So, here’s something I came across recently that everyone else has probably already seen:
I might also add that there are several costumes involved, although I guess that really started with the Fire Mario outfit in the original Super Mario Bros. Still, it isn’t until Super Mario Bros. 3 that we see the frog, hammer, and tanooki suits. I have to wonder what the designers were going for with the stage thing. Did they have the kind of flat graphics first, and then decide to just make them look purposely cheap? I don’t know. I remember back in the early nineties when I read in some book that the graphics for SMB3 weren’t as good as the ones in SMB2, which I thought was well night blasphemous at the time. In retrospect, though, it might be true.
Anyway, I wouldn’t be so fast to say that the game being set up like a stage play means it never really happened. It might just be a sign of how flexible reality is in Mario’s universe. In addition to SMB2 being a dream, what about the Paper Mario games, in which everyone has mysteriously turned into paper dolls?
Come to think of it, The Thousand-Year Door also reuses the stage play motif for the battles. Does this mean these games never happened either? Actually, I guess you’d have a stronger case for this than for SMB2 or 3, since the only character from the Paper Mario series whom I know appears in other games is the Goomba King (AKA Goomboss).
Then there’s Yoshi’s Story, which takes place inside a storybook, although it’s explained that this is Bowser’s doing.
He was never given the credit for the stage in SMB2 or the flat characters in the Paper Mario series, and I don’t know that he’d have that kind of power anyway. Well, maybe with the Star Rod, but everyone was paper BEFORE he got his hands on that, right? Anyway, here’s an article on how pretty much every new Mario game is presented in a different fashion.