EarthBound for the SNES is one of the most up-beat games of all time. It’s a bit surprising that its sequel, Mother 3 for the Gameboy Advance, is one of the saddest. While it maintains the colorful visuals and the crazy enemies and characters of its predecessor, the game is ultimately a tragedy.
Its ending, the final battle in particular, is my pick for saddest gaming moment.
The original Mother game was never released in North America. Mother 2, however, did make it here and was renamed EarthBound, probably to avoid confusion about what the “2” meant while making a somewhat more appealing title to American audiences.
Like the original game, Mother 3 never made it to North America, but thanks to the cult following spawned by EarthBound, the game was given a very well-done fan translation.
The story of Mother 3 centers around a family: The father and mother, Flint and Hinawa, the sons, Lucas and Claus, and the grandfather, Alec.
Some major Mother 3 spoilers ahead.
While the game starts off very lighthearted, it takes a sharp turn in the first chapter when Hinawa, Lucas and Claus go missing. Hinawa is found murdered by a normally docile Drago (imagine a friendly tyrannosaurus), but the children are found alive.
Claus runs away to avenge his mother, and Flint and Alec chase after him. They eventually find Claus’s shoes being played with by a baby Drago; an ominous sign. Upon finding the mother Drago, who has been reconstructed by a mysterious group of soldiers wearing pig-like masks, Claus is nowhere to be found.
After many years Lucas and friends embark on an adventure that has them battling against the mysterious Pigmasks, including a few encounters with a strange, silent masked man.
Save for a few vague hints, the masked man’s true identity isn’t revealed until the final battle. He is Claus, the missing son, but has undergone a Vader-esque transformation; he’s more machine than man.
The final battle of the game begins when the Masked Man uses a powerful lightning attack, disabling everyone in the party except for Lucas, who carries the Franklin Badge, which is capable
of reflecting lightning. He quickly learns lightning will get him nowhere.
You control Lucas by himself in this battle. Try to attack, and Lucas cannot bring himself to do it. The only way to survive is to guard, healing when necessary.
A voice speaks over the battle, trying to reach what may be left of Claus within the Masked Man. As the battle rages on, Claus becomes more and more frantic and unleashes more powerful attacks.
Flint tries to intervene, but is thwarted. Lucas, seeing his father fall, begins to attack, but the voice speaking over the battle reasons with him as Claus becomes more violent.
Lucas and Claus then have a vision, brought on by their mother’s voice. Their attacks become weak and half-hearted.
Clause remembers who he is, removes his helmet, and attacks Lucas with lightning, which is reflected by the Franklin Badge, killing Claus.
He kills himself so Lucas can save the world.
The build-up to this final confrontation is emotional. I remember playing it, staying up late just so I could finish it. My heart was racing as I made my way through the final area. All aspects of the game came together emphasizing the end was near—terrible things were about to happen.
The entire game has been building to this point, but the moment everyone has longed for is not what they expected. The tragedy from the first chapter happens again in the last; the family is reunited just in time to be torn apart again.
It’s heartbreaking, and one of the saddest moments in gaming.