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 series was created by Shigesato Itoi, and the franchise's symbol is the Earth, which itself is a recurring motif in the EarthBound series (being represented in both EarthBound and Super Smash Bros. by the Blue Marble). Although the series was initially poorly represented in the west, the franchise's popularity began to grow due to the series' representation in Smash Bros., along with a dedicated fanbase. The series retrospectively became a massive success worldwide with the games' re-releases being some of Nintendo's most lucrative Virtual Console games, especially with EarthBound's Wii U Virtual Console release being the most popular downloadable game during the Wii U's Virtual Console lifespan. The Smash Bros. games represent the franchise with Ness and Lucas as playable characters, along with various other characters appearing as items and enemies.
An influential Japanese copywriter, actor, and television personality named Shigesato Itoi took a foray into the Nintendo-dominated video game market of the late 1980s despite some initial skepticism from Nintendo’s higher-ups about working with celebrities. He and then-Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi formed a new subsidiary called Ape Inc. (later rebranded as Creatures) and Itoi designed and directed the Japan-exclusive RPG Mother. Released for the Famicom in July 1989, it was an unconventional take on the primarily sword-and-sorcery themed RPG genre. The game was set in a humorous rendition of contemporary America, had the player assuming the role of a neighborhood boy with psychic powers, featured conventional 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, crazed animals, and hippies and gang members. It also featured a very odd blend of simplistic character designs and dark themes and undertones. The game sold very well in Japan, and an English localization immediately began, with an intended fall 1991 release date and 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 costly to produce and market, and the localized product was shelved with no foreseeable plans for a future release.
Itoi returned to design a sequel for the Super Famicom, Mother 2, though the title's development was troubled by a new inexperienced development staff and was stretched across five years, nearly facing cancellation. The project was only saved when veteran programmer 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 (employees would regularly have to travel between studios to work). It was released in August 1994 in Japan and, unlike its predecessor, actually saw a Western localization 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 of an unusual and ineffective marketing campaign and the fact that 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). These poor sales even prevented the game from being released in the PAL regions. 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 defining example of a cult classic, with substantial fanbases in both Japan and North America and going on to inspire a multitude of spiritual successors such as the critically acclaimed Undertale in 2015.
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 an unlockable franchise in the original Super Smash Bros. in 1998, which came across as a surprise to many (particularly in the West). 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 handheld's successor, the Nintendo DS. This Game Boy Advance title returned the series to a two-dimensional formula, but placed more emphasis on plot and tweaked elements of its predecessors. It was released to critical acclaim that praised its new rhythm-based but otherwise simple approach to turn-based RPG 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 a handful of unofficial video game localization projects that officials in the video game industry did not formally object to and expressed admiration for. In the meantime, the Mother series has regularly appeared in every subsequent Super 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, EarthBound was rereleased in the west on Virtual Console, and throughout the recent years the series has had multiple rereleases across different platforms:
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:
EarthBound is one of the "bonus franchises" in the original Super Smash Bros. - contributing one unlockable character and a song (his victory theme). There are no stages based on EarthBound in the game, so Ness instead has to be fought on Kirby's stage in order to be unlocked.
EarthBound is a franchise whose representation in the Smash series was expanded upon in Super Smash Bros. Melee, with a returning 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 an item for the EarthBound 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.
The content from the EarthBound franchise have been given a boost in 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 Brawl, and EarthBound has more of it than any other series in the game.
The EarthBound universe is once again represented in Super Smash Bros. 4. Both characters return, with Lucas returning as a downloadable fighter.
Bold italics denotes an Assist Trophy new to the Smash Bros. series.
Smash Tour items
Smash Tour enemies
for Nintendo 3DS
for Wii U
Main article: List of SSB4 Music (EarthBound series)
Arrangements and remixes unique to SSB4.
Arrangements and remixes from previous Smash titles.
Main article: List of SSB4 trophies (EarthBound series)
Collectible trophies that appear in both the 3DS version and the Wii U version.
for Nintendo 3DS
for Wii U
Only one Trophy Box appears in the Wii U version. It is titled "Mother Series".
Main article: Masterpieces
The EarthBound / Mother universe returns in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, with its content from across the Smash series being curated for this installment. All past characters, music tracks, stages, items and Assist Trophies return, with new elements such as a new item and music remixes being added. This is the first time since Melee where all of the Mother series fighters must be unlocked.
All EarthBound stages from previous titles return.
Main article: List of SSBU Music (EarthBound series)
All music tracks from the original Mother are now labeled under EarthBound Beginnings.
Arrangements and remixes unique to Ultimate.
Arrangements and remixes returning from previous Smash games.
Main article: List of spirits (EarthBound series)
Games with elements in or from the Super Smash Bros. series
Mother / EarthBound Beginnings
Mother 2 / EarthBound