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Great moments in PC gaming: Reaching the Quantum Moon in Outer Wilds

The quantum moon
(Image credit: Annapurna Interactive)

Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.

Outer Wilds is basically a game stitched together from great moments. Its time-looping solar system is made of dozens of puzzles, big and small, each with the wonderful burst of an "aha!" behind it. Not to mention all the story beats and lore discoveries and musical cues you'll find. But the one that sticks with me the most is stepping foot on the Quantum Moon for the first time.

In a game entirely focused on space travel, stepping out of your rickety spaceship onto a fresh world becomes routine. But one thing isn't routine. It might catch your eye early on—a dark, seemingly lifeless orb somewhere out in the vacuum that is gone as quickly as it appears. Where all the other planets follow their graceful orbits no matter what you're up to in space, this moon refuses to be pinned down.

Outer Wilds

An alien heating marshmallows over a campfire, the cover art of Outer Wilds

(Image credit: Annapurna Interactive)

Year: 2019
Developer: Mobius Digital

Everyone's path through Outer Wilds is different, but if you're anything like me you essentially forgot about that weird inconsistent astral body while hunting down all the other leads, learning what exactly is making the sun explode and what happened to those mysterious predecessors who vanished so long ago. Until it suddenly becomes clear that the moon is very involved indeed.

The series of trials that help you figure out how to land on the Quantum Moon are only loosely structured. You can still come and go as you like in the directionless solar system. But no matter how you approach them they do build to an understanding, and in doing so build their own tension. They channel you toward that moment when you finally touch down on the moon, and it's solid, and you can step out.

What you find there, and how it leads into the game's final act, is its own kind of special. But finally stepping foot on this wily moon, long after it first caught your eye, is the perfect moment. Knowing how to make the ground stay solid beneath your feet. Knowing that there's something big around the corner. But right now you've already achieved something that was foreshadowed the first time you saw the moon blink out of view and only half-registered it. Hours of learning have led to this, a very simple hop from your spaceship. Routine, only not routine at all. In a game built from great moments, this is the one that sticks with me.