Evolution of the lightsaber

We'd like to say Star Wars thrives due to its developed characters and provoking science fiction storytelling, but the real answer is a lot simpler: lightsabers.

Star Wars may not have invented the laser sword, but Lucas took the idea and owned it. Now it's the generic term the entire globe uses to describe an energy blade of any type. Like Coke is all cola and Kleenex is all tissue, lightsabers are all melee beam weapons. They're perfect video game weapons too, combining the romantic notion of an adventuring swordsman with the badass appeal of slicing through people like butter, cauterizing wounds instantly.

A study of lightsabers doubles as a study of games themselves; they came into being extremely close to each other, so as game tech evolved, the virtual representation of Star Wars' iconic weapon grew along with it. Join us as we explore their shared history, plus several knockoff fauxsabers that popped up in your favorite games.

Jedi Arena (Atari 2600/1983)

The first game that let you control a lightsaber wasn't even developed by LucasArts. As you can tell from the gripping image above, it sucked. A lot. Move the saber left and right to deflect blasts from the seeker in the middle. The goal is to whittle their defense wall away and zap 'em with a wayward bolt. Exciting!

Star Wars (NES/1991)

Luke shouldn't even fight with a lightsaber in a game based on Episode IV, but the temptation was apparently too strong. Gotta please the kiddies.


The Empire Strikes Back (NES/1992)

The following year brought Empire and its lightsaber-appropriate side-scrolling. Released during the NES' waning years, most people passed it up in favor of the vastly "superior" Super Star Wars on SNES, and with good reason; what kind of game gives Luke a red saber and Vader a blue one? Sacrilege!

The NES version of Empire seems to be the only one that includes a fight with the fake Vader on Dagobah, complete with awesomely graphic 8-bit decapitation!

Blarg! Peter Pan totally kicked Vader's head's ass.

Super Empire Strikes Back (SNES/1993)

Thousands more colors meant a true-blue saber for Luke in SSW and SESB. The latter offered Force Powers, including a saber toss and saber deflection.


Super Return of the Jedi (SNES/1994)

Another year, another SNES Star Wars. Saber control was the same, but for the first time on a console you could play with a green saber - not surprising, as this was also the first console game based on Return of the Jedi. The best part of all three Super Star Wars games wasn't the gameplay, it was the sound effects, especially the saber's hums as Luke wildly swung and flipped around. Just looking at those sprites fills us with nostalgic glee - but not enough to actually play it again.


  • Spacem0nkey77 - August 20, 2010 11:46 a.m.

    Holy shit Time Killers!! I totally forgot I loved that game!!
  • sk8r7 - August 19, 2010 7:49 p.m.

    the first knights of the old republic was also for pc-just saying
  • katwood92 - October 29, 2008 12:35 a.m.

    When we were little, my brother and I would watch the original Star Wars, then reenact scences from them, or make up our own.
  • jedi1203 - October 11, 2008 3 a.m.

    I like pie... =)
  • GamesRadarBrettElston - October 9, 2008 10:01 p.m.

    Death Star Battle did indeed precede the SNES game, but it's one repeating loop of "attack the Death Star," so I wasn't big on counting it as a true RotJ game. I'm a NERD.
  • sackboy97 - November 24, 2008 5:41 a.m.

    sorry i mean IV
  • sackboy97 - November 24, 2008 5:40 a.m.

    gamesradar u forgot soulcalibur VI
  • cultofbananas - October 9, 2008 3:50 p.m.

    " this was also the first console game based on Return of the Jedi" Hate to heckle, but that's not true! I had the original Return of the Jedi game for 2600 when I was a kid. Death Star Battle I think it was called? I don't remember.
  • eddiejoe502 - October 9, 2008 2:18 a.m.

    First. Good artical. Never really thought about the Argent Avenger being like a light saber until i saw this.
  • alf125 - February 20, 2009 9:07 p.m.

    jedi outcast was the best game ever
  • buminyaface - January 18, 2009 12:03 a.m.

    wheres the classic double bladed 'laser sword' cheat from ratchet and clank 3, that was awesome. anyways, great article gr
  • bron1417 - February 24, 2009 12:51 a.m.

    ah lightsabers they've come so far and they are not done by any means.
  • sadowolf - February 22, 2009 7:05 a.m.

    looks like you guys forgot about a little survival horror/action/piece of crap game called blue stinger for the dreamcast. not only did it have a beam sword, but also a stun rod that resembled a light saber even more
  • Conco - February 21, 2009 2:03 p.m.

    Yheah, I'm missing the Racthet and Clank one 2. I remember slashing enemies with that, sich good times.
  • shadowdude - February 20, 2009 10:33 p.m.

    anyone ever see the wii periferal thats basicly a lightsaber toy ? awesome

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