From 12 minutes to Deathloop to Outer Wilds, time loop games are having a real moment right now. And that’s not even mentioning all the TV shows and movies dipping their toe into the time stream.
Part of why they’re popular is because the world is a mess, and we either don’t know how to fix it, or don’t have the power to — but that’s a really incomplete answer. There’s a special dimension to modern anxiety that’s making it manifest in time loop stories. In fact, time loop media is just the most visible tip of a weird trend iceberg, one that includes alternate reality stories and meta elements in games — everything from Marvel’s Loki and Spider-man: No Way Home to Inscryption and Undertale.
The earliest time loop story is probably “Doubled and Redoubled,” written by Malcolm Jameson in 1941. In it, a man experiences one day so perfect that he wishes every day could be just like it. It’s classic ironic wish territory.
The time loop concept has been riffed on a lot in the decades since. In Groundhog Day, Phil lives the same day for potentially thousands of years, while Run Lola Run only cycles through a 20 minute loop three times, until Lola figures out how to save her terrible boyfriend’s terrible life.
Run Lola Run specifically provided the template for The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. The game had to be developed in under a year with assets reused from Ocarina of Time. So the developers focused on a small loop of events that allowed for few assets but a great depth of exploration.
Watch the video above to learn more about why we’re stuck with time loops, and likely will be for a bit longer.