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EarthBound

Mother 2 ギーグの逆襲

Developers: ApeHAL Laboratory Publisher: Nintendo
27 August 1994
EarthBound [Mother 2 ギーグの逆襲] - cover art
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4.37 / 5.0
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2,348 Ratings / 13 Reviews
#12 All-time
#1 for 1994
A young boy with psychic powers, Ness, is awoken by the loud crash of a meteorite in his home town of Onett. While investigating it, an insect from the future warns him that an alien force called Giygas will corrupt the planet, and instructs him to collect eight melodies from eight sanctuaries. Ness embarks on an adventure, and finds three other kids - Paula, Jeff and Poo - to assist him in his quest to stop Giygas.
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Warning: Spoilers abound here.

Every gamer has a favorite game, perhaps one we'll defend in spite of knowing flaws because of the profound impact it had. We find ourselves attached to that particular one for a variety of reasons, but for me it was an introduction to a world--an introduction to a genre that seemed to be made just for me. I had never played a game quite like Earthbound back in 1995. The idea of actions being abstract in games, or not things I made happen with buttons, was new to me. Some people who play RPGs with the first-person battle perspective don't understand the appeal, and I totally get that. It's hard when you're used to Mario jumping and landing on the Goomba to accept a game where that same event would have to be read. Since I read a lot of books as a kid, RPGs clicked with me right away, and from Earthbound I would move on to Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, and so many others. For just over ten years, I made crappy RPGs with the OHRRPGCE, so deep ran my obsession with the genre. Even today, I consider the RPG (in all its variations, mind) in a class of its own among video games; to me they are the games that intelligent people play, and no matter how niche they get I wait hungrily for more.

Better RPGs have come out since Earthbound. I'm not going to argue that Chrono Trigger or Persona 4 don't have more refined gameplay and better quality sound. However, you would not know that by observing the passion of Mother's rabid fanbase. (for those not in the know, Earthbound is Mother 2, the second game in a franchise Nintendo hasn't been thrilled about supporting in the west) People who don't like Earthbound generally don't seem to understand why the fans do: I have read many reviews and comments from the other side over the years, and it seems that the game is quite polarizing.

Why is that? Here's the thought I've had about it. Consider an analogy, which is not entirely accurate, but serves to make my point: films are to animation as video games are to Japanese RPGs. Most of us like movies on some level, but there are folks who think cartoons are for kids and they're silly nonsense no adult should take seriously. No matter how much animation evolves, they will stick to this opinion. Short-sighted? Yes, but I wouldn't judge these folks harshly. They grew up with or developed a different view of media than my own, perhaps from being pressured to mature quickly or feeling put off by something they saw in a cartoon early in life. On the flip side, there are 30 year old men obsessed with anime about little girls and My Little Pony. A wide spectrum exists there. Now, consider that Earthbound (let's just say the entire Mother series while we're at it) is similar to a particularly niche cartoon, like an obscure anime series. You don't start an adult newcomer to the medium out on Welcome to the NHK! You show him Cowboy Bebop first, then slowly drag him away from his comfort zone.

Kids, on the other hand, are another story. I was nine years old when I first played Earthbound, and the funkiness of the game didn't faze me, nor did it faze many younger people who joined Ness on his adventure for the first time. I took a course on Children's Literature during my final year of undergrad, and one thing we discussed has stuck with me today: kids aren't bothered by weird, playful art styles. Picture books are as diverse as it comes in terms of presentation, and children have active enough imaginations to get a kick out of everything from realism to abstract art. This is one reason that animation gets away with bold experimentation and even crude stuff (Ren and Stimpy, anyone?): kids tend to accept the weird, the surreal, and fantastical without judgment. For example, there's a section in Earthbound where a cultist, Mr. Carpainter, is trying to paint the world blue. The Happy-Happyists quite directly resemble the Aum Shinrikyo cult and the KKK. Many adults who play Earthbound report being shocked or put off by this segment, but the whole thing didn't bother me in my youth, nor did it bother many of my peers. Carpainter was clearly the villain, keeping Paula locked up against her will, and needed to be stopped. I didn't think about the implications until many years later. Even the final boss's grotesque, disturbing imagery did not make me raise an eyebrow, but on the internet this is one of the most hotly discussed subjects about Earthbound. Children simply absorb weird material more readily, as long as it's presented in a way they can understand. In fact, one of the genius things about the game is how one reevaluates it years down the line. In short, since children have more active imaginations, it's easier for them to appreciate the game at its face value, and in fact, it's easier for creative adults to do so. Time and time again, I notice that my science-oriented friends are the ones who don't think much of the game. (Note: that's not intended as a blanket statement; if you like science and Earthbound you're rad, and if you're a poor English major like me who hates it, you are so hip it hurts) Just like the medium of animation, games like Earthbound seem to appeal more to those with wandering minds.

Earthbound is like a cartoon in a striking number of ways, but it's like a cartoon that only an enthusiast of the medium would appreciate, and furthermore, only a person without rigid expectations about what makes an RPG good. It's classically designed and inspired by its Dragon Quest ancestors, like every anime influenced by the works of Osamu Tezuka: casual television fans probably don't even know who Tezuka is despite his far-reaching influence. Earthbound also has a creative visual style that doesn't conform to the standards of its genre, not unlike South Park: somebody who doesn't watch a lot of cartoons isn't going to appreciate the DIY spirit or stop-motion imitation of South Park's aesthetic. Lastly, Earthbound is post-modern and a little silly, which are qualities many cartoons share and are things that audiences who don't care for animation might not accept immediately in other environments. Within the group of people who do play RPGs, there are dissenters among well. To them, Earthbound just seems like a clunky, archaic RPG with bad item management and characters that never talk. The qualifiers these players seek in what they perceive as good RPGs don't exist in Earthbound, so they will not enjoy the game for what it is. How can they? I understand their feelings and I respect them; however, I absolutely do not agree with them.

Shigesato Itoi designed Earthbound to be a specific way, he accomplished it wonderfully, and the result was a video game that is a daring and unprecedented creative work and has shaped my experience with RPGs ever since. Now that I have played so many classics in the genre, I can speak with agency about its respect for predecessors, particularly Dragon Quest III. It's no secret that the Mother games use a battle system stolen straight from Dragon Quest, but III is the clear major influence, with its world-traveling quest for orbs through the use of a musical tool. (Earthbound's central plot involves collecting eight melodies in to the Sound Stone from locations all over the world) Travel and exploration are a huge part of the appeal of early RPGs, and Earthbound spares no expense, shifting through a wide variety of locations from small towns to deserts to wintry regions. There is a more linear narrative in Earthbound, which shows the same evolution that other RPGs underwent in the early 90s. Japanese RPGs did this in order to focus on storytelling, and Itoi masterfully melds the wandering narrative with the linear. By keeping the villain in the background (ala Lavos), the player is focused on exploration of the world until the bitter end, and his experiences culminate in a satisfying ending.

Photographs of the party taken through the game appear during the credits in the order they appeared, allowing the player to reflect on the weight and significance of Ness's adventure. Reflection returns as a theme over and over, mostly obviously through the game's infamous "coffee break" sequences that recap the story and inspire you to press on. Another method, which is more subtle but equally powerful, is the use of backtracking. Several times, the player must return to previously visited areas, only things will have changed. Onett taken over by Giygas's minions late in the game, Threed free of the zombies, Saturn Valley with new and helpful technology. Returning to previous areas with new skills and experience is a tradition that goes all the way back to Dragon Quest I, which made the player travel from the starting castle after reloading every save, establishing his progress and development when facing weak monsters from early in the game.

While Earthbound does respect tradition, where it might succeed more is in its daring and small innovations. At the time, Earthbound was one of the few RPGs that showed enemies on the screen before the player fought them, allowing him to evade battles or try and sneak up on things. Weak enemies are vanquished before the battle begins, speeding up backtracking. These changes are simple ideas that do not get in the way of the game's challenge: they simply offer an out for a player low on hit points or real-world time to play. To this day, many RPGs still do not show enemies on the map screen prior to combat, which confuses me. I know from experience that games are easier to code the other way, but it's a really nice feature that should be used more often than it is. Another innovation that I love in this game is the rolling hit point meter. By shaking the status boxes when you get hit and showing the numbers quickly trickle down, Earthbound's battles provide a lot of tension regardless of how challenging they truly are. These are neat twists that don't appear in other games at all, which baffles me, but I suppose they help to keep the Mother games unique.

Some of the game's interesting ideas don't even involve combat. Jeff, your scientist friend who can fix broken tools overnight, gets much of his characterization and battle use from doing so. ATM machines allow you to safely store money and fit better in the game's universe than Dragon Quest's banks. The mushroomization status effect reverses your control scheme. Ness can get homesick and need to call Mom to recover. The list goes on and on. All of these details seem small, but they add up in making Earthbound feel organic and fully realized. One of the most powerful of these fresh ideas comes in at the start of the game's final area, the Cave of the Past. The heroes are forced to give up humanity, transferring their consciousnesses to robots in order to survive a trip to the past and face Giygas. This scene didn't hit me emotionally until replaying as an adult, but it hits like a brick now. Watching the heroes destroy themselves, just as we discover Giygas has destroyed himself in body and mind and become an entity of pure insanity, and suddenly becoming a squad of lifeless machines is harrowing to say the least. This one snippet of an idea leads to a powerful, cathartic joy when the characters' souls return to their bodies after the battle. It's a fairy tale ending to a situation that should have been hopeless, one brought upon perhaps only by the player's prayers, which must be offered to defeat Giygas in the amazing climactic battle.

That battle, of course, deserves mention of its own. To this day, I consider it the greatest moment in any video game to date. Itoi throws out everything you expect to see in a final battle. Giygas is not your strongest enemy up to that point. He's not even threatening if your equipment and psychic skills are up to par. Giygas just wastes away, begging for death and pleading to Ness for it to come, no longer in control of his actions. The heroes are hopeless to win against an entity with no discernible form, and it is only through the Pray command that you are able to make progress. The first several prayers call back on the importance of friendship suggested all the way at the start of the game by Buzz-Buzz: the characters you have helped along the way start breaking down Giygas's defenses. And finally, only the player's wishes are able to finish the job. I mentioned that Earthbound introduced me to the idea of abstraction and in video games, and this is where the idea pays off, as well as the theme of reflection. The player, who entered his real name earlier in the game at its command, literally defeats Giygas. Itoi drives home the point that no matter what actions heroes at the beck and call of buttons perform, it is you, the player, who are making choices and accomplishing feats. Your own power and imagination are able to conquer an unbeatable foe, one that represents nihilism, despair, and fear. Giygas's incomprehensible body suggests that he is an idea, and the only thing capable of winning against such a thing is a real human mind, not a character in a video game.

The use of the player as an important part of the game is its most fascinating post-modern element, though the game revels in such ideas throughout. With so many tongue-in-cheek fourth wall breakers and references to the modern world, that nearly goes without saying. One of the more memorable areas, Brick Road's Dungeon Man, is a clever idea in that vein. The creator of the dungeon, perhaps representing a game designer, has sacrificed himself and become a living dungeon you must navigate, populated with terrible map design and a few of his favorite toys, among them a submarine becoming important later in the game. I can't help but think there's some parallel here with the heroes eventually assuming robot form. Itoi may be suggesting that abandoning one's life for selfish, recreational, or wicked pursuits is inherently destructive (The Dungeon Man gets trapped between two trees, noting that he could be stuck there forever) but it can be necessary for a good cause. This idea seems very popular in Japanese art that I've seen (giant robot anime and Kaiji are two examples). It's a testament to Earthbound's success as a work of literature that I am still discovering new ideas to explore in it, and believe me, I have glossed over several huge parts of the game.

Earthbound is a game truly like none before it, and still one of the strongest pieces of interactive storytelling out there. While it's not a game for everyone, it nonetheless has a timeless quality that is worthy of any patient player's attention. With a style all of its own and a diverse, wonderfully memorable soundtrack, Earthbound separates itself from the pack of RPGs and proves that a truly gifted writer like Shigesato Itoi can make a game compelling beyond its shelf life. Whether you end up loving or hating it, you need to play Earthbound: my favorite video game of all time.
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jsh357 2016-04-02T21:39:26Z
2016-04-02T21:39:26Z
5.0
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O brilho de Earthbound está em sua criatividade narrativa, estética e sonora. Dos elementos mais notáveis (inimigos e ambientação) aos que mais passam despercebidos (efeitos sonoros), é um RPG de muita personalidade e coração. No tempo em que estive com ele, pude notar o quanto ele é fruto de uma visão artística muito única.

Apesar de sua natureza satírica (o humor desse jogo é qualquer coisa), tive uma experiência bastante aconchegante em Earthbound. A história e ambientações evocam certa nostalgia e inocência infantil que me fisgaram.

Mecanicamente, não faz nada de novo mas é competente e sustenta bem as cerca de 30 horas. Peca bastante, porém, no manuseio do inventário, que é excessivamente complicado e lento. A dificuldade também não me pareceu justa em várias partes do jogo, especialmente nos últimos calabouços, onde meus personagens morriam com frequência só com um golpe inimigo.

Talvez minha única decepção maior com o jogo é sua linearidade excessiva. Além de sempre te levar de ponto A ao B, ao C, etc., Earthbound não convida à exploração e fecha várias portas à medida que o jogador progride.
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gabrielctps 2023-05-02T05:22:03Z
2023-05-02T05:22:03Z
4.0
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absolutely a work of art and utterly influential but not the most fun *game* to play. i found the core gameplay loop boring sometimes but the soundtrack and overall vibe of the game are irreplaceable and fascinating
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itschrosss 2023-04-20T04:00:03Z
2023-04-20T04:00:03Z
4.0
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Longform art is interesting in how it forces you to confront exactly what you are dealing with as you spend, well, a long time with it. This means that all the true strengths and weaknesses of the work become apparent, which may be less obvious in shorter creations (like all movies for example). Now for something like Earthbound, which is (big surprise) good, that was a boon for my feelings towards it. I had a mixed experience for much of the first few areas, where my enjoyment would rapidly swing between elation and scathing hatred (mostly for the combat system). After that, it all clicked for me, and I realized suddenly, “Me oh my, this game has an incredible amount of breadth to it.” and I thought back to the times I had been tilted, and realized the issues were certainly too minor to deserve the amount of frustration I felt towards them. I should note here, this was the first turn-based JRPG that I played, so that means that I am not sure how many of my problems with it can be attributed to the game specifically, or just the genre.

And I do think the game has some problems that detract from the truly excellent aspects. For example, fighting the same enemy repeatedly in combat right after combat gets pretty frustrating and repetitive, especially when you are so much stronger than them that they don’t pose a threat, but not strong enough that you beat them in one turn. The sameness of combat becomes less of a problem the larger your party is, but there is a decent chunk of the game (especially as a first time player) where you are just controlling Ness as a lone hero. Despite making combat generally more complex and interesting, having more party members becomes a problem when you are fighting a large group (say five) of identical enemies who all use the same status affect attack on your party, each time they attack (this happens when fighting the Slimy Little Piles), and you have to watch these unskippable text boxes that say, “Ness was unaffected, Paula was unaffected, etc.” per enemy per round. It just makes the whole experience feel so bloated, and drags out what should be simple battles to ungodly lengths. This makes it sound like I hate combat completely which is not the case. The process of fighting the Starmen underneath Stonehenge was truly tense and gripping. In combination with the excellent design of that area of the map, that section of the game was one of the most enjoyable.

To get back to the cons, the ‘mushroomized’ effect is highly obnoxious. I have no problem with the attacking of teammates, but I always hate it when games change either your sensitivity or your control scheme. It doesn’t make the game harder to play, just less enjoyable. I would much rather just get stunlocked in all honesty. There are some other smaller problems. For instance, the Runaway Five performance gets repeated over the course of the game. The first time you see them is positively electric, and one of the best moments in gaming. It has diminishing value each additional time you watch a concert performance though, even though the actual performances themselves differ. Another is that the secret password to get into the slimes’ base is to do nothing for three minutes. Why? Why not a shorter period of time like 45 seconds? It doesn’t come across as quirky or funny, just a waste of time. I guess it wasn’t the worst, as I got up to get a glass of water while I was waiting, but it was still annoying.

But there are so many absolutely incredible things about this game that make it great in spite of its issues. On top of the excellent NPC dialogue and hilarious Americana that I’m sure people constantly talk about (~“With money you can buy everything, except for love, happiness, and XP.”), this is a spiritual experience. What I find so particularly impressive about that is how contrary to my expectations it is. Generally I think of technology, and especially the digital world, as being a kind of harsh reality that is opposed to any kind of spiritually transcendent feeling. There are notable exceptions to this of course, where works of art merge these two disparate elements in order to produce something beautiful because of how it utilizes that internal tension (2001: A Space Odyssey and Ghost in the Shell [攻殻機動隊] come to mind first). However, video games seem like they are even more bound in technological artificiality than either of those movies, as the one uses actual film stock and practical effects, and the other is hand drawn animation, while video games are necessarily digital. In spite of that fact (or perhaps because of it and the contrast to it) the ‘Your Sanctuary’ parts of the map feel truly beautiful and relaxing to be in, in a way that heals the soul. I think much of that works because of the stripped down aesthetic. You experience this world that is very quirky from top to bottom, where people talk in highly unnatural and stylized dialogue, and large sections of the game are just black emptiness (think of riding the escalators in the department stores). Then you are suddenly hit with areas that are comparatively lush in design (like the wall that reflects your thoughts) and then you are told that Ness experiences these very simple, but universal, and most importantly natural images. This results in a highly potent combination that emotionally affects me in ways that no other video games have.

This idea is channeled most firmly and perfectly in the final boss fight, which I should stress is the best final boss fight I am aware of. As you fight Giygas, he becomes less and less able in a truly pathetic display, while your prayers create a sense of unity with the whole world. I am not a religious person, and I often find the ‘kumbaya mentality’ painfully mawkish and naïve, but here it works so perfectly. This culmination of the spirituality and maternal and paternal affection and care that was started in the sanctuaries hits home so hard. Even though it is a deus ex machina of sorts, it is precisely because the conflict does not need to be resolved in brutal combat that it works. Giygas’ greatest victim is himself, and by taking the opposite, sentimental path, you have saved humanity from the same calamity that he suffers from. All that resulted in a cathartic experience like no other video game I have played.
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CommieDino 2022-12-11T18:51:34Z
2022-12-11T18:51:34Z
4.0
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[Played from Dec 3 to Dec 11, 2022]
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Fucking masterpiece. My friends are sick to death of me telling them how great this game is.
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headway8553 2022-11-05T14:41:20Z
2022-11-05T14:41:20Z
5.0
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Cult Classic For A Reason
Earthbound is a fantastic game that is fun and endlessly enjoyable to play. There are moments where it can be annoying, especially with inventory management but besides that the game is praised and beloved for a reason. One of the only games where you actually want to talk to every NPC for witty quips and humor. The jokey nature of Earthbound is very unique and still funny even nearly thirty years later. The only reason to not play Earthbound is because you're not a fan of JRPGs, otherwise the game is a must play.
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Undertale exist because of Earthbound. If you enjoyed Undertale and have not played Earthbound, then what are you doing?
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Catalog

Knomss Mother 2 ギーグの逆襲 2023-06-10T05:29:36Z
2023-06-10T05:29:36Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
scoria Mother 2 ギーグの逆襲 2023-06-09T20:52:00Z
2023-06-09T20:52:00Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Gusttaa_ Mother 2 ギーグの逆襲 2023-06-09T17:14:33Z
2023-06-09T17:14:33Z
4.5
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
eightbaka Mother 2 ギーグの逆襲 2023-06-09T02:51:29Z
2023-06-09T02:51:29Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Felagund42 Mother 2 ギーグの逆襲 2023-06-08T23:54:40Z
2023-06-08T23:54:40Z
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Dakotato Mother 2 ギーグの逆襲 2023-06-08T06:44:31Z
2023-06-08T06:44:31Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Tjconey12 Mother 2 ギーグの逆襲 2023-06-07T20:31:18Z
2023-06-07T20:31:18Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
TemWeirdo Mother 2 ギーグの逆襲 2023-06-06T23:48:26Z
2023-06-06T23:48:26Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
mud__ EarthBound 2023-06-06T21:03:15Z
Wii U
2023-06-06T21:03:15Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
coral Mother 2 ギーグの逆襲 2023-06-06T18:26:20Z
2023-06-06T18:26:20Z
1.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
lifeisgoat110 Mother 2 ギーグの逆襲 2023-06-05T16:46:15Z
2023-06-05T16:46:15Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
mikefood Mother 2 ギーグの逆襲 2023-06-05T03:50:12Z
2023-06-05T03:50:12Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Player modes
Single-player
Media
1x Cartridge
Franchises
Also known as
  • EarthBound
  • Mother 2 Gīgu no Gyakushū
  • Mother 2 Giygas' Counterattack
  • View all [3] Hide

Comments

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  • Previous comments (88) Loading...
  • Anberis 2022-12-20 16:54:57.995615+00
    final stretch is an unforgettable experience, such a different feel from the rest of the game
    reply
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  • rabbit_nabokov 2023-01-16 01:13:25.281355+00
    The menu-navigation and inventory is good and integral. Ya'll wrong.
    reply
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  • lowplacelikehome 2023-03-03 01:18:56.68239+00
    absolute kino
    reply
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  • deadass 2023-03-10 03:34:48.132668+00
    considering replaying this but my one playthrough of this is such a sacred memory that i’m afraid to ruin
    reply
    • pensiero97 2023-04-02 20:08:42.657846+00
      I'm replaying it and tbh it's even better the second time around
    • WilliamSG 2023-04-03 17:34:23.253909+00
      Same as pensiero97. I'm actually bumping this up to a 9.
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  • nxchos 2023-04-02 23:03:57.79854+00
    nothing could have prepared me for the dungeon man level
    reply
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  • Omar_Little 2023-05-07 17:04:39.869214+00
    I just found out that the first Mother is considered pretty bad. Can you skip right to two in this case?
    reply
    • TheDavidLol 2023-05-08 01:54:41.740015+00
      I wouldn't say that the first game is bad, but it definitely has not aged that well and if you don't like old, archaically designed RPGs then I don't blame you for skipping. This game is kind of a soft-reboot in the sense that there's barely any connection to the first game outside of Giygas, so there's not really any harm in starting the series here. My recommended order would be MOTHER 2 -> MOTHER 3 -> MOTHER 1.
    • cohetesnaranjas 2023-05-20 23:18:55.42152+00
      It may be tedious and troublesome, but if you play Mother 1 + 25th Anniversary Patch, you could end the game in 3 to 4 days. And I think it's beautiful and it DOES really have connection to the other games. You'll start noticing what I say when you analyze the game and read the theories about it.
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  • SongityBoy 2023-05-10 07:32:32.099835+00
    the bike is a total joke
    reply
    • phatphootphungus 2023-05-12 13:05:27.779727+00
      Literally rode it one time for ten seconds and was like “nah, fuck this”
    • Chief_of_Kamchatka 2023-05-13 08:37:34.021061+00
      it was great while it was there but the game just taking it away so early essentially just ain't fair
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  • MasterOfShaft 2023-05-17 08:11:39.745981+00
    i really dont think ill like a game more than this one
    reply
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