The 25th century space marine Vin Diesel stand-in, Sergeant Cortez, gets transported through several centuries of human genre clichés, from the Old West to the 1920s Chicago gangster era and even into a post-apocalyptic robot-dominated future. His mission: stop the evil alien race the franchise is named after, before they wipe out human history. Cortez is about as fleshed out as the monkeys who chase you around with machine guns (that can happen - this game is that awesome), but character development played distant fifth fiddle in this series. Really, TimeSplitters was always more about having a game where you can potentially shoot cowboys, Russians and robots without changing game discs - and what more reason do you really need to love a game? The last entry in the series made the story of stopping the TimeSplitters (who turn out to be a time traveling scientist's creation and not an alien race, because that's important) much more central, and reduced the amount of time you spent in anime-inspired Neo-Tokyo to zero. There has yet to be another game in the franchise. Coincidence? I think not.
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.
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.