When trying to do anything, free mobility is a big help, but not something people often think about. Most of the time, we can physically get from point A to point B, even if the route is difficult or unusual, and it's said that this journey is better than the destination itself. We take it so for-granted that we can just walk down our hallway and end up where we need to go, that when this expectation is subverted, it can be quite the confusing or even disturbing event.
Enter this place; a location that constantly loops. Going up stairs will just send you back to the bottom step. Opening a door in one room will just lead you back to that same room. Following a single-path hallway will lead you back to the beginning of that hallway. Played right, and this single place can lead to a Mind Screw just by refusing to have a proper destination.
When there's an explanation, it's almost always supernatural in origin, and may even exist just to make the character experiencing it suffer. Like a Time Loop Trap, the person stuck will go insane, but rather than have the loop apply to their life, it applies to the very place they're in, with seemingly no way out unless the forces at work decide to give them one. It may also be an intentional trap set up by someone with Reality Warper abilities. At the same time, it may be a literally repeating set of scenery, or be caused by teleportation shenanigans.
In video games, this can manifest as a puzzle — the player will be stuck in a loop until they figure out how to escape it. In fact, a common setting in video games with fixed top-down views is to have a room with four entryways, where taking the south exit always leads back to the exit, and going through the north, east and western doors in the correct sequence is the key to going through the maze.
Compare with the more mundane Going in Circles. Related to, and often overlaps with, Bizarrchitecture, Alien Geometries and Mobile Maze, but doesn't always; this can also be a small-scale Eldritch Location. May take the form of an Endless Corridor or Absurdly Long Stairway. When done in a visual medium, Seamless Scenery is often used to pull off the effect. See also Wrap Around, for when the very edges of a screen are connected, and the Wraparound Background, for when animated backgrounds are repeated for the sake of a budget.
- One chapter of Flying Witch has a shopping street being replicated endlessly. Turns out it's caused by a magical creature and Makoto's job is to capture it.
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Steel Ball Run, Gyro, Johnny, and Hot Pants repeatedly ride through parts of the same forest. Ringo Roadagain, a Death Seeker, refuses to let them escape unless one of them fights and kills him. Subverted in that the forest itself is not actually looping. Ringo can rewind time with his Stand and he's using his power to disorient them.
- Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai: The fight between Palkia and Dialga results in Alamos Town becoming inescapable; the bridge to escape only leads back to the beginning of that bridge, no matter which way it's crossed.
- One of M. C. Escher's most famous pieces is titled "Another World", consisting of a room where the walls, room and ceiling all appear to show the same scene (a window opening on a lunar landscape, with a horn or a bird with a human head) from different angles simultaneously. And then someone made a looping version.
- In Chapter 54 of The Great Alicorn Hunt, Pinkie Pie is furious at soon-to-be ex-Mayor Fussbudget for giving Mach One a papier-mache cake instead of a real birthday cake. So she decides to recreate the papier-mache birthday cake and force-feed it to Fussbudget. When he tries to escape, Pinkie Pie invokes this trope by warping his escape routes to bring him right back where he started so that he can't escape his punishment.
- In The Matrix Revolutions, Neo finds himself in a subway station. He runs down the tunnel, only to find himself approaching the station from the other way, too soon for the tunnel to be a closed loop.
- Cube 2: Hypercube: Jerry mentions that after waking up, he started exploring the interconnected cubical rooms of the hypercube and marking them, but no matter what direction he took, for several hours he always ended up in the same three rooms.
- Animorphs: In #13, Tobias and Rachel are flying over the forest when they realize they keep flying over the same patch of forest. Eventually they spot what they're supposed to spot (two Hork-Bajir escaping the Yeerks) and help them. It turns out to be the Ellimist's doing, who later gives Tobias his morphing ability back... but his base form is now a red-tailed hawk. He does let Tobias acquire his old human self though.
- The Seventh Tower: One wooden building in Aenir prevents anyone from leaving once they've set foot inside by warping them back. Stepping out through the doorway makes you step into the building. Trying to fly away warps you back to the roof once you land. The only way to get out is by holding onto something that extends in from the outside, such as a rope, and following it out.
- The Good Place: While being tested by Judge Hydrogen, Eleanor keeps walking through a door in one wall only to stride into the same room she started in.
- The Avengers (1960s): In season 4 episode 23, "The House That Jack Built", a slowly rotating, long hallway is used to simulate this effect. It's part of several ploys designed to drive Emma Peel insane.
- The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Where Silence Has Lease" features an alien simulacrum of USS Yamato (sister ship of the Enterprise where opening a door on The Bridge leads to... the bridge.
- Eureka: As punishment for murdering Holly, Beverly locks Senator Wen in a virtual version of the Sheriff's office, bringing her back in to the one-room building every time she tries to leave.
- In Wayward Pines, taking the main road out of the town will eventually bring you back to it. This is a mundane example as the road really is an endless loop that curves repeatedly to confuse peoples' sense of direction.
- In Planescape, this is described as one of the ways that the Lady of Pain's Mazes work. A portion of the city of Sigil loops back on itself and traps the target of the Lady's ire inside. There's always a way out of every Maze, but mortals generally go insane and die before they find it. Immortals generally just go insane.
- Anti Chamber has some rather weird locations. Some examples of loops include a pair of stairways that both lead back to the same room and a series of T shaped rooms where many of the ends lead back to the start.
- This is a fairly common "trick" in The Bard's Tale Trilogy and similar Dungeon Crawling games, used to mess with the player's map-making.
- In The Dreamhold, a spell has been placed on one hallway to go on forever unless the right dispell is known. The stairs in the dim shed are a different example, as there are far more stairs when going up when going down, but they do eventually end.
- The Endless Stairway in Enchanter, which you can climb/descend forever without getting anywhere as the whole thing is a magical illusion.
- Epic Battle Fantasy: EBF 4 has a maze where you need to go through the rooms in the correct sequence to find the exit (and requires you to find the item showing the way even on a New Game+).
- Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon features an endless corridor in an already frustrating level, thanks to one of the "sneaky teleporters" of the game, who sends the party back a few squares with no visual clue. Leaving an item on the floor allow one to realize what's going on. There's no way to ever reach the other end of the corridor.
- Golden Sun:
- Golden Sun has Mogall Forest, a dungeon where one screen keeps looping unless you take the right corridor.
- In Golden Sun: The Lost Age, the interior of Gaia Rock consists of a room with four entryways and a single plant growing in the middle. Walking into the doors at random will lead you back to the same room (except the bottom one which leads back to the exit no matter how many rooms you'd crossed), but using Growth on the plant will cause its leaves to grow into an arrow pointing the right way.
- Subverted in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, where one maze looks like this trope, but is actually using Cut-and-Paste Environments.
- One room in the green cavern of The Goonies 2 just loops back on itself continuously. The way you're supposed to go is through a secret door in the back wall.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- Many games, starting with the first, have an area (usually called The Lost Woods), where Link will return to his starting location if he doesn't take the exact right path. The games vary on whether this is an actual spatial warp, or a representation of getting lost.
- At the end of a linked game of The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games, the way to the final boss is through a corridor of one-eyed statues that stare in every direction except the one where you need to go (the directions are random, but sometimes it's possible for the sequence to just be up all the way).
- The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks: Disorientation Station consists of several looping identical rooms that are randomly distributed.
- The "Endless Staircase" area in Neopets: The Darkest Faerie serves as a puzzles for players. The only way to escape from the loop is to run up or down the stairs in the direction indicated by the pointing Quiggle statues which appear on the staircase landings. If players don't follow those directions, they'll be stuck on a looping spiral staircase inside a swirling starry void, battling low-level Evil Harris monsters that the loop generates every minute or so.
- An in-universe mechanic in the Submachine series, started with the third game, "The Loop", consisting of an infinite number of identical rooms which can only be navigated using a device that shows XY coordinates. Later games use loops in the form of varying screens that repeat until the player finds the one way back.
- This is popular in fan made test chambers for Portal 2. This is because the game world is connected together by "world portals" adapted from the games signature mechanic to speed up development. It's easy to take two of these and loop them together to create the illusion of infinity repeating scenery as well as a lot of other bizarre non Euclidean locations.
- P.T.: Besides a few disturbing rooms, the bulk of the game takes place in a building that constantly loops as the player goes through a hallway and eventually comes back to the beginning.
- Sonic the Hedgehog: This is a staple of the franchise's 2D platformer games. It usually manifests as a series of ramps that the player slides down, where the end of the last ramp connects to the first one. Only by jumping off a particular ramp in a particular spot can the player actually continue with the level. Each game adds its own oddities to the formula.
- Sonic the Hedgehog is the initial example of this trope in the series. Its example complicates things beyond the usual level of complexity by making the platform that must be jumped on to escape the loop blocked by a door that only opens if the player jumps off the loop and presses a button to open it on a second platform.
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2 uses this, but with vertical corridors that the player falls through and must jump out of at the right time instead of the usual diagonal ramps.
- Sonic & Knuckles uses this multiple times in quick succession in the same level, all while forcing the player to keep sustaining the loop by jumping back onto it to avoid ghosts killing the player. Jumping off at the right point here can be quite difficult and deadly in this.
- Sonic Mania has one level that does this, where falling out the bottom of the level teleports the player back in the top. Unusually for the franchise, this is justified in-universe by a magical mist teleporting the player around, with this mist being created by the Phantom Ruby, the game's primary MacGuffin.
- The Stanley Parable: In the "Insanity/Mariella Ending", Stanley ends up in a series of rooms that continuously repeat as he walks through them, and where he spends the rest of the ending. Catching onto the impossible nature of everything that's happening, he becomes convinced that he's just dreaming, and tries to wake himself up... only for him to discover that this is Not A Dream, and that he's really, truly, stuck in an endlessly looping hallway... and then he starts screaming for help.
- Super Mario Bros.:
- Super Mario Bros.: In some levels, the level keeps looping unless you take the correct corridor out of multiple choices. In some versions, a chime plays when you pick the right one; in others, it's just a guess.
- Super Mario 64: If Mario has less than 70 Power Stars, the staircase leading up to the final Bowser battle will endlessly loop (and also plays a strange melody that seems to endlessly increase in pitch). It is possible to exploit a glitch to get Mario to move so quickly that he bypasses the loop altogether.
- The final level in New Super Mario Bros. has this as one of its two gimmicks (the other being gravity direction change). Mario or Luigi has to go through specific segments of the final route to avoid looping around them. A chime is used to indicate that you're going through the right parts.
- The World 2's Castle in New Super Mario Bros. Wii is an auto-scrolling version of this. Mario and his friends have to pick the correct route quickly, because the level won't tell whether the choice was correct or not until the scroll has advanced far enough to prevent players from changing minds.
- In Touhou, this is one effect of the Great Hakurei Barrier that separates Gensokyo from the outside world. According to Marisa in Touhou Ibarakasen ~ Wild and Horned Hermit, she once tried flying as far as possible, but the same scenery kept repeating over and over no matter how far she went. When she looked back, she found herself in the same spot she started.
- Maze levels in Transformers: Convoy no Nazo loop unless you take the correct route, with no indication of which that is.
- Late in Antonio's fifth season of Havenfall Is for Lovers, Antonio takes the heroine to the abandoned amusement park. There, the Cult of Blood magically entraps them, so that trying to leave the park will eventually take them right back to it.
- Everyman Hybrid: HABIT refers to Dr. Corenthal's house as being "in flux", as a place constantly shifting in impossible ways that even makes an immortal entity nervous. One of the results of this is that the house can loop, such as Vinnie and HABIT going to try and find HABIT's gun, only to wind up back where they had started.
- Tribe Twelve uses this a lot:
- In "Halloween Hotel", The Observer pranks Noah by constantly warping him around as he tries to pursue his stalker through the titular hotel. This includes leaving his hotel room, only to be transported back to that hotel room, and running down a hallway that only brings him back to the start of the hallway. This only ends when The Observer decides to stop trolling him.
- In "Bridge To Nowhere", Noah was mysteriously transported to a place called the "Candelverse", where a dead character from the same-universe series Everyman Hybrid is alive, the evil spirits and monsters have immense power, and the geography is utterly incomprehensible. He tries to get into an apartment complex, only for the stairs to loop him back to the beginning every time, which happens until he gives up.
- "Pitfall" takes place at the Boardwalk, the location where The Collective's world means the human world, and Noah is told to go up the observation tower. In trying to do so, he gets stuck in an endless loop, where no matter what he tries to do, he can no longer do anything but continuously climb the steps. The only way out of it is to jump from the tower... which does free him from the loop, but also gets him badly injured in the process. As a small nod to what's happening, the chime from Super Mario 64's endless staircase plays in the background.
- Still stuck at the Boardwalk, Noah's next task is to figure out how to escape, since taking the usual route home only leads to the beginning of the Boardwalk. It takes advice from his future self before he can come up with a way to get out; this, in fact, was the very reason Noah was taken there in the first place, as it was a test to force him to learn what the Collective refer to as "Severance".
- Steven Universe: In "Serious Steven", the chamber above the entrance of the Pyramid Temple contains a multitude of hallways, each leading to three boobytrapped rooms, which simply loop back around to the main chamber. Underneath the floor there's another room with loads of little spinning pyramids that make the hallways rotate, powered by a Corrupted Gem stuck inside the obelisk in the center.
- The Simpsons: Played for laughs in "Grift of the Magi", where Mr. Burns opens a Trap Door in his office, and the children that fell down it immediately come out of the ceiling of the same room.
Mr. Burns: Oh, it's doing that thing again!