Mother 2: A Parody, a Satire, a Cult Video Game Classic

Mother 2, 1994, Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, NYIn 1994, Nintendo released the second installment of the Mother trilogy, Mother 2: Gyiyg no Gyakushuu (Gyiyg Strikes Back) for the Super Famicom. The game first appeared in the Japanese market and players enjoyed designer Shigesato Itoi’s use of satire to depict Western culture. Mother 2 also became one of the most popular games of the role-playing genre.

Gameplay follows the exploits of Ness, a 13-year-old psychic, as he journeys to eight sanctuaries in the fictional country Eagleland (a parody of the United States). Ness and his companions need to gain enough power to confront the evil Gyiygs, an alien that seeks to control the universe.

The pop-culture references made the game famous. For example, two villains named Starman and Diamond Dog remind players of British singer David Bowie. The game alludes to the Beatles several times. The game characters travel in a Yellow Submarine, and their alternate names are John, Yoko, Paul, and George. They also encounter a dog named Ringo. Two villains named Starman and Diamond Dog remind players of British singer David Bowie.  A jazz band called the Tonzura Brothers resembles The Blues Brothers, and songs such as “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Johnny B. Goode” are included in the game’s soundtrack.The Beatles Record, Yellow Submarine, Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, NY

In 1995, Nintendo released Mother 2 to American audiences, renaming it EarthBound. The U.S. advertising campaign included the same quirky humor. The slogan “This game stinks” referred to the scratch-and-sniff stickers included in the player’s guide.

The game did not become popular in America until many years after its initial release. In the early 90s, RPGs were still considered a highly niche gaming genre in the U.S., and remained so until the release of Final Fantasy VII in 1997. Mother 2 also used retro-style graphics that reminded players of the original Famicom/NES, instead of making full use of the Super Nintendo’s 16-bit graphical power. The game has now reached “cult classic” status in America, with many critics claiming it was ahead of its time and calling it one of the best RPGs of the 1990s. Its popularity led Nintendo to release EarthBound on the Wii Virtual Console in 2013.

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