The stories of both games in the franchise involve a young boy living in small-town America who must battle a fiendish alien menace. Using a variety of bizarre psychic powers and the help of his friends, he overcomes unbelievable obstacles in his quest to save Earth. These obstacles often involve crazed city residents and animals--controlled by the alien being's psychic grip--grotesque monsters, deadly robots, and psychadelic universes created by the subconscious mind. Deadpan, self-referential humour is abundant, with swords, magic, save points, inns and merchants replaced with baseball bats, psychic attacks, phone conversations with Dad, hotels, and drugstores. The NPC cast is huge; populating entire towns and houses, giving advice on life-threatening, sci-fi scenarios the way ordinary people would--as colloquially and casually as possible, which is where the game derives much of its humour. The games are not very well-known outside of Japan, since the first was not released in North America or Europe due to poor sales of RPGs in these regions at the time (1989). Mother 2 (1994), released for the Super Famicom, was translated and distributed in North America and Europe as "EarthBound" in 1995, but failed in the marketplace due to poor promotion and bad timing--Final Fantasy VI was released at the same time, and many considered it the standard for RPGs, making EarthBound's modern whimsy seem embarrassing by comparison. Still, the titles have a large cult following outside of Japan, as evidenced by the proactive website community and nexus for all things Mother, starmen.net.
Creator Shigesato Itoi began work on Mother 3 in 1995 for the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive. The game was to be a massive, 10-chapter epic, reportedly non-linear in nature, but when the 64DD peripheral flopped, development slowed to a crawl until the title's cancellation in 2000. Itoi still toyed with the project, considering it for a novel or feature film, but rejected these ideas under the concern that the themes expressed in the story could not be expresed without interactivity. In 1999, the main character of Mother 2, Ness, was showcased in HAL Labs' Super Smash Bros. franchise, starring in both the N64 original and the 2001 Gamecube sequel.
In early 2003, Itoi recucitated development, this time producing the Mother 3 for the Game Boy Advance. And on June 21, 2003, the previous two games in the series were converted to the portable in Mother 1+2. Since then, progress on the game has reached nearly 2/3 completion, and is set to release in either 2005 or 2006. Whenever it does, the entire community of Mother afficionados will undoubtedly rejoice in the return of video gaming's most beloved RPG franchises.