The game that I am going to be talking about in this post is the 2019 science-fiction game “Outer Wilds” (not to be confused with the RPG, “The Outer Worlds”). Outer Wilds is a space exploration game. You play as a young astronaught. It’s your first day on the job, and you’ve been given a small ship that you can use to explore the solar system.
At the start of the game you are free to explore the entire solar system in any order. You can go anywhere you want, and the game does not force you to go down a linear path. After exploring the system for about 20 minutes, the solar system’s star goes supernova, killing you and everyone in the solar system. You then wake up again–where you started at the beginning of the day–realizing that you are stuck in a time loop, and that you need to explore the solar system to figure out how to break the loop.
Outer Wilds is essentially a “space archeologist simulator,” as when you explore the solar system you will uncover ancient alien ruins full of texts for you to decipher and artifacts for you to find. The story is completely tied to the gameplay, and without the story the gameplay would not work. This is because the ancient civilization is tied to the time loop and you need to discover who they were, why they came to the solar system, and how they are connected to the time loop in order to break it.
This game always gives me a sense of wonder and awe every time I play it. The feeling of piecing together the narrative yourself by exploring the various planets and connecting the dots together is nothing short of amazing.