The entire series of Mario games across all the generations of Nintendo consoles seems to suffer from serious continuity issues. However, this has not stopped Mario fans from trying to disentangle the games and set them in chronological order. We present to you one fan theory that elaborately places most of the Mario games in a meaningful order.
As far as canon goes, Yoshi’s Island is obviously the first in the series, Mario and Luigi are babies and being carried to their parents by a stork. Next we have the Donkey Kong Games, Wrecking Crew and all the sports games which, arguably, showcases Mario’s early years as an entrepeneur.
In the original Mario Brothers, we are introduced to Luigi for the first time in the series, whilst Mario has had a career change becoming a plumber. It is possible that Luigi got his older brother into plumbing. As a side note, as the brothers delve deeper into the sewer system, they face more, and meaner, monsters. We can assume from this that they are getting closer to the source of this menacing monster infestation. Some video game theorists also assert that something happens in the sewers which results in the brothers being transported to the Mushroom Kingdom (much like in the maligned Mario Brothers movie).
Next in the chronological order is Super Mario Brothers and the Lost Levels (in the Japanese version). In this game, Bowser has taken over most of the Mushroom Kingdom. He successfully convinced the Goombas to rebel, infested the Kingdom’s underground system and captured or killed most of the population. Eventually, Mario and Luigi save the day and defeat Bowser.
Super Mario Brothers 2 is, arguably, a dream. Alternatively, it could also be argued that it takes place in a different plane of reality.
Super Mario Brothers 3 takes place some months after Super Mario Brothers. After beating defeated in Super Mario Brothers, Bowser has come back stronger and his forces are much more menacing. After he lost control of the Mushroom Kingdom he went on the war-path to capture 7 neighbouring kingdoms. Thus, the Super Mario Brothers 3 game revolves around Mario fighting Bowser’s full military might.
Super Mario World is a direct sequel to Super Mario Brothers 3. In this game, Mario visits dinosaur land on vacation after exerting all his energy defeating Bowser in the previous game. By happenstance, Mario and co. stumble upon a retreating Bowser and soundly beat him while he’s on the ropes. We should highlight that, as Nintendo have confirmed, the ghost ship level in Super Mario World is a fallen Super Mario Brothers 3 airship.
Next up is Super Mario 64. This game looks like it is set during relatively peaceful times. Mario faces a lot less opposition from the Koopa forces, there’s no fleet of mechanical military forces and, additionally, Bowser takes a far more inclusive role by only attacking the castle and Mario. This suggests that Bowser’s forces are crippled and that he’s on a personal mission of personal revenge rather than a military conquest.
And finally, the last game in the series is likely to be Luigi’s Mansion. In this game, Bowser is, arguably, dead and resurrected as King Boo before he is soundly defeated by Luigi.
After Luigi’s Mansion, it appears as if Nintendo resets the Mario universe as each new game occurs in an instance unique to the other games. The Mario mythos is thrown out the window at this point, and Nintendo stops caring about continuity.