To Boldly Play: The Best and Worst Star Trek Videogames

  • Publish Date: February 19, 2010
  • Comments: ↓ 18 user comments

Resistance is futile ... well, with some of these games, maybe not

ImagePerhaps today is a good day to go online

With this month's arrival of Star Trek Online -- the very first MMORPG (or role-playing game of any kind) based on Star Trek -- fans are now able to command their own starship and spend hours in a world they have come to love through decades of television series, movies, and novels. But STO is just the latest in a long series of games based on the enduring sci-fi franchise.

Incredibly, the very first Star Trek videogame adaptation was developed nearly 40 years ago. The ensuing years have seen the release of over four dozen additional titles, on virtually every platform imaginable, from the Amiga to the Apple II to Super Nintendo to the Wii.

The Ferengi's 54th rule of acquisition states that a wise man doesn't waste latinum on a lousy Star Trek game, and, unfortunately for fans, the "Star Trek" name printed on a videogame box has only rarely indicated a quality product. Let's take a warp-speed tour through the best and worst titles in the franchise, starting with games for the PC.

Star Trek Games for the PC
  Game Genre Year Metascore Critic Grades User Score
1 Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force FPS 2000 86 25,0,0 9.3
2 Star Trek: Bridge Commander Simulation 2002 82 20,4,0 8.1
3 Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Fallen 3D Shooter 2000 81 18,5,0 8.5
4 Star Trek: Starfleet Command: Orion Pirates Strategy 2001 78 7,2,0 7.5
  Star Trek: Starfleet Command III RTS/Simulation 2002 78 11,7,0 9.2
  Star Trek Elite Force II FPS 2003 78 21,7,0 7.4
7 Star Trek: Starfleet Command Volume II--Empires at War RTS/Simulation 2000 77 9,7,0 9.3
8 Star Trek: Klingon Academy Action/Sim 2000 74 5,9,0 10.0
9 Star Trek: Armada II RTS 2001 65 4,7,2 8.0
10 Star Trek: Away Team RTS 2001 64 3,16,3 8.5
  Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Dominion Wars RTS 2001 64 1,4,0 6.2
12 Star Trek: ConQuest Online Strategy 2000 63 2,6,2 n/a
  Star Trek Online MMORPG 2010 63 4,6,1 6.4
14 Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force Expansion Pack Action 2001 62 2,6,2 8.6
15 Star Trek: Legacy Action/RTS 2006 56 1,20,4 4.0
16 Star Trek: New Worlds RTS 2000 52 4,9,10 8.1
17 Star Trek: D-A-C Action 2009 50 4,19,0 4.1
Older PC games not in Metacritic's database *:
  Star Trek (aka Super Star Trek) Text/Strategy 1971 N/A -- n/a
  Begin: A Tactical Starship Simulation Simulation 1981 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: The Kobayashi Alternative Text/Adventure 1985 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: The Promethean Prophecy Text/Adventure 1986 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: The Rebel Universe Action-Adventure 1988 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: First Contact Adventure 1988 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Transinium Challenge Adventure 1989 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Action 1989 N/A -- n/a
  Begin 2 Simulation 1991 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: 25th Anniversary Action-Adventure 1992 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: Judgment Rites Adventure 1993 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: The Next Generation - A Final Unity Adventure 1995 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: Klingon Interactive Movie 1995 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: Borg Interactive Movie 1996 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Harbinger Adventure 1996 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: Starfleet Academy Simulation 1997 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek Generations FPS/Strategy 1997 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek Pinball Pinball 1997 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: The Next Generation: Klingon Honor Guard FPS 1998 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: Starship Creator Simulation 1998 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: The Next Generation: Birth of the Federation Strategy 1999 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: Starfleet Command RTS/Simulation 1999 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: Hidden Evil TPS/Action 1999 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: Armada RTS 2000 N/A -- n/a

The Metascore is a weighted average of scores from top professional critics, on a scale from 0 (bad) to 100 (good). The pie chart for critic grades represents the percentages of individual critic scores falling into the categories Good (positively-reviewed games with a Metascore of 75 or higher), So-So (mixed or average reviews, 50-74), and Bad (negatively-reviewed games, 0-49). The User Score is an average of scores submitted by Metacritic users, on a scale from 0 (bad) to 10 (good). The scores for Star Trek Online are from February 18, 2010.
* Only titles for Windows, IBM PC, and/or MS-DOS are listed. There were several other Star Trek games released for other computers in the 1970s and '80s, including games for the Atari 800, Commodore 64, and Apple II.

ImageStar Trek Voyager: Elite Force (2000)

Despite the fact that it was released a decade ago -- and based on arguably the worst television series in the Star Trek franchise (okay, okay, the second-worst) -- Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force 86 is still the gold standard against which all other Star Trek videogames are compared. The best-reviewed of all Star Trek game titles (PC or console), Elite Force is also one of the few first-person shooters in the series. Many critics hailed it as not just a great Trek game, but a great game in general -- with terrific graphics and gameplay -- and it spawned a slightly less-acclaimed 2003 sequel set on board the Enterprise (Star Trek Elite Force II 78).

Virtually all of the other Star Trek game titles released for the PC over the years fall into the adventure, strategy, or simulation genres (or some combination thereof), including second-place title Star Trek: Bridge Commander. This 2002 release offered a fun, immersive and innovative starship simulation, and captured the Star Trek flavor better than many of the titles that have followed. Bridge Commander was released at the tail end of the Star Trek game craze; the number and quality of releases has dropped since then, much as the Star Trek brand itself slumped over a large portion of the past decade.

Though it is still early -- any MMO title will evolve and potentially improve over time -- the newest entry, Star Trek Online, also falls toward the lower end of the quality spectrum, with critics labeling the game repetitive, incomplete and unworthy of anything other than a quick look. The new game, at least, is true to the standard Star Trek canon (it's set after the events in Star Trek Nemesis); to date, only Star Trek: D-A-C is based on the J.J. Abrams-created alternate timeline established in the 2009 film.

At least STO bests the only two other Star Trek PC games released in the last five years. Those games -- the frustrating ship combat strategy title Star Trek: Legacy and the dull arcade-style shooter D-A-C -- were ports of lousy console games. 2000's Star Trek: New Worlds, on the other hand, takes the crown as the worst-reviewed Star Trek PC exclusive. That real-time strategy title was pegged by critics as "horrible" and "verging on unplayable" and was partially saved only by some nice graphics and the Star Trek tie-in. (Although we probably shouldn't use the word "save," since New Worlds notoriously failed to include a mid-mission game-save feature, driving players crazy.)

ImageStar Trek: The Kobayashi Alternative (1985)

As for those pre-Metacritic titles, take a look at the release year for the very first Star Trek game: 1971. Written in BASIC shortly after the series originally aired, the first Star Trek game inspired a number of knockoffs, and became better known later in the 1970s when it was included (as Super Star Trek) in a book of BASIC programs.

A few more text-based Star Trek games emerged during the PC boom of the 1980s, and in 1988, the first fully graphical Star Trek title, Star Trek: The Rebel Universe, was released for MS-DOS and the Commodore 64 (an Atari ST version was released the previous year). Rebel Universe puts players on the bridge of the Enterprise on a mission to investigate a new Klingon weapon that is causing other Federation crews to mutiny, and featured a universe with thousands of planets that could be investigated.

ImageStar Trek: 25th Anniversary (1992)

Out of all the early Star Trek computer games, the one widely considered the best is Star Trek: 25th Anniversary, released in 1992 to commemorate the birth of the original television series in 1966, a mere -- uh -- 26 years earlier. Combining a combat flight simulator with an adventure game over the course of seven distinct missions (or "episodes"), the anniversary title was the first Star Trek game to score with the public. A CD version of the game added dialogue voiced by the original cast, and the game was so successful that it spawned a 1993 sequel, Star Trek: Judgment Rites.

The remaining years in the decade brought a sharp increase in the number of Star Trek titles, including the well-received Star Trek: The Next Generation - A Final Unity (featuring hundreds of hours of new dialogue voiced by the entire Next Generation cast), Star Trek: Starfleet Academy (a 3D simulation allowing players to complete missions as a Starfleet cadet), Star Trek: The Next Generation: Klingon Honor Guard (perhaps the best of the small number of titles allowing gameplay as a Klingon), and the hugely successful Star Trek: Starfleet Command (a simulation based on the classic 1979 board game Star Fleet Battles).

Star Trek Games for Consoles
  Game / Platform Genre Year Metascore Critic Grades User Score
1 Star Trek: Invasion
Action 2000 76 7,5,0 9.0
2 Star Trek: Legacy
RTS/Action 2006 64 8,29,4 5.5
  Star Trek: D-A-C
Action 2009 64 0,4,0 6.0
4 Star Trek: Conquest
Action/Strategy 2007 54 2,10,3 8.8
5 Star Trek: D-A-C
Action 2009 53 3,14,9 7.8
6 Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force
Action 2001 52 2,6,4 8.0
7 Star Trek: Encounters
Shooter 2006 51 2,7,8 8.7
8 Star Trek: Conquest
Action/Strategy 2007 49 1,9,8 5.1
9 Star Trek: Shattered Universe
Action/Shooter 2004 42 0,9,10 8.9
10 Star Trek: Shattered Universe
Action/Shooter 2004 41 0,9,12 3.7
Older console games not in Metacritic's database:
  Star Trek: Phaser Strike
Shooter 1979 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Shooter 1982 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: 25th Anniversary
Action-Adventure 1991 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: The Next Generation: Future's Past
Adventure 1993 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: The Next Generation: Echoes from the Past
Adventure 1994 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: Starfleet Academy Starship Bridge Simulator
Simulation 1994 N/A -- n/a
  Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Crossroads of Time
Platform 1995 N/A -- n/a

Yes, there is just one decent Star Trek console game from the past decade. Set in the Next Generation universe but featuring mainly new characters, Invasion was among the better Playstation shooters at the time of its 2000 release, and came from the team behind the hit (non-Star Trek) game series Colony Wars. Still, it was far from perfect, and some critics felt that the heavy emphasis on combat wasn't true to the spirit of Star Trek (a criticism that echoes today in reviews of the new Star Trek Online).

However, that game is a masterpiece compared to a title like Star Trek: Shattered Universe, the 2004 shooter set in Star Trek's goatee-filled mirror universe. While an edgier, darker version of Star Trek seems like a brilliant concept for a videogame, Shattered Universe instead turned out to be "as fun as watching a pet die," in the words of IGN. Other critics lambasted the title as "glaringly ugly," "abysmal," and "a disgrace to the gaming industry." Faring only moderately better was the Next Generation-universe title Star Trek: Conquest, a too-simplistic and poorly-reviewed 2D strategy game for the PS2 that somehow emerged even worse when released for the Wii (sadly, it's still the lone Star Trek title available on the latter console).

ImageStar Trek: The Motion Picture (Vectrex, 1982)

You've seen most of the other recent console games above, in our section on PC releases. As for the earlier releases, 1982's Star Trek: The Motion Picture was basically a slightly more advanced version of Asteroids, switching the action from third- to first-person. The title, released for the Vectrex Arcade System (a small console with a built-in monitor), was also the first Star Trek game release to tie into a particular movie, although the game itself had nothing specifically to do with the film (and what that flying sombrero has to do with any element of Star Trek is beyond us). Our favorite part of the game: when you are hit by an enemy torpedo, your windshield cracks.

Note that Future's Past and Echoes from the Past are virtually the same game; the latter, for the Sega Genesis, is considered superior. Both put players on board the Enterprise-D and depict a number of Next Generation characters. Crossroads of Time is the first videogame for any platform based on Deep Space Nine, and was reportedly created before that series even debuted.

Star Trek Games for Handhelds
  Game / Platform Genre Year Metascore Critic Grades User Score
1 Star Trek: Tactical Assault
RTS 2006 64 2,12,1 8.7
2 Star Trek: Tactical Assault
RTS 2006 63 4,9,2 7.3
Older handheld games not in Metacritic's database:
  Star Trek Generations: Beyond the Nexus
Game Boy / Game Gear / Super Game Boy
Action/Puzzle 1994 N/A -- n/a

Despite coming from the same developer as the hit Starfleet Command, Star Trek: Tactical Assault -- still the lone handheld Star Trek title released for current generation platforms -- was mediocre at best. 1994's Beyond the Nexus, released on the biggest handheld platforms at the time (including in full color on Sega's Game Gear!), was one of several Star Trek games based on the movie Star Trek Generations.


What are your favorite (or least favorite) Star Trek games? What would you like to see in a future Trek game? What do you think of the new Star Trek Online? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Comments (18)

  • Lee Wolfgang  

    Voyager sucked. Captain Janeway constantly made bad decisions and never looked back on them. Just because the cast is told to act as if they like her does not mean she is actually a good captain, especially with immensely dumb decisions such as those in Course: Oblivion, etc etc. Enterprise was the worst.

  • McL0v1N 42  

    Not sure what this guy is going on about but Voyager was definitly not the worst trek, I'd rank it as tied for second with the original series behind the Next Generation.

  • Winddancer  

    Still the best Star Trek Game: Star Trek a Final Unity (PC). I loved this game soooo much!
    2nd ist definetly 25th Anniversary... one of my very first PC Games... god I loved it!

  • Kalishinko  

    Birth of the Federation is epic (Think Civ II set in the Star Trek universe). Also, it's officially vaporware so if you do a google search you can find it along with lots of mods for the game.

  • Elwyn  

    I really loved Klingon Academy. I tried to play that again recently but it kept crashing on Vista. I loved how General Chang was my CO and getting to blow up Federation ships.

    Elite Force I & II were well done. I particularly liked the option to play as male or female and being forced to choose between relationship with a co-worker or woman from the planet

    Most frustrating: Away Team. While it was nifty how you could use the Vulcan nerve pinch on Romulans, there were too many stealth missions where you could fail abruptly.

    Overall, I loved the 25th anniversary and Judgment Rites the best. They were pretty funny at times, particularly with the Spock-McCoy banter.

  • Moodvayne  

    The first Armada was awesome. Good story, original voice cast, great game play, good graphics too. Also Birth of the Federation was good too. I've been trying to find it but to no success.

  • ITCHYisVegeta  

    Star Trek Armada, not Armada II, was absolutely AMAZING!!! For anyone who was a Starcraft fan, it took that interface, similar RTS 2D gameplay, but with 3D graphics, authentic sound effects, and a balanced ship system so nothing was overpowered. Nothing was more fun than sneaking 18 cloaked romulan warbirds into the enemy players base and taking him out from behind simply because he was too lazy to build a tachyon sensor.

  • Lee Wolfgang  

    Elite Force I and The Fallen both hold special places in my heart. Every other Trek game I've played or tried to play, which is about most, ranges from bad to horrible.

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