Back in the day, it wasn’t common for video games to have a save feature. Instead, players would often leave their console on until they were able to finish the game they were playing. If your system was turned off for any reason, your game data would be lost. Luckily, most video games that came out around that time were pretty short or utilized passwords so it wasn’t that big of an issue. But as technology improved and games grew in size, saving your progress became essential.
Save points in video games
While most games have a simple auto-save system that requires no input from the player at all, there are games that will take you back to a time where video games contained save points. Save points are usually a special place or item that a player can interact with to save their progress. They can usually be found sprinkled in safe areas of a game, and are usually placed right before a major event like a boss battle.
From Resident Evil’s infamous typewriter to Final Fantasy’s luminescent crystal, we’ve compiled some of the most memorable video game save points of all time.
Bonfires — Dark Souls
Perhaps the most iconic save point in video games released in the last decade, Dark Souls’ bonfires are so instrumental to its core design that they’ve become the signature of the series. As you progress past dangerous enemies and nearly impossible bosses, you gradually find new locations to kindle, giving you access to a respawn location in the very likely even that you die again. “Resting” at a bonfire comes with its own caveats, as nearly every enemy you’ve killed will come back to life, and balancing the risk and reward of doing so is a constant battle. Developer FromSoftware later used the bonfire system in Bloodborne with lamps and in Sekiro with “Sculptor’s Idols,” but the basic premise remained the same.
Medical Bays — The Surge
Deck13 is open about the influence of the Dark Souls series and Bloodborne on its science-fiction action game The Surge, but the studio wasn’t content to just copy the bonfire system and call it a day. Instead, the extremely underrated game’s medical bays function as your save points, safe rooms, and shops at the same time. In addition to becoming your new respawn point, your local Medical Bay allows you to “bank” any scrap you’ve found in the world, so that you won’t lose it all if you happen to die later. It’s also where you can upgrade your weapons and exo-suit, cutting out the time spend traveling in similar games. When you hear a somber folk song, you know a medical bay is close.
Typewriters — Resident Evil
Technology has advanced to the point of making typewriters completely obsolete, but that hasn’t stopped Capcom from including them in Resident Evil games. When you see the chunky devices sitting on a table or desk, you breathe a sigh of relief and realize you won’t have to repeat any of the difficult zombie-dodging feats you just completed. Oftentimes, the typewriter will be located in a safe room that enemies can’t even enter, though you must be vigilant as you open the door. In the earliest Resident Evil games – and on higher difficulty settings in recent games – your typewriter uses are tied to ink ribbons. The act of saving becomes a decision in itself, and can have repercussions for the rest of your playthrough.
Checkpoint Flags — Mario
While the early stages in Super Mario Bros. games tend to be fairly short, Nintendo quickly raises the challenge and requires you to perfectly jump and avoid all of the obstacles in Mario’s way. You often don’t have to do the course in one shot, however, as special checkpoint flags are placed after the most difficult challenges for when you inevitably mess up. Turning one of the flags from Bowser’s face to the Mario logo is always a great feeling, even if you know you’re about to lose in spectacular fashion. The checkpoint flag is so important that it was added as a building item to Super Mario Maker after launch, but the most sadistic designers have avoided actually using it on their courses.
Access Points — Nier: Automata
When you begin Nier: Automata, the game confidently tells you that it won’t feature any auto-saving, and that you’ll simply have to learn how to save your game by playing it. As it turns out, special android terminals or Access Points allow you to save your progress while exploring the open world, and the terminals also feature messages delivered by your commanders in outer space. What’s more interesting than the practical function, however, is its narrative conceit. Every time you bite the dust in Nier: Automata, a new and identical android model is transported to one of these save stations, implanted with the previous version’s memories. It only adds another layer to the game’s existential questions on the nature of the “self.”
Gem Checkpoints — Shovel Knight
Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight reveres classic action-platforming games like Mega Man 2 and DuckTales, but it doesn’t get by on mere imitation. One of the game’s most ingenious feature is a disposal checkpoint system that can offer rewards for those who love danger. As you make your way along a course, you’ll run into giant glass orbs filled with gems. These offer exorbitant wealth, but the orb itself functions as a checkpoint. If you break it to receive the gems, you’ll also remove that checkpoint, making the game more difficult.
Manual Checkpoints — Ori and the Blind Forest
Ori and the Blind Forest is an extremely difficult platformer in the same basic template of Super Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but its checkpoint system makes it unique. Rather than place checkpoints throughout the map, the game instead gives you the ability to create your own using your limited resources. If there’s a jump or enemy that you happen to find difficult, you can set up the save point and revive over and over again without losing a mountain of progress. It helps to keep the game from being punishing, while also giving more dedicated players the option to skip checkpoints completely.
Save Crystal — Final Fantasy VII
Early Square role-playing games were notoriously stingy with save opportunities – more on that below – which made the game’s Save Crystal item such a valuable resource. Allowing players to save anywhere in the Northern Crater location, the game essentially forced you to decide where the best place to save would be. This meant you could no longer blame your problems on anyone but yourself, though that probably didn’t stop a lot of people from doing so anyway.
Fake Save Point — Chrono Trigger
When you can’t even trust a game’s sprites anymore, you know you’re in for a very hard time. Chrono Trigger is quite possibly the best Japanese role-playing game of all time, but it wasn’t above outright trickery. One section of the game appears to contain save points on the ground, but if you approach them, you find out they’re actually a series of monsters waiting to attack you. They aren’t particularly tough, but this betrayal of trust has the ability to keep you on edge for the rest of your time with the game.
Anywhere You Remember to Save — Hitman
You can save at almost any point in the Hitman games. That doesn’t mean you do. The latest games Hitman and Hitman 2 occasionally provide automatic checkpoints, but most of the responsibility falls on you to just remember to open the menu and hit the “save” button. If you’re about to try a tricky assassination strategy, you’re free to save, and you can load previous save files if you find yourself in trouble. The Hitman series’ iconic save points just happen to be wherever you’re standing when you actually remember to save the game.
Inns — Mana
If you have a lot on your mind and fall asleep, you might not remember it when the morning rolls around. That’s not the case in the Mana series, where inns act as your primary save point. After locating an inn in a town and talking to the innkeeper, you’ll be given the option to save your progress. Just rest your head and prepare for the trials and tribulations that lie ahead. If it were that easy in real life, we’d just take a nap before doing anything remotely dangerous.
Fountain — Prince of Persia
The best save points also top your character off with health to prepare them for the battles that lie ahead, and that’s exactly what the save fountains do in the later Prince of Persia series. Alongside being able to save your game, the fountains will refill your health bar, and in some instances will also allow you to extend your health permanently. It’s a reward for your persistence, and it gives you a chance to breathe before facing off against enemies or performing acrobatic feats. Now, what will happen if we flick a penny or two in there, as well?
Notebook — Silent Hill
Some save points seem to take the form of arbitrary objects, but the notebooks you’ll discover in the original Silent Hill actually make sense. What would you want to do to let others know about your accomplishments? Write it down in a book, of course! The notebook doesn’t account for the fact that you can die a grisly death and then come back as if nothing had happened moments later, but perhaps that is just a twisted part of the series canon that we have been conveniently avoiding.
Save Room — Castlevania
The Castlevania series originally began with linear action games, and if you died, you went back to a set checkpoint or the very beginning of a level. With Symphony of the Night, however, the series adopted an open-ended design, and the Save Room became a necessity. While exploring the castle and leveling up your character, you will occasionally come across special rooms that allow you to save your progress for good. Given the maze-like areas you explore, not including these would have meant a mountain of frustration for everyone playing. Its spiritual successor Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night retained the system.
Save Stations — Metroid
Speaking of Castlevania, the series didn’t create its Save Room system out of thin air. Symphony of the Night has been called a “Metroidvania” and that is because its structure is so similar to Nintendo’s Metroid series. Debuting early in its history, the Save Stations in Metroid function similarly to the Save Room in Castlevania, but are smaller and more fitting with the science-fiction style of the series. Given the difficulty in some of the Metroid games, you will be returning to the Save Stations a lot.
Codec — Metal Gear Solid
Hideo Kojima rarely makes things simple in his Metal Gear series, and that included just saving your game in the first Metal Gear Solid. Rather than just select an option from a menu like most games would do, saving was hidden in the Codec communication tool. Was saving an option in the Codec? Of course not. Instead, you had to select the “Mei Ling” option and talk to the character until she asked if you wanted to save your progress. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
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