What Makes The Mother Series So Great

They may not be chart-toppers - indeed, the third game has never even been officially released in the West - but the Mother/Earthbound series of role-playing games are some of the most revered and cherished of all Nintendo games (at least among certain clicks).

There's a very good reason why this is. And it has little to do with the actual games.

Of course, they're wonderful titles. Each manages something few games can: to evoke genuine emotion in players beyond the standard "excited" and "afraid". The Mother games can be funny. Charming. Touching. And, at their very best, genuinely tragic.

In accomplishing this, they're visibly unique amongst not just Nintendo games, but games in general. And that's all due, I think, to the men who made them.

Video games are generally made by men (and women) who do nothing but make video games. Seems obvious, but it also partly explains why so many games are similar/derivative of each other, and why so few are able to break free of established genres and video game tropes and really challenge us.

The Mother games, on the other hand, are a little different. Because some of its most important contributors have better things to do than just sit around making games all day.

So, like Suzuki, he comes at games from the perspective of an outsider. Someone whose creative energies aren't continually focused on the act of making games. Indeed, aside from the Mother games he's done little else in development aside from a...fishing game. Which means he's coming at games from the outside, as a man with a story he wants to tell through a game, not a man who is making a game with a story attached.

Again, this isn't to say Itoi's work is any better than someone who spends their entire career designing games and/or game stories. Indeed, going by the series' sales - which are low enough for Nintendo to swear on a Bible to never release Mother 3 in the West - there's an argument to the contrary.

Yet here we are, all these years later, still talking about Mother. And there will be plenty of you reading this who adore the games, who played Earthbound on the SNES and have played the official Mother 3 fan translation, who will always have a special place in their heart for the series which looked like a kid's RPG but could tell a more adult story than a thousand games with brown polygons put together.

So there's something to be said for the approach of getting dudes who don't normally make games to make a game. It may not set any sales charts on fire, but in an age where games are consumed and forgotten about in six-month cycles, to still cherish titles that are 21/16/5 years old respectively is an achievement few other franchises can boast.

Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

Comments

    Mother 3 has always been my favourite game of all time. Also, there's a fantastic and very very weird moment in Earthbound, after you buy that ramshackle house, where you find a short story written by Itoi (and published once in a magazine) in the cupboard. It's a very, very strange story, and is pretty much the only point in buying the house.
    I wish more authors wrote games...
    (by the way, if anyone's interested, I sell Earthbound + Mother 3 embroidery on Etsy, linked above)

    I'm nearly finished on my second playthrough of Earthbound, this series is easily the greatest non-core nintendo franchise. They're making a fan-made mother 4 but i would so love for itoi to come back to games.

    The entire series unquestionably comprises my all-time favourite games, and are collectively one of the three biggest influences over my writing and other creative endeavours. Even now I'm still disappointed in Nintendo's ongoing reluctance to give the series another chance in the west, but at the same time becoming jaded and apathetic about that is something that comes with the territory of liking the games, and that's finally beginning to settle in for me.

    I'm interested as to the choice to run an article about the series now, though - it's not like it's a special date for the series or anything, nor has anything concerning it surfaced elsewhere.

    Also... "the official Mother 3 fan translation"? "Official"? I know this was the fault of the American end of Kotaku, but still, nice contradiction there. Amazing as the fan translation is, by definition it's not official and never will be (unless Nintendo opts to take up the translator's offer to use the translation for a commercial release of the game... which obviously won't ever happen because come on this is MOTHER 3 we're talking about here).

    ahhh i loved mother 2 and mother 3 was ok but it lacked quirkyness that 2 had :P sure there were homosexual drag queen fairys in 3 but lol never the less it was entertaining

    Mother 3 has always been my favourite game of all time. Also, there’s a fantastic and very very weird moment in Earthbound, after you buy that ramshackle house, where you find a short story written by Itoi (and published once in a magazine) in the cupboard. It’s a very, very strange story, and is pretty much the only point in buying the house.
    I wish more authors wrote games…

    To be a stickler, it's "cliques" not "clicks"

    I recently bought a reproduction cart of the first Mother game on NES. I'd heard terrible things about how grindy and difficult was. Both accusations turned out to be utterly true, however, I played the whole thing start to finish and was thoroughly impressed with how deep it ended up being.

    "(at least among certain clicks)"

    Cliques:
    "A clique is an inclusive group of people who share common interests, views, purposes, patterns of behavior, or ethnicity."

    This is even featured BELOW THE ENTRIES FOR CLICK ON WIKIPEDIA.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Click

    Someone PLEASE get Luke a dictionary and slap him every time he posts a misspelt article.
    (And one for the editor who lets it past.)

    stopped reading as soon as he misspelled clique. kotaku needs a journalism genocide

Join the discussion!