The Dark Side of Nintendo: Mother 3

Everyone knows Nintendo for being the game company that creates games that usually target children.  They make light-hearted game series such as Mario and Kirby that are just fun games where players commonly run around, jump on things, copy enemy powers, and save the princess.  No one would ever expect a Nintendo game with familial and animal abuse, characters with questionable gender, a once-peaceful village corrupted by modernization, or a twin brother who kills himself shortly after finding his own twin who he has not seen for over three years.  No would ever expect it but that’s precisely what everyone got in Mother 3, the darkest game to ever be developed and produced by Nintendo.

 

mother3_flintattack
Flint (top of image), father of Lucas and Claus (both at bottom of image), lashing out at Tazmily Village after finding out his wife has been killed

Mother 3, the sequel to Earthbound (Mother 2 in Japan), is a JRPG released only in Japan for the Game Boy Advance on April 20, 2006, it later received a full fan translation in 2008 but has yet to see official localization.  Like Earthbound, Mother 3 has a large fan-base who want this game to be re-released.  The fan translators have stated that they are willing to give their script to Nintendo and making any adjustments as necessary but Nintendo has yet to respond.  Chances for this re-release are low but as Earthbound has come to the Wii U Virtual Console and the Virtual Console has started selling Game Boy Advance games, the fan base has not lost hope yet.

 

In the beginning of the game, the peace of Tazmily Village comes to a screeching halt when a forest fire breaks out and Hinawa, Flint’s wife, is killed by a normally docile species of dinosaur.  The Pig Mask Army (who started the fire) then enter the village and begin selling “Happy Boxes” to the villagers; the villagers then learn about concepts such as money and wealth.

 

Mother3_ult
Don’t stare at the chick, he doesn’t like it

So right from the beginning, this story is much darker than the game’s predecessor, but like Earthbound, Mother 3 has a colorful cast of characters to tell this story such as a species known as “Save Frogs” that allow the player to save their game that can be seen hopping in place, driving cars, in a snake belly, pretending to be a fairy, and in a bathroom.  There are also a colorful cast of enemies mainly consisting of odd combinations of machines and animals such as Reconstructed Caribou (machine + caribou), Slitherhen (snake + hen), and an Ultimate Chimera (??? + chick, see right).

 

Unlike Earthbound though, while Earthbound hides its darkness behind its characters, Mother 3 turns the darkness up to eleven and throws it in the player’s face.  It may be slightly obscured with all of the cartoonish aesthetics but the game will not hesitate to make the player cry, get angry, or just feel bad for everyone in this world. A thief, Duster, is constantly called a moron by his own father who possibly gave Duster a limp.  A monkey, Salsa, is forced to comply with another man’s plans or be electrocuted, or worse, his girlfriend will be killed.  Six magical beings known as Magypsies wear all kinds of makeup but clearly have facial hair and are generally described as “genderqueer”.  Tazmily Village, a small remote village in the middle of Nowhere Islands, gets turned upside-down.

 

Nintendo’s games are usually for kids.  Most of them are designed to be childish or simple enough for kids to understand.  This is the light side of Nintendo.  But Nintendo has a dark side, a side shown only once to Japan that the rest of the world managed to get a glimpse of.  A beautiful side that a large group wants to see again.  A side most people tend to ignore or don’t even know exists.  A dark side called Mother 3.

 

mother3_claus
He’s going to where mom is.

  2 comments for “The Dark Side of Nintendo: Mother 3

  1. ppalisin
    April 17, 2015 at 11:52 am

    I have never played Earthbound, but I am familiar with it through Super Smash Bros. The characters of this game, specifically Lucas, always made me thing that the series had some bright, cutesy plot like Animal Crossing and the like. Seeing the details of the third sequel makes me wonder at exactly how the narrative could reach such a violent and death-laden end, and what the message could be when it is juxtaposed with the Nintendo image and the visuals of the game itself. With how child-centered Nintendo has been in its personal history, I wonder if there were accidental purchases of this game for younger children, and a resulting trauma by accident through brand association.

  2. mclark6
    April 17, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Great article! I have yet to play any games from the Earthbound/Mother series, but this defined sparked my interest. I like that you brought up the hidden dark-side of the original Mother game, which I’ve heard contains a lot of fridge horror, especially near the end of the game. This article made me wonder what elements of the game caused it to not receive an official release, if any of them were an influence. Western media, American media in particular, tends to not be as heavily offended by excessive violence. I think that the juxtaposition between the dark elements of the game and the happy, cartoon-y art would have led to a lot of problems and confusion with rating, genre, etc. in the same way the Happy Tree Friends is misleading to viewers who are not familiar with the series.

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