[[WMG: Every life represents an AlternateUniverse.]]
Every time you die, that universe lost its hero. It's only the last hero, the one who beat the final boss and got the final credits, who succeeded in his own AlternateTimeline. Tens or hundreds of other universes TheBadGuyWins. Villains such as [[{{Mario}} Bowser]], [[VideoGame/MegaMan Dr. Wily]], and especially [[{{Contra}} Red Falcon]] won in more universes than they lost.
[[WMG: They are only illusions]]
In fact, all the time you fought you were trying again, you were just looking at the Game Over screen, then whatever follows, in correspondence to your controls, but lives make you think you are continuing to play on. This illusion was created so players would have a sporting chance.
[[WMG: Extra lives, continues, and restoring saved games are just abandoning that AlternateUniverse.]]
Ala ''HigurashiNoNakuKoroNi''. Every time a character dies, they really do. [[SuperMarioBros Mario]], ''SonicTheHedgehog'', the Hero from ''DragonQuest''. They really die. TheBadGuyWins. The hero's soul and memories are moved to another dimension and rewrite their counterparts there who did not die, where they try again; but if they die again, that's another universe that falls to evil. Thus, evil wins in every dimension except for the last one.
* In Yukiwatashi-hen it is revealed that Hanyuu looped the lives of at least two Rika's. Thus, every copy of a given game covers one particular universe leaping version of the hero.
* The hero losing doesn't guarantee the villain's victory, for example in Watanagashi-hen and Meakashi-hen both Rika and the villain lose. Furthermore, there is also the possibility of an Unknown Hero X appearing to save the world when your character fails.
* I'd like to see how SuperPaperMario handles this.
* Or every lost life is just a hallucination (like when Link appears lying in the floor when he falls down an endless pit).
* Ahh, THAT explains why I keep seeing parodies of Higurashi with [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_54l8_VSiE&feature=related completely]] [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=593EvGKGCGE unrelated]] series... I used to believe this, but only for Mario, before I saw this. Mario is his verse's Rika. [[spoiler:Please don't do my mistake and think of the suicide scene but with slamming a Koopa shell into his head repeatedly instead of the knife.]]
[[WMG: Alternatively, all video game characters are capable of regenerating at will.]]
* Or with some limitations or using some specific item, namely the local 1-Up.