Turn wasting is a common occurrence in RPGs such as EarthBound, where some characters and enemies may have an attack that they can use during battle, but has no effect (effectively "wasting" the user's turn), or causes a negative effect on themselves.
In the Mother series, many attacks have the enemy in question perform a (usually) meaningless action, such as edging forward, knitting its brow, or having a big grin on its face.
Enemies such as Mr. Batty and the Crow are the most common turn wasters. Mr. Batty is likely to size up the situation, making it feel strange; it retains this trait throughout the series. Crows waste turns by laughing. Certain enemies can also "grin, and bear it", which effectively wastes a turn. Bears and Hyenas often do this. Hippies can also waste turns through a variety of actions, including meditating and using a ruler (the latter of which can be used as a useless item by Ninten and co.). Turns can also be wasted if an enemy or ally's choice of action during a battle targets an enemy or ally who has died. The battle text will continue as usual, but when effects would normally be shown, instead the battle text says "[Target] was already gone." If Ninten's Asthma is re-activated by a vehicle enemy's exhaust fumes or a Dust Ball's dust, Ninten will constantly waste turns suffering from an asthma attack.
Enemies such as the Spiteful Crow and Everdred often have a big grin on their face. The Yes Man Jr. can laugh hysterically, and the Pogo Punk can fall over. Mr. Batty and its counterparts return, along with their ability to size up the situation, effectively confusing themselves, which is also used by the Mole Playing Rough.
The Ruler and Protractor are items that can be used by the party to waste a turn. The ruler allows Ness and co. to "size up the situation." The Protractor has a similar effect, allowing the user to "get an angle on things." Neither of these items actually do anything. Occasionally, the New Age Retro Hippie will also use a Ruler.
Certain NPC allies may waste turns as well; when in Ness's party, Pokey Minch will always perform cowardly actions, e.g. pushing Ness in front of him or apologizing profusely.
Rarely, turn "wasting" appears as a form of balance, e.g. Frankystein Mark II alternates between attacking and generating useless puffs of steam, Thunder and Storm can attack twice per turn, but take deep breaths every other turn; this is designed to keep the player's party from being overwhelmed, and the Clumsy Robot frequently wastes turns doing clumsy things but has surprisingly powerful attacks otherwise.
The Pigmasks sometimes apologize profusely, both in reference to Porky Minch and as an indicator of their character. The Artsy Ghost, true to its own name, will often initiate a passionate discussion about art or critique itself. Negative Man and the Frightbots have the most turn-wasting actions among all enemies, the former spending most turns exerting his depression, and the latter wasting every turn telling scary stories.
In homage to Porky's turn-wasting actions in EarthBound, Mecha-Porkies can "mechanically" imitate these same actions, such as pretending to cry or smiling insincerely.
Various NPC allies will also waste turns during their temporary stay; Wess will sometimes sharply scold Duster or worry about Kumatora, while Alec complains about his lower back pain and urges Flint to be careful. Fassad has the most turn-wasting abilities of Mother 3 guest party members; these include, but are not limited to:
- Hiding in Salsa's shadow
- Talking to a banana
- Pretending to be someone else
- Twirling his mustache
- Switching the Punishizer "on".
- Putting Salsa "front of himself".
- Think about Western-style clothing.