Flashback: The First Ever Lightsaber Game, 'Star Wars Jedi Arena' for Atari 2600

'Star Wars Jedi Arena' for Atari 2600 Credit: Parker Bros.
Flashback: The First Ever Lightsaber Game, 'Star Wars Jedi Arena' for Atari 2600

Now we know that the next 'Star Wars' movie is called 'The Last Jedi', a look back at the first (disappointing) time we got to play with lightsabers

Now we know that the next 'Star Wars' movie is called 'The Last Jedi', a look back at the first (disappointing) time we got to play with lightsabers

Episode VIII of the Star Wars franchise got a real name today – the second installment of the sequel trilogy will be titled The Last Jedi according to the series' official site. The movie will have Mark Hamill reprising his iconic role as Luke Skywalker, hopefully in more of a lightsaber-swinging, ass-kicking manner than his few surly moments at the end of 2015's The Force Awakens.

This seems as good an excuse as any to remember that 34 years ago this month, we got to play with a lightsaber in a video game for the first time ever. Sadly, it wasn't the kind of dueling game that anyone in their right mind would have hoped for though, it was something far more abstract and crap. 

Star Wars Jedi Arena – published by Parker Brothers in 1983 for the Atari 2600 – was billed as a kind of lightsaber training game. The box art featured a young Luke Skywalker deflecting a blast from one of those little floating globe-shaped training droids, just like the scene in which he got zapped in the butt on the Millennium Falcon. Remember? The one that you never said "wow, I wish someone would make a video game of this part" about. 

In the game, two Jedi faced each other – a blue Jedi at the bottom of the screen and a red at the top – and flapped their 'sabers back and forth using the 2600's knob-like paddle controller while deflecting laser bolts zapped from the droid as it ambled around the middle of the screen. Weirdly, the Jedi themselves couldn't move, they just stood still waving their lightsabers around like a glowing pinball flipper.

You can see some of the gameplay in the video above. Needless to say, it wasn't particularly well-received back in the Eighties, and the years have not been kind. Since 1983 it's been declared one of the worst Star Wars games of all time on multiple occasions, usually second only to the game that preceded it, 1982's Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – also from Parker Brothers, and also for Atari 2600.