Top 5 Worst Retro Star Wars Games
“Yaaa-hoo! You’re all clear, kid!”
Who doesn’t love the 1983 Atari classic “Star Wars” arcade Game. An X/Y control yoke with triggers, vector graphics, and digitized audio from the movie. This game was years ahead of its time, and if your arcade had the cockpit cabinet instead of the upright, you really felt like you were in the movie. Of course, when I look back at those days and compare that to today’s CGI masterpieces, there is no comparison, but only as far as graphics go. For pure game-play and fun, my money is still on Star Wars.
But that’s the last you’ll hear of good games. For every Star Wars success story in the video game industry, there were loads of garbage juice spinoffs flowing like wine – really really bad wine. Today, my friends we take a longing look back at the five most awful games of the 1980s and early 90s.
#5 “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” by Parker Brothers for Atari 2600 (1982)
This was the first Star Wars game I bought for my Atari 2600. Empire is my favorite Star Wars film, and this was my chance to contribute to the demise of the Empire. My mission was to join the Rebel Alliance and pilot my snowspeeder to attack Imperial AT-AT walkers before they destroyed the shield generators. The plot sounded identical to the battle on the ice planet, Hoth. YES! The game had AT-ATs and snowspeeders. YES! And that’s where the similarities end.
Now I’m putting this game at #5 because I wanted this game to be good. I really did. This game just doesn’t make the grade and I started cursing it just a few minutes after my first play. If you watched the movie you know that the lowly snowspeeder can’t pierce the heavily armored AT-AT. Luke Skywalker found that a carefully placed tow cable could be used to entangle the walkers so that they would collapse, making the “neck” of the AT-AT vulnerable to snowspeeder firepower. In this game, snowspeeders have no tow cable and apparently have gotten bigger guns so that they can shoot down an Imperial AT-AT walker. All it takes is a mere 48 hits to destroy one AT-AT walker, and there is an entire army marching toward Echo Base. Well if the firepower has been increased, surely they have stronger shields. You fool. It takes a mere 3 hits to kill you. In addition, the walkers have “smart bombs” that follow you as you fly. When they touch you it’s curtains for your snowspeeder.
The game is difficult to win because once you’ve figured out the game enough to blow them up, they get faster and greater in number. And as much fun as it is to watch them change color as they take on damage, the game gets really old really fast. I’m thinking that when Parker Brothers designed this game they wanted to impress upon the gamer the sense of imminent defeat at the hands of the Empire, just like the movie. Considering the rest of the swill that Parker Brothers released, I think it is more likely, however, that they wanted to make a game as simply as possible to capitalize on a brand that sold, and did not develop enough to give it engaging game play. Launch the transports. Let’s get the heck out of here.
#4 “Star Wars: Jedi Arena “ by Parker Brothers for Atari 2600 (1983)
Simple minded fool. The box was using an old Jedi mind trick.
If you were unfortunate enough to have owned this game, you know that the game is NOTHING like the movie. Using the very Jedi-like paddle controller you “swing” your lightsaber to deflect laser blasts from your opponent who is using a SEEKER (I guess that’s what the floating ball thing is supposed to be called). Apparently, in the Jedi Arena, each Jedi has a three level force field and a trigger to shoot lasers at your opponent. If both hands are on the lightsaber, what pulls the trigger to shoot the laser? Wrap your minds around that one, youngling. Hey, don’t forget the INVISIBLE SEEKER level. Who knows where those lasers are coming from?
Hey, I like paddle games, and I guess this is as close as I will ever get to being a Jedi in 1983, but this game was an amazing disappointment. The controls were responsive enough. It’s the concept that I find absolutely stupid. Parker Brothers implements the classic bait and switch, using movie artwork to draw you in and then zapping you straight in the face with the seeker.
In the end, Star Wars: Jedi Arena has about as much repeat game play as a game of “kick me in the balls.”
#3 “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – Death Star Battle” by Parker Brothers for Atari 2600 (1983)
Do you really need three names for your game title? I can sum it up in one word – garbage. The goal is similar to the movie’s. All you have to do is destroy the under-construction Death Star. Oh, but wait. The Death Star is fully operational. That tricky old Sith and his apprentice. Guess we’ll just cruise around the perimeter of the Death Star and wait for a random opening in the shield.
Want to know why you have to wait for a random opening? Because, nobody wants an Endor level with Ewoks helping your Rebel friends lower the energy shield. Nope. Let’s just make it random openings. Why do they occur? Maybe there is a faulty circuit somewhere. I don’t know. I’m not the Death Star IT department.
Is the game playable? Well, if by playable you mean does the game turn on, then the answer is yes. However, if you meant is the game a joy to play, then the only way you can enjoy this game is if you have recently been lobotomized. The game is so totally unlike the movie. Even if you manage to slip by the Death Star IT department shield glitches, you still have to face the DEATH RAY. The DEATH RAY? Did that big green laser even have a name? Oh, and it “tracks you”. Give me a break. Let’s just be honest and say random vertical laser beams from the giant lego circle you are trying to destroy. But if you get past that you get to move inside the mechanical beast and attack the core to trigger a chain reaction, right? Nope. You get to chip away at the exterior to reveal the meaty center and destroy it that way. Nurse, I’ll take another round of brain surgery please. I don’t feel numb enough yet.
#2 “Star Wars” by Namco for Nintendo Famicom (1987)
Star Wars for Famicom actually had the potential to be a cool game. In fact, if you look hard enough you can kinda see similarities to what would become Super Star Wars for the SNES. However, our friends in Japan always find ways to take some creative license. I’m faulting this game for a.) not being released in the US and b.) for being so freakin’ weird.
The game starts off innocent enough with ENGLISH scrolling Star Wars Episode IV intro. Follow that with some cool cut scenes. Getting excited! Then a side scrolling platformer starts. Not bad. Wait. Does Luke have black hair? No worries. We have to kill all those evil Tuscan Raiders and, um, let’s just call those sand pits and space birds. Still into the game, we arrive at a huge Jawa transport vehicle, JUST LIKE THE MOVIE. Awesome! A few Storm Troopers for us to easily dispatch with our lightsaber and then we have to face Darth Vader.
Face Darth Vader on the first level? He’s a mini boss? Wait. What just happened? Darth Vader turned into a scorpion thing? No time to think. Just kill it and free R2 and the Jawas who kidnapped him. Good. Level completed. No, time to fly my invincible sandspeeder to Mos Eisley spaceport.
Let me get this straight. Not only does Luke have black hair and already a master at lightsaber combat against space birds, he also has to fight Darth Vader clones that transform into space animals? Weird.
I’ll be honest. The gameplay is remarkably similar to Wonder Boy in Monster Land (Sega Master System) and Moses Adventure (NES). Not kidding.
The game just gets weirder from there. Luke has Jedi powers that never exist in the “real” Star Wars universe. Darth Vader turns into a space shark. Obi Wan is trapped in an Egyptian pyramid. What? What are those? Space frogs? The mechanics are not awful. It’s the story that is just so so very bad. Then the game is just so flippin hard to beat. Everything kills you with a touch. No hearts. This game is horrible.
If you can find this game on an emulator, give it a try. Don’t blame me when the profanity begins.
#1 “Star Wars Chess” by Mindscape, Inc. for PCs and and Sega CD (1993)
Please understand, I have nothing against chess. If you are a chess champion and captain of your school’s chess club, more power to you. Good job. But if you are designing a riveting computer chess game combining chess AND Star Wars characters AND animated “battle scenes”, wouldn’t it be cool to reproduce the game Chewbacca and R2D2 were playing in Star Wars?
“He made a fair move. Screaming about it can’t help you.”
“Let him have it. It’s not wise to upset a Wookie.”
“But sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid.”
“That’s ’cause droids don’t pull people’s arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookiees are known to do that.”
“I see your point, sir. I suggest a new strategy, R2: let the Wookiee win.”
Thank you, fan of the actual movie. Your suggestion is noted and denied. We will make a game with as little reference to the movie storyline as possible.
Star Wars Chess is an obvious “let’s make a buck off of the Star Wars name by slapping some graphics on a chess game.” That old scam? Come on! I hate this game on principle alone. Let’s look at the realistic translation of Star Wars to chess. Remember how there were two Chewbaccas in the movie? Me neither. A whole army of R2D2s? Nope. But there were two Yodas, right? Wrong again. I get that there are multiples of some chess pieces. It just doesn’t translate into epic Star Wars battle. And Star Wars is not about a chess match of wits and strategy. It’s about kissing your sister in front of your best friend, except you didn’t know it was your sister, but it still felt good and somehow if you pilot the Millennium Falcon you have to wear the same clothes and have a copilot who does not speak English. Take a breath. Now that’s Star Wars. Star Wars Chess? No thank you, sir.
So there you have it. The five worst retro Star Wars games ever made. If we were going further into the 90s we would be forced to deal with Jar Jar and math. I just threw up a little bit in my mouth. Maybe you disagree with my findings. You’re wrong, of course, but maybe your memory is a bit fuzzy. Find an old system and try them out or try them on an emulator. Remember the pain and be glad you are now free.