The idea of a Mario Timeline is surprisingly popular. At first glance, one would assume that the games take place in chronological order, however, there have been several hints as to this not being the case. Whilst it's obvious Yoshi's Island comes before Super Mario Bros., other cases aren't so simple, so after watching some people's opinions and adding my own, I'd like to give my own view on the matter.
Where does it begin? Edit
To get to grops with a timeline, the best place to start is well... the start. Where to begin is a tricky question and I guess in the end would come down to a person's view. In my personal opinion, the game that shows the earliest events is in Super Mario Galaxy, within Rosalina's Storybook. This shows Rosalina as a young girl and her meeting with the first incarnation of Luma. I believe this to be the ealiest as it is implied to take place hundreds and hundreds of years ago, which Rosalina stating she will visit her home planet once every hundred years. This is what caused the Star Festivals, like the one seen in Super Mario Galaxy's opening. This has become a well established festival, so she must a least be a few hundred years old.
The start of the main timeline Edit
Of course, going by actual games, what comes next is tricky. However, due to the implication of the Donkey Kong found in the original game of the same name being Cranky Kong, the grandfather of Donkey Kong, I'll have to go with Game Theory's idea on this. They use "Yoshi's Island DS" as a source to show that the DK we know was born at around the same time as Mario, proving the "Jumpman" from the original Donkey Kong game to be a different person from Mario, explaining the difference in name and occupation. Whilst the Mario and DK crossovers show Pauline to still be present and with Mario, we can view this as more as a plothole, as I have no real explainations for this. However, this doesn't throw this idea out the window, as there would still be the plothole of adult-Mario vs DK's grandfather whilst he looks about DK's age if it were the other way round.
Mario's birth Edit
And so we come onto the birth of the protagonist of the series. As everyone can agree, Yoshi's Island is the earliest game Mario could be present in, as he is being delivered to his parents by a stork! Yoshi's New Island is a direct sequel and so takes place afterwards. Game Theory has once again shown us that the Past-segements of "Mario&Luigi: Partner's in Time" come next, followed by Yoshi's Island DS, with the dialogue between Bowser and his former self giving us an indication.
And after that we have a pretty big timeskip. We don't really see any games showing Mario growing up, and instead we just skip straight to his adult life. Mario Bros. is a place to start, with Mario lacking power-ups and actually being in a different World to the Mushroom Kingdom. Whether he left or not is unknown, but the Super Mario Brothers anime film shows us he may have taken a warp-pipe to the Mushroom Kindgom... In Mario Bros., enemies come out of green pipes which resembles warp-pipes, so this could be a possible implication of this being before the main series and the time of Mario's return to the Mushroom World.
Super Mario Brothers Return Edit
With Mario and Luigi returning to the Mushroom Kingdom, they must have found that Princess Peach had been kindapped by Bowser. With their absence it would make sense for Bowser to have enough time to team up with the goombas, as well as transform to Toads into different objects, something he doesn't do in any other game than Super Mario Bros.! This would make it fitting for Super Mario Bros. to be next on the timeline, and explains the limited power-ups, simplicity in the brothers' move-set and also it being the first game released in the Super Mario series! Up next would probably be Japan's Super Mario Bros. 2, due to it's large similarities to it's prequel and not much changing.
Where Game Theory messed up Edit
Whilst I may have been using Game Theory a lot, I must admit I'm going to leave them alone for now. They seemed to have made a simple "error" which I end up disagreeing with, due to someone else having a better theory. Enter: "Scorpigator". He theories that next up is Super Mario 3D Land, as this shows the spread of the Super Leaves found in both this game and in Super Mario Bros. 3. The small amount of bosses also help show that Bowser's troop was still not as large as in the present, and so this can also hint as 3D Land being a prequel to Bros. 3 instead of a sequel. This would mean that Super Mario Bros. 3 fits nicely after hear. Super Mario Bros. 3 is the first time Mario fought the Koopalings, so must go before any games taking place afterwards.
Up Next? Edit
What's next can be tricky, but it is confirmed that Super Mario World takes place after Super Mario Bros. 3, via the game's manual. It makes sense for this to come up next, with Mario taking a holiday with Peach and Luigi, and reuniting with Yoshi, perhaps to celebrate Bowser's defeat. However, they didn't expect Bowser to come to Dinosaur Island too, and thus were forced to go on another adventure. Whilst it was said the heroes take a holiday afterwards, I see this as being them relaxing on Dinosaur Island rather than Super Mario Sunshine, due to the lack of Luigi and the fact F.L.U.D.D.'s scan shows that Super Mario 64 takes place before Sunshine, which we have no yet covered.
Unlike almost all theories I've seen, I think that Super Mario Land fits nicely here. Whilst most see this as the end of the timeline, summing things up, I don't see it from the same angle. Instead, I just see it as another adventure. If memory serves, Mario actually saves Daisy via Peach's request, and so the heart was not meant to show a romance between them. Instead, in the original version, this was meant to be Peach, but things get messed up and they changed the storyline to fit.
After Mario's return, he finds his castle has been taken over by Wario, setting into motion Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins. This introduces Wario, and Mario Land introduces Daisy, characters who make later appearances and so it makes sense for their debuts to actually come first. Whilst Mario shows he knows Daisy's name, she was a friend of Peach, and he was sent to save her, so it is not unlikely he doesn't know her name through these.
Into the Third Dimension Edit
Up next is Super Mario 64. I'm not sure whether Super Mario 64 or Super Mario 64 DS goes here, or whether they are different outcomes to the same event, but I suppose one of these goes here, if not both. Wario's inclusion in the DS remake also show this might take place after Mario Land 2, with Mario and Wario settling their differences. There isn't much else to prove it's place on the timeline, other than Yoshi's presence on the roof top in the N64 original, and F.L.U.D.D.'s scan mentioned earlier.
Next up would be Luigi's Mansion! Whilst Game Theory points out King Boo's dialogue in 64 DS foreshadowing what King Boo does to Mario in this game, I don't know if this is totally credible, but still makes sense. Whether Bowser died in Mario 64 as so to be possessed by King Boo in Luigi's Mansion or not, I don't know, but Luigi's Mansion seems to fit in nicely in the spot, as it comes before Sunshine.
Whilst people theorise King Boo's presence in Sunshine hints Sunshine comes before Luigi's Mansion, I see him as a different King Boo, and I believe that they were given separate names in the original Japanese port. It also makes more sense for the to take place afterwards due to simplicity and also might show why Luigi isn't present: as he is sorting out his new mansion in Boo Woods. Whilst this isn't the best explanation it fit, so... yeah. This also marks the first appearance of Bowser Jr, and we know that Bowser survived the final battle of Sunshine, so this makes it less likely to be pre-Luigi's Mansion, having to wait for another encounter... however, from New Super Mario Bros. onwards, Bowser seems to be shown alive after the final battle, so this would almost certainly cross off the possibility of this happening.
(Also, with all the talk of an old man in a white coat, don't you think F.L.U.D.D. would lead Mario to E. Gadd, who they met for the first time in Luigi's Mansion. All the point to Luigi's Mansion preceding Sunshine.)
Back to the classics Edit
The manual of New Super Mario Bros., which for once I actually own so can say first hand, references Sunshine, talking about Bowser Jr's relation to Peach. This proves it takes place after Sunshine, and it makes sense to come a few year afterwards or so.
However, perhaps a few years before, Cackletta would carry out her scheme, leading Mario, Luigi and Bowser to the BeanBean Kingdom. This is the start of Mario&Luigi: Superstar Saga. Due to being released in 2003 and having several references to Sunshine, it can be quite easily seen as taking place after the 2002-Gamecube adventure, between Sunshine and NSMB. Whilst there is no sign of Jr. in these games, it is still very much implied this take place after Sunshine, and so this is most likely the case. With Jr. becoming more and more major from NSMB onwards, we'd have to strike whilst the irons hot and place it at a time when he wasn't as active.
After NSMB, Mario&Luigi: Partner's in Time's present-segments may have taken place, although, there isn't any real proof for it's placement on the timeline. And whilst in the subseries, Mario&Luigi:Bowser's Inside Story is implied to take place not too long afterwards.
Intergalactic Adventure Edit
Bowser decides to take over the entire universe (one hard to achieve feat, I must say) and takes the Star Festival as a time to strike. He attacks the Comet Observatory, taking advantage of it visiting the planet, and scatters it's Power Stars with the nearby galaxies. This sets into motion the plot of Super Mario Galaxy. However, after Mario defeats Bowser, he accidentally causes a chain reaction causing a Super Massive Blackhole to be set off in the Centre of the universe. Luckily, this was stopped, at the expense of the universal reset. (Mr. Resetti will not be pleased!) Of course, Rosalina states the same events can occur after a reset, only slightly different. Whilst many people see this as Super Mario Galaxy 2, this game was actually just a story written by Rosalina. Whether it was of an unseen adventure by Mario or just her take on the original Mario Galaxy is unknown, but I think a more fitting place for this is Super Luigi Galaxy, a mode where you must replay Mario Galaxy as Luigi. The same events occur but with a slight change, it's simple! So, whether Luigi did save the day in the current timeline, or if it was a different timeline is unknown. Super Luigi Galaxy, however, might be the start of a "Neo-Timeline", one replacing the events of Super Mario Galaxy... but who knows?
Back on the planet Edit
After saving, or rather resetting, the universe, Mario and friend once again had to save Princess Peach, in the game New Super Mario Bros. Wii. This game was released after Mario Galaxy, and not much else is implied about it's place on the timeline other than the Koopalings returning confirms it was post-SMB3. So, perhaps this is a fitting placement.
After this are games we've already covered, until we reach NSMB2. However, before this, we have Mario&Luigi: Dream Team Bros.! Not only does Starlow note it has been a while since she last saw Mario and Luigi, showing some adventures took place in between this and Bowser's Inside Story, but there is also a massive coin summoned at the end, which is then broken into many, many, many new coins... an obvious hint to NSMB2 taking place directly after. This helps place it nicely on the timeline! I'm really surprised people missed this
After we have NSMBU, which could also be between NSMBW and Dream Team Bros., depending on how you see it. The toads from NSMBW appear again in NSMBU, but not in NSMB2, which could show that they were helpful in that short time period, but at the same time, NSMBU was released after NSMB2 and shows little hints of where it fits... so it's down to perspective~
U vs 2 Edit
Of course, if we are going to make a timeline, this isn't enough. Luckily, we have a tiny little hint as the which may come first. Since 3D Land precedes Bros. 3 because of the spread of Super Leaves, we can use a similar example to find the order of the NSMB games. In New Super Mario Bros. Wii, the Mushroom Retainers shot many power-ups across the Mushroom World at the start of the games. The two shown in the intro were the Propellor Mushroom and Penguin Suit. These were not present in NSMB or NSMB2, however, they were present in NSMBU, found in the Mushroom Houses of Star Road.
Whilst this comes down the theory, we could say that most of the Propellor Mushrooms and Penguin Suits were used up in NSMBW. However, some remained, being stored in the Toad Houses found in NSMBU, explaining their absence in the actual levels. This can help us say that NSMBU comes after NSMBW, due to both this and the two Toads going on the adventures. NSMB2 most likely comes afterwards, due to it's links to Dream Team Bros., and the absence of the power-ups from NSMBW, being used up in the normal levels. NSMB will come before, due to it being confirmed to be the next main adventure after Sunshine, which is the first time Jr (who appears in NSMBW and NSMBU) appears. Since Superstar Saga is also after Sunshine, and NSMB2 is after its third sequel, we can confirm this was the last NSMB game.
As for New Super Luigi U, whether it counts as a game or not, this most likely takes place after NSMBU, with Nabbit actually teaming up with Luigi, and the two Toads having a major role once again.
Yay for Adventure! Edit
Next up on the timeline is Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. We know this takes place after Super Mario Galaxy, as this is when the Toad Brigade forms. It is placed here, as after the credits of Treasure Tracker, the opening to "Super Mario 3D World" plays, showing that is was a prequel. This indeed shows that directly after Treasure Tracker, Super Mario 3D World takes place.
However, where do these two games fit into the timeline? Well, Super Mario 3D World marks the return of the Super Leaf, found in the Sprixie Kingdom. Their long time absence can be linked to the same theory as the NSMBW power-ups, with them being used up within the Mushroom Kingdom, but not the Sprixie Kingdom. At the beginning of 3D World, many items pop out of the clear pipe into the Mushroom Kingdom, which can show the return of Super Leaves to the Mushroom Kingdom once more. This fits nicely with why they reappear in NSMB2 despite the time-gap between that and SMB3.
Since NSMB2 takes place directly after Mario's return from Dream Team Bros., Super Mario 3D World will take place before this adventure. This will have to be the closest adventure to it, as the Mario Bros. don't use the Super Leaves that have returned to the Mushroom Kingdom, letting them grow into trees rather than being used up quickly. This can also explain why a Tailed Goomba appears as an enemy in Dream Team Bros.!
But what about...? Edit
Luigi's Mansion 2: Dark Moon Edit
Dark Moon could take place at any point, after a certain time. It defiantly takes place after the first Luigi's Mansion, but that is as helpful. Hints can be shown at the Poltergust 5000, which must be a newer model than the Poltergust 4000, a kart first seen in Mario Kart DS, and the Poltergust 3001, a larger version found in Superstar Saga. Since Isle Delfino hosts some courses in Mario Kart DS, we can say this also takes place after Sunshine, and the Poltergust model proves to be after Sunshine. However, being after Superstar Saga is all we have in terms of hints. It could take place at any time after this, I suppose, as there is nothing really hinting as to it being anywhere in particular...
Super Mario Bros. USA Edit
Like Mario Galaxy 2, this game does not fit onto the timeline, as it was simply a dream. When the dream took place is probably between Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario 3D Land, due to the release placement, and limited amount of friends in Mario's dream.
Wario Land Edit
This series takes place after Super Mario Land 2, and is probably Wario's adventures seen along side Mario's. Perhaps this takes place after 64DS, or perhaps before, but defiantly not at the same time, due to Wario's presence in both.
Mario Kart Edit
Mario Kart DS takes place after Superstar Saga, as we have confirmed earlier, but the placement of the others is not as clear. Rosalina's presence in Mario Kart Wii onwards shows that MK Wii, 7 and 8 take place after Super Mario Galaxy. Jr's presence in Double Dash shows that this takes place after Sunshine, as he is first seen by Mario and Peach in Sunshine, so they'd have already met him by Double Dash. Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart: Super Circuit and Mario Kart 64 are a bit more uncertain, but probably take place before the five other games mentioned before them. Yoshi's inclusion in all the Mario Karts it takes place after Super Mario World, and Wario's inclusion in Kart 64 onwards shows it to take place after Super Mario Land 2.
Other Spin-offs Edit
These can... really take place at any time, covering them would take too long.
Wario Theory Edit
Whilst it's a little stupid, there is a little theory of Wario that could explain a few things on the timeline. With NSMB2 being the last on the timeline, it is shown that Mario is becoming obsessed with all the coins, everything revolving around riches. Due to the yellowness of his new power-up, the Gold Flower, matching with Wario's yellow undershirt, it could perhaps be seen as Mario is becoming Wario. Trying to stop himself, Mario, changing his identity to "Wario", uses a time machine (which E. Gadd is more than capable of making) and goes back to the time of Super Mario Land. As he is Mario from the future, he would know how to get into his own castle and also shows he can us power-ups, further holding this theory together. Of course, defeated by his younger self, Wario instead went on to hold his own adventure, not worrying about the problem anymore. This could explain the changes seen in 64DS from 64, since it includes Wario, showing he made made a few changes. A silly theory, but it fills some plotholes!
The timeline! Edit
see here (coming soon)
What's next? Edit
This timeline only covers games released at the time of writing, so where will future games fit in? Perhaps they will spread more light as to where games fit in who's placement is not to sure? Or perhaps they will disprove this timeline and sent things into chaos? We'll have to wait and see...