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.