The definition of the genre.
What happens when you combine LucasArts' art talent, music staff, programmers and producers? This happens. You get another classic. A classic with a movie license. Normally an irony beyond compare, it's proven completely wrong here.
TIE Fighter put Star Wars on the space sim map. Heck I think it was the first good Star Wars game made. X-Wing was far too hard for most people, TIE Fighter fixed that. TIE Fighter's graphics engine was fast, detailed, and 3D (unlike Wing Commander back then.) The characters were pulled from the best series of Star Wars books ever (Tim Zahn's.)
I need to put some emphasis on the soundtrack. It has to be some of the most creatively engineered MIDI ever. Michael Land said in an interview that TIE Fighter was one of his most difficult challenges. He, Peter McConnel and Clint Bajakian wanted to give the Star Wars soundtrack a little spice, a 'rock'n'roll' attitude. In my opinion they pulled it off marvelously. The IMuse music system also got a workout, giving the player music which changed style according to the action. I think the only issue with the music is that you need a high end DOS MIDI card to hear it properly. If they had been able to make it streaming digital music instead of MIDI I think this soundtrack would be on CD.
I always thought it kinda portrayed you as the invulnerable TIE pilot. A single TIE Fighter placed in the right spot could destroy a Star Destroyer. That's pretty unrealistic. But, it's fun! The gameplay may come off as too easy to some but remember, you ARE having FUN!
The Bottom Line
The classic of classic space sims. It's Star Wars. It's the good 'ol LucasArts from when they were an unbeatable development house. It's FUN!