its own unique story and cast of quirky characters. The player even learns spells that specifically enable easy travel from one location to another. After defeating the final boss, you can still travel around and revisit everyone. By contrast, in Mother 3, there are only a few locations. Travelling between them is rarely easier than walking the long distance and fighting a bunch of monsters along the way, but it doesn’t much matter because usually all of the NPCs vacate the site once the plot moves on. So even though the world remains mostly open for most of the game, it’s actually very linear, and the game does very little to reward the player for exploring, which to me is the cornerstone of any great RPG.
    My last big problem with Mother 3 is its existence as a sequel to Earthbound. For most of the game, there really is very little evidence that it is at all. Obviously the world is different. I guess it’s possible that it takes place on a different continent on the same planet, but if you are expecting a story continuation from the previous entry in the series, you will spend most of the game grasping. There’s a Dr. Andonuts, but is he the same guy? The mythology seems to be brand new – there was never any indication in Earthbound that there were godlike sleeping dragons underground who could be awoken in order to ignite a major cataclysm. Just when I was ready to accept that this was, in fact, a standalone story, Mr. Saturn shows up late-in-game. But the late reveal that this is actually a sequel is problematic in its own right. To a player who’s expecting a sequel, its existence as a sequel seems tacked-on and forced. To a player who’s never played Earthbound, this might be a fun game to play through until the end when you’re suddenly on the outside of some bizarre inside joke.
    So anyway, as I said, I am very thankful for the effort that went into the fan translation. Having actually played the game, though, I was left pretty disappointed and wondering if the original intention for the game was a much richer experience than what we actually got in the end.

    Reply
  27. So many memories.

    Looking back at everything now, I honestly don’t think we’re ever going to see the game localized. It would be interesting, though, if they decided to do an EarthBound collection and include the Japanese releases as bonuses, while also including an untranslated MOTHER 3. It wouldn’t be an ideal release, but at the very least get MOTHER 3 outside Japan. It would also be neat if they included little Japanese lessons as extras to help non-Japanese speakers get through the game. I’d love for something like that to come out.

    Reply
  28. Really enjoyed reading this, it brought back a bunch of memories and it was also very informative. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Can you shed any more light on the Undertale-related post you mentioned that was made on the Onett Times section of Miiverse? I never heard about this before, so I’m curious about what it said and if it was actually a real official Nintendo post or if it was just the result of a Miiverse hack or something.

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    1. I was wondering about that too.

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    2. I actually don’t really remember myself, I wrote that section back in 2017 but have no way to go back to find out what it was now that Miiverse is down. I want to say it was something simple like ‘Undertale is a fun game” and nothing really noteworthy.

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      1. Now that I think about it, I might be able to go back though some videos I made and find that very post. I made videos detailing lots of Miiverse stuff on the very last day it was open. Fingers crossed that I can find it.

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  29. “Actually, now that I think about it, Space World would be better because then they can show it to a Japanese audience instead of the American media, who will demand an English version.”

    Wow, I wonder who the anon who wrote this is, because he sounds hatefully anti-American. Like duh we would want an English version, it’s the language we speak here. Guess he forgot the Japanese is not our primary language. What a snot.

    Reply
    1. …but you’re basically agreeing with him. Or proving his point.

      When option A is “show the game off at Spaceworld and get zero complaints” and option B is “also show the game off in the west and get people like you complaining that it’s not in English”, it makes sense to go with option A.

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      1. I’m not complaining about wanting it in English, genius. I’m merely stating a point of fact. What’s your problem?

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  30. A 10-year anniversary seems as good a time as any to say thanks for the translation patch! Haven’t played it in about a decade but it was a great time.

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  31. People still talk about Mother 3? I think at this point it’s best to move on from said game and focus on something else. Even the native japanese audience didn’t praise it much if I remember correctly… That said, I certainly wouldn’t mind it if Itoi decided to team up with Toby Fox someday…

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  32. I remember being offended by that E3 joke about people asking for a Mother 3 translation, but after seeing this, I kinda feel sorry for NoA, for ten years of constantly being bombarded with demands every time they mentioned anything that could even vaguely conceivably be linked to the Mother series somehow.

    Regardless, whenever an official translation of a game comes out after a popular fan translation (especially one with as high a level of quality as Mother 3’s), it is universally reviled 90% of the time, so I don’t think anything they could have done would ever have satisfied fans.

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  33. This is a nice piece you’ve posted, even with the rushed bits (like the “Beginning‘s” on page 4).

    I know the focus of this is 3 quarters on localizations of the games & how desired they are by westerners, but do you have any reference as to what the Japanese fans thought/hoped in the leadup to Mother 3’s planned release, cancellation & GBA revival, as well as they perspective on the western fans? Not to put things on your plate, but that would be interesting to read.

    Also, where could I read more about the 64DD development disks? Even though they held no Mother data, I’m curious about what they did in fact contain (especially the latter 2). The only link I found on Starmen Club (from a more-than-a-decade-old post) points to a forum board, but their forums appear to have been restructured since then.

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    1. It looks like the games were: Mario Artist, Sim City 64, and two copies of Doshin the Giant. I wrote an article about it almost when it happened… almost 10 years ago… oh no time is going too fast
      I posted about it at the time here: https://earthboundcentral.com/2009/03/blue-disk-saga-is-very-over/

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      1. Thanks for linking that. Was kinda hoping that the disks would contain non-final builds of the games, but I guess from the wording that they didn’t, pity.

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  34. 2018 will be our year! Mother 3 will finally be announced! I C A N F E E L I T
    [As the comment oozes and drips with sarcasm]

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  35. So I’m just gonna throw out a bold proclamation here. We’re going to see Mother 4 get officially developed and released along with an English localization. So the west will have Mother 1, 2, and 4, but we’ll spend forever waiting for 3.

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  36. The post about Undertale made me think it would be ideal if MOTHER 3 was released in the west nowadays thanks to the former’s massive popularity.

    Also, I have a question. Recently, I read somewhere that the actual reason NoA hasn’t localized the game has something to do with the Magypsies. Is it true? I forgot if it was a legitimate interview or if it was pure speculation, though.

    Reply
    1. I’ve heard something similar, probably from the same article or wherever, but I assume it’s one of those situations where leaked info can’t easily be verified because it’d jeopardize the source, so everyone passes around the same info in a circle and/or leads to confusion and a bit of drama. So I don’t know what to make of it myself.

      Reply

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