From classic science fiction stories like The Time Machine to modern movies, time travel has been a regularly used plot element in many stories. This plot element also features in a plethora of video games, surprisingly, of almost every single genre. Sometimes time travel elements are just cosmetic and other times they are fully integrated into the game play. The following are the top ten best video games featuring time travel.
10. Infamous – Spoiler alert. The time travel in Infamous does not become apparent until the very end of the game. Late in the game you discover that the main enemy of the game is actually a future version of Cole McGrath, the main character. This little twist on an already oddball game is a slick way to finish the story.
9. Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? – Time travel is integral to this game as you travel around different time periods searching for the elusive Carmen Sandiego or one of her other time traveling villainous cronies. Despite being integral to the game, the actual time traveling mechanics are just a cosmetic change to the original Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? game rather than meaningfully different.
8. City of Heroes – Time travel wasn’t introduced in City of Heroes until issue 12 was released. The implementation in this game allowed you to engage in historic battles that had previously only been detailed through dialogue in the game. It helped flesh out the parts of the game that players were partially aware of but had never actually seen.
7. Final Fantasy – Much like in Infamous, the time travel in this game is a last minute plot twist. The final battle takes place in the past as you battle the powerful final boss Chaos. The truly interesting twist is that by defeating Chaos in the past, you essentially prevent your entire quest from ever occurring in the present. It is a slick ending, especially so early in video game history.
6. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time – There are two major time travel features to this game. The first is omni-present throughout the game. You have a special dagger that allows you to travel a few seconds back in time. This reset allows you to avoid a nasty hit from an enemy or to undo accidentally jumping off a cliff. It allows the game to be on the harder side without being impossible. Additionally, near the end of the game, you travel back to before the start of the game and rewrite history completely, which means the entire game, told as a story by your character, never actually happens.
5. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Despite the name, time travel is not a dominant feature of this game. You can transfer back and forth between a time when you are young and mature, but this feature is only truly taken advantage of a few times during the game. Usually you just explore the game as either young or mature Link, which essentially just doubles the size of the game. It is basically this Zelda game’s version of a dark world. Still, the few times the game takes advantage of switching eras works out well and the first time you become adult Link it is truly amazing.
4. Final Fantasy XIII-2 – Time travel is rather important in this game as you are essentially correcting history to prevent a cataclysm. Like many similar games, as you change history you also change the present. While the mechanism is critical to the game, you don’t always feel meaningful changes from your actions. Sadly, as a sequel to the poorly received Final Fantasy XIII, this game never received its due, despite having highly refined the original system and being remarkably good on its own.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – The direct sequel to Ocarina of Time has a rather brilliant concept. The world is exactly three days away from being destroyed. You can save it, but there isn’t time enough to do everything you need to do. In order to make time, you need to use the ocarina from the previous game and play a song that resets time. Certain actions actually persist through resets, which allow you to eventually save the world. Time moves methodically during those three days and it is important that you be at certain places at certain times in order to advance plot. This is sort of like an advanced version of the mechanics of Sands of Time, so if you like that game, you should like this one, too.
2. Dragon Warrior VII – This hard to find Enix game has a rather interesting story. When the game starts you live on the only island in the entire world. Eventually you discover that the world was actually once much more populated and only by traveling into the past and changing history can you restore the lost lands to the world. Trips back and forth through time actually have meaningful and often dramatic changes on the world. While the game is actually very linear, it hides that fact well. The best part about this game is seeing the fruits of your labor in one time bear out decades or even centuries later in a different time period.
1. Chrono Trigger – No game has ever nailed time travel as well as the SNES class Chrono Trigger. Similar to Dragon Warrior VII, this is a game where you can change history and then see the results in a later time period. But unlike Dragon Warrior VII, you aren’t just traveling back and forth between two different time periods, but between four different time periods. So changes in an earlier period can potentially be seen in multiple different futures. The game also features over a dozen different possible endings and is almost completely unique because it allows you to finish the game after the main protagonist dies. Overall, no game has ever handled time travel as well and few games compare in terms of pure quality.