That’s right, today is the official unofficial Star Wars holiday May the 4th and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s the one day a year Star Wars fans can celebrate all that is Star Wars, and in recent years even main stream shows like “The Big Bang Theory” have gotten in on the fun. I have loved Star Wars since I was a child, in fact I was four years old when my mom took me to see the “Return of the Jedi”.
One of the best parts about Star Wars is that it’s like a Greek tragedy set in a science fiction world. While other science fiction giants (not naming any names, cough-cough) do an amazing job at delving into the complexities of modern social constructs, Star Wars brings the inner struggles of its characters to life. It was something I could relate to. Not many people have the experience of finding out someone they know is really their father, nor do many ever know what it feels like to know that person was once good and somehow lost their way. I did however and I also know what it was like to struggle with the fear that it could happen to you as well if you don’t make the right choices. These movies meant the world to me when I was a kid because they explained my own childhood better than anything else could have, oh and did I mention they were just cool? That’s not all though, Star Wars has a rich history of comics, toys, and of course video games. Here at Informer we love video games so to celebrate Star Wars day this year I want to pay tribute to the 35 years of Star Wars video games. This isn’t a top ten list or a definitive history. There are just too many games for either of those topics. This is more of a stroll down memory lane where I can share the games that I loved to play and still play even today.
Star Wars has an extensive gaming history. The first game was released in 1982 and since 1991 there has been at least one licensed Star Wars game every year; and you thought it was just Call of Duty that did that. The amazing thing about Star Wars games in general is the pure diversity of genres they are in. From platformers to hack-n-slash, Star Wars makes an appearance everywhere. Real time strategy to some of the best space sims of all time. Star Wars even had a video chess game, racing game and educational games. Granted not all of them were good, but they did permeate every gaming genre and even launched the beloved Lego game franchise.
Like I mentioned above, the first Star Wars game was released in 1982 for the Atari 2600. Ironically it wasn’t Star Wars but the second installment of the original trilogy “The Empire Strikes Back”. It was a simple game but it took one of the most iconic scenes of the movies and put you in the driver’s seat. You fly an A-Wing as you try to destroy Imperial Walkers. In 1983 the first Star Wars arcade game was released and it was a hit. It was an early space sim that even had the Death Star trench run. The graphics were primitive but the lines of people waiting to play were long. Today these machines can go for as much as $6,000. There were many other games through the 80’s but the next games I remember playing were for the NES. Star Wars and Star Wars Empire Strikes Back were brutally difficult platformers. The games were released in 1991 and 1992 respectively, however the next big step in gaming was already underway and it would be left to the next gen consoles to finally give us a full trilogy. They were fun for the time although they didn’t follow the story as faithfully as fans would have liked.
Super Nintendo picked up where the NES left off giving us the first Star Wars trilogy. From 1992-94 the games provided once again a tough as nails platforming experience all while taking advantage of the Super Nintendo’s superior sound hardware for its time. These games still hold up today to many retro and Star Wars gaming fans. Also in 1994 the first in the series of X-Wing was released. This was the definitive space sim on PC for a long time to come. It was followed by Star Wars Tie Fighter which was the first time you could play as the Empire. Tie Fighter was critically acclaimed improving on X-Wing and giving many fans what they always wanted, epic space battles from the movies. The franchise would see two more entries, X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter and X-Wing Alliance both are great games and I know I’m still hoping for a reboot someday. The 90’s were a good decade all around for Star Wars games there were platformers and space sims but there was a new genre that was just beginning to take off, the first person shooter. Spurred on by the popularity of DOOM, Star Wars released Dark Forces in 1996. It was essentially a Doom clone but it was a really good one. Once again, even with its limited graphics, it’s still fondly remembered and played by retro gamers and Star Wars fans. The decade would end with the much anticipated release of “Star Wars the Phantom Menace”. The game released around the same time. It was panned by critics, called a cash grab, and suffered from the disappointment many felt from the prequels themselves. However I wasn’t a critic then just a fan and I thought it was an OK game. Nothing too special but using a light sabre, force powers and fighting Darth Maul was pretty cool.
Now we come to what I think of as sort of a golden era in Star Wars gaming. From 2000-today some of the best Star Wars games ever made were released. In 2003 what many people consider the best Star Wars franchise of all time was released “Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic”. This was an RPG developed by Bioware set in the Star Wars universe. This game really had everything you could want from an RPG. Most importantly it had a great story that roped you in from the beginning. Its sequel came out a year later and did not live up to the high marks of its predecessor however today the PC version comes with a lot of content that was cut out of the original game making it noticeably better. My favorite Star Wars games of all time came out in 2004-2005. The original Battlefront series was everything a Star Wars fan could ever want. It had huge infantry battles, epic space battles, and heroes and did I mention you could drive or pilot just about anything in the game? Yes this was the pinnacle of Star Wars games, unlike its 2015 reboot from Dice, it even had a single player campaign. Lastly I have to mention Star Wars Empire at War. This real time strategy game wasn’t Star Wars’ first attempt at an RTS but was the best and it’s still enjoyable today. You can build and use the Death Star to destroy planets, need I say more.
As you can probably tell, I am passionate about Star Wars and Star Wars games. It’s something that has been a part of my life since I was four years old. I relate to the story in a very personal way and for a clumsy kid who had no hope of ever playing sports the games gave me something I could do alone or with friends. Star Wars has well over a hundred games in its long and extensive catalog. Some have been bad, some have been OK, but some have been absolutely amazing. I have high hopes for the next installment of Battlefront. It should be out in November and hopefully EA and Dice have learned their lesson and include a single player mode and more in depth meaningful squad driven game modes as well. The Battlefront they released in 2015 was without a doubt the most beautiful Star Wars game ever created however it was in many ways just a skeleton of what it should have been. Now we are entering a new era in Star Wars. Disney has breathed new life in the franchise and has been making really good movies for a new generation. It’s crazy to think that in my family there are three generations of Star Wars fans. As Luke once said the force is strong in my family. I wish I could cover more but maybe in the future I can do some more on the topic. Enjoy the holiday and May the 4th be with you. Until next time, Happy RuneScaping.