A question I often see is, "I've never played anything in the EarthBound/Mother series but want to get into it. What do you recommend?" I've made this page to answer that question and give some suggestions to eager newcomers to the series.
There are basically three games in the Mother series: Mother, Mother 2, and Mother 3. Outside of Japan, the naming gets a little weird, kind of like how Final Fantasy titles had weird changes back in the early days. Here's a quick summary of everything:
Mother (Nintendo Famicom, 1989) / "EarthBound Zero" (never released)
The first game in the series. It was improved and translated into English by Nintendo of America in the early 1990s and given the title of "Earth Bound", but it was never released. Years later, a prototype copy surfaced and a ROM was dumped. To avoid title confusion, fans call it "EarthBound Zero".
Mother 2 (Super Famicom, 1994) / EarthBound (Super NES, 1995)
The second game in the series. Nintendo of America gave this one a top-notch localization and released it in North America as "EarthBound". Sales were poor and NOA has never released any other games in the series since.
Mother 3 / EarthBound 64 (Nintendo 64 DD / Nintendo 64, canceled)
This third game in the series was designed for the N64 Disk Drive at first, then was later changed to be a standard N64 game. Then it was canceled in 2000 after years of development. Outside of a demo at Spaceworld '99, no one's ever played this game.
Mother 1+2 (Game Boy Advance, 2003)
A compilation of the first two games was released for the GBA in Japan only. The port of Mother 2 is especially known for its poor audio and extra bugs. The port of Mother 1 includes all the improvements found in the unreleased English-language NES version.
Mother 3 (Game Boy Advance, 2006)
The third game in the series. This shares many things with the unreleased N64 version, but isn't exactly the same. The game was never released outside of Japan despite fervent demand, so some fellow fans and I released an unofficial translation patch.
What Order Should I Play the Games?
Each of the Mother games is self-contained, so you can jump into any part of the series and have fun. There are two main schools of thought for how newcomers should play the series, choose whichever one you think sounds better.
Suggested Order #1:
- Your safest bet is to start with EarthBound, as it has many improvements over the first game and has the added bonus of an official translation. Try to ignore the hype and go in with no expectations - you'll get the most enjoyment out of it that way. If you're looking for a copy of EarthBound, see here. I recommend playing it on an actual Super NES, but if you have to use an emulator, don't use save states, fast-forwarding, or anything like that! If you can, get the EarthBound Player's Guide too, as it's a big part of the experience.
- Play Mother 3 next, using our translation patch here. The most important thing here is: don't go into this game expecting EarthBound! Go in with no expectations and you'll enjoy it the most. Many people who've played Mother 3 first find EarthBound a little lackluster and simplistic, which is why I recommend saving this one for after EarthBound.
- Play Mother 1 last, using my Mother 1+2 translation patch here! Don't bother with the NES version. Trust me. If you follow the tips on the translation page you can easily get through the game in a day AND thorougly enjoy it!
Suggested Order #2:
Even though the games are all self-contained, there are story elements, characters, etc. that span all three games, though, so if you want to go for the full experience I recommend playing the games in this order:
- Start with Mother 1, but use my Mother 1+2 translation patch here. Don't bother with the NES version.
- Play EarthBound next. It improves in almost every way over the first game and is a real joy to play.
- Play Mother 3 last, using our translation patch here.
I guess the main thing to take away is this: Mother 1 is an acquired taste for most players, so if you do decide to try it, give my Mother 1+2 translation patch a try, it's much more polished and enjoyable than the unfinished NES beta. I made it specifically for fans who could never get into the first game (I was one of them myself), and it's been pretty well-received.