Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (PC/1997)
The first Dark Forces was filled with first-person running and gunning, not too far removed from Doom. The sequel focused on Kyle Katarn's transformation from regular ol' soldier to Force-sensitive sentinel, lightsaber and Force powers included. Even though it was an FPS, lightsaber actions switched to third-person, a move that made sense but left us wanting a true in-your-face method of dueling. This is also the first instance of multiplayer lightsaber duels across the burgeoning internet.
Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi (PSOne/1997)
Often called the worst Star Wars game of all time, or the worst fighting game of all time, or the worst anything that appeared on Earth in 1997, Teras Kasi can still proudly claim to be the first one-on-one fighting game with lightsabers. But, in keeping with its immense suckage, they don't cut people into bits or behave like energy weapons at all. Might as well be a stick. But wait... what's this?
Oh how precious, they used lightsabers as energy bars. See, because it's Star Wars and it's a fighting game. Tip of the hat, dev team.
Star Wars Trilogy Arcade (Arcade/1998)
A massively popular arcade machine with three distinct play types - X-Wing piloting, on foot blasting and lightsaber dueling. All were controlled via a flight stick, which kinda-sorta feels like a saber handle if you squint and imagine really hard. After Vader you're off to best Boba Fett by deflecting blaster shots. It's not the 1:1 control that people babble on about, but it's a whole lot closer to the real thing than anything prior.
Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power Battles (Dreamcast/2000)
New movies meant new canonical video games, and after 1999's Episode I tie-in (with first Maul lightsaber) we got this brawler that let you handle purple and yellow sabers in addition to the standard blue, green and red. As with any good beat 'em up, Power Battles had a list of combos for each Jedi rather than simple slash-slash-slash attacks we'd seen up to this point.
A couple of years after the Dreamcast version hit stores, a watered-down GBA port appeared to aid the Episode II blitz. See those tiny blue... things? Lightsabers!
Star Wars: Obi-Wan (Xbox/2001)
Another turd Forced out of the LucasArts orifice, this one focused on Obi-Wan prior to Episode I. You run, you swing, you turn off the game in disgust, but it's worth noting for its all-analog lightsaber control and for centering on one well-known Jedi for the duration of the game. There's also a chance to fight the whole damn council as a way to prove yourself worthy of Jedi-dom.
Xbox, PS2 and GC games look bare and lifeless by today's standards, but as far as lightsabers are concerned, there isn't much visual change from here on out. But our journey is far from over...