Resistance is futile ... well, with some of these games, maybe not
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.
|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|
|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|
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.)
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.
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).
|Game / Platform||Genre||Year||Metascore||Critic Grades||User Score|
|1||Star Trek: Invasion
|2||Star Trek: Legacy
|Star Trek: D-A-C
|4||Star Trek: Conquest
|5||Star Trek: D-A-C
|6||Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force
|7||Star Trek: Encounters
|8||Star Trek: Conquest
|9||Star Trek: Shattered Universe
|10||Star Trek: Shattered Universe
|Older console games not in Metacritic's database:|
|Star Trek: Phaser Strike
|Star Trek: The Motion Picture
|Star Trek: 25th Anniversary
|Star Trek: The Next Generation: Future's Past
|Star Trek: The Next Generation: Echoes from the Past
|Star Trek: Starfleet Academy Starship Bridge Simulator
|Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Crossroads of Time
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).
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.
|Game / Platform||Genre||Year||Metascore||Critic Grades||User Score|
|1||Star Trek: Tactical Assault
|2||Star Trek: Tactical Assault
|Older handheld games not in Metacritic's database:|
|Star Trek Generations: Beyond the Nexus
Game Boy / Game Gear / Super Game Boy
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.