With over twenty years of history, the Starcraft space strategy series is more than just a staple of the genre, it’s a game which helped define what real-time strategies are for decades that, at the point, were still to come.

StarCraft made a huge splash, not just in the genre, but also in the esport world, creating an entire generation of people who hoped it would be their big break into fame and sponsorship money. And to many people: it actually was. For a long while SC was even considered something of a national sport in South Korea.

The story told across the series also moved beyond just games, and was explored in much greater detail in supplemental material, like novels and graphic novels. For all intents and purposes, in the years since the original release StarCraft has become a multimedia franchise.

However, if it’s games you’re interested in, then games we will give you. Below you’ll find a list of proper StarCraft releases, from the original game, through obscure expansions, to the grand finale. Get into your chunky powered armor, and step with us into our list of…

All StarCraft Games in Order of Appearance
GameRelease
StarCraft 1998-03-31
StarCraft: Remastered 1998-06-31
StarCraft: Brood War 1998-11-30
StarCraft: Remastered 1998
Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty + Heart of the Swarm 2010-06-27
Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm 2013-03-12
StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void 2015-11-10
Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm 2016-11-22
StarCraft: Remastered 2017-08-14

StarCraft

Release date:1998-03-31
Genre:RTS
Developer:Blizzard Entertainment

The myth, the legend, the RTS which changed the face of esports for a long time.

StarCraft launched in the ancient times of 1998 and introduced the world to three distinct factions: human militaristic Terrans, sophisticated psionic Protoss, and insectoid, ravenous Zerg. And the rest is pretty much history, a long history playing out over two main entries, each with several expansions.

StarCraft’s huge contribution to the genre was deciding that factions don’t have to designed in a symmetrical way. As a result, each side of the conflict has its own playstyle, with unique tactics, units, and strategies. The story introduced many of the series mainstays, and told a great, science fiction war story full of betrayals, unsettling intel, and uneasy alliances. It’s all fun SF stuff.

Key features
  • The game which revolutionized the real-time strategy genre
  • Three unique factions, each with its own gameplay
  • Very high skill ceiling which attracted and created many RTS pros over the years
  • Received a great remaster, discussed further down the list

StarCraft: Insurrection

Release date:1998-06-31
Genre:RTS
Developer:Aztech New Media

StarCraft: Insurrection, the first batch of additional content launched for the original SC wasn’t developed in-house by Blizzard, but instead licensed out to Aztech New Media.

It might be why this expansion didn’t live up to many people’s expectations, despite delivering 30 new missions (10 per faction) and a load of new multiplayer maps.

The story presented through the new content involved a bold choice by a revolutionary group which decided to try and smush together Zerg and Terrans to see what happens. Presently, Insurrection is pretty much forgotten, overshadowed by the much better-received, in-house Brood War expansion. Presently, SC Insurrection’s story isn’t even fully considered to be canon, sadly.

Key features
  • The first expansion for the original StarCraft
  • A brand new storyline, involving a rebel group trying to break away from human government
  • Currently unavailable, lost to time
  • A ton of new multiplayer maps

StarCraft: Brood War

Release date:1998-11-30
Genre:RTS
Developer:Saffire

Unlike its predecessor and successor (Retribution), Brood War remains a vital and supported part of the original StarCraft, fully accepted as canon.

BW doesn’t just add new missions and move the story forward, it also introduced new units for every faction, expanded the soundtrack a bit, and even evolved the tech tree. There was also some rebalancing to curb rush tactics.

The plot follows the structure of the base game, giving each faction time in the spotlight and a dedicated campaign. Characters from SC return, of course, so we get to see the next chapters in the stories of Zeratul, Kerrigan, and others. Brood War is a phenomenal expansion, and lives on in the Remastered edition, enjoying the same treatment the core StarCraft received.

Key features
  • More story time with the characters from the base game
  • Rebalances and expands the armies of all three factions
  • It also improved the AI
  • Is included in StarCraft Remastered

StarCraft: Retribution

Release date:1998
Genre:RTS
Developer:Stardock

Another, after Insurrection, abandoned timeline, StarCraft: Retribution was also outsourced, this time to Stardock (of Galactic Civilizations fame).

It followed pretty much the same path as Insurrection did, with no new gameplay features or improvements, just new missions for the factions and more multiplayer content.

In another similarity to Insurrection, Retribution wasn’t very well-received, and while the challenge level was appreciated, it didn’t leave a lasting impression. Consequently, this expansion is ALSO not available through any straightforward means and isn’t a part of the SC Remastered, leaving Brood War as the only expansion to survive the test of time.

Key features
  • A new lengthy singleplayer campaign
  • A ton of multiplayer maps
  • Currently inaccessible
  • Developed by Stardock, better known from their own SF games like Galactic Civilizations

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

Release date:2010-06-27
Genre:Strategy
Developer:Blizzard Entertainment

Twelve years after the original game came the long-awaited full sequel, and, to nobody’s surprise, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty was a smash hit.

Although the graphics obviously benefited from the numerous technological advancements, the core gameplay stayed the same, despite some units being tweak to various degrees for reasons ranging from story to balancing, to QoL.

Unlike the original game, Wings of Liberty doesn’t split its campaign into three, instead it focuses solely on the Terran side, while the other two factions are the protagonists of their own expansions. The plot picks up four years after Blood War, and features fan favorites such as Jim Raynor, now a leader of revolutionaries calling themselves Raynor’s Raiders.

Key features
  • The Terran-focused chapter of the grand finale trilogy
  • Dramatically improved graphics compared to the original game
  • Polished gameplay and updated unit lists
  • Still great in multiplayer

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Release date:2013-03-12
Genre:Strategy
Developer:Blizzard Entertainment

The first expansion for StarCraft II, Heart of the Swarm presents the Zerg side of things, with a special focus on Sarah Kerrigan, the infamous Queen of Blades pursuing her revenge against Emperor Mengsk.

The campaign features 20 story missions, plus a few upgrade assignments, and things are truly heating up, and we learn a bit of deeper StarCraft lore involving Zerg origins.

Heart of the Swarm also tweaked some thing about units and buildings, for example by introducing new upgrade path for the Zerg. Overall it’s a huge expansion which not only pushed the plot in interesting directions, but also brings a lot crunchy stuff for everyone focused on the gameplay to bite into. It should come as no surprise, then, that HotS was quite well-received.

Key features
  • The story gives Kerrigan a lot of time in the spotlight
  • Plenty of tweaks and changes to the units
  • Explores the depths of StarCraft lore
  • Earned great reviews

StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void

Release date:2015-11-10
Genre:Strategy
Developer:Blizzard Entertainment

Legacy of the Void is the last core expansion for StarCraft 2, and it puts the spotlight on the remaining faction.

The Protoss, showing us their perspective on the wild stuff taking place in the galaxy because of a grumpy Xel’Naga called Amon meddling in the affairs of all three species to reshape all life according to his ambitions.

Like Heart of the Swarm, LotV also introduced a few mechanical changes, including the resource system, which was retooled towards fostering more active, aggressive playstyles. Individual units also got the balance hammer, as necessary for multiplayer balancing. All in all, for a final major expansion, Legacy of the Void was excellent, delivering a great plot and meaningful mechanical tweaks.

Key features
  • The grand finale of the story which began back in 1998
  • Another batch of balancing changes for multiplayer
  • The campaign focuses on the Protoss perspective
  • Followed up by a smaller epilogue-style expansion

StarCraft II: Nova Covert Ops

Release date:2016-11-22
Genre:RTS
Developer:Blizzard Entertainment

Nowhere near as grand as the other StarCraft 2 expansion, Nova Covert Ops is a batch of 9 missions taking place after the Legacy of the Void plot.

It follows Nova, a human operative investigating the capture and brainwashing of her fellow Ghosts, and things escalate from there. It’s loosely based on the cancelled StarCraft Ghost, which was planned as a stealth game.

StarCraft II: Nova Covert Ops is, like SC2, a real-time strategy, with Nova acting as a hero unit, customizable mostly though equipment you find during missions. It substantially smaller in scope than other SC2 expansions, but it’s still a rather engaging production in its own right, and a neat reminder that the setting exists beyond the final moments of Legacy of the Void.

Key features
  • 9 new missions set after Legacy of the Void
  • A customizable hero character: human Ghost called Nova
  • Not as expansive as its direct predecessors
  • Partially based on a cancelled stealth game project

StarCraft: Remastered

Release date:2017-08-14
Genre:RTS
Developer:Blizzard Entertainment

After almost twenty years since the launch of the original StarCraft, Blizzard released a Remastered version and it was truly a great remaster.

It refreshed the graphics considerably, adjusted SC for modern systems, and left the mechanics exactly as veterans knew them. No adjustments to decades-old reflexes and calculations were necessary.

The Remastered version also allows players to swap between original and refreshed graphics, which is always a neat thing to include. This version also natively includes the Brood War expansion, making it the definitive modern version of the original StarCraft and a great way to catch up with the story before hopping into StarCraft II and its own expansions.

Key features
  • Classic gameplay, updated graphics
  • You can switch between original and remastered graphics
  • All your old reflexes are still useful
  • Doesn’t include Insurrection and Retribution

StarCrafted to perfection

StarCraft is a great example of a video game series which had a really good run and made a real impact on the industry by entering the gaming hall of fame with the original, and delivering a solid sequel. It did not have a perfect, as evidenced by the discontinued expansions and two unrealized spin-offs, but that doesn’t detract from the quality of the games we got. Especially the remastered StarCraft 1 has the potential to carry the legacy (of the void) into the future.

And while any news about StarCraft 3 don’t seem to be coming, that’s just a great excuse to increase the APM, isn’t it?