5. Steins; Gate
You don’t time travel in Steins;Gate. At least, you don’t in the traditional way you might think of “time travel.” The visual novel centers around a wannabe mad scientist named Rintaro Okabe who discovers that one of his ridiculous inventions actually works (though not in the way he initially intended). Using a “mobile microwave” and a cell phone, Okabe is able to send text messages into the past and change the current timeline’s intended course. Sounds great, right? But, much like Death in a Final Destination movie, time is a cruel force; changing it even slightly just leads to more tragedy and more suffering for everyone. Being able to directly select what to do to change the past (rather than letting a cutscene do the work for you) makes the game’s story and bad endings hit as hard as they do. In the end, all of the game’s joys, failures, and even deaths are all the result of your own actions. It’s all your fault. For better or for worse, you choose where the future leads-and sometimes, that isn’t pretty.
4. Fire Emblem: Awakening
Fire Emblem Awakening owes a lot to traditional fantasy tropes, as is the case with most of the franchise. There’s a medieval kingdom, swords and sorcery, dragons, and loads of other elements that reoccur in all of the Fire Emblem games. However, the introduction of time travel in Awakening definitely took a lot of people by surprise. Lucina (the daughter of deuteragonist Chrom) rockets back from a future where a demonic dragon has destroyed pretty much everything in existence. She proceeds to whip up a mask and a fake identity (specifically, that of the Hero-King Marth from the original Fire Emblem) in order to change history and save her timeline. This twist manages to not only introduce time travel into the franchise (and as seen later in Fire Emblem Fates, interdimensional travel), but it connects one of the oldest iterations of the franchise to the latest entries in a spectacular fashion, and Lucina’s comrades (all with mix-and-match parentage) made for some fun additions to the cast. Is it sci-fi or fantasy? It doesn’t really matter, since it’s just plain fun.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Time Travel elements is not uncommon in the Zelda series. But this one seems to stand at the front with the word ‘Time’ in the title. Along with being one of the major points in the narrative. This narrative involving the Master Sword suspending Link in time for 7 years. This movement through time makes him older, but as he was away the world has changed in his absence. Not just areas the characters that you originally meet as Young Link, allies that are now grown as well and changed. Princess Ruto, the bratty and selfish Zora Princess, grows to be more mature and responsible Princess and Water Sage. And this time travel is not just a going forward, players will be able to go back to the time as Young Link. This back and forth allows for a full exploration and for gaining access to areas.
2. BioShock Infinite
Few creators of games can craft a narrative as layered and intriguing as Ken Levine, master storyteller of Bioshock and Bioshock Infiinte. In Infinite, you play as Booker DeWitt, a man sent to “rescue the girl” to “wash away the debt”. Gamers find themselves unsure exactly what kind of debt DeWitt finds himself in, and it doesn’t become clear until the final act of the game. Deeply involved in dimension swapping and time travel, Bioshock Infinite sends the player through multiple times and dimensions, even stopping in at our old favorite underwater city, Rapture. The entire game is a series of loops; Booker always gives up his daughter; Booker always searches for his daughter; Booker, in half the universes, becomes Comstock; it always starts with a lighthouse. As you near the end of the game, the truth unravels, and you realize that you’ve done this before… often. The song “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” is a powerful reminder of the narrative of Infinite, and DeWitt’s voice actor, Troy Baker, recorded a fantastic rendition on his album.