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This is a "Wild Mass Guess" entry, where we pull out all the sanity stops on theorizing. The regular entry on this topic is elsewhere. Please see this programme note.
Videogame Lives
Every life represents an Alternate Universe.
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 Alternate Timeline. Tens or hundreds of other universes The Bad Guy Wins. Villains such as Bowser, Dr. Wily, and especially Red Falcon won in more universes than they lost.
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.
Extra lives, continues, and restoring saved games are just abandoning that Alternate Universe.
Ala Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. Every time a character dies, they really do. Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, the Hero from Dragon Quest. They really die. The Bad Guy Wins. 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 Super Paper Mario 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 completely unrelated series... I used to believe this, but only for Mario, before I saw this. Mario is his verse's Rika. 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.
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.
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