Although it’s impact on the movie industry has been immense, the influence of the Star Wars franchise has helped shape many other mediums in the four decades since the first film was released. And it’s safe to assume that if you love George Lucas’ classic space opera series on the silver screen, you’ll also be interested in how it has inspired a wealth of video games over the years.
The release of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope coincided with the initial video game boom. Arcades were packed with kids looking for exciting new titles to play. And because games designers were so limited by the power of the hardware, space was an obvious setting to pick.
The 1979 classic Asteroids is a great example of this, combining simple white polygons with a black background to create the illusion of blasting through hunks of rock out in the frigid void. This particular game wasn’t directly inspired by Star Wars; it came from an earlier unreleased titled called Spacewars. But even so, it certainly fed off the hype surrounding the movies.
BioWare, the developer of mentioned earlier, moved from making RPGs set in the Star Wars universe to pursuing its own interactive space opera in the form of Mass Effect and its successful sequels. Mixing armed combat with branching dialogue and multiple endings, this series was heavily influenced by the work the company had done on Knights of the Old Republic.
Another game which owes its fair share to Star Wars is EVE Online, a slow-burning MMO that has enough political intrigue and trade disputes to keep the Galactic Senate busy for years. Its in-game currency and resources have real value, and occasional all-out battles can be as dazzlingly beautiful as they are brutally expensive for those players that get involved.
Direct inspiration is more obvious in video slots, where paying homage to popular movies is all the rage. Check out some of the casino games on Casumo, where you’ll find a variety of slot games from the Star Wars-like fun of Space Wars to games that ape everything from Twilight to Indiana Jones and beyond.
Even if you feel that Star Wars has been plundered too readily by games developers looking to cash in on its success, you can’t help but be impressed by the power that it wields. Its stories and tropes are so ingrained in modern culture that it’s possible for other works of art to be inspired by it without creators even realising it.
The next big Star Wars game on the horizon is coming from Respawn, the studio behind the hit FPS series Titanfall. Scheduled for release in 2020, fans are excited to see what the next 40 years of games inspired by the exploits of Luke, Han and Leia will bring to the table.
Surprisingly enough the first ever video game based on Star Wars was an entirely unofficial, unlicensed release which appeared on the Apple II home computer all the way back in 1978. In it, players were tasked with getting behind the controls of an X-Wing and trying to take out a TIE Fighter.
Although incredibly primitive by today’s standards, in the late 70s this would have felt like a state of the art experience. And it didn’t take LucasArts long to start churning out genuine Star Wars products for devices of all shapes and sizes.
The total number of legitimate Star Wars video games now exceeds 100, with new releases coming thick and fast thanks to the immense popularity of the franchise.
The first of the bunch was Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, which appeared on the Atari 2600 in 1982. It was also released on the Intellivision, and allowed players to take control of a snowspeeder, attempting to overpower AT-AT walkers on the frozen tundra of Hoth before the rebel base was overwhelmed.
Throughout the 1980s a slew of other games were released, covering various aspects of the original trilogy. And in the 1990s, a lot of these encounters were revisited as technological improvements were made and graphics became gradually more realistic.
Star Wars videogames were able to expand upon the lore of the films and tell their own stories. Dark Forces and its sequel Jedi Knight put players in the shoes of Kyle Katarn, a powerful warrior who is just as handy with a blaster as he is with a light sabre. Then in the 2000s the plot thickened further with the arrival of the Knights of the Old Republic series of RPGs, developed by industry stalwarts BioWare.
For many fans, these official video games were able to bring a depth to Star Wars that was difficult for the big screen incarnations to match. And with the disappointments of the prequel trilogy, it was these games that kept hope for the future of the franchise alive in the first decade of the new millennium.