The X-Wing series of computer games was released between 1993 and 1999 for DOS environment play on personal computers. Set in the Star Wars universe, their release coincided with the publication of Timothy Zahn's The Thrawn Trilogy and helped generate the renewed interest in Star Wars. Lucasarts was also building on the popularity and success of their World War II air combat simulators created by project leader Lawrence Holland. The series attempted to "realistically" simulate the experience of combat in the starfighters of both the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire. Throughout the games, players must complete missions ranging from simple dogfights with opposition starfighters, through escort duty for freighters or capital ships to attacks on larger opposition ships. As well as dogfighting designed to resemble the carrier battles of World War II, the games offered the challenge of managing power resources and wingmen, and using weapons effectively.
The first game in the series, Star Wars: X-Wing, and the last, Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance, featured as their concluding missions recreations of the attacks on the first and second Death Stars respectively, while the second of the series, Star Wars: TIE Fighter, took an ambitious approach, being the first game that shows the Imperial point of view. The game series references the Imperial Navy rather than "Imperial Starfleet" as in the Star Wars films. In 1994, X-Wing won the Origins Award for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Computer Game of 1993.
Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter is slightly different from the other games in the series. It was conceived as a multiplayer-focused version of the first two games, and includes no real storyline; its single-player element is simply a set of unconnected missions, and there are no cutscenes. Since the story element of the first two games was what many fans found the most compelling aspect, LucasArts recognized this as a mistake, and introduced the Balance of Power expansion pack for X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, which includes a series of missions with a proper storyline and cutscenes in the style of the first two games. They also returned to the story-driven format for the final game in the series, X-Wing Alliance.
Most of the games featured hand-drawn—and voiced, which was quite unusual in the days of the first two games, X-Wing and TIE Fighter—cutscenes at crucial points in the storyline, although these were not as extensive as those in the Wing Commander computer game series. They also featured music from the original films, which—in some games—responded to the player's actions by using the iMUSE system.
- Star Wars: X-Wing (1993)
- Star Wars: TIE Fighter (1994)
- Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter (1997)
- Balance of Power (expansion) (1997)
- Star Wars: X-Wing Collector Series (1998)
- Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance (1999)
- X-Wing Trilogy (1999)
X-Wing and TIE Fighter were each re-released as Collector's CD-ROMs, with the expansion packs included. These releases also tweaked various areas of the games by including bug fixes, improved graphics, rehashed cutscenes, bonus missions, and the addition of voice-overs for the mission briefings and in-game radio messages.
Apart from this, two collections were released, with major retouches of the original games:
- X-Wing Collector Series contained the Collector's CD-ROM versions of the first two games, but with redrawn cutscenes and concourse. The mission engine was retrofitted with the X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter graphics engine, which uses texture mapping instead of Gouraud shading. A cut-down version of X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter was re-released as part of this collection.
- X-Wing Trilogy contained the aforementioned versions of X-Wing and TIE Fighter with the updated graphics engine, X-Wing Alliance, and a demo version of X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter.
The two abovementioned collection remakes were not very famous, since their remade look and feel, although technically superior, was considered "cold" and dark compared to the original versions. Most of the cutscenes were identical, with a slight blur effect to match the high resolution. The absence of the original iMUSE music that responded to the action, replaced by CD audio, contributed to the loss of the original feeling.
The games were developed by Lawrence Holland's company Totally Games, under license from LucasArts Entertainment Company, later also released by LucasArts Entertainment Company. There are no plans to release further games in the series, although in an interview in 2003, Mr. Holland indicated he might return to the series at some point in the future.