Time. It topples mountains, takes lives, and never stops for anything. Whoa, that sounds kinda depressing--lets try again. Time. Its always moving, and so many games use it to trip us up. Racers task you with doing a lap around the track as fast as you can, with a stopwatch recording your moves down to fractions of a second. Sports games cap you off with halves, and innings, and whatever the hell they use in water polo. But some games go beyond simple time trials or periods--some games make time antagonize you in ways that you simply cannot escape.
This isnt about time travel, and it isnt about some special door that closes seconds after a character shoots a target. No, these are games where time is actively working against you, nearly every second you hold the controller. It can be your greatest enemy, and the most important part of the game
30 days to escape (Pikmin)
Pikmin is the cutesy story of an adorable little spaceman from the planet Hocotate enslaving the native plantmen of PNF-404. Actually, cutesy probably isnt the right word there. In fact, the entirety of Pikmin is very morbid. For a game apparently born out of Shigeru Miyamotos gardening habit, its hella dark--all because of time.
See, protagonist Captain Olimar is actually poisoned by oxygen--his people breathe differently. When he crash lands on the Pikmins planet, he discovers he has only 30 days before his life support system fails and he FLAT. OUT. DIES. So, he must use the Pikmin to find and reassemble the pieces to his ship so he can escape the poisonous atmosphere. Oh, and dont think time is only an enemy of Olimar. At the end of every day, any Pikmin trailing behind are eaten by the monsters that also occupy the planet. Geez. At least Pikmin 3 only threatened you with starvation
7 days to reach the new world (Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13)
Real talk: the Final Fantasy 13 trilogy is confusing as hell if you havent actually played through it all. So heres what you need to know for Lightning Returns: Lightning has 7 days to guide the souls of the Nova Chrysalia to a new world thats being created by the god Bhunivelze. One week to save everyone. No biggie.
Lightning journeys through the religious city Luxerion, the always-partying city Yusnaan, the deserted Dead Dunes, and the untamed Wildlands to save the souls there, with an always-ticking clock as a reminder that the world is going to end. But hey, ride chocobos, help villagers, and complete quests across the destroyed world, and you can at least extend that timer to 13 days. If that sounds like too much, you can always just play dress-up while everything crumbles around you.
3 days to investigate an outbreak (Dead Rising)
A zombie outbreak is nothing new--I wouldnt be surprised if one is happening right now in, like, Florida. But Dead Rising puts a spin on the undead by setting all of its action at the Willamette Parkview Mall. One location, packed with flesh-munching creeps. Photojournalist Frank West descends into this death pool to solve the mystery of the outbreak.
But Frank only has three days before the helicopter returns to pull him out of the madness. This means budgeting your time wisely. Missions only happen at certain times, and you can only complete your case file for the best ending by being prompt with these important events. If organizing three days events sounds like a lot, then imagine having just 24 hours, because that totally happens too. Finish all your missions for the best ending, and youll get an additional day to reach the games true ending. Time is of the essence, but of course, you could totally waste it by killing zombies with chainsaw bikes or boxing knives all day if you want.
3 days to catch a falling moon (Legend of Zelda: Majoras Mask)
Frank West may have three days in an enclosed mall, but Link has three days to traverse the entire land of Termina. In what many call the other Nintendo 64 Zelda game, Link finds himself in a world parallel to Hyrule, where a frankly disturbing-looking moon is set to crash into Clock Town, destroying the world. Thanks, Skull Kid).
So how is anyone supposed to pull that off? Well, Link has to slog through a swamp, climb a mountain, cross an ocean, and enter a graveyard--and thats just for the games four dungeons. Theres a river cruise, a pirate ship, and a castle of ghosts in there too. Oh, and did I mention that everything is tied to the three-day system? Yeah, all of those things are only accessible when you complete certain tasks on certain days. Dont worry, you can totally play a song on the ocarina to go back to the first day and lose most of your items in the process. If the Majoras Mask 3DS remake is still a thing, a whole new generation will get to experience this time-traveling trickery too.
20 minutes til the end of the world (The Rapture Is Here)
The indie sphere has its fair share of world-ending games, but none can match the futility of Connor Sherlocks The Rapture Is Here, also known as TRIHAYWBFRFYH. Yeah, well stick with the first abbreviation. The game is based on H.P. Lovecrafts Cthulhu mythos, so I totally understand the naming convention, and it gives you just 20 minutes to termination.
Set in a rural part of New England, your only goal is to move about the areas woods, fields, and lone house, stepping into beams of light. Each beam plays an audio log that starts to explain whats going on, but you only have time to play so many before your 20 minutes--and earth--expires. Theres a black rip in the sky that slowly covers the horizon in that time. Look at it, and youre met with creepy, howling sonic noises. By the way, the games full title is The Rapture Is Here and You Will Be Forcibly Removed from Your Home. You cant even say the whole damn thing before times up.
2 minutes to score big (Tony Hawks Pro Skater)
Its had its ups and downs, but Tony Hawks Pro Skater has always been rooted in pulling off sick moves atop a four-wheeled board. Even when the games moved from singular skate parks to more open worlds, your goal has always been to rack up those points with sweet kickflips, heelflips, and other-flip skateboard tricks. With remakes likeTony Hawks Pro Skater HD, modern gamers can get a taste of doing those tricks with a time limit.
See, the first few Tony Hawk games plop you in places like warehouses and culdesac communities, all of which are completely decked out with half pipes and rails for some reason. Plus, they contain hidden VHS tapes, SKATE letters, and special jumps--and getting the highest score is important too. And you have just two minutes to do as much of it as possible. That is, until you realize you can keep going by holding a wheelie or grind after time runs out. Very sneaky, Mr. Hawk...
1 minute to complete a fare (Crazy Taxi)
Angrily yelling at cabbies is as common as a cold, but Crazy Taxi makes you want to yell for totally different reasons. Its hella fun, and its as crazy as the name implies (see what we mean?). Its seen a few ports and special versions, but they all have one big mechanic in common--a time limit.
In the classic arcade version, you start with just one minute on the clock. Extending that time requires finding passengers and dropping them off by any means necessary. Slamming through traffic, gunning it over ramps, cutting through parks full of people--your route is as crazy as whatevers in your way. With cars crashing around you and pedestrians fleeing for safety, the chaos only gets crazier with that ever-ticking timer at the top of the screen. The crazier you drive, the more money you make. Floor it!
30 seconds to finish a quest (Half Minute Hero)
Half Minute Hero isnt just a game about trouble under the sheets, even though the sequel, Half Minute Hero: The Second Coming, makes another sex joke. Its also about four heroes trying to save the world from an evil overlord but they only have a fleeting amount of time to do it.
Every quest in Half Minute Hero gives you 30 titular seconds to finish. That means dashing between towns, watching turn-based battles automatically unfold before you at high speed. With your stats determined by gear instead of leveling, its like the opposite of typical hours-long RPG grinds. In fact, credits roll every time you finish a mission, as if you actually did finish a weeks-long Final Fantasy adventure. But maybe thats too easy for you; maybe you need a greater challenge. How about Hero 3 Mode, which gives you--no joke--three measly seconds to finish a quest. More like First Time Hero, AM I RIGHT BRO!?!?
5 seconds to figure it out (WarioWare)
WarioWare is the undisputed king of time limits, taking gaming and condensing it into just a few seconds, like a .gif blog of gaming. As the games subtitle says, these arent even mini games--theyre micro games. And while plenty of Nintendo titles sport tiny side activities, none are as mind-bogglingly bizarre as these. Sometimes it takes almost the whole time to figure out what the micro game even wants you to do.
Quick--that finger is moving back and forth under a nose! Stick it into a nostril! Whats that? How do you do that? Just press a button--youve only got two seconds left!!! Oh good, you figured it out. Now lets try the endless mode--where the games speed up between rounds and give you less time to finish each time. AAAAH!!!
And now weve reached zero. If this were Half Minute Hero, we would be rewarded with credits now. What other games make time inescapable? Do you know a series that could use some better timing? Let us know in the comments below!
Time waits for no man, and it changes us all. Check out our gaming facts that will make you feel old to see how big gaming events are affected by time. Or read our Super Time Force review to see what its like to actually control it!