- This article is about the EarthBound/Mother series as a whole. For the individual game, see EarthBound.
International logo of the EarthBound franchise
|First installment||EarthBound Beginnings/Mother (1989)|
|Latest installment||Mother 3 (2006, Japan only)|
The EarthBound series, also known as the Mother series in Japan (マザー MOTHER), is a series of role-playing video games published by Nintendo. There are three games in the series. EarthBound Beginnings, EarthBound, and Mother 3 have been released on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and Game Boy Advance respectively. Only Mother 3 has been released exclusively in Japan. The franchise debuted in Japan on July 27, 1989 with Mother (EarthBound Beginnings in English) for the Family Computer. In North America and Europe the series debuted with EarthBound (Mother 2 in Japan), released in North America on June 5th, 1996 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, then later in Europe on July 18, 2013 for the Wii U. Characters, music, weapons, and locations from the series also appeared in the Super Smash Bros. series, with Ness and Lucas being playable characters.
The EarthBound series has obtained a massive following and is widely seen as a cult classic. The re-releases of the games in particular has become among Nintendo's best-selling downloadable games, with EarthBound commonly seen as a best seller.
The series' Japanese title, Mother, was inspired by a song of the same name by John Lennon. The lyrics of "Mother" deal with Lennon's experience of growing up without a father. EarthBound creator Shigesato Itoi chose this name for his project because his own father was absent through much of his life. This theme is addressed in the first two Mother games, in which the main protagonist's father is never seen and only makes an appearance as a voice on a telephone. Itoi also felt the title of Mother was especially fitting as this game series is more feminine than other RPGs. 
The origin of the name EarthBound is currently unknown, however initially the localization team intended to keep it as Mother until the name EarthBound was filed and then chosen. The name "SpaceBound" was also considered, though it ultimately was scrapped likely to avoid misleading players into thinking the game involved space travel or combat.
The series was created by an influential Japanese copywriter, actor, and minor television celebrity named Shigesato Itoi, who took part in Nintendo's video game industry in the late 1980s. After forming his own subsidiary Ape Inc. with then-Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi, he began working on the franchise starting with Mother, later released internationally as EarthBound Beginnings. Released in July of 1989, the game took on a different theme opposed to the medieval sword-and-sorcery theme found in most RPG games at the time. Instead, the game was set in modern-day America with the cast consisting of average children with psychic powers, using average everyday items such as baseball bats and frying pans as weapons. Mother was a commercial success in Japan, and so the game was then planned to be translated and released internationally with the title Earth Bound. It was scheduled to release in 1991, however it was cancelled because the upcoming Super Nintendo Entertainment System was thought to overshadow the English release of the game, thus the game was decided too costly to market and produce, and was shelved with no plans for a release in the future.
On June 15th, 2015, the game was released for the first time internationally to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the series in North America, the game was given the official title EarthBound Beginnings. Similar to Japan, the game received positive reception, with critics praising its originality story, and its music. However, the game did receive criticism for its difficulty and balance issues.
With the success of Mother, Shigesato Itoi began to work on a sequel for the Super Famicom, Mother 2. However the game featured numerous delays with development taking 5 years, with the game nearly facing cancellation.
However, the project was saved when veteran programmer Satoru Iwata joined the development team, making the Mother 2 project now a joint effort by Ape and HAL Laboratory (HALKEN at the time), separate studios based at separate locations (employees would regularly have to travel between studios to work). The game was then completed and released in Japan in August 1994. It was then released in North America on June 5th, 1995. While the game was a success in Japan, it received poor reception in America. During the time of EarthBound's release, the RPG genre was generally unpopular in the west (this eventually changed with the release of Final Fantasy VII), and the game was criticized for having simple, cartoonish graphics as opposed to advanced graphics that were more appealing at the time. EarthBound's unusual marketing campaign, "this game stinks", was also thought to be a cause for the game's failure in America. These poor sales prevented the game from being released in PAL regions.
Despite this, the game began to receive recognition because of Ness, the protagonist of EarthBound, receiving representation in Super Smash Bros. and its successors. Because of this, the game began to receive a large following on internet sites such as Starmen.Net. Retrospectively, the game became a massive success with critics calling it not only one of the best RPGs of all time, but also the most original. The game received praise for its quirky humor, and its many parodies of American culture. The Wii U Virtual Console release of the game was the first time the game was released in PAL regions, it was one of Nintendo's most popular downloadable games of all time.
After the release of Mother 2, Itoi began on a sequel to the game, Mother 3 (named EarthBound 64 by western fans). The subtitle used in the Japanese game was changed several times during development, with one being Forest of the Chimera (森のキマイラ), but the most common one being Fall of the Pig King. Initially planned for the Super Famicom, development actually began on the Nintendo 64, where it was planned to be a launch title for the system in the west. Development then moved onto the Nintendo 64 disk drive expansion to use the expanded features. When the disk drive was seen as a commercial failure, the development moved back onto the N64. EarthBound 64 featured 3D graphics as opposed to the 2D art style from the previous 2 games. However, the development team faced many difficulties, forcing the game to have numerous delays across the years of the N64 lifespan. One of the biggest difficulties was how Itoi and his team were inexperienced with developing 3D video games. Development continued to struggle, with fears that the upcoming Nintendo GameCube would overshadow the release of the game. After more delays, the game was officially cancelled in August 2000, with Itoi citing that he did not want to make anything other than "something truly special" in addition to the project becoming too complex with its interest in 3D graphics.
However, after the success of the Super Smash Bros. series, encouragement from fans eventually led to Shigesato Itoi returning to development on Mother 3 for the Game Boy Advance. To promote the revival of Mother 3, Mother and Mother 2 were ported to the Game Boy Advance in June 2003, being the compilation cartridge Mother 1+2, released only in Japan. The Mother portion featured all the changes that were made in the then-unreleased English prototype of EarthBound Beginnings, while most of Mother 2 remained the same aside from the drop in audio quality due to hardware limitations. Each commercial of the game ended with the caption "We're making Mother 3 too!". On April 20th, 2006, Mother 3 had finally released in Japan on the Game Boy Advance. This version returned to the 2D pixelated art style that was used in the previous games. Mother 3 received strong critical acclaim in Japan with praise to the rhythm-based RPG combat, but more so on the storyline and tragic events that were rarely seen in its predecessors.
Mother 3 remained exclusive to Japan without an official localization, making it the only installment in the series without an official English release to this day. Despite this, the fansite Starmen.Net created a fan translation led by Clyde "Tomato" Mandelin, which released on October 17th, 2008. The fan translation received strong positive reception from fans, receiving 100,000 downloads within the first week of the release.
With Mother 3 finally complete, Shigesato Itoi decided that Mother 3 was the official conclusion of the series, and has stated he has no plans in creating fourth Mother installment in the future.
The EarthBound series was initially seen as a minor classic Nintendo title in the west, despite its popularity in Japan. When EarthBound was released on the Wii U's Virtual Console, however, it became one of Nintendo's best selling downloadable games of all time.
The recognition began when Ness was included in Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64 and became a staple in the series. Ness's inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Melee was widely applauded and fans were excited to see him return. Throughout the years between the initial release of EarthBound and its virtual console rerelease, the series had a massive following that continued grow larger thanks to the representation of the series in the Super Smash Bros. series. During the Wii era EarthBound was one of the most requested titles for the Wii Virtual Console. However due to legal issues regarding the music sampling, the game was never released despite its high demand. When Mother 2 was released on Japan's Wii U Virtual Console, the demand for EarthBound to be released in other countries grew all the more. Eventually when it was released, it was revealed that one of the main reasons for releasing it was because of the massive fan outcry on places like Miiverse.
The success of the series in the west caused the original Mother to be released outside of Japan for the first time, under the name EarthBound Beginnings, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the EarthBound's release in America. The game was highly applauded similar to EarthBound's release with fans expecting Mother 3 to happen next.
Despite Mother 3 not receiving an English release, the EarthBound series is now seen as a mainstream franchise in gaming culture rather than staying as a minor Nintendo classic. EarthBound in particular is widely viewed as the best example of a cult classic. Many EarthBound references and cameos began to appear in many other Nintendo games, ranging from Ness and Lucas appearing as mystery mushroom power-ups in Super Mario Maker, to an entire EarthBound-themed level in Kirby Planet Robobot, and continues to be an important franchise represented in the Super Smash Bros. series. The series has grown to the point where it has spawned fan games such as Mother: Cognitive Dissonance, as well as numerous indie games that took inspiration from the series, a prime example being the critically acclaimed Undertale.
The gameplay of the series involves the player traveling through an overworld screen. They can travel in any direction, provided the path isn't blocked, and will be challenged by enemies, most of which will move toward the player. A new screen appears in fight, with there being many options. Also listed is the amount of HP the character has left. If they beat the enemy, the fight will end and the game will return to the overworld screen.
|Cover, original release and system||Description|
July 2nd, 1989: Japan
June 14, 2015: International (Virtual Console)
Nintendo Entertainment System
|Also known as Mother, EarthBound Beginnings is the first game to be released in the EarthBound series. It follows the adventures of Ninten, Lloyd, Ana, and Teddy trying to find the Eight Melodies. It was released in Japan on July 27, 1989. It was released via the Virtual Console on the Wii U on June 14, 2015.|
August 27, 1994: Japan
July 2, 1995: North America
July 18, 2013: Europe and Oceania (Virtual Console)
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
|Also known as Mother 2, EarthBound is the sequel to Mother in which Ness, Paula, Jeff and Poo team up to defeat Giygas and save the world. It was released on August 27th, 1994 in Japan, it is also the only game to be released outside of Japan, being released in North America on June 2nd, 1995. It was released on July 18, 2013 on the Virtual Console for the Wii U.|
April 20th, 2006: Japan
October 17, 2008: Fan Translation
Game Boy Advance
|The final game in the Mother series, Mother 3 follows the adventures of another group of heroes as they attempt to save the world from a strange pig-themed army. It was released on April 20, 2006 in Japan, however, it was never released anywhere else. Despite its Japan-only release, a fan translation was created. Since Mother 3's release, it has seen a very strong fan effort to try to get the game released outside of Japan. It was re-released on December 17, 2015 on the Virtual Console for the Wii U.|
|Cover, original release and system||Description|
June 20th, 2003 (Japan)
Game Boy Advance
|Mother 1+2 is a port of Mother and EarthBound on the Game Boy Advance, containing various tweaks to audio and graphics to suit the Game Boy Advance's style. It was released in Japan on June 20th, 2003 to hype players for the release of Mother 3. It was never released outside of Japan, likely due to the original Mother being unreleased outside of Japan at the time.|
All games feature protagonists wearing striped shirts, and all are about collecting pieces to a song, often heard at the end of each game. Giygas appears as an antagonist in the first two games, and Pokey appears as an antagonist in the last two games.
- Did You Know Gaming (March 1, 2014). EarthBound - Did You Know Gaming? Feat. Chuggaaconroy. YouTube. Retrieved June 12, 2020.
by Shigesato Itoi
Onett • Fourside • New Pork City • Magicant
Mr. Saturn • Franklin Badge • Ramblin' Evil Mushroom
Jeff • Starman
Trophies • Stickers • Spirits