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March 11th, 2009 | EarthBound, EarthBound 64, MOTHER 1, MOTHER 1+2, MOTHER 3

A lot of people don’t know the details about the MOTHER series’ history, so let’s take a quick look. At some point in the future I may go into more detail about specific things, but for now, this is just a quick overview that I’ve translated from a Japanese site. Just to be safe, I’ve crosschecked stuff when possible. I’m not claiming this to be 100% authoritative, but from everything I’ve known and from everything I’ve found, I’d say most everything here is correct. It’s also not super-detailed. I think I might try to make some sort of detailed timeline at some point, but this should suffice for most people for now.

History of the MOTHER series

March 1989 – Nintendo invests money and founds APE. Shigesato Itoi is made CEO of the company.
APE was created because Hiroshi Yamauchi, president of Nintendo, was concerned that ideas for games would eventually start to dry up if things continued as they were. He believed that exceptional talent would be what supports the industry into the future. Since Yamauchi was very fond of Shigesato Itoi’s work, he approached him with the idea. APE was filled with tons of talent, including Tsunekazu Ishihara (now CEO of the Pokemon Company), Ashura Benimaru Ito (famous illustrator), Akihiko Miura (head planner at Genius Sonority), Masayuki Miura (also works at the Pokemon Company), and many others. Once everyone was gathered, they all worked together on MOTHER. Pokemon also began when Satoshi Tajiri of Creatures brought the game’s idea to APE.

July 27, 1989 – Shigesato Itoi’s MOTHER game is released
The relationship between Shigesato Itoi and Nintendo actually first started because of the dating sim Nakayama Miho’s Heartbeat High School. Nintendo had called Itoi, hoping he could assist with the game’s publicity strategy. This led to his first meeting with important people at Nintendo. Itoi had been interested in games for some time, so he wrote a game proposal and showed it to Nintendo, but Shigeru Miyamoto’s reaction wasn’t particularly great at first. Miyamoto didn’t know how serious Itoi really was about making the game, since a bunch of celebrities and semi-celebrities had tried to make games before and they were generally bad. Miyamoto was worried that Itoi’s game might wind up as just another one of those. Supposedly, Miyamoto’s response made Itoi sad enough to cry while riding the bullet train back to Tokyo.

However, the next day, Nintendo contacted Itoi and told him, “Well, if you’re really serious about it…” and Itoi supposedly accepted the offer with, “I’ll do it! I’ll do it!” And that’s how the MOTHER project began.

Pax Softnica handled MOTHER’s development. Pax Softnica was in Ichikawa City in Chiba Prefecture, and Itoi traveled there almost daily from Tokyo to work on the game. It took about one year to develop MOTHER.

The music in MOTHER and MOTHER 2 was handled by Keiichi Suzuki of the Moonriders band and Hirokazu Tanaka, in the 1st Development Department at Nintendo. Tanaka is currently CEO of Creatures, incidentally. Tanaka’s reason for working on MOTHER wasn’t anything that special – his boss basically called him over and said, “You do it.”

1993 – APE and Pax Softnica’s development work on MOTHER 2 hit a major roadblock, and the game was very close to being canceled. Satoru Iwata (the current president of Nintendo) was brought in from HAL and put the game back on track.

August 27, 1994 – MOTHER 2 is released for the Super Famicom
The game’s slogan “Adults, children, and even your sister” became popular, as did Takuya Kimura’s appearance in the MOTHER 2 commercials.

After MOTHER 2 was completed, APE went into hibernation. In 1995, Tsunekazu Ishihara founded Creatures with members from APE.

June 1995 – Shigesato Itoi is made a board director at HAL
Did work on MOTHER 3 start around this time?

June 1995 – MOTHER 2 is released as EarthBound in North America

November 1996 – The Nintendo 64DD system is announced at the NINTENDO 64 Spaceworld ’96. Video of MOTHER 3 is shown. (note: I’m not sure this video has ever made it onto the Internet)

November 11, 1997 – The Nintendo Power service started in Japan. This let consumers download games onto flash carts at local Lawson convenience stores.
MOTHER 2 was one of the very first games available on the Nintendo Power system.

November 1997 – Video of “MOTHER 3 – The Chimera Forest” was shown at Nintendo Spaceworld ’97. (note: it’s unknown if this video exists on the Internet)
Incidentally, the “The Chimera Forest” subtitle had to be changed due to trademark issues. The last subtitle it had was “Fall of the Pig King”.

January 21, 1999 – Smash Brothers for the Nintendo 64 was released in Japan
Ness was included as an unlockable, playable character.

Spring 1999 – At President Yamauchi’s request, Satoru Iwata, MOTHER 3’s producer, was given a new job that meant he had to constantly travel back and forth between Japan and America to complete the Dolphin system (later named GameCube). Because of this intense schedule, he stepped down as HAL’s CEO in May.
This is also one reason the Nintendo 64 version of MOTHER 3 wound up cancelled.

June 11, 1999 – An overview of the 64DD membership service is announced
It was shortly after this announcement that it was made clear that MOTHER 3 had been made into a normal Nintendo 64 cartridge game.

August 1999 – a playable demo of MOTHER 3: Fall of the Pig King was presented at Nintendo Spaceworld ’99.
The release date for MOTHER 3 was announced to be May 2000. Because of the music battle system, players had to wear headphones when playing, but because the game was so unfinished and unpolished, the demo supposedly wasn’t as impressive as it could have been.

August 22, 2000 – Itoi announces the cancellation of MOTHER 3: Fall of the Pig King on his site
(note: I still haven’t translated this monster discussion between Itoi, Iwata, and Miyamoto, but I will at some point)

It should be mentioned that HAL had been developing the game, and Creatures had been involved with the graphics creation. Benimaru Ashura Ito (now with Creatures) served as the art director, and Hirokazu Tanaka was slated to handle the third game’s music again, but the job ultimately fell to Shogo Sakai of HAL.

June 2001 – Shigesato Itoi steps down as HAL board director

November 21, 2001 – Smash Bros. Melee is released in Japan
As before, Ness was included as a playable character. Also included were Onett and Fourside stages, plus figures of various MOTHER 2 characters.

April 14, 2003 – MOTHER 1+2 for the GameBoy Advance is announced via a TV commercial. The development of MOTHER 3 for the GBA is also mentioned. The next day, Itoi announces it on his site.
Apparently the commercial first aired on TV Asahi’s “News Station” show. People on the Internet who hadn’t seen the commercial thought it was a fake announcement at first.

June 20, 2003 – MOTHER 1+2 is released for the GameBoy Advance
The slogans were “Adults, children, and even your sister… all over again!” and “Weird game or moving RPG?!”

November 18, 2004 – Patents that seemed to be related to MOTHER 3 were posted on the Japanese patent office’s website
The patents were submitted on April 23, 2003. Among the names on the patent were Shigesato Itoi, Satoru Iwata, Shogo Sakai, and several people from Brownie Brown. It wasn’t until 2005 that this news really got out, though.

September 2005 – A help wanted ad for game testers was posted on Brownie Brown’s website
Brownie Brown was founded in 2000 as a Nintendo subsidiary, and had worked on games like Magical Vacation and Sword of Mana. The company was composed of ex-Square employees, and it’s because of their RPG experience that Nintendo probably placed them in charge of MOTHER 3. Shigesato Itoi often wrote on his site about Kichijoji, and that’s where Brownie Brown’s office is located.

November 4, 2005 – Itoi announces on his site that MOTHER 3 is nearly ready to be released

November 7, 2005 – Nintendo creates an official site for MOTHER 3, and announces the game will be released in the spring of 2006 and cost 4800 yen.

January 24, 2006 – Itoi announces on his site that MOTHER 3 will be released on April 20th

February 2, 2006 – MOTHER 1+2 is released as a Value Selection title

February 7, 2006 – The “Welcome to MOTHER 3 World” series of updates begins on Itoi’s site
The slogan, “Strange, funny, and heartrending” is announced. The MOTHER 3 Love Theme is also made public.

April 6, 2006 – MOTHER 3 commercials begin airing

April 20, 2006 – MOTHER 3 is released for the GameBoy Advance


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20 Comments to Quick History of the MOTHER Series

wants_latios_lots said on Mar. 12, 2009

And now you guys are part of that history, having translated Mother 3! ;D

Xi said on Mar. 12, 2009

“1993 – APE and Pax Softnica’s development work on MOTHER 2 hit a major roadblock, and the game was very close to being canceled. Satoru Iwata (the current president of Nintendo) was brought in from HAL and put the game back on track.”

I’d be interested in more details on this piece.

Keiji Dragon said on Mar. 12, 2009

What exactly was that “roadblock” that occurred during MOTHER 2’s development? Did it have to do with the programing, because I distinctly remember Iwata saying something about how it would have taken longer to continue the way Pax Softnica programed the game, than to start from scratch.

Keiji Dragon said on Mar. 12, 2009

Also you guys should check out how much this person wrote about the history of MOTHER 3:


While its extremely long, its an entertaining and interesting read for those who are into MOTHER 3’s past. Seriously. That’s about five pages worth of lines. :O

Big A2 said on Mar. 12, 2009

“A lot of people don’t know the details about the MOTHER series’ history,”

Really? I thought stuff like that was pretty well-known among fans of the series.

JB2448 said on Mar. 12, 2009

Having been a fan of EarthBound for several years, there were some things that I didn’t know or wasn’t clear on that were brought to my attention or clarified in this article, such as Itoi being on HAL’s board of directors. This is pretty interesting. Thanks for translating it, but just for the heck of it, can you post a link to the original?

Spyden said on Mar. 12, 2009

Tanaka happened to be one of Nintendo’s most trusted composers and sound engineers.

Getting his big break by doing the sound effects and actually building the arcade sound system (what speakers to use, what kind chips and how they are wired, etc.) for the original Donkey Kong. He later went on to compose music for the Gameboy release of Tetris (Theme B is entirely his creation, while A is based on a Russian folk tune, and C is a piece from Bach), Super Mario Land (Gameboy), and Kid Icarus (the music being praised for its great use of harmony).

He mentored the composer for the Fire Emblem game on the Famicom. He also helped develop the Light Gun (composing the music and sound effects for those games) as well as the Gameboy Camera.

However, Tanaka’s greatest achievement would be the music and sound effects that he created for a game called Metroid. He composed this as a response to the numerous games on the market whose music simply did not match the tone of the game. This is widely regarded as his magnum opus.

He went on to compose 1/3rd of all the games Nintendo made through its 8-bit days. Later, he was asked to compose music for a new anime series. Not expecting it to become as popular as it did, he accepted for fun. However, the Pokemon anime (along with the game etc.) took off and Tanaka started taking more managerial roles. He eventually became the president of Creatures Inc.

Even now, Tanaka is very passionate about composing and music, and was most likely pleased to accept Mother and Mother 2. Tanaka was actually the one who recorded the “Ok’suka” to use in the game. Funny thing is, Itoi didn’t even know about it. Tanaka had actually hid a tape recorder on him and recorded him saying that.

From Chiptune Pioneer to President of Creatures, Hirokazu Tanaka is a great guy.

(I chose to do a biography on him in school. Of course, I had a whole slide dedicated to Earthbound.)

Spyden said on Mar. 12, 2009

I spelled “Ok desu ka” Horribly wrong…I think :/

Tanaka also did the music for Dr. Mario.

Viewtiful_Justin said on Mar. 12, 2009

Thanks for sharing! I still would love to have seen Mother 3 made on the 64. It was the one thing that my friends and I were all looking forward to! We were crushed when it disappeared.

Spyden said on Mar. 12, 2009

X( Sorry, I keep remembering stuff.

Tanaka was also the one who created the Moonside swing. Itoi apparently let the development team have free reign with this area, and Tanaka made a song the fit the atmosphere.

Wil said on Mar. 12, 2009

I’d love to read that biography of Tanaka, Spyden.
He’s my all time favorite Nintendo music/SFX creator.

Chant said on Mar. 12, 2009

The cool part about this is mother 3 for N64DD did have a demo and a music system. LOL I should get a job for nintendo for finding some rare demo cartridges.

TBird said on Mar. 12, 2009

“Weird game or moving RPG?!”

I love this slogan.

Flint said on Mar. 12, 2009

MOTHER series is indeed a troublesome one, sometimes Im surprised that we got 3 instalments of it (series that give less truoble barely get just one release) I bet many of the big people at Nintendo Japan just love the series.

Mr. Nosy said on Mar. 12, 2009

Earthbound 64 had a Sound Battle System? /surprised/

santiagoff said on Mar. 12, 2009

You know , you should add the fan translation of mother 3. It’s as important as the other things you mentioned.

SamWibatt said on Mar. 13, 2009

I agree with what santiagoff and others have said. I understand if you don’t want to toot your own horn by adding the Fan Translation to the timeline, but it was a remarkable achievement. If I haven’t thanked you for it today, well, thanks! Remind me again tomorrow. 🙂

Spyden said on Mar. 13, 2009

Not to be a party pooper, but The fan translation, while really cool and a landmark achievement, is NOT official. It never will be. This series of events are the official happenings of the Mother series in deveopment and release.

Another reason why the fan translation isn’t included on this list is that quote:

“this is just a quick overview that I’ve translated from a Japanese site”

If this was written before the fan translation was finished, then it wouldn’t be mentioned. Also, I’m not particularly sure if the Japanese would even care if the game had been translated by fans…

I am grateful for the Fan Translation, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think that it warrants a place on the official development history of the games.

Just my thoughts.

DanteAMD said on Apr. 6, 2009

Not to be a Party POOPER? :O You Just Pooped IT!

~Parents Opposing Obsession Plan

Anonymous said on Jul. 27, 2009

this is really not that important but i should point out that satoshi tajiri’s company is called Game Freak, and APE actually changed its name to Creatures later


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