By James Nelson
I will admit, when I think of great games, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t Star Trek. There have been a ton of Trek games over the years, and many of them have serious flaws, but some of them are truly great games. As a Trek fan I have some serious love for anything belonging to the franchise, and I’ve spent a lot of hours playing these games over the years. Here’s the list of the best Trek video games that have ever come out.
Star Trek Armada I and II (2000 and 2001)
After the ridiculous success of Starcraft and other RTS games of the late 90s, Activision decided to get on the money train and push out two Star Trek RTS games. Now, in retrospect, when compared to other RTS games of the era, Armada doesn’t really distinguish itself as being particularly different. In it you play as the Federation, The Klingons, the Romulans, and The Borg. The story shows us what it would look like if the Borg invaded the Alpha Quadrant in force and you are forced to try and defeat an unstoppable opponent. In addition to incorporating elements for all 24th century story arcs up to Insurrection, it gave us a tantalizing look at what the Federation looked line after the Dominion War.
Starfleet Academy (1997)
I’ve been told this game has some flaws, but I don’t care. Released by Interplay in ’97, it came on five separate discs in a cardboard box that when unfolded allowed you to travel through time and space to San Fransisco in the 23rd century. The first game had you travel through the story of a starfleet cadet as he struggled to lead a group of his fellow cadets through the simulator. You were guided through each mission by various guest instructors which included Sulu, Chekov, and James Tiberius Kirk, all of them portrayed by the original actors. In between each mission you had to go through various dialogue boxes and learn how to manage your team in order to keep the peace outside the simulator. If you didn’t do things right, you could be drummed out of starfleet. You also got a chance to do your own Kirk maneuver and rig the Kobayashi Maru.
The thing that always stood out to me, however, was the multiplayer. I’m told you could get 32 ships together to fight each other, but I could never get that to work. Instead you could stack yourself up against the AI, and demolish it in combat as any of a number of Starfleet or alien vessels (including a Klingon bird-of-prey). You could also leave the battle altogether and explore the system you were fighting in.
Star Trek Invasion (2000)
Did you like X-Wing? Good, then you’ll love this. Made for the Playstation, the plot involved the pilot being assigned to a fighter wing (they have those in Star Trek?) on a carrier (kind of like a Battlestar) where you initially are tasked with eliminating Borg activity in the sector. Then the game takes a twist and you discover the Hur’q, and ancient Klingon enemy, has arrived to reclaim their lost territory, and only you and your teams ace piloting skills can stop them. Not very Star Trekie I know, but it was super fun.
Voyager Elite Force (2000)
A classic first-person shooter that perfectly mixed dialogue and shooting stuff, this was the first FPS Star Trek game to really succeed. It was fun, challenging and had excellent graphics for the time. It’s kind of amazing that for a series as bad as Voyager that they were able to make a good game out of it. It was also huge. You could get together with friends and had a 32 person match. Kind of makes your Halo matches seem a little small, eh?
Star Trek Online (2010)
I am not a fan of MMORPGs. Most of the time they have the same boring combat system and either focus far too much on grinding to get items or force you to get a group of players together and go take on large scale raids for, guess what, more loot. Most of them eschew story for paid extras that are entirely superfluous and missions that are really just rehashes of the same ones you’ve already done twenty times. STO, thankfully delivers plot in spades, which is great considering it is the only look we get at the prime Trek universe after Spock Prime disappears after the Hobus System Supernova (That’s the event that starts the plots in 2011’s Star Trek). You get to see the Federation locked in a war with the Klingon Empire as the Undine (Species 8472 for you Voyager fans) begins to manipulate the Alpha Quadrant against each other. It mines many of the great tropes and story across the entire franchise while giving you command of your own starship. It doesn’t get boring until near the end, when you have to really start grinding for XP, but any game that will let me fly a Constitution class, a Galaxy class, or a Defiant class, is always good in my book. The land combat (away mission), can be boring, but space combat never gets old (especially when fighting the Borg).
Star Trek 25th Anniversary Edition: I have never played this game, but every list I looked up when researching this basically said it’s the best trek game ever. Its an old school point and click combat game from the early days of computer games, so I don’t know how it would translate now, but it’s available on Steam if you want to try it (I only have a Mac otherwise I would have tried it).
Star Trek Starship Creator: This was a terrible game and would be entirely uninteresting for the vast majority of people, but this was the closest thing to a Sims game that Star Trek has ever had. You could choose from a few different classes of ships, mostly from the TNG era, and create your own ship. It taught me everything I know about how the ships were designed (who knew why they ever needed deuterium?) and included extensive bios on most major and minor characters from the franchise. In the days before wikipedia, it was a great resource for learning who everyone was.