In video games, time travel can be as simple as rewinding gameplay or as complex as hopping across space-time dimensions. Furthermore, the concept is not limited to a single genre and is often manipulated in a variety of ways.
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Undoubtedly, people have been fascinated with time travel for a long time, even if the actual technology seems destined to remain exclusive to fiction. While some projects use it as a simple mechanic for retrying an action, other time travel games travel deep down the theoretical wormhole.
Updated on January 27, 2024, by Ritwik Mitra: Games need to understand the concept of time well if they wish to use it in their video games. Many titles have failed to adapt the full potential of the fourth dimension, which makes it all the more impressive when some games use the concept of time travel to great effect, elevating the quality of the final product as a result. These titles are incredible video games that fans should check out, especially if they want to see how effective time travel can be in a medium this immersive.
28 The Legend Of Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom
Zelda Travels Back In Time To Heal The Master Sword For Link
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
- May 12, 2023
Tears of the Kingdom had some big shoes to fill and took its sweet time to come out. This wait was worthwhile since players got to experience what many people consider a worthy sequel despite retreading familiar ground.
The story is certainly improved by leaps and bounds, with Zelda’s tale being a fascinating one. She decides to become a dragon and help the Master Sword repair for ten thousand years before Link can finally harness its power once again.
27 Twelve Minutes
A Time Loop Adventure That Is Pretty Intriguing Despite Its Missteps
- Luis Antonio
The voice cast of Twelve Minutes was its biggest selling point, with James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley, and Willem Dafoe taking on the role of the three characters who play a central role in this narrative. The story focuses on a husband who is killed by a home intruder, only for time to rewind twelve minutes after these events have transpired.
The repetition and frustration caused by the time loop mechanic can make things somewhat irritating, but the central mystery at the heart of things ties events together in a neat way. That being said, this plot twist can also have a mixed reception from players.
26 Prince Of Persia: Warrior Within
The Prince Embarks On A Journey After Being Punished For His Use Of The Sands Of Time
After the success of Sands of Time, Ubisoft took the bold approach of making the sequel darker and more foreboding to appeal to a new audience. The results were pretty mixed, with some people hating the edgy nature of this title while others loved how metal this game was, with everything from the storyline to the characters reflecting this.
There’s a lot of time travel involved in Warrior Within, and it’s handled with great care. While backtracking can be a huge issue in this title, the rest of the experience is a rollercoaster ride that players just can’t get enough of!
A Mind-Bending Time Travel Adventure That Explores Trauma And PTSD In A Nuanced Manner
Steins;Gate is an anime that many people consider to be one of the best sci-fi shows of all time. However, some people might not be aware that the show is an adaptation of a visual novel that uses time travel as its central mechanic. Players control the protagonist Rintaro Okabe, a self-proclaimed mad scientist, who discovers a way to send messages back in time via his phone.
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The game involves navigating various branching timelines and making decisions that affect the outcome of the story. The use of time travel creates a complex and engaging narrative that keeps players invested throughout the story, with its many alternate endings revolving around whether players choose to mess around with the fabric of time or not.
24 Final Fantasy 13-2
The Search For Lightning Spans Different Time Periods
Final Fantasy 13-2
- January 31, 2012
Final Fantasy 13-2 serves as an official successor to one of the most divisive Final Fantasy games of all time. The sequel promotes Noel and Serah as protagonists and follows them as they travel through different moments in time in search of Lightning, who disappeared after the events of the first game.
Players who liked Final Fantasy 13 will likely have a great time with its sequel, especially if they wished the original game had more open areas and exploration. However, the story is pretty confusing, and even die-hard fans of Square Enix’s franchise may find it hard to follow along with the plot.
Time Manipulation Plays A Central Role In This Underrated FPS
Singularity is a first-person shooter built around time manipulation. The game is set on an island in Russia called Katorga-12 where experiments with a substance called E99 have gone wrong, causing time anomalies and mutations.
Players use a device called the Time Manipulation Device (TMD) to navigate the island and manipulate time in various ways, such as aging or reversing objects and enemies. Singularity‘s use of time manipulation creates unique and creative gameplay opportunities, making the FPS stand out from other entries in the genre.
22 Shadow Of Memories
A Time Loop Adventure Where Players Prevent The Protagonist’s Death By Traveling Back In Time
Shadow of Memories
- March 8, 2001
Shadow of Memories is a unique adventure game where players are tasked with preventing their murder by traveling back to the past. The protagonist, Eike, explores different time periods and makes several critical decisions that send ripples across the fabric of time and affect the outcome of the story.
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The use of time travel in Shadow of Memories creates a sense of mystery and suspense, as players try to unravel the events leading up to Eike’s death. It’s easily the most underrated game on this list that fans should check out.
An Overlooked FPS That Lets Players Mess Around With Time
- October 30, 2007
TimeShift is an FPS where players control a soldier who is equipped with a suit that allows them to mess around with the fabric of time. The game involves navigating through various environments and using time itself to solve puzzles and defeat enemies.
This innovative use of time manipulation in TimeShift adds a layer of strategy and creativity to the gameplay. It’s a shame that many people don’t talk about this title since TimeShift had many great things going for it despite also having its share of faults.
20 Outer Wilds
One Of The Best Implementations Of A Time Loop Seen In A Video Game
- May 28, 2019
- Mobius Digital
Outer Wilds is a pretty unique game that has been criminally overlooked by many fans. The game deals with a time loop where the Sun turns into a supernova in 22 minutes, prompting players to explore the world and figure out its secrets piece by piece.
The time loop mechanic of Outer Wilds makes every batch of exploration a joy to go through. Fans of great sci-fi narratives will have a great time piecing together the mystery of this game.
19 The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Time Resets When The Moon Crashes Into The Earth Every Three Days
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
- October 26, 2000
- Nintendo EAD
Majora’s Mask builds upon the amazing engine of Ocarina of Time which was just a legendary title in its own right. It placed Link in a darker world where the moon would crash into the Earth and end all life in three days.
This set up a perpetual cycle where players had to slowly get through the game while keeping this three-day limit in mind. It made for a great time, with Majora’s Mask being a fan favorite of many despite the game being in the shadow of its predecessor.
18 Prince Of Persia: The Two Thrones
The Prince Finds The Dagger Of Time Once Again, With the Vizier Coming Back After A Major Time Reversal
Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones
- December 1, 2005
The Sands of Time trilogy is where many fans think the Prince of Persia series peaked. The first game was a masterclass, with Warrior Within improving upon the combat system extensively despite the tone becoming a bit too mature and edgy for its good.
The Two Thrones serves as a perfect middle ground between the approach Ubisoft took for the past two games in the series. The great combat innovations were kept intact while the overall vibe of the game was more in line with The Sands of Time. Of course, as is the case with most games in the series, The Two Thrones also lets players mess around with time for their benefit throughout this journey.
17 Day Of The Tentacle
A Classic LucasArts Point-And-Click Game That Dabbles In Time Travel Quite A Bit
Day of the Tentacle
- June 25, 1993
Day of the Tentacle is a beloved point-and-click adventure game that many fans still hold in high regard to this day. The remaster of this game ensures that players can enjoy what made this game special without being deterred by its old visuals.
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Day of the Tentacle prioritizes time travel quite a bit, interacting with environments across different time periods. It makes for an innovative premise with the puzzle-solving using this mechanic heavily as well.
A Time Loop That Resets Whenever Colt Fails To Kill All Eight Visionaries By Midnight
- September 14, 2021
Deathloop is another gem from Arkane Studios, combining their expertise in developing immersive sims with the concept of a time loop. Players need to kill eight targets in a row in the one-time loop to essentially finish the game.
This is easier said than done, and players need to come to grips with the mechanics of the game over multiple loops before attempting this herculean feat. It’s a great gameplay loop, with the addition of Julianna making each journey through the loop a blast in its own right.
15 Back To The Future: The Game
A Fun Addition To The Popular Movie Series With Its Own Set Of Time-Traveling Shenanigans
Back to the Future: The Game
- December 22, 2010
Back to the Future is one of the most iconic movie franchises of all time that focuses on time travel. However, most people aren’t aware of the Back to the Future game released by Telltale that allows for a new chapter in this celebrated franchise.
Taking on the episodic format that was present in their adventure games, Back to the Future: The Game is a worthy addition to this celebrated franchise. The shenanigans that Morty and Doc Brown get up to throughout this title are quite entertaining and make for a fun adventure title.
A Revolutionary Indie Game Where Rewinding Time Is Critical To Solving Puzzles
- August 6, 2008
- Number None Inc
- Puzzle , Platformer
Braid is one of the most innovative and entertaining indie titles of all time. The game’s haunting story and excellent puzzle-solving mechanics make for an unforgettable experience that most people won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Rewinding time to figure out solutions to puzzles serves as the initial draw of the game, but it’s the story that hooks players over time. Players who want to believe that they’re the good guy in any video game will be in for a rude awakening when they check out Braid.
13 Dishonored 2
The Stilton Manor Level Is Arkane At Its Very Best, Turning The Concept Of Time Into An Ingenious Gameplay Mechanic
- November 11, 2016
Arkane Studios has constantly been at the forefront of delivering spectacular immersive sim experiences. Dishonored 2 is no exception to this golden rule, with some people considering it to be superior to the critically acclaimed first game.
The level where players need to roam around Stilton Manor is easily one of the best parts of the entire game. This is mainly due to the innovative time travel mechanics present in this level that allow players to shift from the past to the present at a moment’s notice.
Time Travel Plays A Central Role At Both The Start And End Of The Game
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The game starts with a time traveler from the future who warns Ness about an impending apocalypse. Finally, near the end of the game, the party travels back in time so that they can fight the antagonist — Giygas — where he’s at his most vulnerable.
11 Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Time Is Wound Back Before Someone’s Death, With Players Using Ghosts To Manipulate Objects And Change Fate
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
- June 19, 2010
- Adventure , Puzzle , Action
Ghost Trick is easily one of the most underrated games ever made. The brainchild of the Ace Attorney series — Shu Takumi — was at the helm of this innovative mystery title that went under most people’s radar upon release.
It’s a shame, since Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is one of the most imaginative titles that uses the concept of time travel to great effect. Players need to prevent untimely murders by manipulating events as ghosts a few seconds before the time of death. Succeeding in doing so allows the player to alter the flow of time and help the story move smoothly.
10 Blinx: The Time Sweeper
A Time Loop Adventure That Is Pretty Intriguing Despite Its Missteps
Blinx: The Time Sweeper
- October 7, 2002
Released as an exclusive for the original Xbox, Blinx: The Time Sweeper is based on an anthropomorphic cat that can influence time in many ways. With the ability to speed up time, slow time down, stop time, and reverse events, time travel is an integral part of the game.
Blinx: The Time Sweeper is a fantastic game with immense replay value. How the medium of time is weaved with gameplay helps this title age spectacularly well, and it’s a shame that this character didn’t hit the ground running.
9 Quantum Break
Players Use Time Powers In A Sci-Fi Romp That Can Be A Bit Too Overindulgent At Times
From Remedy Entertainment comes an explosive action-adventure game out of science fiction. Quantum Break was released on PC and Xbox One in 2016. Initially, it would be a sequel to Alan Wake until the focus shifted to time travel.
Powers like “Time Vision” and “Time Echoes” are great examples of how the fourth dimension is used to elevate the title’s gameplay, even if the nomenclature of these abilities could’ve used some work. The time-bending shenanigans in Quantum Break make it a fun game for players to get invested in.