“Star Wars” and video games go together like peanut butter and marshmallows. The fantastical events of the movies and the propensity of Lucas and Disney to market the snot out of their movies has led to tons of games over the years. Some of them suck. Others, though, are phenomenal examples of the capabilities of the medium. Or they just let you blow up the Death Star or dismember stormtroopers with a lightsaber yourself. And that’s almost always a good time!
From the visionary days of LucasArts to the impending high fidelity experiences from EA and co, Star Wars games cover an amazing variety of genres. RPGs, shooters, bounty hunting, and starfighter simulators, there’s a Star Wars game for everyone. Now, here is the unequivocal list of the objective best. Don’t argue with us, we’re experts.
15. BATTLEFRONT (2015)
A lot of people were disappointed by the rebooted “Star Wars: Battlefront,” EA and Dice’s first attempt at taking on the Star Wars universe in 2015. Initially unbalanced and lacking in maps, modes, weapons and vehicles, the biggest lament from fans was the game’s total absence of any kind of campaign mode. A Star Wars game without a story, you ask? How does that count as one of the best?
Even with these glaring issues, the game was still a blast to play and really darn pretty to look at. With tight shooting mechanics that almost brought it in line with EA’s other big shooter series, “Battlefield,” the game was accessible and entertaining. The totally gorgeous renderings of new locations like the lava planet Sullust and old favorites like Hoth, populated by shiny HD troopers, and characters like Palpatine and Han Solo reminded a lot of players of what it was like when they smashed their action figures together as a kid. There was just about as much attention to the story, but with way better graphics than their imaginations could pull off.
14. BOUNTY HUNTER
Everyone knows Boba Fett is a badass. Decked out with a rocket launching jetpack, an arsenal of bounty hunting gadgets, and that ridiculously cool looking Mandalorian armor, Boba Fett is the perfect character for a Star Wars game. Alas, we’re still waiting for that game, but we had a taste of life as the greatest bounty hunter in the galaxy with 2002’s “Star Wars: Bounty Hunter.”
Released on the Playstation 2 and Gamecube during the height of the prequels’ campaign to make us love them by force-feeding the population expanded universe material, Bounty Hunter cast the player as Jango Fett as he hunted bounties across the galaxy. The game, re-released on the Playstation store in 2015, featured a story that was actually better than the film that is was designed to support and looked pretty good for the time. Though it was kind of repetitive and was lambasted for technical flaws, nothing beats the sensation of tying up an intergalactic felon and blasting away on your jetpack.
13. EMPIRE AT WAR
There has been no shortage of real-time strategy games set in the Star Wars galaxy over the years. Ranging from the really crappy “Star Wars: Force Commander,” to the pretty good “Age of Empires”-styled “Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds,” the fantasy of commanding the iconic vehicles, ships, and soldiers of Star Wars is ripe for the RTS treatment. However, no game does this better than 2006’s “Star Wars: Empire at War.”
Combining solid strategy mechanics with nerd sweat-inducing Star Wars visuals, “Empire at War” gives you command of the land armies and the space armadas of the Rebellion to Restore the Republic and the Galactic Empire. A campaign set between Episodes III and IV, plus multiplayer and galactic conquest modes, sucked armchair galactic generals in for hours. Though many critics and fans knew that if it wasn’t for the AT-ATs and X-wings, the game would not have been all the impressive, the fact that you could plan and execute assaults on your favorite (or most hated) planets like Naboo and Tatooine cemented the game’s success and popularity.
12. LEGO STAR WARS: THE COMPLETE SAGA
The obscenely successful combination of Star Wars and Lego had made more money that the entire GDP of a small European country before the release of the “Lego Star Wars” video games. Translating all the fun and creativity of Lego into a venue that minimized the chances of getting the colorful bricks embedded in the most sensitive part of your foot was a genius move.
Combining the first two Lego Star Wars games into a game covering all six of the pre-Disney movies, 2007’s “Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga” sold a whopping 3.4 million units worldwide. The runaway success of the franchise was unexpected by many but with its combination of fan service, charm and downright enjoyable gameplay, it garnered much love from casual and hardcore gamers alike. Drop in co-op and accessible gameplay, and it was perfect to play with younglings or controller-challenged significant others. No word yet on a Complete Saga that fits the sequel trilogy AND the Star Wars Stories in, but we’re still hoping.
11. SUPER STAR WARS
Like most movie tie-ins of the time, 1992’s “Super Star Wars” on the SNES had basically nothing to do with the movie it was based on. The game consisted of frantically scrambling from left to right blasting every living thing (and droid) onscreen into oblivion, jumping on floating platforms, and dying. A lot. Even by the standards of the early 90s, “Super Star Wars” was stupid hard. No checkpoints, and not even a password function, meant you were going to get real familiar with that Tatooine level.
Despite costing middle-class families hundreds of dollars in smashed SNES controllers, “Super Star Wars” holds a special pixelated place in gamers’ hearts. The lovingly rendered depictions of classic Star Wars icons and chiptune versions of the music still inspire retro love today. The “Super Star Wars Trilogy” was added to the Playstation store in 2015, giving a whole new generation of digital masochists a chance to experience it.
10. THE FORCE UNLEASHED
Before the rise of the Disney empire in a galaxy far, far away, very few stories existed to bridge the gap between the original trilogy and the prequels. 2008’s “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed” did just that in an explosive way. With all the subtlety of a drunk rancor, the game tells the story of the founding of the rebellion from the perspective of Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, codenamed Starkiller. The story was as epic as the gameplay, allowing you to use lightsabers to carve up legions of stormtroopers, as well as access to over-the-top Force powers that would have made Yoda green with envy.
In the films, we see the Force used to levitate an X-wing and some fruit, but in Unleashed you can use it to ball up scout walkers like wet cardboard and play pinball with your enemies. The combat was nuts but the game actually managed to tell a compelling story, too, leading a lot of gamers to overlook some of the title’s shortcomings, like repetition and clunky controls. Don’t bring up the sequel though.
9. EPISODE I: RACER
“The Phantom Menace” is awful. Thanks to the proliferation of cross-media tie-ins, fans got a bunch of games based on Episode I, too. They also sucked. The biggest exception to this was the adrenaline-fueled pod racing sim, “Star Wars Episode I: Racer.” Put out on the N64 and PC alongside the movie in 1999 and the Dreamcast a year later, the game captured the feeling of piloting a sled being dragged behind two massive jet engines with none of the risks and twice the excitement of the movie.
The game featured a plethora of weird alien racers and pods and courses from Tatooine to Malastare. The gameplay took the frighteningly fast and futuristic formula of Playstation’s “Wipeout” and Nintendo’s “F-Zero” franchise and added original mechanics (and also Star Wars) to make it one of the most popular racers of the era. An arcade version of the game even featured a replica of Anakin’s pod from the movie, complete with lever controls! Of course, it was only functional 10 percent of the time because of that one jerk in town who would always break it and then steal all of our arcade tickets to get candy and Chinese finger traps. Hate that guy.
8. STAR WARS ARCADE (1983)
Anybody still alive out there that remembers what it was like when the original Star Wars movies came out in theaters probably has memories just as fond of heading to the mall’s arcade right after to pump quarters (or whatever people used for money back then) into the glorious piece of engineering that was Atari’s “Star Wars” 1983 arcade machine.
Though it would be difficult for many modern humans to identify it as a video game at all, the Star Wars arcade game was a technological marvel in its day. Using vector graphics, the game recreated Luke’s Death Star trench run. Players ran a gauntlet of wireframe TIE fighters and laser blasts until reaching that infamous exhaust port, blowing that thing and going right home. If the player managed to destroy the Death Star without firing at anything else they received a bonus to their score for “using the Force.” How many players tried to convince their friends that they heard the ghost of Obi-wan remains unknown.
7. DARK FORCES
“Star Wars: Dark Forces,” released in 1995 for computer and 1996 on the PS1, was one of the first first-person shooters ever and building on “Doom” two years before totally revolutionized the genre. It did this by adding features that most FPS gamers can’t imagine living without today, such as levels designed with more than one floor and *gasp* looking up and down. The game was also the first appearance of fan-favorite mercenary turned Jedi master, Kyle Katarn.
Dark Forces was not only a major evolutionary step forward for first-person shooters, it was also just an awesome game overall. Players were tasked with stopping the Empire’s “Dark Trooper” war droid project while being introduced to interesting new characters and given insight into parts of the Star Wars galaxy no one had seen before. “Dark Forces” was a huge success for LucasArts (R.I.P.) and spawned action figures, novels and more than a couple sequels.
6. JEDI ACADEMY
“Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy,” the distant sequel to the original “Dark Forces” by way of “Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast,” was released in 2003 on the original Xbox, Windows and Mac, and fulfilled many of Star Wars fans’ fantasy of joining Luke Skywalker at his Jedi Praxeum on Yavin 4 and cutting up stormtroopers, Dark Jedi and walls with a lightsaber. If there’s more to a Star Wars game than those basic elements, then we don’t know it!
Kyle Katarn takes a backseat to the player-created character in Jedi Academy and serves as a mentor throughout the single player, which consists of foiling a Dark Jedi plot using blasters, your custom lightsaber and Force powers from both ends of the light/dark spectrum. The multiplayer took the arena lightsaber combat from its predecessors and cranked the intensity to 11 by adding dual bladed saber staves and dual lightsaber options.
5. REPUBLIC COMMANDO
Spoiler Alert: people don’t like the prequels. One thing that those can agree on, though, is that the greatest travesty of that era isn’t the infamous line about sand, that awful Yoda puppet, or even Jar Jar, it was that “Star Wars: Republic Commando” never got a sequel.
Released in 2005 on the original Xbox and PC, it revolved around the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles of the Grand Army of the Republic: an elite quartet of color-coded clones with attitude known as Delta Squad. Starting during the grand finale of “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones,” you play as a clone nicknamed “Boss” as he leads his squad against the droid armies of the Separatists. Tight shooting mechanics, AI squad mates that helped rather than hampered, and a helmet that wiped itself clean when splattered with bug or droid guts made this game memorable for fans of shooters and Star Wars alike. The planned sequel, “Imperial Commando,” was never more than concept art. If there is any justice in the galaxy, Disney and EA will revive it and give us some closure.
4. BATTLEFRONT 2 (2005)
When EA announced it would be reviving the “Battlefront” franchise as the first of its post-Disney Star Wars projects, fans were excited. When the game finally came out, not very many of them were still excited. Even though the game was gorgeous, it lacked so much of what made the original games so beloved. Those lessons may have been learned with the impending release of a new “Battlefront 2” from EA and Dice but the legacy of LucasArts “Star Wars: Battlefront 2” is going to be hard to beat.
Space battles, soldiers, vehicles and weapons from the original trilogy and the prequels, and a compelling single player story all made 2005’s “Battlefront 2” hugely popular on Xbox, PS2, PC and even PSP. While most of those of those boxes seemed to be ticked in the remake, we are all still waiting for word on the most important mode in the game: galactic conquest! Given a map of the galaxy, players competed in an epic game of tug of war as each player attempts to assault and defend in space and on the planet’s’ surface. You heard us EA, galactic conquest or bust!
3. TIE FIGHTER
Few games have made being bad feel so good as the 1994 PC space combat sim “Star Wars: TIE Fighter.” Like the X-wing game before it, TIE Fighter recreated the feeling of being front and center in a Star Wars space battle. This time, instead of playing a plucky hero fighting an evil empire, you play as an enforcer of order and peace piloting a screaming eyeball blasting green lasers at pirates, rebels and traitors alike.
Giving players an Imperial perspective on events between “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” the game gave more depth to the motivations of the Empire’s goons. Instead of portraying the Empire as evil for evil’s sake, TIE Fighter explored the role they played in keeping order and peace in a galaxy of chaos. It also had cool spaceships, complicated but satisfying controls, and great graphics for the time. With the success of games like “Elite: Dangerous,” and the advent of VR, the fact that we haven’t had a new Star Wars space sim announced is a travesty.
2. ROGUE SQUADRON II: ROGUE LEADER
Piloting a sleek starfighter in a quest to free the galaxy from an evil empire’s yoke of oppression is a fantasy every Star Wars fan has had. And since said piloting is really hard, simulation style games like the aforementioned “TIE Fighter” and X-Wing-based games are not for everybody. Thank the Force that the Nintendo Gamecube’s “Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader” was released in 2001 to give the people who couldn’t afford an X-Wing’s worth of computer peripherals a chance to become an ace in space.
Following up on its N64 predecessor, Rogue Leader takes place across the entire original trilogy and features the digitally recreated cockpits of all your favorite alphabet themed starfighters, plus the Millennium Falcon. The game looked amazing at the time and captured the essence of dogfights in space and in planetary atmospheres with swarms of TIEs and bombing runs on hulking Star Destroyers. The game was a huge contributor to the success of the Gamecube’s launch and is fondly remembered to this day. That being said, we all want a new one, even if it’s on the Switch.
1. KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC
Anyone who has played this game is not surprised here. No game has come so close to capturing the epic sense of wonder and adventure that is Star Wars than Bioware’s 2003 Xbox and PC masterpiece, “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.” Set 4,000 years before any of the movies, KOTOR features familiar elements from the galaxy but with the historical breathing room to tell its own compelling story; a story with its own twist that rivals “I am your father.”
The game’s light and dark side alignment system, galaxy-spanning story and unforgettable characters spawned an ill-fated sequel leaving fans screaming for a true followup. An MMO, titled simply, “The Old Republic,” similarly failed to satisfy but with news that Bioware is working on a new Star Wars RPG, the internet has been rapid with speculation of the return of Revan, be it in a remake or a sequel. Hopefully, that deal means more HK-47 too.
What was your favorite Star Wars game? Punch it to the comments and let us know!
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