Gooooood morning (afternoon? evening?), all! We're republishing this piece in honour of Groundhog Day. Whether the groundhog saw its shadow or not, we want to celebrate the best games that throw you into an endless time loop. We've also added In Stars and Time and Outer Wilds to the list. Enjoy!
Most video games are either two-dimensional or three-dimensional. Most... but not all. Today, we're celebrating the games that dip their toes into the underappreciated and underexplored fourth dimension: Time.
Unfortunately for us 3D peasants, we are forced to experience time in a linear fashion, going from Tuesday to Wednesday like utter plebs, unable to revisit the salad days of the previous Monday and make sure that we didn't make that terrible joke at the dining table, or spill spaghetti sauce all over our nice new jumper. But hey! At least we play video games, a medium in which nothing is set in stone and everything is save-scummable — and the Time Loop sub-genre exists as a narrative framing device. Hooray!
Now, a bad time loop game — coughTwelveMinutescough — will force the player through tedious repetition and bafflingly specific branches to change the past/present/future, but a good time loop game will always provide forward momentum, constantly twisting and tweaking the loop to intrigue the player and throw unanswered questions at their quizzical face. These are the games we have put in this list — the ones that delight, surprise, shock, and are generally more twisty than headphone cables fresh out of a pocket.