While phrases like “localize Mother 3” have become something of a meme in recent years, the passion for an official Western port of the 2006 Game Boy Advance JRPG is as real as it gets. For 16 years, fans have been begging Nintendo to just give them an official English translation of Mother 3. While an unofficial (and exceptional) English fan translation of the game has been available for quite some time, Mother/Earthbound supporters still want to play an officially translated version of the game on a Nintendo device.
What’s even stranger than the fact that Nintendo has yet to grant that seemingly simple request is the fact that the company has historically been vague about why Mother 3 hasn’t been officially ported to the West yet. While various Nintendo representatives have referenced that project and the franchise over the years, few have been willing (or able) to explain the Mother 3 situation in a satisfying way.
In fact, the most popular recent theory about the Mother 3 port drama revolved around the idea that Nintendo was interested in burying conversations about the game altogether. After all, Mother 3 producer Shinichi Kameoka once suggested that Nintendo may have discovered that the process of properly translating such a strange title was simply too difficult. That theory was seemingly supported by a separate report from former Game Informer editor Imran Khan who once stated that the game was simply too controversial to be released in the West in anything close to its original form. Honestly, that’s the explanation I’ve been most willing to believe over the years. After all, Earthbound (the Western port of Mother 2) had to be heavily censored and ended up being one of the SNES’ most notable commercial disasters.
However, in a recent interview with Bloomberg, former Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé stated that the real reason why Mother 3 hasn’t been ported to the West yet is simply that Nintendo feels that hypothetical port doesn’t make sense for them from a business perspective.
“That is not at all the issue why Mother 3 in particular never made it to the West,” says Fils-Aimé regarding the rumors that Mother 3 was too controversial to officially leave Japan. “It was all based on the business needs and the business situation at the time.”
During an interview with Kinda Funny, Fils-Aimé expanded on that point by suggesting that Nintendo wants the Mother/Earthbound franchise to be bigger than they believe it currently is (at least in the West). As such, they don’t want to rush out a port to please the series’ most loyal and vocal supporters.
“The company knows there’s a lot of passion for that franchise, but thinking about how to make it current, thinking about how to make it bigger than just the – you know, let me call it the relatively small group of fans that desperately want to see Mother 3 or something next in the Earthbound series – that’s what the company I’m sure has been thinking about,” says Fils-Aimé. “And they just haven’t figured out yet the solution to that, or at least they haven’t been prepared to talk about it.”
Interestingly, Fils-Aimé also confirmed that he and former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata did have conversations about bringing Mother 3 to the West. At one point, it seems they were even entertaining the idea of simply porting the game in its original form (meaning it wouldn’t be translated into English) just to get it out there. Sadly, he also noted that Iwata’s death and the Wii U’s marketplace struggles meant that those conversations never really made it beyond those speculatory stages.
While Fils-Aimé goes out of his way to make it very clear that he no longer works at Nintendo and can’t speak about the company’s current plans/interests in an official capacity, it really does sound like he’s looking for the nicest ways to tell us that the chances of Mother 3 ever being ported to the West are as slim as some feared they always were. At the very least, it seems Nintendo is worried that the time and effort it would take to properly port the game just wouldn’t be worth their projected results. What’s even more troubling is the suggestion that they really don’t seem to know what to do about the future of the Mother/Earthbound franchise in general.
On the one hand, this news pretty much just confirms what some fans have long suspected to be true. On the other hand…well, anything but a “yes” to any questions regarding a Western port of Mother 3 will always feel unsatisfying. I’ve played the fan-translated version of the game many times, and I will happily tell you that it is a truly exceptional game that is more than worthy of Mother 2/Earthbound‘s ever-growing reputation. It will always be at least a little disappointing to think that more people may not get the chance to experience that title in the most accessible way possible, even if I certainly understand the many reasons that port hasn’t happened and may never happen.
Also, if you’ve never played Mother 2/Earthbound, I highly recommend that anyone with a Switch Online account do so as soon as possible. It truly is one of the best RPGs ever.