The Dorklyst: The 18 Greatest Time Travelers in Videogame History

By Alexander Z. Rogers / April 12, 2013
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Time travel has been a super popular theme in movies, books and games ever since the first time machine was invented in the year of our Lord Zenithox 33270XX, so naturally there have been plenty of virtual heroes zipping through the space-time continuum. Even with so many cool games featuring time travel, these eighteen veteran characters stand out for going the distance in the past, present and future. Their heroic chrono-adventures have taught us all that no matter how far into the past or future we go, bad guys and logic puzzles span across all history.

18. Bernard, Hoagie, Laverne (Day of the Tentacle)

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Way back in an earlier epoch VH-1 historians now refer to as "the early '90s", the forward-looking game scientists at LucasArts developed Day of the Tentacle. The point-and-click adventure game followed a guy, a girl, and another guy in their efforts to foil a sentient purple tentacle's plot to take over the world. The course of human and tentacle events leads to each character being stranded in the mansion at a different period of time. The game played around with the unique temporal level structure, allowing the player to eventually switch between the three time periods, trade items, and show how the effects of a change to one period could have puzzle-solving consequences in future areas. The game's quirky sense of humor and cartoony visuals masked an educational journey, as the kids playing learned more about the Founding Fathers than they ever would have at school. For instance, did you know that John Hancock made the first bad Woody Allen impression in recorded history in Maniac Mansion over 200 years ago? Knowledge.

Sadly, the untimely demise of LucasArts means that this series is likely…history. More time-travel wordplay to follow.

17. Alyssa Hamilton (Clock Tower 3)

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In the immortal words of Joss Whedon when discussing the impetus behind Cabin in the Woods, "Why do these bad things keep happening to these blonde girls?" Well, in Clock Tower 3 one of them takes a trip into the past to find out and mostly has bad things happen to her. Your character, Alyssa, a spunky young schoolgirl, embarks on a quest to help the souls of those murdered by demon-possessed serial killers wielding huge weapons, because a 14-year-old can do anything if she puts her mind to it. To defeat the killers, Alyssa travels back in time to WW2 London and other ages of history, using items found around the crime scene to put victims' souls to rest. Why are these things happening? In answer to Joss' question: Magic. For a game populated by such uncanny monsters and spiritual powers, your character's primary response to danger – running and hiding like the scared little schoolgirl she literally is – is depressingly true to life. Sure, if a guy with a massive pair of bloody pruning shears was actually chasing me down I would probably run around screaming and throwing holy water about too, but not too many people actually enjoy playing as a horror film's Axe Victim #4. Why Scotland Yard wasn't able to track down a giant patchwork monster with the spiked sledgehammer murdering child piano prodigies also remains unexplained, though the answer is likely the same as the answer to any question you have about Clock Tower 3: Because magic, that's why.

16. Marshal Graham (Time Traveler)

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What could be more perfect for a list on time travelers than a game called "Time Traveler"? (Don't answer that). This game really had it all: time-warping cowboy, galactic princess, and even a mad scientist turned evil overlord. The only thing missing was fun. Gamers followed Old West hero Marshal Graham as he crossed several periods of history, battling an array of extras from Roger Corman movie sets to prevent Vulcron from transforming backgrounds throughout time into the same shitty green screen effect of floating geometric shapes… or something like that. The game was more of a choose-your-own-adventure style film, with the Marshal either progressing or getting his head bashed open in the next scene – depending on the player's ability to match a specific sequence of button-pushing and joystick, er, sticking? The unforgiving trial-by-error, and error, and error gameplay was pretty monotonous, though the cool arcade cabinet, flashing lights and awesome background green screen floating geometric shapes effects were enough to keep at least one 7-year-old repeatedly coming back for more punishment.

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