Best games with in-game calendars

Time is… quite important. Everything takes time, from creating games to playing games. A workday can feel a whole lot longer when you’re waiting to get home to play your favorite game. But time can also confine you. Some things have to be done within a certain time frame, and sometimes that just isn’t possible.

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But games, they love to play with that. Not just time itself, but the act of planning around it. Do it that day, maximize your wins and minimize losses. Or sometimes it’s just an incentive for you to celebrate certain days a little differently than normal. Sometimes these calendars might just be what actually exists, or maybe it’s something entirely unique to this world.

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8 Civilization 6

The Civilization series is older, one of the most beloved 4X games. Assuming the role of a world leader, you seek victory in many ways, be it a race to the stars or a march to death. But just as important as your victory is how the world grows around you.

In Civ 6, as in any Civ game, eras and centuries pass with each round. But the Rise and Fall expansion introduced timelines – little ways to record your civilizations’ achievements across the millennia, from humble beginnings to sprawling metropolis. Seeing the years go by like this feels like there’s a real story at play, that time has witnessed all of your growth.

7 Return of Lightning: Final Fantasy XIII

If there’s one thing Final Fantasy can be praised for, it would be its constant drive to change. No entry is quite alike, even though they borrow many aspects from previous entries. Lightning Returns is one of the greatest examples of the show’s flexibility. Not only is it different from previous Final Fantasy games, it doesn’t even look like its two direct predecessors. Time is a major factor here.

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Lightning is the Savior, saving every soul one at a time in a world that is rapidly coming to an end. It’s a daunting task, and many quests take place over several days or at different times, so you can’t blitz everything either, and traveling from place to place takes precious moments. It takes careful planning, and you probably won’t save everyone.

When it comes to high fantasy in gaming, The Elder Scrolls is pretty unmatched. There are many amazing fantasy games, new and old, but there is nothing like the lived-in Elder Scrolls lore. It has a unique calendar system, with unique months and days of the week.

The Elder Scrolls has always had these events, and many lore items in the world will tell you about them and their exact dates, though the games themselves rarely celebrate the events. That said, it’s wonderful to feel your time in the world scrolling in real time, current era year and all.

5 animal crossing

Animal Crossing is your home away from home. You’re the new resident of the town (or island) and it’s up to you to fit in, or even become mayor and help build the town. But after that, it’s really just you living another life. But a big part of that is the fact that in Animal Crossing, time moves forward in real time.

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So Animal Crossing uses the same calendar as our world. When you celebrate your birthday in reality, the residents will also be there to throw you a party. And when it’s too late, the stores will close and people will go home for the day. Its calendar is as important as a real one, maybe more if you really love your residents.

4 Fire Emblem: Three Houses

All fans of turn-based strategy games will know Fire Emblem. Its history in the West is relatively brief, but in Japan it lasted much longer. But Three Houses represented the series’ return to home consoles and brought many changes, a big part of which being time management.

Three Houses has its own schedule. As Byleth, you get a week of teaching and a free day to do whatever you want, but with limited time. Historical events and anniversaries are also celebrated, which makes each month feel like it has a presence in world history, but actual calendars allow you to plan your whole month in advance, rather than week to week.

3 Stardew Valley

There are so many amazing indie games that are breaking new ground in the industry in amazing ways, but Stardew Valley has carved out its own little niche. Rather than drastically changing the farming sims, it just went one step further, giving you a town of people to care about and a farm to maintain.

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Every month of the year hosts town events and birthdays. But the game doesn’t go out of its way to remind you of that, either. You can celebrate or ignore whatever you want, and there’s no real pressure either. Just make sure your crops are ready before winter.

2 The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

The Legend of Zelda is a renowned series that almost everyone has heard of, and Majora’s Mask is indeed a beloved entry in the series despite its thematic and gameplay departures from Ocarina of Time. But when it comes to time-wasting games, Majora’s Mask is a must-have entry.

You have three days. It’s so simple. If you don’t do everything, the world dies and you go back to the first stage or rewind yourself. But it’s almost like a puzzle. Some events will only occur on certain days, but you may need something from day three to activate something on day one. It takes careful time management to solve everything, all running in real time, but it’s a wonderful and tense experience.

1 personas 5

Persona as a series has gone through many changes, primarily starting with Persona 3, but the fifth entry is by far the most famous. P3 has made time a major factor, taking place throughout the actual school year with your free time structured around it. School holidays give you more free time, but exam days take longer.

It’s fun to see a real-life calendar incorporated in this way, but it forces you to think in as methodical a way as the average teenager probably wouldn’t. Are you really turning down a day with your friends to cook curry and do laundry? But the main loop of how it all connects is great, especially since you have to take it all in one day at a time.

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