What is Nonlinear Gameplay? [Gaming Definition, Meaning]

Gamers are very dived in what type of gameplay is the best. Some will always say simple games with solid direction are more enjoyable. Then other games will claim freedom in games using a nonlinear gameplay mechanics are the best way to go. Now, maybe you’re new to gaming and trying to find your gaming preference but have no idea what nonlinear gameplay means. Well Honey’s Anime have answered your call! Using our group of intelligent minds we have assembled together to explain what nonlinear gameplay means.

Now for us to explain the concept of nonlinear gameplay we could just drone on for pages talking about it. However, here at Honey’s Anime this isn’t our style of explanation. You’ll notice down below several games and we will be using those as our means of explaining how nonlinear gameplay works. By the end of this What is Nonlinear Gameplay article, you will be a master of yet another gaming term and then maybe you can join in on the various arguments people have on which is better. Though maybe avoid those arguments and just enjoy the games that we will mention. Now without further delay, let us explain what nonlinear gameplay means and why you should care.

Absolute Freedom

The major issue of games that are linear is they have a very specific way of guiding the player. You usually go from point A to point B and there is very rarely any wiggle room. While this is great if you’re into games that are more about story and objective, it usually means that the game will always be a straightforward experience. That’s why in nonlinear games you don’t get this simple forward progress. In titles like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition, you are completely free to do what you want and when you want to. It is truly the feeling of absolute freedom in a game. Now, let us go a little more in depth in how The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition gives you this freedom.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition

  • System/Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
  • Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
  • Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
  • Release Date: Oct 28, 2016

Unfortunately for you your life seems to be soon reaching its end. You and several others are about to be executed by the executioner’s axe for various crimes committed. Just as you’re about to meet the cold axe’s steel, a roar sounds from above and in the skies you see a giant dragon. After your escape, you are told to head to Whiterun to warn them of the facing dragon and its potential to destroy the kingdom. Though once your journey begins, truly you will learn the truth of your hidden talent, one that was seemingly lost to the world. You are a Dragonborn and your mighty voice will change the landscape of Skyrim forever.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition is actually an updated version of the original title released several years ago. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is the immense freedom you have to do what you want within The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition. If you want to roam the land and just take on random enemies or find quests, you can do that. We here at Honey’s Anime have several times in the past barely touched the main story and instead focused solely on just exploring the wide world of Skyrim. If you want a title that truly focuses on nonlinear gameplay over any others, then you need to try out The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition. Just be prepared to spend easily hundreds of hours if you’re after that 100% achievement titles.

Skyrim Special Edition- Trailer (Official Trailer)

Plan your moves!

Nonlinear gameplay doesn’t just affect exploration in games but it also effects how you can handle any given slew of situations thrown at you. It’s very rare that a lot of games give players a choice in how to handle different missions or objectives. Most first person shooters— for example—tell players to shoot the bad guys and move on to the next area to do the same thing there. However, there are first person titles that actually give the player a choice in how to handle a situation or multiple situations. Sure you can kill that baddie with a gun or knife, or maybe avoid them altogether. What if there are even more ways to defeat your foe then just using a weapon? Below are two gaming titles that gives players a means of planning out their actions and allow the nonlinear gameplay format to shine. The two games we’re about to use for our examples are Dishonored 2 and Thief 2014.

Dishonored 2

  • System/Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
  • Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
  • Developer: Arkane Studios
  • Release Date: Nov 11, 2016

Corvo fifteen years ago was forced to watch his Empress get killed by assassins while her daughter Emily was taken away. Through many trials and tribulations, Corvo was able to not only save Emily but clear his name thus saving the city of Dunwall. While Corvo and Emily’s lives should be now peaceful as the Dunwall has become a stronger and more liberated city, fate has other plans in store for these two souls. During a gathering for Emily’s late mother, an attack rips through the city and now Corvo or Emily must fight back.

In a title like Dishonored 2, players get the means of planning out attacks in very untraditional ways. Similar to the first title, Dishonored 2 gives players supernatural powers that allow a wide bevy of attacks to planned out and coordinated. Take Corvo who can summon rats to devour his enemies. If you’re trying to go for a quiet approach, using these rats will allow you to devour an enemy and leave no trace of the body. Thus if another enemy approaches they won’t be aware there was even attack. Dishonored 2 has tons of cool powers like this that really show how nonlinear gameplay can make any first person title a truly liberating experience. Though we won’t lie, it is still a bit unnerving to see hundreds of rats eating a body leaving no trace.

Dishonored 2- Official Launch Trailer (Official Trailer)


  • System/Platform: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
  • Publisher: Square Enix, Feral Interactive (OS X)
  • Developer: Eidos Montreal
  • Release Date: Feb 25, 2014

Garrett, for most of his life, has been regarded as a master thief. Using his skills, he can break into any location and or kill any target while never leaving the shadows. Garrett’s skill has become infamous and as has caused many to seek his employment. One day, Garrett is hired by Baron Northcrest to steal an important object alongside another thief named Erin. However, Garrett is actually tricked and watches as Erin dies and he succumbs to an attack himself. A year passes and Garrett wakes up from a long coma caused to his wounds and learns the outside world has changed greatly. Once more the master thief must return to the shadows he knows so well to learn what he must do next…

Thief is probably one of the best examples of a nonlinear game. Obviously as a master thief, your job is to rob from targets and kill specific people all while never being noticed. Thanks to solid gameplay from developer Eidos Montreal, players can do all of these tasks in a multitude of ways. Maybe you need to break into a house to steal a document. Well you can set up a diversion outside, let the guards go to explore the noise and then break in while no one sees you. Equally you could also kill each guard from the shadows and leave no witnesses behind. Thief is a great first person adventure title that shows you there isn’t one way to solve a problem but indeed several and all you have to do is plan your next move.

Thief-Launch Trailer (Official Trailer)

Final Thoughts

We here at Honey’s Anime love all types of games that have nonlinear gameplay really hold a special place in our hearts. Freedom in games is an experience that makes games last ten times longer than games with a central focus or stricter goal orientation. When you can play a game and be freed from having to do things by the book, you realize that nonlinear gameplay is the way to go. Now then folks we hope you have a better understanding of what nonlinear gameplay means and have maybe found some new games to try out in the process of reading our article. Comment down below if you have any other gaming topics or definitions you wish for us to explore here at Honey’s Anime and be sure to keep returning to our amazing site. Like nonlinear games we have a wide assortment of articles for you to read and enjoy hopefully as much as you enjoyed reading this one.

Dishonored-2-game-Wallpaper-700x394 What is Nonlinear Gameplay? [Gaming Definition, Meaning]


Author: Aaron

Hey everyone I’m Aaron Curbelo or Blade as I’m called by my YouTube Subscribers. I’ve been an anime/manga fan since I was a young kid. In terms of anime I have watched nearly a thousand shows and have read hundreds of manga series. I love writing and honestly was so happy to join Honey’s Anime to get a shot to write articles for such a wonderful site. I’m a firm believer in respect in the anime community being the most important embodiment we should all have. We all love anime and we have varying opinions of series but we should respect one another for those differences! Life is too precious to spend it making needless arguments in a community that should be the shining example of loving an amazing medium. I hope as a writer for Honey’s Anime I can bring you folks some amazing articles to read and enjoy!

Previous Articles

Top 5 Anime by Aaron