The Mother of Video Game Narration

It’s been a while since I could kick off a blog post with a punny hyperbole title, hasn’t it? give me some leniency though, this being a post about the Mother series, most known for strange references, odd humor, weird puns, and two over-powered Smash Brother Brawl characters.

A few days ago I found myself playing Mother 3. Less than an hour in, I got to one of the most memorable emotional scenes that I can think of in video games. Involving a character that has been on screen less than five minutes.

The actual power of the scene didn’t come from the dramatic shock of the event itself, but instead it came from the way that the characters in the game dealt with it. Instead of focusing on what went wrong, or letting you roam the town and talk to everyone about how sorry everyone is for what has happened, control is taken away from the character. And he… well.. Goes out of control completely. The next time you’re given control back over your character, he’s in jail.

As basic as a narrative technique it was, I’ve never seen it executed so well as I have in Mother 3. It shows that games don’t need extremely amazing graphics, mind-blowing effects and techniques or great voice acting to get an emotional reaction. All you need is good writing, and compelling characters. Even a silent protagonist can fit that bill if handled well enough.

It’s a hard scene to describe, especially because I really don’t want to spoil it for people who haven’t played the game before. I realize there’s many of them, especially considering the game never got an official release outside of Japan. The only way to play it for most people is to download the ROM and get the fan translation patch. As dubious as fan-made translations often are, this one feels quite professionally done. The text feels right, and in a lot of ways better and more fitting than the official translation done for Earthbound. Although SNES-era translations aren’t exactly known to the accurate or correct, official or no. The second problem keeping a lot of people from playing this gem is the legality of it. Downloading? No. That’s evil.

It’s a shame, really. Mother 3 might just be the best RPG Nintendo has. Considering that Nintendo’s RPG franchises also include Earthbound, Paper Mario, Mario & Luigi, Golden Sun and (depending how you define RPGs) Fire Emblem, that is high praise. A western release would have given this title a status amongst gamers that JRPGs haven’t had since the 16 bit days.

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