Have You Played… Star Wars: Yoda Stories?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

The one who will bring balance to the Force: the Star Wars game that is simultaneously the worst Star Wars game and the best Star Wars game. Depending, of course, on who you ask.

And if they say worst, they are mad and dangerous and at the very least haven’t played that kart racing one with the big heads.

Teeny, top-down adventure (for lack of a better word) game Yoda Stories in hindsight feels like it came from a later age of Star Wars – today’s age, specifically, the age when we see daily BoingBoing stories about C-3PO slipper-socks or an energy-efficient lampshade made of old Jawa figurines. An age when, no matter how much portentousness The Force Awakens’ marketing might try to conjure up, everything Star Wars has been cutseified and re-merchandised to infinity. Yoda Stories took Star Wars, several years before its big Special Edition comeback, and wilfully made it silly.

It also zoomed in on and then blew up a small portion of Star Wars – Yoda dickishly making Luke Skywalker perform menial chores on Dagobah – and made it into a full game. That’s something Star Wars games and merch and comics do constantly now.

I’m not saying it’s a great game. The repetitive tasks and the fiddly combat are rapidly miserable. But it was picking up the delightfulness of Star Wars, and the characterfulness which informs much of today’s adult ardour around it, long before that became the norm. Yoda Stories, in other words, understood Star Wars some time before Star Wars entirely understood Star Wars.

It also pre-dated the faux-retro, consciously downplayed graphical style that has informed so many latter-day indie games. Basically, Yoda Stories was the first Star Wars hipster.

32 Comments

  1. kud13 says:

    Gods, yes. I still play it f time to time. Such a perfect time sink.

    It took me a very long time to actually find all 15 mission types. Th randomness actually makes it difficult to get some mission types (cloning machine, missing Leia), while some come up too often.

    Great little game.

    • TomA says:

      And you get to play as a walnut.

      • egattocs says:

        One of the strangest comments I’ve ever read on RPS. This game sounds amazing.

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          Aerothorn says:

          I believe he’s referring to luke’s sprite as seen from the back (see above).

    • Oozo says:

      Also, I somehow think that there was a similar Indiana Jones game, which I also have very, very vague but somewhat warm memories of. Not of being a walnut-part, though, which is a shame.

      • Kemuel says:

        Indiana Jones and His Desktop Adventures!

        Also good, but I didn’t find it as fun or interesting as Star Wars. Only ever owned the shareware of that one.

  2. Kemuel says:

    This was the first Star Wars game I ever played as a kid, so I have nothing but good memories.

    The random structure was great because everyone at school had found different things making the game seem far larger than it really was. Meeting Han and Chewie? Being able to carry C3PO in your inventory in one mission? Getting the green lightsaber? There was no way of telling whether you’d found it all, and running across something new or different was always exciting.

    In retrospect I love how not all the missions ended with some big epic encounter with characters from the film. When something recogniseable showed up it was A Big Deal, like it ought to be.

    • BlackestTea says:

      This was also my first Star Wars game. I got it on a Russian CD with about 50 games, half of which didn’t work and a third of which were in Russian and thus inaccessible to me.

      In a sense it was my first Roguelike-like. I was rubbish at it at first and kept getting into new missions, not quite understanding the structure of anything that was happening. It was only when I got back into it a year or so later, that the game actually started making sense to me. Unravelling it and beating missions which had had me stumped for so long must be one of my great early gaming memories.

      (also, people should definitely check out the article about Zachtronics linked by Tam-Lin below)

      • Kemuel says:

        Yes! Roguelike-like it definitely was! I didn’t even realise there was persistent progress for the longest time until suddenly I started play with “The Force” available from the outset.

    • Hanban says:

      I loved it as well! I remember playing it on my brother’s computer with MTV on in the background. The game reminds me of the following song: link to youtube.com , and whenever I hear that song I think of the game.

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      Tam-Lin says:

      Well, href tags don’t seem to work the way I thought they did.

    • BlackestTea says:

      I only read this (frankly awe-inspiring) story last week and it got me thinking about Yoda Stories again. Seeing this pop up here now makes me feel like there is an odd conspiracy going on which is trying to get Yoda Stories a little bit of retroactive spotlight.

      • Somerled says:

        Would it make you feel better if I told you RPS linked that same story only a month ago (see #6 here)?

        • BlackestTea says:

          Maybe, except I got there from twitter, rather than RPS ;)

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      phuzz says:

      Very interesting, thanks for that :)

      (and you need to close href tags same as most every html tag, so just add an {/a} but with pointy brackets at the end of your link)

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        Tam-Lin says:

        Understood, but the XHTML down below doesn’t suggest adding closing statements. Which I normally would have added, but it didn’t say it was allowed, so . . .

  3. HeavyStorm says:

    Shit, still own this in the box. Never thought it would get mentioned here.

  4. sillythings says:

    Oh man, I remember playing a demo version of this on one of those silly “100 games!!!!” shareware CD-ROMs you’d find in grocery stores. As such, I guess it’s one of my earliest gaming memories, though what I mainly remember is wandering around without being sure where to go or what to do.

  5. a very affectionate parrot says:

    This is one of the first pc games I ever played
    it was utter garbage and I played it nearly constantly, I don’t think I ever succeeded at a single mission.

  6. Eleriel says:

    it feels like this might do pretty well on tablets and phones… each mission takes what, 5-10 minutes?

    (though the source-code is probably looooong gone. and I doubt they’d feel comfortable using reverse-engineered code.)

    • kud13 says:

      Depends on world size. On a big world, with all the backtracking and occasionally needing heals, it can take up to 20-25 min.

  7. ansionnach says:

    Played this and Indiana Jones and His Desktop Adventures and they were terrible. They were only supposed to be fun, throw-away games but I still think they deserved the panning they got.

  8. ElvisNeedsBoats says:

    I have a very specific memory of this game. The letters to the editor section of a gaming magazine had a developer response to their review: “Thanks for getting our names right.”

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    Aerothorn says:

    Alec, you are truly my favorite.

    This summer I was in a thrift store and found Yoda Stories – which, in my foolish youth, I had gotten rid of after “outgrowing” it – for $1. You can bet your ass I bought that. Who knows if I can make it run in its tiny, itty-bitty window, but I’m gonna try.

  10. vorador says:

    For all the flak both Desktop Adventures got, they were fun for bite sized playtroughs. While the games became repetitive fast due to lack of content, it was fun for a short while.

    I think they would do fine if they were remade for mobile with more content and a better random quest generator. Perfect for wasting fifteen minutes in the bus.

  11. Robostove says:

    Wow, what a nostalgia trip. This was the first computer game I ever played, excluding Solitaire and Minesweeper. My sister found it on our first computer in 1998 – some used piece of junk that my dad brought home and the most exciting piece of technology in the world to my eyes. Apparently the levels were too short, but we played this game for weeks. It probably was as rubbish as people say (I’ll never play it again to preserve my fond memories), but it was an amazing taste of what is possible with games. Here I am still playing almost twenty years later.

  12. Michael Fogg says:

    Might have as well included a download link, pretty sure this is abandonware and Disney doesn’t care.

  13. Spacewalk says:

    It seemed like a Good Idea™ but unfortunately trying to hit anything with a blaster or a light saber was maddening and since that was how you spent the majority of your time in the game I couldn’t delete it quick enough. Still it’s an idea that would be pretty cool to see resurrected.

  14. Mokey says:

    I played this game to absolute death when it came out, when I was 10 years old. One of the first games that I KNEW was rubbish, but that I still couldn’t stop playing. Funny how often that happens nowadays.

    I seem to recall the game came with a sweet desktop theme, complete with icons and sound effects.

  15. eeguest says:

    Man, when I read about it in newspaper it was all I wanted to play. And it was so damn hard to get. I managed that after few years I think. And sunk in. Good memories!