Save Scumming

"I'll get you during my next save game."

Old, old method of playing games. Basically, you save the game whenever you get a result you like (or before you face a risk), and restore the saved game whenever you get a result you don't like. It could be because the game demands Trial-and-Error Gameplay, or perhaps you have a limited number of tries to get the RNG to get a favorable result. Or maybe you're just not that good at the game. Although sometimes, it might be the only way to even win a Luck-Based Mission, no matter how good you are, or it could be the only way to get a very rare item. And woe betide you if you save the game after a seemingly minor error that ends up making the game Unwinnable. Seasoned savescummers will make multiple saves throughout the game so they can go back to the part that they messed up on.

In a somewhat less depressing way, this might still be practiced if a game has Multiple Endings with identifiable branching points. Not all games with several endings have New Game+ as an option, and even if they do, sometimes you just don't want to run through the entire game for the sake of another ending. Saving before the branching point(s) lets you go back through from where it twisted at your convenience.

Some games modify this by giving you limited numbers of saves (similar to Video Game Lives but perhaps allowing some strategy), bonuses for low numbers of saves, or immediately erasing/saving a game whenever you die or do something important (Iron Man mode). Another method of circumventing this is to set the RNGs for various events at the start of a new file with nothing else but said events effecting them, resulting in outcomes that are random but cannot be changed by reloading. Some games kick it Up to Eleven by actually detecting whether you cheated by Save-Swapping, trying to obfuscate the game which deletes a saved game by manually putting back a copy of said save file right after deletion by the game into its save folder. Even worse, wiser games will even call you out for actually trying to feed it an invalid saved file or rewrite the game program into autosave mode which disabled loading from savefile.

The term "Save Scumming" comes from the roguelike community, which has long frowned on the practice (most roguelike games prevent this by erasing a save file as soon as you load it; however, this puts the player's entire game at risk in the event of a crash) and thus categorized save/reload as one of the many forms of "scummy" behavior honorable players eschew. This is not to be confused with LucasArts' SCUMM game engine, when LucasArts' games are generally much more forgiving than their Sierra counterparts.

Other games, however, especially Japanese-made games designed with the "maniacs" in mind, not only validate it as a tactic, but make it utterly mandatory for 100% Completion. The Infinity+1 Sword is not only dropped only by the ultra-difficult Bonus Boss, but it only has a 1% chance of dropping it, and there is only one of that boss in the game. Beating the boss once after a theoretically infinite number of save scummings may just be a fluke, but beating a difficult boss 50 to 500 times in a row shows not only mastery of the game, but also superhuman patience. Likewise, the Trophy system for the PS3 and the Achievements system for the Xbox 360 require several, sometimes many playthroughs unless you utilize this.

Much easier (and more tempting) to do with emulators, which often have save state features that allow the player to instantly backtrack anywhere, anytime, making the lives system pointless. This and other emulator features are used to put together or practice for "perfect" runs of pattern-based video games, especially 2D shooters. Platform Hell games are made with this in mind (with horrifying results), and Speed Run players use this to get the exact sequence of events required to make absolute fastest time. These are called "tool-assisted speedruns", and the divide between savescummed and classic speedruns is vast. The gamers on both sides defend their position vehemently. In addition, emulator save states have one major downfall: the ability to save yourself into a corner. Without limits on when you can save, it becomes possible to save the game in situations that make the game Unwinnable, such as saving at the Game Over screen. Smarter players will use multiple saves in case this happens on accident, but a newcomer to the art of save state scumming can easily find himself trapped.

Sometimes known as "Saveweaseling," using "Wand of Save/Load," or "The Mystical Quicksave/load Key." Amusingly enough, some (dubiously metaphysical) interpretations of quantum mechanics suggest that a similar phenomenon may occur in real life, through a process known as "quantum immortality."

A Sub-Trope of Not the Intended Use, See also: Save-Game Limits, which attempt to curtail this, and Trial-and-Error Gameplay. If this explicitly involves Time Travel rather than reloading the game, see Reset Button. Compare Brain Uploading. Autosave may be implemented to prevent this.


In-Universe Examples Only

    open/close all folders 

    Action Adventure 
  • Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis action game fully expects and requires you to do this. The manual mentions that the roulette tables in Monte Carlo are rigged, and hints that you need to do something to "beat the system". The solution is that for some reason the tables always go for the same numbers. Save, try betting at a table, reload, and then bet on whatever number came up on that previous attempt.
    • A similar (optional) puzzle requires the player to save and reload when playing as Sophia in order to emulate her psychic powers: guess the answer, be told the correct one and then load.

    Adventure Game 
  • Sierra's classic adventure games seem to have been designed with this practice in mind:
    • Wandering opponents, monsters, zombies, etc. could appear in two or three set unique locations in King's Quest I (but not in any other Sierra game), requiring the player to evade them using the same keyboard controls used for normal exploration. This is trivial if you keep to the edge of the screen. On the other hand, Quest for Glory has actual wandering monsters, but allows the player to fight back.
    • In Codename: ICEMAN, attempting to reload a save during an entirely Luck-Based Mission of a dice game will cause the person you're playing against to accuse you of cheating and ERASE YOUR SAVE.
    • If the player refuses to purchase a Saurus enough times in Quest for Glory II, the game will eventually give a Game Over for undisclosed reasons.
    • Sierra's manuals actually encouraged this behavior.
  • Parodied in The Secret of Monkey Island. There's a bit where if you walk too close to a cliff you fall, and a Sierra-style save/load screen appears. The main character then rebounds back onto the cliff with two words of explanation: "Rubber tree."
  • Lampshaded in Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People: 8-Bit Is Enough. If Strong Bad is attacked by the scorpion monster in the Peasant's Quest realm, the game presents a Sierra-style game over screen, while Strong Bad simply picks himself up off the ground and remarks about how he "never reads those things".
  • This was deliberately parodied in Infocom's Planetfall; whenever you saved the game with your robot sidekick Floyd around, he would ask "Oh boy! Are we going to try something dangerous now?"
  • Life Is Strange is an in-universe example of this. Max can rewind time which enables you to choose different outcomes and is even needed for some puzzles.

    First Person Shooter 
  • Tron 2.0 actually encourages this practice just before a Race Against the Clock section. A character says: "Quick! Save yourself!" and "I auto save every 30 seconds. I suggest you do the same."

    Four X 
  • The Civilization II manual actually recommends save scumming before entering the villages that provide random bonuses (and sometimes unleash barbarian hordes).
  • Lampshaded in the instruction manual of Rome: Total War, which mentions returning to an earlier save when something goes wrong, "not that you'd ever do that, of course". Incidentally, it comes with a form of the aforementioned RNG saving, with the interesting twist that occasionally, you actually end up getting worse results when you reload.
  • Eador builds this into the story and mechanics: your character can reverse time, returning to the previous turn or undoing his entire attempt to conquer the current shard, for minor penalties. Interestingly, the game autosaves, so it's impossible to save scum normally without copying and pasting save folders from outside the game.

    Platformer 
  • In Little Big Planet 3, the creator popit powerup allows you to pause and rewind your game progress, each savepoint is created when you close your popit. Although you cannot save your game this way, it's more than enough to wrap reality and undo failures before you take damage.

    Puzzle Game 
  • Hack N Slash actually encourages this. It's justified in-game by the protagonist being given a magical amulet that enables her to travel through time, though it doesn't really need much justification given the theme of the game. In addition to being able to load old saves (which are automatically created every time a new area is entered or re-entered) the interface even keeps track of which saves came from which, enabling the player to view the branching "timelines". After experimenting a lot, this interface can quickly become cluttered.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • Lampshaded in the ending of Perimeter, when The Infernals inform the player that their Evil Plan required the participation of an extra-dimensional being with the ability to travel back in time at will in order to correct his or her past mistakes.
  • In Warcraft, Nozdormu is the leader of the Bronze Dragonflight, responsible for overseeing time. Fighting him is a bit futile, since if even if you win against the titanic superpowerful dragon he'll just rewind time and fight you again, this time knowing exactly what you're going to do.
  • In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm you get to use the same tactic against his Evil Twin Murozond in a dungeon. You get an hourglass with 5 charges, that reset everyone and everything's status in the fight... except the damage done so far to Murozond.

    Roguelike 
  • The sole control scheme for Save Scummer, a game that is essentially about playing a roguelike. The only moves are backwards in time and forwards in time, with the RNG resetting to let the player influence the choice that the randomly rolled character randomly makes at each moment in time. Beat it, and the player character gets berated for save scumming on the in-game internet.

    Role Playing Game 
  • BioWare is generally friendly towards this strategy:
  • In Nightmare of Druaga, the save file is marked "Do Not Copy." And if you close the game by any means other than a save and quit, it subjects you to a rant about mucking with the flow of time, and if you answer even ONE question the wrong way, it inflicts you with the death penalty. and the rant gets longer each time, with new questions. Heaven help you if the power goes out while playing.
  • Baldur's Gate
    • In the sequel, Shadows of Amn, most of the characters were too high-level to be rolling HP for much longer, and non-player-generated characters had predetermined results for when they did roll.
    • Spoofed in Baldur's Gate: Throne of Bhaal: a party of "noobs" assaults your group while flinging insults, resulting in their complete extermination. After a fake "reload" screen, the same party of adventurers encounters you again, greets you nicely and walks away.
    • The Baldur's Gate engine does at least warn you — one of the hints on the ever-present loading screens is, "Hit Q to quicksave the game. Do this often."
  • Fallout 2 has the above quote, and the description of the player's ear bitten off by The Masticator adds, "If you're reading this, you're probably reloading your last save."
    • Also, in one secret encounter, the log displays the player character thinking "I should save my game in a brand new slot."
    • In Fallout: New Vegas, save scumming is possible to win big at the casino games, but there are two catches. Firstly, each casino has a limit on how much you can win before they either ban you from gambling or straight up kick you out. Secondly, reloading a save from within a casino starts a countdown on all gambling games (slots, blackjack, and roulette). You can't gamble until one minute after loading the save. Obviously, Obsidian was one step ahead of us.
  • Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates. When you beat the final boss, he will try to go to another reality to defeat you, but gets trapped in a stable time loop. He's stuck Save Scumming the rest of his life! Fridge Horror: YIKES.
  • Undertale:
    • Photoshop Flowey deliberately does this to kill the main character. There would later be intervening forces that stop him.
    • Generally speaking, this is deconstructed for the player side, even when you reset the world, two of the characters would still remember your deeds, and should you complete a Genocide Run, your subsequent playthroughs would be permanently tainted and cannot be undone.

    Simulation Game 
  • The Harvest Moon team has been aware of this for some time, though. As early as Back to Nature, one of the sins you could confess to the local priest was "I reset the game to win at a festival."
  • In Animal Crossing, you can reset the game to get back any items you lost or reset anything bad that happened or to get more items, however, this will prompt a mole named Mr. Resetti to angrily scold you the next time you load. The more times you do this, the longer his rants get.
  • Many Kairosoft games allow you to do this to a certain extent. You're typically only allowed one save a game, but your manual saves are never overwritten automatically. This is particularly useful in Pocket Stables, where you can just reload your last save to change your horse's position or raise them differently from the start of the day to change your odds in winning a race.
  • The Makin' Magic expansion pack for the The Sims 1 would save your game after casting a spell that would turn a child into an adult, or a pet into a Sim. A savvy player could backup the save file manually however if they wanted to avert this.

    Third Person Shooter 

    Visual Novel 
  • In Fate/stay night, the Tiger Dojo exists to Lampshade and excuse it with a wink.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors has this in universe. The player's ability to restart after obtaining a bad ending, while retaining information obtained in said ending, is an early indicator that young Akane (the true player character) is doing this with Junpei.
  • The Furry visual novel, Major Minor encourages the player to do this. The In-Universe explanation for this is that the player character is a Reality Warper.
  • In Her Tears Were My Light, the player character Time can "warp" to any moment she has already experienced (either the start of the game or a save point) while retaining her memories. The player is required to do this repeatedly to make progress.

Non Video Game Examples

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Homura can use her time manipulation powers to this effect. Specifically, she's been using them in hopes of finding the "perfect sequence" that will keep Madoka from making the Deal with the Devil to turn her into a Magical Girl, with all the horrible things that implies in this world. Since Gen Urobuchi, the series's script writer got his start making Visual Novels, this is probably a subtle nod to the practice.
    • Not to mention that slowing and stopping time is a favorite trick of Tool-Assisted Speedrunners, with the same weaknesses inherent in the ability. Too bad Homura only has one save state...
  • In Naruto, Izanagi effectively works this way (at the cost of eye-sight). When an undesired result occurred, reality resets back to before that result so the person initiating Izanagi can change the course of events and have things go how they want.
  • Gaku starts doing this in Chapter 11 of Murasakiiro No Qualia. By using her phone to link up with herself in other quantum realities, she can find out any possible outcome of any choice, and ultimately pick the best one. Even better(?), when one of her alternate lives ends, she gets all of its memories, meaning that as a 15 year old girl who has never lifted a gun, she is an expert marksman, and has multiple college degrees.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Touma Kamijou uses a form of this in NT Vol 9. Othinus can't afford for him to die, but wants to break his will, so she kills him and brings him back over and over again. After over 10,000 sessions, she is shocked to find that not only is he not insane or traumatized, he has memorized her attack patterns and can now effortlessly evade her attacks despite remaining physically inferior to her in every way.
  • In UQ Holder!, this is Kirie's form of immortality: she can set a "save point", and if she dies, she returns to that point in time.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Whis can do this by reversing time by up to three minutes, although considering he is effectively the strongest character in the setting, it's more often done to correct the mistakes of others rather than his own.

    Comic Book 
  • Tends to pop out in Paperinik New Adventures: time travelers can use their chronosails to travel back in time after getting a result they don't like (they tend to do it only on small scale due them being Genre Savvy about the Butterfly Effect). Specific instances are:
    • in "The Wind of Time" the Raider, after getting his ass kicked by Paperinik, travels in time and has Paperinik's ambush sprung by Angus and the police, forcing him to run and let him steal what he wanted. Upon learning of this, Paperinik complains that the Raider is practically undefeatable, and he's arrested by the Time Police only after he's lured in the one moment he can't time travel his way out of trouble;
    • in a short story Trip, the son of the Raider, pulls this to perform the decisive save in an hockey match. Then he decides to do it again with his eyes closed, only for the Raider (who was watching the match) to alter probability and have him lose, teaching him to not cheat at sports;
    • in "Nothing Personal" Odin Eidolon performs a variant: to prevent the Bad Future that happened after the Raider's death and Trip becoming the Griffin and causing the Bad Future, he kidnapped Trip from slightly before the mission in which the Raider's died, causing the Raider to abort the mission and learn what would happen. After returning to the future with Trip, the Raider implies having performed another save scum to still perform the mission without Paperinik getting involved or him dying.

    Fan Works 
  • Can happen in RPG-Mechanics Verse-based works, where the characters are aware that this is an option. Often provided by a Sudden Game Interface.
  • In Harry Potter And The Munchkins, Harry's Chosen One status manifests as him being the only empowered protagonist alive, meaning he has Mental Time Travel abilities. He can load anytime, anywhere, but owls are his justfied save points. He spends months and years worth of virtual time on getting certain things 'just right.'
  • In Tabula Avatar, the hero of Baldur's Gate unknowingly describes what it feels like to be loaded from a previous save.
    Sorkatani: Sometimes I dream of dying. Those dreams make no sense at the time but later I will find myself in a situation that I recognize. I make sure that I do not do what I did in the dream, and I live. It scared me at first but now those prophetic dreams are almost a comfort.
  • In Rise From Ash, Loki discovers that the timeless Void Space he fell into at the end of the first movie makes an inadvertent Save Point. This comes in handy when the universe is destroyed shortly after, and he makes use of Save Scumming as he tries to find a sequence of events to avert the apocalypse.

    Film 
  • The movie Next essentially featured a character capable of doing this in real life. Being able to see two minutes into your future has its perks...
  • It seems like Men in Black 3 has Agent J use this, but a close eye or repeated watchings will show you that the pattern changed between attempts. You have to remember, Boris got to time jump too.
  • In the film Source Code, the protagonist lives the last 8 minutes in the life of a schoolteacher who is doomed to die in an explosion on a commuter train. However, when he dies, he gets restarted at the start of those 8 minutes. So, basically, his mission is to savescum to find out who blew up the train.
  • The Time Machine (2002) uses this as a focal point of the plot. The Protagonist invents a time machine specifically to try to prevent a past tragedy. We see him failing to prevent that event every time he travels back in time. It is implied he has tried many more times than the audience has seen.
  • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, this is essentially how the X-Men in the Bad Future stay ahead of the Sentinels for so long; every time they are about to be wiped out, Kitty sends one of them (usually Bishop) a few days into the past to alert them and avoid the situation that led to them being trapped in the first place.
  • The primary premise of Edge of Tomorrow. William Cage hijacks the Mimic's ability to start a day over, which means every time he dies he ends up at the beginning of the loop. With a little prompting from another character who went through the same thing, he uses this ability to gain months or years worth of combat experience in seemingly no time at all. At the end of the film, Cage hijacks the aliens a second time by killing the Omega Mimic, which results in all the aliens dying before the human counter attack even happens.
  • The short film One-Minute Time Machine is all about a guy repeatedly skipping back in time to have another try at chatting up a girl.
  • Groundhog Day is based on this premise - the protagonist can do whatever he likes, because everything is back to normal each morning in his endlessly-repeating February 2nd.

    Literature 
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager Novel The Escape, Torres, Kim, and Neelix are searching a seemingly deserted planet when they accidentally activate a Time Travel device, violating the laws of the aliens who inhabit the various timelines on the planet. All attempts to escape by the trio are thwarted by the seemingly omniscient aliens, who are really just rewinding the timeline to before the team makes their attempts, sometimes requiring several iterations before the aliens found a favorable outcome.
  • In the Discworld book Thief of Time, Yetis have learned to do this via a limited control of time. They can and will periodically save their lives before doing a dangerous task so that if they get killed, they'll go back in time and not be such a fool next time. It's mentioned that the species has gone extinct on three separate occasions. The Old Master time monk Lu-Tze later uses this trick himself to delay the Big Bad without needing to pull a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • In You, Simon designed the WAFFLE game engine to make this impossible. The game saves automatically when you quit, and you can't load up a previous save in-game. The idea was to make player choice more meaningful, but it was a divisive feature that apparently turned off a lot of would-be consumers.
  • The light novel All You Need Is Kill (and, by extension, the film Edge of Tomorrow) play off as real-life Save Scumming in the form of a "Groundhog Day" Loop.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of Being Erica, Erica is given the power to manipulate time within a single day and uses it to repeatedly hit the reset button on events that don't go her way, including a huge fight with her boyfriend: unfortunately, the boyfriend realises what she's up to and is horrified at what he sees as a violation of his free will.
  • In Misfits, Curtis's power to rewind time is frequently used this way.
  • Played relatively straight, albeit in a quite intricate manner in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Cause and Effect", when the Enterprise and her crew are trapped in a timeloop with the ship's destruction marking the loop's "reset point". Over the course of the episode the crew become aware of their fate and develop a way in which they can send information necessary to prevent the chain of event's catastrophic outcome to their (from an outside point of view) future selves.
  • The Charmed episode "Déjà Vu All Over Again" features a "Groundhog Day" Loop. The antagonist is the only one who retains his memory, so his performance against the heroes improves each time. Eventually, Phoebe's power of premonition allows her to retain the memory of the loop, allowing them to defeat the villain for good and break the loop.
  • The Twilight Zone (2002) episode "Rewind" features a man who gains a magic device that can rewind time up to five minutes. He uses it to make it big at the casino by correcting his mistakes when he plays poker. Unfortunately, he gets greedy and doesn't quit while he is ahead. The casino figures out what is going on (as the owner has a device as well) and confiscates his device, causing him to lose everything.
  • The plot of Kamen Rider Ryuki effectively centers on this. The Big Bad Shiro Kanzaki instigated the Rider Wars as part of a plan to prevent his Ill Girl sister Yui's death; every time he failed to do so, he would use his Dragon Kamen Rider Odin's TimeVent powers to reset back to an earlier point in time and try again. Eventually, Yui is able to convince her brother that she wouldn't want to live if it meant sacrificing other peoples' lives, and he makes peace with her passing, RetConning the events of the series out of existence.

    Non-Gaming Software 
  • Anyone used to working on memory-heavy programs, such as the Adobe Creative Suite, will soon develop the nervous tic of using the 'save' keyboard shortcut every couple of minutes, or face the possibility of losing a huge amount of work the next time Flash or Premiere crashes. And more to the point, will equally find their fingers hovering constantly over the 'undo' shortcut keys. Bonus points if this becomes so internalised you find yourself twitching to 'undo' real, non-computer errors.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Through a series of exploits, in Dungeons & Dragons's 3.5 edition, it was possible to cast a series of spells on a psicrystal which would allow you to use it as a "save crystal" of sorts; you would cast a spell that would let you roll back to the start of the round, then a second spell that suspended the crystal in time for a day. If you didn't cancel the spell when it came back, it would then reset time to the start of the round prior to putting the crystal into suspension, resulting in you "reverting" to your last save state.

    Web Comics 
  • In City of Reality, a character gets a device from an enemy he was fighting that allows him to rewind time a few seconds, allowing him to take advantage of this trope. He then uses this to get the high score in a videogame...
  • In Bob and George, Mega Man X goes berserk and starts assimilating the mind of every robot in the lab. George and Bass decide the only viable option is to wipe out his memory, but this might also wipe out the memory of the others, too. When George goes back, he tells him he's now linked into the lab's computer system, and heard their conversation, then he asks George if he's willing to risk wiping out everybody's minds. George's response: "Can I save my game before I decide?"
  • Specifically noted as one of the Gamemaster's powers in Captain SNES: The Game Masta, as unlike the normal characters, he remembers stuff after a reload, rather than getting intuition and deja vu from it. Also noted as having limitations- he can only reload if he's still in the same world where he saved.
  • In Homestuck this is the function of a "Hero of Time" player, which every session has at least one of. Their job is to preserve the Alpha timeline and basically go back and reset things if something goes wrong.
  • Schlock Mercenary uses it as a metaphor for using time travel to change history.
  • In the commentary of this El Goonish Shive strip, Dan credits the ability to do this in Fallout 3 as the inspiration for Sarah's simulated time stop spell.
  • Parodied (with some bonus Nightmare Fuel) in a Persona 4 fan comic.

    Web Original 
  • http://tasvideos.org/ is the King of Save Scumming, and trying for the best everything without actually editing the ram/rom memory. While editing ram using an external editor is grounds to have a submission disqualified, simply watching the RAM is perfectly fine (and is expected in a handful of cases) and using the game itself to manipulate RAM is also fair game. Most of these cases require specific, precise input on specific, precise frames and loads and loads of trial-and-error.
  • Wyoming does something like this in Red vs. Blue by rewinding time every time he dies so he can carry out his evil scheme properly. Unfortunately for him, Tucker is aware of these resets and uses his knowledge of what will happen to defeat Wyoming.
  • Qin Xu of Last Res0rt can rewind time short distances, represented by a row of panels to the side of the comic displaying whatever he just averted.
  • Jonah Yu of Skin Horse got this power while in the headquarters of Anasigma, with a fixed savepoint that he couldn't update, the reason being rather unclear at the time, as is how long it would keep working.
  • How time works in a universe with this in play is Cracked's #17 Science Lesson As Taught by Famous Video Games.
  • Coil from Worm can do something like this. His power allows him to split his perception between alternate realities decided by a single different point that he controls before selecting the preferable one, which allows him to try out a strategy in one reality and remain safe in another. He uses this to great effect in manipulating economics and taking over the city.
  • Pat reminds you to always rotate your saves.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of The Batman, a villain with time travel superpowers defeats Batman in a fistfight by rewinding the fight every time he gets beaten, memorising Batman's attacks and adjusting his strategy each time (and trying different Bond One Liners). In the end, he triggers a massive gas leak that kills hundreds, including Batman and his own son, and the trauma makes him revert to years earlier, before he went to prison and got the power to turn time. This time, he chooses not to become a criminal, causing him to become a happy repairman with a still alive son as an apprentice.

Alternative Title(s): Save Scum

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SaveScumming