Comic Illustrates the Heartbreak Shigesato Itoi Endured While Making the Mother / Earthbound Games

Comic Illustrates the Heartbreak Shigesato Itoi Endured While Making the Mother / Earthbound Games

"I wept on the train ride home."

Those of us who love the Mother / Earthbound games admit it's a pretty special RPG series. Though its menu-based battle systems feel familiar, Mother's themes and very heartbeat are unlike anything offered by any other game.

Mother's uniqueness is due in large part to its creator, esteemed Japanese copywriter Shigesato Itoi. After playing games like Super Mario Bros and Dragon Quest, Itoi decided he wanted to give game development a try. However, his path to the original Mother was littered with some notable heartache. It's fitting, given the series' inherent melancholy.

Yesterday, Japanese columnist / cartoonist Keiichi Tanaka illustrated and published a meeting he had with Itoi about what he endured to bring Mother into the light. Two things seemingly motivated Itoi to make the first Mother title: While playing games, he wondered "Why can't I do this?" He also wanted to make something different from the sword-and-sorcery formula popular with RPGs at the time, so he considered the kind of game a movie director (specifically Steven Spielberg) might make.

Tired: Dragons that steal maidens. Wired: Crows that nick your orange juice.

"The story would open with some sort of activity disrupting the flow of everyday life," Itoi tells Tanaka, "and some average kid would end up facing off with the monster all by himself." Indeed, Mother opens with its hero, Ninten, doing what he can to quell a psychic attack by a poltergeist.

When Itoi was invited to pitch his idea to Shigeru Miyamoto, he expected to be lavished with praise for his unique vision. But Miyamoto's initial reaction was lukewarm at best.

Itoi was so shattered, he wept on the train home. But Nintendo reached out again months later and surprised him with a team to put his dream game together.

Pictured: Itoi's heart shattering into a million pieces.

Mother's Super Famicom / SNES follow-up, Mother 2 (EarthBound on these shores) has a development story even more fraught with emotion than its predecessor. Despite his best efforts, Itoi couldn't get the game off the ground. The late Satoru Iwata intervened and helped re-build the game from the ground up—and he also kept the team's morale high.

It's rare to be offered such a personal glimpse into the development of a beloved game, and it's even rarer to have the glimpse presented in a charming manga format. Slow down for a few minutes and look at it for yourself.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

Read this next

Starting Screen | EarthBound’s 25th Anniversary Makes us Pine for Classic Instruction Books

Earthbound's player guide is a great example of the effort publishers expended trying to make the West fall in love with RPGs.

A Strange Claymation Earthbound Was Once Considered for GameCube. Here's What It Would Have Looked Like

The director of Baten Kaitos worked up a claymation-like concept for Nintendo.

Axe of the Blood God Presents: The 25 Best RPGs of All Time

From NetHack to The Witcher 3, we celebrate the greatest RPGs throughout gaming history.

Please Stop Comparing Games to EarthBound

The desire to make "the next EarthBound" is understandable, but it's also misguided in some important ways.

What Mother 3 Taught Me About Death, Grieving, and Two-by-Fours

Important lessons from a JRPG about a boy, his dog, and a whole lot of bad news.

The Top 25 RPGs of All Time #16: Earthbound

The kids are all right, but the adults sure aren't.

Stephen King's IT and EarthBound Have Everything in Common

STARTING SCREEN | Love, hope, friends, and dimension-sized enemies that induce madness.

More News

Open-World Detective RPG Disco Elysium Launches Next Month

Become the next Sherlock. Or maybe Moriarty.

Zombies May Be Appearing in Red Dead Online, If It's Not a Glitch

Undead nightmare part two, or just another quirky bug?

Reggie Fils-Aimé's Been Up To a Lot Since His Retirement From Nintendo

The former Nintendo of America president has been pretty active.

More on SNES

The 16-bit Console Wars Return on Axe of the Blood God

The Blood God drops listeners in a time warp back to 1994.

What's Your Favorite SNES Game?

COMMUNITY QUESTION | With Nintendo Switch Online boosting its library, tell us about your favorite SNES game.

These Rare Games Make SNES on Nintendo Switch Online Worth Paying Attention To

Race 'em, fly 'em, stack 'em: Nintendo Switch Online's SNES library is off to a good start.

EarthBound’s 25th Anniversary Makes us Pine for Classic Instruction Books

Earthbound's player guide is a great example of the effort publishers expended trying to make the West fall in love with RPGs.

Where Nintendo Switch Online Has Gone Wrong

The reasons Nintendo's online service is flaccid, and what it can do to pump things up.