Star Control by Toys for Bob/Accolade for the Sega Genesis (and showing up prior to that on a bunch of actual computers, notably the Amiga) in 1990.
I'm still sort of surprised that I ever looked at this game - Star Control was not "my type" of game back in the early 1990s, when almost everything I played was of Japanese origin other than the odd Rare game. In the early days of the Sega Genesis, EA was putting out some semi-decent software, but even that was usually hit-or-miss.. a second-stringer along those lines didn't seem like it would hold much promise. After all, what was exciting about a company like Accolade anyway? Their baseball game didn't look too enthralling.
Even so, when Star Control was announced as a forthcoming port for the Sega Genesis, a few of us stood up and took notice. Electronic Gaming Monthly made no bones about drooling over what was to be the world's first 12-Meg cartridge game (and showing off some shots of the actual EEPROM cart, which was like 3 times as tall as a normal Genesis cart with tons of exposed ROM chips on it!) This was going to be a good-looking game, and for that it warranted at least a rental.
So one weekend my buddy and I picked it up. The graphics were alright - certainly not worth all the attention being ladled out, though there were some nice load screens (but who cares?) Quickly we got to the meat of this game - awesome space combat. What they had done here could have easily been done on a much lower tech system (even a B/W GameBoy), though the presentation only helped things. What we had was a glorified "Spacewar!" with several different space ships, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. It was an excellent idea delivered with a perfect execution. They wrapped it around a half-decent strategy game (which was fairly enjoyable in itself), but too often my friends and I would just ditch that and go straight for the 1-on-1 combat. Over and over. Star Control was different, it was bubbling over with personality, and it was actually fairly accessible.
In hindsight it is a game that still holds up very well, even with such a primitive setup. It's so much fun discovering strategies for each ship that you can use (and versus the different ships you'll fight against) and truly one of those games you could still easily lose an afternoon with blasting away at your buddies. If you missed this, I highly recommend you check it out despite the fact that it may not look too modern (and I am sorry to say I never checked out the sequel... for shame!)