A plot in which the character is caught in a time loop, doomed to repeat a period of time (often exactly one day) over and over, until something is corrected. Usually, only one character or group of characters realizes what's going on — everyone and everything else undergoes a complete Snap Back, and if not interfered with will do the exact same things every time, right down to dialogue.
Once the character realizes this, two things happen, usually in this order:
The character starts experimenting, then playing around with the people around them, confessing or acting on their feelings for another character, telling off their boss, getting themselves killed in interesting ways, and other things, in a form of Save Scumming.
The character finally gets down to the business of what's causing the loop, and finds out how to stop it, often using the information learned in all the previous iterations to make sure this one last loop goes perfectly.
A Groundhog Day Loop episode can often be identified by the presence of several odd little events that are given full camera focus, yet don't have any apparent significance or relation to anything else. These are, of course, the events that will later be replayed in exactly the same order to emphasize that the day is, in fact, repeating in every particular. (Almost invariably, the looping character will at some point demonstrate his or her "prescience" by offhandedly predicting these events one after another.)
Since this plot requires constantly revisiting handful of sets for the entire length of the episode(s), re-using some of the same footage over and over and generally no outside characters will act on the plot, this can be considered a form of Bottle Episode.
Though not the earliest example, this trope is named after the film Groundhog Day, which established the trope in popular culture. Compare New Game+ and End Game Plus for Video Games.
Requires Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory to be in play for any meaningful plot to take place.
Groundhog Peggy Sue, a subtrope where the looping encompasses a substantial fraction of the character's life and the character may be able to skip over some of the intervening bits.
Kimagure Orange Road had Kyosuke repeat Christmas three times, trying to get to the party with the "right" girl (without pissing off Madoka or crushing Hikaru's happiness). No-one else was aware of the repeats (though series Butt Monkey Yusaku gets wiped out in increasingly violent accidents each time).
In "Endless Eight", a short story from the novel The Rampage of Haruhi Suzumiya, and its anime adaptation, the SOS Brigade ends up repeating the same two weeks of August about 15,500 times, causing all but Haruhi to suffer bouts of déjà vu. Only Yuki retains conscious memory of the preceding cycles — 594 years of mind-numbing sameness (since no-one learns anything from the previous loops). This was only broken when Kyon asked Haruhi to help out with his long-postponed summer homework. The anime adaptation stretches this out across eight episodes. Now the viewer, too, can feel Yuki's pain. We have entered an endless recursion of time.
In Cardcaptor Sakura, the Time card keeps the same day repeating indefinitely. It takes Sakura quite a while to notice it, and then she and Syaoran go hunting for it — with Syaoran being successful.
In D.Gray-Man 's rather adequately named "Rewinding Town" arc, a small German town repeats October 28th over and over, until Allen and Lenalee (not previously caught in the loop, which was a localized phenomenon caused by Innocence) find a way to fix it. Note that only the people of that town are in the loop—time is passing as usual for the outside world, and people on the outside are wondering why the heck they keep getting the same phone call every day ordering the same things for the same business. Which is what initially drew the attention of the Black Order.
In the manga Tsubasa, the main characters find themselves trapped in the exact same day in a Story Arc.
In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure part 4, the villain Yoshikage Kira gains an ability similar to this called "Bites The Dust". Part 7 also has minor antagonist Ringo Roadagain, whose Stand creates six-second loops.
The Nue arc (episodes 8 & 9) of Mononoke has an interesting example, wherein a mononoke has a group of ghosts (who don't realise they're dead) relive the same sequence of events over and over.
In an early chapter of Nightmare Inspector, a woman seems to be suffering from a somewhat self-inflicted version of this: in her dreams, she writes "tomorrow will be exactly the same" on a piece of paper, and it is. She tries to stop the cycle and write something different in her dream, but the "something different" is "tomorrow I will stab someone to death". Freaking out, she goes to Hiruko... and it turns out he's been the one writing "every day is exactly the same" for her every time, and it's all part of the loop. The customer, as far as we see, never gets out.
At the beginning of the eleventh Pokémon movie, Dialga, the temporal Pokémon, traps Giratina in this so it can escape the Reverse World it was dragged into by Giratina. The time loop keeps Giratina from leaving the Reverse World because every time it tries using its own power, it gets warped back a short distance from the portal it created. The time loop is broken when Shaymin creates a portal Giratina can escape through.
The Tatami Galaxy is all about this kind of plot, but the episodes vary on how it plays out. In the first half of the series, each episode is the protagonist choosing to join a club, things going wrong, and it resetting at the end, and in each episode, it's a different club. Later, the protagonist chooses to reset the span of an evening, as he tries to choose the right romantic interest. Then, it gets weirder. Despite the various resets, there is ultimately continuity between the episodes, so it works as a Jigsaw Puzzle Plot.
Star Driver uses this to keep the maidens from leaving the island. Poor Mizuno finds out the hard way after 4 fruitless attempts to leave the island.
Naruto introduced a genjutsu used by the Uchiha clan: Izanami, an ability meant to punish others for misuse of Izanagi. The victim is caught in an endless loop of time they cannot escape until they finally learn to accept reality and to not try to escape it with Izanagi. Itachi uses this to defeat Kabuto and control him to end Edo Tensei, and much later, Kabuto rejoins the fray as a good guy, learning his true nature through imprisonment by the spell.
Midway through the final episode of Persona 4: The Animation Yu realizes that he's become trapped in one of these by the Big Bad. Actually, he remembers that he put himself in it on purpose as the result of a massiveHeroic BSOD brought on by the apparent death of his friends at the hands of the Big Bad.
It only had one loop, but this was episode 11 of Wedding Peach. Hinagiku's Saint Pendule (her magic wristwatch) sends her back in time one day in order to stop the Monster Of The Day, who was "stealing people's time". About 12 time-traveling Ass Pulls later, the monster is purified.
In Kami-sama no Inai Nichiyoubi, the students Class 3-4 trap themselves in one when they wish to reset time to prevent a classmate's death. They repeat the same year fourteen times, and it's only when Alice enlists the help of Ai that the seal over them starts to break.
Zegapain plays with this trope. Which leads to a massive plot twist, it turns out that the entire city of Maihara and all of its residents occupy a computer server that has to reset the memories of every resident, except the main cast, after five months because limitations keep it from exceeding this length. It is revealed to the main character that the server has reset over a hundred times by this point of the series.
Episode 10 of Space Dandy. A huge blast of Pyronium hits the July 8 page of Meow's calendar, stranding the crew in a Mobius loop on Meow's home planet. They fail to notice anything out of the ordinary until QT brings it up on loop 88, but Dandy dismisses the question. It isn't until loop 108 that they finally realize (with help from the Narrator) that they know what's going to happen, so they assume they've developed superpowers. The only way to break it was by removing the calendar page, which only Meow's dad does with his metalworking equipment.
Every single one of the main characters has experienced one of these in the form of the Never-ending world, where they are sent after dying on August 15th and are eventually spat back out with a super-power. In fact, the series receives its name from the most famous example, Kagerou Days, as mentioned in Music Videos below.
On a much larger scale, the Big Bad's plan of living forever runs on one of these; he possesses Konoha, kills all of Mary's friends, and she resets time to be with them again. When and how this happens varies, but it all unfolds the same every time.
Bleach: Mayuri invents a drug that forces his enemy to fight Mayuri over and over again. Every time the enemy kills Mayuri, he's sent back to the beginning of the fight to fight all over again while retaining memories of the previous loops. After ten loops, the enemy's body becomes paralysed. While the drug is actually manipulating memory and spatial awareness, rather than causing real time travel, the paralysis it causes is genuine. The "enemy" he uses this drug on is Hitsugaya when Hitsugaya is being controlled by Zombie-master Giselle.
In the story "Death and Venice" in The Sandman: Endless Nights, a nobleman has intentionally created a loop which includes an entire island and all its inhabitants (including the nobleman himself), and has lasted for hundreds of years. This is ultimately broken by Death.
In the Donald Duck story "Again and Again..." (Donald Duck 336, 2006), Donald is forced to relive the same day over and over until he discovers what he did "wrong" on that day. The story spoofs elements of both Groundhog Day and The Hudsucker Proxy—with mouse-eared "Daddy Time" (i. e. Moses) being wise to the time loop, and a Phil-like character reliving a similar time loop in a movie on Donald's TV.
Time traveling hero Hourman was once trapped in one of these by one of his enemies. The loop was known as the Timepoint and was specifically designed as the ultimate prison. It forced Hourman and his friends to relive the same five minutes on the day John F. Kennedy was shot. Though they were aware of the time loop, no matter what they did, at the end of five minutes they would always end up standing on the same street corner.
One issue of Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog had Sonic stuck in a loop when a party in his honor gets ruined when he breaks a foot trying to avoid the press. He ultimately fixes it by waking up three hours earlier and parking his kiester on a chair and wait.
Justice Society of America villain Per Degaton is caught in one (or, rather, one of the two versions of him is). In 1947, he tried to steal a Time Machine and was split in two: one version is left behind and takes The Slow Path to reconnect with the time machine when it arrives in the '80s, while the other leaves with the machine and becomes a Conqueror From The Future but, because the time machine comes with a Reset Button, ends every criminal escapade back in 1947 again with no memory of what happened...until he has a psychic dream filling him in on his criminal escapades the night before the time machine test, at which point it starts all over again.
The Best Night Ever revolves around Prince Blueblood being trapped on the day of the disastrous Grand Galloping Gala until he ensures that the bearers of the Elements of Harmony actually enjoy themselves at the event. At one point, he thinks he's pulled it off... but he has everything so rigidly planned and nailed down that nobody, not even him, has any real fun. When the loop starts again after that one, he goes out to the garden and considers freeing Discord.
Also happens in The Sweetie Chronicles: Fragments, when Sweetie Belle lands in the aforementioned setting and gets caught up in the loops. Rather heartwarming, as Blueblood is happy to have some companionship who doesn't forget everything each morning, and he puts his plans on hold just to help her. And rather heartbreaking when she eventually moves on, and he realizes that the original Sweetie Belle remembers nothing.
Hard Reset involves Twilight attempting to thwart a changeling invasion, only to get warped back to the same point in time whenever she dies. Which she does. Repeatedly. She eventually succeeds after having experienced hundreds of loops over the course of a month or so, and having become a battle-hardened warrior and a changeling's worst nightmare.
In the Pony POV Series, the final confrontation with Dark World!Discord strongly suggests that he's somehow stuck in one that repeatedly ends with the Elements of Harmony defeating him.
The Sailor Moon fanfic, Everyday is Exactly the Same, which takes place in the first season of the anime and involves Usagi and Mamoru trapped together on the day of Tuxedo Mask's duel with Zoisite. It ends when Mamoru decides to allow the Negaverse to take him, as in the canon universe. Him and Usagi have bonded and fallen in love at this point, making it quite the Bittersweet Ending.
Groundhog GDIME takes its name from this trope. Charlize from England falls into Middle-earth, multiple times. After each visit, Middle-earth seems to reset itself. The loop continues as Charlize tries again, but she always fails to seduce Legolas.
The Infinite Loops is a fairly well-developed genre that covers a variety of series, such as MLP Time Loops by Saphroneth. The general idea is that the universe keeps repeating itself with one or more characters retaining memories (and sometimes powers and even items) from previous loops, with a loop stretching from a significant early event (such as Twilight reading about the Mare in the Moon) to their eventual death. Unsurprisingly, they spend most of the time messing around with canon. (Can Nightmare Moon be defeated with a surprise party? Can Twilight's friends become alicorns too?) And some loops are oddly non-standard from the start, such as when Twilight and Applejack end up as the royal sisters (the latter getting banished to the moon for refusing anypony to grow anything but apples) or when it crosses over with a completely different series.
It started even earlier, with the most well-known ones being those of Ranma, Naruto, and Harry Potter. The backstory of this shared universe is that something happened to the multiverse-controlling supercomputer of Yggdrasil in the Oh! My Goddess universe. This causes universes to "Skip" like a record, while the goddesses try to fix things. Each universe that is looping (and more and more start to loop) will have an "Anchor," a single individual who loops more than anyone else and is always "Awake" in the loops, but those he/she has close connections to will eventually start looping as well. For example, in the Naruto universe, Naruto is the anchor, and so loops the most. But since he has a very close relationship with Sasuke and Sakura, they also started looping as well.
The genre also looks at some of the negative consequences of looping through time- the most prevalent example is what is known as "Sakura Syndrome," named after Sakura from the Naruto universe, where a looper simply cannot adjust to the new nature of their reality and goes completely insane. There's also a restriction against having children in the loops- due to the Goddesses meddling in the loopers lives, they are incapable of having children. One of the aforementioned MLP loops shows best why they have this- Twilight adopted a child (Nyx, from Past Sins,) and the loop erased her once it was over but fortunately, Nyx started looping shortly thereafter.
Getting The Hang of Thursdays is an incredibly well-thought-out and novel-length Harry Potter fic featuring Severus Snape and Hermione Granger. Not your usual time-loop story, in large part because, as the author notes, the effect is a physical response to a magical accident, and not an attempt to dispense cosmic justice or teach a lesson.
The trope-naming Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day is the most commonly known version of this trope. One thing not noticed by most people is just how long the time loop goes on for — Phil (Murray) has time to memorize every book in town, learn the complete backstory of every person in town, learn to speak French, become an accomplished pianist and sculptor, and go from being a self-centered ass to universally beloved... all this with only 24-hour increments to work with before everything resets to square one again. An early version of the script suggested that the loop runs for something on the order of several millennia, but in a DVD special feature the director states it's closer to ten years.
The Italian film È già ieri (Stork Day) is adapted from Groundhog Day, though as there is no Italian Groundhog Day, the loop is set during an ordinary day (August 13, in this case). The main character is still a jerkass, the location is still (to him) a backwater, and pretty much the same issues are covered, almost scene for scene.
The Italian sci-fi movie Nirvana revolves around Solo, the character of a video game which goes through the same events again and again each time he dies. His creator Jimi eventually puts him out of his misery by hacking and deleting the whole game.
The movie Boris & Natasha, a live-action Rocky and Bullwinkle movie, has a device which prevents accidents by reversing time by a few seconds any time it is destroyed. This allows sequences in the movie to be repeated until things change. The film ends with several hundred being activated at once. As Natasha notes, "Boris, ve haf been blown back to beginink of movie!"
The 1973 short story "12:01 PM" (mentioned below) was adapted for film twice:
The 1990 short film, also titled "12:01 PM", is the more direct, and much darker than most time-loop stories: Myron Castleman's loop only lasts an hour, and he starts each iteration standing on a traffic island in the middle of crossing a busy street, hungry, carrying his lunch in his briefcase, and the film ends with Myron learning that nothing can stop the loop, and that even death is no escape.
The 1993 made-for-cable movie is a looser adaptation using a 24-hour loop: the hero was given an electric shock at exactly 12:01, just as a nuclear device comes on line that causes time to loop. He's the only one who realizes this, and when he's not being killed each day, he tries to figure a way to prevent the nuclear device from going on-line.
The film A Chinese Odyssey has a sequence where a bandit discovers the magic words of the Monkey King which allow him to travel a short distance backwards in time. He uses them to go back and try to avert the multiple tragedies that have befallen himself and his friends. He winds up having to make multiple trips and run around like mad to keep everyone alive.
Lola rennt (a.k.a. Run, Lola, Run): the eponymous Lola runs through a madcap twenty minutes, attempting to get 100,000 marks to her boyfriend before the mob kills him. Depending on whether her start is fractionally delayed or fractionally faster the results vary wildly; she gets it right on the third try.
An American independent film, And Then Came Lola, takes the Groundhog Day Loop concept and toys with the For Want of a Nail aspect. In this one, Lola has to rush a folder of photos to her girlfriend, Casey, to secure Casey's promotion; unfortunately, the photos are being developed by Lola's ex, and Casey is wining and dining with an old flame in the meantime.
The Nickelodeon film The Last Day of Summer has a plot like this. The main character, scared of his first year of middle school, wishes it could be summer forever. He then ends up repeating the last day of summer over and over again. Each reset is actually set off by him getting hit in the head and losing consciousness. Memorizing the day doesn't do him any good, as something else hits him, culminating in him avoiding everything possible, only to be struck by a meteor.
It's implied at the end of Hellraiser: Inferno that this happens to Joseph, forced to relive the same sequence of events forever.
This is often done with Christmas stories:
The Family Channel's Christmas Every Day (in fact, one of the characters even mentions how his situation is similar to Groundhog Day).
12 Days of Christmas Eve, starring Steven Weber and Molly Shannon.
Christmas Do-Over, also on ABC Family.
12 Dates of Christmas combines the idea with both a Christmas movie and a Chick Flick.
Donald Duck: Stuck on Christmas (in Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas) featured Huey, Dewey, and Louie stuck in a wished-for time loop.
The brit underdog Triangle features a variation with overlapping loops-within-loops, complete with disturbing reminders to the protagonist that she has been doing — and causing — this way more times than she is aware of.
Open Graves is a film about a group of friends who obtain a cursed board game in which that if you lose in the game, you die in the fashion determined by the card you drew, whilst the victors are entitled to one wish. The game's sole victor at the end wishes that he could go back in time a week before this all happened, and he is sent back — but the irony is that he has no memory of what happened, so he and his friends are forever doomed to be stuck in that passage of time.
In the movie version of 1408, the evil room tortures its victims for an hour. If at the end of that hour they still haven't killed themselves, it begins all over again. "You can choose to repeat this hour over and over again, or you can take advantage of our express checkout system".
In Camp Daze, modern day protagonists find themselves stuck in a summer camp straight from 80's which itself is stuck repeating the same day when a mysterious killer murdered everyone over and over again.
Repeaters is about three recovering addicts whose "Groundhog Day" Loop happens to occur on the day that they're given a day pass out of rehab to do the "make amends" step.
In High Spirits, a comedy by Neil Jordan, two ghosts, Mary Plunkett and Martin Brogan (played by Daryl Hannah and Liam Neeson), suffer through this: Martin repeatedly killing his wife, Mary, because he believes her to have cheated on him because she doesn't love him and thus, doesn't show any affection towards her. Making it even worse is the fact that she didn't cheat on him when she was alive.
Source Code has an eight-minute-long loop. It's simulations of the last eight minutes of a dead person's life, repeated as necessary until the person experiencing them manages to complete his mission to find certain information. Actually, that's what the creators of the system believe, but it's really an Alternate Universe.
About Time: While the setup would lend itself to this, Tim doesn't replay many events repeatedly. But he does loop over his choice of best man quite a few times, with each candidate giving a worse speech than the last.
Edge of Tomorrow (based on the light novel All You Need Is Kill) has Cage, an Army media relations officer who has never seen combat, get stuck in a loop during a hopeless battle against invading aliens. During one iteration of the loop, Cage meets Rita, a famous soldier known as "the Angel of Death", who is aware of what's happening and is willing to train him. This leads to moments of Black Comedy because if the Training from Hell or the aliens don't kill Cage outright, Rita shoots him in the head in order to reset the loop. It's revealed that the time loops are caused by the alien Mimics and that they have weaponized this trope: their "Alphas" reset to the previous day whenever they are killed and use their foreknowledge to defeat the humans when they replay the battle, which explains the Mimics' string of unstoppable victories against humanity. Cage killed an Alpha in his first iteration of the battle and accidentally absorbed the time looping ability. Rita once had the same ability, but lost it after she was wounded and received a blood transfusion; she refuses to let Cage cure himself, instead training him to destroy the nexus of the aliens' Hive Mind and end the war.
Premature features a high school student in a time loop in which he wakes up in the morning in his bed after he (prematurely) ejaculates.
In the Mouth of Madness: When Hobb's End really goes to hell and people start mutating into monsters all around John Trent, he decides to get the hell out of dodge and jumps in his car. Each time he tries to leave town, however, the godlike horror writer Sutter Cane resets Trent to just before he left. The only option left to him is to go right through the ax-wielding mob of townspeople.
Salvage has Claire reliving, in variations, her death at the hand of Duke Desmond, with every change just resulting in a different death, bringing her closer and closer to the truth, that she is Duke Desmond, suffering in hell for the murder.
In Ken Grimwood's novel Replay, the protagonist lives large chunks of his life repeatedly (as do a couple of other characters), waking after dying to find himself back in his college days. However, with each subsequent cycle of death and reawakening, the cycle gets shorter as he wakes up at a later points in his original lifetime.
This trope is used in "Endless Eight", a short story from the novel The Rampage of Haruhi Suzumiya, and its anime adaptation. See the Anime section for more details.
In The Dark Tower, the entire plot of all seven novels (excepting a few Flash Back's) is revealed at the very end to be a cycle. How long the cycle has been repeating, and how long it will continue, is left to the reader's imagination.
Two books in the Help! I'm Trapped in _____'s Body! series had the character repeating either the first day of school or of summer camp, until he stopped acting like a jerk. The second of the two is more or less a deconstruction of this trope, and it turns out that the reason he was going through this was... because he didn't brush his teeth.
A man is stuck endlessly repeating his first day in combat, going from a green rookie to a seasoned fighter in half a year of constant repetition. Inspired directly by the concept of Save Scumming in real life.
Rita, who has lived out a few different loops, and expects to start a new loop shortly, prepares by having very strict rules about social interaction. No pre-battle conversation. No one drops by. Gets left totally alone. Because it's tedious to have to deal with the same questioner for several hundred loops at minimum.
The world of The Wheel of Time is in a Groundhog eternity loop. There are seven Ages, with the first always following the seventh. By the time an Age comes again, even the faintest legend of its previous existence has been forgotten. One of the ages is ours.
Chapter Nine of The Hole in the Zero by M.K. Joseph (a book which plays with and deconstructs SF and fantasy tropes throughout).
Richard A. Lupoff's 1973 story "12:01 PM" is the most likely candidate for Trope Maker: its protagonist experiences time endlessly resetting from 1:00 PM to 12:01, while everyone else is oblivious. At the end of the story he frantically rushes to meet a scientist with whom he can discuss the phenomenon before 1:00 arrives, but suffers a heart attack and dies. And then it's 12:01 and he's alive again. (The makers of a short film adaptation attempted to sue the makers of Groundhog Day but were forced to drop the case.)
Lauren Oliver's first novel Before I Fall is about a teenage girl who repeats February 12th - The day of her death.
The Doctor WhoPast Doctor Adventures novel Festival of Death features a race with this as their hat; after they die, they loop around back to the start and remember exactly how they screwed up. Because everybody has it, they're not limited to fixing the errors of a single day, or a single lifetime: they can adjust the course of their entire history. (If fixing a screw-up requires action more than one lifetime ago, a message can be passed back by a newborn child telling an adult, who waits to be reborn then passes the message on in the same way.) Fortunately for everyone else, they're not interested in using their abilities to conquer other planets, or anything petty like that; the messages that have been passed back from the end of their history have given them something far more important to worry about.
In Sakyo Komatsu short story a businessman who is going bankrupt tomorrow make a Deal with the Devil and asks the Devil "to do something with tomorrow". Guess what happened to businessman.
In Tears of a Dragon, the final book of Bryan Davis’ Dragons in Our Midst series, the protagonists visit an alternate dimension where all the former dragons are trapped in a time loop of a single day with no memories outside their present experience of that single day. They eat the same food, go to the same town meeting, go on the same dates—by the time of the story, they have been doing this for years on end without realizing it. Since they are the only ones who realize what is happening, it is the main characters’ goal to rescue the inhabitants of the somewhat misnamed "Dragons' Rest".
In the Time Machine gamebook series, there exist "rules of time travel"; supposedly, if you break them you're in danger of being caught in a time loop. You get the opportunity to break such a rule in one of the books, and all it does is to send you back to page one. Also note that since bad choices make you re-read pages you've read already, the protagonist technically falls into a few short loops (with two or three iterations, tops) on his every adventure. (Since some of them involve arduous weeks- or even months-long trips, it's probably not pleasant...)
In Alex Scarrow's Time Riders, the station from which the heroes monitor time is a railway arch under the Williamsburg Bridge, New York, on a GDL of the 10th and 11th of September, 2001. This was done intentionally; In the wake of 9-11, no-one would pay them any mind, or at least, would forget about them completely. Thus, the heroes' presence would never contaminate the future in any significant way.
There is a book called 11 Birthdays. The heroine, Amanda, relives her eleventh birthday over and over again, along with her ex-best-friend, Leo (also his eleventh birthday). One of the things about this loop is that they realize Amanda still has blisters from some uncomfortable shoes worn the last cycle, so their bodies and anything they keep on themselves remains. Then they quickly realize that this meansthey will keep aging in the loop.
In the book Ctrl-Z, the protagonist, Alex, has a computer that resets time a certain amount if you press Ctrl-Z. The protagonist's friend Callum knows about it, but only Alex has Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory. So in one story arc, Callum accidentally hits his father in the foot with a dart, so he rushes over to Alex's house to press Ctrl-Z, and finds himself back at his house before he threw the dart...but since he has no memory of what happened he does the same thing, and presses Ctrl-Z over and over, leaving Alex trying to figure out why time is resetting every few minutes.
F. M. Busby wrote a series of short stories which ran on this; the deuteragonist invented a "backspacer" which reset the world to a previous state, and often used it to rerun days until a variation occurred which didn't include some undesirable event, such as the start of World War 3. The protagonist was once allowed to use the device himself, and thereafter had Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory.
Absent Thee From Felicity Awhile by Somtow Sucharitkul has aliens grant humanity the gift of immortality — at a price; everyone must relive the day before the aliens came — for a million years.
Live Action TV
Angel episode "Time Bomb" stuck Illyria in a chaotic version (time is repeating but not in a fixed sequence). Each time it ends with her exploding. Unusually, Illyria is not the perspective character, and we see only a few bits and pieces of loop.
Lindsey and later Gunn are held in a prison dimension in the form of a Stepford Suburbia; every day they get tortured and have their heart cut out by a demon in the Creepy Basement — the injuries repair themselves, their memories of the torture disappear and the next day it all begins again.
The entire first season of The Aquabats! Super Show!is designed like this. At the end of Episode 13, "Showtime!", Space Monster M flings the Battletram with the Aquabats inside it to space, on a course to the moon. The first cartoon segment of the show also began with the Aquabats helplessly drifting through space. It comes full circle when the Bat Commander watches the cartoon segment of "Showtime!" in which the Aquabats are sent back to the events of the very first episode. Here's to hoping season two fixes this loop.
Being Erica Season 3 has this where Erica has to relive the same day over and over after Kai comes back from the future to tell her that he tried to find her in 9 years time and couldn't. Also that there will be a terrible disaster in a few years time in that area. Erica then spends her day panicking that she only has a few years left to live. Dr Tom decides to make her relive this day over and over to teach her to value the here and now.
The same premise but without time travel occurs in "I Only Have Eyes For You". The ghosts of two lovers who died in a Murder-Suicide force others to reenact the same fatal events; the loop is broken when one inhabits Angel, who can't be killed by the gunshot and so survives to grant forgiveness and enable the ghosts to move on.
The episode "Déjà Vu All Over Again" where a demon repeats the plan of attack every day until it is perfected so he can finally kill the sisters. One of the sisters has the power of premonition which somehow allows her to have some recollection of what happened/will happen which gets stronger with each additional loop. Unfortunately, they fail to stop Andy Trudeau's death.
An Alternate Plane of Existence was used to force an old west town to relive a tradgity of thug murdering a local Native American, and said plane was cursed into a time loop. Prue and Cole insert themselves into this plane and help the townspeople stop the thug from murding, break the loop, and are allowed to move on to their respective afterlifes.
The Ross Kemp vehicle A Christmas Carol, a Setting Update of the book, added a Groundhog Day Loop; after each visitation Eddie Scrooge would wake up and it was still Christmas morning. After the first spirit, he was extra nasty just to prove it hadn't had any effect; after the second one he wanted to look like he'd changed, so gave people extravagant presents without finding out what they needed; and after the third one he finally got it right.
Taye Diggs starred in a very short-lived ABC series in 2006 called Day Break centered around this trope — he's repeatedly framed for the murder of a lawyer, and of course his girlfriend gets caught up in it. His injuries carry over from one repeat to the next.
Also, "psychological breakthroughs" were also apparently carried across. I.e., if someone had made an exceptional hard choice or had an epiphany, they would actually alter their behavior the next loop, and all subsequent loops, with no outside interference. This mostly keeps the protagonist from having to solve everyone's problems every day, but sometimes ends up making things worse for him when someone doesn't do something he expects.
The Dead Zone TV series, by way of Self-Defeating Prophecy. Smith keeps seeing visions of future disasters until his plan to make them go properly is destined to succeed. He sometimes experiences this as "if this ends badly, it's a vision. If it doesn't, it's real." In particular, the episode Deja Voodoo is structured entirely as a "Groundhog Day" Loop.
Not surprisingly, Doctor Who has played with this as well. In an early 1980s serial, The Doctor and Romana are caught in a time loop (called a chronic hysteresis) that repeats after only a couple of minutes. Being Time Lords, they fix the loop within 10 minutes and then get on with the rest of that adventure.
The Doctor has used a Groundhog Day Loop to his benefit, too. In order to prevent a war monger from launching his atomic bombs against an enemy planet, the Doctor uses the Key to Time to create a temporary time loop, buying him enough time to solve the crisis at hand.
The episode "Carnival of Monsters" featured a version of this. A ship bound for India was taken, shrunk down, and put in a miniature People Zoo. The memories of the passengers and crew are then altered to reset after ten minutes so they don't realize that they are never reaching their destination. Unfortunately, the Doctor and Jo Grant are not part of the original loop, leading to them being "discovered" and arrested repeatedly as stowaways.
Often employed in the series as a weapon (to trap people, ships and sometimes entire planets) as opposed to the effect being a naturally occurring phenomenon that characters stumble into.
Another instance of a loop is in "The Big Bang". River is stuck in a loop to prevent her from dying in the exploding TARDIS. It's a relatively short loop, around 10 seconds long, if that.
An episode of Eureka featured the main character Carter repeating the wedding day of Allison to Jerkass Stark. The day is eventually saved after a Heroic Sacrifice from Stark himself.
Unusually, time was very much not on Jack's side in this episode. The time loop was unstable and every time it happened Jack arrived in the past with worse and worse physical injuries caused by the backlash. It's a good thing he got down to business right away, because it only even went on for five loops or so but by the last he was arriving in the past with broken ribs and the scientists who had some idea what was going on predicted the universe would probably end if it looped one more time.
An episode of The Famous Jett Jackson has the titular character experience a bad day where everyone gets mad at him: his father, whom he stood up for their fishing trip, his great-grandmother, whose oatmeal he complained about, his friend Kayla, whose new Anime Hair he laughed at, his English teacher, when Jett tried to read Poe's The Raven to a rap beat in class. The next day, he realizes that he's in a loop and tries to make things better. He fails. The day after that, he gets things perfect. However, it turns out to have been All Just a Dream. Only the first day was real. But Jett finds out that things actually turned out better than he thought. His dad not getting on their bus meant that he saved a baby from being run over, his great-grandmother calmed down after his oatmeal comment, Kayla decided that her new hair really was ridiculous and Jett was right to laugh, and the English teacher commending Jett on getting his students excited about poetry by combining it with the new "urban poetry".
Farscape episode "Back and Back and Back to the Future".
The episode "Thank God It's Friday...Again" features a variation in which the characters aren't actually repeating the same day, but they are drugged into constantly believing that the current day is the end of the workweek and they get a day off tomorrow...except that day off never comes.
In the Fringe episode "White Tulip", the Fringe team has to start a case over three times as the mad scientist trying to save his wife goes back in time multiple times. None of them realize it, but it does make for quite the Tear Jerker at the end of the episode.
Give My Head Peace also has such an episode. Uncle Andy has a drunken 11th Night and wakes up on the 12th only to find that a precious Orange Banner depicting the Battle of the Boyne has been destroyed, presumably by the thuggish Scottish bandsmen who drunkenly slept the night off in his house.
In the Haven episode "Audrey Parker's Day off", Audrey has to relive the same day over and over. She could notice the loop because she is immune to the Troubles. Significantly, her injuries transfer between loops so by day 5 she is injured and extremely tired. She also apparently does not get much sleep between loops. Fortunately since this is Haven, Nathan believes her when she says she's reliving the day, and they learn a little more with each loop.
Nathan: You're stuck in my second favorite Bill Murray movie.
They eventually realize the first time around, the daughter of a man with OCD was killed in a hit-and-run. His OCD combined with his "Trouble" made the day restart, with a new person always dying. The man was unaware of the loop until Audrey convinced him. Eventually they save the daughter and he sacrifices himself to end it.
Kamen Rider Double has a unique twist with the Yesterday Dopant, which can make people do whatever they did exactly 24 hours ago regardless of other factors. We first see it being used to make a man jump off a building, since yesterday he dived into a swimming pool.
Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman features a somewhat darker version, in which Mr. Mxyzptlk creates a time loop in which things get a bit worse each time, to eventually result in The End of the World as We Know It. World War III is looming by the time Lois and Clark fix things. And this is the Christmas episode, no less...
LOST has Desmond, whose consciousness has been sent back and forward through time. He essentially relives parts of his entire life, implying that he can predict what will happen. The tragedy is that any drastic changes he tries to make, such as saving Charlie's life, are smoothed out or "course-corrected" by time.
The Control Voice's opening and closing narration for this episode were identical.
In the Pixelface episode "Reset", Claireparker causes this by using a literal Reset Button in an attempt to create 'the perfect day'.
Used in Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue episode "Yesterday Again", in which Carter accidentally loops to prevent the other four Rangers from dying when Olympius nabs their BFG.
Although in this case he actually traveled back in time; how he did so is never revealed.
In the Power Rangers Zeo episode "A Brief Mystery of Time", Prince Gasket traps the people of Earth in one of these so as to set up an attack to seize the world in one swift stroke that the Power Rangers would be unable to counter. Unfortunately for Gasket, his earlier tampering with Tommy's brain allowed Tommy to notice the loop and Zordon was able to track down the device causing it once made aware.
So it's decided then. We should try and explain the trope as it applies to this show before some smart ass turns this example into a circular joke.
Also used in one of the tie-in books, a themed diary. Kryten suggested quite early on that Lister write himself an explanatory note not to touch the equipment causing the loop again, but failed to remember that Lister's handwriting was so bad that he had to go up and touch it just to see what it said.
"So, what is it?"
"I've never seen one before — no one has — but I'm guessing it's a white hole."
The fourth episode featured an 8-hour time loop caused by Dr. Ballard messing with the device somehow. Frank went back over the events several times, finally calling Dr. Ballard just before the reset point and telling him NOT to do the fix they had discussed, because Olga had just been killed and he wanted to do it again and save her.
The episode Déjà Vu All Over Again mixed this with Cuckoo Nest, as Frank was repeatedly sent back to the same series of events by another version of himself until he could save one of his friends without innocents dying in the process. Once again, the episode is a blatant Run Lola Run reference (if not rip-off), and a minor character of a psychologist is revealed in the credits to have the name: Dr. Lola Manson.
Only O'Neill and Teal'c remember the events of previous loops — every 10 hours — and have to learn Latin in order to figure out how to stop the loops. In a slight variation it turns out the device causing this affects 14 worlds at once. Due to time running normally everywhere else the rest of the galaxy was out of sync for the duration of the time loops. When a character wonders how long they had been stuck in the loops it is mentioned that one of Earth's off-world allies had been trying to contact the SGC for "three months" — they don't try to communicate all that often so who knows how long the loop was going on before they called the first time.
Also, when Daniel casually points out that O'Neill and Teal'c can pretty much do anything they want without fear of consequences, Hilarity Ensues. Especially since they're trying to stave off going crazy from going through the loops. For years, this was voted SG-1's best episode. Ever.
[Scene: O'Neill is standing in the Gate Room hitting golfballs through the Stargate, presumably with the intention of breaking the world's longest shot record. Suddenly;] Hammond: Colonel O'Neill, what the hell are you doing?! O'Neill:[pauses, turns around] Right in the middle of my backswing?!
When the episode was originally mooted, apparently one of the writers worried that they would be seen as ripping off "Cause and Effect" (see above), to which another retorted "we're not, we're ripping off Groundhog Day."
Also used (although much less humorously) in the episode "Gamekeeper", where Daniel and Jack (the others were immune because they had naquada in their blood and the writers couldn't think up an appropriately angsty backstory for them... yet) had to repeat a specific day/moment of their lives over and over. For Jack it was a particular battle gone wrong, for Daniel it was his parents' deaths. When it's revealed that they are basically being used as entertainment for a bunch of bored aliens, Daniel and Jack independently choose not to participate as they realize they can't actually change things.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Cause and Effect", in which the ship keeps exploding but also sends the crew back in time a few hours until they figure out how to prevent it. This is an example that predates the film; "Cause and Effect" aired March 23, 1992, while Groundhog Day premiered February 12, 1993.
Note that the loop was only internal. In other words, the universe around the Enterprise and the Bozeman kept moving while they looped (The D was stuck for 17 and a half days, the Bozeman dated from when they had those funky uniform jackets). Also, none of the characters retained full memory from loop to loop. It was only over time that various members of the crew started to feel like the day was a little too familiar. One wonders why the Bozeman didn't notice this first since they were stuck for a lot longer.
The crew of the Bozeman didn't notice this because they weren't actually stuck in the loop any longer than the Enterprise-D was. Rather, the Bozeman accidentally traveled 90 years into the future through the temporal distortion, colliding with the Enterprise-D in doing so; the collision triggered the causality loop.
Also, "Time Squared". "There is the theory of the Moebius, a twist in the fabric of space where time becomes a loop..."
The first part of the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Coda" has a constant reset of Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay appearing in the shuttlecraft, with each loop occuring every time Janeway dies.
Strange Days At Blake Holsey High, aka Black Hole High, used this one with the twist that time will actively oppose any attempts to change the loop: if you decide to avoid bumping into someone by taking a different route, the other person will change their route to counteract this.
An episode of The Suite Life On Deck had Cody trying to impress Bailey at the school dance yet failing, and suddenly getting stuck in a time loop because of lightning striking the ship as it crossed the International Dateline. The loop is solved when Cody manages to slow down the ship's speed.
In the Supernatural episode "Mystery Spot", Sam replays the Tuesday Dean dies over and over. The Snap Back trigger is Dean's death. When Sam tries to explain, Dean responds, "like Groundhog Day." Every. Single. Time. It's entirely likely the loop repeated roughly several thousand times, when asked, Sam says that he lost count after "about a hundred and fifteen". And, as we see in the Death Montage, Dean's deaths become exponentially more comical. Sam's efforts to save Dean reach a level of paranoia and desperation that causes him to accidentally directly kill Dean himself at least once. And indirectly many more times.
The kicker? The Trickster is "preparing" Sam for Dean's untimely death in the season finale so he doesn't go off the rails. The Trickster's goal—to teach Sam that "you Winchester boys are so eager to die for each other—and the thing is, the bad guys know it too"—was thoroughly ignored and sidestepped by Sam, who instead learned just how much life without Dean would suck.
The second montage shows Sam becoming a death-seeking recluse, hunting anything in his path, slipping where morals are concerned, and generally appearing to have crossed a horizon. And as far as the real goal of the fiasco, Sam is more angsty, just a bit more unstable, and even more desperate to find a loophole. The Trickster lampshades this effect, telling Sam that "whoever said Dean was the dysfunctional one has never seen you with a sharp object in your hands. Holy Full Metal Jacket." And next season when Dean finally returns from Hell, one of the first things Sam says is that he tried everything to save Dean, including trying to make deals with demons, but no one would deal.
In Torchwood, it mentions that Jack Harkness and John Hart were stuck in a two-week time loop together for 5 years.
This is the premise for the series Tru Calling: recently-deceased people being processed by Tru (a coroner's assistant) suddenly animate and ask for her help. Tru's day immediately resets to the point where she awoke that morning and she relives the day so she can fix something for the dead person (usually, but not always, preventing their death). In a few episodes it was shown that if Tru fixes things "wrong" she will continue to relive the day until she gets it right.
There is also an inversion of the normal loop in Tru's nemesis Jack, whose "calling" is to relive the same days that Tru does, but ensure that things play out as fated—the same way they did the first time.
One episode of The Twilight Zone is about a man who has the same dream every night, about being convicted for a heinous murder and being executed for it. The difference here is that it's told from the perspective of the other characters. They eventually grow to realize that if the man is put to death, he'll wake up and they will cease to exist. They do it anyway.
An episode of the Weird Science TV show combined this with the "remote control that controls the world" trope later made famous by the movie Click.
Xena: Warrior Princess—Season 3 Episode 2, called "Been There, Done That", where the male half of two Star-Crossed Lovers— classic Romeo and Juliet complete with rival houses—makes a deal with Cupid to have the day repeat itself until he finds a way to keep his lover from killing herself and their families from killing each other; until a "Hero would come along to save [the girl], make peace between the houses and end the loop."
Xena—resident hero—is the only other person who realizes they are repeating the day and it nearly drives her crazy before she figures out how to end it. Largely a Comedy episode with MAJOR Angst thrown in.
Gabrielle: We've repeated the day that many times. Xena:[visibly frustrated] Yes. Gabrielle: Then I d— Xena:[looking from Gabrielle to Joxer and back] No, no, yes, no, I tried that, yes both ways, no, I don't know, no again. Are there any more questions? Good.
Punch line? Eventually ends with Xena sorting out all of the local problems—with the use of her trusty chakram—just in the nick of time, having spent several loops calculating the exact way to do so.
The X-Files episode "Monday" came years after this and echoes the plot structure completely, right down to the characters' déjà vu and the explosion before every commercial break. Mulder and Scully keep trying to foil a bank robbery, but the robber has explosives strapped to his body and always ends up killing them all. The only person who can see the loop is the robber's girlfriend, whose repeated efforts to stop events always fail. Eventually she gets killed as well, and it turns out her death is what breaks the cycle.
The X-Files partly subverted the standard format of this trope by having the characters act slightly differently in each repetition. This was said to be due to quantum uncertainty. In filming it also meant that the actors had some leeway and didn't have to get absolutely everything right each take.
Also interesting was Mulder managed to invoke the Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory trope by repeating to himself that there was a bomb right before the explosion—being in the same situation during the next loop triggered the memory.
In the Mutant X episode "Possibilities", a mutant with the power to travel back a short period of time is trying to stop a bomb from being detonated. When Brennan is caught in the explosion with her, he is sent back as well.
In The Worst Year of My Life, Again, Alex inexplicably finds himself reliving a year of his life. The plot revolves around him trying to change things for the better this time.
In Painkiller Jane, the Neuro of the episode "Playback" could reset time for a day while trying to kill a Chinese diplomat, and would do so whenever the team prevent him from carrying it out. While he (initially) was the only one completely aware of it, Jane started realizing it as well. Notably, he was Dangerously Genre Savvy. Once he realized the team would show up to stop him, he started leaving behind various traps to delay them. When that failed, he set a trap and changed his method (from sniper to drive by shooting) allowing him to successfully kill the diplomat. The team then killed his mother to force him to go back a day, Jane tackled him when he did which meant she went back as well, and then she took him down.
My Name Is Earl gave us an inversion. One guy on Earl's list was a stuntman named Sweet Johnny who's girlfriend cheated on him with Earl. When Earl went to meet Johnny, it turned out Johnny hit his head so many times, that "his brain can't make anymore memories," meaning he's stuck in one of these, but he's the only one who isn't aware of it. When Earl informed him of this, he didn't take it too well. Earl then decided maybe it would be better if he didn't cross Sweet Johnny on his list yet.
In Once Upon a Time, Storybrooke worked this way before Emma arrived. Every day everyone did the exact same thing, with no one except Regina noticing. The reason it's in the "variant" section is because outside stimulus could cause the loop to edit itself. For example, on the first day of the loop, Mary Margaret went straight home after teaching class. After Regina shows her a John Doe coma patient in the hospital (actually Mary Margaret's husband, though she doesn't know that), she goes to the hospital every day after class. Regina initially liked it, as she had won, but the tedium of it got to her fast.
One for the Vine by Genesis has a Moebius-strip structure: it starts with a primitive mountain tribe preparing for battle under a charismatic leader. One of the many who don't believe in this leader deserts, loses his way, and ends up amongst a similar tribe, who hail him as their new warlord... The song (but not the story) ends with him seeing a deserter in the distance suddenly vanish.
The "Night ∞" series by the Vocaloid 8 could possibly take place on a day like this. The events that play out through the night are roughly the same, and the characters try doing things differently to receive a good "ending" to the night, possibly for time to advance normally. The residents of the mansion try following their "script" more strictly and the lost villager tries murdering the residents in more exciting ways, for example.
The music video for Craig David's "Seven Days" uses a standard version until the final loop: After finally getting the day right, he spills a drink on his date. Rather than go through another loop, he breaks the fourth wall and rewinds the video about 30 seconds and just picks up from there.
The vocaloid song "Heat Haze Days" uses this trope as the story. It seems that the two children really are left to repeat the loop forever, implied by the girl's last line, "I've failed again." According to the Kagerou Project, the loop is eventually broken - but the girl dies.
In Outer Science it has also been implied that Mary has repeated the same time of her life over and over again, trying to prevent her friends from dying by Kuroha's hand
The music video for Yellowcard's "Ocean Avenue" finds the lead singer having to suffer some terrible fates, each one forcing him to repeat the same day, until he gets it right, in a similar reference to the German film Run, Lola, Run.
Vic Mensa's "Down on My Luck" starts with the rapper at a club when he gets a text from his girl. It rewinds back to that part whenever something goes wrong.
Myth & Legend
According to some esoteric teachings (refer to A New Model of the Universe by Peter Ouspensky), this is what the Reincarnation and the Eternal Recurrence are actually all about: when you die, you are not reborn in some other body, you are reborn in your own at the moment of your own birth, destined to relive your own life in an endless cycle. This is also the purported explanation of the deja vu.
There is a Japanese version of hell called Naraku where you are doomed to constantly repeat your sins for all eternity.
The BBC radio play Time After Time features a man with amnesia who keeps reliving the same moments in a strange hotel and tries to escape. The reliving always begins with him hearing the eponymous Frank Sinatra song on a radio. It is revealed at the end that he is in fact dying and it was all his mind processing his final moments.
One episode of Adventures in Odyssey featured Liz wishing as she was going to bed that it could be her birthday every day. When she wakes up the next morning, she finds that her wish has come true. She spends the next half of a week living out a nearly-identical version of the same day over and over, with perfect memories of each reoccurring day, growing more and more frustrated with each repetition. It turns out in the end that she was in the Room of Consequences all along, and the time loop was a setup designed by Eugene to warn her to Be Careful What You Wish For—especially hard-hitting because Liz was one of the show’s more mouthy characters.
Any video game that has a save feature can be considered a manually-activated Groundhog Day Loop from the character's point of view, as they must repeat the same actions over and over until successful. This is also true when the game provides more than one "life" or "continues": when the character dies, they simply return to an earlier point in time, and must do things right to move on out of the loop. See also Save Scumming for an aggressive application of this trope. Early examples of this in video games include Hydlide in 1984 and the original Legend of Zelda in 1986.
Ghosts N Goblins in 1985 was the first video game (and one of the earliest examples in general) to use this trope as part of its plot. Upon reaching the final boss, if the player does not have the cross weapon, they will be prompted that it is needed to defeat the boss and restart at the beginning of level 5 and must repeat round 5 and 6 again. When the final boss is defeated for the first time, using the cross weapon, the player is informed that the battle was "a trap devised by Satan". The player is then forced to replay the entire game on a higher difficulty level before finally reaching the genuine final battle. This title is regarded as one of the most difficult Arcade games of all time.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask involves repeating the same 3 days over and over, solving puzzles by use of the daily schedules of the NPCs. Strangely, once you actually beat the game, everything you've done seems to have happened (everyone's problems are permanently fixed) despite it usually not being the case — there's not enough time to do everything in the game in a single pass, and there's no duplicate Links running around, so one would assume events from the last cycle would be the only ones to persist. The opposite of No Ontological Inertia is at work.
One quest in Dragon Quest VII sends the heroes to a town that is stuck in an infinite time loop. The heroes themselves are not affected, and have to find the source of the curse. This is also a surprisingly effective justification for Broken Bridge — the bridge will be fixed tomorrow, but tomorrow won't happen until you fix this.
Rematch, a TADS text adventure, is based around this idea — the aim of the game is to find the one single command that will prevent you from being killed and break the time loop. Just be warned, it's a multipart command and some of it is randomized, so you will have to die many times before you can win. There are many IF games like this, in fact: Moebius and All Things Devours are two more. In some cases, they go on about "top secret devices" so the fact that you're facing a time loop puzzle is not immediately obvious.
It's implied that Siren takes place in one of these, and the gameplay also bears this out — you can only fully complete a stage in at least two playthroughs, and a sequence of stages from the start, to one of the endpoints is referred to as a "loop" by the game. In the true ending, the loop is seemingly broken and events resolved.
Shadow Of Destiny. The whole premise is that the main character is trying to change history so that he doesn't die; being killed results in living through the events prior to his death again until he gets it right and survives. Amusingly, in one part of the game it's possible to go through the same conversation for a third time, which results in the main character pre-empting what he knows the NPC he's talking with is about to say.
Though not an exact example, in Episode III of Xenosaga, Wilhelm's plan is revealed to involve preventing the impending collapse of the universe by enacting Eternal Recurrence, which would reset everything in the Lower Domain all the way back to the beginning of time, then repeating the process over and over. It's implied that not everything plays out in exactly the same way each time, since the post-game Database updates say that Wilhelm has successfully enacted Eternal Recurrence before, whereas in the game proper, Shion and co. reject his plan and stop him, electing to find a better way.
The Game Boy Advance game Astro Boy: Omega Factor invokes this when, during your first completion of the main story, you fail to prevent The End of the World as We Know It, and wind up dead. However, the time-transcending creature known as Phoenix (no, not that Phoenix) saves you, putting you back to the beginning of the game, and giving you the ability to jump freely through time to the various stages (once you've beaten them a second time, mind.) Not everything is exactly the same, however, because the Big Bad is also time-traveling and attempting to sabotage your efforts. Your purpose is to reshape events so that the final doom does not occur. Of course, your foreknowledge leads to a number of amusing incidents when you recognize characters who haven't met you yet, or simply preempt what they're about to say.
In Dissidia: Final Fantasy, the cycle of war has been going on for a long time now. Every time the war reaches its end, Shinryu, who along with Cid of the Lufaine also watches over the cycles as a spectator,resets everything to the way it use to be, setting the stage for the war to begin again. The game is a bit vague on the specifics of how the loop actually works, but in general that's how it goes. Most of the villains have figured out the loop and are banking on trying to end it with their victory this time around. The heroes have no clue and just fight on hoping that if they beat Chaos the war will end and they can go home. Eventually the loop is broken and the heroes get to return home with the knowledge they broke the cycle. Word of God says that the next cycle will be the last. No, really, there's a conversation between Cid and Cosmos that the cycle ended with the 13th.
On that note, the time loop in Final Fantasy I might be this, maybe. Garland certainly seems to anticipate killing the Warriors of Light over, and over, and over again, so maybe it's just a conscious loop for him and the Light Warriors.
As best as anyone can figure: The Four Fiends start to destroy the world, causing the Warriors of Light to start adventuring. The Warriors of Light kill Garland as an early part of their adventure. The Four Fiends send the near-death Garland back in time. Garland, back in the Temple Of Chaos (past), becomes Chaos. The Warriors of Light go back in time after defeating the Four Fiends, and die at Chaos hand. Chaos sends the Four Fiends of the past forward in time to destroy the world. The Four Fiends start to destroy the world, causing the Warriors of Light to start adventuring. Loop repeats. During one of the cycles, the Warriors of Light become strong enough to defeat Chaos, bringing an end to the cycle. If Garland kills them in the present or the Warriors of Light kill Chaos in the past, the loop breaks. Only Garland appears to know this is the case. When the loop is broken, it erases itself, and no one remembers it.
In Bravely Default, there is a variation: the characters don't technically travel through time, but through worlds: each time they awaken the crystals and open the Holy Pillar, they end up in the same point in time where they started their journey (At the Caldisla inn following Norende's destruction), but in a different world.
In Suikoden Tierkreis, the Order of the One True Way can not only predict the future, but promises eternal universal happiness in the One True Way. What is this One True Way? Each individual's favorite day repeated eternally.
A mission in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion's Shivering Isles expansion has a bunch of ghosts who failed to defend their castle due to various personal flaws or issues be condemned by Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness, to re-live the battle that destroyed the castle, 24/7, until they could get it right and successfully repel the invaders. However, the twist is that they are unable to make the necessary changes, thus they have to "act" their parts, knowing all too well how it'll end, while being aware of the constant loop. The player has to go around the castle and do whatever he can to break the cycle by finding the cause of each character's failure (usually an item the character needs or that should be destroyed). The mage ran out of mana, so you have to make sure he gets a dagger that will let him replenish it, or a Varla Stone. One knight was too worried about his lover (actually a doll), so you have to either plant the doll on one of the invaders or destroy it to inspire him to fight out of valor or revenge (simply giving him the doll causes him to retreat to put it somewhere safe.) . The archer ran out of arrows because the Quartermaster is a greedy bastard who was stringy on equipments, so you need to get arrows from him and give them to the archer. You then have to take the place of the Castle's count, who was too cowardly to join the battle himself, so that the last invader can be slain and the cycle can be broken.
The Gregory Horror Show is set within a hotel in a kind of Limbo. Although it is not the SAME day repeating, the crux of the game revolves around learning and plotting out the inhabitants daily routines. After such an extended time they all do the same things at the same time every day. And as you piss each of them off over time, it becomes essential to know that if you leave a room you won't walk into psychos like Nurse Catherine.
Flower, Sun and Rain involves one of these... however, the way the day plays out each time is so different that the main character initially doesn't realize it, and writes off the one repeating element as a bad dream. Though it ultimately turns out this isn't what's happening. It's something entirely different that superficially looks like this.
World of Warcraft has one of these for the last boss of End Time. As Deathwing destroys the world in the second Cataclysm, Nozdormu turns back time in order to find a world where Azeroth remains intact. Nozdormu repeatedly goes back in time, eventually going insane and declaring the "End Time," a bleak, lifeless landscape, but a world where Azeroth remains intact, the best possible outcome, then prevents the players' efforts to retrieve the Dragon Soul from the Well of Eternity in order to preserve this timeline.
In BlazBlue, it's revealed that all of the multiple endings are canon due to a time loop, with each "ending" being one iteration of the loop. The cycle is eventually broken in the game's True End.
Similarly, in Eternal Poison, all five character storylines are revealed to be canon upon unlocking Duphaston's tale, the order in which the several iterations took place somewhat tangible with a bit of thinking. The time loop is also broken in Duphaston's story with the completed Librum Aurora, the death of Lenarshe, and the revival of Izel. The true ending culminates in a final battle between the five main leads and Izel.
Marathon: Infinity has the potential for getting stuck in a loop. The game is non-linear: Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, Time Travel, and monsters are involved, and thanks to their influence, the protagonist finds himself frequently being shipped off to different points in the story (and, sometimes, different realities) based on how he completes any given level. Cycles are one possible outcome: you can find yourself running through the same series of levels over and over again, trying to figure out what you have to do differently to get out. (Note that this is only the one most reasonable and most commonly accepted theory out of the many, many possible interpretations of just what the hell is going on in that game.)
In Cross Channel, the game starts with a week where you briefly meet all the cast and the radio is completed, ending with a plea to any other survivors. Then the 'first' week starts, then the second. The third time, Taichi figures out what's going on and plays with the situation a little and manages to reconcile with Kiri instead of having her go crazy and Youko kill everyone. Then the fourth week starts and it turns out that during one week, Miki discovered the 'safe spot' where the journals are kept and has been avoiding the reset ever since. She's the truest example of ripple effect proof memory in the game. Oh, and Nanaka clearly knows what's going on. The resolution is rather bittersweet.
Singularity has fun with this; the plot uses Stable Time Loop as a Red Herring very successfully, because one of those is going on too, it's just not as important, but the "Groundhog Day" Loop is the larger issue. It's implied to have been going on for quite a while, because you find messages scribbled on walls, written by some person (probably yourself) who has apparently been stuck in the loop for many cycles, each time trying to escape it. It seems that you do escape the loop in the end, but only by killing yourself, and not even that changes the timeline back.
Warthogs, an adventure game where a Harry Potter expy has to roll back time repeatedly in order to pass his magic exams.
The indie horror game the white chamber uses this as the plot, although it is not explained to the player until the very end. It turns out that the main character is something of a bitch and went around slaughtering all of the other crew on the ship, one by one. She is forced to walk the horror and abomination filled wreckage of the ship until she shows enough remorse and compassion to warrant her "redemption". If you do not get enough good points, the game ends with her starting over, again and again and again and again....
In Remember11, the player is caught in a "Groundhog Day" Loop by the characters. To elaborate: every time "Self" reaches the end of the seventh day (Satoru's epilogue), it's transported to 7 days (and 1 year) ago, to the beginning of the game.
In Secret Files 3 the heroine had a dream which involved following an Arab merchant to the home of his buyer in Florence so that she could find out what was in the amphora he was selling. Unfortunately, she kept losing his trail, which resulted in time automatically being rewound six or seven times so that she could perform the necessary actions to enable her to track him just one screen further.
In keeping with the major role time travel plays in Achron, in the epilogue we learn that the 13000 year time jump that occurred halfway through the campaign is just part of a large time loop, one which has been going on 76013 times by the end of the game, ending each time with Lachesis becoming the Coremind after having killed it in the future. Only Jormun/Echo knows about the loop, but he seems dead-set on keeping Lachesis stuck in it. It's also hinted that the Vecgir are only a product of that loop, and that they would otherwise not exist as a species.
Invoked by the main character of Heta Oni; Italy traps the entire mansion of people in a "Groundhog Day" Loop by continuously rewinding time, with the hopes of eventually creating a time loop where everybody survives. Unfortunately, he proves horrifically inept at this, and instead spends the game watching the gristlyresults of his own inability to change fate.
The 7th Guest, after nearly all of the 6 guests that Stauf invited to his house murdered each other in an attempt to capture the seventh, a boy named Tad, and bring them to Stauf, one of them succeeded and thus the boy's soul was doomed to repeat the same night for eternity, along with the others. None of them remembered the loop being in effect, and this gave Stauf the upshot of letting the guests die AGAIN in more twisted and supernatural ways. Tad grew older and forgot who he was, but when the game takes place, he manages to break the cycle and save himself and Tad's past self. This is at least one interpretation of the events that took place.
The Visual Novel, Steins;Gate, invokes this in a dark tone. At a long-awaited, crucial point in the progress of the time machine, Mayuri dies at the hands of a secret organization, and no matter how many times Kyouma travels back, Mayuri loses her life one way or another. It's an unavoidable fate literally dependent on the arms of the clock that Kyouma is hellbent on stopping. Going through the story properly has Kyouma slowly adjusting the timeline back to fix everything, but the first time he tries to readjust the world he freezes. If you don't do it, he puts himself through an even worse loop that slowly causes him to break down.
In Little Busters!!, if the player starts each route from the beginning as opposed to cleverly manipulating saves at critical points, they will quickly notice that Riki (the protagonist) and Rin (one of the heroines) comes with improved starting stats after each playthrough. Also, unless you leave a save file at the proper points Riki will be unwilling to take the crucial route branch choices apart from Komari's, thinking to himself things like 'something sad will happen if I go there' while at the same time the girl from the route in question will no longer appear after a certain date until you've completed the entire story. All of the Little Busters are in a dream world created by Kyousuke, knowingly maintained by Kengo and Masato with the girls all playing more minor roles, apparently oblivious to the looping dream they're in. Kyousuke intends to keep the world going until Riki and Rin can face the truth without cracking: There's been a horrible bus crash and everyone is on the verge of death apart from Rin and Riki with no hope of rescue. The improved stats show them growing while the girls disappear because they no longer have a role to play, but Komari just can't stay away.
The Tsukihime sequel game Kagetsu Tohya exists in a dream world of a single day that Shiki loops through. But what sort of day is it? Is it a school day? A holiday? The day of the culture festival? A day where, for whatever reason, Shiki wakes up as a cat?
Type-Moon must like this trope, because they did the same thing in the Fate/stay night sequel Fate/hollow ataraxia. This time it's the Holy Grail War that keeps repeating, allowing even characters who died in all three routes to reappear.
In Shira Oka: Second Chances the main character, a friendless twentysomething loser in a dead-end job, is given the chance by the angel Satsuko to become a high school student again and turn his life around. And every time he fails - or even when he succeeds - she keeps sending him back to do it again...
In CLANNAD, in order to get the true ending, the protagonist must play through parts of the game again and help attain happiness for the various characters, obtaining an orb each time. After gathering enough orbs, the player can then achieve the true ending.
In Muv-Luv Alternative, the final thing that Takeru Shirogane learns before he ceases to exist is that the Unlimited/Alternative world's Sumika subconsciously kept him looping back to October 22nd of the Unlimited world upon his death (similar to the case of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni) each time he falls in love with some other heroine and thus never reaches her, wiping Takeru's memories in the process. She lost that power when she and Takeru finally became one late into Alternative, which is the final Unlimited loop.
In the machinima series Red vs. Blue, the antagonistic mercenary Wyoming has the ability to rewind little segments of time, essentially making him impossible to defeat: whenever something doesn't go to plan, he simply backtracks a few moments into the past and takes steps to avoid being beaten down by the protagonists. He's only foiled when one character's Deus ex Machina allows him to keep his memory during rewinds and kills him before he has a chance to activate his power.
Different from most other examples as he leaves behind a copy each time.
Web comic Wapsi Square features a plotline where an ancient Mayan calendar is in reality a broken Time Machine. In 2012, this machine will reset all of time back to when the machine was first activated. Only one immortal character, Jin, retains memories of this event. She has lived about 81,200 years (56 iterations of the loop), living through the same looping time period, trying to fix the machine and end the loop. All the other characters in the comic are known to her, and she has been friends, enemies, maybe even lovers with each of them during the endless cycles of time she has lived through.
Legostar Galactica parodies this when the USS Muffinenters a time loop, with first officer Marty pointing out that to preserve it they ought to go back, while the Captain just wants to get out, getting sufficiently annoyed by the third repetition to smack Marty in the mouth when he suggests going back in.
The Ends is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where a massive nuclear explosion has apparently distorted time, forcing the survivors into an endless cycle of death and rebirth.
Used in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja to defeat the villain Sparklelord, who is sent back in time and doomed to repeat the sequence of events leading him to be sent back, ad infinitum. Distinct from typical versions of this trope in that his memory also undergoes a Snap Back, making it impossible for him to escape. Might also be a Stable Time Loop, given that the removal of his memory is what prompts the repeat of events.
City of Reality features a device smuggled in from Magic World that acts as a Reset Button for the story, rewinding time but preserving the memory of the person who activates it, and only that person. In its first appearance, it's used by a villain to defeat all of the heroes who oppose him, since all he has to do is rewind time to know exactly how they will attack him, and counter those attacks. He's tricked into losing it by a character who figures out a way to Batman Gambit him. Later, the device nearly causes a catastrophe in Reality by its mere existence, and the heroes figure out that the only way to stop it is to run its battery out, which is accomplished by dropping it on the floor button-down. (Note: Flash required to view the linked page.)
The Maze of Many in Goblins. The caracters from several alternate realities race for the MacGuffin. Each time they die, they are reset to the beginning of the dungeon. The maze is also reset when one team reaches the treasure, only without the winning team (who get to go home). They don't remember their previous attempts though, only a counter is shown how many times they failed.
Neil Gaiman's short story, "Goliath" was written prior to the release of the first Matrix film as a promotional effort, and later made into a comic book and included in one of Gaiman's short story anthologies. It uses varying interpretations of this trope, by depicting a very tall, Robert Wadlow-esque man who keeps reliving moments of his life, having them speed up, rewound, looped with him remembering elements of his past differently, as he made different life choices along the way. Eventually he is met by an Agent, who explains that he's actually in a simulation, and aliens are attacking the Earth (we sent something out, something followed us back) by throwing asteroids into impact orbits. Gaiman's premise for the story (and part of the origina Wachowski interpretation) views humans not as energy sources but as living parallel-processing computer nodes, and the protagonist was specially "engineered" to pilot a spaceship to destroy the aliens; the Agents are "reloading" and "overclocking" parts of the Matrix to help calculate a defensive/offensive strategy to destroy the aliens before they take out too many CPU farms. Unfortunately even though the protagonist succeeds in destroying the aliens, the ship was designed as a one-way trip. The character pleads with the Agent - in the hour of oxygen he has remaining - to plug him back into the Matrix so he can write a goodbye note., and he again relives his life in the way he wanted to.
ThisDig Dug related Shifty Look comic puts this in motion. Dig Dug finds a time machine while digging, and then is sent back to when he found it. note Which is at the first panel. The comic is even named "Loop-De-Loop".
Mother of Learning (as in "repetition is the mother of learning") is a fantasy story following Zorian, a mage-in-training, who is entrapped in a month-long loop that covers the beginning of his third year at his magical academy. Interestingly, he's not the central character — he was brought into his classmate's loop by accident.
Played with in a Creepypasta titled Sim Albert, wherein a mysterious family appears on some peoples' games, containing a child sim named "Albert", his father, a young adult named Kaitlin, and three psychotic sims named Will, Pamela, and Robert. When left alone, Will, of the crazy sims lights the house on fire, killing him, Pamela, Robert, and Albert. The narrator sees the broken life Albert lives in, and moves him out with Kaitlin, breaking the cycle and giving Albert's ghost the life he never got to live.
A few of the Practitioners in Pact specialize in manipulation of time. When Blake Thorburn is close to legally getting himself out of jail after many of the officers have been manipulated to keep him there, Duncan Behaim sends Blake back to the beginning of the day, undoing most of Blake's efforts but leaving him with his memory of the events.
In Code Lyoko episode "A Great Day", XANA takes control of the time reset device the kids use to fix things after each attack and continues to turn back time to the start of the same day until the heroes can regain control.
The series also features evidence that Franz Hopper intentionally relived the same day over two thousand times to give him the time he needed to program Lyoko and XANA before the The Men in Black came for him and his daughter. He might have also lost his marbles during this scenario.
Most episodes have a Groundhog Day reset; this is a show where the heroes have control over the reset. Ulrich even has the "tired of doing this all over again" feelings when XANA makes an attack every day for a week.
One episode of Disney's Aladdin: The Series has the main characters getting stuck, one by one, in a constantly repeating showdown between a band of adventurers and a gang of rogues, until they managed to prevent the crystal the adventurers were carrying from breaking and thus acting as a Reset Button.
In Stickin' Around, Stacy and Bradley keep getting sent back 15 minutes whenever gym class ends, until Bradley takes full blame for something he did instead of letting everyone share the punishment. Then again...
Disney's animated "Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas" has Mickey, Donald, and Goofy in three mini-stories centered around christmas themes. The feature "Donald Duck: Stuck on Christmas" has the triplets Huey, Dewey, and Louie wish upon a star that is was "Christmas every day"; guess what they get.
The Fairly Oddparents has a Christmas special where Timmy wished it was Christmas every day like Huey, Dewey, and Louie above. It culminated in physical representations of all the other holidays heading to the North Pole to take out Santa, ending Christmas once and for all. What made it different is that while it was Christmas every day, it wasn't a time loop. Everyone in the world is baffled that's always December 25th, people run out of money to buy toys because they have the day off for Christmas every day, and the economy runs dry.
The Batman has Francis Grey in the episode "Seconds", who can "rewind" time by a few seconds whenever he wants, without anyone else aware of it. He still can't be in two places at once, of course, which is how he's defeated... and the end result is that, when it really counts, he finally manages to rewind time all the way back to when he first became a criminal, but he chooses differently.
The Animated Adaptation of The Mask has Stanley Ipkiss trapped in a loop of a few hours by time-manipulating villainess Amelia Chronos. After the first few loops, he starts running to his apartment and getting the Mask on in order to hunt for her. Eventually, he discovers it's because of a watch-like device on his arm. The villainess is using the loops to put herself in a different spot each time, forming a geomantric array that will let her control time. During their final battle, the Mask gets the device off of himself, resets it, and slaps it on her. Then he drops a grandfather clock on her face. The loop was changed to a few seconds, so it happens over and over and over... When the villainess reappears later, she reveals that subjectively, it took a thousand years for her to get out.
Totally Spies! has "Déjà Cruise" (which probably means that this trope is somebody's fetish). In the episode, the girls take a vacation on the WOOHP cruise ship, which gets hijacked by bad guys and eventually ends up sinking somehow, after which the girls wake up in their room and start the loop over. They break the loop by learning to co-operate with their fellow agents on board instead of telling everyone to stand back while they handled it. The whole thing was, of course, a training exercise set up by Jerry, and the entire ship was in on it.
A similar situation to that of the Supernatural episode above happened in the Jumanji animated series: Alan is suddenly killed near the beginning of the episode, but the boys manage to rescue him thanks to the "Slickomatic Chrono Repeater", a device obtained from Trader Slick capable of sending them back in time to the moment they last entered Jumanji. Unfortunately, this seems to be a rather unlucky day for Alan, seeing as he keeps dying in several ways, only for Judy and Peter to keep rescuing him until the device breaks, though they manage to survive the final crisis of the day. Though this may seem like a Set Right What Once Went Wrong plot, it has several Groundhog Day elements, such as the repeated lines and footage, as well as the characters growing frustration with all the repetition (the most visible example being the beginning of the "loop", where they are suddenly confronted with a swarm of giant ants heading towards them: though they were pretty scared at first, they start dealing with the problem with increased apathy as the "loop" repeats, culminating in the last repetition where, when faced with the ants, they simply sidestep out of the way with the most deadpan expression on their faces).
Ruby Gloom has an episode where Ruby is in charge of the Gloomsville World's Fair. The day doesn't stop repeating until the World's Fair goes right. Played with when Ruby forgets something she was going to say and leaves to take a short nap in order to remember. No one remembers her leaving.
An episode of Johnny Test features a self-inflicted loop. After wasting a whole Saturday being forced to watch ballet on TV with Sissy and Missy, Johnny and Dukey get a device from Mary and Susan that will allow them to repeat the day as many times as they wish. They try to avoid watching the ballet with Sissy by force, but when that repeatedly fails to work, they decide to be nice to Sissy and Missy to see if that will work. This results in them all having the best Saturday ever. In most instances, this would mean the end of the loop, but instead the trope is subverted when Johnny's dad points out that Johnny is falling in love with Sissy. Wanting to have nothing to do with that, Johnny presses the reset button again and proceeds to be mean to Sissy the next time around.
Rolie Polie Olie had Olie trying to clean up the garage. Unfortunately, while he did attempt to do so, it always fell apart, falling on a device that his father was working on that resets time, sticking him in a time loop.
In the Rollbots episode Crontab Trouble, a renegade Tensai named Reboot teams up with Vertex and attempts to put the City into stasis using the Crontab, a device that distorts time. Spin intervenes, of course, and Reboot uses the Crontab to reset the whole thing by about five minutes. Spin starts to catch on to the time loop, and explains it to the others as he gradually figures it out (Daso also seems to know what's going on). No one else remembers the events, not even Captain Pounder, who sees concrete proof of Vertex's true identity.
Improv Everywhere's "The Moebius" A group of improv agents acted out a moebius loop in a Starbucks. Every five minutes they repeated their actions, for an hour. A couple argues, a guy spills coffee, another guy dances through with his own boombox. To the patrons of the Starbucks, it at first looked like a really clumsy guy and a couple fighting and making back up, but by the third loop they began to realize all was not what it seemed.