Video Game: Mother

No crying until the end.(Japanese) 

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.

The games are known for their strange sense of humor, simple yet subtly detailed cartoonish style, deconstructive approach to its genre and medium, bizarre near-parodical interpretation of America from the perspective of a foreigner exposed to it only through American TV and cinema, and for their sad and even terrifying moments. 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 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 EarthBound Beginnings 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 3 (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:

  • Action Bomb: The Territorial Oak burst into flames!
    • All three games feature an exploding robot enemy that can fully heal itself or its allies in two variants, with one type appearing in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. Said explosion will kill your partner's if you don't scroll fast enough.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of Dragon Quest, which is natural seeing as that is the game that inspired Itoi to dabble in game-writing. However, EarthBound's battle system drifts away from the Dragon Quest clone that is the original.
  • Alien Invasion: The Universal Cosmic Destroyer, Giygas.
  • The All-American Boy: Ninten and (in spirit) Ness.
  • Arc Words: Even though it is stated only as the Tag Line of the first game, it can relate to all three:
  • Art-Style Dissonance: The MOTHER trilogy is a prime example of this. Who would think such Peanuts-esque looking games would contain stories about how much Parental Abandonment can negatively effect a child, or contain one of the most infamous Final Boss fights in video game history, or tell one of the most heartrending stories in all of video games?
  • Better Than a Bare Bulb: Considering how many RPG cliches it pokes fun at, are you surprised?
  • Big Bad: Giygas and Porky for the whole series. In fact, these two are what connect each game to each other: Giygas's defeat in the first game drove him insane and turned him into the monster who we see in the second, and Porky's manipulations and time travel abuse both make him a recurring antagonist in the second game and the main villain of the third.
  • Black Bead Eyes: A MOTHER series tradition, though if the 64DD/N64 development period of MOTHER 3 is any indication, this may have been more due to technical pragmatism as opposed to deliberate stylistic choices (note that characters such as Ana, Paula, and Lucas in Brawl have blue eyes).
  • Book Ends: Quite brilliant, in fact. The major one you find is MOTHER 3's title logo, which starts off with a half-wooden and half-chrome design. When the game finally ends, the logo is back to all wooden, with a Earth instead of the chrome O, greatly resembling the logo of the first game.
    • EarthBound Beginnings and EarthBound are opposite numbers in terms of their endings. In the original, Magicant is a figurative representation of Ninten's great grandmother, Maria, restoring his HP and providing a safe haven at the cost of halting the game's progression; indeed, it gets easier to visit Magicant (via a Warp Whistle item), while getting back "on-track" becomes increasingly harder since Magicant's exit spits you back out at the game's starting point, like John Cusak flopping into a ditch on the New Jersey Turnpike. Eventually, Maria regains her memory, and Magicant vanishes for good. However, in EarthBound, the Playable Epilogue is a one-way track leading back home; Giygas's minions are all gone, you can guide Ness around the world for as long as you please — but it'll get boring. There are no new places to explore and nothing left to do but return to Ness's house in Onett.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The fourth wall is a bit soft in this series, but manages to avoid total destruction.
  • Circle of Friendship/Clap Your Hands If You Believe: In each game, the Final Boss (Post Final Boss in the third game) cannot be defeated by conventional means.
  • Combined Energy Attack: The way to defeat Giygas.
  • Coming-of-Age Story/Innocence Lost: Unquestionably so when it comes to the whole trilogy.
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority
  • Crapsack World: Holy cow is it ever! It can even be considered the epitome of this trope, along with...
    • Crapsaccharine World: The world at large is basically living with monsters, demons, and a giant alien about to wreak havok.
  • Critical Hit: The SMAAASH!!! 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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...
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Accepting a drink from a woman in a Rock and Roll club in the first game will cause a cop to show up, chastise Ninten for drinking under age, and arrest him.
  • 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.
  • 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 Are Useless
    • 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.
  • Powerpuff Girl Hands: Nearly to all characters in the trilogy have this, even if they are sprites.
  • 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 Games: 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.
  • Stock RPG Spells: PSI covers quite a wide range of these:
  • 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 main antagonists of MOTHER have ear-rending theme music that would send John Cage running away 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.