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Itoi thought of the concept behind Mother 3 towards the end of Mother 2's production, a "detective story where the city was the main character".[27] He thought of a hack, small-time, womanizing private investigator who would become engrossed in a big murder case, and the story would unfold from a young female clerk at a flower shop who would slowly recall parts of a story consequential to the plot. Thus, the city would appear to grow. This idea of a "single place changing over time" was central to Mother 3.[27] Unlike previous RPGs, which he saw as "road movies" with little reason to revisit, he wanted the player to see the town gossip grow dynamically.[27] It was enough of a departure from the series that the development team questioned whether fans would consider it part of the series.[27] Itoi intended the game to have 12 chapters with various game mechanics and rotating player-characters.[37][a] He conceptualized the development as moving 3D puppets before realizing the degree of programming required. As development wore on, Itoi reduced the scope of the chapters until seven or nine were left. The "uncomfortable beauty" of chimera—multiple creatures fused into one—was central to the game and the idea behind the metallic and wooden Mother 3 logo.[27][b] Itoi served less of a manager role and more as a team member and scriptwriter than in previous Mother development cycles. He saw himself as simultaneously making the game he wanted to play and setting traps for the player, and as making a game Nintendo could not.

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