*Originally published December 16, 2016.
With the Star Wars Universe cinematically expanding beyond its episode installments, we thought it would be a good time to revisit some of the other onscreen narratives that took us deeper into this universe with new worlds, new characters, and new mythology. Typically, when we discuss the now defunct Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU) we talk about the novels and comics, and while those were impressive in their own right, it shouldn’t be forgotten that more than any other intellectual property, we’ve had a surplus of wonderful Star Wars games. So dust off the ol’ joystick and join us as we count down the top 10 Star Wars Video Games.
10. Star Wars: Dark Forces (1995)
This 1995 PC first-person shooter introduced us to mercenary Kyle Katarn, who would become a mainstay in the Star Wars EU, going on to appear in a long running series of video games, books, and comics. Taking place prior to Star Wars, Dark Forces was the first of the Star Wars: Jedi Knight series and followed Katarn, who on behalf of the Rebel Alliance, is sent to steal the Death Star plans (sound familiar?) His quest leads him to uncover the Dark Trooper project, robotic Stormtroopers, which he must destroy in the name of the Rebels. While of course the graphics looks pretty shoddy by today’s standards, Dark Forces employed engaging gameplay that allowed players to use a variety of blasters and detonators from the Star Wars Universe, and was our first glimpse at LucasArts ability to create games that had lasting ramifications of the Star Wars EU.
9. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Hold on, hold on. I know the general consensus towards Episode I is, to put it mildly, a shit-storm of negativity, but the game adaptation for the PC and Playstation is a blast. No, the overall story isn’t different from the movies but the game allowed you to take control of Obi-Wan and carve your way through a multitude of trade federation forces, while also allowing for some semi-open world exploration. Think of it as a Star Wars-set Prince of Persia, with plenty of chasm jumping and mildly challenging puzzle solving to go along with the action beats.
8. Star Wars Battlefront (2015)
Hitting that sweet release spot right before The Force Awakens, Star Wars Battlefront managed to capitalize on the excitement of a new film franchise, and gamers’ familiarity with the previous Star Wars Battlefront series from the mid-2000s. Released for the current generation of consoles as well as PC, the arena set first-person shooter took players to familiar locales in the Star Wars universe while providing the online multiplayer experience that fans of Battlefield, Call of Duty, and Halo had been looking for. Simply put, Star Wars Battlefront is the best looking Star Wars game we’ve seen. The attention to detail in creating authentic worlds, combat maneuvers, and sounds effects is unmatched. But for all of its great detail and engaging gameplay, Battlefront is missing a campaign story that could have truly elevated the game. Here’s hoping next year’s Star Wars Battlefront II solves that.
7. Star Wars Rogue Squadron (1998)
Star Wars Rogue Squadron is excellence through simplicity. Taking place before The Empire Strikes Back, Rogue Squadron was a PC and Nintendo 64 game that put players in Luke Skywalker’s cockpit as he and the Rogue Squadron take on the forces of the Empire. Rogue Squadron remains one of the best space combat games, and earns extra points for its varied enemies and mission types. Not only could players take control of the X-Wing, but also the Y-Wing, A-Wing, V-Wing, and snowspeeder. Success was measured through shot accuracy, enemies destroyed, and mission completion. The distinction of vehicles and landscapes prevented the game from becoming repetitive, which so many of this game’s imitators were. While Rogue Squadron didn’t add to the mythos, it was an absolute blast to play.
6. Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (2002)
Players once again returned to the story of Kyle Katarn, with the added benefit of Katarn now being force-sensitive. Released for PC, Xbox, and Gamecube, Jedi Knight’s gameplay allowed players to switch between first-person shooter and third-person for use of the lightsaber and force abilities. To my knowledge this was the first game to really let gamers take advantage of the lightsaber, with combat focusing on combos and saber battles. While the gameplay was the main selling point at the time, the story also gave players a look at a post-Return of the Jedi universe and featured familiar faces like Luke, Lando, and Mon Mothma. The game begins with Katarn having forsaken the force, and his journey to reclaim it leads to the most emotionally satisfying game in the Star Wars: Jedi Knight series.
5. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (2008)
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed offered an alternate Star Wars timeline where in the years leading up to A New Hope, Darth Vader trained a secret apprentice, Starkiller, to help him overthrow the emperor. Released for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, The Force Unleashed was one of the most hyped game of its generation. While the game’s story is too brief for its ambition, The Force Unleashed makes up for it with some fantastic gameplay and top-notch voice acting from Sam Witwer (who would later go on to voice Darth Maul in Clone Wars and Rebels). For the first time in Star Wars video gaming, The Force Unleashed allowed players to take full control of various force abilities with devastating effects on enemies and environment and feel pretty damn cool while doing so.
4. Star Wars Racer Revenge (2002)
Eight years after The Phantom Menace, everyone’s favorite Dug, Sebulba challenges Anakin to a new podracing tournament. This PS2 game was set on a variety of tracks with interactive environments, players picked from a number of their favorite podracers (Aldar Beedo, Dud Bolt, Ben Quadinaros, you know those guys) and raced against their teammates while also engaging in some offensive action by ramming the other podracers until they crash. A skillful balance of speed, precision, and ramming action, Racer Revenge is simple, yet endlessly entertaining proof that Episode I is the gift that keeps on giving.
3. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (2004)
Set 4,000 years before Episode I, this Xbox and PC RPG put players in control of the Exile, a former Jedi Knight who must gather a force of remaining Jedi to destroy the Sith, who have since taken over the galaxy. The gameplay is very similar to the first Knights of the Old Republic, despite it not being a BioWare game. As fun as the gameplay is, the game’s true strength comes from the character interactions and relationships the Exile develops with their crew. The Sith Lords uses the choice system, allowing players to select dialogue that can lead to friendships, romances, or rivalries. These choices also employ a morality gauge, letting the player choose whether the Exile remains on the path of the Jedi or falls to the dark side. Though a rushed production schedule left the game’s ending a bit lacking, The Sith Lords created a fully immersive Star Wars experience that no Star Wars game has manage to capture since.
2. Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy (2003)
Released for PC and Xbox, the final chapter of the Star Wars: Jedi Knight series employed game mechanics similar to Jedi Outcast, but Kyle Katarn took a backseat so players could craft their own character and lightsaber. In Jedi Academy players took the galaxy and Kyle Katarn’s apprentice and took on a Sith Cult, which is just as sinister as it sounds. The gameplay differed based on the style of lightsaber the player chose, ranging from a single blade, dual-wield, and a double-sided lightsaber. In terms of action and lightsaber battles, Jedi Academy is a top-notch Star Wars game that should serve as the template for EA as they move forward with the current generation of Star Wars games. It’s tough to track down a hard copy, but if you play one game in the Jedi Knight series, make sure it’s this one!
1. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003)
This is it! The masterpiece of Star Wars video gaming! Like the aforementioned Sith Lords, Knights of the Old Republic is an Xbox and PC RPG that allows players to design their character, forge relationships, and choose the path of the dark side or the light side. Taking place 4,000 years before the events of the films, the game put you in the shoes of an ordinary protagonist who discovers his or her legacy within the force, and aids famed Jedi Bastila Shawn and a ragtag team against Darth Malak and his Star Forge. If you explore every avenue and side mission of the game, you’ll find an experience that’s just as rewarding as the original Star Wars. We’ve talked about plenty of great gameplay on this list, and Knights of the Old Republic is no different, despite its click based fighting. But where the game truly excels is in its design. For the first time, Star Wars fans were allowed to experience a new era of Star Wars on their screens, and revel in the design parallels and differences that led to the familiar elements of the movies. Knights took video game world-building to new heights and set the stage for everything we love about BioWare’s current franchises Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Every game on this list is a blast to play, but only Knights of the Old Republic had an emotional weight that lasted long after the game’s end. It stands as a triumphant testament of what video games are capable of and what Star Wars is capable of when allowed the freedom to explore its mythos.
— Onkel Jockel (@DrJookel) December 1, 2016
— Rogue Dan (@Danburden1138) December 1, 2016
— Diego Christmas (@deggowaffles) December 1, 2016
— Master Splinter ♌ (@TheRiddler109) December 1, 2016
What? Ep. 1 had great games.
— Nathanael Hood (@NateHood257) December 1, 2016
— Mason Daniel (@BuddyBoyBaxter) December 1, 2016
— Eric Jones (@deacon05oc) December 1, 2016
— R2-DTroy (@theonlytroyever) December 1, 2016
— Apologetic with Care (@MrGChristopher) December 1, 2016
— TheJollyMattC (@TheRealMattC) December 1, 2016
— Tyler Heberle (@TylerHeberle) December 1, 2016
@RICHARDLNEWBY Knights of the Old Republic 2. Freaking amazing how it basically pulls off a PTSD tale about a morally neutral Force.
— Andrew Hathaway (@cantstopdrew) December 1, 2016
— Joe (@hastij04) December 1, 2016
@RICHARDLNEWBY I haven’t played it in years, but I remember Star Wars Republic Commandos being an absolute blast.
— Ryan Horner (@wilsonlives) December 1, 2016
— m. brown (@twodollarcinema) December 1, 2016
— Sean W. Fallon (@Equiatic_Bind) December 1, 2016
— Sean W. Fallon (@Equiatic_Bind) December 1, 2016
— Merry Scrubfather™ (@Metalloud) December 1, 2016
— Merry Scrubfather™ (@Metalloud) December 1, 2016
— Adam Davis (@AdamDavis83) December 1, 2016
Although I loved Dark Forces….
— Joe Fruscione (@ProfessorEx74) December 1, 2016
— Merry Lupe (@theLupeXperienc) December 1, 2016
— Matt Guringo (@EmperorOTN) December 1, 2016
— Jay 🐦 (@Cripplegoth) November 30, 2016
Featured Image: EA