Video Game / MOTHER

No crying until the end. (Japanese) 
Tag line of the first game in the trilogy

For the first game in the trilogy, which shares the same Japanese title, go here.

MOTHER is an Eastern RPG trilogy by Nintendo, the brainchild of Japanese writer and media personality Shigesato Itoi as a personal experiment in the ability of the video game medium to tell a story. Yep, it's an auteur-directed game series, and one of the first of its kind, too. It was named for the John Lennon song "Mother", of whom Itoi is a large fan, and is subject to quite a lot of Title Drops.

With an eccentric like Itoi at the helm, it's not a surprise that MOTHER exemplifies the "Widget Series": the crude-yet-oddly unique art style, the self-aware wall breakages, the parodical interpretation of modern-day Earth (in this case, America... skewed by the perspective of a foreigner exposed to it only through TV and cinema), and an emotional roller-coaster of Dadaist humour and tragedy.

The series as a whole is a chronic victim of No Export for You, and while it is rather famous now, that may be more related to, or at least instigated by, its continued presence in the Super Smash Bros. series.

Completely unrelated to the comedy starring Albert Brooks and Debbie Reynolds.

The series has become a major source of inspiration for indie-produced RPGs with a similar offbeat-yet-creepy atmosphere deemed "Motherlikes". Notable examples include Undertale, LISA, OFF, Ib, Anodyne, and SpaceFuneral. Citizens of Earth is another game influenced by MOTHER that focuses more on the offbeat nature rather than creepiness.

The series consists of the following titles:

  • EarthBound Beginningsnote  (1989, Family Computer; 2015, Wii U): The series' debut, telling the story of Ninten as he works to uncover his family's connections to an impending alien invasion. There was never a physical release outside Japan, but an unreleased English cartridge known as "Earth Bound" was discovered in the late 1990s. This version was finally officially released outside of Japan as a Wii U Virtual Console title nearly 26 years after its release in Japan.
  • EarthBoundnote  (1994/1995, Super Nintendo Entertainment System): The series' only official international release for the longest time, and thus the one everyone's most familiar with. The star is Ness, one of the four chosen heroes to combat the Universal Cosmic Destroyer and his impending destruction of the universe.
  • MOTHER 1+2 (2003, Game Boy Advance): A Compilation Re-release of EarthBound Beginnings and EarthBound, released exclusively in Japan to promote the release of MOTHER 3, and notably incorporating practically all the modifications of the then-unreleased English localization. Also has a Fan Translation by the same translator who translated MOTHER 3; however, only the first game was translated, as the translator found that translating EarthBound beyond a basic menu translation was too time-consuming (especially because of the system the game uses to display text) and, because of its lesser quality (mainly the sound), was not worth the effort.
  • MOTHER 3note  (2006, Game Boy Advance): The series' apparent Grand Finale, featuring a wide Ensemble Cast headed by Lucas, a timid child promoted to investigate the slow corruption of his home island. Again, only released in Japan, but is the subject of a particularly famous and polished Fan Translation.

The MOTHER trilogy as a whole contains examples of:

  • Cowardly Mooks: The Preexisting Encounters in the latter 2 games will flee from the Player Party if it is too strong.
  • Crapsaccharine World: A somewhat downplayed, Zig-Zagged example. The world always starts out looking bright and friendly on the surface, but there's always multiple things horribly, horribly wrong just underneath the surface. However, The Power of Friendship is played unironically a major theme, and even when you see its dark side it still lacks the sense of inexorable despair of a full-blown Crapsack World.
  • Critical Hit: The SMAAAASH!!! attack is present in every game. This is a critical hit that ignores Defense, and both player characters and enemies can get them.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: So, so many bosses. Teddy, Frank, Everdred, Carpainter, Monotoli, etc. Justified with a couple of them in that they were Brainwashed and Crazy, and defeat snapped them out of it.
  • Eagleland: America in EarthBound Beginnings, and Eagleland in EarthBound.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys:
    • A singing monkey gives you a part of a MacGuffin in EarthBound Beginnings. Later, you get to go in a cave full of monkeys. A majority of them lie to you.
    • In EarthBound, the Bubble Monkey helps Jeff cross a lake, and in the desert there is a cave full of monkeys who can teach you PSI teleport.
    • Salsa, a monkey, is a prominent character and Guest-Star Party Member in MOTHER 3.
  • Early Game Hell: Plagues all three games where you spend a good portion with no allies, so if you die that's it.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: Zombie mooks pop up time to time. In EarthBound Beginnings, you see them the early graveyard section of the game and Rosemary's house. EarthBound's Threed has been completely overwhelmed by zombies, trapping them in a perpetual George Romero movie. In MOTHER 3, the cemetery north of Tazmily Village when you take control of Duster in Chapter 2 comes up with some as well.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Your first two enemies in EarthBound Beginnings are a desk lamp and a doll. It just gets more off-the-wall from there.
  • Expy: The Starman race (or at least the visored, silvery suits they wear) is blatantly modeled after Gort. They even fire "beams" as their primary attack.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Especially in the second game, with Eagleland (the United States), Foggyland (Europe), Chommo (Asia), and an unnamed continent based on Africa.
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: At the end of both EarthBound Beginnings and EarthBound.
  • Foreshadowing: In EarthBound Beginnings, visit a certain denizen of Magicant and take his philosophy about happiness into account:
    "Happiness won't just walk into your life on its own, but neither will unhappiness. So if you don't want trouble in your life, then you'd best stay still and never move a muscle."
  • Fingerless Hands: Nearly to all characters in the trilogy have this, even if they are sprites.
  • Free-Range Children: No one in the MOTHER universe seems to care about a group of children wandering around the world with no adult supervision. Maybe it has something to do with them being able to regularly beat up any adults, zombies, and Eldritch Abominations they meet that stand in their way...
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Two examples, both roughly of the same age when they begin their descent: Giygas, originally an infant alien who expressed curiosity about his human co-passengers, to the literal embodiment of all evil; and Porky, a comic relief character who is chosen to be Giygas' representative on Earth. Porky turns out to be the most sadistic character in the series.
  • Genre Deconstruction: MOTHER is Itoi's meditation on what games are, why they are fun, and the logistics of applying JRPG logic to the real world. For example: Who designs dungeons? And why do people instinctively know to loot them? (Admittedly, the series' mythos got a little deeper with each game.)
  • Girl Next Door: Ana, Tracy, and Paula.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All: The Eight Melodies in EarthBound Beginnings and EarthBound. In MOTHER 3, Lucas is in a race to stop all Seven Needles from being uprooted (or, when failure there becomes inevitable, make sure that he's the one that pulls them).
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: A prominent example, as this feature is used to name the game's most powerful attack and the food your mother gives you to eat every time you see her.
    • Not to mention the name of your dog, the friends that you will make along the path of your journey, and the um... "flavor" of the text boxes.
    • And you are able to give your own name as well as that of the main group. This can easily put the insanity of Giygas into perspective should you name yourself or Ness after him.
  • Kids Are Cruel/Kids Are Innocent: A major theme explored in the games.
  • Kids Versus Adults: Some recurring enemies are adults who have been corrupted by evil forces.
  • Magic by Any Other Name: PSI is pretty much the game's magic.
  • Mayor Pain: Mr. Mayor (A. Goodman) of Podunk is a Wilkins. Fourside's Gelegarde Monotoli is a malevolent Quimby (or so it seems at first).
    • Onett's B.H Pirkle and Tazmily's Pusher are both Quimbys.
  • Meaningful Name: The franchises name was apparently inspired by one of John Lennon songs, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have any meaning the series games. Giygas's connections with his adopted mother Maria and sequential feelings of abandonment is what drives a major portion of the overarching plot of EarthBound Beginnings, and carries over slightly into EarthBound. EarthBound also has Ness's mother, who he must call periodically to cure his homesickness. MOTHER 3, the loss of his mother and sequential attempts to deal with it are a major part of Lucas's Character Development.
  • Now, Where Was I Going Again?: In the instruction manual, Itoi personally implored gamers to play though EarthBound Beginnings at "a leisurely pace." This ended up being pretty redundant.
  • Once per Episode:
    • All the games have a sequence where a band gets up on stage and plays a song, be it the protagonist themselves in EarthBound Beginnings, The Runaway Five in EarthBound, or the DCMC in MOTHER 3.
    • Similarly, all the games have a mini-arc that deals with the undead in some way. note 
    • Additionally, all the games have an area where you encounter People Jars. note 
  • Our Time Travel Is Different: Ness' party travels to Giygas's lair, a cavern at the center of the Earth teeming with plant life, but it's otherwise empty. They deduce that Giygas is attacking from the past, and use Dr. Andonuts' phase distorter to send them there.
    • After disappearing at EarthBound's climax, Porky got lost in extensive time travel abuse, to the point where by the time of MOTHER 3, it's warped him to be an immortal old man with the mind of a child.
  • The Pin Is Mightier Than the Sword: The Franklin Badge, which reflects electrical attacks back at the opponent. Played for Drama in MOTHER 3, when Claus intentionally commits suicide by shooting lightning at Lucas.
  • Police Brutality: In EarthBound, the cops attack Ness just because he refused to read the "DO NOT ENTER" sign at the traveller's shack leading to Giant Step, despite the fact that he clearly received the shack's keys from the equally incompetent Mayor Pain B.H. Pirkle.
  • The Power of Rock: Ninten's mission to reassemble the song of Queen Mary, the only weapon against Giygas. A similar quest awaits his successor, Ness.
  • Psychic Powers: As part of the shifting of the traditional setting of the eastern RPG to the modern era, psychic powers — or PSI — act as the analogue of the traditional RPG magic.
  • Same Story, Different Names: EarthBound shares many plot similarities and musical cues from EarthBound Beginnings, to the point that some theorize it to be a re-envisioning of the Famicom title.
  • Serial Escalation: One of the largest plot points in the second and third games? How many times can Porky Minch ruin everyone's lives. And boy, does it escalate.
  • Sheathe Your Sword: A full-on assault on Giygas/Masked Man is pointless. To win, you have to eschew violence (the antithesis of every JRPG at the time) and instead appeal to the humanity inside them.
  • Surreal Humor: A staple of the Mother games, especially with enemy designs. EarthBound and MOTHER 3 are probably the best examples of this.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: It's a common theme in the series for the Final Boss to be defeated in a non-violent way.
  • Tank Goodness: A rental. In EarthBound Beginnings, Lloyd shows up in another tank to defeat the second giant robot.
    • Kumatora, Wess, and Salsa face a Pork Tank in MOTHER 3.
  • Theme Naming: Most towns in MOTHER are named after a holiday. Woolseyism changed these names in EarthBound Beginnings because the translator thought they were silly.
    • Eagleland's towns (with some exceptions such as Happy Happy Village) are named Onett, Twoson, Threed, and Fourside. The seasonal theme from the first game sort of continues in Foggyland with Winters and Summers (though not Toto). (Chommo's sole settlement, Dalaam, does not share either of those traits.)
  • Titled After the Song: After a song by John Lennon.
  • Tragic Villain: Giygas. He felt betrayed by his adopted parents when his adopted father stole secrets note  from his people that could be use against them, and pushed away his adopted mother who still loved him as a result. He eventually attempted a full scale invasion of Earth in retaliation, only to be stop by his technically great-nephew who reminded him about his feelings of his adopted mother. He swore he'd come back for revenge later, and attempt to throw off any feelings he had for his adopted parents, and it all went down hill from there.
    • Porky too, believe it or not. Age did not make him any better.
  • True Companions: Every single game's party consists of four friends, and all of them are fine examples of this.
  • Two-Part Trilogy: An odd case of this trope in that it applies in two different ways. EarthBound Beginnings and MOTHER 3 are unrelated in about every aspect, but EarthBound serves as the second and first parts of each Two-Part Trilogy, respectively. Of note, EarthBound Beginnings and EarthBound are connected by Giegue / Giygas, the former showing his Start of Darkness and the latter being the game where he's finished off for good. EarthBound and MOTHER 3 are connected by Pokey / Porky, the former showing his Start of Darkness and the latter being the game where he's finished off for good. However, it has nothing to do with Giegue / Giygas, nor are the events dealing him even mentioned in 3, making both 1 and 2 a Two-Part Trilogy with EarthBound.
  • Useless Useful Spell: Very much Averted series wide. In the original game, the Instant Death Attack spells were near flatout Game Breakers thanks to working on nearly all enemies, only balanced out by the fact that you can't get it before all that's left are plotline bosses and the fact that most enemies late game will pretty much require you to spam them. Even though the latter two games would better balance Instant Death Attacks by making PK Flash more likely to make the enemy start crying instead of auto-killing them, even that can still come in handy. Most bosses are still at least fifty percent weak to at least one of the game's status aliments in EarthBound, and lowering and buffing stats in MOTHER 3 is pretty much required to beat some of the game's bosses.
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: Holy Loly Mountain in the first game, the Cave of the Past in the second, and the Empire Porky Building, specifically its basement, in the third.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: Giygas and Porky are the core reasons the series is so dark. When they aren't involved, the games are much, much lighter.
  • Widget Series: It's most apparent in EarthBound, which mostly keeps things silly and wacky outside of its infamous Final Boss. While EarthBound Beginnings and MOTHER 3 have their silly moments, they're generally far more serious in tone than EarthBound.
  • World of Weirdness: The entire premise.
  • X Meets Y: Yahtzee calls it "Peanuts crossed with Cthulhu Mythos". Itoi conceived the series as a whole as "Dragon Quest in the modern era, except done better".
  • Yin-Yang Clash:
    • Just as Ninten and Ness are all about the melody, the antagonists of MOTHER have ear-rending theme music. Some of it would send John Cage running in terror. (Incidentally, this is the first hint that Porky is going to be trouble.)
    • Giygas has no melody at all, only an incessant, high-pitched ring.
    • Magypsies fill the role left behind by Queen Mary and the Mr. Saturns: benign but weird. "Magypsy Party" is one of the best songs in MOTHER 3: a heavenly synth with a scatting sax overlay. Fassad is the traitorous Magypsy: once he falls off the Thunder Tower, he reappears as a cyborg with an array of horns strapped to what used to be his nose: a rocket-powered, robotic "translator" does the talking for him. His "speech" is a hideously off-key version of "Magypsy Party".
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: The second game is the Trope Namer, and it's a tradition of final bosses (Giygas in the first two games, Porky in the third) to use this type of attack.