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The History of Star Wars Games

By Robert Vaux     -
Source: IGN's article on Star Wars game history.


STAR WARS Episode 4: A New Hope
© Fox

Overview

The release of the original "Star Wars" trilogy coincided with the rise in video games, and Lucasfilm was quick to capitalize on the concept. Games provided a unique outlet for the Star Wars universe, allowing players to participate directly in the action while exploring aspects of the storyline that the movies couldn't facilitate. The first games were remarkably crude by today's standards, yet still contained the essence of "Star Wars," which was vital to the success of subsequent games.

Early Days

The first Star Wars video games appeared in 1982 and 1983. Several games were developed for the Atari 2600 and 5200 home video platform: most notably "The Empire Strikes Back," which let players battle an endless number of AT-ATs from their Rebel snowspeeders. At the same time, Atari launched a full-scale arcade game entitled "Star Wars," which recreated the Battle of the Death Star at the end of "A New Hope." It's now considered a classic (Killer List of Video games ranks it at #4 on the all-time list), and two additional arcade games based on "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" soon followed.

Nintendo

Home video games received a shot in the arm with the Nintendo Entertainment System in the late 1980s. Namco released a "Star Wars" game for the NES in 1992, while Sculptured Software released a "Super Star Wars" game that same year.

LucasArts

LucasFilm's games division had a hand in many of the Star Wars games released but hadn't released many themselves. That changed with "X-Wing," a flight simulator released in 1993, which simulated combat from the cockpit of an X-Wing. The newly renamed LucasArts followed with similar titles such as "Rebel Assault," "TIE Fighter" and "Dark Forces." The end of the decade brought a swamp of less-than-stellar games, however--including a number based on "The Phantom Menace"--which diminished LucasArts' reputation.

Knights of the Old Republic

BioWare threw LucasArts a lifeline with their innovative "Knights of the Old Republic" RPG in 2003. It set a new standard for graphics and storytelling content that subsequent titles--including a direct sequel and a series of shooter games called "Battlefront"--were able to capitalize on.

LEGO Star Wars

Probably the most unique and unexpectedly successful Star Wars video game in history was "LEGO Star Wars," which recreated the movie characters as animated LEGO toys. Though it looked like a half-hearted attempt to cash in on the two brand names, its game play proved fun and exciting. It also benefited from a sense of humor about the Star Wars saga and a gentle tone that made it appropriate for children while still enjoyable for adults. It became a big success when it was released in 2005, and spawned a number of sequels--both for "Star Wars" and for similar Lucas projects such as Indiana Jones.

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