11. Professor Layton (Professor Layton and the Unwound Future)
This game had series star Hershel Layton, professional puzzle solver (and occasional archaeologist), witnessing the aftereffects of a disastrous time machine demonstration. Given that Layton's already lost one girlfriend to a previous time machine explosion, the practical thing to do after this second accident would have been to avoid time machines they're clearly kind of fatal. But of course, one letter purportedly from the future is all it takes to get the professor hot on the trail of some chronological logic puzzles. Eventually, Layton and his pet boy, Luke, ended up traveling to a steampunk inspired future London in which he had become a professor of crime as head of a mafia-like group and Luke was
older. As per usual, Layton need merely solve a series of brainteasers and talk to some locals to have it all sorted out. And naturally, it all ended with a mobile fortress on a collision course to present-day London. Now one might imagine an archaeology professor and a sidekick dressed like a reject from the Newsies chorus line would be a poor match against a roving death citadel. Unfortunately for the villain, his master weapon had a single weakness that could be exploited wait for it by solving a puzzle. At game's end, London is safe again, though time travel is as dangerous as ever. I don't recommend it.
10. Sissel (Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective)
Who says you have to be alive to be a time traveler? Not the Japanese, that's for sure. Sissel, the main character from Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, is a recently deceased amnesiac spirit who learns he has the power to reverse time by a few minutes and possess objects. While he cannot immediately prevent his own death, he uses his abilities to save the lives of the death-prone beings around him. Shortly after witnessing a murder, Sissel can transport back in time to just before the incident occurred and manipulate a few objects to ensure only good things happen to everyone (except the increasingly frustrated murderers). In helping others living longer lives, Sissel uncovers the truth behind the conspiracy that made him a shabby corpse forced to turn ghost tricks in the street. As with Professor Layton and nearly all Japanese games, this already wild and fun premise gets even more crazy and complicated as you get closer to the end. I mean, at one point you're on a sinking submarine talking about super-power-inducing space meteorites and secret organizations within secret organizations. Did I mention there's also a time-traveling ghost dog that speaks fluent human? Because there's that. God, I hope they have a spin-off game featuring just that dog in the future, but I can't know, because I don't have a time machine. And that totally sucks.
9. Lost Vikings (The Lost Vikings Series)
One of the earlier titles by a developer that would eventually take the name Blizzard, The Lost Vikings starred a trio of, well, vikings. Flung through different time periods by a grossly incompetent intergalactic despot, the Norse trio raid and pillage their way to the exit of each era (thankfully history always has an escape door). While all three Vikings were playable, originally the player could only manipulate one at a time, meaning timing and action had to be just right in order to solve puzzle that required the characters work in tandem. Dying rewarded the player with a fiery Viking funeral, which was pretty damn metal for an SNES game. In fact, I wish more games would honor player deaths with flaming pyres on long ships. While the time traveling aspect of the game mostly served as a reason for different backgrounds and enemies, you did learn a few fun facts. For instance, did you know that Viking shields were strong enough to deflect laser fire? Whether that's because Vikings were ahead of their time in the shield department or the lasers of the future being disappointingly weak will doubtlessly be pondered further in the never-to-be-released-ever Lost Vikings 3.
8. Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Series)
The Blue Blur has blue blurred his way through several time-scapades over the years, because apparently just being really fast isn't interesting enough to keep the kids' attention. ITEM 1: Those sad few who spent most of their Summer job earnings on Sega CD system may recall SONIC CD, in which our hero is not only really fast but can also travel into the past and future. The impetus for this is a plot by Dr. Robotnik (or Eggman, whatever) to take control of a tiny time planet and use its time-warping properties to warp time. One cool aspect of the time-travel mechanic other than slightly altering the levels was the ability to determine which future zone Sonic would visit depending on his actions in the past. The default outcome was a "bad future" in which Robotnik's inept rule created a bleak dystopia of industrial pollution that would depress the hell out of the Lorax even the trees were artificial! However, by destroying the evil scientist's machines in the past you were rewarded by a happier future in which small animals frolic around the screen as nature intended.
Then there was Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). There was time travel in that.
Moving on, there was also Sonic Generations, in which Sega execs decided to make a game that appealed to our sense of nostalgia for the Sonic that was. The story imagined the chatty Sonic of today meeting up with his shorter, mute self of the Genesis years due to the machinations of a time monster Robotnik found in space. Also, you get to have a reunion with old, less-polygons Robotnik and old equally annoying Tails. Unfortunately, you can't alter the timeline to prevent the last decade of Sonic titles from being released, or keep your hero from learning language. However, if Sega's mission was to remind you how much fun the games used to be with a trip to the past then Mission Accomplished.