MOTHER 3’s Timeline of Hope

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This is Part #2 of my write-up about the hope, hype, and disappointment that has followed MOTHER 3 for over 20 years. For more details, see Part #1.

2001

Disappointment was strong in 2001, but the feeling was still too new for most fans to last for long. Hopes diminished even more when Satoru Iwata casually mentioned that MOTHER 3 was still dead.

”I’m not sure. I know it’s not being worked on at the moment. I don’t think Mother 3 is really on anyone’s “to do” list, either.”

–Satoru Iwata (translated)

”…Several attendees asked about specific games or genres. Mr. Iwata cited From Software’s Rune as an example of Nintendo’s efforts to reach out to the RPG audience, although news on the Mother front was bleak. “We don’t have anything to tell about Mother 3,” he apologized…”

–Gaming Intelligence Agency

A mock-up image I made in 2001 for an article about MOTHER 3's potential future
Around this time, Nintendo began focusing on its new GameCube and Game Boy Advance systems, and this gave fans hope that MOTHER 3 wasn’t dead – it was just in limbo, waiting to be released on one of the new systems.

So, despite what Nintendo execs were saying, hopes for a revived MOTHER 3 steadily grew, although some older fans were now more cautious. It was a weird, long year of denial, pleading, over-analysis, and twisted logic. And, as always, rumors were rampant – some reliable and some laughable.

If you’re familiar with more recent hopes for a MOTHER 3 release, try comparing these comments, theories, and rumors with things you hear today. A lot has stayed the same!

Recently while looking at the games section of the upcoming Gamecube system at IGN.com, I came across something interesting. Nintendo of America was doing a direct port of the N64 game Animal Forest to the Gamecube. This game was released on N64 in japan but was cancelled as a US release. Now they are taking the exact same game,N64 graphics and all and porting it to a Gamecube game. Since it was possible for this game, this might bring about the possibility of Nintendo finishing Mother 3 in N64 format and just port it to Gamecube with the Origional game graphics and sound we’ve seen in development for the past few years. Sure, spiffed up Gamecube graphics would be nice, but I would like to see the game released as I’ve anticipated it, with its wonderfully unique “not-as-modern” Mother game appeal. Wasn’t Earthbound release with graphics that could have been much better, but they gave it a very unique and pleasing appeal? I would like a game that every now and then as long as it is a good and solid game, like Earthbound. There is also a constant hinting of Mother 3 in Nintendo Power with something pertaing to Earthbound in almost every issue this year. And don’t forget about all the new Earthbound stuff in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Two levels, Mr. Saturn, and a revamped character model are a lot for character barely known to most gamers. Maybe they just need more people to notice him before anything goes into finalization, even though everyone who visits this site would definantly get one, but I guess that’s not enough people. I know this is very unlikely, but I’d like to keep my hopes high like I did waiting for Mother 3 for N64, disagreeing with friend who said it would never come out. I just hope some day, in some way or form, Mother 3 comes to see the light of day. Maybe someone will turn up with a prototype cart, like the ones at spaceworld 2000, and sell em on E-bay or something like that, like the Earthbound 0 prototype. Maybe we can show Mr. Itoi how much we love the game and hope it will come out soon by have a letter writing campaign aimed at convincing him how much the game means to us Mother fanatics. Well, I hope some people agree with me on at least some of the stuff. Please tell me what you think. PK-GoodBye! More… »

Pokemon is gonna die out soon. Each new pokemon game that comes out is basically the same. Anyway, Nintendo is throwing too many EB hints around. A new level or two. Saying it’s one of the greatest games ever in the last issue of NP. Also in their last issue they put Ness as one of the 10 characters never to grace the cover of NP. If it doesn’t happen alot of people will be PO’d!

At the same time, I still believe that Mother 3 will be worked on once they get the first Gamecube lineup out of the way and the system to have a good stepping stone at launch. Once thats cleared, they can reallocate resources back to those projects. If they can do it with Dinosaur Planet and Eternal Darkness, they can sure as [heck] do it with Mother 3.

Mother 3 probably wont come out, but the liscenese will probably be used again and chances are that that game would probably be called Mother 3 so in a way, yeah. At this point the chances of Itoi and friends starting the project back up are remote. But, at some point in time Nintendo and HAL will probably examine the possibility of resurrecting the Mother franchise and assemble a team and take a look at unfinished product of Mother 3. So, in a way it is very possible that Mother 3 (or some variation) will be released at some point in time, just probably not on the GameCube, but we can always keep our fingers crossed.

I think they’re gonna do it. All the hinting that they are doing leads me to believe this. They are either trying to hype EB up or just please us with a little EB in SSBM. Yaaaa! Sigh.

I really hope Mother 3 is released, but I’m losing hope fast. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Nintendo’s been keeping it under wraps, but I’d be even less surprised if they’re not.

Eh.. I don’t know. I don’t think it will EVER come out.

Hey, just in case you care, I’m on vacation in the UK this months, and I happened to see a UK Gaming Mag called N64. Inside, in a big section about Nintendo’s next gen systems, Shigeru Miyamoto was quoted to say that he would really like to see SNES classics like EarthBound on the GBA, and EB64 converted to gameCube. Actual quote. He really used EB as his example for an SNES classic port. Cool huh?

Guys, let’s be straight about this, Mother 3 will come out for the Gamecube. For all the work they’re putting in with Ness in Super Smash Bros Melee, it’s only logical to use all these new renderings and sounds of Ness and Mr. Saturn and Starmen, and Poo… And all these hints from interviews and emails people have sent Nintendo, and their replies back are all something like “but ya never know” or “you never know what the future may hold”. It’s coming, I know it, but I’m still gonna jump for joy when they announce it.

Oh let’s just say a little birdie told me something just a bit ago (they don’t call me the supa fly information guy for nothing). Something that has me very excited (and counting my money too). I can’t reveal what it is right now, not until I have confirmation about it from my sources. But if it’s true, we will all be happy, very happy. ☺

Ok my source is kind of sketchy in details, but this is what he tells me. And take this with a grain of salt right now because it’s anything but confirmed. So here goes: There have been rumors floating around since August about Earthbound 64 being moved to the Cube. We’ve seen Nintnedo Power somewhat hint at it, among other things. The real shocker to us was just a few weeks ago when a high ranking man at Nintendo said that no one was working on Mother 3, and he didn’t think anyone wanted to. But from my source I’ve heard this. Don’t always believe what Nintendo says. They like and try and surprise you later. If they make you think it’s not being done, then you will be surprised when it shows up firnished. So far my source has said (and tried to confirm with others) that Earthbound 64 (or Mother 3 if you prefer to call it by the Japanese name) most likely will come to the Cube. The best part of what he said, it may be a launch title. We all know Nintendo wants (and needs) RPGs, especially at launch. What better game to bring out on launch (especially in Japan) to show that Nintendo has RPGs? Earthbound of course! Okay again, take this with a grain of salt, it may or may not be true (but I think we all hope for the may). But if it is true, then every Earthbound fans dream will come true. Watch E3 and see what happens. 😊 More… »

Fans – including me – still clung to quotes from Itoi and Miyamoto when the game was cancelled the year before:

…I’d like to say I’m sorry to the people who have been waiting, but for now, the Mother series will only go up to Mother 2…

–Shigesato Itoi (translated)

As far as costs are concerned, I should say that we have already spent several hundreds of millions of yen by now, and we would really like to make use of them in one way or another. For example, I’m talking with the writer, Mr. Itoi, who has been directly involved with this project of Mother 3 about whether we can make it for another story, or some kind of possibility in the future.

–Shigeru Miyamoto (translated)

But nothing happened.

2002

Unfortunately, most of my relevant forum archives from 2002 are missing, but I managed to dig up some old articles like this one from IGN:

And here’s what was specifically said in that IGN interview:

Of course, Fire Emblem has been an important franchise for Nintendo for a very long time and Intelligent Systems has been working on it the entire time. We’re always thinking about possibilities on how we can continue to use that franchise in the future and Mother 3 is something that Iwata and I have always talked about bringing to the users.

–Shigeru Miyamoto (translated)

This wasn’t much information to go on, but the weird thing about MOTHER 3 is that any non-negative news is seen as great news by fans. So looking back now, it’s no surprise that this little blurb got fans excited again:

At least thats some good news on the M3 front. Im waiting till May when E3 happens then I bet we might see M3 hopefully

SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE**breathe**EEEEEEEEEEEETtttttttt This is practically a confirmation here folks. Although i already read it on the front page of sm.net i’m just posting here to talk about it. I don’t think it will be shown at E3 or even mentioned at E3 at all. Because he said that he was “talking” not “developing”.

its about time too. we were supposed to get Mother 3 a couple of years ago.

There have been many hints:
1.) In Vol. 149 of NP on the quiz at the beginning Mani Mani was mensioned.

2.) In Vol. 149 of NP there was fan art of EB put in the mag.

3.) In Vol 149 of NP there is a pic of a woman holding a Mr. Saturn.

4.) Ness has returned in Super Smash Bros. Melee.

5.) NP Seige from Starmen.net: they actually put the art in the mag.

6.) Earthbound and Ness are getting mension a lot lately in the magazine, more than they used to.

I think all of this means something! ☺

Of course, fans aren’t one giant blob with one single mind. By this point, some older fans were burned out from all the hope and disappointment:

Heh, I don’t see much of a reason to get excited… This means very little. Although talk starts everything, it really doesn’t do much else. I doubt we’ll be seeing M3 anytime soon :/

Sorry for being so cynical; I’m usually not.

Still, this little mention was encouraging enough that fans at Starmen.Net began a new petition project:

For some reason, I’m actually expecting Mother 3. So, I’m gonna keep my hopes up. It’s gonna come. It’s gonna come. We can at least wait for Spaceworld to see if there’s anything…I wanna see how the new Mario and Zelda games are coming along too.

I think they’re gonna do it. All the hinting that they are doing leads me to believe this. They are either trying to hype EB up or just please us with a little EB in SSBM. Yaaaa! Sigh.

Well, I’ve been an optimist. They way I saw it, Mother 3 would have to come at some point, even if it was 10 years from now. It’s popularity in Japan is just too high for it not to be released. Hearing this now only reiterates my point. I’m excited for this year, because I think that this year will be the year that we all see significant development on Mother 3. And if I’m wrong, then I’ll just wait until it is released. It WILL be released.

I’m sure my submission will be surrounded by hundreds of dorks screaming their lungs out about how this guarantees the release of Mother 3. Face the fact: it doesn’t. What it DOES say, however, is that at least Nintendo hasn’t forgotten about Mother 3 completely, which has always been a possibility since its cancellation. Not only this, but that they think about it enough to actually mention it in an interview; that’s gotta’ be significant at least. So maybe we’ll hear news of a possible release date in the coming months; who knows. But maybe if they see some success with Animal Forest and other quirky imports this year, they might make a decision about Mother 3. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Later in the year, the rumor section of a Japanese magazine seemed to point to some sort of MOTHER series release on the Game Boy Advance, including a potential MOTHER 3 revival:

At around the same time, there was a rumor in Electronic Gaming Monthly about EarthBound getting remade for the Game Boy Advance:

These separate rumors seemed to fit, so fans were excited by the potential of a revived MOTHER 3. Other online rumblings stirred up more excitement:

New GC Mother and New Square RPG?

Thanks to John Ricciardi, we’ve learned that rumors are circulating that next week’s Famitsu, along with having a review of Nintendo’s highly-anticipated Super Mario Sunshine, will unveil two new RPGs.

The first is a new Mother game from Nintendo, a very popular series which spawned on the Famicom. The only game in this series to ever make it to America is Earthbound, which was released on the Super Nintendo. Nintendo was developing a game for the N64, Mother 3, but the title was canned after development wasn’t going as planned.

Other sources of information were starting to pop up too:

Itoh (not Itoi) is the art designer for Mother 3, and also a comic book artist on the side. ANYWAYS, Itoh said that Mother 3 IS going to happen, and very soon. I’ll quote the article: “According to QUITER, at a recent Super Smash Brothers musical concert, comic book artist Benimaru Itoh revealed that an announcement regarding Mother 3 is going to happen very soon.”

Now, I understand that this may simply be a red herring, but it still looks VERY promising! Perhaps EGM’s recent rumor of a new Mother coming could be what Itoh is talking about!

These rumors about a new version of MOTHER 3 continued to appear:

At this point, everything was still in rumor mode. Older fans were understandably wary, but it was hard not to be excited and hopeful.

2003

Things were a bit quiet in early 2003, until MOTHER 1+2 for the Japanese Game Boy Advance was suddenly announced out of the blue. The very first commercial also announced that MOTHER 3 was in development for the GBA too:

Fans were ecstatic. Unfortunately, I don’t have good comment archives from this point in time, but I recall that Starmen.Net was blazing with excitement. Forum threads would get updated faster than it took to post a comment. Old fans returned to the site. Regulars began analyzing every bit of info available. It was fun.

Starmen.Net’s petition project from 2002 completed at almost the exact same time as the announcement. It turned out to be much more than just a standard online petition. It was covered in large gaming outlets, and Miyamoto himself later commented on it.

The official announcement and the successful completion of the big petition project had fans very excited. There was a lot of speculation about when and where the game would be shown. MOTHER 3 at E3 felt like a sure thing to many:

E3 is in May isn’t it? Wasn’t it said that lots of information about the new Mother products coming out would be revealed at this years E3? And did Reidman say something about having starmen.net representatives at this years E3 (I can’t remember if he did or didn’t)? Doesn’t it start the first week of may or something like that?

Yeah, it’s early May, Right? :D!!!

MOTHER 3 didn’t appear at E3 or any other events. In fact, all mention of the game disappeared completely after the commercial. “They were still finishing MOTHER 1+2 in 2003, so 2004 is when MOTHER 3 will come out” fans told themselves.

The disappointment at the end of 2003 led to high hopes for 2004.

2004

Hopes were high for MOTHER 3 to appear at E3 again. Rumors and miscommunication helped build hope as well.

Look at this link right about…HERE

http://www.gamefront.de/

E3 thing is near click that then go to “Nintendo” and it is highlighted in “Light-Blue”

Despite all the hope, MOTHER 3 was nowhere to be seen anywhere in 2004. Some fans were disappointed. Others felt 2005 would be the year it’d happen.

Not to be a fuddy duddy, but I don’t think there’s a good chance of seeing Mother 3 at E3 this year.

Now before the bricks start heading my way, hear me out…

Mother 3 development has just been restarted for the GBA as you all know.

Chances are, the initial release of Mother 3 is going to be for Japan, followed by the US and other countries. This being the case, whatever has already been created would be in Japanese.

Unless they’ve already started translating the story, and the currently unfinished game, I highly doubt that it will show up at E3.

Now I’m looking forward to this as well, but I just don’t think that we’ll see a Mother 3 demo till around the end of the summer. Even then we’ll have to have someone from Japan sending us info.

I believe that it is even more likely that we’ll see it at E3 2005… that is unless it’s released sooner than that… *Crosses fingers.* More… »

As far as we know Mother 3 has been in development since April 2003. In all logic there should be no reason why Mother 3 shouldn’t been at E3 2004. A trailer at the least would be feasible.

In late 2004, a mysterious screenshot was being passed around on Japanese sites. It wasn’t clear what the source of the screenshot was, but it looked very much like a MOTHER game:

Some fans were skeptical, calling it a fan-made image. Other fans who were desperate for anything tried to analyze what little there was:

Nothing ever came of this strange screenshot, except for empty hopefulness.

Although all news of the new MOTHER 3 had dried up, hopes – and expectations – were growing stronger by the day.

2005

Two years after the first GBA MOTHER 3 announcement, many fans were certain this was the year it would be released.

Longtime fans, after many years of disappointment, began to feel uncertainty about the game appearing at E3 this year. When it became clear that MOTHER 3 was going to be a no-show, hopeful logic pointed fans toward later events in the year.

I haven’t heard anything. GameAreFun actually predicted Mother 3 would appear at E3 the past 2 years, but they haven’t made any such preditions for this year’s as of yet.

While it does seem a little unlikely that we’ll see any new Mother 3 info at E3, we may still have something to look forward to. This was one of Game Informer’s E3 predictions: “Nintendo will announce that they will reveal more on the Revolution at a Space World show in August, or the Tokyo Game Show in September.”

It makes perfect sense. If Nintendo doesn’t cover the Revolution too much at E3, then it would be a logical choice to have a Space World show and reveal more information there. And since Mother 3 is rumored for late 2005, then Space World would be the perfect time to show it off.

Also, in that fairly recent interview with Miyamoto, didn’t he say that there would be an announcement regarding Mother 3 later this year? I have a feeling we’ll hear something before long.

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.

Correct, thats why they would show it at TGS. But if M3 did miraculously appear at E3, it wouldn’t be Nintendo’s first Japan-only E3 showing.

Or maybe if it is there, we’ll also see a confirmation for a US release. Honestly, how can you have so little faith of it being released here? All we missed as a compilation, and although that was the only game we saw for 7 years, it was still just a compilation. Nintendo knows there are EB fans here, they can’t just forget about us. I mean, look at Fire Emblem. Nintendo was cautious, but it sold great. An even better example that they were hesitant to release Pokemon! I’m sure Ness has sparked some curiosity in EB from being in SSBM, so if Mother 3 has Ness(I know, it’ll probably have Flint or something, but they could have changed it for a direct EB sequel, you never know ), I think it could sell well here.

Hopes began to fade when MOTHER 3 appeared nowhere at all, but an unexpected hope took its place when a peculiar set of Nintendo 64 DD development disks with “M3” and “KM” were discovered by a hardware enthusiast. It was believed that “M3” stood for “MOTHER 3” and “KM” stood for キマイラの森 (Kimaira no Mori, "Forest of the Chimera"), which was the game’s official Japanese subtitle in the late 1990s.

It was believed that these four leaked N64 DD disks contained a prototype version of EarthBound 64

Excitement was high, but getting the disks dumped was difficult – it was nearly impossible to find a Nintendo 64 Disk Drive development system that could read the disks. “What’s on the disks? What’s on the disks?! Is MOTHER 3 waiting on them for us?!” is what the general feeling was at the time.

Near the end of 2005, some surprising clues skyrocketed fans’ hopes higher than ever before:

First, series creator Shigesato Itoi dropped some sudden hints in his daily blog posts that he was working on a big project with a company based in Kichijoji. Next, Brownie Brown, a game company that had worked with Nintendo in the past, had been rumored to be working on a certain secret project for some time. Brownie Brown was based in Kichijoji as well.

So when a mysterious MOTHER/EarthBound-esque Flash animation was posted on the company’s site, it re-energized fans like crazy:

A translated version of the Flash animation posted on Brownie Brown's

I just wet myself. o_o The fact that this mock up is using terms like ” so and so started crying ” and ” 999 physical and mental damage” shows that the company working on it is staying true to the roots and not changing things a little like Square-Enix has a reputation of doing lately. (I.E. FFX-2)

OMG IM HYPERVENTILATING i just saw the flash game and even though I couldnt understand any of it, there was still way too much resemblance, now I think Im gonna cry tears if joy, YAY!!!!! Wow, I was hyperventilating so badly that I was close to passing out! Man I am SOOOOOO HAPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There, Im calmed down now. But seriously, this is so awesome!! This week is awesome already, and I still have lots of stuff to look forward to, thanks for showing up to tell us about this Tomato!!!!

Any Mother 3 news is good news, but something seems a bit wrong in the flash.

N-Dude, who’s probably Nintendo, is represented as some evil being (hence the Darth Vader mask) that can’t be defeated and is over-controlling. But the part that disturbs me most is where the N-Dude says some long explanation, and everyone starts freaking out. This eerily reminds me of Lucas Arts’ cancellation of Sam and Max: Freelance Police a while back.

Perhaps it has been cancelled and picked up multiple times, and they were forced to restart.

Either way… I don’t think they’d try to make a Flash video like this about a cancelled game. So here’s hoping to the best. 🙂

At almost the same time, a strange teaser animation with a countdown clock appeared on a mystery page:

The countdown doesn't work right because we've traveled way into the future where it isn't 2005 anymore

Fans were convinced this was an incoming announcement for a MOTHER 3 release. The graphics were MOTHER/EarthBound-like, and the character looked a lot like Dr. Andonuts from MOTHER 2/EarthBound.

Some fans ripped the animation apart and looked at its innards. Some tried to tie a bunch of various clues to make sense of the animation. Other fans tried to see if there was a Morse code message in the beeps.

Before long, it was learned that this wasn’t a MOTHER 3 announcement at all. It was a teaser for a completely unrelated game called Contact for the Nintendo DS. Although there are similarities between the games, this huge misunderstanding resulted in Contact being very closely associated with EarthBound and disappointed EarthBound fans.

Luckily, shortly after, Itoi began posting cryptic clues of his own about MOTHER 3’s final stage of development. Fans were also excited when the series’ mascot, Mr. Saturn, started making surprise appearances in Itoi’s fish tank webcam:

Then Itoi just started talking about MOTHER 3 without beating around the bush. He even announced that it would be released in Japan in the spring of 2006:

In a 2005 announcement, I asked people to forget about something for a while. I’m referring to the game, Mother 3. I’ve decided to announce what I can say with certainty here before the new year is upon us. First, it looks like the game will make the Spring 2006 release. It’ll still be a while until it has a specific release date, but there will be no cancellations or huge delays for it… hopefully. As I announced before, it is being released as a Game Boy Advance game. So you can play it on the currently-mega-popular DS, the Micro, AND the SP. There will be no changes to the above information.

–Shigesato Itoi (translated)

Fans’ hopes were incredibly high, and a Japanese release finally seemed like a certainty. But would Nintendo translate it after that? Of course they would. Why wouldn’t they? After all, EarthBound’s popularity grew a lot after its initial release, thanks to the Internet and the Super Smash Bros. games!

Obviously, things didn’t work out quite so nicely or this article wouldn’t exist. Hope for a translated release of MOTHER 3 reached its all-time high in 2006, when the game was finally released in Japan. Read all about it in Part #3: 2006 to 2011!
63 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.

    Reply
    1. I was wondering about that too.

      Reply
    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.

      Reply
      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.

        Reply
  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.

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

        Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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…

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
    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/

      Reply
      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.

        Reply
  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]

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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
  37. Mole Playing Rough

    This is actually a very nice article, Mato. I just thought about this right now, but since the west would somewhat react negatively to a Mother 3 localization, wouldn’t PETA create some parody or some game about Mother 3’s Chapter 3? Salsa is literally abused by Fassad. I mean this has happened with other games like Super Mario 3D Land and Pokémon Black and White.

    I really hope that PETA doesn’t try to make Mother 3 look bad. Sorry if I didn’t make that much sense, but I just had this thought and I was suprised that nobody brought this up. (It’s probably because people are focusing more on the Magypsies)

    Anyways, thank you for making the fan translation!

    Reply
  38. What an amazing read, outstanding job as usual Mato! I first experienced the Mother series late 2013 so I just experienced a page of this timeline but loved going through it all, especially the N64- GCN days since I was a year away to be born when first mentions of the game existence first appeared and to young to used the internet when it was moved to the GBA.

    One of my favorite parts where definitely the user comments. It was both amusing and heart wrenching when people said stuff like “Pokemon will eventuall die” to “I bought the SNES classic controller just for when Earthbound hits Virtual Console”, boy does time changes.

    The other one is the Wii U Virtual Console era, especially the fan outcry. I decided to give the game a chance once the eshop trailer sparked some interest for me. To think I owe it to all those amazing fans who ask for a USA release. I wouldn’t ever found one of my favorite videogame series if it wasn’t for all of those people. The Mother series is a series who I take with me wherever I go, it really impacted my life, and it’s something I owe to fans like you Mato, thanks to you and all the Starmen community for expanding the audience of this game, here to the future of the Mother series.

    Reply
  39. I should point out that that E3 2010 list was originally posted as a joke by Jeff Gerstmann of Giant Bomb. Basically the only reason it became a “rumor” was because of people posting it elsewhere without context.

    http://jeff.zone/post/38428394561/back-before-e3-2010-i-decided-to-slap-together-a

    Reply
  40. This post pointed out how batshit crazy the Mother/EB fans are, taking every post and thinking it means a release date.

    It’s amazing how Mother/EB fandom hasn’t devolved into toxicity for the most part.

    Great article. I remember reading along with your translation updates, Mato.

    Reply
  41. I think one of the worst things about having EB64 cancelled was that, at the time, I desperately wanted to keep supporting Nintendo over the recently popular Playstation (which had “stolen” all the great RPG developers). Even though huge franchises like Final Fantasy were never going to be on the N64, at least we had a great first-party Earthbound franchise that we could count on…… I remember reading all of the updates in Nintendo Power with eagerness and then they just stretched on for years….and then it was going to be on the 64DD peripheral….and then it was just cancelled. I’m in my mid-30s now and have plenty of love for both Nintendo and Sony systems, but I think that was the year that I really gave up on Nintendo ever being an RPG powerhouse again….and that is still very sad to me, having fond memories of growing up in the NES/SNES Golden Age.

    Reply
  42. It’s nuts that it’s been so long already. Ten years? I can remember my anticipation as the fan translation progressed like it was yesterday, and I was in middle school at the time… yeesh, that’s a weird sensation.

    Still hangin’ on to my physical copy and my guide book, and I’m still hangin’ on to hope. Granted, that’s partially so they can become a gift for my special someone, but I think that’s fitting in it’s own way.

    Reply
  43. There is hope.
    There’s a streamer, Vinny, (accounts are Vinesauce on YouTube and Twitch), who has a knack of summoning announcements regarding games.
    Before the announcement of Metroid Prime 4 and Samus Returns, he played a Metroid game. This has happened other times, though my memory fails me right now.
    He recently played through Mother 3.
    Therefore: next Nintendo Direct there will be a Mother 3 announcement.

    Reply

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