An incomplete history of time-travel games

Chrono Trigger (1995)

One of the best-loved time-travel games of all time, there’s not much needs to be said to warrant Chrono Trigger’s inclusion on this list. Not only was the time-skipping a constant plot element, rather than just lazy setup, but the characters’ ability to leap between time periods legendarily opened the game up to an admirable degree of control over the way you wanted to experience the story. Timewarp cleverness at its best.

Did it do your head in? The developers included an entire end-time realm for the specific purpose of helping players get their heads around the game’s concepts.

Were there cowboys in it? Fearing that Chrono Trigger could not be a true time-travel classic without cowboys, one ending featured an oblique verbal reference thereto. Phew!


Time Travel Satisfaction Rating:


Tales of Phantasia (1995)

The first in the now-fairly-huge Tales series, Phantasia took a Final Fantasy-esque approach to time travel, using it as a background story-point rather than making the concept a focus. The game’s twisty-turny plot involves a supervillain whose shtick is jumping through time, and a Ragtag Band of Heroes whose shtick is chasing him. It’s like if Carmen Sandiego had involved lethal magic spells.

Did it do your head in? It kept you on your toes.

Were there cowboys in it? Claus F. Lester is a cowboy name, and Claus F. Lester looks like this.


We humbly submit that Tales of Phantasia has cowboys in it.

Time Travel Satisfaction Rating:

Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped (1998)

After two games in which lots of crazy stuff happened in the present, Crash 3 wisely decided that time-travel was mandatory if the series was to continue. This took the form of dumping the hero in a hub world and asking him to choose a world to go to, all of which now had a date on them as well. And the franchise was forever (very marginally) changed!

Did it do your head in? Seeing as nobody knows what a bandicoot is, the notion that they might be capable of time manipulation was a surprise to no-one.

Were there cowboys in it? There was a level with an old-timey cowboy biplane flying over an old-timey cowboy landscape, but the PlayStation was not capable of rendering actual cowboys at this point in its development cycle.

Above: There could be cowboys down there, right? 

Time Travel Satisfaction Rating:

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)

Above: We do feel kind of bad for the kids. We’re like Vietnam with this shit

Oh, hell. You drop Ocarina into the mix, where are you going to go from there? And yes indeedy, the game stays true to Zelda heritage by having a doozy of a time-warp plot and incorporating the time-travel elements skilfully into gameplay. While earlier (and later) Zelda games would flirt with time-travel elements, it was in Ocarina that the Hero of Time really earned the title.

Did it do your head in? For 1998, the time-travel puzzles were certainly more than respectable.

Were there cowboys in it? There were ranchers, faithful steeds, and a little guy who rode a horse about the place all the live-long day.


Time Travel Satisfaction Rating:

Ape Escape (1999)

Basically an extended tech-demo for the Dual Shock’s newfangled and not-at-all-N64-influenced dual analog sticks, Ape Escape figured: if you can chase villains through time as well as space, why not? Frankly, that’s the least the game owed us after setting human understanding of the monkey/ape distinction back several decades.

Did it do your head in? The game made you use your thumbs in entirely new and enthralling ways! So if your brain was in your thumbs, yes, Ape Escape would really mess with you.

Were there cowboys in it? Cowboys would not be phased in till Ape Escape 3. You can’t have apes, pirates and cowboys all at once.


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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