will there ever be one? Pros and cons

The past couple of months have been both great and terrible for EarthBound fans. On one hand, we’ve received so much — a huge wave of Porky merchandise and plushes, a bunch of EarthBound icons for Nintendo Switch Online profiles, and even a release of Mother 3 on the Switch’s Game Boy Advance lineup. The problem is that Mother 3 release was only in Japan.

There’s a lot of discussion surrounding a potential Mother 3 localization – it seems to become a talking point every few years, mainly around the game’s anniversary in April. Though there are far more reasons why Nintendo wouldn’t want to release Mother 3 in the west, there are a couple of (admittedly quite hopeful) reasons that a localization is still possible. Today, we’re breaking down all of the reasons why. We’ll be discussing some light spoilers here, so if for some reason you’re avoiding them, please keep that in mind before you continue reading.

Didn’t we get an EarthBound Beginnings localization?

EarthBound Beginnings Localization

There’s good news and bad news for a Mother 3 localization. There’s a lot of bad news, though, so let’s start with that. Every few years, Nintendo releases EarthBound on their current consoles. It first released on the Wii U Virtual Console several years back, and we even received EarthBound Beginnings, the first game in the franchise, for the very first time here in the west. This would’ve been a great time to release a Mother 3 localization too – but it didn’t happen. Now, something quite similar has happened with Switch – and so far, we’ve received no word of a localization here either. Nintendo has given Earthbound fans a few crumbs before, and they’ll almost certainly do it again one day.

You might be thinking – if we received EarthBound Beginnings for the first time, why couldn’t we get Mother 3? Well, EarthBound Beginnings was actually localized all the way back in 1991. It was called “Earth Bound”, not EarthBound Beginnings – that’s a name Nintendo adopted for the west retroactively. The game sold well in Japan, but its creator, Shigesato Itoi, is rather popular over there. His name’s attachment to EarthBound Beginnings helped sell the game, but that wouldn’t be the case in the United States. Furthermore, the localization was completed in 1991, and by then, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System was already up and coming. EarthBound Beginnings was a NES game, and with no backwards compatibility on SNES, the game was sort of doomed to flop. Rather than releasing it, Nintendo kept the completed localization and held it in its archives until its eventual release on the Wii U Virtual Console in 2015.

An official Mother 3 localization has never been officially completed, to our knowledge. Nintendo would have to pump resources into its completion, and Mother 3 is a very text-heavy game. This leads us into our next problem: there’s a lot of content in Mother 3 that Nintendo might want to change. And given the existence of the fan translation, Nintendo can avoid any potential controversy within Mother 3 by keeping that option available for American players who really want to experience the game for themselves.

What would Nintendo change in a Mother 3 localization?

Mother 3 Localization

This is where discourse around a Mother 3 localization gets difficult. It’s impossible to know exactly what Nintendo would change here – for all we know, they could leave it unchanged, but that’s rather unlikely. One particularly tricky subject would be the Magypsies – these are a group of important characters who essentially guard the game’s world. In-game, they’re stated to be neither man or woman, and visually, they are based on the Japanese stereotype of Okama (a generally-negative term used to refer to someone who crossdresses). Though Mother 3’s creator probably meant well, there are positives and negatives to their representation. On one hand, the Magypsies are some of your only allies in the game. They’re a consistent help to Lucas and company, and are even responsible for helping him unlock his PSI potential. On the other hand, all seven Magypsies each guard one of the Needles present in the world of Mother 3. When Lucas pulls a Needle, its corresponding Magypsy disappears, essentially dying in the process. At the very least, Nintendo would probably need to change their name for a potential Mother 3 localization – among other small bits of dialogue and such.

There are other bits in Mother 3 that don’t require a change, but would be questionable inclusions given Nintendo’s reputation. Mother 3 covers all kinds of themes and subjects that their current games sort of shy away from – losing loved ones, criticism of the economy, animal abuse, and even drug usage. A lot of crazy things happen in this game, and it’s very possible that Nintendo sees no reason to bring these elements to the spotlight. In fact, they don’t have to – the Mother 3 fan translation does all of that for them. It brings the game to a western audience while keeping all of these crazy moments fully intact. And Nintendo doesn’t have to deal with any of the controversy!

Why would there be a Mother 3 localization, then?

Mother 3 Localization

To be perfectly clear here, it’s highly doubtful that an official Mother 3 localization is coming anytime soon. That being said, it’s not completely impossible – just very unlikely. The reason we say this is because of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, a game for the Famicom that was never released here in the west. It’s actually the first game in the Fire Emblem series, and after remaining Japan-exclusive for a few decades, it was localized and released as a standalone limited-time Switch release in 2020. That is to say, the game technically could have joined the Nintendo Switch Online lineup – but it didn’t. If Nintendo does go for a Mother 3 localization, we’re willing to bet this is the approach they’d take – a standalone release with a separate cost.

It’s important to note that Mother 3’s anniversary is in April. We could theoretically receive a standalone release exclusive to the United States – after all, the Fire Emblem release wasn’t available in Japan, where it was part of the Nintendo Switch Online lineup instead. In short, there’s a very small precedent where Nintendo takes niche games, localizes them, and makes them a regional standalone release. By “small precedent”, we do mean very small – it’s only happened with Fire Emblem. Remakes are nigh impossible here, too. It’d be quite pointless to develop one when Mother 3 is already available on Nintendo Switch Online in Japan. Maybe on a future console, but that’s doubtful too.

All in all, the odds of a Mother 3 localization are pretty low. Sure, it’d be great to see one, but an official translation would also create several complications for Nintendo.

What do you think, though? Are you convinced a localization isn’t going to happen, too? Feel free to let us know all your thoughts in the comments below. If you think we missed an obvious reason for or against the likelihood of a localization, you’re welcome to include that as well.

In the meantime, we do have EarthBound plus EarthBound Beginnings on Nintendo Switch Online to enjoy. EarthBound Beginnings receiving a western release was a miracle in and of itself – will it happen a second time with Mother 3?

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