Humankind has long desired to return to the past and change mistakes, or look into the future to see our destiny. It’s a topic that popular culture likes to play with, and has been a regular trope in video games since the 1980s. One of the first games I played on the Commodore 64 was called Battle Through Time, a sideways-scrolling, time-hopping shooter with a lax attitude to music copyright licensing.
Fortunately, as enjoyable as the game was, the scene has evolved considerably in the past 35 years or so. If you’re fed up with the present, the following ten games all rely on time travel as a key aspect of gameplay.
1. Steins;Gate (2009)
A visual novel video game that is also the sequel to 2008’s Chaos;Head (both part of the Science Adventure series), Steins;Gate has a heavy time travel gameplay element. Embracing the concept of cause and effect, the player (who assumes the role of Rintar? Okabe) must travel back and forth in time, changing events in the past to influence the future.
Since this is a visual novel, your job is to direct the main characters into making choices. The game presents several non-linear plotlines, each with their own branches. This will ensure each game takes a different path. Steins;Gate is available on Windows, PS3, PSP, Android, and iOS.
2. No Time to Explain (2011)
A fun game that totally runs with the idea of time travel and paradox effects, this one takes its name from the popular fictional trope. (Namely, the one that papers over cracks in plots with a quick piece of dismissive dialogue!)
Another game that blends the platform puzzler genre with an adventure format, No Time to Explain is fast, frenetic fun. Just try not to think about it too much, because those paradoxes will probably send your head into a spin!
Originally released in 2011, No Time to Explain was issued on Windows, macOS, and Linux (via Steam). The remastered version added releases for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
3. The Silent Age (2015)
A compelling, atmospheric side-scrolling adventure puzzler, The Silent Age embraces the idea of time travel as a key game mechanic. Switching back and forth through two time-zones — as easily as you would jump in another game — is necessary as part of the puzzle solving process. It’s an idea that really works, too.
Following its popular mobile release on iOS and Android, The Silent Age has been updated for Windows and macOS. We’d recommend you take a look if you’re a fan of time travel. Personally, I’ve been stuck on this game for months, so if you have any tips, feel free to share them below!
4. Life Is Strange (2015)
Ever wanted to rewind time and do everything differently? This is the premise behind Life Is Strange, an episodic video graphic novel with an interactive aspect. Each decision you make as photography student Max Caulfield has ramifications — it’s therefore important to make the right choices. Failure will see the town where Max lives destroyed in an oncoming storm. Solving puzzles is a key feature of success in this award-winning game.
Even better, the first episode is available free on all platforms. You’ll find it on Windows, macOS, and Linux, where you don’t even need a mouse to play it. It’s also on PlayStation 3 and 4, plus Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Life Is Strange has an impending sequel, Life Is Strange 2, in development. In addition, a prequel, Before the Storm, was released in August 2017.
5. Chrono Trigger (1995)
Combining RPG gameplay with time travel, Chrono Trigger takes place in a huge world, where the player can visit seven time periods. Although the in-game world isn’t Earth, it features a prehistoric age with dinosaurs, plus a medieval zone with knights and monsters. There’s also a post-apocalyptic future era.
With multiple endings, plot-related side quests, and character development (rare in a game from the 1990s), Chrono Trigger is often found in lists of the best video games of all time.
Although originally released on the SNES and PlayStation in 1995, Chrono Trigger was subsequently ported to the Nintendo DS, iOS, and Android from 2009.
6. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003)
Perhaps one of the most famous games of all time — and responsible for a movie of the same name — this game features a magical, time-manipulating dagger. After being tricked into breaking the Sands of Time hourglass, the main character (the Prince) must use the Dagger of Time to restore the hourglass by defeating the monsters it has unleashed. This is done by rewinding moments of the game to undo mistakes, as well as using the dagger to freeze and kill enemies.
Often cited as the title that revived the Prince of Persia brand, The Sands of Time was released on Game Boy Advance, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, Windows, and PlayStation 3.
7. Spider-Man: Edge of Time (2011)
A super hero game crossed with time travel? Yes! Spider-Man: Edge of Time features original Spider-Man Peter Parker, along with Miguel O’Hara, the Spider-Man of 2099. Edge of Time is a sequel to the 2010 game Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and features a cause-and-effect mechanism.
In short, events in the earlier time period can impact the later one. But there’s more to it than that: you can also expect to see popular Spider-Man villains and perform some time-zone hopping!
Released on Nintendo DS, 3DS, Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, digital copies of the game are no longer available due licensing issues. However, it should be possible to pick up a physical copy from your favorite online game store.
8. Radiant Historia (2010)
Another Nintendo-based RPG, Radiant Historia takes place in the war-torn, plague-ridden continent of Vainquer. Here, you guide the main character, Stocke, in solving puzzles and expanding the inventory. Most intriguing, however, is the use of the White Chronicle, a book that guides time travel along parallel timelines. For instance, challenges in timeline A can typically be solved by collecting items from timelines B and C.
Originally released for the Nintendo DS in 2010, Radiant Historia has an upcoming expanded remaster planned to arrive on Nintendo 3DS in spring 2018. It’s called Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology. If you can wait to play this version, do so — many remastered games are better than the originals!
Unfortunately, no other platforms have yet been graced with Radiant Historia.
9. Braid (2008)
A puzzle-platform video game, Braid gives the player the ability to undo mistakes, rewinding time in a similar manner to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. You reach each in-game world from main character Tim’s home, and each has its own time manipulation property. For instance, in one world, the direction the character moves in will change the flow of time (left/right, back/forth). In other worlds, objects may be immune to manipulation, or you can slow them down.
Puzzles and platform action take on a whole new dimension in this small-but-awesome indie game.
Braid was initially released for Xbox 360, followed by versions for Windows, macOS, PlayStation 3, and Linux.
10. Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock (2012)
No list of time traveling adventures can be complete without mention of Doctor Who, the long-running British TV show. Over the years, the show has had many video game spin-offs, but the one that relies on time travel the most is The Eternity Clock. This is essentially a side scrolling platform adventure game, taking place in different connected eras. It features Daleks, Cybermen, and other popular monsters from the series.
Featuring the voices of Matt Smith and Alex Kingston as the Doctor (#11) and River Song, The Eternity Clock was released on Windows, PS3 and PS Vita. Though initially criticized for its tricky controls, difficulty level, some bugs and lack of save points, subsequent updates have patched these issues. While it’s generally considered that the PC version is superior to the PS3 release, this is no longer widely available.
How Will You Travel Through Time?
We love time travel at MakeUseOf, as you can probably tell from this selection of games. But what do you think?
Have you played any of these time-travel games? Are there any others that you would like to share? Tell us in the comments!
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