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An incomplete history of time-travel games

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Final Fantasy (1987)


 
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.

Did it do your head in? Only if you were stupid enough to try and make sense of it.

Were there cowboys in it? Final Fantasy was made before Japan had discovered America. There were no cowboys.

Time Travel Satisfaction Rating:
 


Time Soldiers (1987)


 
So Commando was good, but it didn’t have a two-player option. Which was why Ikari Warriors was better; but it didn’t allow the player to fight dinosaurs, so it couldn’t be perfect. And into the world came Time Soldiers, and everyone knew the genre would never be improved upon, which is the sole reason why the PS3 has pretty much no top-down on-foot shooters. FACT!

Did it do your head in? Time Soldiers featured a rotating joystick: firing and moving could be accomplished with one precision-guiding hand, while the other handled the task of clumsily mashing the buttons. Like other games to feature this infernal perversion of gamer agency, it did your head in in all the worst ways.


Above: The awful contraption, seen here ruining another perfectly good game 

Were there cowboys in it? There were Ancient Romans, the cowboys of the Classical world: loquacious, hedonistic and kind of gay in a don’t-mess-with-us way.

Time Travel Satisfaction Rating:
 


Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? (1989)


 
A vital entry in the pantheon of time-travel games, Where in Time was one of those titles that wasn’t really all that much of a game, but you played it because you couldn’t kill Nazis on the computers at the school library. Teaching such valuable facts as “Pablo Picasso lived in Spain” and “they had knights in the Olden Days”, it was basically a Master’s degree in history on a couple of 3.5” floppies.


Above: Several facts you forgot in the time it took to read this caption 

Did it do your head in? The depth of the game was such that it was packaged with a freaking pocket encyclopedia, though this may have just been because developers Broderbund thought kids were really dumb.

Were there cowboys in it? If you asked too many wrong questions, a cowboy would shoot you, the player, directly in your wrong-tree-barking face!

Time Travel Satisfaction Rating:


Time Lord (1989)


 

This is more like it! Rare’s titular Time Lord, finding himself facing a coordinated alien invasion across four separate periods of human history, decides to travel through time and send the Drakkon rapscallions packing. Beginning at the start of 2999 AD, the TL has one year to complete his task. Of course, as any reasonable person will have surmised, one human year takes place in four seconds for the Time Lord, giving players 24 minutes and 34 seconds to clock the game.

Did it do your head in? Quite nicely. If the entire game revolves around time travel, why the arbitrary time limit? Come to that, what kind of lazy-ass alien invasion takes an entire year?

Were there cowboys in it? Saints be praised, there were!

 
There were also knights, Nazis and pirates. Throw in some futuristic alien nasties and Rare will have prototyped the time-travel game as we now know it.

 
Yeah, so, wow.

Time Travel Satisfaction Rating:


Gauntlet: The Third Encounter (1990)



Above: ‘A PLAYER APPROACHES!! … Oh no, false alarm.’ 

A Lynx exclusive (the dictionary definition of which is actually “never played by anyone, ever”), The Third Encounter played like its arcade forebear for about two levels before just going batshit kitchen-sink mental on you. Nerds and punk rockers fought walking sharks against a backdrop of castles and circa-1990 computers. We never got to the level shaped like a giant “WTF,” but surely it was a standout.


Above: If you DID play it, you had to hold the Lynx sideways the whole time. Fun!

Did it do your head in? The steady diet of “wackiness” was amusing for about 10 levels, but not as amusing as taking the cartridge out and playing California Games instead.

Were there cowboys in it? There were pirates and samurai in it. The inclusion of a cowboy character was a no-brainer.

Time Travel Satisfaction Rating:

We Recommend

27 comments

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

    YESSSS BRAIDS BACK IN THE GAME!!!!
  • 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.

    ONIMUSHA 3 ANYBODY?
  • 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.

    Yee-haw!!!
  • 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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