Ah, time-travel. What would we give to go back to the past and/or future, to undo mistakes or see how our life will look like in 20 years. So far, such luck was only available to the characters of novels, movies, and video games. We witnessed 19th-century scientists explore the mysteries of the future in H.G. Wells’ Time Machine. We saw Marty McFly help his bumbling father declare his love for Marty’s mom in Back to the Future.
Now it’s time to take a look at how video games dealt with the theme of temporal manipulation. Take a look at our list of games that involve time travel in some shape or form. Please notice, that we excluded games where characters can manipulate time and space such as Quantum Break, Max Payne or Control.
The Top Games with Time-Travel
Back to the Future: The Game
|Release year:||29 September 2011 (PC), 13 October 2015 (PS4, XONE)|
Marty McFly and Doc Brown’s time travel shenanigan’s on the silver screen popularized the theme of changing past and future. It was only a matter of time when the games based on their adventures would do the same.
Telltale Games’ Back to the Future: The Game is set after the last film in the trilogy. Marty jumps back behind the wheel of the time-traveling DeLorean to prevent the foreclosure of Doc Brown’s lab. What ensues is an excellent graphic adventure game, with all the gameplay mechanics of the genre and humor befitting Rober Zemeckis’ wacky trilogy.
TimeSplitters: Future Perfect
|Release year:||21 March 2005|
|Developer||Free Radical Design|
|Game modes||single-player, multiplayer|
TimeSplitters: Future Perfect is the third installment in the time-traveling first-person shooter series. The protagonist, Sergeant Cortez, travels through time to stop a mysterious group who disrupt the time-space continuum, using the titular TimeSplitters.
Throughout his journey, he will visit the roaring 20s, nasty 90s, and even 400 years into the future. All the while shooting enemies with a variety of contemporary and futuristic weapons, including time-warping grenades. Aside from the arcade missions, the player can try their hand in the multiplayer mode. There they can play on custom made maps, thanks to the game’s Map Maker.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure
|Release year:||August 1991|
|Developer||Rocket Science Games|
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, a cult-classic 80s hit, presents an interesting take on time-travel. Instead of stopping a mad scientist or making sure your parents fall in love, Bill and Ted use the time machine given to them by mysterious Rufus to ace their history report, upon which rests the fate of the future.
The premise of the movie carries over to the 1991 game, where the player controls either of the boys as they collect prominent figures from the world’s history and avoid capture. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure is a simple and fun adventure, just like the movie!
|Release year:||27 February 2018 (PC), 25 November 2008 (NDS)|
|Game modes||single-player, multiplayer (NDS only)|
The temporal adventure of Crono, Marie, and Lucca is one of the oldest games on our list to deal with the theme of time travel with such complexity. The story of Chrono Trigger pits the characters against insurmountable odds as they travel through time to stop the imminent apocalypse.
As they gather more clues and make new friends across time, they begin to witness the effect of their actions on the world. This is one of the key features of the game; the player’s actions in the past affect the present and future. Nowadays, it seems trivial, but 15 years ago, such mechanics were unheard of. That is why Chrono Trigger is justly called one of the best video games of all time.
Crash Bandicoot: Warped
|Release year:||31 October 1998|
Before Nathan Drake found Sir Francis’ fortune, before Joel met Ellie – there was a bandicoot named Crash. Crash Bandicoot put Naughty Dog in the big leagues of cartoony platform game developers.
Warped, the third installment of the series, takes the titular character on a quest to stop doctor Neo Cortex from acquiring the crystals from different timelines. Aided by a tribal mask Aku Aku, Crash travels to different times to gather the crystals before the mad scientist. Gameplay-wise, Crash remains true to the series roots of running, jumping from platform to platform, smashing crates, gathering apples, etc. The time travel shenanigans allow the developers to place the action in new interesting areas, inspired by medieval, oriental, or Arab times.
Serious Sam: The First Encounter
|Release year:||21 March 2001 (PC), 17 November 2020 (PS4, XONE, Switch – HD remake)|
|Game modes||single-player, multiplayer|
Despite its title, Croteam’ Serious Sam: The First Encounter is just as serious as the 50s movies about aliens. The plot is paper-thin and serves only to justify a brutal massacre of alien monsters using various weapons, from shotguns to laser-cannons and rocket launchers to oversized howitzers, firing explosive cannonballs.
The game’s time travel theme focuses on the main character, Sam “Serious” Stone traveling to ancient times to stop an alien warlord from conquering the earth in the future. If you’re into mindless fun of shooting at everything that moves, Serious Sam: TFE is a game just for you.
Onimusha 3: Demon Siege
|Release year:||16 March 2006 (PC), 27 April 2004 (PS2)|
|Genre:||action-adventure, hack and slash|
Onimusha 3: Demon Siege in a hack and slash game inspired by the historical events of the Sengoku Period. That’s it. That’s the game. Also, there’s a samurai guy and an army of monsters, but let’s be honest – it’s mostly Jean Reno.
Reno portrays French military man Jacques Blanc. Jacques travels to the past to help samurai Samanosuke in fighting the evil shogun, who uses an army of demons known as Genma to take over the country. Samanosuke is the other playable character, but who cares when you can play as whip-swinging Jean Reno, right?
Kingdom Hearts III
|Release year:||29 January 2019|
|Developer||Square Enix Business Division 3|
Ah, Kingdom Hearts. Where would we be without you and the Square Enix/Disney corporate synergy you represent. Probably in a place with fewer memes, as the game in the series provided us with plenty of opportunities to laugh at characters like Donald, Goofy, and Mickey acting like super serious jRPG protagonists.
The third installment of the game takes Sora back to the world of Kingdom Hearts, where he once again will face Ansem and Organization XIII...I guess? It’s really complicated, and if you can figure out the plot and who is who’s of this series, then wow. Anyway, there’s a time travel subplot, so KH III fits the bill of our list. Fans of convoluted action-jRPGs will feel right at home with this one.
|Release year:||12 December 2017 (PC, PS4, XONE – HD), 19 September 2006 (PS2), 9 August 2018 (Switch)|
One of the most charming games to ever grace the consoles, featuring graphics inspired by Japanese watercolor painting and excellent action gameplay mechanics. Okami tells the story of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, who returns to Earth after a hundreds-year-long absence. Alongside Issun, a wandering poet and warrior the size of a pea, she must face the threat of Orochi, a demon accidentally released from his slumber by Susano, a cowardly warrior trying to prove his greatness.
The game draws deep from the Japanese folklore, with each character representing one of its deities. The legendary struggle between heroic Nagi and Orochi, the key event in the country’s lore, lays the foundation of the game’s story. Through the gameplay, the player will be able to witness the battle firsthand and take on the demon themselves, as the second encounter involving Nagi’s descendant, Susano and player-controlled Amaterasu culminates one of the game’s story arcs.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
|Release year:||5 February 2013|
|Genre:||platform, stealth, action-adventure|
|Game modes||single-player, multiplayer|
Sly Cooper is another platform title on our list. This time, the furry protagonist and his gang of thieves embark on a journey throughout time to stop the erasure of their history. The game features the classic mechanics of the series, focusing on stealth and maneuvering.
The gameplay features include a few novelties, including different outfits for the main protagonist, which grant him unique skills. The player can also control members of Sly’s gang; each of the members possesses different skills, which might come in handy during temporal voyages.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
|Release year:||2003 (PC, PS2, GameCube, Xbox), March 18, 2021 (Remake)|
The first installment of the Sands of Time trilogy brought in the mechanics that the series would be associated with for years. Aside from the usual PoP exploration and platforming, the player could use the titular Sands to manipulate time: slow it down, turn it back, etc.
These powers would certainly come in handy, as the Prince’s quest to reclaim his kingdom would be fraught with dangers. One wrong step could lead to certain doom at the bottom of a spiky pit, but thanks to the Sands’ powers, the player could undo their death and return to safety.
God of War II
|Release year:||13 March 2007|
|Genre:||action-adventure, hack and slash|
|Developer||Santa Monica Studio|
God of War series was unlike anything the players had ever seen. Brutal, sensual, epic – these are only a few words that come to mind when thinking about Santa Monica Studio’s creation. Especially the second installment of the series, which saw Kratos ascended and soon dethroned from his seat at the Olympus, would wow the players with its visuals and mechanics.
How does it fit into our list, you ask? Well, Kratos’ quest for vengeance against the gods takes him to the abode of the Sisters of Fate, which provides the player with a look into the protagonist’s past deeds. The game even lets the player witness the climactic showdown with the previous God of War – in one of the boss battles, Kratos’ task is to prevent his own death at the hands of the treacherous Ares. If you’ve played the game back in the late 2000s, you probably know the outcome of his confrontation with the Sisters. If you don’t, I suggest picking up the series from the beginning – you definitely won’t be disappointed.
Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time
|Release year:||27 October 2009|
Ratchet and Clank’s adventure in the third installment of the Future series takes them throughout time and space to stop evil Dr. Nefarious from using the legendary Great Clock to destroy the universe. As the title suggests, the game leans heavily into the time-traveling theme, allowing the player to visit planets at different times.
The objective of one mission has the player changing the course of the history of a planet in order to gain its inhabitants’ favor. Another neat mechanic focuses on Clank, the new caretaker of the Clock. To reach certain areas, Clank has to use temporal panels to solve puzzles. They can be pretty complicated, but finally figuring out the way of cracking them is worth it.
Life is Strange
|Release year:||30 January 2015-20 October 2015|
Life is Strange is an episodic adventure game with branching storylines and a nice time-traveling twist. Our protagonist, a teenage girl named Max Caufield, discovers she has the power to manipulate time. Thi discovery coincides with her estranged friend Chloe returning to town and foreboding dreams of a looming storm.
The game focuses on the player making various choices; each decision has the potential to affect the dramatic finale. Unlike other choice-based video games, LiS allows the player to turn-back time immediately and try a different route. No waiting until the end of the game, now reloading previous save. Another time-traveling feature happens in one of the episodes, where Max returns to the past after making a drastic choice. Life is Strange is really one of those games that really makes you think twice before making any decision.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
|Release year:||19 June 2011|
Ocarina of Time is considered one of the most memorable installment of The Legend of Zelda franchise. There are a few reasons for that, but we’ll focus only on one of them – time travel.
Using the titular Ocarina of Time, Link can learn various melodies, which allow him to travel to different locations. Said Ocarina also unlocks the Master Sword, which ages the protagonist by seven years, turning him into an adult. Young and adult Link have different abilities, and after completing certain tasks, the player can freely switch between Link’s mature and youthful form.
There are a great many games that utilize time travel as part of their gameplay mechanics or as a plot twist. Our list presents both sides of that scale. In these games, you will be able to travel into the past and future, influence the events that shaped history and create alternate timelines. You’ll also be able to use various time-related powers and meet various characters at different points in time. If you’re a fan of what-if scenarios or temporal shenanigans in general, you’ll definitely find the games from our list satisfying.