Beyond Mother 3: The best Japan-only Nintendo games in need of localization

Will we ever get an official release of Mother 3 in the West? That’s… possible, but also a question that more than enough people out there are constantly asking. The late-life GBA game has been a looming shadow over Nintendo of America, but perhaps more importantly, it’s one that’s blocked fans from talking so much about the other games Nintendo hasn’t released over here. And those are good too! Let’s break down the best prospects.

These are the eight games with the best case for the effort to release them in the West. That means:

  • They weren’t released at all outside Japan. It may be a pain to get games from PAL territories sometimes, but it’s still a doable task.
  • Localization would help substantially. If they’re already really import-friendly, maybe just import them? But games with lots of text could use an official touch.
  • There’s a pedigree or reputation that gives them a shot. For a game to be released in the West so long after the Japanese launch, it’d need to be the sort of game to get people talking to sell enough to be profitable.

Updated 4/21!

Pokemon Trading Card Game GB2 (GBC)

The pitch: The best Pokemon game to have never left Japan. While the franchise is huge and popular to this day, there are still some projects that get lost in the shuffle, and this one missed a Western release with the transition between the Game Boy Color and the Game Boy Advance. Still: with how much the Virtual Console releases of Pokemon games selling phenomenally well, maybe it’s time to branch out a bit and give fans this much-expanded sequel?

Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War (SNES)

The pitch: Still held up by many series fans as the most tactically satisfying entry in a series that has way more popularity in the West than it ever has. Geneaology introduced the generation system that would later drive the 3DS hits, and its large, truly tactical maps make for a lot more thought than the more compact ones of the Famicom entries (and most GBA ones). With the financial success of Fire Emblem Heroes helping popularize these characters to a global audience, there could be an appetite for its release. And with the late localization of the NES’ Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, there’s now a precedent.

For the Frog the Bell Tolls (GB)

The pitch: A charming, original tale from Nintendo legends that’s reminiscent of Zelda without venturing where others have since. Essentially the predecessor project to Link’s Awakening, a game that’s getting fully remade this year, Frog brings its own brand of quirk and exploration to a very similar sort of adventure. Nintendo’s proud of this game, or its characters wouldn’t show up as prominently as they do in Super Smash Bros.. Also, presumably, it’d be a lighter job to localize.

Marvelous: Another Treasure Island (SNES)

The pitch: A seminal work from the minds that brought you all your favorite Zelda games of the past two decades. It’s sprawling and full of gorgeous pixel art, but its best case is that it was the directorial debut of Eiji Aonuma. The luminary credits his work on the project with the next gig he got: Ocarina of Time.

Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade (GBA)

The pitch: A “lost” Fire Emblem game, it’s delightfully familiar to the two entries that started the franchise in the West and is the only game to star Smash Bros. favorite Roy. Once again a regular in the all-star fighting game’s lineup, Roy has the same case Lucas does for giving fans a look at his origins, and again, the Fire Emblem machine behind him is more of a force than ever. Plus: that Roy tease in the Shadow Dragon localization announcement? That could be leading here.

Giftpia (GameCube)

The pitch: Full of quirk and bursting with an alternative sensibility that fits in way better with today’s climate than it did then, it’s a full adventure that would upscale beautifully on modern hardware. Giftpia is not about action or combat, but more about inhabiting a world and getting to know its cast of characters. It also benefits from its platform: there aren’t a lot of viable import-only games like this on its platform, so if Nintendo were ever putting together something GameCube-related, it may be in the position to dig a bit deeper.

Tomato Adventure (GBA)

The pitch: An easy sell to all those Mother fans who’ve rallied and organized over the years, it’s a quirky RPG from the team behind the Mario & Luigi series. Admittedly, this one probably won’t make it until those Mother 3 issues are resolved. Still, this AlphaDream game, intentionally or not, served as a pitch of sorts for the team’s later work. It combines traditional mechanics with some minigame-like resolution and a cartoon style, and it’s every bit as fun even without the characters spouting incomprehensible pseudo-Italian.

Captain Rainbow (Wii)

The pitch: Notorious for its zany, offbeat story, Captain Rainbow has the reputation to make headlines and a narrative that’s all sorts of streamer-friendly. It could take a careful touch by the localization team to maintain this quirk, but it could very well be worth it to let players experience one of the weirdest adventures Nintendo’s ever let happen.

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