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A popular fan theory states that Super Mario Bros. 3 was in actuality just a performance or stage play, as written about by Cracked and Dorkly among others. Is there any basis to this assertment? Has it been confirmed or denied?

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Yes, according to series creator Shigeru Miyamoto it was. He nods affirmingly to this very question in this video on Mario myths.

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    I'm going to note that according to this video, Shigeru Miyamoto is also Bowser Jr.'s mother. Which means this video is decidedly not a credible source. – Powerlord Sep 21 '15 at 17:36
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    @Powerlord Why do you think he can't be Bowser's other half? – Kevin Sep 21 '15 at 17:55
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    @Powerlord: I think it's pretty obvious from the context which answer is literal and which is figurative or joking. – August Janse Sep 21 '15 at 19:04
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Literary theory is a different sort of thing from a scientific or investigative theory. In most logical fields of reasoning, a theory can be confirmed or repudiated with enough study, investigation, or experimenting. A literary theory, which is closer to what you're talking about here, is a critical interpretation of a piece of literature (and films, plays, and video games all get lumped in as literature).

When we look at a theory like this about a piece of fiction, we can look for hidden meanings and pieces of evidence within the body of the text that support that interpretation. Example: there's a great theory that Nick, the narrator of The Great Gatsby, is gay. Proponents find support in the way he recounts one episode where he loses some clothes in a drunken haze with another male character, the way he admires Gatsby, and the language he uses to describe his female lovers. Opponents, of course, point to the stated fact in the text that he has female lovers. It's a fun debate, and it adds a little replay value (if you'll pardon the phrase) to an old book. Good theories can do that.

But they can't be proven conclusively one way or the other. We're never going to have a solid answer on whether SMB3 was a play or performance of some kind until we can interview Mario about it -- and he's not available. Authors can and do sometimes get involved in discussions like this; JK Rowling speaks to theories on Harry Potter all the time, and sometimes people take the author as an unquestionable authority on the matter. But sometimes the author lies, and sometimes the author just doesn't want to get involved. But even if Miyamoto says something about his fiction, it's totally legit if you read it a different way. If a million people read the Harry Potter books, and the author says later that she meant Dumbledore to be gay, but the million readers didn't interpret it that way -- she doesn't invalidate their experience by saying that. It's just her perspective. Miyamoto's perspective on whether it's a stage play is the same, it's just one guy's perspective. It's not proof; there can't ever be that.

The reality of your experience with the game is really yours to decide. Theories can help you explore it and get deeper, but they can't define what the truth is for you -- that's all about how you read it. It's a discussion, not a verdict.

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    This seems more like an argument to derail a different answer then it does an answer. I would recommend deletion. Arqade is about direct answers, not a forum to post your views or arguments. At the end of the day, a game creator does have complete right to derail a story. If they say "this is that", that's how it is. They are the creator, and their word is lore. Literally. Two paragraphs of literature interpretation is a bit unnecessary, though. – user106385 Sep 25 '15 at 22:40
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    If you believe that the creator is the overriding authority on the reading experience, then the entire field of critical theory is bootless. But I don't think the original questioner feels that way; if he had, he would have sent a letter to Miyamoto instead of a post here asking about a mythology that is neither more nor less than literature interpretation. All I really wanted to say with my answer was that a question looking for a binary answer to a question of literature interpretation is a question he might reconsider, and it took me a few paragraphs to support that. I tried my best. :/ – user79284 Sep 26 '15 at 4:52
  • Dont get me wrong, its a very good response, it just feels like it would be better on a website more open to discussion on the topic. I think as a game developer, I may have taken this a little too personally. That said, your argument about reconsidering the question is a very good one. But i would recommend redirecting it to our meta site. That said, I do believe this has already been debated on. – user106385 Sep 26 '15 at 5:28

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