You kids today, with your graphics processors and your multiple gigahertz CPUs and your gigabytes of game storage! Why, back in the early 1980s, if you wanted to experience the world of Star Wars in home video game form, you needed to bring some imagination to the table. No 60-button gamepads for us, no sir! We veterans of the Atari 2600 era made do with a joystick and a little red button, and we liked it that way! There was honor in fighting the Imperial Empire back then! Why, you simply haven't lived until you've single handedly brought down the Rebel Thunder on the heads of a whole squad of AT-AT walkers! Sit down for a spell, junior, and let me tell you about some of my favorite memories of Long Ago, back when there only three Star Wars movies and Han Solo always, always, always shot first.
The first game to hit the Atari was none other than Parker Brothers' Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and it might have been the best of the lot. In this game, kiddo, we flew a Rebel snow speeder back and forth over the surface of Hoth, trying to fend off a wave of AT-AT walkers as long as possible. They were tough old beasts, but they weren't indestructible. Took a few dozen shots to bring one of 'em down, while they could destroy us with only one or two! Hardly seems fair, does it? But we had a bit of luck on our side, boy. Sometimes we'd be able to pick out a flashing square in the walker's armor, and if we were able to fire a shot into it, we'd blow that sucker up instantly! Good times, my lad, good times.
Original Atari 2600 box art for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes BackCredit: WikipediaCredit: Wikipedia
Gameplay Video for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Atari 2600)
Of course, every now and then we'd get sick of fighting those monster machines, and we'd feel the need for some good old one-on-one lightsaber practice. At times like that, we'd swap our joysticks for paddle controllers and reach for a copy of Star Wars: Jedi Arena. Two Jedis would face off against each other, with a training probe hovering between us. Using the paddles, we'd try our best to block its lightning attacks. What? Whaddya mean that doesn't sound a lot of fun? Well... no, it wasn't. But how else were we gonna master the pixelated Force?
Original Atari 2600 box art for Star Wars: Jedi ArenaCredit: WikipediaCredit: Wikipedia
Gameplay Video for Star Wars: Jedi Arena (Atari 2600)
But isn't it weird how the first two Atari 2600 games with the words Star Wars in the title featured no stars, or any outer space action at all? They were entirely planet-bound! That would be rectified with Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Death Star Battle. In this game, the Millennium Falcon flew around the second Death Star (still under construction, if you remember). Because the Death Star was protected by a shield, the Falcon didn't have much to do except blow up TIE fighters. But eventually, if you had enough patience, a hole would open up in the shield and you could zip right through and put the hurt on the Death Star itself. All in all, it wasn't that fun, and not nearly as good as the game they made about the first Death Star battle. Wait, what was that game called again?
Original Atari 2600 box art for Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Death Star BattleCredit: Moby GamesCredit: Moby Games
Gameplay Video for Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Death Star Battle (Atari 2600)
Oh, right -- it was Star Wars: The Arcade Game. Remember arcades, young fella? Those disreputable parlors in which a few fleeting moments of video game bliss could be purchased for 25 republic credits at a time? At any rate, the popular coin-operated Star Wars arcade game, which remains one of the finest ever created as far as your humble correspondent is concerned, involved the Rebel Alliance's all-out attack on the first Death Star. After defeating a wave of TIE fighters, you could skim your X-wing along the surface of the mighty battle station, blowing up bunkers and towers. Eventually you'd get the chance to fire a torpedo down the exhaust shaft and blow that sucker all the way to Cloud City. Lots of home adaptations were made of this game, but the Atari 2600 version wasn't too shabby.
Original Atari 2600 box art for Star Wars: The Arcade GameCredit: Atari AgeCredit: Atari Age
Gameplay Video for Star Wars: The Arcade Game (Atari 2600)
Oh, and there were rumors of some kind of Ewok game, but it never made it past the prototype stage. That's okay -- I've never had any use for those stupid, fuzzy teddy bears.