An incomplete history of time-travel games

Dark Cloud (2001)

Above: It’s not funny to annoy pedants by saying this boy’s name is ‘Dark Cloud.’ It’s freakin’ HILARIOUS

Both Dark Cloud and Dark Cloud 2/Dark Chronicle take something of a throw-everything-and-see-what-sticks approach to storytelling. If your tale of imprisoned worlds and rats pretending to be genies and possessed colonels can include a few villains from the future or time-travelling amulets, so much the better, right? Right??

Did it do your head in? Neither dungeon-crawls nor city-building games thrive on their stories, so the baroque tapestry of story in Dark Cloud somewhat fades into the background.

Were there cowboys in it? Sure: Dark Cloud lives in a pokey Old West-themed ranching town, which he’s forced to rebuild when it gets stuck in a temporally-malleable hole in the ground.


Time Travel Satisfaction Rating:

Timesplitters 2 (2002)

While the original Timesplitters used time-travel as the hook into lots of quick-‘n’-dirty deathmatch play, it wasn’t until the sequel that the series’ potential really became apparent. While the game had an overarching narrative, its skill was in using time-jumping as an excuse to change gears before any one locale had time to get tired.

Did it do your head in? Lamentably, it wasn’t until Timesplitters: Future Perfect that devs Free Radical started messing about with some nice juicy paradoxes and time-loops. However, we’re focusing on this game, not that one, because…

Were there cowboys in it?

Timesplitters 2 had mad love for the cowboys. You started the level by doing that trail-of-gunpowder trick from all the movies, and things just got more rootin’ and/or tootin’ from there.

Time Travel Satisfaction Rating:

Blinx the Time Sweeper (2002)

Blinx’s central premise is actually much the same as that of the loathsome Adam Sandler vehicle Click: all of existence can be manipulated if you have a powerful-enough remote control. Like that movie, the notion is used for varyingly clever tricks of time-bending and girl-kissing gags; unlike that movie, it all comes a cropper when an army of unruly pigs threaten to box all the time up and nick it.

Did it do your head in? It certainly did its durndest. While later, similar games would use the gimmick in a more confident manner, Blinx certainly gave head-doing-in the old college try.

Were there cowboys in it? All of Blinx takes place in a meta-realm where concepts such as “cowboys” are utterly foreign. Oh, but “biker pigs,” of course they have those.


Time Travel Satisfaction Rating:

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003)

Not only is Sands of Time set entirely in flashback save for the title screen and final battle, but every battle and platform sequence is a continuous exercise in rewinding and altering the player’s actions; there’s also the option to travel into the future before enemies so as to stab them in the neck. Pretty good for a series that started life as a programmer’s brother running about the park in his PJs.

Did it do your head in? The beauty of Sands of Time is that, as complex as it gets, it never does break your brain. Everything makes sense in the game’s context.

Did It Have Cowboys In It? So much sand, so many mustaches, and not a single quick-draw contest? Disregard all the above: Sands of Time is a desperate failure.


Time Travel Satisfaction Rating:

GrimGrimoire (2007)

While GrimGrimoire’s setting had many writing it off as a Harry Potter me-too (an assumption courted by the game’s character designs), the game actually had some clever chops to reward players who gave it a go. For our purposes, these included the game’s Groundhog Day-esque structure, in which the heroine is snatched out of time moments before her horrible death in order to relive the same five days over and over again until she can solve the mystery of her classmates’ massacre.

Did it do your head in? Your head was challenged on a fairly continual basis, yes.

Were there cowboys in it? Cowboys don’t trust wizards. Too much skulduggery.

Above: Can you find the hidden cowboy? (Hint: No) 

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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