While books and movies have seen great success with time travel stories, video games are no exception to this storytelling phenomenon. Over the years, developers have found ways to enhance the gameplay and stories of their games through the warping of the space-time continuum. These time-traveling stories are told through numerous styles of games including visual novels, RPGs, and puzzle platformers.
Where some games use time travel as a plot device or central focus of the story, other games use time travel as a gimmick for changing up the gameplay and giving players a chance to control the outcome of puzzles and battles. The best time travel games use these two ideas in tandem, weaving intricate storylines through time and letting players control those loops in order to reach one or multiple endings.
10 Travel With Link In The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time
Though time travel is a common theme in the Legend of Zelda series, Ocarina of Time introduced players to the mechanic through an incredible story that would cement it as one of the best games of all time. Players traveled back and forth through time, taking Link from child to adult and back again in order to solve puzzles, wield weapons, and complete areas.
Ocarina of Time was the first Zelda game to be done in 3D and introduced a handful of mechanics, like the targeting system, that would become staples in the series. The puzzles, dungeons, characters, and story all come together for a phenomenal game experience.
9 Try To Save Lives In Steins; Gate
Steins; Gate is an anime visual novel, so it does not have a ton of actual gameplay. The player mostly reads through the story events and makes the occasional choice based on which characters they want to interact with and what they want to say, but these choices can affect the outcome of the story and lead to several endings.
The story follows Rintaro Okabe and his friends as they accidentally create a time machine and stumble onto a worldwide conspiracy led by a secret organization. The art is beautiful, and the story is deep and emotional. The game was popular enough that an anime adaptation was created.
8 Game Meets TV Show In Quantum Break
The Xbox One console exclusive from Remedy Entertainment, Quantum Break attempted something very different: they incorporated a TV show into the game itself. Players would play a section of the game for a few hours and then watch an “episode” of the Quantum Break show which continued the story from the end of gameplay into the next section.
The gameplay itself gave players time-altering abilities like shields, warping, and pausing time in bubbles. The third-person action game had a well-told story and featured a number of well-known actors, including Shawn Ashmore, Aiden Gillen, and Lance Reddick.
7 Life Is Strange, And So Are The Choices
Life is Strange has launched a series of episodic graphic adventure games since the original landed in the hands of gamers in 2015. The game is a third-person narrative puzzle-solving game where players can interact with objects and characters, making conversation choices that will effect the outcome of the story.
Players control Max and her “rewind” ability, which allows them to go back and alter the course of events. This included choices made in the game and conversations so that players could branch out and choose the path that they found most beneficial.
6 One Of The Best Indie Games Ever, Braid
Braid raised the bar for Indie games. The highly innovative and entertaining 2D platformer not only delivered interesting and intelligent puzzles, but it also had an engaging story that hooks the player until the final credits roll.
Players control time in each level as a means to solve puzzles, rewinding and fast-forwarding in order to re-establish platforms, unlock doors, or defeat enemies. The game features six worlds, each with its own time-based mechanic, which meant that players would need to rethink their time-changing strategies to solve new puzzles, keeping the gameplay fresh.
5 Join Doc And Marty In Back To The Future: The Game
Marty McFly and Doc Brown made the leap from the big screen to video games in this Telltale Games series. Instead of retelling the events of the Back to the Future movies, the game offers an all-new adventure for players and fans of the franchise to dive into.
Much like the other Telltale games, Back to the Future: The Game has players exploring environments and interacting with objects and characters in order to make decisions that will lead them down an interesting narrative. Christopher Lloyd returned as Doc Brown, but Marty McFly was voiced by another actor, as Michal J. Fox was unable to provide voice content.
4 Pick Your Hero In Dishonored 2
A sequel to its first game, Dishonored 2 gave fans even more great gameplay and deep storytelling. The players are immersed in the fantastic steampunk world of Dishonored as either Corvo or Emily, and use supernatural powers to attempt to reclaim the throne lost at the start of the game.
In the Stilton Manor level, players are given a device letting them view the level through a piece of glass, allowing them to travel back three years in the past. Players can warp back and forth between times instantly, allowing them to escape or strategically attack enemies and solve puzzles. Players can also slow and freeze time through the character’s powers, should they choose to use them.
3 Time Traveling Mech Pilots In Titanfall 2
Titanfall 2 slipped through the cracks at launch, as it was sandwiched between the new releases of Call of Duty and Battlefield. It was mainly picked up by fans of the first game, but would later get more recognition after the success of Apex: Legends. What players realized is that the single-player story campaign of Titanfall 2 was a great FPS adventure where, at certain levels, players operated a time-travel device in order to shift between times.
This allowed the player to encounter enemies in a firefight, warp to a new time, change their position to behind the group, then warp back and blast away. Some platforming elements also needed the aid of time travel, warping between times to land on platforms and get across tension chasms.
2 Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time Rebooted The Franchise
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time served as a reboot for the franchise once Ubisoft took it over. Players take control of The Prince and, after acquiring the Dagger of Time, use it to manipulate time in order to solve puzzles and defeat enemies.
The Prince can reverse time, meaning players that messed up a platforming jump can try again without dying, slow down time to take a moment to think, or stop it completely. Combining these powers into the hack-and-slash combat proved fun and unique. There was also a sequel, The Warrior Withinthat continued the Prince’s story, keeping the same time-altering gameplay.
1 An Oldschool RPG For The Ages, Chrono Trigger
Chrono Trigger entered the fray on the SNES in 1995 and introduced gamers to a new franchise that would see several sequels and spinoffs down the years. It was revolutionary for its time, offering up multiple endings, side-quests that gave more depth to its side characters, and a real-time battle system.
Players traveled through time via portals and a time machine from the game’s present-day to its past where past actions affect future events. Depending on how the players get to the final boss battle, they would get one of twelve different endings, as they make their decisions to try and stop a global catastrophe.
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