Though many games feature time travel in some form, true time travel games—games that use time travel not just as a plot device, but as a mechanic—aren’t as common as you might think. Despite being a popular trope in books, comics, and movies, time travel tends to take a backseat to other game mechanics, as it can be hard to execute thanks to a variety of rules and restrictions in portraying it realistically.
But when time travel games do it right, they really do it right. Here are four of our favorite time travel games, in no particular order.
Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle Features Tricky Time Travel Puzzles
Day of the Tentacle, the sequel to LucasArts’ Maniac Mansion, features Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman’s iconic senses of humor. It’s no surprise that it’s an off-the-wall adventure, as well as a clever use for time travel in a game—players switch between three characters who have been separated in time, using their different temporal locations to solve puzzles and defeat the maniacal Purple Tentacle.
Day of the Tentacle wouldn’t work without time travel—its puzzles are based around tricky time thinking, such as aging an item, traveling into different futures and retrieving objects for disguises, or changing the past to alter the present. That reliance on time travel to not only tell the story but actually create it is what makes Day of the Tentacle one of the greatest time travel games, as it shows how clever time travel puzzles can be.
Stop A Disaster Just in Time in Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Though it’s certainly not the only Legend of Zelda game to use time travel, Majora’s Mask uses it a little differently than some of the others in the series. Majora’s Mask takes place over just three days, as Link aims to stop the moon from crashing into Clock Town and destroying the world. Using the Ocarina of Time, Link can rewind or fast-forward time to save his progress and start fresh with new items, but any people he encounters will have no memory of him and any puzzles cleared with be lost, as well as several other consequences.
The compact nature of Majora’s Mask means that time really matters—you can rewind time to save and try again, but lose progress you’ve made on puzzles, or you can keep forging ahead and hope you can halt the impending destruction before the moon hits Clock Town. By making the player conscious of time passing, Majora’s Mask is one of the greatest time travel games.