Top 5 Time Travel Games
March is shaping up to be a bumper month for videogame releases, not least of which is the latest offering from the Sly Cooper series, Thieves in Time. The game uses its time-travelling premise to whisk the player off to some historically-inspired environments, like the Wild West, medieval England and feudal Japan. It’s a great excuse for the developers to let their historical imaginations run wild. Thieves in Time isn’t the first game to use the concept of time travel in this way, either; games like Timesplitters have also used it as a plot device or set-up for an overarching story.
Arguably the coolest time travel games, however, are the ones that use it as a unique gameplay mechanic, implementing it in such a way that the manipulation of time is central to your success or failure. Without further ado, then, it’s time to fire up the flux capacitor: we’re going back to look at some of the best time travel games ever made.
- Command and Conquer: Red Alert
The original Red Alert provides a great test case for the tablet vs laptop debate, having been adapted and released on tablets 14 years after the original PC release. Thankfully, it’s just as much of a blast on mobile devices as it is on PC. This is thanks in no small part to the ridiculous time-travelling storyline, in which Albert Einstein goes back to 1924 and erases Adolf Hitler from existence using his ‘Chronosphere’ device (seriously). Cue alternate-timeline Soviet expansionism, frantic tank battles and hilariously over-the-top cutscenes. Best of all are the levels in which the player must use the Chronosphere to teleport mission-critical items and vehicles across the map. How cool is that? Don’t use the Chronosphere too often, though; each use carries a small risk of creating a deadly ‘chrono vortex’.
4. Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time
No list of time travel videogames would be complete without mentioning Ocarina of Time. The game features a mechanic that allows the player to switch between ‘Young Link‘ and ‘Adult Link’ at various points. This allows for some very interesting puzzle scenarios, such as switching to Young Link in order to crawl through a small passageway, or choosing Adult Link in order to be able to use special items like the Fairy Bow. But while OOT is arguably the best game on this list, it isn’t the best use of time travel in a game, which is the only reason it isn’t further up.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time introduced the gaming world to the concept of ‘rewinding’ gameplay to correct a mistake by the player. Jonathan Blow‘s arthouse hit Braid takes this idea and runs with it, having not only rewinding, but also a whole host of other cool time-bending mechanics – levels in which time flows in reverse, and objects which affect the flow of time around them, among others. The result is a game that, on the surface, appears to be a simple Mario-esque 2D platformer, but is actually a fiendish puzzle game which becomes head-scratchingly complex in the later levels.
- Maniac Mansion II: Day of the Tentacle
The entirety of Day of the Tentacle‘s gameplay takes place in the ‘Mansion’ of the title. In the game, super-geek Bernard and his friends Hoagie and Laverne are separated and transported across time by a malfunctioning time machine. As well as being a brilliant setup for the plot, the time machine also acts as a pivotal puzzle-solving device. The main characters can send each other items across time, and the ability to change something in the past to alter the present is inspired. This mechanic, when combined with the game’s light-hearted atmosphere, leads to some gloriously demented puzzles, such as Hoagie altering the wording of the US Bill of Rights to provide a vacuum cleaner to present-day Bernard. Yes, really.
- Chrono Trigger
Most role-playing games of the 16-bit era featured expansive world maps and various towns to explore. Chrono Trigger, however, unlike its contemporaries, took a different approach. The main character, Crono, and his friends must travel across time in order to prevent a global apocalypse that occurs in A.D. 1999. As a result, the player explores the same (relatively small) world, but during various different time periods. Not only can the player travel as far back as prehistoric times, but they can also go forward and explore the post-apocalyptic wasteland that the world will become, should the party fail in their quest. Forget Marty McFly and Doctor Who; Chrono Trigger is the ultimate time-travelling experience.