Title screen for Nintendo's Mother 3

The Nintendo Switch Partner Direct’s Biggest Announcement Was Only for Japan

All of February, the video game spheres of social media have been buzzing about when to expect a Nintendo Direct. After all, Nintendo has almost always had a Direct in February. Instead, we landed a Partner Direct.

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Partner Directs don’t focus on Nintendo’s new first-party games—which also meant any Switch 2 reveal was out of the window. Instead, the presentation focused on third-party games coming to the Switch in the next calendar year. The highlights were a remake of Disney’s Epic Mickey, a Shin Megami Tensei V DLC, the release of indie darling Pentiment on the Switch, the imminent release of a new game from the team behind Sonic Mania, and a Mario Party-style game with Demon Slayer characters. Fine announcements, sure, but nothing earth-shattering. (I will be getting that Demon Slayer game, though.)

However, there was one huge announcement. An announcement Nintendo fans have been yearning for, for years. It just … only appeared on Japan’s Direct, and therefore only applies if you have a Japanese Nintendo account.

And that announcement is: Mother 3 is coming to Nintendo Switch Online … in Japan only. Hell, to rub it in, Nintendo even announced Japan-only Mother 3 merch.

Why a ‘Mother 3’ announcement is such a big deal

Mother 3 is the sequel to Mother 2, the latter of which is better known in the West by its localized name, EarthBound. EarthBound was released on the SNES in 1995 in the US and sold very poorly, especially compared to its Japanese reception. Now, EarthBound is well-established as a beloved cult classic and commonly listed among the best JRPGs ever.

But the unfortunate sales could help explain why, when Mother 3 was released for the Game Boy Advance in 2006, Nintendo didn’t bother to localize it for any other markets. To this day, there is still no official translation of Mother 3 into any language besides Japanese, including English.

The issue is that as widely praised as EarthBound is, the people lucky enough to get their hands on Mother 3 and understand Japanese usually say it’s just as good—or even better. This praise, combined with Nintendo’s lack of action, has led Mother 3 to become something of a legend. While playable fan subs do exist, Mother 3 is truly the White Whale of gaming.

The situation would make some amount of sense if Nintendo seemed keen to sweep the Mother series under the rug (for some bizarre reason), but that’s not the case. Lucas, the protagonist of Mother 3, is a playable character in freaking Super Smash Bros. He’s right alongside Ness, the protagonist of EarthBound.

Fans clearly want a localization of Mother 3, and they’ve been very vocal about it. The most famous example is the actual trend of people holding “Localize Mother 3” signs at wrestling events. But Nintendo always seems to shut down the conversation. It’s not like they don’t know fans want the localization—then-head of Nintendo America actively made fun of it in a promo video for E3 2014, in a video animated by the Robot Chicken team.

The series creator, Shigesato Itoi, has told Nintendo directly that he would like the game to be translated. But Nintendo seemly replied that it wasn’t “as simple as that.” And while tricky translation jobs are no small feat … come on, guys.

So, what now?

This all brings us to today, February 21, 2024—when the Japanese Nintendo Direct told Japanese fans they could now play Mother 3 on Nintendo Switch Online’s Game Boy Advance emulator. The announcement was completely, conspicuously missing from the US presentation.

Unfortunately, your Nintendo account needs to be registered in Japan to play the game. There are methods you could try, but I haven’t attempted them myself and so cannot guarantee this works. It should also be noted that, unless you have a family subscription, only the user who purchased the Nintendo Switch Online account can access Nintendo Switch Online games. So you’ll need to re-purchase that with your new Japan-based account. Also, obviously, decent Japanese skills would be a huge asset to your enjoyment of Mother 3.

As for an English localization, it doesn’t seem promising. But a localization has been rumored for years, so maybe Nintendo is being especially coy. In any case, the response from stateside fans against the Direct’s glaring omission is frustrated, sad, and loud.

My advice? Stay frustrated, sad, and loud. Maybe that will lead to something, someday. Or maybe we’ll all just keep getting punked.

(featured image: Nintendo)


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Kirsten Carey
Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.