Another year, another reminder that Mother 3 has yet to come to the West. Fans of this offbeat JRPG series have waited close to two decades and multiple console generations for the final Mother game to grace their machines. In that time, gaming news outlets have teased the elusive game with constant false rumors, die-hard fans translated the entire game for emulators, and certain disheartened gamers have outright given up hoping for an official localization. Still, the faint ache of longing for Mother 3 endures, even in the face of Nintendo’s neglect.
It doesn’t help that Nintendo is well aware of the despair that has befallen fans of the series and still chooses to do nothing official, even while having fun at the fan base’s expense. Nintendo of America’s previous president Reggie Fils-Aime is notorious for the constant tongue-in-cheek comments he has made regarding Mother 3’s limbo status. Fils-Aime went as far as commissioning a Robot Chicken segment poking fun at the dilemma, where a shoddy toy version of himself burns a member of a convention’s audience for asking about Mother 3. Amusing though some of these deflections can be, they also illustrate how little Nintendo’s executives seem to care about this matter.
Even after his retirement, Reggie Fils-Aime continues to tease fans about Mother 3. In a Twitter thread started by Twitch, the streaming platform asked, “What’s the oldest game in your library that remains unplayed?” True to form, Fils-Aime responded with “Mother 3 English version. Every time I think it’s time to play it, I get trolled and decide to put it off. Maybe I will fire it up this weekend.”
To no one’s surprise, many fans began to indulge in speculation, albeit tempered with a significant amount of skepticism. Though still committed to keeping an eye out for Mother 3 updates, these were the same people who had been led astray by false rumors and Reggie’s magnificent trolling. The sardonic manner in which some chuckled and spouted wild theories couldn’t disguise profound heartache at what could have been.
For those who held onto the desperate hope that Fils-Aime was speaking the truth for once, it is with heavy hearts that we must rebut that notion. A quick look at Fils-Aime’s Twitter feed reveals two posts that added more fuel to the proverbial fire:
- A tweet from a Mother 3 fan on Reggie’s Link to the Past celebration thread announced how close the game was to its 15th anniversary, repeating the phrase ad nauseum. Reggie replied with a gif reminiscent of his pyrotechnics from the Robot Chicken segment.
- A thread by Jason Schreier where, upon posting pictures of final copies of his latest book Press Reset, Reggie popped in to ask what it would take to get a signed copy. Schreier replied by asking for the fair trade of a signed copy of his book for Mother 3’s English version, to which Reggie responded that if he gave Schreier a copy, then he would have to publish the game for everyone.
With that, it becomes apparent that Reggie’s tweet to Twitch about Mother 3 was not unwarranted or a subtle attempt at teasing a potential re-release for the fabled Game Boy Advance title. It was all part of a tongue-in-cheek response to the countless people that flocked to those threads upon seeing the words “Mother 3” plastered all over them. Needless to say, Mother 3 will not be coming to the rest of the world anytime soon.
What Can Mother Fans Do?
Keeping interest in Mother 3 alive is the only surefire way to remind Nintendo that people want to see it published outside of Japan. Such an effort was what allowed Earthbound: Beginnings, the first Mother game, to finally arrive to the West via Virtual Console. That said, fandom fervor will always come second to the realities of the business.
A reason why Nintendo is so adamant about keeping the lid on Mother 3 may be due to its limited financial viability. Although Mother 3 is a polished title that arose from development hell in fine shape, it can come across as archaic and niche in terms of design and subject matter. This means that Mother 3 has the distinct risk of failing to make a profit if it were re-released. That difficulty in finding a place for Mother 3 within the crowded games market is compounded further by the broader series having become stagnant.
Even if a potential Mother 3 revival sold well, the future for the franchise is rather dim. There have never been plans for a Mother 4, even before the series’ creator Shigesato Itoi left the games industry. Given that Itoi has made clear that he has no intention of returning, any attempt at revitalizing the Mother series would have to do without his excellent writing and direction.
Localization also remains an issue, given some of the potentially sensitive material in-game. Unlike Earthbound: Beginnings, which had its script and localization ready for release for some time, there is no word regarding translation work being done for Mother 3. The absence of info on such a crucial aspect of localization serves to reinforce the widespread belief that Nintendo aren’t planning to do anything with Mother 3.
That sheer lack of response and action on Nintendo’s part has left fans to do the work of keeping this dream alive, for good or ill. Among the most prominent of such fan productions is a complete translation of Mother 3 for people to enjoy via emulation. An impressive undertaking, this fan effort is nonetheless undercut by issues with button input latency, which conflicts with certain sequences in Mother 3 that require precise timing..
However, this remains the only viable option for anyone wanting to understand why Mother 3 is perhaps the most revered game within the franchise. Beneath its cute pixelated exterior lies one of gaming’s best written and most emotionally wrought experiences, capable of being heartbreaking and endearing in equal measure. While it isn’t our place to condone the practice of emulation, the beauty and creativity of this underappreciated work make a compelling case for seeking it out by any means necessary.