The EarthBound universe (MOTHER, Mother, see below) refers to the Super Smash Bros. series' collection of characters, stages, and properties that hail from Nintendo's cult-classic trilogy of Japanese role-playing games titled EarthBound (Mother in Japan). The second game of the series, EarthBound, stars Ness, a child who was granted special psychic powers, while the third game in the series, Mother 3, stars Lucas, who similarly was granted psychic powers. The series was created by Shigesato Itoi, and the franchise's symbol is the Earth, which itself is a recurring motif in the EarthBound series.
An influential Japanese television personality and copywriter named Shigesato Itoi took a foray into the Nintendo-dominated video game market of the late 1980s, and designed and directed the Japan-exclusive RPG Mother, which was partially developed by the Nintendo subsidiary Ape (which would later be rebranded as Creatures). Released for the Famicom in July 1989, it was a very unusual take on the primarily sword-and-sorcery-themed RPG genre in that it was set in a humorous rendition of contemporary America, had the player assuming the role of a neighborhood boy with psychic powers, featured modern objects such as baseball bats and yo-yos as stand-ins for weapons that could be equipped, and featured a variety of bizarre and comical enemies such as possessed automobiles and crazed animals. It also featured a very odd blend of simplistic character designs and dark and brooding themes and undertones. The game sold very well in Japan, and an English localization immediately began, with an intended for a fall 1991 release date and with Earth Bound as the intended Western title. However, marketing executives anticipating the mid-1991 release of the Super NES decided that the prototype NES game would be too expensive to produce and market, and the localized product was shelved until 2015 when it was released on the Wii U Virtual Console service as EarthBound Beginnings, in honor of its sequel's twentieth anniversary in the United States.
Itoi designed the first sequel for the Super Famicom, Mother 2, though the title's development was troubled and stretched across five years until Satoru Iwata joined the development team, making the Mother 2 project now a joint effort by Ape and HAL Laboratory (HALKEN at the time), separate studios based at separate locations (employs would regularly have to travel between studios to work). It was released in August 1994 in Japan and, unlike its predecessor, saw a Western release the following June, under the first public occurrence of the name EarthBound. However, while the game's Japanese sales figures were relatively close to the original's, it sold poorly in the West because American audiences were largely indifferent to JRPGs at the time (this would only end with the 1997 release of Final Fantasy VII, which brought the genre to the mainstream). Critical retrospectives, however, portray it as not only one of the best RPGs in the 1990s, but also one of the most original, both in its approach to established JRPG mechanics and in its uniquely quirky humor, storyline (which is comparatively more light-hearted than its forerunner), character, and bizarre psychedelic aesthetic, as well as its many parodies of American culture and JRPG - and science fiction - storytelling conventions. Some publications have named it the ultimate example of a cult classic, with substantial fanbases in both Japan and North America.
More development and release-date woes awaited the Mother franchise following EarthBound. Itoi immediately began development of the series's second sequel for the Super Famicom in 1994, which was then moved to the Nintendo 64DD add-on for the Nintendo 64, popularized by the media as the then-upcoming EarthBound 64. When the ill-fated disk-drive peripheral was met with commercial failure, the game was cancelled and restarted its development cycle on the Nintendo 64 itself, where it was initially expected to be a launch title for the console's Western release. But Itoi's development team was inexperienced with developing three-dimensional titles and the Nintendo 64 hardware itself, and the project remained unreleased even as EarthBound was included by Masahiro Sakurai as a surprise contending franchise in the Super Smash Bros. crossover fighting game. Itoi eventually announced the official cancellation of EarthBound 64 in August 2000, citing that he did not want to make anything other than "something truly special" in addition to the project becoming too complex with its interest in three-dimensional graphics. Shigeru Miyamoto subsequently became interested in finding ways to salvage some of the work, though this had to be put on hold because the Mother 3 development team was put on Nintendo GameCube projects. Meanwhile, the translated prototype of the Western version of the NES game was discovered and purchased by a fan translation group, which was modified, retitled "EarthBound Zero", and distributed through the Internet as a ROM image.
Itoi eventually decided to rerelease both EarthBound games in Japan as ports compiled on one Game Boy Advance cartridge, Mother 1 + 2, which was released in June 2003 in Japan and included all of the enhancements the English prototype had made to the original Mother; to the dismay of fans, this was never released in the West either. However, Itoi realized he would once again be pressured into reviving Mother 3, an idea he was initially opposed to, but encouragement from fans led to his decision to restart development for the game for Game Boy Advance, which he approached as though he were developing his magnum opus. Mother 3, essentially now a Game Boy Advance recreation of EarthBound 64, was finally released in Japan in April 2006, twelve years after development began and over a year after the launch of the Nintendo DS successor portable. This Game Boy Advance title returned the series to a two-dimensional formula, but had kept the game's story largely intact and unique enough to distinguish it from past entries. It was released to critical acclaim that praised its new rhythm-based but otherwise simple approach to JRPG combat, and most significantly, tragic storytelling and characterization that achieved a rarely seen degree of depth in titles in the genre.
Unfortunately, Nintendo of America would once more decline to localize the game for Western audiences, once again apparently because of fears that its inconvenient timing at the end of the commercial lifespan of the platform it was based on would negatively affect its sales. The fansite Starmen.net made headlines in October 2008 when it released its own English translation patch that could be applied to a copy of the ROM image of Mother 3, and the patch received over 100,000 downloads from the website in the first week of its release. Despite the project not being completely legal, it became one of few unofficial video game localization projects that officials in the video game industry did not formally object to and expressed admiration for. In the meantime, EarthBound has regularly appeared in every subsequent Smash Bros. game to date, including Mother 3 being focused on in 2008's Super Smash Bros. Brawl, though Itoi has announced that he has no plans to direct a fourth Mother game and reaffirmed this statement several times.
Eventually in July of 2013, Nintendo released EarthBound on the Wii U Virtual Console in all Western regions, nearly two decades after its initial release for Japan and North America only. Later on, in June 2015, Nintendo released the original Mother (entitled EarthBound Beginnings) for the first time in an official English release to commemorate its sequel's 20th anniversary overseas. Finally, Mother 3 was announced in a Japan-only November 2015 Nintendo Direct to be on the Wii U Virtual Console by mid-December in conjunction with the Japanese release of the Lucas amiibo, though this release is exclusively in Japan. This makes Mother 3 the only game in the series to not have an international release on the Virtual Console as well as during its initial launch.
Each of the Mother / EarthBound games are relatively loosely connected stories set on a fictional rendition of Earth, with the setting and scenario being different each game:
In Super Smash Bros.
EarthBound is one of the "bonus franchises" in the original Super Smash Bros., for it contributes one unlockable character, and a song (his victory theme).There are no stages based on EarthBound in the game (Ness has to be fought in Kirby's stage in order to be unlocked, possibly because both games were made by HAL).
In Super Smash Bros. Melee
EarthBound is a franchise whose representation in the Smash series is quite expanded upon in Super Smash Bros. Melee, with one character, two new stages, a new item, and many new trophies.
Melee is the first game to introduce stages for the EarthBound series.
Melee introduced another item for the series as well:
Full Trophy List
Two members of the Runaway Five appear in the introduction movie in Onett. There is also a sign showing a picture of the same two people that may have been planned for a beta version of the stage. In the retail version of Melee it is replaced with a different sign and moved further to the right of the stage.
Sound effects from EarthBound can be heard in the beginning of the Special Movie.
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl
The content from the EarthBound franchise have been given a major representation since Melee with two total playable characters and another item in Super Smash Bros. Brawl
On the final character select screen (after all characters are unlocked), the EarthBound characters occupy the eighth column alongside the Fire Emblem characters (both of these series were originally Japan-only RPG series that later saw at least one entry released in the West).
Two items are in the game:
Hackers have found unused music in the game. This series has more cut out music than any other series.
In Super Smash Bros. 4
The EarthBound universe is once again represented in Super Smash Bros. 4. Both characters return, with Lucas returning as a downloadable fighter.
Main article: List of SSB4 trophies (EarthBound series)
Games with elements in or from the Super Smash Bros. series
Mother / EarthBound Beginnings
Mother 2 / EarthBound
Originally, Lucas, the main character of Mother 3, was supposed to replace Ness in Super Smash Bros. Melee. However, since the Nintendo 64 version of the game was cancelled, Ness remained. However, Lucas is a playable character in Melee's successor, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, as Mother 3 had been released for the Game Boy Advance in Japan only in 2006.
Porky Minch's Heavily Armored Machine design from this game is also used as a boss in The Subspace Emissary, although he doesn't look as frail as he does in Mother 3. Also, in The Subspace Emissary before Porky is fought, the Porky Statue will chase Lucas before being defeated by Ness. It also appears as a background character in New Pork City.
Main article: List of SSBB trophies (EarthBound series)
Main article: List of stickers (EarthBound series)
Super Smash Bros. Brawl contains various themes originating from Mother 3.