Time Keeps On Ticking

And there's one more important piece of advice for you. So listen up! Time keeps on ticking even as you are reading this message!
- Yoshis Island DS Time Trial mode message box

So, you've just beaten a Load-Bearing Boss, and are escaping from the Collapsing Lair. Or you're on a timed mission and need to beat a certain level before the timer runs out and your character inexplicably dies for no apparent reason. You keep going, and come across another character, beginning a cut scene...

Hey, why's the timer still going? Why is it still counting down even though I'm stuck listening to this loud mouth going on a long philosophical Motive Rant? Heck, did I just die in the cut scene?

As can be seen above, this is simply when the timer continues going through events that in all fairness should not be affected by it. Examples include during cut scenes and other periods where the player's control over the character is removed, to the point where they can die without any way of preventing it, or when going through the inventory or saving the game. A possible sub trope of Fake Difficulty, as this is one of those things that averts a common and rather beneficial Acceptable Break from Reality. Sometimes, it's Played for Laughs.

If it happens while you're paused, it could also be a Bladder of Steel.


  • Wario Land 1 had the timer continue during the cut scene before the final boss, and Wario Land The Shake Dimension had it continue in the rather long cut scene between the two phases of the final boss battle.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Melee have this during the pause screen in some areas, like the Target Tests. Probably justifiable in that case, as pausing the game also gives you a good look at where all the targets are.
  • Yoshi's Island DS, the Trope Namer, actually mocks the player with this in Time Trial mode, with the message boxes being replaced by taunts saying things like "Lost time!"
  • In Final Fantasy V, at one point you have to escape a castle before it explodes. Just when you think you're out, you get ambushed by a boss that insists on talking to you before attacking while the timer is still counting down. If you don't beat the boss before the timer ends, you're done for.
    • In any of the Final Fantasy games with timed missions in them, the timer keeps running while you're in the menu screen, although you can stop it by pausing in battle. In fact, the mission timer will usually cover up the total game time in the main menu, just to drive home the point that you had better use items and equip your party fast.
    • The timer can be crippling in some re-releases, partly because of extended loading times. Especially on the Playstation releases, where loading a battle can take upwards of 5-7 seconds during which the timer is still running, the previously generous timers are suddenly much more restrictive.
  • Persona 2: Innocent Sin has a bit where you have to defeat a boss, find a certain item and then escape a building before it explodes. This whole thing is on a timer which runs even while the menu's open, and you can't save during it.
  • Metroid games generally keep the timers of their (frequent) timed missions going during elevators and cut-scenes, but generally not when you pause.
  • In Animal Crossing: Wild World, when a villager gives you a package and a specific time limit for delivery, he means that amount of time. The games do run in real time, after all.
    • Another frustration in Wild World is the lack of a quick way to switch among various tools. Catching certain insects (bees and underground/rock-dwellers like the mole cricket and the pill pug) is annoying and difficult as they run away while you open the menu to grab your net. (The Nintendo GameCube game pauses bugs while some menus are open; City Folk and New Leaf let you switch tools with the Control Pad on the Wii Remote and the 3DS, respectively.)
  • In Chapter 2 of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, after Lord Crump activates the self-destruct sequence in the Great Tree, the timer keeps ticking even while you're fighting the Mooks that get in your way. Heck, it even keeps going while the Puni elder is shouting at him. Fortunately, it does pause on the menu screens.
  • Perfect Dark has a level that does the opposite - to get a cheat, you have to do it in a certain time, but there is a part where you are forced to wait for a door to unlock that takes nearly half that time. If you start the lock and then start a cutscene, the door keeps unlocking but the level timer pauses.
    • There is another unrelated, but very annoying example in the level Area 51: Infiltration. Immediately skipping the cutscene leads you to discover that the guards were walking in a real time game during the cutscene; you were just invisible. Just so happens skipping the opener right away has a guard already staring at you with a sentry gun and two more guards just slightly to your right. So, to be safe, you get to watch the minute and a half or so cutscene all the way through every time you fail!
  • Resident Evil 4, at least in the part with a timer.
    • Same for the self destruct mechanisms in previous games. Luckily, the clock didn't start until a certain point and there was usually a generous amount of time since you were already at or near the final battle.
  • Live action TV example: In Dinner: Impossible, the timer starts ticking almost as soon as the head chef meets the people for whom he's supposed to cook.
  • Before the banquet in Final Fantasy VI, you are given four minutes to talk to as many soldiers as possible. If you come across Kefka, he gets an extended conversation that uses up 20 seconds minimum. What's more, Kefka doesn't count as a soldier in the final talley - the only reason you're allowed to talk to him is as a trap to use up time.
    • Also, early in the game you have to stop Ultros from dropping a weight on Celes, which he helpfully states it will take him five minutes to finish moving. Between your party and him is a walkway infested with rats, which trigger unescapable battles when touched. Even with high enough levels (which you really don't want because of the Esper stat bonus you can't gain yet) and good equipment, you still have to figure out how to encounter as few enemies as possible to even make it to him.
  • In the first Baldur's Gate, the game would un-pause whenever you went into a character's inventory. The intent was to keep you from being able to do things like change armor during combat, but it was pretty frustrating when you forgot to, say, pre-equip a potion or arrows. This was fixed in the sequel; you were simply prohibited from changing armor during battle.
    • Fortunately, you could start it as a multiplayer game even without other players joining to keep it from doing that.
  • When stopping the train in Final Fantasy VII, the timer elapses while two NPCs have a long conversation with you. Probably done deliberately, since if you actually take the time to read all of the dialogue in that scene instead of button-mashing through it, there's no way you'll be able to stop the train before the counter reaches 0.
  • During the big cutscene before the Volgin fight in Metal Gear Solid 3, Snake has just set the building up to explode. Volgin goes on a classic Metal Gear villain Motive Rant, but The Sorrow spends much of the cutscene holding up a timer to remind you of how long you have left. If you skip the cutscene, you'll have time from then to defeat Volgin with. In harder difficulty modes, there's a danger of the bomb actually going off during the cutscene and killing you unless you skip it early on.
    • Similar happens during the end of Metal Gear Solid. Liquid sets up a bomb that goes off in three minutes, then talks about what Snake could spend that time doing, wasting thirty seconds of the time, and giving you just 2:30 to beat him. If you fail and die, then continue, or skip the cutscene, you get the full three minutes.
  • Star Wars Rogue Leader had this. Its sequel didn't.
  • Another live TV example is 24. This is quite telling when it's recut for non-American television and the commercials are missing (meaning 24 becomes about 18...)
  • In Dead Rising, you have to talk to survivors before they join your party. There are a few painfully long conversations through which you have to mash the A button while the clock ticks down on other survivors in the mall.
  • Tomb Raider Anniversary has some cutscenes that where the clock keeps ticking during Time Trials.
    • This is particularly annoying with door-unlocking cutscenes. To exit the "St. Francis Folly" and "Midas" levels, you must open multi-stage locks. Each stage of unlocking has its own cutscene that takes up time.
    • However, the clock does not keep running during interactive cutscenes, aka "action events", where the right key must be pressed at tright time during the cutscene.
  • Played painfully straight in Puzzle Quest: Galactrix. Pausing the game does not pause the timer on the Leapgate-hacking game.
    • Also the original Puzzle Quest, which only really matters when your turn is on a timer (i.e. training mounts).
  • Game Show example: The final round of Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego involved competitors trying to get through a maze of gates. In order to open a gate, a question had to be answered correctly, the questions were not all the same length, and the voice asking them spoke rather slowly. Oh, and there was a strict time limit, which didn't stop while the question was being asked.
    • Family Feud also has this, but the timer is not nearly as strict. (The timer doesn't start until the host finishes asking the first question, and the timer is generally paused if the host is unable to get the next question out—generally, when a contestant gives a ridiculous answer that causes the host to corpse).
  • During timed comet challenges in Super Mario Galaxy, the timer doesn't stop until you touch the star at the end of the level (not, say, when you've collected the 100th purple coin), which leads to many a Kaizo Trap for those who aren't paying attention. Thankfully this was removed in Super Mario Galaxy 2... with the timer now stricter than ever.
  • Probably unintentional in World of Goo where you have to watch an intro screen showing the name of each level, which cuts into the level play time; although this can be avoided by simply pressing retry immediately after starting which doesn't show the intro screen. (especially useful when you are on a level that needs to be done within a certain time limit to get full completion)
  • Time Crisis 1 has this. Plus instant Game Over upon time-out, and time extensions dependent on skill. Successive games reset the timer and keep it locked until the "ACTION" prompt shows up.
  • Ditto for the Silent Scope series.
  • Generally the case for speed runs for games which have no "total play time" display and thus must be timed externally (or for games whose "total play time" display includes pausing, menus, and the like).
    • Up to Eleven in Tool-Assisted Speedruns, which almost always prioritize external time and aim to avoid wasted frames caused by lag or arbitrary mechanisms. For example, Bowser's fall at the end of Super Mario Bros 3 varies wildly (by TAS standards) in how long it takes, based on exactly how, when, and where he falls. If a published run looks like it's wasting time, what it's really doing is avoiding this trope.
  • In Half-Minute Hero, Normal difficulty stops the clock inside towns, but if you try to turn back time without having the money to pay for it (the cost of which increases every time you use it), the Time Goddess, in addition to taking all of your equipment, stops messing with time to help you - no more rewinds, the clock runs normally in towns - making this a Desperation Move. On Hard, time never stops.
  • An unusual form appeared in Twisted Metal 2. Pausing the game did not suspend projectiles in the air (notable exception: rolling ricochet bombs), so you could get hit by a missile and die on the pause screen! This worked both ways: if an enemy was about to dodge your shot, press pause and it freezes your target so you get an easy hit.
  • Ōkami's timed missions allow you to pause the game with no benefit, but using the Celestial Brush (which freezes everything on screen) doesn't stop the clock. This is justified, though, since you are actually doing things with that time.
  • In Donkey Kong 64, the final stage, Hideout Helm, has you racing against the clock to shut down K. Rool's Blast-O-Matic before it fires and vaporizes DK Island. The timer (and music) doesn't stop even when you're using a Tag Barrel to switch characters, or when you play a minigame (complete with introduction and explanation) to damage part of the Blast-O-Matic, or even during unskippable animations and scene transitions. The only thing that stops time is pausing the game outright.
  • The whole of the Wheres Waldo NES game is a Timed Mission, with the timer going down even during the level transitions. (Which are unskippable, in case you're wondering.)
  • Mass Effect 3 has a mission in a spaceship hangar where the enemy tries to gas you out. To stop it, you have to get to a control panel on the floor above. However, you will die if you take too long, and the actual use of the control panel takes place in a cutscene. But the timer doesn't stop. You can actually get a Critical Mission Failure right in the middle of the cutscene.
  • In Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Alucard's initial stats depend on, among other things, how fast you beat the opening battle with Richter. However, the timer keeps going while Richter and Dracula are talking, and you cannot skip this conversation unless you have already beaten the game once. Hence, it is impossible to get the best initial stats unless you are doing a replay.
  • In Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, once you begin a level and that 30-minute timer starts, there is absolutely no way to stop it. Whether it's pausing, fiddling with your inventory at the Grimoire, everything keeps going in real time. Yes, that means the gameplay keeps going, so if you're pausing, you'd best make sure no enemies are nearby.
  • "Caravan" modes in Star Soldier games keep the timer going even if the game is paused. This serves two purposes: First, Hudson ran a series of score attack events and keeping the timer running even during pause prevented one single player from hoarding the game. Second, this prevents Pause Scumming, punishing players who try to pause the game to take their time.
  • Summer Carnival '92 Recca does the same as the "Caravan" example above, but in all of its modes, as the game was originally developed for an event.