A few years back, a western release of Mother 3 was finally on the cards. Originally launched for the Game Boy Advance in 2006, the new version was being prepped for Wii U Virtual Console, timed for the game’s 10th anniversary.
This 2016 port would have been the first time Mother 3 launched in the west, where Nintendo’s oddball role-playing game series is named as Earthbound and is probably still best known for its representation in Super Smash Bros.
But while the new Wii U version of Mother 3 arrived right on time in Japan, western fans were left waiting for word on its status.
Nintendo never officially announced the Wii U version for the west and so never commented on why it never arrived – despite western Wii U re-releases of Earthbound and Earthbound Beginnings performing well on the console’s eShop.
So what happened? Since 2016, there have been few reports on the matter.
Writing this week on Resetera, Game Informer senior editor Imran Khan commented on how a western release “was full steam ahead for a while but upon re-evaluation there were aspects of the game that weren’t going to go without controversy”.
It’s not a new suggestion – a Destructoid source said the same thing back in 2017, a year after Mother 3’s 10th anniversary had come and gone.
And it’s something I’ve heard historically and again recently after discussion around the port spiked once more.
Mother 3 has some darker moments – included an implied suicide – but it is the game’s Magypsy race which is often talked about as a particular problem.
The Magypsy tribe are a group of people with masculine figures and facial hair who refer to themselves as women. Their depictions draw parallels with Japanese stereotypes of crossdressers.
You can imagine the controversy-averse Nintendo being uneasy with the characters in a western release – and it would likely also face awkward discussions releasing the game in an edited form. The simplest option – skipping its release entirely – is the one Nintendo took.
Earthbound has a small but loyal fanbase still eager to see Mother 3 finally released here (a fan-translation is floating around if you know where to look). But it now feels unlikely an official release will ever materialise.