That Mother 3 never got officially localized and released outside Japan has been a source of sadness and frustration for EarthBound fans in the West since the game launched on Game Boy Advance back in 2006. The sequel to cult classic EarthBound — the SNES entry in the Mother series which sold poorly in the US and didn’t see the light of day in Europe until a Wii U and 3DS Virtual Console release — was a very late arrival on GBA. However, backwards compatibility meant that Japanese players entering the WiiDS heydays didn’t have to dig out their old handheld to enjoy the final chapter of writer Shigesatao Itoi’s trilogy.
Fervent fans have been calling for Mother 3’s official Western debut for over a decade and a half now, yet despite conversation behind the scenes, there’s no sign of it yet. We got EarthBound Beginnings on Wii U (the previously unreleased localization of the Famicom-only first entry) and we’ve recently heard from Reggie Fils-Aimé that ‘serious conversations’ were had about a potential release for the handheld threequel. Coincidentally, the game’s producer Shinichi Kameoka has also recently speculated that translating Itoi’s unique writing style might be a sticking point for an official Western release.
We’re not sure we buy that, though — it seems far more likely that, despite a very vocal core fan base, Nintendo aren’t convinced the game would find an audience large enough to warrant investing in that ‘challenging’ localization work. In terms of Itoi’s style and inimitable charm, it was captured beautifully in EarthBound’s location, so there’s no reason to think the same couldn’t be achieved again.
In fact, the same already has been achieved in a brilliant fan translation that was updated as recently as last year. Which brings us to the question: Is there any real need for Nintendo to release Mother 3 now?
Don’t get us wrong, we’d be at the front of the queue to download a Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light-style limited edition ‘3arthBound’ set, or a surprise standalone digital release to the EarthBound Beginnings, or a GBA update added to the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack. We’d absolutely love to play Nintendo’s official version of this brilliant finale.
However, the fact is that most of us who want to play it have already played it. Despite never being released in the West, Mother 3 currently sits neck-and-neck with Metroid: Zero Mission at the top of our reader-ranked Best Game Boy Advance Games list. Series uberfans and curious gamers alike have already bought the original Japanese game, already downloaded the fan translation and played the thing. A cursory search on the internet reveals various reproduction carts very easily obtainable, not to mention the myriad other ways a determined fan can find to play GBA titles on original hardware — using entirely legal methods, too, assuming you own the original ROM in a legitimate form.
Part of the reason we still want an official release is so that a new generation can easily access the game and discover the series, perhaps for the first time. It’s such an affecting journey, we’d love to see as wide an audience as possible have the opportunity to play on Switch. With over 100 million consoles out there, if just a tiny percentage took a punt on this quirky little adventure, it could quickly outsell the original EarthBound’s roughly 658,000 global sales. We really just want to spread the Mother-lovin’ love.
Despite only being played by a relatively small number of gamers, the series inspires so much love, as you’ll see if you watch our celebratory ‘Mother’s Day’ video featuring testimony from some familiar faces. We’ve recently seen Link’s Awakening remake-style tributes that suggest what a remade Mother 3 could look like. The passion for this game and series is impressive, yet most pragmatic fans will not only understand from a business perspective Nintendo’s reluctance to release an official localization, but will have found a way to experience the game for themselves already.
Which leaves Nintendo and Mother 3 fans stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s a pose!
What do you think though? Let us know in the polls below where you stand on Nintendo releasing Mother 3 in 2022, and share further thoughts in the comments.