Although scientists haven’t quite cracked it yet, time travel has captivated humankind for hundreds of years. It’s easy to see why. For one thing, we’d all love to see how the people who came before us lived. What was daily life like before the Internet? Before electricity and running water? Before agriculture? And who wouldn’t like to peek into the future to see how people will live in hundreds or thousands of years?
Each of the five games below offer a unique take on time travel. Some of them shoot players back to ancient history or blast us forward to the distant future. Others use time travel in a more short-term way, like to gain extra time while finishing up complicated tasks or to change key decisions we made.
Time travel offers infinite possibilities, so when a game uses it well, it’s almost always fun to play. Here are five examples of time travel in video games.
1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time
This classic beat-‘em-up originally landed in arcades in 1991 before being ported to the Super Nintendo the following year. The game kicks off in present-day New York City as Shredder and Krang decide to steal the Statue of Liberty (of all things).
That spurs our reptilian heroes into action as they set off on a quest to get save the beloved landmark. Little do they know that Shredder has whipped up a time machine that sends them through a number of historical eras, beginning in the year of 250 million B.C.
The plot doesn’t make much sense, but who cares when you get to beat up the Foot Clan during the time of pirates, the Wild West, and a space-faring future?
2. Chrono Trigger
Another game that drops you in an impressive array of time periods is Chrono Trigger, one of the best role-playing games ever made.
You play as Crono, a young man on a time traveling quest that takes him from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages, and even to a post-apocalyptic future. As you visit these time periods, you make friends who then join your party and accompany you on your journey.
Before long you’re traveling across the eons with a crew that includes a prehistoric woman, a squire-turned-frog, and a robot from the future who’s all but guaranteed to make you cry. If that doesn’t sell you on this game, nothing will.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Rewinding time is a key gameplay mechanic is Majora’s Mask, a Zelda game that found itself in the unfortunate position of having to follow Ocarina of Time, one of the best games in the franchise. The team that made it decided to go in a new direction with the game.
Unlike Ocarina, Majora’s Mask is dark and strange. The moon is on a collision course with the planet, which means all life will be extinguished unless Link can stop it in three days.
As it turns out, three days isn’t enough time to get the job done. Thankfully, you soon discover a way to go back in time, which lets you complete all of the dungeons and (spoilers) save the world.
4. Radiant Historia
It’s a sad fact of life that some things don’t get the popularity they deserve. Radiant Historia is one of those things. This innovative 2010 role-playing game for Nintendo DS drops you in a fascinating kingdom in the desert and has you make all kinds of important choices.
Sometimes your choices work out well. Other times they cause things to go horribly awry (like your friends ending up dead, for instance). In real life, time marches on no matter what we do, but in Radiant Historia you can travel back in time and make different choices to see how events play out. The result is a delightfully fractured timeline that lets you leap to various points in the past, present, and future on a whim.
If that sounds like fun, try it out. The game is still in print, and you can play it on a 3DS.
5. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
The raccoon burglar is at it again in the fourth installment of the Sly Cooper series of action platformers. This time, Sly and his pals are after a time-traveling villain who makes stops in places like feudal Japan, the wild West, medieval Europe, and ancient Arabia. Each setting provides plenty of period-specific enemies, plus obstacles to navigate and puzzles to solve.
One great thing about this time-traveling tale is that it supports Cross Buy, so if you buy it on PS3, you’ll get a free code for the PS Vita version. If you have PlayStation Plus, your save file will even transfer between versions, so you can pick up where you left off, no matter which device you’re using.