Point of no return (video games)

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The point of no return is a concept in computer games.

In computer games, there are two main forms of scripting events that move the plot forward. In linear games, the player must perform one specific task after another, such as jumping a series of barrels floating in a pool, defeating an intermediate villain before the head villain, or opening a series of stairway doors, floor after floor, that have puzzle locks. Nonlinear games permit the player to wander around an area, finding another passage that doesn't involve jumping, defeating the boss one already has the weapons and spells for first, or solving each puzzle as it comes to mind.

More complicated games have some periods of linear play and some of nonlinear play. In these, one has a nonlinear playing field to wander around, but the game will eventually have to revert to a linear script to enable the player to execute a series of ever harder movements, ever powerful bosses, or ever difficult puzzles after another, so as to get a feeling of mounting accomplishment. So at some point in the game design script, the player cannot go back to the period of nonlinear play.

This is the point of no return for computer games. Its importance lies in the possibility that the player might reach it without fully exploring the nonlinear playing field to get items which would be necessary to completing the game, which would result in an unwinnable game state.

The point of no return can apply to both the final moments of a game, i.e. just before the last section of gameplay; or to moments which alter the game’s area, causing areas which could previously be accessed to become unavailable. In other words, it can apply both to the game as a whole, and to aspects within it.

Some games allow the player to continue after completion of the main quest. In this situation, the point of no return refers to the point after which the game does not allow the player to explore the rest of the game world before completion of the main story objective.

Notable Examples[edit]

There are many examples of this gameplay device being utilized within video games. Below are some examples of some noteworthy games which feature the point of no return.

  • Pokémon - The aim of most Pokémon games is to defeat the Elite Four, a group of powerful bosses. When you enter the room of the first of these opponents, you will still be able to save, but you cannot leave until either you have won, or you have been defeated.[1] Technically by losing you will be placed before the point of no return, and you can keep experience gained from after that point, but due to the fact that the player can no longer explore without losing their progress with their Elite Four challenge, it can still be considered to be a point of no return. In addition to this, after completing this, the player is then able to explore the game world again.[2]
  • Earthbound - At the end of the game, Dr. Andonuts gives the player the option as to whether they continue into the final area, or whether to take more time to prepare. The player can then save immediately afterwards, and following this they cannot turn back until the final boss is defeated.[3]
  • Kingdom Hearts - In both Kingdom Hearts [4] and Kingdom Hearts II,[5] the player is given the choice as to whether or not to continue beyond the final save point, as they are unable to return to the previous areas if they choose to progress further. In the first game, the name of the area this occurs in is known as Final Rest, which further emphasises the point that there is no opportunity to turn back later in the game.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles - At the end of the game, at the top of Prison Island, one of the party members, Dunban, gives a warning that you cannot return to the rest of the world if you proceed further.[6] After this, you are given the option as to whether or not you proceed. There are also other points during the game at which certain areas become inaccessible, such as Sword Valley and Galahad Fortress.
  • Ōkami - The point of no return is just before boarding the Ark of Yamato. Issun warns you about this, using the phrase "point of no return" specifically, ensuring the player knows that there is no turning back.[7]
  • The World Ends with You - There is a room called Rubicon, which serves as the point of no return in this game, after which you are not able to turn back and explore the world.[8] The name Rubicon refers to the Rubicon river, about which the idiom for the point of no return, "crossing the Rubicon", is based on.


  1. ^ IGN Staff. http://uk.ign.com/wikis/pokemon-black-white-version-2/Pokemon_League. IGN. Retrieved 2014-11-19
  2. ^ IGN Staff. http://uk.ign.com/wikis/pokemon-black-white-version-2/Champion_Quests. IGN. Retrieved 2014-11-25
  3. ^ Ape, HAL Laboratories (August 27, 1994) “EarthBound”. SNES. Nintendo. Level/area: Saturn Valley. “…There is just one thing though… You might not be able to return.”
  4. ^ Square (March 28, 2002). "Kingdom Hearts". PlayStation 2. Square. Level/area: Final Rest, End of the World, “Careful. This is the last haven you’ll find here.”
  5. ^ Square Enix (2006-03-28). "Kingdom Hearts II". PlayStation 2. Square Enix, Buena Vista Games. Level/area: The World That Never Was, “Beyond this door is the beginning to the end of your journey. Are you prepared for what lies ahead?”
  6. ^ Monolith Soft (1 September 2011). "Xenoblade Chronicles". Wii. Nintendo. Level/area: Corridor of Silence, Prison Island. “Dunban: If we proceed from here, we will be unable to return. Are you ready to go on?”
  7. ^ Ōkami, Clover Studio Co., Ltd., Ready at Dawn Studios LLC, Tose Co., Ltd. (15 October 2009). "Ōkami" (in Japanese). Wii. Capcom Co., Ltd. Area/level: Ark of Yamato, "Issun: You mean you've got the resolve to pass the point of no return?"
  8. ^ Square Enix, Jupiter (2008-04-22). "The World Ends with You". Square Enix. Level/area: Rubicon. "Neku: Once we go on, I don't think we can come back."