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Gameverse | August 9, 2020

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The Five Best Parallel Universe Video Games

Matthew Byrd

A recent discovery by NASA has some people convinced that there may actually be a parallel universe in which time flows backwards.

While that’s a gross oversimplification (and honestly inaccurate) summary of what they really discovered, the very idea of a parallel universe being discussed in a scientific capacity has excited millions of fans who have watched various forms of pop culture deal with that same concept.

Said forms of pop culture very much includes video games. Actually, there have been quite a few video games over the years that have dealt with the subject of parallel universes or some rough equivalent of that concept. Of those many titles, though, these are some of the best that really got us wondering what it out there.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Many of the Zelda games play with the idea of alternate timelines and parallel universes, but this was the game that initially showed us the extent of that concept.

A Link to the Past not only introduced us to the idea that there is a “Dark World” where Ganon rules, but it allowed players to jump between those worlds in order to ultimately defeat Ganon and solve a series of challenges.

A Link to the Past doesn’t exactly feature the most complicated vision of parallel universes that we’ve ever seen, but at a time when video games were slowly growing more ambitious, it took a bold leap forward by showcasing the narrative and gameplay potential of swapping some art pieces.

BioShock Infinite

BioShock Infinite remains a controversial game for many, many reasons, but even amongst those who generally liked it, the execution and subject matter of its story is a notable point of contention.

We wouldn’t dream of recounting the entire Infinite plot here, but it dives heavily into the complex scenarios that a parallel universe would create and the even more complex scenarios that would result from someone (or multiple people) being able to navigate freely between those universes.

At the very least, Infinite (much like Zelda) used the concept of a parallel universe and alternate timelines to lay a fascinating foundation for future BioShock titles. Unfortunately, there’s a strong chance we’ll never get to play those games.

Chrono Cross

This sequel to the infamous SNES JRPG Chrono Trigger may not be quite as beloved as its predecessor, but many of those who played it remember it as one of the most unique and ambitious PS1 role-playing games.

Chrono Cross also happens to feature one of our favorite parallel universes in gaming. Essentially, the game’s hero (Serge) becomes aware of a parallel universe where he died as a child. His in-game journey focuses on the implications and meaning of that event that seemingly created two distinct timelines.

Chrono Cross‘ complicated plot may not have been for everyone, but the way that this game uses the ideas of multiple universes for its narrative and gameplay hasn’t necessarily been equaled since its debut.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions

Quite a few years before Into the Spiderverse helped popularize the idea of multiple Spider-Man universes, this underrated gem explored that same idea in video game form.

What’s most impressive about Shattered Dimensions isn’t the way that it explored the idea of multiple universes in order to dive deep into Spider-Man‘s lore, but the way that its developers assigned a different art style to each universe and often had them wonderfully clash within this beautiful game.

Shattered Dimensions didn’t get everything right from a gameplay perspective, but we’d love to see a studio revisit this idea in some form.

Nier

Did you know that the Nier series is a spin-off of an old role-playing franchise called Drakengard? For that matter, did you know that Nier is based on one of the alternate endings to Drakengard in which the world essentially ends?

The ways that Nier explores what the world of Drakengard might have turned into 1000 years after an apocalyptic scenario are simply fascinating. Even if you aren’t familiar with the original game, it’s easy to appreciate the boldness of that concept and the often subtle ways Nier‘s developers explored that concept.

You could argue that the nature of this game pushes the core concept of a parallel universe somewhat, but this example is too fascinating to not mention.