Right up there with Thrawn in terms of popularity – just not part of current Star Wars canon (yet?) – Mara Jade once served Palpatine as the Emperor's Hand. In Heir to the Empire, she sought to find and kill Luke Skywalker, whom she believed to be her master's murderer. Mara eventually did confront Luke, but the next thing you knew, she was Mara Jade Skywalker.
Before the nuptials, however, Mysteries of the Sith presented Mara's Jedi training under the tutelage of Kyle Katarn. When Katarn failed to return from a mission to a Sith temple, players pursued him as Jade – but LucasArts didn't always mean for it play that way.
"Mysteries of the Sith didn't originally feature Mara; it was going to be Kyle all the way," says Kevin Shmitt, a designer on the game. "Since you could choose your path in Jedi Knight, we toyed with the idea of a Dark Path Kyle and a Light Path Kyle, but decided that was too much. [With Mara, we] could tell a story without the limits of what the player did in Jedi Knight and feature a cool new female hero. I remember management being apprehensive to feature a relatively unknown character like Mara. [So we] put together a story, bookended it with Kyle, and they bought in."
Just a few months earlier, Jade made her gaming debut as an unlockable fighter in Masters of Teräs Käsi (PlayStation, 1997), and she went on to have small roles in the MMO Galaxies (PC, 2003) and the real-time strategy Galactic Battlegrounds (PC, 2001).