As the final fan-service-strewn season of Star Trek: Picard comes to an end, confusing everyone by not being absolutely awful, you may well be in the mood for some more Trek before the return of Strange New Worlds in June. But rather than heading to Netflix and struggling through the first three seasons of Deep Space Nine all over again, what about dipping into its rich history of video games?
There have been, depending upon how you count, approximately 47 official Star Trek games. Go back into the Wild West of the ‘70s and ‘80s and that number shoots up when you include the unlicensed, unofficial titles. This is, officially, too many. Fortunately, we have the authority to whittle the number down to a more manageable eight, in our legally binding list of the best among them.
While it’s fair to say that Star Trek games have not exactly gained the nostalgic prestige of Star Wars properties, that doesn’t mean there isn’t gold-pressed latinum to be found among them. Sure, it’s hard to argue there’s anything that can measure up against TIE Fighter or Dark Forces, but then nor is there really in the rest of gaming. But games like Elite Force and Judgment Rites showed that TV’s corniest licence could offer a basis for some top-notch entertainment. More than you’d think, in fact, as hopefully this list — in no particular order — will demonstrate.
Star Trek: Judgment Rites
The 1990s were the decade of the point-n-click adventure, the era during which the genre was capable of being a blockbuster commercial success. While LucasArts and Sierra dominated, many others caught a piece of the action, including Judgment Rites’ Interplay, Brian Fargo’s company that would also give us Fallout, Baldur’s Gate, and a miserable legal battle with Bethesda.
In fact, this entry should probably encompass two games, both 1992’s Star Trek: 25th Anniversary and 1993’s Star Trek: Judgment Rites, given they work so well as a whole. These were Sierra-style point-n-click adventures, depicting cartoon versions of the original series’ (TOS) bridge crew, and most astonishingly, entirely voiced by the original actors. That’s right, Shatner, Nimoy, Nichols, Kelley, and Takei are all there, at a point when their cinematic stars were shining brightly, agreeing to voice the reams of dialogue for a lowly video game. (As it turns out, Judgment Rites would prove to be the very last time the original cast all worked together.)
The first game took the form of seven individual episodic stories that could each have been a proper entry from TOS, with an astonishing amount of variation in how its puzzles could be solved. The second, Judgment Rites, repeated the format, but this time with an arc storyline running through its seven chapters.
Both games contain some colossal issues, with possible paths that lead to unacknowledged dead ends due to decisions you made hours previously, but also remain absolutely extraordinary examples of the potential of the adventure genre.
It’s very painful to acknowledge that it’s now more years since this game came out than it was between the game and the original series’ airing. But it’s wonderful that at 30 years old, these are still well worth playing today.
Star Trek: Bridge Commander
While 2017’s Star Trek: Bridge Crew brought something similar to VR, it’s 2002’s Bridge Commander that we want to herald in this list. This is a combat sim game where you don’t have to fly the ship, or even fire the weapons. Because you’re the captain, and it’s your job to tell everyone else to do that stuff for you.
You’re a newly-appointed captain, variously in charge of the USS Dauntless and USS Sovereign, charged with working out which of the traditional enemy races was responsible for the destruction of a star, and the resulting death of your ship’s former captain. Along the way you meet Picard and Data, voiced by Stewart and Spiner (the poor bastards must have signed some awful contract at some point, showing up for bit parts in these games).
You can absolutely switch to an external view of the ship and carry out the various actions for yourself, but that really does miss the point of Bridge Commander. It’s about sitting back in your captain’s chair and barking commands, like a real Jean-Luc Picard.
Where to buy: GOG
Star Trek: Borg
Yes, no, stop, you’re right. This is an interactive movie, and it absolutely has as much interaction as any other interactive movie of the godforsaken era. But it has one other thing, and it’s really important: Q.
Oh my goodness, if you didn’t live through video games in 1996, then count yourself lucky. The CD-ROM had suddenly gone mainstream, and developers the world over went from 1.44MB per floppy disc to an astonishing 600MB per shiny circle. This vast expanse of storage space was mostly just lying empty for the majority of games, until everyone at once had the idea of filling it up with the shittiest quality FMV they could barely pay for. The deluge was horrendous, but it also brought us the surprise delight of Star Trek: Borg, and John de Lancie at his impish, overacting best.
As someone who’s watched almost every episode of Trek that’s ever aired, while struggling to like most of it, Q has always been an important character. His arrival almost always meant pricking the pomposity of the ridiculously po-faced series, breaking the fourth wall as the writers allowed themselves to observe their own folly. In Star Trek: Borg, it’s like this on steroids. De Lancie has a field day, and it’s a pleasure to watch him indulge himself.
The plot, such as it is, has you playing as the son of a crew member who popped his clogs in the battle of Wolf 359 (the one where Picard became Locutus of Borg, and over 11,000 people died), who Q sends back in time to rewrite history. You’re given the opportunity to try to save your father through various choices, with “wrong” options seeing Q reset events to let you try again. Indeed, it’s an arch reflection on the mechanics of interactive movies, even featuring puzzles that can only be solved by failing, then using acquired knowledge once the game’s reloaded.
But this is really all about watching de Lancie chewing the scenery as he prances about, unfettered by the constraints of a TV episode, which you may as well do via the YouTube video above rather than trying to find a working copy of the game.
Where to buy: Nowhere, sadly
Star Trek: The Next Generation: A Final Unity
As TOS had its greatest gaming success via point-n-click adventures, so, too, did The Next Generation. While there were quite a few Picard-led outings, it was A Final Unity that proved the most successful, again released during the heyday of the genre, this one in 1995. While 25th Anniversary and Judgment Rites came from Interplay, this TNG adventure was the work of Spectrum HoloByte, in the final throes of the once sim-focused developer that saw most of its success in the ‘80s.
A far better use of the then-new CD-ROM, I remember A Final Unity blowing my mind as footage of the Enterprise played out in a postage stamp window on my CRT monitor, then getting even more thrilled that the surprisingly well-rendered characters spoke with the real voices of the stars of the show. And for once in a game, Patrick Stewart didn’t sound like he was reading out lines in a hostage video.
Things are split between rather stilted conversations aboard the Enterprise, as Picard chats with the crew about their current mission, and the away missions, which play more like classic LucasArts adventures, letting you switch control between multiple stars of the show, exploring locations and solving puzzles.
What was so much fun about A Final Unity was just how Trek it felt. You got to use proper Star Trek computers and scan things with tricorders, all while hearing the original cast voicing their own characters.
Where to buy: Somehow, nowhere. But it’s on this abandonware site.
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Klingon Honour Guard
It feels like this Unreal Engine FPS game has been completely forgotten by time, and that’s not entirely fair. Sure, it’s definitely not the best game, but it contains some absolutely fantastic elements that oughtn’t go unrecognised.
The main problem with Klingon Honour Guard is that, like its official title, it’s far too long. And boring. Huge stretches of this near-infinite shooter are just brown corridor after brown corridor, lacking in moments of inspiration. However, and this is why it’s listed here, it also features the mag boots.
KHG featured sections on the outside of the ship, where you could switch off your magnetic boots, jump forward, and drift weightlessly through space toward another section of the ship. Switch on the boots again and ker-chunk, you’d land back on the metal. (So long as you hadn’t messed it up and drifted off into the endless reaches of space.) It was so damned satisfying, and a movement mechanic that desperately needs to be the central feature of a modern shooter.
Accompanying this, in amongst a messy old game, is one of the best weapons ever to grace the FPS genre: the Spin Claw. It’s a spinning sawblade that you fire from a mechanism in your hand, that ricochets all around a room, before kwappinging back to you once more. Or, left click and it would come flying back from wherever it was currently bouncing, slicing through anyone between you and the blade. This offered the amazing trick of opening a door to an enemy-filled room, firing the Spin Claw inside before backing away, and then returning to the room to find everyone dead and your eager blade delighted to see you once again. Damn, that was good.
Where to buy: Once again, the game is completely abandoned.
Star Trek Online
Despite originally releasing in 2010, Star Trek Online is indeed still online. That’s no mean feat, and while the shine has certainly somewhat come off since it went free-to-play over a decade ago, it remains an enormously popular way to Trek, and features a huge number of original actors in little cameo appearances.
These are perhaps its last days, the game not having received an expansion since 2018, but as long as Gearbox leave its servers online, the Cryptic-developed MMO will feature a core of players. It’s available across PC and consoles, and is packed with missions to complete in a very open and free galaxy.
Where to buy: It’s free-to-play
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Fallen
We’ve had The Original Series, The Next Generation, and we’re about to finish on Voyager, so it seems only fair to make sure we include some Deep Space Nine. (And no, even if Enterprise had a game, which it doesn’t, I’d refuse to include it on principle.) And deservedly so.
The Fallen is a third-person shooter based on a trilogy of DS9 books by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and features voice acting from the original cast of the show. In fact, you can play the game as Sisko, Nerys or Worf, the game changing based on which character you pick.
Rendered in the 2000-era Unreal Engine, the game still manages to look decent today thanks to that engine’s surprisingly forward-thinking resolution scaling. However, like too many games on this list, it’s not currently being sold anywhere. Quite how the rights to so much of the Star Trek collection have been lost is bewildering, although it does mean you’ll find unofficial versions on abandonware sites. Or, if you search eBay, you’ll find copies for around ten bucks.
Where to buy: Abandonware, or eBay
Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force
What a pleasure to finish on a classic Star Trek game that you can still easily buy and play today. Where Star Wars has Dark Forces as its FPS classic, Star Trek has Elite Force, a genuinely great shooter that stands the test of time.
Why so good? Well, primarily because it was developed by genre experts Raven, the studio that brought us Hexen and Jedi Outcast. The result was a really mature realisation of the Voyager universe, delivered using 2000’s id Tech 3, and feeling far more legitimately good than Star Trek fans were used to.
The opening of Elite Force is just fantastic, set on a Borg cube, and delivering on that creepiest aspect of the cyborg horrors: they just don’t care that you’re there. You have a task to complete, as instructed by Tuvok, but you’re warned to avoid engaging in combat if possible. That’s a bold way to open an FPS! And it’s better still, given how it puts you in that position of moving about the cube while the uninterested Borg just mill about around you. Even better, should you start firing at them, they’ll pretty quickly develop immunity to your blaster fire, and you’re stuffed. (It’s all on a Holodeck, it’s eventually revealed, but still.)
You’re part of the Hazard Team, the titular elite force, challenged to protect a very damaged Voyager that finds itself trapped in a ship graveyard. There are over 30 levels to play across eight missions, with a bunch of favourite enemy types to shoot at. And best of all, between levels you get to mooch about on board the Voyager, chatting with the crew, and doing odd jobs.
There was a sequel, a game that despite being pretty good sold so badly it saw developers Ritual Entertainment go bust, that you can also pick up today.
Where to buy: GOG
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