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Try not to cry – at least until the end. (Japanese) 
I believe the morning sun's
Always gonna shine again, and
I believe a pot of gold
Waits at every rainbow's end, oh
I believe in roses kissed with dew
Why shouldn't I believe the same in you?
— "Pollyanna", a Recurring Riff throughout the series

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 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 "Quirky Work": 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.

The series has become a major source of inspiration for indie-produced RPGs with a similar offbeat-yet-creepy atmosphere. Notable examples include Undertale, LISA, Yume Nikki, OFF and Space Funeral. Citizens of Earth is another game influenced by Mother that focuses more on the parodical modern setting. Oddity started off life as a fan made Mother 4 but eventually rebranded to avoid legal issues. It has also spawned some fan games, such as Mother: Cognitive Dissonance, an Interquel that attempts to bridge Giegue's transformation into the Giygas seen in EarthBound.

The series consists of the following titles:

  • EarthBound Beginningsnote  (1989, Family Computer; 2015, Wii U; 2022, Nintendo Switch): 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; it did get localized by Nintendo of America under the name Earth Bound and was slated for a 1991 US release, but these plans were shelved after being deemed commercially nonviable. A test cartridge of this localization was eventually discovered by fans and dumped online in 1998. This version was finally officially released outside of Japan as a Wii U Virtual Console title nearly 26 years after its release in Japan. This localization was re-released on the Nintendo Switch in 2022 as a part of Nintendo Switch Online.
  • EarthBoundnote  (1994/1995, Super Nintendo Entertainment System; 2013, Wii U; 2016, New Nintendo 3DS; 2022, Nintendo Switch): 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 destined to combat the Universal Cosmic Destroyer and his impending destruction of the universe. Re-released on the Nintendo Switch in 2022 as a part of Nintendo Switch Online.
  • 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 Clyde Mandelin, the same guy who lead the Mother 3 fan translation project. However, only the first game was translated; this game's version of EarthBound was left untouched beyond a simple menu translation, due to a combination of the sheer volume of text in the game, the rather complicated method used to actually display said text, and the fact that this particular port was of noticeably lesser quality.
  • Mother 3note  (2006, Game Boy Advance; 2015, Wii U;2024 Nintendo Switch Only in Japan ): 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 spearheaded by Clyde Mandelin.
In addition to games, various obscure pieces of Japan-only spin-off media were released, including a pair of novels based on the first two games which received fan translations in late 2021, and several mangas based on Mother 2.

The novels include:

The MOTHER trilogy as a whole contains examples of:

  • Aborted Arc:
    • The English prototype of EarthBound Beginnings that eventually was released in Japan in the Compilation Re-release MOTHER 1+2 ends with two Sequel Hooks: Giygas/Giegue promises to the hero Ninten that they will meet again and in The Stinger, Ninten's father calls him to inform that "Something new has come up". Neither EarthBound nor Mother 3 address this as they have different main characters and, in fact, aside from Giygas' origin, those two games are disjointed from the original.
    • During Porky's last piece of dialogue during the final boss of EarthBound, he'll remark that he will flee to another era to think of his next Evil Plan, and will possibly see Ness again. Come Mother 3, and the latter never happens, Porky instead captures Dr. Andonuts and the Mr. Saturns, with his whole plan involving an island in a post-apocalyptic Earth. The only time Ness and Porky officially see each other again is during his boss fight in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, where Ness saves Lucas.
  • Action Bomb:
    • EarthBound Beginnings and EarthBound feature treelike enemies that explode or burst into flames when defeated, damaging the entire party; in the first game, there's no HP odometer to stave off a potentially fatal blow.
    • 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 partners 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: In EarthBound Beginnings and EarthBound, the main conflict involves an alien invasion headed by the Sufficiently Advanced Alien Giegue, or as he's called in the sequel, The Universal Cosmic Destroyer, Giygas.
  • The All-American Boy: Both protagonists of the first two games, Ninten and Ness, are good-spirited and courageous boys from small American (or American-like in the latter's case) towns with a fondness of baseball and their mother's home cooking.
  • All in a Row: How the party always travels on the overworld, instead of the supporting protagonists disappearing into the main protagonist's sprite.
  • Ambiguous Robots: It's not clear if the Starmen are organic or synthetic. The Japanese version of Mother 2 has them use the katakana script, which is sometimes used to denote robotic-sounding speech. Similarly, the English localization EarthBound has them make whirring, beeping, and clicking noises. The American player's guide also implies that they're robots. On the other hand, PK Beam γ in EarthBound Beginnings is said to not affect mechanical beings, and yet can damage any Starman (except for for the Starman Junior). Meanwhile, Rust Promoters are supposed to damage mechanical enemies, and yet are useless against Starmen of any kind. To further cast doubt on them being robots, an enemy called "Ghost of Starman" is encountered near the end of EarthBound; there's a question mark over whether robots can have ghosts in this setting. All this has led to a lot of fan debate as to what exactly they are, with some suggesting various forms of compromise, like claiming that they're cyborgs or wearing Powered Armor.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: All three games in the series make use of this:
    • EarthBound Beginnings was originally set in 1988, but starting from the 1990 English localization and carrying into all later releases, this is changed to an ambiguous point in The '80s. However, since the game doesn't include anything that'd particularly date it specifically to the late 80's in the first place, it feels closer to 1980 or 1981 than to 1988, aiding the ambiguity in later releases.
    • EarthBound is set in "199X", and goes out of its way to avoid any particular trends from the decade in order to feel just as applicable to 1999 as to 1990. Consequently, the game includes not only elements that'd feel contemporaneous to audiences in the game's initial release year of 1994, but also elements indicative of the post-80's cultural hangover that marked the early 90's and even aspects that were phased out by the 1970's, such as rotary phones and elementary school-age girls in bows and dresses.
    • Mother 3 takes things a notch further by outright refusing to give any particular indicators of a range of years, though the modernized Tazmily and New Pork City borrow considerable elements from EarthBound's "199X'' setting as well as a few more additions indicative of the pre-smartphone 2000's, including cell phones with extendable antennae. It's eventually confirmed that the game takes place in an alternate timeline, a long time after the events of the previous game (potentially several millenia, given Porky's comments about his age).
  • An Ice Person: The PK Freeze series of PSI involves psychically conjuring ice to attack enemies.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Many are animated by the series' villains to attack the party, to the point of Everything Trying to Kill You levels.
  • Arc Words: Even though it is stated only as the Tag Line of the first game, it can relate to all three:
  • Artifact Title: MOTHER refers to the fact that Ninten's grandmother, Maria, raised Giegue from infancy, and the lullaby she used to sing him is what ultimately repels Giegue's Alien Invasion. But then MOTHER 2 lacks an important central mother figure, playing this trope straight. Then MOTHER 3 averts this trope once more, with Lucas's mother, Hinawa, and her death being a major driving force of the story for the characters and the events that play out, as well as her spirit being very instrumental in the final battle. This was averted with the localized names of the first two games, EarthBound Beginnings and EarthBound, respectively.
  • 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?
  • Attack Reflector: Some of the PSI shielding powers work this way. Enemies sometimes have them too, leading to potentially disastrous results if strong attacks are used against them.
  • Badass Adorable: Most of the main characters (especially the younger ones) qualify as this. Those that don't are just plain badass.
  • Badass Normal: Any party member without PSI powers compensates with something else, from gadgets like flamethrowers and ray guns, to swords to anything in-between.
  • Barrier Warrior: The various shielding PSI in the games, some of which mitigate damage taken, and others which reflect an enemy's attack back at them a certain number of times before the shield wears off.
  • Batter Up!: Ninten and Ness' most powerful weapons are bats. Lucas trades this for sticks instead, though he can equip a Bat by the endgame.
  • 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 being manipulated by Giygas and his 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).
  • Blush Sticker: Small, ovular 'blush' cutouts on the cheeks of some of the young, cute characters' sprites and clay models appear often, something else that gives the art style its round cuteness.
  • 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.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The humanoid enemies and some of the animal enemies in the series are suffering this, leading them to attack the party. Once defeated they "turn back to normal" or "regain all senses." A specific example is in MOTHER 3, with Lucas' twin brother Claus during his time as the Masked Man. His mother Hinawa's spirit has to bring him to his senses.
  • 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.
  • Combat Medic: The main protagonist of each of the games has a PSI powerset consisting almost solely of healing and status buffing, while also being one of the toughest physical combatants in their respective parties.
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority: In EarthBound and MOTHER 3, the protagonists usually fight against authority in some way. Ness ignores a DO NOT ENTER Sign at the start of the game and is then forced to fight against the Cops of his hometown in order to be allowed to move on to the next town. Lucas and his friends fight against the dictatorship of Pigmask Army that are industrializing and corrupting the Nowhere islands.
  • Cowardly Mooks: In the later 2 games, the Pre-existing Encounters will actively avoid the Player Party once it manages to complete whatever dungeon or area they're found in or if they are 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.
  • Dub Name Change: In EarthBound and EarthBound Beginnings; for example, the American holiday Theme Naming of the towns in MOTHER was changed and several enemies as well as a few NPCs had their names changed in the English versions.
  • Deconstruction:
    • The first two games are Deconstructions of the usual Eastern RPG genre of Fantasy from around the times that the games were released in, the games of the genre usually set in Medieval-esque times with kingdoms and Monarchies and having the heroes using Magic and Swords to fight their foes, their enemies usually being monsters and demons. With MOTHER 1 and MOTHER 2, the games are set in the Modern Era, Rural America in the 1980s and Eagleland in the 1990s respectively (Eagleland being a parody of America). You explore the world and fight enemies ranging from Hippies, to Possessed Cars, Street Signs, and even runaway dogs. The Party usually buys their weapons from Convenience Stores, their weapons ranging from Bats, Frying Pans, and Yoyos, though there usually is at least one character than can wield a traditional sword. Instead of Magic, some of the party use Psychic Powers known as PSI, and generally have telepathy to understand animals. And instead of the main villains being some Fantasical Villain who is powered by Magic or being God itself, the villains are just Aliens who are invading Earth.
    • Interestingly enough, MOTHER 3 is a deconstruction of the traditional Modern Era setting and enemies that both MOTHER 1 and MOTHER 2 established...which more or less brings the series to the usual Fantasy story of a non Modern setting and enemies that most Eastern RPG's are known for.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: As the games' stories go further, they both deconstruct and reconstruct elements of many typical JRPGs.
  • Eagleland: Both EarthBound Beginnings and EarthBound take place in fantasy pastiches of various American settings, though only EarthBound Beginnings literally refers to it as 'America.' EarthBound's Eagleland is even the Trope Namer.
  • Energy Weapon: The PK Beam series of PSI used by Ana in the first game, and beams are a favorite weapon of the Starman enemies. Some of Lloyd and Jeff's guns are laser guns.
  • Early Game Hell: Plagues all three games where you spend a good portion with no allies and limited PSI points and powers, so it's easier to run out of healing, and 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. Enemies in all three games consist of everything from Animate Inanimate Objects to Brainwashed and Crazy townsfolk to rampaging animals.
  • 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.
    • Ness is nearly identical to Ninten, down to the red baseball cap and blue-and-yellow striped shirt. Paula is one of Ana, with them both being cute little girls in pink dresses, and Jeff is a glasses-wearing nerd who uses gadgets similar to Lloyd. These lookalikes are not the same characters, however. Ness has more powerful PSI but is not as good at running away. Paula has less offensive PSI options but more more buffing and debuffing PSI, as well as "praying". Jeff has a greater variety of weapons, and can steal by "spying", but has to "fix" his items. Averted with Teddy and Poo, who have no real similarities to one another.
  • 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 and unhappiness into account:
    "Are you bothered that unhappiness and misfortune search you out? If you desire to never find trouble... stay home!"
  • Fingerless Hands: Nearly all characters in the trilogy have this, even if they are sprites.
  • Flashy Teleportation: Teleports are a PSI power in the first two games that requires movement but enables instant travel to towns that have already been visited. It may have been planned to be in the third game, if unused teleportation sprites of Kumatora and Duster are any indication.
  • 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: Giegue, an alien raised by Ninten's great-grandparents who Used to Be a Sweet Kid before eventually becoming an Eldritch Abomination described as the "literal embodiment of all evil"; and Porky, initially presented as a comic relief character who is chosen to be Giygas' representative on Earth. Porky turns out to be the cruelest and most capricious character in the series, to the point of being the Big Bad of Mother 3.
  • Frying Pan of Doom: Ana and Paula's most powerful weapons.
  • 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).
  • Healer Signs On Early: Ninten, Ness, and Lucas all serve as the party's healers, although since Lucas doesn't become the protagonist until chapter 4, you're forced to rely on other means until the story makes him the main character.
  • 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.
  • Heroic Mime: The main protagonist is always this. In MOTHER 3 in particular, only the main protagonist the player is controlling at the time is this; when not the main protagonist, they speak normally.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight:
    • Usually there's always at least one of these in each game. In the first game there's the fight against Giant Robot R7038, who easily decimates the party and gravely injures Teddy. The party is saved by Lloyd who finally returns with a Giant Tank that wipes out the robot. In the second game there's the Clumsy Robot, that when Jeff and Ness do a significant amount of damage to him, he just eats a bologna sandwich and heals himself back to full, and the fight only ends when the Runaway Five join the fray and flip the off Switch to shut down the robot. And there's a couple in the last game, there's Master Eddy and the Porky Bots. No matter what you do, Master Eddy always washes your party away onto the beach of Tanetane Island at the end of the fight and causes them to lose all of their items and be reduced to 1 HP and 0 PP; this forces them to eat the Hallucenogetic Mushrooms in order to recover their strength (and if you try to move forward without doing this, you face another Hopeless fight in Zombieshroom who is blocking your path, as he wipes the floor with your party in their current state). With the second case, it's a very similar scenario to the Clumsy Robot fight in EarthBound; The Porky Bots don't heal themselves, but they keep constantly spawning new ones and summoning more enemies the more you defeat, the fight only ends when the DCMC show up and destroy the last of the Bots.
    • With the final boss of Mother 3 however, this is actually subverted: when you get his HP down to 0, Porky gets into the Absolutely Safe Capsule and makes it seem like he's about to destroy you in battle. But then you realize that while he's in the capsule, he can't actually attack you and is trapped in there for eternity, so the party decides that nothing more can be done and stop fighting, leaving him there.
  • Humans Are Flawed: A recurring theme in the series:
    • George ends up stealing the secret of PSI from Giygas' race, prompting Giygas to exact vengeance on humanity even though George is deceased. There doesn't appear to be a reason why George did it other than greed.
    • Porky hits all seven deadly sins over the course of the second and third games. All because he's deeply insecure and suffered some pretty brutal abuse from his parents.
  • Iconic Item: Ninten and Ness' red baseball caps. Especially so for the latter, with it showing up as a Call-Back in Magicant.
  • Inconsistent Spelling: The series' own name. The first game was planned to be released as Earth Bound, but the second game removed the space... although no one seemed to agree whether it was EarthBound or Earthbound (an actual word). The game itself went with the former, but the original Player's Guide used the latter even in the more recent online version. It wasn't until Super Smash Bros. that the former spelling was standardized in official sources, but the latter still pops up on rare occasions. If you don't believe that, check out Shigesato Itoi's announcement for "Earthbound" Beginnings.
  • Kids Are Cruel/Kids Are Innocent: A major theme explored in the games.
  • Kid Hero: The majority of the protagonists in the games range from 11 to 14 years old during the time of their respective heroics.
  • 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.
  • Mana Drain: The PSI Magnet power works this way, draining enemy PP to add to the user's reserves.
  • 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 franchise's name was inspired by the John Lennon song off of Plastic Ono Band, 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' mother, who he must call periodically to cure his homesickness. In Mother 3, the loss of his mother and sequential attempts to deal with it are a major part of Lucas's Character Development, as well as his mother's spirit being the one who brings Lucas' Brainwashed and Crazy brother Claus back to his senses in the final battle.
  • Mental World: In its first incarnation in EarthBound Beginnings, the Fluffy Cloud Heaven Magicant is the lingering consciousness of Ninten's grandmother Maria. Magicant in EarthBound is Ness' Mental World.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: All three Japanese boxarts are just the game's logo against a solid red background. Averted with the English EarthBound boxart, which shows a towering Starman imposingly framed in front of a psychedelic background similar to the backgrounds used during the in-game battles.
  • Nerd Glasses: Lloyd has the round-rimmed version, while Jeff has the classic thick square frames.
  • 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 
  • Only One Name: Every playable party member except for Jeff doesn't have a last name, since he's the son of Dr. Andonuts, it's pretty easy to assume that is his last name.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Ghost enemies appear in all three games.
  • Our Time Travel Is Different:
    • In EarthBound, 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.
  • Pictorial Letter Substitution:
  • 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.
  • Playing with Fire: The PK Fire series of PSI involves using psychically-conjured fire to attack enemies.
  • 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 Friendship: Invoked in all of the games, but specifically in EarthBound when it's the combined power of the friends Ness and party made over the course of the game that enables them to defeat Giygas.
  • The Power of Love: Lucas' signature PSI attack, "PK Love" is a literal example. Giegue is only defeated by the memories of his surrogate mother Maria, and Hinawa's love for Claus is what snaps him out of his Brainwashed and Crazy spell as the Masked Man.
  • 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. Then there's the English name of Ness' Signature Move, which was changed from PK Fighting Spirit to PK Rockin'.
  • Psychic Powers: A Staple of the series, is 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.
  • Ray Gun: Some of Lloyd and Jeff's guns are these.
  • Recurring Element: The main protagonist always wears a striped shirt and is a Combat Medic with usually one of the highest attack stats of the party and is one of the slowest, if not the slowest of the party, as well as having a PSI power unique to himself.note 
  • 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.
  • Scripted Battle:
    • Every game at least has one of these, usually them being the Final Boss. In EarthBound Beginnings, Giegue, who you need to sing to 8 times in a row in order to defeat him. In EarthBound we have the final battle against Giygas, who you have to continuously pray against in order to call aid from your friends and the player to defeat him. And in MOTHER 3 we have The Masked Man, Claus, who you have to constantly keep yourself alive against while Hinawa's ghost fights to get him to remember himself and stop fighting.
    • Another example is also in EarthBound, where you play as Poo for a segment. He goes to meditate before heading to meet the rest of the party, and this meditation sequence takes place in a "battle" where the enemy systematically takes Poo's limbs and senses. You emerge completely fine, with a rather nice level up, despite being reduced to 0 HP during the sequence.
  • 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 and The 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.
  • Shock and Awe: The PK Thunder series of PSI.
  • The Smurfette Principle: The main playable party always consists of three male characters and one female character, who is the Glass Cannon and Squishy Wizard of the group.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: The protagonist of each game can talk to animals, who sometimes offer tips or just make regular animal noises. Of course you can only talk to friendly animals, not malevolent ones.
  • Spell Levels: The PSI powers of the games are divided into this by Greek Symbols, from the weakest version of an ability ([ability name] α) to the strongest version of an ability ([ability name] Ω). Some abilities have fewer levels than others, and EarthBound Beginnings also included π as a level, which did not reappear in either of the subsequent games.
  • Status Buff: The OffenseUp and DefenseUp PSI, which raise physical attack and defense, respectively, as well as the EarthBound Beginnings-only QuickUp, which raises speed.
  • Status Effects: Everything from "Blindness" to "Petrification" to "Sleeping," with the usual "Poison" effect (losing HP each turn) being split into no less than three effects depending on the game (head cold, poison, nausea, etc.).
  • Super-Deformed: The series renders its human characters with very exaggerated proportions in both sprites and clay models - overly large heads and small limbs, making them look cute. The American versions of the clay models of Ness and Paula of EarthBound were noticeably stretched, giving them longer limbs and likely trying to make them look older, though neither other party members Jeff and Poo received the same treatment.
  • Surreal Humor: Humor involving odd, wacky and outlandish characters, quirky dialogue, and cartoony antics is 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.
  • Telepathy: An in-game mechanic in the first game that uncovers the solution to certain puzzles, and used by Paula to contact Ness and Jeff in-story in the second. Broadly, this is likely how Ninten, Ness and Lucas can understand the thoughts of animals.
  • Teleportation with Drawbacks: PSI Teleport (Denoted as "α" in Earthbound) requires that the user run in a straight line in order to gain enough speed to take off, making it impossible to use in enclosed spaces.
  • Theme Naming:
    • Most towns in MOTHER are named after an American 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, picked because, to Itoi, it didn't sound like the kind of name a video game would have.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: All of the games allow players to enter its name at the start; by default, it's prime ribs for Ninten, steak for Ness, and omelettes for Lucas.
  • Tragic Villain:
    • Giygas. He felt betrayed by his adopted parents when his adopted father stole secrets note  from his people that could be used 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 stopped 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 attempted to throw off any feelings he still had for his adopted parents, and it all went down hill from there.
    • Porky too, believe it or not. He grew up in an abusive household, with Ness being his only "friend" as a kid. And while the English translation makes him out to seem like he's just a plain asshole who assisted Mr. Carpenter in trying to make Paula a Human Sacrifice of his own volition, the original Japanese version shows that he actually was mind controlled just like everyone else, and truly does ask Ness for forgiveness afterwards. But because Ness doesn't respond to this due to being very angry at him, Porky storms off very hurt and angry at Ness, and more or less sends Porky to join Giygas as a result, and things escalate to the point where he constantly tries to make Ness's journey harder and ruin his life at every turn he can, and eventually escapes to a different time period at the end of EarthBound. After thousands of years of time traveling and being locked out of every time period except for one (as well as aging unnaturally into a very old man), he ends up on the Nowhere Islands of Mother 3, and begins a dictatorship upon the islands, and it only gets worse from there.
  • 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 note , 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 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 (Mt. Itoi in the English version) in the first game, the Cave of the Past in the second, and the Empire Porky Building, specifically its basement which houses a Cave containing the Final Needle that's eeriely similar to the Cave of the Past, 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.
  • Violence Is Not an Option:
    • Every final boss fight plays out like this in the end; the player can't win no matter how much they try to hurt the boss, so an alternative method has to be used:
    • In EarthBound Beginnings, Giegue has an infinite amount of health, so just attacking him solves nothing. The player instead has to sing Maria's song to him in order to win.
    • In EarthBound, Giygas has gone full Eldritch Abomination, and just doing damage to him won't kill him; the player instead has to use Paula's Prayer command, and this results in the use of The Power of Love to defeat him.
    • In Mother 3, the final boss fight is essentially Lucas and company getting their heads handed to them by the Masked Man. Lucas refuses to even fight, and everyone else goes down before they even have a chance to. Unlike the above examples, though, this one's just a waiting game, and the player merely has to survive long enough for the fight to reach its conclusion.
  • White Magic: The LifeUp, Healing and buff PSI are the series' equivalents to this.
  • World of Weirdness: The entire premise.
  • Year X: Averted in the Japanese version of the first game, which takes place in 1988; played straight when the English eShop release gives it as "198X." Played straight in both versions of the second game, which take place in "199X."
  • 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.