An incomplete history of time-travel games

Time Killers (1992)

Ah, the golden days of one-on-one fighters, in which there was no pressure on your game to be any good whatsoever as long as it had energy-bars at the top of the screen and a shitload of attack buttons. Time Killers has far more story than its premise would suggest (which is to say, about a paragraph’s worth), boiling down to your mission: face uggoes from across time and dismember them.

Did it do your head in? It did your head off, which in its mouth-breathing cretinousness it thought was pretty much the same thing.

Above: It’s a wonder people got worried about 1990s arcade games 

Were there cowboys in it? Cowboys don’t have swords; guns can’t clumsily dismember people; ergo, no cowboys here. Boo.

Time Travel Satisfaction Rating:

Mario’s Time Machine (1993)

From this box shot, it would appear Mario’s Time Machine is about a direct-to-video Mario impersonator who takes a bad trip and dreams of riding Slave-1 through a wormhole, pursued by college professor F. Murray Abraham and Halloween costumed John Kerry. If you told us it was actually a Carmen Sandiego rip-off with Mario in it, that wouldn’t really help matters.

Did it do your head in? Did you even read the previous paragraph?

Were there cowboys in it? The game revolved around recovering priceless relics from history. Cowboys were many things, but artificers of timeless objets d’art they were not.


Time Travel Satisfaction Rating:

The Chaos Engine (1993)

Presented with all the love and care that 1990s British auteurs the Bitmap Brothers lavished on their work, The Chaos Engine keeps its time-travel carry-on stylishly minimalist. The storyline is rife with future visitors and alternate timelines, but the game itself plays out in sensible, chronological, Victorian steampunk order. Which is fine and all, but you know what that means: COWBOYFAIL ‘93.

Did it do your head in? The plot was basically Terminator 2 with mustaches, these both being things that were big in 1993.

Were there cowboys in it? The cast was a stiff-upper-lip Victorian version of all the cowboy tropes… but if you want to get technical, there were no ten-gallon hats. If only.


Time Travel Satisfaction Rating:

Day of the Tentacle (1993)

Beloved Lucasarts classic Day of the Tentacle is a breakneck journey through American history in which you have to travel backwards in time to foil the titular Purple Tentacle’s scurrilous world-domination scheme, but accidentally wind up playing pranks on George Washington to make his face explode. Characters communicate by sending small objects through time machines made out of port-a-potties. So yeah, there’s time-travel in it.

Did it do your head in? The ultimate goal of the game is to get to yesterday, but when you get there you find that the villain has arrived there several times over and has to be defeated accordingly. Head: done in.

Were there cowboys in it? You hung out with all manner of colonial American bigwigs, who were all basically cowboys made good. Close enough for jazz.


Time Travel Satisfaction Rating:

Sonic the Hedgehog CD (1993)

An underappreciated head-scratcher in the Sonic canon, Sonic CD introduced concepts that would later be paid slim deference: Sonic’s metal nemesis, imaginatively named Metal Sonic, and time-travel between stage acts. It also introduced Amy Rose, which could easily be argued to be the moment the series jumped the shark. Still… Metal Sonic!

Did it do your head in? Elements in each level’s “past” could be destroyed to pave the way for a better “future”, and running really fast could (just like in real life) propel you into the future.

Were there cowboys in it? As a rule, the more human-influenced characters a Sonic game has, the worse it is; which is to say, Sonic CD was blessedly cowboy-free.


Time Travel Satisfaction Rating:


  • bonerachieved - October 27, 2009 8:39 p.m.

  • barrage7667 - October 25, 2009 9:37 p.m.

    what? no timeshift?!?!?!? i mean the entire game you are time traveling even while playing!! COME ON!!!
  • UnrealCanine - October 23, 2009 11:49 a.m.

    Why didn't you include the flash game Back to the Cubeture?
  • tgboy - October 23, 2009 6:48 a.m.

    Legacy of Kain series?
  • TriLun0r - October 22, 2009 11:44 p.m.

    lol no timeshift? good. that game sucked. saaadfaaace
  • Spybreak8 - October 22, 2009 11:19 p.m.

    Turtles time traveling in the comic books are really bad ass, that is all lol.
  • V13Dragongal - October 22, 2009 8:53 p.m.

    In sonic CD it gets hard to keep track of WHEN you are. Example, you go to the past twice, the future once, then the past 3 times, then future 5 times, past 2, then go to bed, wake up, forget everything that happened yesterday and do it all again. It dosent help that if you go forward or back far enough you start getting Day ja-vu(no idea how to spell it). Zelda was awesome however.
  • nebno6 - October 22, 2009 7:48 p.m.

  • helix92 - October 22, 2009 7:45 p.m.

    Does Assassins Creed count??
  • Spacegrass - October 22, 2009 5:06 p.m.

    I would have liked to see Serious Sam on this list; especially since, with his revolvers and coach-gun, Sam is basically a cowboy himself.
  • Yaro - October 22, 2009 4:41 p.m.

    Oh man, I'm so sad there is not legacy of kain, I mean as you play all those games or at least Soul Reaver 1 and 2 and Defiance, it's mind blowing, the finale of Soul Reaver 2 and Defiance are so...I dunno indescribable. You just stare at the credits with that awesome music and just wonder. I will never forget in my life the last line of Soul Reaver 2, "History abhors paradox." It took me quite a while to make sense of that statement, since english isn't my native language too. Anyway nice list and great article as always GR =)
  • Conman93 - October 22, 2009 3:13 p.m.

    No majoras mask??? Odd. Guess orcarina does have TIME in the title
  • Xplosive59 - October 22, 2009 3:08 p.m.

    as soon as i saw the title i knew that Chrono trigger would be in here
  • deedob - October 22, 2009 12:03 p.m.

    The Magic of Scherazade on the NES (maybe a typo there in the title :)...) was an arabian night-style where you had to keep going back and forth in time to solve puzzles. Can't go to an island to reach a temple? Travel forward in time a few hundred years when there will be no lake around the temple. Can't defeat an ennemy boss/demon thing monster? Go back in time a few millenias when he was still new to the world and beat him then. I still think it was a better "Zelda-like" game than Zelda itself. Chrono Cross/Trigger, Darkest of Days and yes... even the very known, but rarelly played DaiKatana could've been mentionned here. All games BASED on time travel.
  • Flyingwoody - October 22, 2009 3:09 a.m.

    Nice Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford reference. Awesome movie. I approve.
  • bamb0o-stick - October 22, 2009 1:36 a.m.

    I'm surprised Darkest of Days isn't mentioned in here. It was kinda fun jumping from war to war in mankind's history.
  • linkganon - October 22, 2009 1:06 a.m.

    Final Fantasy, which may or may not have had sequels, actually started the ball rolling with some half-hearted attempts at time-travel shenanigans. The game’s initial villain, Garland, believes he has created a time-loop in which to live forever, whereas his repurposed corpse turns out to be a vehicle for the ultimate evil, itself sent back in time by villains from the future. So basically it sets the tone for what would follow by being a wonderfully unintelligible load of old pants. What? this doesn't even make sense
  • CH3BURASHKA - October 21, 2009 11:27 p.m.

  • Ded - October 21, 2009 10:45 p.m.

    Aw! No Eternal Champions, I thought that was more well known than that Time Killers game :D
  • Cyberninja - October 21, 2009 10:04 p.m.

    where is eturnal darkness it was great game about time but had no cowboys

Showing 1-20 of 27 comments

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