The Story Behind the GameCube Earthbound Sequel We Never Got
Nintendo's beloved Mother series is a group of RPGs that have traveled along a bumpy road since the very beginning. The series debuted in 1989 with the Japan-exclusive Mother on the Famicom. Overseas audiences got a taste of the games with the internationally-launched sequel Mother 2, re-named as 'Earthbound' in North America. Between Earthbound's 1994 launch and the 2006 release of its sequel, Mother 3, the series fell into a sort of hiatus. There was a planned sequel being developed for Nintendo 64 back in the 90s, but the project got scrapped midway through never to see the light of day. And as of yesterday's news, apparently, the Nintendo GameCube had a similar situation.
The reveal comes straight from developer Yasuyuki Honne's Twitter account. Honne has had quite a history working in the game industry, providing work on classics like Xenogears and Chrono Trigger, among others. This was from his time at Squaresoft (now Square Enix). In 1999, the company Monolith Soft was born by him and some others, switching ownership underneath Namco. Honne recently heard that a book is in the works collecting interviews from Nintendo's late president Satoru Iwata, which spurred his memory about an encounter with the man in 2003. At the time, Nintendo had been tossing around the idea of an EarthBound sequel on the GameCube. With this in mind, Iwata asked Honne to pitch Nintendo on some ideas for this project. Honne immediately went to work, creating conceptual images of the game in a unique papercraft art style, reminiscent of Earthbound's advertising gimmick.
Honne met up in Aoyama with both Iwata himself and Earthbound director Shigesato Itoi. In reality, Itoi had no idea that the meeting was for a proposed sequel to his series. Once Honne showed him the images, it quickly dawned on him what this was all about. Iwata had set up the meeting without mentioning that fact. It didn't take long for the discussion to continue around the project. Unfortunately, it never really took off. While Itoi did seem to enjoy the 1980s aesthetic the concept images conveyed, he ultimately felt the idea was a bit too strange. "I never would have thought these pictures would appear in public," Honne mused on the Twitter post. "My 2003 summer memories." It's always tough to see games we could've got that never launched, but in the case of the Mother series, it's happened twice now. The unique art style from the pictures looks right up Earthbound's alley, and it certainly would've been cool to see something like that on the market.
As of now, fans are still waiting. Nintendo threw the Mother fandom a bone in 2015 when they ported the original Mother to the Wii U's eShop as "Earthbound Beginnings". Earthbound itself naturally followed. But the idea of seeing Mother 3 stateside has become something of a running joke. To this day, there's still no indication that Nintendo will localize it and bring the classic GBA title over to the Switch. There are other ways to play it, like the PC fan-translated version, but it does require some hoops to jump through. It takes not but a mention of the RPG title to send fans into a clamor, and with all the requests sent Nintendo's way, it's possible we may see it eventually. For now, though, we get stories like these; wondering what could have been for Earthbound. There's no RPG series quite like it, and hopefully, Nintendo will give it some more love in the future.