Mother 3 was originally released for the Game Boy Advance only in Japan on April 20, 2006. It is the third in Shigesato Itoi's Mother franchise (EarthBound franchise in North America), although it does not take place in the same "universe" as the previous games, and is more of a loose sequel to EarthBound. Mother 3 was developed by Brownie Brown, HAL Laboratory, and Nintendo SPD Production Group No. 3, and published by Nintendo. The game was also originally released as a bundle with a limited edition Game Boy Micro. Shigesato Itoi, creator of the franchise, wrote the game, with Nobuyuki Inoue directing it. Mother 3's music was composed by Shougo Sakai, rather than the franchise's previous composers Keiichi Suzuki and Hirokazu Tanaka.
Mother 3 began its long development cycle in 1994 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Quickly, due to the release of the Nintendo 64, however, the game was retitled EarthBound 64 and switched to the Nintendo 64DD. Trailers were shown at E3, showcasing some of the well-known characters from the game, such as Flint, Boney, and Hinawa. After the failure of the Nintendo 64DD, the game was canceled and moved to just the Nintendo 64. The developers planned an expansion on the Nintendo 64DD called Mother 3.5 which would take advantage of the advanced hardware with enhanced features. After being canceled once and for all, the game didn't resurface until the release of Mother 1 and 2, a compilation of the first two games (Mother and EarthBound). At the end of one of the commercials for the game, a revival of Mother 3 for the Game Boy Advance was announced. Upon its release, the game was met with an incredible response, selling nearly 400,000 units in Japan with great critical and fan reception.
Despite not having an official English release, Mother 3 has been unofficially translated into English by a team of translators from Starmen.net. The translation was released in late 2008, and has had hundreds of thousands of downloads. The translation was built so that it could easily be translated into other languages; a Spanish translation has already seen its first release. Other teams are working on translations to French, German, Italian, and a few other languages. The original English team and Starmen.net encourage gamers to buy an official copy of the game, not illegally download it. Additionally, tools exist for backing up a GBA cartridge to a file compatible with the translation patch. Starmen.net has made many efforts to get the game translated officially into English, with many campaigns trying to convince Nintendo of America that gamers would enjoy this game.
Mother 3's gameplay is quite similar to that of EarthBound, although it has several differences. Gameplay is traditional role-playing gameplay, with the player controlling several characters in the party, and selecting the actions that the characters will do. Gameplay is turn-based, as in many traditional role-playing games. Stats affect the way the battle plays out, with characters having a certain amount of Hit Points. Mother 3 retains the scrolling bar mechanic, so health slowly drains if attacked instead of disappearing right a way (giving the player the chance to save characters from death). PSI Points determine the amount of PSI attacks the character can use, with each attack using a set amount of points. As with many other similar games, equipment and items can be attached to characters, boosting stats and performance in battle.
Mother 3's battles differ in that they include a rhythmic combo system that allows the player to hit enemies multiple times. If the player manages to press the attack button along with the beat of the battle music (which varies from enemy to enemy), then slowly lessening damage is given with each button tap in addition to the initial attack. Some music (normally with stronger enemies) has complex, oft-changing beats. If the player can manage to put the enemy to sleep, a "heartbeat" plays in the background that reveals when the player must tap the button. Each character also has a certain special trait that they can use; for example, Duster has thief tools and Boney can sniff enemies for information.
Overworld gameplay is nearly the same as previous titles in the franchise. Mother 3 retains the ability to dash, except now the character can crash into things (sometimes causing something to happen, such as Hinawa giving Lucas Nut Bread for crashing into her in the beginning of the game). Depending on who is in the party, the player can traverse various locales and speak with the people here. In the first portion of the game, there is no currency whatsoever, as the town has a "gift-giving" mechanic, where nobody takes more than they need. When greed is introduced into the world, a currency called Dragon Points (DP) is introduced, however, and it can be traded for goods and services.
Mother 3 takes place in the Nowhere Islands, an unspecified time after the events of EarthBound. The story of Mother 3 takes place in chapters, each starring apparently unrelated characters who meet together in several of the chapters. The prologue opens with Lucas, his brother Claus, his mother Hinawa, and his grandfather Alec on Alec's farm. They are enjoying the sites and sounds of the farm, and Hinawa writes home to her husband Flint about it, and how she wishes he could be there.
The scene shifts to the Pigmask Army setting fire to a forest near where Flint lives. This forest is the only path from Alec's house to Tazmily Village, where they live, and Lucas, Claus, and Hinawa have not returned yet. Flint leaves to search for them with the help of Boney and Duster. After awhile they discover that Hinawa has been killed, apparently by the formerly peaceful Dragos (A T-Rex like creature). Enraged, Claus goes to seek out the Drago that killed his mother. Flint and Alec try to go find Claus, but cannot find him or a body, so it is presumed that he is dead. Flint, however, continues searching for years to come, never giving up on his son.
The player is now formally introduced to Duster and his father Wes. Both are thieves, and Wes challenges Duster to visit the haunted Osohe Castle and find the Egg of Light. Here is the first appearance of the awe-inspiring Rope Snake, who helps Duster get across the gaps in the castle. While traversing the castle, Duster meets Kumatora, the tomboy princess of Osohe Castle. After attempting to stop several Pigmasks, the three are flushed out via the castle's plumbing system, and Duster disappears (he loses his memory and joins the band DCMC).
While Duster is gone, the Pigmasks close in on Tazmily Village, with the aid of Yokuba (Fassad in the fan translation). Salsa, his exploited monkey, also accompanies him for a short time until being rescued by Kumatora, Wes, and Lucas. Yokuba introduces a new social infrastructure based more on greed, and introduces a TV-like object called a Happy Box, which only has the purpose of corrupting the community.
Wes hears rumors that Duster has joined the band DCMC as the bassist, and requests that Lucas goes to investigate this rumor. Kumatora is there as well, disguised as a waiter named Violet, so Lucas and Boney find Duster. Duster regains his memory and the reformed party sets out towards the Thunder Tower. After managing to shut it down, Yokuba comes to defeat them. However, he falls from the tower. As the tower is being destroyed, the Rope Snake grabs onto an aircraft flying close by. All four hold on, but the Rope Snake cannot hold that many people, so they fall from the aircraft.
Lucas finds himself in a sunflower field. He finds Boney and sees an apparition of his mother, Hinawa. He chases her off a cliff, and lands in Tazmily Village, where he is nursed back to health by Wes and Alec. Lucas rescues the Magypsy Ionia, who tells Lucas and Boney about the Seven Needles. These Seven Needles are the seal for the Dark Dragon, a beast living under the Nowhere Islands. If all Seven Needles are pulled by someone who is evil, the world will be destroyed. However, in the hands of someone who is pure and good, the world would be healed. The party and the Pigmask Army are now locked in a battle of who can finish pulling the needles first.
Eventually, the two find their way to a genetic engineering laboratory, where Dr. Andonuts and other brilliant scientists work on creating strange mutations. Their most powerful and dangerous creature, the Ultimate Chimera, however, has escaped in the laboratory. While running from the creature, they run into Salsa and his girlfriend, Samba. Salsa remembers how Lucas helped him escape, so he shuts down the Ultimate Chimera by turning off the switch on its back when it was distracted. Near the laboratory, they find the house of one of the Magypsies, as well as Kumatora. Lucas pulls the needle, and Kumatora rejoins the party.
After making it the top of a mountain where the next Magypsy and the next needle is located, the party is attacked by the Masked Man who can also pull needles. He pulls the needle instead of Lucas, and sends a Mecha-Gorilla to attack the party. They escape, and surf down the mountain into Tazmily Village.
The party finds several notes requesting help, and through these notes they are led down the Pork Highway (in the vehicle called Pork Bean). It ends up that it was a Mr. Saturn requesting aid, as the party ends their journey in Saturn Village. Duster and the Rope Snake are here as well, being interrogated by Pigmasks. After clearing the village of Pigmasks, the Mr. Saturns help the party find the next Magypsy in the mountain. This Magypsy is guarded by a reconstructed Yokuba, who is easily disposed of, however. After doing so, the reunited party returns to Tazmily Village by way of a flock of birds.
From Tazmily Village, the party enters the ocean. Upon emerging, they are all incredibly low on energy, so they eat some odd-looking mushrooms (except for Boney). This induces a hallucination, with several friendly characters appearing (who are actually enemies in disguise). After this drug-induced trance wears off, the party finds themselves at the next Magypsy, as well as the fifth needle. The Magypsy's friend, Ochu (an octopus) takes the party back to Tazmily Village, where an item that the Magypsy gave to them leads them to the next Magypsy.
When they make it there, they need to get the Water of Time so they can pull the next needle. The Masked Man is there as well, but this time the party manages to defeat him (through the use of the Franklin Badge, which deflects his powerful lightning attacks). They pull the next needle, but as they are exiting a strange limousine pulls up, inviting the party to New Pork City.
New Pork City is the Pig King's home city; it is technologically advanced (with wonders not seen in any other location in the game), although very childish, with carnivals, amusement parks, and bright colors. After finding their way into the sewers, they find Leder, an inhabitant of Tazmily Village who is very tall. He explains the history of the Nowhere Islands, how it is the only land left after the destruction of the world. The people of this world decided to start over, try and not repeat the mistakes of humanity. To do this, everyone's memory is wiped except for Leder. He also reveals that the Pig King is actually a man who has appeared from an unspecified era, although he still has a childish mind due to his abuse of time travel. He also tells the party that the Magypsies were placed there to guard the needles. As they are leaving the sewers, Yokuba attacks again, but is defeated for good.
The party is then invited to the Empire Porky Building, the largest and tallest building in New Pork City. Near the top, there is the final Magypsy's house; and it is heavily hinted though not actually stated that it belonged to Yokuba. At the top of the tower, they find a robot Pokey (the Pig King). After competing with it in various games, they move on to the real Pokey. Pokey has more robots guarding him, which are destroyed by the members of DCMC. The townspeople of Tazmily Village, Flint, and Dr. Andonuts come in to cheer the party on for the final battle. Pokey challenges Lucas to a battle for the last needle.
After defeating him, Pokey enters an Absolutely Safe Capsule, which, true to its name, is absolutely safe. However, it cannot be opened or destroyed from the inside or outside, trapping Pokey for eternity. Flint then reveals that he has figured out the identity of the mysterious Masked Man. He is Lucas's lost brother, Claus, reconstructed as a robot. Lucas must fight him. Flint keeps jumping in the way when Claus attacks Lucas, with Hinawa's spirit pleading Claus to come to his senses. He unleashes a huge lightning attack on Lucas, which is reflected back towards Claus, annihilating him. Claus comes back to his senses at the last moment, and manages to say goodbye to his family.
As Lucas pulls the final needle, it appears that the Nowhere Islands are destroyed. However, after the credits, when the word "End?" appears on the screen, many of the characters from the game speak, expressing things such as their joy to still be alive and thanking the player for being a part of the game.
Mother 3 has had two official soundtracks released. These were available for download on iTunes in the United States and Europe. Mother 3 is composed of re-arranged tracks while Mother 3i is a collection of tracks from the game itself.
Mother 3 Plus
- We Miss You - Theme of Love (3:41)
- Theme of DCMC (2:28)
- Samba de Cambo (2:39)
- Bon Voyage Amigo (2:10)
- Theme of King P (3:17)
- Time Passage (1:57)
- Pollyanna (3:00)
- Snowman (3:15)
- 16 Melodies (Beginning) (3:00)
- We Miss You - Theme of Love - Instrumental (3:39)
- MOTHER 3 - Theme of LOVE (iTunes only) (3:41)
- Welcome to MOTHER 3 World (3:48)
- Tatsumairi (2:44)
- Twist and Battle (4:33)
- Gentle Rain (4:59)
- Mambo and Battle (3:40)
- Theme of Duster (3:22)
- The Castle of Osohe (4:59)
- Funky Monkey Dance (4:39)
- Oh, Buta-Mask (3:14)
- Memory of Tatsumairi (4:21)
- With Magypsy (3:26)
- Do Not Disturb (4:47)
- Flowers (4:22)
- Theme of Bad Boy (7:10)
- From Utopia (5:51)