Feature Article

The History of Star Wars Video Games Part 1: 1982-1998

That's no moon.

George Lucas' Star Wars is a well of inspiration for video games, and in the nearly 40-year history of the franchise, there have been more than 100 games released across consoles, handhelds, PCs, and mobile devices. Some are considered classics in their respective genres, and some are perhaps best forgotten. Following the series' humble beginnings on the Atari 2600 in the '80s, Lucasfilm finally broke out LucasArts, its own game division, in 1990. It took a few years before LucasArts began to ship Star Wars games of its own, but they were some of the best Star Wars games of all time.

Sadly, the time of LucasArts has passed, and it was forced to hand over the reins to Electronic Arts when Disney bought the rights to the franchise in 2013. With a new series of films on the way from director J.J. Abrams, there are no doubt plenty of Star Wars games on the way, but regardless of what happens in the future, the past still belongs to the fans. For the first part of our two part look back at Star Wars video games, let's take a look at the most beloved Star Wars games that came out between 1982 and 1998.

It all began with the second movie, on a console far, far away: the Atari 2600.

1982: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Atari 2600)

No Caption Provided

The first Star Wars video game was created by Parker Brothers in 1982 for the Atari 2600. The Empire Strikes Back dropped you into battle on the frigid planet of Hoth. Your one and only goal was to defend a secret Rebel base from massive, four-legged juggernauts known as AT-ATs. It was a simple re-creation of the iconic scene from the film The Empire Strikes Back, but more importantly, it was the first interactive Star Wars experience that you could enjoy at home.

1983: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: Death Star Battle (Atari 2600)

No Caption Provided

A year later, Parker Brothers followed up The Empire Strikes Back with 1983's Return of the Jedi: Death Star Battle. It was another simple shooting game, but this time, you manned the iconic Millennium Falcon, shot down TIE fighters, and chipped away at the Death Star before delivering the final blow to the reactor core, destroying the Death Star once and for all.

1983: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: Jedi Arena (Atari 2600)

No Caption Provided

That same year, Parker Brothers also released Jedi Arena for the 2600. It attempted to re-create the excitement of fighting with lightsabers. But with stationary Jedi and abstract combat, the results were unfortunately underwhelming.

1983: Star Wars: The Arcade Game (Arcade/Atari 2600)

No Caption Provided

Ultimately, it was the port of Atari's own Star Wars arcade game that defined the true Star Wars experience on the 2600. The original arcade release featured vector graphics and digitized voices, delivering a revolutionary and influential experience for the time. Not all of these elements made it to the home release, but Atari was able to retain the core gameplay, which was a major step up from the previous games set in the Star Wars universe. It was also the first game based on A New Hope, the first film in the original trilogy.

1984: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (Arcade)

No Caption Provided

Atari took Star Wars back to arcades in 1984, but it leaped over The Empire Strikes Back and instead went straight to Return of the Jedi. Jedi would forgo the model of the first game in favor of an isometric, on-rails shooter that re-created numerous scenes from Jedi, including the speederbike chase on Endor and the Millennium Falcon's assault on the Death Star.

1985: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Arcade)

No Caption Provided

Finally, in 1985, Atari closed out the trilogy by releasing an Empire Strikes Back update for the first arcade game, which took you back to Hoth for another go at defending the Rebel base from Imperial forces and their massive AT-ATs.

1987: Star Wars (Famicom)

No Caption Provided

By the late '80s, Atari was flagging in the console market, and Nintendo's 8-bit system was on the rise, making it the perfect candidate for a new Star Wars game. In 1987, Namco brought Star Wars to the Famicom--the Japanese version of the NES. Namco's interpretation of the story wasn't entirely accurate, but it introduced Star Wars fans to the world of side-scrolling platformers, which would become the predominant genre for the series over the next few years.

1991 - 1992: Star Wars/Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (NES)

No Caption Provided

In 1991, North America got its own Star Wars game on the NES, courtesy of JVC and Lucasfilm Games. From Tattoine to the Death Star, Star Wars was a more faithful interpretation of the original film than Namco's attempt, apart from Luke using his lightsaber in combat, of course. JVC came back a year later with the Empire Strikes Back. It mixed platforming, side-scrolling shooting, and, for the first time, lightsaber-on-lightsaber action, but again, JVC dropped the ball here, giving Luke Vader's red lightsaber, rather than the blue saber seen in the first two films.

1992 - 1994: Super Star Wars Trilogy (SNES)

No Caption Provided

While JVC was busy with The Empire Strikes Back on the NES, Sculpted Software and LucasArts were busy re-creating the original trilogy for the Super Nintendo. The SNES Star Wars games had huge detailed sprites and some of the best sound effects in any Star Wars game to date. They were primarily action platformers, but thanks to the SNES's Mode 7, you also got the chance to pilot Luke's landspeeder, an X-wing, and other iconic vehicles in pseudo-3D sequences.

1993 - 1997: X-Wing/TIE Fighter/X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter (PC)

No Caption Provided

Before the Super trilogy concluded, LucasArts created its first solo Star Wars project for the PC in 1993, the legendary space-combat sim X-Wing. It was one of the first Star Wars games to achieve critical and commercial success. After two expansions, LucasArts created a sequel in 1994: TIE Fighter. TIE Fighter used a new rendering engine and offered a unique perspective on the conflict between the rebel forces and the empire, allowing you to fight on behalf of the dark side for the first time. LucasArts concluded the miniseries with X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter in 1997.

1993 - 1995: Star Wars: Rebel Assault/Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire (PC)

No Caption Provided

At the same time that it was developing its series of dedicated space-combat games, LucasArts was also busy crafting Rebel Assault and Rebel Assault II. Thanks to the advent of CD-ROM technology, LucasArts was able to incorporate prerendered 3D models and full-motion video. The film-like experiences were special at a time when games were struggling to break free from floppy disks and into the realm of high-capacity CD storage.

1995 - 1997: Star Wars: Dark Forces/ Dark Forces II (PC)

No Caption Provided

Not one to let a trend pass it by, LucasArts, on top of X-Wing and Rebel Assault games, was also working on Dark Forces: a first-person shooter in the vein of Doom. The 1997 sequel, Dark Forces II, took the model of the first game and ran with it. It was the first multiplayer game for the series, and it was also the first time that you were able to go head-to-head with other players in authentic lightsaber battles. Dark Forces II also let you switch between first- and third-person perspectives, which was an unusual feature at the time.

1996: Star Wars: Shadow of the Empire (N64)

No Caption Provided

LucasArts was steeped in PC development in the mid '90s, but in 1996, it returned to consoles shortly after the release of the Nintendo 64 with Shadows of the Empire. This third-person action game took place between the storylines of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. You played as smuggler Dash Rendar and assisted Luke in the rescue of Princess Leia from the grip of Prince Xisor. Shadows wasn't as good as LucasArts' other Star Wars games of the day, but it was nonetheless a commercial success.

1997: Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi (PlayStation)

No Caption Provided

In 1997, LucasArts did the unthinkable and released a Star Wars fighting game for the PlayStation, Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi. Unfortunately, fighting game enthusiasts loathed the game's rough 3D engine, and Star Wars fans balked at the mistreatment of lightsabers, which were incapable of cutting, well, anything.

1998: Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (Nintendo 64)

No Caption Provided

A few months before George Lucas unleashed Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace in theaters, LucasArts and Factor 5 worked together on Star Wars: Rogue Squadron for the Nintendo 64 and Windows PCs. It featured arcade-style action across 16 levels that tapped into many of the original trilogy's iconic locations, and the console version was one of the first games to use the Nintendo 64's RAM expansion pack for high-resolution graphics. LucasArts managed to hide a secret code within the game that unlocked the Naboo Starfighter from The Phantom Menace, which was only revealed to the public after the film hit theaters the following year.

No Caption Provided

The release of The Phantom Menace was a major turning point for the Star Wars franchise, and it had a significant impact on the games that would follow in the years to come. Stay tuned to GameSpot for part 2 of our History of Star Wars Video Games feature, where we tackle the games inspired by Lucas' prequel trilogy, Legos, and, of all things, hot dance moves.


Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Now Playing: The History of Star Wars Games Part 1: 1982-1998

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

doc-brown

Peter Brown

Peter used to work at GameSpot. Now he just lurks at GameSpot.

VGHM 2014

VGHM 2014
Back To Top
102 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for jeanlucforever
jeanlucforever

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

why no part II?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for jark888
jark888

78

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Thanks to the impressive effort to bring back some of my great reminiscence.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Nightelf123
Nightelf123

167

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

do you know that super star wars has a pc version which was cancelled but you can download it here:

<< LINK REMOVED >>

it has better graphics than snes version and it has one more level too.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for endorbr
endorbr

1350

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 13

User Lists: 0

So many good memories.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for ferrarimanf355
ferrarimanf355

1884

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

You guys forgot the arcade games from Sega, and the pinball games from Data East and Sega Pinball.


Hopefully, you guys will mention the Star Wars Episode I pinball, the last game from Williams Electronics.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for youre_a_sheep
youre_a_sheep

372

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 5

I was both a gaming and Star Wars fanatic in the 80's yet I never saw any of the arcade machines except Star Wars The Arcade Game. I had Empire for Atari 2600 but never knew there was ANY other Star Wars game until the SNES trilogy. We don't think about it much now but once upon a time it was ridiculously hard to find popular games, and with no internet we didn't even know to seek them out.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Megamandrew
Megamandrew

252

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

That Han Solo song at the end of the video is enormously cringe-worthy. What were they thinking when they made that game?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for grin89
grin89

342

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

games i was never able to beat but will never forget.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Dunan
Dunan

41

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Not sure if anyone's mentioned it but Star Wars Arcade from 1993 (arcades) and later 1994 on the X32 is missing from this list.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for ferrarimanf355
ferrarimanf355

1884

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> And the sequel, Star Wars Trilogy Arcade, was not mentioned.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for -esw-dragoon_77
-esw-dragoon_77

42

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Dark Forces was significant back in the day, if not for the provided campaign, then for the hundreds of hours of fan-created content that could be downloaded and played. My dad and I played DF1 for years because of the seemingly endless supply of new levels, some of which were more elaborate and well planned than the levels on the disc. Sadly, I never got a chance to play Dark Forces 2 as it was never released for the Mac.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for constrictor14
constrictor14

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 9

User Lists: 0

The expansion game for X-Wing vs Tie Fighter, Balance of Power, drastically improved that game and was probably the best space shooter out there for quite some time. It was the first networked game I played with my friends. Good times.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for astorskywalker
astorskywalker

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Great article, thank you gamespot, keep up the good work!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Shin_Gallon
Shin_Gallon

314

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Empire Strikes Back for the Atari 2600 was the first video game I ever played. Memories...

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Boddicker
Boddicker

4458

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

I gotta agree with << LINK REMOVED >> . TIE Fighter and Dark Forces II were the most impressive of the bunch.


X-Wing was kind of meh while TIE Fighter gave you a chance to fly in a vehicle without any shields (at first). The first Dark Forces was kind of meh but DF2 more than blew it away.


I still remember those clunky Rebel Assault games. I was awed by them at the time, but now I realize how crappy they were.


Good times were had on the SNES trilogy when I wasn't throwing my controller against the wall lol.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for youre_a_sheep
youre_a_sheep

372

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 5

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> I had Rebel Assault for PS1 but had forgotten it ever existed until this list.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for zodiacprime
zodiacprime

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Thanks for the walk down memory lane, Peter. It's a shame that the stories and characters we've grown fond of in these games over the years will never be returning due to Disney's dissolution of the EU. Kyle Katarn, Dash Rendar, Maarek Stele and many others. It appears they've been swallowed by the Sarlaccian-sized pit of license acquisition management... sad.

One quibble with the article though, Peter. X-Wing v. Tie Fighter is not considered the end cap for the X-Wing trilogy. It was considered simply as a multiplayer one-off to sate the appetite (and continued whining) of those who met the previous two titles with "What?! No multiplayer!! This is the 90s!!!". X-Wing Alliance - although I realize is out of the bounds of your date range here, released in 1999 - was the true sequel to Tie Fighter and nicely ties up the X-Wing trilogy.

Please keep these Star Wars articles coming. I'd love to see an in-depth retrospective on ANY of these titles.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for deactivated-597794cd74015
deactivated-597794cd74015

961

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 1

TIE fighter and Dark Forces 2 were really something back in the day.

2 • 
Avatar image for spacecadet25
spacecadet25

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

<< LINK REMOVED >> Even the N64 Shadow of the Empire game was pretty decent for a launch title. At the time the graphics were great, though gameplay at times was sluggish and frustrating.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Sushiglutton
Sushiglutton

8020

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 7

User Lists: 0

Have only played Super Star Wars (SNES) and Shadow Of the Emire (N64). The latter was kind of terrible lol. Worse jump controls ever made. The SNES game was fun, but it I remember correctly you couldn't save, so I don't think I ever beat it.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for xXl_z3r0_lXx
xXl_z3r0_lXx

306

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> Super Star Wars was the hardest game I ever played and never finished.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for greebe55
greebe55

114

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

anyone ever play jedi power battles? that was great fun on co-op mode

Upvote • 
Avatar image for spacecadet25
spacecadet25

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

<< LINK REMOVED >> Hopefully that's mentioned in the next article. I thought it was o.k., but had a lot of friends that were just diehard fans of it.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for xantufrog
xantufrog

13795

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 5

xantufrog  Moderator  Online

X-Wing is still great fun today - fire up dos-box and go. After playing X-Wing I found Rebel Assault disappointing - the rails-shooter format is just miserable compared to the freedom of the space sim flying. You just feel less like you are "part of the team" and more like you are living out a pre-programmed scenario. Although Rebel Assault had good graphics and what-have-you (for the time) it never capture my love like the X-Wing/Tie Fighter games

Upvote • 
Avatar image for hardeddie
hardeddie

242

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 7

User Lists: 0

Another excellent article. Played all apart Jedi Arena, I cant recall owning that game. I remember clearly the arcade game. It had a huge cabinet compared to all arcade cabinets at the time, and with somekind of attached goggle that was like a magnifying glass.

Love Lucasart games, really enjoy all the creative Lucasart logos at the opening screen. And yes FU Disney!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for dfernand
dfernand

141

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Sorry, I had to say it .. "AT-AT" is pronounced "at at" NOT "A tea A tea". Also there was that excellent Lucas Arts game X-Wing Alliance which I hope you cover in Part 2.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Darth_Tyrranus
Darth_Tyrranus

995

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> Yeah, I agree with Valtero. You are totally wrong here. Numerous Star Wars video games pronounce it as "A Tea A Tea."

Upvote • 
Avatar image for dfernand
dfernand

141

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> I stand corrected yet again ! damn those old toy commercials in England in the 1980s.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Valtero
Valtero

34

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> No, "at at" came from an old toy commercial. In Empire Strikes Back they're only called "Imperial walkers." Several LucasArts games with voice-acting have it pronounced "A-Tee-A-Tee." Which makes sense since the AT-ST isn't pronounced "at-ssssst" and the AT-PT isn't pronounced "at-pppppptttttt" or the AT-RT pronounced "at-rrrrrrrrt," etc.. The rest of the AT series is consistently pronounced by letters, not phonetically. The original source for "at at" was an 80's toy commercial. If that's canon to you then, well, I dunno what to tell ya.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for dfernand
dfernand

141

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> I stand corrected damn those old Parker Toy commercials from the 80s or where ever I heard it. But for the record most people in England always referred to them as "at at 's".

Upvote • 
Avatar image for hardeddie
hardeddie

242

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 7

User Lists: 0

@dfernand just a child thats trying to make conversation and fixing the big boys. Hush now child. Go to your 'at at ' ( @ & @ )

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Vojtass
Vojtass

2639

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> How do you know that? Source?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for delete-easycomeeasygo
delete-EasyComeEasyGo

382

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> Wait I thought AT-AT are often called the Chicken Walker?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for xantufrog
xantufrog

13795

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 5

xantufrog  Moderator  Online

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> no that's the AT-ST. The AT-AT is the big "dog-like" one so famous from the Hoth battle

Upvote • 
Avatar image for MisterObsidian
MisterObsidian

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> So exactly how would you pronounce AT-ST, then?

3 • 
Avatar image for delete-blackpuddytat
delete-blackpuddytat

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> "AT sssssssssst", then wipe up your spit.

3 • 
Avatar image for Hurvl
Hurvl

2224

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> Oh darn, being a guy from the 80s, I thought it was pronounced eighty-eighty.

6 • 
Avatar image for t-16
t-16

271

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Sigh I hope EA does a good job with the future of Star Wars and brings back some long over due sequels. A new dark forces/jedi knight would be so awesome there is nothing like that at the moment huge market gap for a game like that, real time lightsaber combat doesn't get any better than that.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Hurvl
Hurvl

2224

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> I can't agree more with that, I still play Jedi Outcast though now with various mods to freshen up the experience. In my weak moments, I've glanced at The Force Unleashed, but my fear of it not meeting my expectations has held me back from getting it. It's also almost never on sale and I don't feel like paying more than 5 euro/7 dollars for it.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for mick_holland
mick_holland

26

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

ive still got 2 of the first 4 in this list along with my atari in the cupboard :D

almost makes me want to break it out for a laugh.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for delete-blackpuddytat
delete-blackpuddytat

25

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Thanks Brownie for the awesome retrospective


TIE Fighter, and the great bonus objectives to become the hand of the emperor and that sick tattoo!


Dark Forces shooter gold, damn how I wish Star Wars 1313 was still in production. Damn you Disney and your "non canon" bulls**t.



*Sigh* How I just wish for a new solid AAA single player focused Star Wars game.





Upvote • 
Avatar image for deactivated-586642252f689
deactivated-586642252f689

32

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

I had the Empire Strikes back game on the Atari 2600, I played the Return of the Jedi game in the local arcade in the 80s lots, and really enjoyed Rogue Leader (Rogue Squadron 2) on the Nintendo Gamecube.

Overall though, not been a particularly big fan of Star Wars made into games.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for xXl_z3r0_lXx
xXl_z3r0_lXx

306

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

<< LINK REMOVED >> I remember in Rogue Squadron III you could play all three of the Atari arcade games via cheat codes. I remember pouring hours upon hours into those games as a kid.

Upvote •