Perfect Ten: MMOs where you travel back in time for some reason

I'm definitely an elf!

We’re all time travelers! We travel to the future at the rate of one second per second. Every single machine you will ever operate is a time machine because it travels through time (until it no longer travels through anything). What you’re thinking of when you say “time machine” is a multi-directional time machine. Glad we could clear this up! Don’t worry, any minute now Kyle Reese will show up and ask you to come with him to save the future or whatever.

Traveling back in time is a common trope in fiction because all of us are filled with a deep-seated urge to travel back to kill our grandparents, make out with Julius Caesar and Cleopatra at the same time, and dance the Charleston. (Don’t tell me otherwise, I need this.) So it’s only natural that MMORPGs would also sate this need by allowing us to travel back in time, and if you’re lucky, the designers establish clear narrative rules for time travel. If you’re unlucky… jazz hands!

sure, maybe there's time here.

1. City of Heroes

Like any good superhero story, City of Heroes has you traveling back into the past, sometimes even including traveling into the past of a mission you did much earlier that is now your present. There is literally an entire organization (which may be run by Nemesis) to facilitate this, which is both a brilliant mechanical convention for re-playing old content and also just… how the game world is. It’s just like that.

Props to the lore documents that specifically noted one of the valid in-universe explanations of time travel is the one that is in your character’s backstory.

Dance Dance San d'Orialution

2. Final Fantasy XI

So time travel is a big thing in Final Fantasy XI: Wings of the Goddess, which is not so much an expansion that is not fondly remembered as it is an expansion that is barely remembered. However, the narrative time travel bit also introduces something that really bugs me, which is that it talks about an infinite parallel multiverse wherein one side or the other is “more likely” to win.

This is not a thing. I see it in a lot of places and it’s always wrong, because it’s based on a fundamental misunderstanding of infinity. Infinity is a concept, not a really big number. If something only happens in 10% of realities across an infinite number of realities, how many realities are there where that event occurs? The answer is an infinite number. That’s what infinity means. Half of infinity isn’t even an actual thing. So if you’re talking about

[Editor’s note: The rant went on for 47 more pages. There were diagrams. It was a bad time.]


3. The Secret World

All right, technically the opening vision in this game isn’t quite traveling through time as much as it is having a vision of the past, but I’m going to count it. It’s time travel adjacent. You can have a little time travel. As a treat.


4. World of Warcraft

So when you have a place literally called the Caverns of Time, you are going to wind up traveling through time. It’s a given. But as we’ve discussed, the game really couldn’t decide between two mutually incompatible versions of time travel, and it made the whole supposed time-traveling threat impossible to take seriously. Oh well, at least you got to run around in the Black Morass and watch Gnome players struggle to keep up with the group, that’s… like a good thing? If you squint a lot?

past me.

5. EverQuest II

Technically I suppose you could travel into the past just by playing EverQuest and doing a bit of roleplaying snark, but there are also events that involve actual time travel, so that’s more pertinent to this particular column. As both games have continued to get expansions, the past is also the present and the future. Have we ever had an expansion that specifically bridged the time gap? That sounds like a cool idea; I feel like it’s something that should have happened again.

yesterday's priseterprise

6. Star Trek Online

Well, it’s Star Trek. Of course people are going to travel back in time all over the place for basically no reason. I kind of wonder why this became a thing. Like, the United States Navy (which was absolutely the inspiration for a lot of Starfleet) does not, to the best of my knowledge, see ships falling through spatial anomalies on a regular basis. Can you imagine what that would be like? It’s even funnier when Lower Decks basically confirms that being in Starfleet really is just like that and most of the lower officers just have no idea what’s going on. We traveled back in time for some reason. Hopefully this will be over this week. Pass the tricorder.

Chunky boys.

7. Final Fantasy XIV

We’ve gone back and forth through time a couple of times in Final Fantasy XIV, although the main moment in which the players travel through time is a major story beat in Endwalker when it looks as if the writers have forgotten about how the game’s time loop works before making it clear that they have not. Yes, time travel is a loop in this game. You cannot go into the past and change things because it already happened. I’ll write about how that works another time, maybe. (Probably not.)


8. Lineage II

There’s literally a whole organization, the Golden Compass, that’s all about traveling back and forth through time. I did not previously know this! I have never understood the appeal of this game, but I do not think traveling through time will fix that. But maybe it can. Maybe I just need to go back in time, with the help of a DeLorean.


9. DC Universe Online

So kudos to DC Universe Online (a phrase I very rarely say) for not just going into the past but also bringing in Future Batman as part of the game’s Origin Crisis episode pack. This was also a while ago, of course, because superhero stories just love traveling back and forth in time almost as much as anything involving Starfleet. It kind of makes sense, though. Like, I have at no point thought about Steampunk Iron Man prior to this moment, but upon having written those words, I now desperately want a dozen issues of Steampunk Iron Man. I know usually I have like a few hundred words about why this is, but that’s time taken away from Steampunk Iron Man.


10. Legends of Aria

You wake up and start looking for your cell phone. What are you talking about? Smartphones? Twitter? The year is 1997. You are in your freshman year of college. President Clinton is eating a Big Mac and listening to Weezer. It’s time to log in to Ultima Online, but I guess they changed the name of the game and also the graphics look a little bit better, but that’s all right. It’s all the same. Everything is back the way it should be.

I mean, I’m assuming that’s the basic business model here, I was in high school in 1997 and definitely was not playing this game, but that feels like the basic lift. Maybe it didn’t totally work out that way.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at or with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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