Groundhog Peggy Sue
So we have your Peggy Sue Fix Fic in which a character is suddenly sent back to his childhood with future knowledge and/or powers to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. Then we have your "Groundhog Day" Loop Scenario in which a character is stuck in a repeating time loop, forced to re-live the same moments over and over again until a certain condition is met. This is typically a type of Mental Time Travel. When you combine these two you get the Groundhog Peggy Sue, in which a character is forced to re-live a significant portion of their life over and over again, always looping back to a certain point in their childhood if he dies or reaches a predetermined point in time. The protagonist tends to be a Failure Knight if the loop depends on them saving someone or killing the Big Bad. Sometimes the person looping is trying to avoid some kind of disaster; however, no matter what they do, the future never changes unless of course it goes From Bad to Worse. In some versions of this trope the characters live through each repeat of the loop fully, while in others they make a change in the past and are instantly transported to the "present" to see what their actions had changed. With so much life experience, they quickly become the most Genre Savvy of the cast. A popular subtype of this trope enables the Peggy Sue to interact with their world in a way more typical of video games than reality through the import of an original or published system, such as the the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stat system and perk system from Fallout. Common internet terms for this type of fanfic include Life Is a Game, The Video Game Plot, [Fandom]: Game of the Year and [Character] The Gamer. This subtype generally begins with the main character waking to their first New Game+ after a first playthrough (i.e. canon) characterized by a mandatory Harder Than Hard Mode with a disabled interface. Having lost their first game due to their death or the failure of a key plot goal such as preventing True Companions from dying, they're motivated to set right what once went wrong in classic Fix Fic style. Often the only character able to manipulate the loops via a save feature, among other game abilities, the Peggy Sue may reap big rewards. A typical reward is a gallery of unlockable avatars from which the player chooses one to start a new game as a different character within the setting. The biggest possible reward, usually achieved by grinding like mad, is to become a God-Mode Sue. The save feature and encouragement to restart as a different character both contribute to the time loopy essence of the story by rewarding the main character for repeatedly starting over or bailing out the main character from failed experiments and problem-solving attempts by allowing the main character to revert to a previous save. As "Life Is A Game" type stories are heavily influenced by the survival, RPG, and dating sim game genres they may share key tropes such as levels, stat systems ripe for grinding, some type of physics-independent inventory, Sidequests and interfaces for viewing relationships with NPCs. Achievements may also unlock new avatars, perks, and other options for future playthroughs. Subtrope of "Groundhog Day" Loop and Peggy Sue.
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Anime and Manga
- Causing this is basically the result of Homura's wish in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Homura turns back time to the point where she and Madoka first met every time she fails to save Madoka (through Madoka either dying or turning into a witch). It turns out worse every time Homura goes back, because every alternate universe is focused on Madoka, and this makes Madoka's potential witch form, Kriemhild Gretchen, even more powerful than the last — but it also has the effect of making Madoka's wish in the final episode turn her into a goddess.
- This occurs in the manga Shin Mazinger Zero, with Minerva X the only one aware of it. She in fact causes the resets in order to find a timeline where Mazinger does not become a devil and destroys the world. It's shown she's gone through many of these resets since she began as the Minerva X in the original anime.
- This is what has happened to Rika Furude in Higurashi: When They Cry. Each time she dies in one of the loops she is sent back to the beginning of the loop. This has been going on for possibly over a thousand years.
- Poor, poor Hibiya from Kagerou Project. He's been stuck in a Psychological Torment Zone for decades trying to save his unrequited crush, Hiyori. Naturally, Failure Is the Only Option. Examples include Hiyori being hit by a truck, Hiyori being stabbed clean through the stomach by an iron pole, the list goes on. He gets out of the loop in the end...somehow.
- And it's not like Hiyori has it better either. "I failed this time, too..."
- At the end of Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, Batman is reincarnated as an alternate universe version of himself; it's stated that, in lieu of a traditional afterlife, Batman is destined to spend eternity being Batman, living out different versions of his life over and over again.
- Happens to Fixer in Thunderbolts. The eponymous villains turned heroes end up in the past through some Time Travel shenanigans. One of the villains' earlier selves took affront to what a nuisance his future self had become and struggles with him. past!Norbert promptly gets shot through the head, and in order to make sure he reaches this point of time to prevent a Temporal Paradox, future!Norbert gets genetically de-aged, mindwiped and inserted in place of his old self. Doomed to forever live through this course of the events until the end of time.
Anime & Manga
- Infinite Corridor looks like it's going to be this for Orihime of BLEACH.
- Right Moments: Due to meddling by Happosai, Ranma is stuck repeating the day after the failed wedding from the end of the manga, a repetition which won't end until Ranma himself is satisfied that the day he lived was absolutely perfect. Hilarity Ensues.
- There's a growing sub-genre of this kind of fic called The Infinite Loops, the format of which was first codified by Innortal on fanfiction.net. The basic idea is, one character (the Anchor, usually the main character of a fictional setting) is looping back to the very first moments of their parent series every time either they die or some kind of time limit expires. They of course end up monumentally stir crazy given enough time. Eventually others start to loop as well. The reset is not always perfect. Sometimes a loop's history will be different to the "prime" loop, or canonical plot. "Crossover" or "Fusion" loops also occur, randomly. These can involve the home loopers having a guest, or the anchor for one universe spending time in another, or replacements of one character by another. Vacation Loops are where the Anchor (or others) decide/s "screw it" and lets off steam by doing whatever comes to mind. There's little or no attempt to maintain the original timeline in such loops.
- If this sounds like a generic description for the majority of all timeloops, with the addition of crossovers for no reason, bear in mind the Framing Device for these stories is that the loops were started as a safemode/debugging tool for the multiverse by the gods after a Time Crash. All of these stories are happening all at once within the same shared setting, which serves as a Genre Deconstruction for this trope by virtue of scale alone.
- The Piper at the Gates of Dawn: a ASOIAF/Game of Thrones fic in which Rhaegar is given a second chance at life after dying on the Trident. He then decides to change history and stop the impending attack of theOthers, but, being an ASOIAF fic, things are... bittersweet, to say the least. Rhaegar ends up in a time loop, stuck with his crazy father, his perfect wife he doesn't love, and the knowledge that the world is ending and he's the only one who can save it. Then he finds a way...
- Fixing The Factors, a humorous Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfic in which Buffy and Spike are forced to live the same day over and over (the season 4 episode "The Yoko Factor") until they get things right and change the future for the better.
- Has a FanficRecs page.
- Harry Potter and the Wastelands of Time: Harry is stuck looping to the same summer before his sixth year whenever he dies. Having lived over a thousand lives this way, he still can't seem to outpace Voldemort.
- Harry Potter and the Temporal Beacon: Harry and Hermione build a time machine which acts as a checkpoint of sorts and gets activated at June 30th, 1994 (end of their 3rd year). Afterwards, each time they die their minds get returned to that point in time.
- Sisyphus involves Harry stuck looping to the moment where he learned he was a wizard whenever he dies. He eventually after a hundred deaths, defeats Voldemort, dies of old age... and is still stuck.
- Again and Again: Harry has already repeated his life many, many times, often changing specific things with the intention to get it right, and thus be able to die for good. Having defeated Voldemort in every life in which he didn't kill himself early, he decides to try something entirely different this time around: siding with him.
- Harry Potter: Game of the Year Edition: Harry Potter jumps from his accidental death at the graveyard to a New Game+ of avatar statues. It takes him two tries to get all the way from his parents' death to his eleventh birthday, but he does unlock a secret 'wand select' menu and a pleasant print manual for the beta-test of his system.
- Has a FanficRecs page.
- Chunin Exam Day, which is quite possibly the Ur-Example for Naruto
- All is Relative Except the Stubbornness of a Demon: Because the Kyuubi refuses to die, Naruto is always sent back in time to the day before the Genin exam whenever he dies, whether it is in battle or of old age.
- In Myriad Ways: Naruto dies at the Valley of the End and strikes a deal with Death to save Sasuke and starts looping back to before the Chuunin exam.
- Time Braid has Sakura going back to the beginning of the Chunnin Exam over and over again, with the timeline usually resetting with her death, failing the test, or not preventing the later attack from Orochimaru. Eventually, she finds out that Naruto, Sasuke and Hinata are also going through their own personal groundhog loops, each with various states of sanity.
- Naruto: Game of the Year Edition: Naruto jumps from his death at the Valley of the End to an arena of unlockable avatar statues. Each statue is a timeline in need of repair and the dedicated sysadmin staff may actually be Shinto gods. Too bad he's a target for assassins from soon after his birth... Each death before he receives his headband means he has to start over from the beginning and it takes him a long time to make it to that first checkpoint.
- Naruto the Videogame: Thanks to free saving and, eventually, loading, the assassins targeting Naruto's baby self are defeated by trial and error.
- Naruto: Ramen Days: Naruto jumps from his death at the Sand-Sound Invasion to just before the Wave Arc. Thanks to interference from the Kyuubi, not only does it takes him five lives to make it past the tutorial and reach the first checkpoint after the Chunin Exams, it becomes impossible for him to reload and save the life of the Hokage before he knew he was in danger. His unlocked teammates retain memories through reloads as well.
- Fuzzy Logic starts with the Kyuubi breaking out of this sort of loop.
- Has a FanficRecs page... This is generally very common in Evangelion fics, as a variation upon or deconstruction of the even more common Fandom-Specific Plot of Shinji going back after third impact.
- The Eighteenth
- Children of the Prophecy
- Samsara: Shinji finds himself in a "Groundhog Day" Loop in which he keeps on living the same day over and over again, with nobody else aware of it. Though he fools around with it, he ends up upsetting Asuka when he becomes too reckless, prompting him to try to make her happy. He finally exits the loop when he succeeds.
- and many, many more....
- And Again sees Naegi relieving the Deadly Game of Dangan Ronpa, trying to ensure that more of his classmates survive.
- Death's Favorite Game: After Master Chief completes Halo 3 on Legendary mode, unlocking avatars and a ton of perk-granting achievements, he jumps to before the Fall of Reach on Easy mode and dies almost immediately...
- Hard Reset is a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic example where Twilight relives the three hours that culminate in a changeling attack and the destruction of Canterlot trying to stop it. Unusual in that story continues after the loop ends and spends the last third of its run examining what the psychological ramifications of this might be.
- Rewind: Charmcaster uses Time Travel magic to trick the Tennysons, rewinding whenever she gets caught. It does not end well.
- The one-shot The Chosen from the Avatar: The Last Airbender collection The Ember Island Lighthouse. Ozai goes through his life with different allies each time.
- Replay, by Ken Grimwood, revolves around the protagonist and a few others going through the eponymous Replays which take the replayer back to an earlier point in his/her life, to relive the time period until his/her death (the same date and time in every loop, although the exact date and time differ from person to person). Problem is that each replayer finds that his/her replays are beginning later and later...
- The short story Spring Fever implies this. Having married a conservative businessman, the protagonist is bored with her comfortable-but-bland lifestyle, and daydreams about her first love, Ray. Her daydreaming seamlessly melts into the past, where she chooses to "go all the way" with him... Back in the present, she is now unhappily married to Ray, and the ending heavily hints she's about to repeat the loop again.
- Played with in The Time Traveler's Wife. Henry constantly goes back in time to his mother's death, but cannot do anything.
- It's revealed at the end of The Dark Tower series that the whole series was just one iteration of a loop that is implied to have been looping for countless iterations. However, the final passage is one of hope, and implies that finally, this next time around, things will be different.
- The kalachakras in The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August are an entire society who meet this trope, complete with a system for sending messages arbitrarily far back in time by having people near the beginning of a loop find people near the end of a loop to give the message to.
- Mother of Learning: Zorian, a mage in training, finds himself stuck in a month-long time loop after some changes are made to his person in his zeroeth life. Has some similarities with Edge of Tomorrow.
Live Action TV
- That Was Then: A short-lived 2002 series in which the protagonist repeatedly goes back to his High School years in an attempt to make things better. Similar to The Butterfly Effect.
- Happened to the SG1 in Stargate SG-1 when they were trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine that forced O'Neill to relive a failed Special Ops action, and Daniel to relive the death of his parents.
- In the Skin Horse chapter 'Choose', Jonah Yu finds himself in one of these, with the loop reset whenever he dies. It also happens to be in the middle of a place where death is common and frequently very silly. What makes this a Peggy Sue? The ending makes it rather unclear whether this will happen again after he's lived a long, full life.
- In a meta way, a lot of the experience of Save Scumming revolves around this. For example, loading your game repeatedly until you manage to beat that one boss battle.
- The plotline of BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, from the perspective of Rachel Alucard. There's an interesting twist on this trope with her, however. On the one hand it is thanks to her being an Observer that she is a Groundhog Peggy Sue; on the other hand, as an Observer she is not allowed to actively Set Right What Once Went Wrong, but can only nudge the other characters in the right direction.
- The Reveal at the end of Calamity Trigger reveals there is a second one at work. Unlike Rachel, Terumi has been trying all long to make things even worse.
- The When They Cry franchise—both Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (though we're not told who the Peggy Sue is until the end of the first season) and Umineko no Naku Koro ni (in an odd meta way).
- You can turn your companions into this in Ephemeral Fantasia; until you bring them out of their "Groundhog Day" Loop, they're unaware of the repeating five-day cycle.
- The plot of Shira Oka: Second Chances is that the protagonist must repeat high school over and over again until he can snap out of it. He may be forced to restart again if he dies or makes the wrong decision that ends up in an unhappy ending.
- Majora's Mask features Link in a three day time loop trying to stop Skull Kid from dropping the Moon on Clock Town.
- A particularly horrifying and tear jerking one is the fate of Jyoji Hijiri in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. He is essentially trapped within the endless cycle of death and rebirth that Kagutsuchi has imposed upon the worlds. He witnesses the end of one world, suffers within the Vortex World and dies, and then is reborn in the new world just in time to watch the end once more. Furthermore, he is cursed so that he can never influence these events, essentially making him a spectator for all eternity. And to cap it off, it's heavily implied Hijiri is a reincarnation of Aleph from Shin Megami Tensei II, whose sin (killing God) was commited solely in an effort to save the world.
- Embric of Wulfhammer's Castle revolves around this trope... Or Does It? Duchess' strange ability to go back and continue her life from just before an ending so as to allow the player to experience other endings is All Just a Dream, but a prophetic one; Duchess is using a precognitive vision to explore possible futures.
- In Alan Wake's American Nightmare, Alan's Evil Counterpart, Mr. Scratch, attempts to create a no-win situation for Alan by capturing him in a time-loop; even if he survives the deathly trials of the loop, he will still have to go through them again. However, as Alan and the three women stuck with him in the loop retains memories of the previous cycles, they eventually become Dangerously Genre Savvy and begin to coordinate their efforts to drive the loop Off the Rails.
- A good part of Steins;Gate revolves around this. Okabe's messing around with D-Mail leads to SERN mooks come crashing through his door, lead by Moeka, and ultimely killing Mayuri. So he sets up the recently assembled Time Leap machine to leap to the point in the past before that happened, in order to avoid it. Unfortunately, every time he goes back in time, no matter what different idea he tried to save her, her death was always the result.
- In Amnesia, it is a unintended consequence of Ukyo's wish to save the Heroine from death and for him to be able to be with her again at the cost of her not remembering him. As long as the two conditions are not fulfilled, the wish cannot be granted and Ukyo is forced to remember every parallel world the Heroine dies by his hand, dies in an accident, or fell in love with another man. He dies in her place because their existence in the same timeline is an anomaly the world is trying to eliminate.
- no-one has to die. has this as one of the central plot points. Each time you finish one of the timelines, the last remaining non-player character enters a mysterious machine, which unbinds their consciousness from their body and pushes it back to a compatible body. One of the characters has gone through this five times. Did I mention there's a fire?
- John Buchanan's indie Flash game duo The Freewill Cycle involves a person who, after injecting himself with a special compound that keeps him from being 'uncreated' when stepping into a wormhole left open by a time machine experiment gone horribly wrong. He jumps back in time, in the second game, to find out that he's a mercenary for hire, and there's a mission accepted by his past self to complete. Once that's done, another one comes up that asks him to do everything the first game entailed, which he failed to complete before entering the wormhole. The player can either accept the mission, start what the first game entailed all over again, and jump back in time again, causing an infinite loop that will eventually cause the space time continuum to implode, destroying the entire universe; or he can reject the mission, watch his future self get zapped out of existence, and allow himself to move onward, ending the cycle.