Itoi, who also works as an ad copywriter and even voiced the father in My Neighbor Totoro, explains that the game's genesis came out of his desire to do RPGs in a new and fresh way:
When we were working on Mother 2, RPGs were all basically "road movies". The main character would set out on a journey and go from town to town. By laying this out in a spiraling fashion, an RPG's structure would start to resemble a simple board game... But I felt that there was a limit to this road movie/board game style of moving from one spot to the next. Kind of like, "Okay, I made it this far, but what's happened to the people in the last town?"
That's when I thought of an RPG in which you stay in a certain town for a long time... You wouldn't get stronger by beating stronger and stronger enemies; the things you could do would increase as you went around the same place over and over... The game would have character relations, and the people would all have their own lives. This way, we could do all sorts of things in the game. For example, someone who recently hung laundry out to dry would be wearing those clothes the next day. I wanted to make an RPG in which you could grow closer to the people as time went on.
Actually, Mother 3 took shape shortly after, and in the game, you're in a village called Tazmily for a long time. That came from this idea.
Interesting — now localize it officially and release it in the West. Kthanxbai.