Time Travel In Video Games: Some Classic TV Shows That We Want To Make The Leap To Games


Posted September 29, 2011 - By Brittany Vincent

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Chrono Trigger, Live A Live, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Day of the Tentacle: what do all of these have in common? Time travel, of course! It's a trope oft-explored throughout the history of video games, as well as a smattering of other media we regularly consume. It's unquestionably popular, the desire to trek through time as if we were some sort of Gallifreyan or a group of travelers sliding to and fro from parallel universes.

And while we have plenty of games with which to vicariously live out this fantasy, we could always use some more. In fact, we can look straight to the boob tube for some ideas. Some of the most memorable adventures we've taken through the magic of television would transkate beautifully to gaming.

Of course, the adventure genre would likely be the best fit for each of these series of stand-alone time travel mishaps -- and with the recent flop of Telltale's Back to the Future games, the genre needs some serious revitalization and inspiration. Here are five time-warping TV series that should be considered as candidates for reincarnation as video games.

Time Travel

Doctor Who

Whovians would agree that a Doctor Who game could be spectacular, if done correctly. To be fair, the 11th Doctor has already seen his share of adventure games, mobile maze adventures, and lackluster DS puzzlers, but they weren't handled as delicately as fans would have preferred, focusing solely on the newest series and rarely relying on the more classic elements of the renowned sci-fi cornerstone.

A less cartoony, more introspective walk through the Doctor's several incarnations would make a fantastic journey for fans and newcomers to the mythos, and incorporating series favorites such as David Tennant, Billie Piper, and Catherine Tate could rekindle interest in the earlier, more epic timelines such as The Master's rule and Bad Wolf saga. An open-world New Earth or a look into the parallel world of the human 10th Doctor and Rose would add a much-needed adult slant to what is otherwise treated as solely childish entertainment. We need a better, more grown-up game to accompany the brilliance of the new series, STAT.

Time Travel


Day of the Tentacle made out just fine with the Port-a-Johns, so why couldn’t wormholes work? The cast of Sliders, sliding from one parallel universe to the next, always wondering when they’d return home, would do well to join the world of video games. So many conventions explored in the show would make for some interesting game mechanics: for instance, in-game timers just like in the series would govern how much time a player could spend in each alternate world.

A central narrative could tie the different locales together, and a fixed amount of time as referenced by the timer would ensure players must work together to solve the mystery or case presented to them before being forced into the next locale. It could make for some interesting branching playthroughs, and I think we’re all for seeing a return of Sliders, even if it means simply seeing the episodes in their intended airing order. C’mon, Fox.

Time Travel

Quantum Leap

Oh, boy! Sam of the swiss-cheesed brain and his wise-cracking best buddy Al, hurtling through time and leaving their mark everywhere they go, could turn the adventure genre on its head. Besides, the wise-cracking sidekick thing practically screams gaming (anyone played the Blackwell series?). And the “leaping” has been done before, even in shooters such as Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy, Second Sight, Mindjack…and most recently Driver: San Francisco. So we already know that shifting into another’s body makes for some intriguing situations. A set of acts revolving around some of Sam’s more memorable leaps and the opportunity to further explore each setpiece would be a great excuse to jump back into the world of this cult TV classic. Scott Bakula at his finest…unless you want to count Star Trek: Enterprise.


The Time Tunnel

Irwin Allen, you sly devil. Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and The Time Tunnel? Well, that’s more than I’ll ever hope to accomplish in my entire life. But I digress. The 1960s sci-fi series revolved around the titular “Time Tunnel,” and the ill-fated Project Tic-Toc, a secret experiment the government finds has cost too much money for the “results” it has produced. When one scientist, desperate to prove his hard work and funds were not wasted, enters the Time Tunnel himself to prove his superiors wrong, his invention doesn’t exactly work as intended, then BAM! Just like the rest of the other poor schmucks of the time travel genre, he becomes lost in time with no real discernible way to return home.

After his colleague enters the ill-fated tunnel as well, the dynamic duo trope kicks in and we have your typical time-traveling, where-will-we-end-up-next adventure. Voila. Considering the often psychedelic nature of some of Irwin Allen’s projects and the audience the show initially reached during its run on television, an almost film –noir game could inject some new life into the property, using its setting and campy situations to engage players. I’d even move for retaining some of the terrible special effects from the classic series – now THATwould make for some entertaining gaming and motifs. I’m in.

Time Travel

Life on Mars

Alright, so technically this isn’t a show about time travel, but main character Sam Tyler’s suddenly finding himself in the 1970s certainly qualifies for at least one aspect of time travel. This critically-acclaimed UK series stars John Simm (you may know him as The Master, as previously mentioned in the Doctor Who segment) as a policeman who, after a particularly nasty accident, finds himself a Detective Inspector rather than a Detective Chief Inspector, inheriting a case of the alternate reality bug. The ambiguity throughout the majority of the series surrounding the question of Sam’s situation (is he dead, in a coma, did he time travel?) would be a driving force behind this adventure, as getting players accustomed to the almost satirical version of the 1970s would prove both comical and heart-wrenching at the same time.

A chance for some innovative design decisions would fit in perfectly here as well, such as hallucinations players must use to piece together parts of the puzzle, as well as the paranormal clues scattered throughout each location in an attempt to get to the bottom of his very abnormal situation. It would make a smashing series of downloadable episodes similar to what was done recently with Back to the Future, especially if coupled with even some of the series’ smash hits of the ‘70s – brilliant music, that.

Who says the adventure genre is a dying breed? These are but a few of the possibly fantastic options out there that could well be transformed into some of the most memorable time-leaping journeys gaming has ever seen. But we know you’ve got better ideas. Sound off!

Brittany Vincent is a freelance writer who routinely eviscerates virtual opponents and tempts fate by approaching wayward Zoloms. A connoisseur of all things bloody and bizarre, she's available to chat via Twitter @MolotovCupcake, and is always ready to take on new projects. You can peruse her archived work at PfhortheWin.com

Time Travel In Video Games: Some Classic TV Shows That We Want To Make The Leap To Games


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