Imperial: Revisiting X-Wing And TIE Fighter

To commemorate the digital release of classic Lucasarts games X-Wing and TIE Fighter [Steam or GOG for the best versions here and here], we commissioned Rob Zacny to take a trip down memory lane and into the laser-singed spaces between the stars. He came back with extensive thoughts as to the quality of the games, and their place in Star Wars lore and legend.

Before X-Wing came out in 1993, the Star Wars universe wasn’t really something you could experience firsthand. It existed in the background of a trilogy that was tantalizing in its vagueness toward its own setting and backstory. Every frame showed you something amazing and a little bit perplexing, and then it was gone as the action moved on.

For a generation of kids who grew up watching and re-watching the movies on worn-out VHS tapes, those painted backdrops, strange puppet-aliens, and model spaceships raised a thousand questions and desires. “Wait, tell me more about that!”

But nobody had been able to make a game that felt like it was set in the Star Wars universe. On the Super Nintendo, Star Wars games meant re-telling the familiar stories via the medium of an action platformer. Luke needs to meet-up with C-3PO and R2-D2? Well, of course that means including the scene where Luke spends three hours killing Jawas and shredding their sandcrawler.

It certainly changes that scene in A New Hope where Luke and Ben Kenobi encounter the burned-out husk of the Jawa crawler. “Only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise,” Kenobi declares, while Luke’s feigned farm-boy innocence masks the heart of a remorseless, indefatigable killing machine. God only knows what sort of Cronenbergian violence would have unfolded had he actually made it to Tosche Station.

X-Wing changed all of that. It purported to actually simulate the things we saw in the movies, telling fans what they’d desperately wanted to hear: “It’s all real.” It took the two major space battles of the series, the Battle of Yavin and the Battle of Endor, and extrapolated a world of military sci-fi. Ship models that had played scarcely any meaningful role in the films (the only thing we see an A-wing do in the movies is accidentally kamikaze the bridge of the Executor) turned into special-purpose military spacecraft. That impractical-looking medical ship in the Rebel fleet? Why, that’s a Nebulon-B Frigate, the primary workhorse of the Rebellion!

It was a milestone when it came out, but the swift arrival of TIE Fighter a year later pushed X-Wing dangerously close to obsolescence, and I have to admit I find the game almost unbearable now. It’s clearly the first game in a series, before Lawrence Holland’s team at Totally Games had perfected the formula. It’s also a game that is at once circumscribed by too much knowledge from the films, and not enough.

Because what, really, do we know about the Rebel Alliance from the films? We know they generally prefer hiding, and that they’re always ready for quick getaways: Moff Tarkin is disappointed but not surprised to find that the Rebels have evacuated the Dantooine installation that Princess Leia reveals under interrogation. We know that the Rebel fleet, even at its strongest, could not long-survive a stand-up fight with Imperial warships. We know that the Rebels will give absolutely anyone the rank of general, provided that person is a smuggler who seems cool about the whole thing.

It’s not much to go on, so X-Wing hits those same beats again and again and again. You protect a Rebel convoy during yet another inglorious retreat. You raid an Imperial convoy carrying especially valuable cargo. There isn’t much variety in the kinds of ships and battles you encounter, either. You never get the feeling of taking part in anything like the Battle of Endor. Rebel and Imperial capital ships tend to stand-off across the map from one another, dueling via small waves of fighters. And it’s the same ships again and again: a frigate here, a Star Destroyer there, and now and then a freighter Mon Calamari Cruiser.

But playing it today, I think what really kills X-Wing is the fact that you’re playing as the plucky underdog. It’s a recipe for frustrating mission design: time and again, you are sent in alone or almost alone, and given an impossible laundry list of objectives. There’s a mission halfway through the first campaign where they stick you in a Y-wing (the hand-me-down minivan of the Rebel Alliance) and tell you to inspect a herd of Imperial transports, disable the ones carrying Rebel prisoners, destroy all the rest, all while dogfighting waves of Imperial fighters who are trying to attack the Rebel rescue teams. Fail any of these goals and you have to start over.

Of course, in this sense X-Wing is much more of an old-fashioned videogame. Death and failure are frequent and punishing, and only through repetition and memorization can you succeed in each mission. X-Wing is a game you are supposed to “beat” rather than experience. Playing it today, I have no idea how I slogged through it all those years ago. Every other mission is an invitation to ragequit.

TIE Fighter is something very different.


  1. Tiax says:

    Really good article, thanks !

  2. cyrenic says:

    TIE Fighter remains one of my favorite games ever. I loved X-Wing so when I played TIE fighter it blew me away. Probably due to my age when I played it but I don’t think I’ve ever found a game matching in immersion.

    • Continuity says:

      I wanted to like xwing, but as Rob says above it was just too frustrating in places, though I did have a friend who completed it. Tie fighter however I completed on first attempt and loved every minute, even without a joystick! You may have been in a fragile Tie Fighter but the simple AI and the slow laser blasts conspired to make you feel super human, you could take certain evasive manoeuvres to out wit any ship attacking you so they could never hit, or dodge laser fire from whole batteries of capital ship turbo lasers.
      Unless you had 3+ fighters on you at once, and even then you have a good chance, you were practically invulnerable – despite the fragile ship, which made it believable when you win all the medals and awards and become a hand picked member of vaders elite.

      • Apocalypse says:

        That actually something that irritates me every time I hear about it.

        I don´t think that a single guy in my star citizen squadron has not completed X-Wing. It imo even easy in comparison to the early Wing Commander games. It sure demands to stick more to mission objectives and for sure the death star mission is only easy if you actually ignore the death trap trench and go for a dive bomb run instead.

        But outside of that? The game was easy enough that i could do it with a freaking mouse instead of a joystick. The KI was dumb enough that you could annihilate even swarms of TIEs with your Y-Wing, because all you had to do was to hit them with a single volley, target will enough and swarms fall like flies and the real issue becomes being just fast enough to actually reach all mission objectives in time. Combat itself was not challenging in X-Wing at all, well at least if you managed your energy properly. Shields make everything … so much less difficult as a single moment of losing concentration never manged to kill you.

  3. subedii says:

    Another interesting facet of TIE fighter is the way in which the objectives lined up. Because there was a shadow organisation in the background, pulling yet more strings, and asking you to faithfully serve the empire in a different way. Often by directly disobeying your other orders and following their orders instead.

    In terms of world building, it adds one more layer in that the empire doesn’t trust its own people. It has objectives it feels even its own admirals may not follow through on or be trusted with, so it actively undermines them with a core cadre of the elite Inner Circle, which you can become a member of.

    Really it was a pretty genius touch. It would have been so easy for the game to have been just a formal selection of missions, one after the other. Instead they took the time to really build context and plot into even the smaller elements.

    • Manfromtheweb says:

      Don’t forget the great soundtrack! While still sounding like Star Wars, and using the Imperial March as a starting point, they were able to create a soundtrack that still sounded Imperial, but without the evil tone of the film versions. Hence reinforcing the idea of the Empire as trying to preserve order.

      Here is an example from Youtube: link to

  4. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    TIE Fighter CD was my first PC game, and it was a belter of an introduction. It was the game that convinced me that were I a character in Star Wars, I’d be wearing the dark greys of an Imperial officer, waiting for the Vader to Force-choke enough people to whisk me to the upper echelons of command.

    It had well done voice acting, especially for such an early example. The Imperial briefing officer’s voice calmly announcing “You will fly TIE-fighter Alpha-1” is imprinted deeply in my gaming cortex.

    By the way, this is a fun fan-documentary of life in the Imperial military that some might find amusing.

    • subedii says:

      Since we’re posting videos, TIE fighter was also the inspiration for this fan-made short cartoon:

      link to

      Yeah it takes a lot of liberties (“missile dance mode activate!”), but it’s still pretty freaking impressively well done as a fan project.

      • controlvoice says:

        The guy who made the TIE Fighter cartoon really knows his stuff. The “missile dance mode” on the Interdictor is a reference to the RTS game Empire at War. To protect itself from bombers the Interdictors had a special ability where they could use their gravity generators to repel missile attacks.

  5. jrodman says:

    Somehow i feel GOG is a more appropriate vendor to mention for this particular release:
    link to & the same with star_wars_xwing_vs_tie_fighter

  6. jonfitt says:

    I loved both, but Tie Fighter eclipsed X-Wing in every way. The “match target speed” throttle shortcut was worth its weight in spice.

    It was good to get the Tie Defender at the end of the campaign. It felt like you finally had something which outmatched all the rebel ships. The Missile Boat was hilariously OP.

    Next article: Bring X-Wing Alliance into the comparison. Why is it not the one everyone remembers fondest?

    • newton says:

      I do. Alliance was frustrating but the way it combined flying with a family story that I deeply cared about made for some amazing memories. And artifacts to fill your cabin with!

      • Apocalypse says:

        Ironically I never finished Alliance because I hated the freighters. I still do hate them, 20 minutes back into the game and I am still stopping after mission 3 or so. Alliance was simply bad imho.

        It offered nothing I wanted to see in a X-Wing game. X-Wing had the the Rebell feeling. TIE-Fighter is in its class of its own, and Balance of Power offered Multiplayer Coop.

        And Alliances failed to deliver multi-crew multiplayer ships. Furthermore it was released in a time when the competition was Freespace, Wing Commander V, XvT + Balance of Power and shorty after Freespace 2 and Starlancer. It might be the most advanced game out of the X-Wing Series, but at the same time: It ain’t freespace. The series stopped developing fast enough to keep up with the competition imho. Shorty after the genre itself collapsed.

  7. Scurra says:

    I know this is a PC games site an’ all, but it seems churlish not to mention the astounding Star Wars arcade cabinet game (especially the “sit-inside” version) which was absolutely the closest you could get to that experience for around a decade I’d guess. I probably spent about a week of the summer of ’84 glued to one of those…

    • bill says:

      Yeah, Me too… in the crappy arcade by the beach.
      Then later, some of my mates at uni somehow managed to get a full X-Wing arcade machine for their house!

    • Det. Bullock says:

      Actually I find it is mentioned even too much, from what I gather it’s the X-wing games that don’t get nearly as much love as they deserve and more than once it happened to me to be the one mentioning them to people that knew the arcade in question and the Factor 5 games but were completely ignorant of the creations of Totally Games.

  8. Brosecutor says:

    No love for X-Wing vs Tie Fighter (with the Balance of Power campaigns) and X-Wing Alliance? I really dug those, too.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      I think X-Wing vs TIE Fighter was great. Sadly they decided to skip a proper storyline and went for a more multiplayer approach instead, which would have been great if it wasn’t for the fact that multiplayer games sucked when everyone was on a 56k modem so we were left with what was essentially a bunch of random single player skirmish missions that didn’t work as well as a full on, well structured single player campaign like we saw in X Wing and TIE Fighter.
      The gameplay was phenomenal though. I played it a hell of a lot.

      • Syphus says:

        Perhaps that was the biggest flaw of XvT, it was before its time. Had it came out alongside Battlefield 1942 or perhaps even just two years later alongside Team Fotress Classic, that could’ve been all the difference.

        However, Balance of Power really did remedy that and both the rebel and imperial campaigns I thought were great. And, this was the first inclusion of the Executioner I believe.

      • Apocalypse says:

        You know, XvT was awesome on 10mbit 1ms to 10ms latency lan. ;-)
        Awesome enough to play it along with all those other games in the good old days of lan parties every weekend.

        But what it truly lacked were really good maps.

  9. Monchberter says:

    Excellent round up and very good summation of each games weaknesses. Hopefully a sequel will follow on XWing Vs TIE Fighter and Alliance.

    For me personally I put more hours into ‘Vs TIE’ back in the nineties as it was the perfect drop in and out skirmish game with the added bonus of all missions being online multiplayer (oh dial up MS Game Zone how you spoiled me).

    TIE Fighter though, as you say was the pinnacle and really did make you stick to the mission, aside from the secret society sub objectives it really did a great job of letting you know your limitations.

  10. ansionnach says:

    Remember sending wing men home at the start of missions in X-Wing wherever I could. Another thing that makes it more challenging is to stay behind, take out every wave of TIE fighters that a Stardestroyer has and destroy it, too!

    • Asurmen says:

      They’re infinite for some missions. I chose the wrong mission to decide to rack up points because they never ended. It was a battle between boredom and patience.

      • ansionnach says:

        Janey, I don’t remember that! Do remember some of them taking forever. Definitely different now that you can just check out some guide online rather than find out yourself the hard way!

  11. Jimbo says:

    The TIE Fighter demo –which just happened to be on a CD full of bootleg games my grandad brought back for me from Saudi Arabia (??)– was actually my first introduction to anything Star Wars. ‘Tie Fighter’ seemed like the dumbest name in the world and I was barely even aware of Star Wars at that point, but whatever, everything about that demo was incredible and I must have played it a hundred times.

    I did eventually get around to dabbling a little with the full versions of both TIE Fighter and X-Wing (and watching and falling in love with Star Wars), but it was X-Wing Alliance that really impressed me. I suppose this was right in the wake of Half Life making this popular, but Alliance also did a great job of grounding your character in the universe before telling you to shoot the baddies. I remember that slow build up with the family missions making a big impression on me at the time.

    • Orix says:

      Aye, same here. I started with X-Wing Alliance and loved it to bits with its family orientated and character heavy storyline, plus the fact you could skip rebel missions you found too troublesome was handy. The Otana was a very pretty ship too.

      Then I went back to try X-wing and TIE Fighter… talk about disappointment. I just didn’t “get” why they were graphically inferior and found them not as engaging (I was fairly young at this stage).

      However, I do intend to go back to try at least TIE Fighter after reading this. No one has ever been able to express what made the “best game in the series” etc. before, but this article is pretty convincing.

      I think the X-Wing Alliance Upgrade Project (XWAU, upgraded all of the major models in X-WA, so that the games and effects look much better and easier on the eyes. AFAIK They’re still working on it too. One of their chief contributors, Darksaber also release a conversion for TIE Fighter (link to

  12. bill says:

    A nice round up.
    I played Tie Fighter’s Collector’s Edition first, although I never completed the expansion missions. I never really analysed why, but I think you might be right.

    I tried playing X-Wing later and it wasn’t bad, but it suffered in comparison to Tie-Fighter and some of the missions and insta-death from collisions were just too annoying. Never finished it.

    X-Wing Vs Tie-Fighter was maybe the only PC game I ever returned to the store. With hindsight it wasn’t a bad game – it’s just that I was hyped for another Tie-Fighter and instead you got what was basically a multiplayer skirmish game with no plot.

    X-Wing alliance wasn’t as good as Tie Fighter, and the plot was kinda cheesy (not to mention totally unfinished), but I had a good time with it and actually finished it (such as it was). The Super Star Destroyer mission was awesomely pants-wetting.
    Maybe that was the last space sim I played, before they went extinct and I lost my joystick.

    • Continuity says:

      I got x v tie with the balance of power expansion, which was basically the single player campaign that should of been in the game in the first place. I never really got into it however, not sure why and I don’t remember much of it now, I seem to recall it having a similar problem to xwing in that it would give you multiple objectives and then you would fail one whilst doing another.

  13. Rorschach617 says:

    Happy memories of long ago…

    Btw, I remember a trick you could use in X-Wing if you found the dogfighting was getting in the way of the mission, eg, if you can’t ID the relevant transports because you are being hounded by TIE-Fighters. The trick was to take advantage of the lack of power in the PCs of the day.

    Say there was a Star Destroyer launching waves at you and you had to intercept them while destroying a convoy. The trick was to torpedo one TIE, kill the second and then just damage the third (they always came in threes, but if more, leave one damaged but alive). The Destroyer would not launch a fresh wave until all the ships in the previous wave was destroyed. And the damaged TIE would limp back to base to repair. Giving you a few minutes clear to do the job while the survivor returns, lands and the new wave catches up to you. Rinse and repeat :)

  14. Arathain says:

    I think even playing X-Wing as young as I was then I was aware the mission design wasn’t the best. It didn’t matter, though. It sold the fantasy so completely. Spin around, hearing the roar of the TIEs as you pass them. Stabilising your shields, and linking your cannons for a snap burst that blasts a TIE into spinning, arcing pieces. You find yourself muttering quotes from the movies.

    I loved TIE Fighter to bits. I have to say, though, I remember adoring flying Fighters and Interceptors but being less enamoured of the Gun Boats and Bombers, and being sad that there were so many missions in which you had to fly them. I liked the Fighters the best. The frailty was exciting, and they have their twin cannons mounted right next to each other on the front of the craft. This meant you got beautifully accurate fire. Compare with the Interceptor, which mounts the guns on the ends of the wings, like the X-Wing. I preferred to link those guns, because otherwise the spread could result in more misses.

  15. Wings says:

    “The flimsy TIEs can’t carry an entire mission on their backs, not even with an ace human pilot at the controls.”

    Untrue! Even the basic TIE fighter is incredibly nimble. All shots can be dodged and all missiles can be shot down. A single TIE can, in the hands of a skilled pilot, clear every mission solo.

  16. Cei says:

    My first proper PC game was X-Wing. Before that I’d acquired a few classics (Commander Keen being the stand out), but they weren’t my games.

    So X-Wing. It came in a weird gold/yellow box, and sat on the shelf in Dixons screaming BUY ME. Who can say no to that many floppy disks (It contained the expansions)? Eventually my parents caved, and spent £50 on the glorious box and then some more on a joystick. X-Wing then consumed my life. I’m not sure I was actually any good at it back then, but I felt like I was when I shot down TIE after TIE.

    Somehow I missed TIE Fighter entirely. I don’t know why. No Internet access for news on game releases, lack of money at the age of 8, or any other myriad reasons. However, I did get X-Wing vs TIE Fighter, which was my first real foray in to online gaming with my school chums. The big one was X-Wing Alliance though. That really felt like the Star Wars universe – the graphics had moved on enough to remove some of the massive blocky nature and things actually looked more like they did in the films. The biggest thing though was the transition of space itself. It wasn’t just black with white dots, XWA added colour. Being thrown out the hangar of a Mon Cal star cruiser (Liberty I believe)into the glory of a red gaseous nebula literally blew my mind.

    tl;dr <3 X-Wing Alliance

    • HidingCat says:

      Shame they didn’t mention Alliance. It basically was the culmination of Totally Games experience at working on these games. Had some of the most memorable missions, and the upgraded engine made for some epic battles. I wish the multiplayer experience was better, and the proposed co-op mode made it into the final release.

      • bill says:

        It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t a patch on Tie Fighter.
        It did have some nice improvements and touches (despite a feeling of having been rushed out and abandoned) such as being able to skip a couple of missions.
        But the cheesy family story (which was never finished) wasn’t that well integrated with the rebel alliance story. The atmosphere of Tie Fighter was much better, and the integration of the Imperial Navy’s goals and the secret order’s goals was much better.

        If they had ever made a Tie-Fighter Alliance then that would have been the awesome game. But space sims died around that time, which I guess is why it got a bit dumped.

        • HidingCat says:

          Right, that’s story and world building. TIE was more coherent and I think being able to deviate from the usual formula helped (the original score definitely helped). In terms of mission design, Alliance is much better.

  17. HidingCat says:

    I agree with the bit about TIE Fighter’s expansions. I loved a lot about it, from the soundtrack to the missions and the improved controls over X-Wing. However the expansions, as good as some of the missions were, placed you in the kind of stupid 1 vs many odds that X-Wing had. It was a bit of a disconnect from what the game started off as, and what X-Wing placed the Empire as: A huge military machine with many resources at its disposal. In fact, I remember that towards the end, you couldn’t even summon reinforcements, which was a new mechanic that was meant to show the power of the Empire. Some of my favourite missions in the expansions were when the Missile Gunboat got retired, and you went back to a TIE Advanced (still overpowered, but not ridiculously so) against the Rebel Alliance.

    I did get that the missions were what they were because of the limits of the engine (I think it’s 32 ships in play at maximum, 16 in-flight messages, any long-time TIEed users want to correct me?), but I still missed that flavour present in the first third of the game.

  18. Caiman says:

    X-Wing was the game I bought a PC for. Well technically it was Syndicate; my Amiga just couldn’t quite manage that game, and the PC version was far better. Then I installed X-Wing, and pretty much got no work done for about a week. Back then I didn’t care about mission difficulty, the game was a revelation, and I kept plugging away at some of those harder missions for hours. Still, I never did quite beat it. Perhaps it hasn’t stood the test of time though, and I dare not sully my experiences of it by replaying it today.

    As for TIE Fighter, for some reason it never clicked with me. Perhaps I’ve always been more of a rebel alliance kind of guy, not wanting to be part of the evil Empire! I’m a lot more cynical these days, I should try it again.

    • HidingCat says:

      Even as a die-hard idealist (Full Paragon in every single Mass Effect game I’ve played), TIE Fighter is definitely worth it.

  19. cpt_freakout says:

    Great article! More stuff like this, please!

  20. OmNomNom says:

    I still remember being amazed at GOURAUD SHADING

  21. Laurentius says:

    Tie Fighter Collector’s Edition is the best. It’s not notalgia trip, this game is perfectly designed. If only it could manage on higher resolution, it would easily blow evrything out of the water of modern gaming. Shaded vectors is great way of conveying StarWars feeling. I also like X-wing Alliance, it’s preety cool and with moded graphics is pleasing to the eye but the certain truth is revealed as well as in X-wing vs Tie-Fighter, no pause killed stellar mission design of Tie-Fighter. Yes, I know pausing in the middle of the battle is absolutely no realisitc but only by allowing player to pause and plan strategically during mission you can devise this devilshyly clever mision of Tie-Fighter. And I agree that Missle Boat campagin is a bit overboard but as whole these 13 Battles make one of the best video game ever created.

    Ps. Ha Ha Ha. Thus is the fate of the enemies of the Empire.

  22. Dave says:

    Great article!

  23. ComicSansMS says:

    Another great thing about TIE Fighter is the Strategy Guide, which includes a novelization of the events from the campaign. I dare not say how well the writing holds up today, but as a child, this was what made the game for me.

    Fortunately, the GOG edition includes both the Strategy Guide and ‘The Stele Chronicles’, a sort of printed game tutorial plus novel that introduces the main character from the Strategy Guide novel.

  24. Rizlar says:

    Another ‘played Tie Fighter as a kid and it blew my little mind’ here. It really is the best Star Wars game, probably the best Star Wars thing outside of the (original) films. It is mentioned that the humanising of the Empire is something absent in the films, but it is hinted at. Like Luke and his chums wanting to go join the Imperial Navy at the very beginning. Or some of the bridge officers you see who are clearly uncomfortable with what they are doing and in fear of their lives with Vader around.

    Really tempted re-buy Tie Fighter now (god only knows where my old CD-ROM is). But how does it run on modern systems? Are there any updates/mods to get it running smoothly at modern resolutions etc? Or will it be a nightmare of trying to get everything to work with a flightstick in DOSBox?

    • Mr_Blastman says:

      It’s really easy to get working in Dosbox. The joystick is, too. Unless you’re trying to do something complicated like accurately emulate a CRT…

      link to

      It’s easy. I was playing it a few months ago. Lots of fun! The best part about x-wing/tie fighter is they have good joystick support, unlike the Wing Commander games (especially Wing Commander 3).

      • Rizlar says:

        Well that’s good to know, cheers!

        If that link is supposed to be some sort of guide it, erm, probably isn’t the right link btw.

        • Mr_Blastman says:

          Nah, not a guide. Just a sample. :) There’s nothing like playing DOS games the way they were meant to be played. Or at least, simulate the look of how they were. It took… weeks, months… of experimentation.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      Yeah, I was one of those kids who loved the empire in the movies, and not for the usual reasons people cheer the bad guys in movies (boring good guys, or just sympathy that they come so close so often) but because (especially in the first movie) they weren’t entirely one-dimensional… Ok, the opening does refer to them as the “evil galactic empire” but it’s only really the cold-blooded Tarkin who fits the bill. It’s much easier to sympathize with the anger-driven Vader or the rest of them who are more or less only following orders. I especially like the idea that, but for a couple of circumstances, Luke could well have ended up in the imperial academy… Who knows, maybe he would have had to ditch his tie fighter on Dagobah one day after getting separated from his fleet in a rebel ambush…

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        Then perhaps he learnes the truth about himself and his Imperial superiors and uses his reputation as a great pilot to defect to the rebels, taking his most trusted wingmen with him…

        Ah, wait a minute, he does all that in Wing Commander IV doesn’t he?

  25. 1r0n says:

    If you like them, maybe you will like Starfighter Inc
    link to
    Multiplayer space warfare from the minds behind X-Wing, Crysis and Desert Combat.

  26. Sir_Eric says:

    So…does this translate to: “Yes, if you’ve never played these before, you should definitely do this now!”?

  27. iambecomex says:

    Don’t dismiss Super Star Wars so quickly. It was a lot of fun, and though it may have taken it’s liberties, that music, those sounds…it stirred a Star Wars renaissance for me. Super Star Wars leads to buying all the movies in widescreen digitally remastered form on VHS (which I still have), which in turn leads to the Thrawn Trilogy of books as they were coming out, which leads to X-Wing and Dark Forces, and so on. That game clearly ended up costing me a fair few quid!

  28. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    My favorite thing about X-Wing was that it wasn’t just point & shoot- the energy and shield management aspect of the game really brought you into the simulation.

  29. JamesTheNumberless says:

    One of the best articles I’ve read on what made Tie Fighter so good. It was also the first of the Star Wars games I had on the PC and the start of my joystick obsession of the mid 90s. Yeah, X-wing was alright too, but coming to it after Tie Fighter was a bit of a let down.

    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is that the huge range of difficulty/realism options in Tie Fighter meant it could be incredibly accessible and combined with the number of secondary/secret/bonus objectives that were available in each mission meant it was extremely re-playable and hard as nails to master.

    People new to the series should definitely check out the floppy disk version too, it has slightly worse graphics but more than makes up for it with the dynamic iMuse midi music engine which was removed from the CD version in favor of digitally recorded higher fidelity (but inferior in every other sense) static music tracks.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      I would play the shit out of a version that combined the CD version’s graphics with the floppy version’s audio though.

      • Det. Bullock says:

        Actually there were TWO cd versions (both available on, one for DOS that was virtually identical to the floppy version only with the expansions, voices and the possibility of playing in 640×480, the CD music was only added in the one for Windows that also swapped the graphics with a new engine.

  30. Kharn says:

    TIE Fighter and X-Wing Alliance (this last one even with its unfinished campaign) are two of my Top5 games ever. I actually still play them nowadays, and although T/F suffers a bit compared with the perfect gameplay XWA has, it’s still an awesome experience.

    I want to give some kudos to the pen and paper RPG from West End Games, the real catalyst for almost everything we had later, either videogame, book or comicbook. Is there where both, the Rebel Alliance and the Empire became something tangible outside the movies. Where the Nebulon-B, A-wing and many others won their role. Where things like the Interdictor Cruisers, Victory class Destroyers, Lancer frigates, Dreadnoughts, Strike Cruisers, Skypray Blastboats and many other things we love from these games were created. Hell, even the X-winesque shape for the Z-95 was retconned there.

  31. SuicideKing says:

    Excellent article – and it seems the FreeSpace games drew their inspiration from TIE Fighter in terms of mission design. You’re a pawn in the larger game, but later on you get your own squadron…that’s it. Some Special Operations jazz at best…you’re a good pilot in FreeSpace – but you’re not the chosen one.

  32. smisk says:

    Fantastic article, and perfectly timed! I got TIE Fighter off GOG a few weeks ago and have been playing it for the first time. Despite it’s age, it’s one of the most engaging and engrossing games I’ve played in a long time, and holds up amazingly well.
    I agree about the expansion missions too, just finished the Defenders of the Empire campaign, and so far they aren’t quite as good as the main game. In addition to what you mentioned they seem like they weren’t tested as well as I’ve run into a few bugs. Some of those escort missions are frustratingly hard also.

  33. AUS_Doug says:

    Awesome article.

    I’ve had all these on my GOG shelf for a while now, and this might push me into playing them.

    (And bonus points for mentioning Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy!)