gender and identity in mother 3

mother 3 is a wonderful wonderful game that tells the story of personal relationships, capitalism, the pursuit of progress, and what it means to be happy. for a long time, it was a part of my essential media. i've since knocked it off to be replaced with undertale, because i think that undertale acts sort of as a spiritual successor, and modernises some of the gameplay and plot points, but that's not to say that mother 3 is any less of a good game. over the years a few parts of the game, most notably aspects relating to the magypsies, have been critically discussed. this page serves as a place for me to explore my thoughts.

note that this page will contain spoilers.


mother 3 is very much an interactive story, but it's not a walking simulator, and the interaction is an integral part of it, unlike some games which would lose very little by being exclusively watched. it is split into chapters. the first few chapters see you playing as different characters in different settings, getting to know them before you move onto the main story where you play as lucas, kumatora, duster, and boney.

interactive helplessness

helplessness is a significant theme. in the first chapter, the protagonists mother is killed. at this point you are playing as her husband and you get to watch him lash out in blind fury.


in an early chapter, the game moves completely away from the characters you recognise, to a desert where you play as a monkey named Salsa. Salsa is "owned" by a merchant, Fassad, who puts an electrocuted collar on him, allowing Fassad to electrocute him at will.

in order to get you to grasp the power Fassad holds over you, he tells you to perform tricks. if you refuse, or perform the wrong trick, you are electructed and the game does not move on until you do the right thing. it's an uncomfortable moment, but perfectly puts across the dynamic between the two.

§lgbtq representation


the magypsies are a group of magical people who use she/her pronouns, act in conventionally feminine ways, but have some masculine characteristics (in particular, facial hair).

i don't know the thought process behind their character development, but it is clear that they aren't the most sensitive or researched depiction of trans people. perhaps concepts of drag were mixed up with being trans?

at the very least, they aren't portrayed in a negative light, other than their appearance potentially meant to be funny. they are all kind and nice and on the side of good.

before meeting them for the first time, alec describes them as "they're neither man nor woman, nor are they human.". i'm not sure whether this should be taken as a fact, because they are not humans, or whether it's just alec grappling with what it means to be trans.

in an interview with itoi:

- As far as the characters go, the Magypsies are amazingly strange.
Itoi Yes, they're like mixed-up Chimeras. (laughs) A fusion of man and woman.
- I can really feel how much you respect the essence of the Magypsies.
Itoi I really do respect them. I have Magypsy friends of my own.

yeah. i recommend reading the whole page. i don't think the portrayal is meant to be problematic, but it would offend some people. it's been suggested they are the main reason it was not released in the west, as they would upset both the left and the right.

implied rape

in the tunnel level, lucas comes across a magypsy in a hot spring. the magypsy invites lucas to join them, and the screen goes black while suggestive comments are displayed. lucas is then shown appearing above the water and "something awoke inside lucas" is displayed.

there is a lot of argument about whether ionia raped lucas. i think it's not clear, but it can't be dismissed. at the moment there is a lot of stigma suggesting that mtf trans people are sexual predators (which is transphobic nonsense, to be clear). itoi described learning psi moves as being like menstruation, a secondary sexual characteristic, and at the very least wanted there to be a suggestion of something adult going on. from the interview:

Interviewer: The way you learn PSI is portrayed a little differently this time.
Itoi: It's like, umm... It's like menstruation.
Interviewer: The sense of Lucas's growth into an adult in that scene is very strong. (laughs)
Itoi: Most games are made by people who deal with young people and children, and they make their games with a child's heart in mind. So I wanted to approach things from an older man's perspective. I love doing things like that. (laughs) I want children to understand that, too. But children are good at picking up the general idea behind things. In the future, if I happen to live to be 90 years old, I want one of those kids to come to me as a grownup and say, "A long time ago, in third grade, I played MOTHER 3. I was really nervous and confused about what was going on in the hot spring in that tunnel... And that's what led me to the place I am today."

perhaps i am just a snowflake, but that scene made me uncomfortable. this forum page suggests that holding lucas underwater is to force him to have a fever (the way all other psi moves are learnt)

oxygen machines

the oxygen machines are masculine mermaids who blow oxygen into your lungs so you can breathe underwater. the first time you see them, there is a cutscene with two pigmen using one. the first one says that using them "just isn't my thing". the second says that they enjoy it, which causes the first to step away from them.

perhaps i misinterpreted this, but this seems like a classic joke at the expense of being gay. neither the pigman nor the oxygen machines are portrayed in a negative light (i like the scene showing the oxygen machines relaxing after work), but it feels like a joke that could have landed better.

§duster's bad leg

from the same interview:

- Why did you give Duster a bad leg?
Itoi I figure that because there are handicapped people in our world, it would also be part of the world of MOTHER 3. After all, there's no way that any two people have the same physique or even the same personality. Just like with the Magypsies, I included Duster so we could have someone with bad breath, a disabled leg, and living as a thief. The MOTHER 3 world is all about having friends like them. Perhaps you could call them symbols of not rejecting such people.

this is a good touch, though it's a shame so many negative tropes were applied to one person.

§is fassad good or bad?

the roles of women

of course mother 3 has a strong female character, Kumatora.

Kumatora is a tomboy

Kumatora is physically weak, but uses magic

Kumatora complains about being shoehorned in feminine ways, for example at club titiboo. it is unclear whether this is just uncomfortable for her, or whether she looks down on the other waitresses, who may or may not enjoy their female-coded role (and may or may not be sex workers)

§further reading