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October 29th, 2012 | EarthBound, MOTHER 3, Uncommon Knowledge

Rina sent this in a while back:

I was wondering…

Would you ever do an article about how the Mother series are seen nowadays in Japan?

Reading through Japanese forums on the internet, it seems like the Mother series is one that has a not very large but extremely faithful set of fans rather than a game everyone knows and likes in general. Similar to the way it is in North America.

Also, it seems like Mother 3 was met with a lot of criticism by gamers in general over here. It’s a far from perfect game, but haters hate on it with such passion!

And just one more thing-is it true the maker of the Pokemon series started making Pokemon games because he wanted to make a game like Mother? If so, it’d be cool to see something about it on this site!

There’s actually not a whole lot to say, but basically it sums up to this: the MOTHER series isn’t a gigantic blockbuster series at all. It’s definitely considered a cult classic (which Itoi even admits here). Apparently Itoi and others even consider it to be an old series that only people in their late 20s and above now are really familiar with, which makes sense given that it was mostly people in that age range who attended the various Giant Mr. Saturn/MOTHER series arcade stuff a year or two back.

Still, for some reason there’s an image outside of Japan that the MOTHER series is huge in Japan. It was well-received and liked and everything, but it’s stuck being a cult favorite more than anything. I think the less-than-expected sales of MOTHER 3 also proved that to Nintendo in 2006.

Also, it’s true that MOTHER 3 is often bashed on Japanese message boards. Maybe it’s just because 2ch is full of negative people, but it definitely hasn’t enjoyed the almost-unified sort of fan support that it has outside of Japan, which is weird because we never got an official translation! Maybe it’s that general neglect that has helped increase its image outside of Japan, I dunno.

Anyway, what makes it weird is that EarthBound and MOTHER 3 are critically acclaimed outside of Japan, but have long been overshadowed and forgotten IN Japan. That’s a generalization, of course, but that’s the impression I’ve gotten over the years of browsing English and Japanese sites.

Speaking of which, there are almost no Japanese fan sites for the MOTHER series out there anymore. There used to be a lot back in the 90s, but now they’re pretty much gone or dead. I’m not really sure of the cause and I don’t know if that’s how it is for other game series in Japan, but it’s an interesting phenomenon at least.

As for the Pokemon connection, I’ve heard all sorts of things, but I’m such a Pokemon un-expert that I shouldn’t say anything on the subject. If it means anything, in my eyes there are only 150 Pokemon. Dagnabbit.


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39 Comments to MOTHER and Japanese Fans

Earthbounder said on Oct. 29, 2012

Again… mother 1 is left out… ;_;

Mato said on Oct. 29, 2012

Yeah, in general it doesn’t seem to enjoy the same popularity as 2 and 3 do outside of Japan.

PepsiMax said on Oct. 29, 2012

I enjoyed this article. Mother fans have annoyed me ever since we’ve gotten this “second wave,” with I blame entirely on Smash Brothers. I’m glad people can read, form a reliable source, that Nintendo of America isn’t some petty company tying to keep EB fans down, and that it wasn’t the beast thing since sliced bread in Japan.

SomeAnon said on Oct. 29, 2012

Yeah, I’ve felt much of the same way about the fandom as PepsiMax. (To be honest, I wish that the current fanbase was more mature and less materialistic.)

Anyway, I figured that the Mother series had cult status in Japan, too. At first I was surprised to read that Mother 3 faces a lot of animosity in Japan. Though, the more I thought about it, the more things have added up. I’ve noticed that there’s less art on Pixiv for Mother 3 than Mother 2. Mother 3 doujinshi seems to be harder to come by, too.

Chopo Rarru said on Oct. 29, 2012

Why wasn’t Mother 3 as well-received by Japanese fans (in general) as its predecessor? Any ideas?

resetsurvivor said on Oct. 29, 2012

.. and by “second wave” are you referring to Smash Bros. 64 that was released in ’99? ..or something along the lines of the “third” or “fourth wave”? Because then technically I would be “second wave” back in ’99. Whoa! That was 13 years ago!

MrKoopan said on Oct. 29, 2012

the creator of Pokemon loved to collect bugs as a kid, and wanted people to feel what he felt when he found a new one, A quick Google search and you should find it, it’s a quote from him saying something along those lines.
I saw it a few month back and thought it was awesome

TheNessEB said on Oct. 29, 2012

I actually came in during 2011. I barely played Smash Brothers and the first time I played a Mother related character was through EarthBound itself.

G said on Oct. 29, 2012

I remember reading somewhere that Mewtwo was inspired by Gyiyg. Their similarity does seem like more than a coincidence.

Hyperstar96 said on Oct. 29, 2012

What about Mew?

The Man With No Name said on Oct. 29, 2012

This is the first time I’ve heard about the real reception of Mother in Japan, and to be honest, I now understand NoA’s side of the argument much better because of it. People have clammered for it left and right yet all Nintendo saw was a little set of games, that when given the chance (albeit an unfair one), didn’t receive any huge form of reception or current recognition. Even from its own country. Let alone a “foreign” or I guess “action oriented” market. Cept us crazy fan boys lol

poben said on Oct. 29, 2012

“Still, for some reason there’s an image outside of Japan that the MOTHER series is huge in Japan.”
Well, the only country Mother 3 was released was Japan and they included Lucas in SSBB. And there was no reason Ness should have been in the first game above someone like another Mario, Kirby, or Zelda character or maybe Little Mac, let alone have Ness be in all three games of the series.
That is 100% the reason people think the series is huge and the fanbase continues to grow.

RandomGuardian said on Oct. 29, 2012

Plus all the news we hear about Earthbound/Mother is (drum roll) -about Earthbound/Mother. Of course we never hear about “Japanese find M3 mediocre”. We read about “Giant mechanical Mr.Saturn built”.

Kuwanger said on Oct. 29, 2012

I’ll take a wild stab at it. Mother 3 was in many ways Japan’s Duke Nukem Forever. Ie, it was a much anticipated game from a somewhat quirky series that in itself the quirkiness is what made it so endearing to its fan base. Yet the very fact that it took so long to come about meant that expectations were basically guaranteed not to be met–in that regard, Duke Nukem Forever fared much, much worse than Mother 3–especially given that the huge drought between releases basically guaranteed that so few people would pick it up except the die hard fans.

In a more amazing twist, really, the Metroid series seems to have entirely averted the same fate by reinventing itself–one could say the Mega Man series did the same, although its drought came in the form of a lot of same-ish games, not in a long lack of games.

Yet, I’d say it’d be to hard to argue that Metroid or Mega Man aren’t niches too. Really, I think the truth is that barring a few exceptions, few game series ever really move outside the scope of a niche of their own. Video games themselves are a niche.

Of course, I think the other major reason for thinking that Japan has such a big Mother fan base is (a) presuming a lot more Japanese are into video games, (b) presuming a lot more Japanese games are into RPGs of all sorts, and (c) that the very existence of three games in the Mother series must mean enough Japanese RPGers who dabble in the Mother line. But, that sounds like generally uninformed crazy talk. But that’s fine. I mean, considering how much of the Mother series–IIRC, especially Mother 2–s meant in some way to portray the US and given the previous post with the heavily compressed version of weirdness that is Mother 2…I think we’re in good company. 🙂

Anonymous said on Oct. 29, 2012

“Speaking of which, there are almost no Japanese fan sites for the MOTHER series out there anymore. There used to be a lot back in the 90s, but now they’re pretty much gone or dead.”

I think there’s still a decent amount of active (or semi-active) Japanese MOTHER fansites out there… but they seem to all be stuck in the 90s design-wise. There’s a MOTHER webring, for Pete’s sake, a WEBRING.

liarxagerate said on Oct. 29, 2012

MOTHER 3 isn’t as popular because it’s not as good.

Anyway, I’ve only had a really limited contact with it, but the MOTHER fandom in Japan is way different than the EB fandom here inasmuch as it’s tied very closely to the people who grew up with it. It hasn’t continued adding fans like we have over here, so it’s kind of like a strictly nostalgic, generational bond. I’m not sure what the right comparison would be here—something cultish and 90s that’s great but is only brought up in passing most of the time.

Hobonichi was very surprised to learn that the fanbase in the states has continued to grow; they assumed everybody was 25-to-30-something, like in Japan.

Apple Kid said on Oct. 29, 2012

Hmmm… I guess you learn something new each day. I always thought Mother was highly praised by everyone in Japan, I guess I was wrong. I must agree with my fellow Earthbound fans, maybe neglect makes you have a deeper appreciation for something.

jinxkatty7 said on Oct. 29, 2012

woah, people over 20? Im 13 and I love Mother 2 and 3. (sorry Mother 1) I feel like an old person!!!

Ness1985 said on Oct. 30, 2012

The Mother series are powerful games. Some can’t handle them, or it becomes too powerful. Adding that they sum up how cruel our real world is. People don’t wanna face that anymore. Anyways, my simple point is these games are the very few that are the most powerful in the gaming industry period.

Anonymous said on Oct. 30, 2012

Japan is obsessed with tradition as far as RPGs go.

When Dragon Quest IX was released, the amazon.jp entry for the game was flooded with 1-star ratings because the formula was messed with, such as the removal of random encounters. The World Ends With You, a game that is loved by many in the west, didn’t do so well in Japan. It’s because it’s the furthest thing away from a traditional experience. You will find this pattern to be true within any release in the genre if you look at Japan’s reception. The hate for Mother 3 stems from the same place.

This is why the first Mother game is loved the most over there, even if it is due to nostalgia. Somehow, random battles and massive grind are redeeming factors. I will never understand this, as I see no point in playing the same game for 25 years straight. The genre should evolve all the time.

Chopo Rarru said on Oct. 30, 2012

Well, if you follow that “popularity = quality” line of thinking, then wouldn’t that mean Wii Sports is the greatest game of all time?

BusterTheFox said on Oct. 30, 2012

As far as the Pokémon thing goes, I recall that Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka did some of the music for earlier Pokémon games before becoming the vice-prez of The Pokémon Company, which I believe he is today. Tanaka did the music for Mother 1 and 2, in case anyone didn’t know. Only reason he didn’t do it for 3 is because he was so busy with The Pokémon Company.

I originally played Earthbound on my SNES when I was, what, three years old? I remember I used to be scared of it back then. Not to mention I couldn’t read, so I had no clue what was going on the whole time. Back then I didn’t know that gangsters existed and therefore that they used knifes to fight, so I thought Frank was a lady with maracas. O_o

Later on, I got into emulation and remembered about Earthbound, so I tried it again and beat it. Then I loved it, then I started looking at Starmen.net and eventually found the Mother 3 translation, which led me here. I’ve never been much for starmen.net, but I like the articles around here.

MotherFan said on Oct. 30, 2012

There are actually 151 pokemon in the first generation.
I was a pokemon fan before I was a Mother fan.

MotherFan said on Oct. 30, 2012


neonix said on Oct. 30, 2012

Incidentally, Mother and Pokemon are my two favorite video game series.

Akuma said on Oct. 31, 2012

Every copy of Mother 3 was purchased. Copies of Mother 3 are expensive on eBay and Amazon. If Mother 3 wasn’t a blockbuster it’s Nintendo’s fault for not producing enough GBA cartridges.

Mato said on Oct. 31, 2012

Mother 3 actually ended up in bargain bins throughout Japan for years because Nintendo overestimated sales.

Poe said on Oct. 31, 2012

And MOTHER 3 never did get a “Best Price” release, so does that mean it only had one print run?

flintlockdoorknob said on Oct. 31, 2012

“If it means anything, in my eyes there are only 150 Pokemon. Dagnabbit.”

I hate that point of view. There were about 200 Pokemon made originally and only 151 got into the game. Pokemon Black and White is really refreshing, and has a lot of the best connections with Mother 3.

[spoiler] Mother 3 ends with a dragon only seen in a painting and statue, one of which had a black and white dragon. Pokemon Black and White starts with a black and white dragon.

A lot of the connections between Mother 1 and Pokemon will ALWAYS remain in Pokemon because they will never really change that formula much. So Pokemon will sort of always remain vaguely similar to Earthbound. I wrote about it on my much neglected blog if you are interested in the connections.

RandomGuardian said on Oct. 31, 2012

Shhhhh Flintlockdoorknob, ix-nay on the pokemon thing-ay.
Quite a few adults like Mato use it as a coping mechanism to, in their mind, suppress their increasing age. Most have played the second generation Pokemon and even the third, but to make them feel young they automatically deny any existence of more than 151 Pokemon.
This is why they always insist on only 150/151 pokemon existing. Fascinating isn’t it. I only hope his affliction never, well, afflicts me. In the mean time just don’t argue with him. It could make the situation… worse.

Mato said on Nov. 1, 2012

and as far as I’m concerned blah blah Pokemon only come in ONE color: ugly green LCD

All others are imitations I tells ya

September said on Nov. 1, 2012

I’ve talked to a bunch of Japanese people at uni (Stockholm University) about video games, and telling them how the MOTHER series is my favourite. Strangely, none of them knew about those games, and they’re all above 19-20. Maybe that has to do with the fact that it’s not too popular anymore, but I just found it strange.

Anton said on Nov. 3, 2012

Seems to make sense. But what about the Japanese Baseball chant, Mato?

Anton said on Nov. 3, 2012
Rina said on Nov. 4, 2012

Wow, it’s really neat checking EBC for the first time in a while and seeing my email on it. Thanks Mato~
The article made a lot of things I’d been wondering make sense. Makes me a bit sad for the game though, which I haven’t really felt these days with the new wave of fans that seem to be flowing in since a couples ago. Thanks to Super Smash Brothers or chuggaaconroy or something, I’m not sure.
As for the Pokemon thing, what I heard was not of the head guy who thought of Pokemon, but what the game designers had as an idea of what sort of game they wanted. As far as I’ve searched though, there seems to be no proof of that whatsoever.

Rina said on Nov. 4, 2012

*typo! couple years ago. not couples ago. shoot. x(

Ganymede said on Nov. 18, 2012

Hideaki Sorachi made a parody of Mother 2 in his manga Gintama, chapter 416. It was hilarious! I think it’s still popular there.

LadyBolet said on Dec. 22, 2012

Do people on Japanese forums talk about Mother 3 the same way people on 4chan talk about Dragon Age 2? :Y

Just a Nobody said on Mar. 5, 2013

“I’m not really sure of the cause and I don’t know if that’s how it is for other game series in Japan, but it’s an interesting phenomenon at least.”

A lot of Japanese fans sites that started out as personal webpages linked together with webrings, which have mostly fallen out of use. Then things went to ‘rankings’ and ‘navis’ which were like giant linklists often sorted by category and function. Often series or franchise specific, but company (Nintendo, Square, etc.) indexes and overall general indexes, like Surpara were frequently used. In that design the support sites that held technical data about games and the creative sites where people posted fanart and writing related to the games still sat side by side. In the last few years, Pixiv has completely dominated the creative side of fanworks and a lot of artists and writers have found it much easier not only to post works, but have them seen by a general audience than it was to continue to update and maintain a personal site. As a result a lot of the old fansites have closed. For what it’s worth Pixiv yields around 14,000 results for Mother and about 15,000 for Smash Brothers (which seems to mostly be the boys from Fire Emblem, Link, and Samus Porn) so Earthbound love is alive and well.

If you want to poke around what’s left outside of Pixiv, or just in general want to visit Japanese sites related to the game, you should bookmark:


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