Games like Outer Wilds that use time loops in an interesting manner are few and far between, and here is a look at the best ones.
Video games have always attempted to find interesting new gameplay and narrative mechanics to hook players in. One of the most well-worn tropes of science-fiction/fantasy narratives are time loops. Forcing players to start something over again or creating a resetting playground to explore is a difficult task, but one that many games over the years have tackled admirably.
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Though this list will mostly stay away from spoilers, the beauty of these types of games is experiencing them with as little information as possible. With that in mind, here are some of the most exciting and unique examples of time loops in games.
There are so many reasons to laud Outer Wilds. From its compelling narrative to its twangy emotional score, this game is often-cited as an example of "games as art". However, the most interesting aspect of design on display is the infamous time loop that gives the game its central hook. Every 22 minutes, the in-game sun explodes. As a simple inhabitant of this doomed solar system, players must repeatedly explore and uncover the mystery behind what is happening and how to prevent it. Outer Wilds uses this premise to immerse the player in a mesmerizing, heart-wrenching world on the brink of destruction.
A departure from the usual structure for a game in the Zelda series, Majora's Mask is a prime example of expertly playing with fan expectations. The alternate realityof Termina feels at once familiar (due to many reused assets from Ocarina of Time) and extremely alien. Link must stop the titular entity from causing the moon to crash into the land below, freeing four mythical giants in the process. Notably darker in tone than other games in the series, Majora's Mask is a beautiful rumination on death and the nature of humanity disguised as a quirky Nintendo playground.
Okay, this one might be a bit of a cheat as 12 Minutes has yet to release. But given the way it has captured the attention of gamers everywhere, it makes sense that this title will have some an impact on the industry. Led by an all-star cast of Daisy Ridley, James McAvoy, and Willem Dafoe, 12 Minutes promises to be "an interactive thriller about a man stuck in a time loop" according to its official trailer. Though exact gameplay details are still scarce, anticipation is high for this one. 12 Minutes releases this year for the Xbox ecosystem and PC.
BioShock Infinite had the nearly impossible task of outdoing its predecessor, the original BioShock. Columbia was at once both a beautiful and ugly place to explore, filled with hatred disguised as a utopia. Though its themes were controversial, the complexity of story that unfolds must be seen to be truly understood.
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As multiplerealities collapse in on themselves, BioShock Infinite presents a different kind of time loop: one where things play out differently every time, but some core pillars of the narrative remain. There is always a lighthouse. There is always a man. There is always a city. Seeing how these central elements rewind, play out again, and branch from each other is a true delight.
For gamers who desire a smaller-scale experience, Minit succeeds perfectly at what it attempts to accomplish. Emulating classic 2D games like the original Legend of Zelda, the world of Minit is cursed to reset every sixty seconds. Players must explore the small world they inhabit again and again, finding new paths and secret areas until they can eventually "complete" the loop within the allotted minute. With a minimalist pixel aesthetic and simple yet satisfying puzzle mechanics, Minit is a game that stays small and is all the better for it.
One thing that video games don't often nail is the feeling of solving a murder mystery. In The Sexy Brutale, detective work is given a fresh spin in the central time loop. The player must solve a series of murders that all occur within one day. Each rewind to the morning means that progress is lost, but the knowledge that the player obtained on the previous run is not. Combine that with a charming, diorama-like art style and a bouncy swing score, and The Sexy Brutale is a recipe for keeping players coming back for more.
While the usage of the phrase "time loops" to describe Braid might sound misleading, the way this celebrated puzzle game from Johnathan Blow uses time was a marvel for its era. Players rewind, stop, and further mess with time in extremely creative ways. What the game lacks in a clear narrative, it more than makes up for with its bold approach to game design. Braid has influenced countless other puzzle games since its release, and with its impending remaster on the horizon there as never been a better time to give it a shot.
Often overlooked by the wider public in the shadow of its genre-defining predecessor, Final Fantasy VIII is nevertheless a masterpiece. The way it uses the idea of a time loop is difficult to explain without some major spoilers, but suffice to say that the bold narrative strokes the game takes are still awesome to witness. Unlike other games on this list, there is not a repeating time loop in the game. However, the singular event that occursupon defeat of the final boss adds incredible new context to the story. Read up on the need-to-know info and get started on this classic ASAP!
Another game that plays with what a time loop can be, The Stanley Parable takes a decidedly meta approach. Actual gameplay is fairly simple, and the developers instead mess with the player through the use of an omniscient narrator. This narrator provides funny commentary, but also important clues on how to change the course of the game. Defying his words can lead to new scenarios, hidden Easter eggs, and even death. Players will want to start this time loop over again and again to see everything that this experience has to offer. Not many games successfully handle heavy philosophical themes, but this one does with flying colors.
An homage to old-school adventure games, Oxenfree is a beautifully character-focused sci-fi story that constantly keeps the player guessing. As Alex, a teenage girl, gamers explore a spooky island and start experiencing unexplainable phenomenon. Isolated time loops pop up all over, and figuring out how to navigate them is part of the genius of this game's design. Captivating on both a mechanical and emotional level, Oxenfree is a game that all fans of the genre will want to see for themselves. But beware some potential scares!
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Connor Marsh is an editor, writer, and gamer based in New York City. A lifelong love of video games led to him pursuing the field of video game journalism. With a background in grammar and editing, he is happy to join two of his biggest passions here on The Gamer. Outside of games, Connor is an avid composer of music and lifelong performer.
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Outer Wilds And The Best Games That Use Time Loops - TheGamer
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