×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Entire StarCraft Story Explained

Strap yourselves in, folks. Today, we're taking a deep dive into the lore of one of the most iconic real-time strategy franchises ever made: StarCraft. According to Polygon, StarCraft started with the simple idea of "space vampires" before evolving into sci-fi reskin of Warcraft. However, it wasn't long before Blizzard realized there was much more they could do with the property and started coming up with the epic space opera that would become the background to StarCraft's intergalactic battles.

Today, we're going to be digging through the complex story of StarCraft to explain exactly why the Terrans, Zerg, and Protoss are all slaughtering each other by the thousands. We'll start with the original 1998 PC release and work our way up through the most recent: 2015's final campaign for StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void. There's a lot to unpack here, so you may want to construct some additional pylons.

The story of StarCraft begins with the Xel'Naga

Before we even get to the first StarCraft game, we have to go waaaaay back. The oldest beings in the StarCraft universe are called the Xel'Naga; they are frequently mentioned but take a while to actually appear. Just what are the Xel'Naga, besides beings who the Protoss and the Zerg both seem intimately familiar with?

They're basically the "great old ones" of StarCraft. The Xel'Naga believe the universe follows a cyclical pattern and seek to influence two separate races to become embodiments of two separate virtues: "Purity of Form" and "Purity of Essence." Eventually, those races would come together as a hybrid race to create a new version of Xel'Naga (that had both of those traits), and the cycle could begin anew.

The Xel'Naga are seen as architects of the universe, in a way: they influence other creatures in an attempt to build up their own survival and ideology. They re-enter the story later on; don't forget about them.

The Protoss descend into the Aeon of Strife

The Protoss were the race chosen by the Xel'Naga as the race that best encapsulated "Purity of Form." Their psychic links and excellent physical traits made them a powerful option, and the Xel'Naga eventually came to the Protoss homeworlds to guide them directly. The Protoss worshipped them as gods.

However, the Protoss eventually began to question the Xel'Naga's motivation for helping them. Some even started pushing back against their psychic connection to one another, viewing it as a way for the Xel'Naga to control them. The Protoss eventually drove the Xel'Naga off of their homeworld, Aiur, even destroying several of their transport ships in the process.

With the Xel'Naga no longer guiding them, Protoss advancement slowed and the different tribes began to resent each other. They soon entered a great civil war, called the Aeon of Strife, which was one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts in the history of the universe.

The Zerg terrorize the galaxy

The other race chosen by the Xel'Naga, the Zerg, were once an insignificant, worm-like species on the hostile planet Zerus. However, multiple factors attracted the Xel'Naga, who saw the race as a perfect example of "Purity of Essence." The Xel'Naga began to influence the Zerg, who became the dominant species on Zerus with the Xel'Naga's help.

As the Zerg took control of Zerus, the Xel'Naga wanted to avoid the mistakes they felt they made with the Protoss. They created the Overmind, an immortal representation of the Zerg's instincts. Some Zerg were able to hide from the Overmind's control, but most were now dominated by this singular force.

Soon, infighting broke out among the Xel'Naga themselves, and one being named Amon unleashed the Zerg against the other Xel'Naga. As the Zerg assimilated the creatures, they learned of the Xel'Naga's plan and manipulation of their species. The Overmind broke free of Amon and the rest of the Xel'Naga, and led the Zerg swarm to the stars in order to assimilate the entire universe.

Humanity enters the story as the Terrans

Finally, we come to the Terrans. In the StarCraft universe, Earth had fallen under a powerful dictatorship called the United Powers League. In an attempt to advance the human race and consolidate their power, the UPL rounded up groups of genetically undesirable humans, put them into cryosleep, and launched them into space.

One of those ships arrived at the planet Tarsonis. The people onboard this ship began a new society, and quickly started spreading to other nearby worlds. This group of humans called themselves the Terran Confederacy.

As Terran power grew, rivalries and bad blood began to bubble up. Arcturus Minsk used his influence and strength to form the Sons of Korhal, who eventually seized control of the Terran governments. Ironically, Mengsk and his government began imprisoning any dissidents or people they deemed a threat to their ideology, following the exact cycle that saw the Terran's exiled from Earth in the first place.

What brought them all together? - StarCraft

As the Zerg continued to increase in strength, they faced one serious barrier in dominating the universe: the Swarm had no answer for how to battle with the Protoss' powerful psionic abilities. They needed to find a race to assimilate that had some untapped psychic potential. They found it in the Terrans.

The Zerg descended on the planet of Chau Sara, attacking and quickly overwhelming the Terrans stationed there. As the threat of the Zerg increased, the Protoss followed close behind and followed their orders: eliminate any world that has been overrun by this threat to the universe.

The Protoss obliterated Chau Sara, though Terran propaganda spun it that the Protoss were the true threat, not the Zerg. All three races were now in direct conflict. Tassadar, a powerful Protoss Templar, began to question his order to destroy entire worlds, but the damage was already done. The Great War had begun.

Jim Raynor and the fall of Sarah Kerrigan - StarCraft

When Arcturus Mengsk was still struggling to gain complete control, he sent a strike force to the Terran homeworld of Tarsonis that was led by two soldiers named Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan. While battling with the Confederate forces on the planet, Mengsk set up psi-emitters on the planet's surface to lure the Zerg to the planet. They quickly overran the surface and killed everything in their path.

Raynor viewed Mengsk's plan as barbaric, and he and Kerrigan's team struggled to maintain defenses against the Protoss that arrived to stop the Zerg, the enemy Confederate forces, and the rampaging Zerg themselves. Raynor defied Mengsk's orders to evacuate the planet, and Kerrigan was trapped by the invading Zerg forces.

Despite a rescue attempt, Raynor was unable to find Kerrigan before the planet had to be left to the Zerg. After escaping, he and several troops loyal to him abandoned Mengsk, who was further consolidated power by using the battles on Tarsonis to unite the remainder of humanity under his control.

The battle for the Argus Stone - StarCraft

The Zerg and Protoss both made attempts to seize control of the Argus Stone, a powerful Xel'Naga artifact on the planet Aridas. A force of Terrans was drawn to the planet for another reason: Sarah Kerrigan had psychically reached out to Raynor and Mengsk. Raynor led his force of rebels, "Raynor's Raiders," to try to rescue his old partner. Mengsk sent his forces, who wanted to retrieve the stone.

As fighting broke out between the different armies, the Zerg eventually seized control of the Argus Stone. Raynor reached Kerrigan, but she emerged from a Zerg chrysalis as a completely changed creature: she was now the Queen of Blades. She began leading the Zerg swarm, decimating the Terran and Protoss.

Raynor formed an alliance with the Protoss forces, and the Dark Templar named Zeratul assassinated a powerful Zerg leader. However, this attack accidentally revealed the location of the Protoss homeworld to the Overmind. The Zerg forces gathered to destroy Aiur.

The Dark Templar and the fall of the Overmind - StarCraft

Raynor and his Protoss allies were deemed threats by both Mengsk and the ruling Protoss class. Only their alliance recognized the threat that the Overmind posed; the psychic connection Zeratul made with the Overmind showed that the Zerg would stop at nothing to assimilate every creature in the entire universe.

With the Protoss ruling class crippled by Zerg attacks on their homeworld, Raynor and his Protoss allies set a plan in motion to destroy the Overmind. They orchestrated several distracting attacks, keeping the Overmind unaware that it was their true target. Finally, Tassadar crashed his massive flagship into the surface of the planet that housed the Overmind. The ensuing explosion destroyed the Overmind, severing its control over the rest of the Zerg. Tassadar was killed in the process.

With no direct leader, the Zerg split into two factions. One was led by Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades. Thus began the Brood War, a civil war between the Zerg swarms.

The rise of the United Earth Directorate - StarCraft: Brood War

Meanwhile, back on Earth ...

The United Powers League didn't just ship all their undesirables off into space and then forget about them. They had been closely monitoring the Terrans and had seen the power of both the Zerg and Protoss. Now known as the United Earth Directorate, the group decided to welcome the Terrans back into the fold of humanity — by any means necessary.

With the Overmind destroyed, the UED decided to use the "mindless" Zerg as weapons to pacify the Terrans. They did not realize that several Cerebrates in the swarm opposing Kerrigan had formed a new Overmind and were simply biding their time.

Kerrigan alone knew of the threat that the new Overmind posed and met with Protoss leaders to warn them. She swore that she was no longer held under thrall by the swarm's bloodlust. She told the gathered Protoss about the threat that the UED and Zerg forces posed, but not everyone could put their trust in her. Understandably so: Kerrigan wasn't being completely truthful. She had actually enslaved a Dark Templar matriarch, Raszagal, some time before.

The Queen of Blades - StarCraft: Brood War

Kerrigan's claims about the UED and new Overmind were compelling, so an uneasy alliance began. Eventually, Kerrigan and her allies destroyed many of the Zerg leaders that were allied against her, giving her control of most of the Swarm. They then struck out against the UED, winning several victories before Kerrigan showed her true colors. She betrayed her Terran allies, earning the ire of both Arcturus Mengsk and Jim Raynor.

Kerrigan then leveraged her control over Raszagal, promising the Protoss Dark Templar forces that she would free the Matriarch if they eliminated her rival. Zeratul himself killed the Overmind, so Kerrigan prepared to free Raszagal. As she had planned, her psychic domination was so powerful that Raszagal refused to return to the Protoss, instead continuing to serve Kerrigan.

Zeratul saw how Kerrigan had misled him and vowed to help Raszagal. Since he knew she would not return to the Dark Templar, he killed her so she would not live as a slave. Kerrigan chose to let Zeratul live, knowing the guilt of killing the matriarch would be a worse punishment than death.

The Zerg/Protoss hybrids - StarCraft: Brood War

At the end of the Brood War, Zeratul discovered something far more sinister than the threat of the Queen of Blades and her Zerg swarm. While returning to the planet Shakuras, Zeratul and his forces picked up a signal from an uncharted moon. On further exploration, they discovered a research facility that was heavily monitored and defended by mercenaries.

Inside, Zeratul discovered several stasis cells housing research subjects: some Zerg, some Protoss. "Test subject twenty-nine" was what truly frightened Zeratul, as it was a Protoss-Zerg hybrid. Once he discovered the test subject, a powerful psychic being contacted Zeratul, mocking him. He called himself Samir Duran, who Zeratul had encountered before, but he was actually an ancient Xel'Naga who had been manipulating events to initiate Amon's return and fulfill his master's plan to overrun the universe.

Zeratul destroyed the facility, but Duran continued to mock him, saying he was powerless to stop Amon's plan: there were many more facilities with many more hybrids hidden among the stars.

Raynor's Raiders - StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty

Things were fairly quiet for the years between Brood War and StarCraft 2, as the universe was still regaining its footing after Kerrigan's attacks against the Protoss and Terrans. Jim Raynor continued to operate as a mercenary leader aboard his ship, the Hyperion. Soon, he was approached by an old friend, Tychus Findlay, an ex-con who brought Raynor an important contract. The two set out to liberate several alien artifacts to send to Findlay's employer, the Moebius Foundation.

Soon, Findlay and Raynor's second-in-command, Matt Horner, learned more about the Queen of Blades and her past relationship with Raynor when she was still Sarah Kerrigan. The two continued working with Raynor to uncover the alien artifacts for the Moebius Foundation, encountering forces of both Protoss and Zerg who were also after the artifacts. It wasn't long before Raynor was contacted by an old friend, Zeratul, who came bearing a warning for his friend.

The prophecy and the "Dark Voice" - StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty

Zeratul let Raynor see his memories. He learned that Zeratul had been hunting down the Protoss-Zerg hybrids, but he was worried that he wouldn't be able to stop them alone. He had also encountered Kerrigan again, who feared the same threat. The two sought a prophecy that spoke ominously of "The Great Hungerer" who would reawaken and destroy the universe.

Zeratul feared that the original Zerg Overmind was this being. In forging a psychic connection with the Overmind's spirit, he learned that it had been manipulated during the previous war and that it had actually been fighting back against the "Dark Voice" by creating the Queen of Blades. She alone could save the Zerg from extinction.

Raynor and Zeratul saw that Kerrigan was the only being in the universe who could stop the ancient power, despite the fact that she seemed like the real threat. They continued to collect the artifacts in order to save Kerrigan.

De-infesting Sarah Kerrigan - StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty

As Raynor's Raiders continued to collect the artifacts, Raynor himself eventually encountered Arcturus Mengsk's son, Valerian. The two arranged a truce to attempt to de-infest Kerrigan. This set many of his own forces against him, including Tychus Findlay, who were worried that Raynor was letting his personal feelings for Kerrigan cloud his judgment.

After he collected the artifacts, the Zerg attacked Raynor's forces to attempt to steal them. Raynor and his forces fought them off long enough to allow them to use the collected pieces of the Xel'Naga artifact to partially revert Kerrigan to her old self. After using the artifact, Raynor and Findlay went to retrieve Kerrigan from the Zerg hive, and Findlay revealed that he had been working with Arcturus Mengsk all along; he was tasked with assassinating Kerrigan in order to earn a pardon.

Raynor fought off and killed Findlay and rescued Kerrigan from the Zerg hive. She still controlled the Zerg, but her de-infestation had partially halted the Swarm's attacks.

Kerrigan's vendetta against Arcturus Mengsk - StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm

Kerrigan started adjusting to her new reality; she was essentially human again, but still had control over Zerg forces. She also could not escape her old nemesis, Arcturus Mengsk. She started recruiting more Zerg troops to her side to protect her and to rescue Raynor, who had been captured by Mengsk.

Kerrigan struck out against the Dominion and Mengsk, winning several victories before encountering Zeratul (once again). Despite initial hostility, Zeratul revealed the prophecy he had discovered. He showed Kerrigan that she needed to become a "Primal Zerg" on the Zerg homeworld in order to save the universe.

Kerrigan returned to Zerus and the first Spawning Pit, where the Zerg race lived before interference by the Xel'Naga. She was reborn more powerful than ever, quickly bending the remaining Zerg to her will. She then set out to rescue Raynor and confront her old foe, Arcturus Mengsk.

Saving Raynor, killing Mensk, and preparing for the battle with Amon - StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm

Kerrigan worked with Raynor's second-in-command, Matt Horner, to locate their old friend. They eventually discovered the prison where he was being held and led a raid to rescue him. Although they were ultimately successful, Raynor abandoned Kerrigan after seeing she had re-infested herself.

Kerrigan encountered a Xel'Naga named Narud, who had previously been disguised as Samir Duran (Get it? It's Narud backwards!) and had been working to resurrect the Xel'Naga Amon. Kerrigan eventually battled and killed Narud, learning of Amon's ultimate plan to conquer the universe with the Protoss-Zerg hybrids.

Kerrigan moved against Mengsk and most likely would have lost if not for the timely intervention of Jim Raynor. She eventually killed her nemesis, losing millions of Zerg in the process. There was no time to celebrate, however, as the final battle with Amon still loomed. She started to rebuild her forces to face this ultimate threat.

The threat of Amon - StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void

Zeratul returned to the Protoss homeworld of Aiur to learn more of the threat of Amon. However, he was a bit too late; by the time he arrived, Amon has already returned to the universe and taken control of the Protoss-Zerg hybrids. His ultimate goal was to destroy all life forms in the universe except for the "perfect" hybrids, who could then rule for eternity.

Zeratul fought through several Zerg hives and some "crazed" Protoss, who were being controlled by Amon. He soon encountered Artanis, another powerful Protoss leader. The two battled, and Zeratul learned that the psychic link of the Protoss was what allowed Amon to control them.

He severed Artanis' link, but Artanis landed a killing blow on Zeratul at the exact same moment. Dying, Zeratul explained the threat of Amon to the Protoss warrior. Artanis mourned what he had done and vowed to carry on Zeratul's mission to stop Amon from conquering the universe.

Severing the link - StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void

Artanis began to unite the warring Protoss tribes, severing their psychic links and revealing that they were being controlled by the ancient Amon. He joined forces with Raynor and Kerrigan, who he learned had been working with Zeratul to stop Amon's rise to power.

Trust was tough to come by between these allies, especially considering that Artanis had killed Zeratul. However, exploring an ancient temple allowed Kerrigan and Artanis to learn that they had long ago been foretold to stop Amon's threat to the universe.

Meanwhile, Amon had taken control of the powerful Protoss fleet, the Golden Armada, to begin destroying entire planets. Artanis and his allies realized that they could wait no longer; they had to stop Amon now before it was too late. They moved to sabotage Amon's continued production of hybrids and to destroy the Xel'Naga once and for all. They used the ancient artifacts to destroy Amon's physical body, but they knew that wouldn't end the threat.

The final battle - StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void

Amon still existed within "the Void," an astral plane that was at the same time connected and separate from the universe. Kerrigan and her Protoss allies opened a portal so they could send a fleet into the Void and destroy Amon for good.

Several Protoss channeled their energy to allow Kerrigan herself to become a Xel'Naga — only then would she be strong enough to defeat Amon. As Amon attempted to manipulate the allied forces against one another, Kerrigan destroyed his support and took the fight directly to him.

Amon attempted to confuse Kerrigan, claiming she was actually doing his bidding by defeating him. He explained that, after his defeat, Kerrigan would actually be continuing the Xel'Naga's ultimate plan for the universe. She would not be persuaded, however, and killed Amon with a powerful psychic blast. She led her allies out of the Void and back to their universe, now safe from the threat of Amon.

Peace at last - StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void

After the downfall of Amon, peace gradually returned to the universe. With Arcturus dead, Valerian Mengsk took over as emperor of the Terran Dominion. His forces were led by Matt Horner, who had previously served with Raynor's Raiders.

Raynor himself was last seen in Joeyray's Bar on Mar Sara, the original hub of Raynor's Raiders at the start of StarCraft 2. He was last seen leaving the bar with Sarah Kerrigan, who had returned to her completely human form — or at least, was able to manifest herself that way.

Zagara, Kerrigan's former second-in-command, now controlled the Zerg Swarm on Char. They were not expanding out further and helped to maintain the peace.

The Protoss were not united under singular rule, but they were not at war with one another, either. With the threat of Amon gone and the constant warfare at a standstill, the universe of StarCraft was finally at peace. At least until Blizzard decides to release StarCraft 3 ...