This past weekend represents something that is significant to geeks all over the world – it was the 30th anniversary of the original Star Wars movie theatrical release. Many of us weren’t even born by then, but make no mistake; Star Wars had a huge influence on our lives as gamers throughout most of those 30 years.
Let’s take a look at some of the better games that have been released in the past 3 decades of our lives. First, some guidelines for this list:
- I am only listing games that I played, and that I liked personally. So this means that none of the strategy games will make it to this list, since I don’t play that genre. Nor will the Battlefront games, which I completely hated, even though they were generally well-received.
- Many of the games on the list have sequels; sometimes I list the first in a series, sometimes the second, etc. Whichever one I liked best makes it to the list.
With that out of the way, let’s go through the list, in chronological order!
Star Wars | Arcade | Space Shooter | 1983
If you’ve been following HCW Tech Blog, you’ll know that I didn’t start out in the arcades until the early 90’s with games like Bad Dudes vs. DRAGONNINJA and Ninja Gaiden. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the classics, because several arcades still carried some of the older games like Dragon’s Lair and this: Star Wars.
The vector graphics must have been really cool back in 1983, but what really attracted my attention was the elaborately decorated sit-down cockpit cabinet and the analog yoke joystick; and having music and sounds from the movie was cool as hell. Star Wars Arcade wasn’t exactly the #1 quarter sucker for me (after all, the same arcade had a full cockpit version of After Burner at the same time!), but it still stands as one of the best Star Wars video games ever.
Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back | SNES | Run n’ Gun | 1993
As you can see, there is a 10 year gap in my list of Star Wars games between 1983 and 1993. With the downfall of American video games in the 80’s, and most of the good games coming from Japan in the early 90’s, Star Wars wasn’t exactly given a lot of attention during that time. There were a few games here and there for the Atari systems and the NES, but the next really good Star Wars game wasn’t revealed until the SNES came out. The Super Star Wars series was great.
It was also a very difficult series; I chose the second of the trio, because it had a helpful password system, so you didn’t have to beat the game in one sitting (and once you get past the Dagobah stages, you are given all your Jedi powers when you continue from a password, even if you didn’t get them in the first place ;)). If you want to be transported to a time when video games were actually challenging, check this series out.
Star Wars: X-Wing | PC | Space Shooter Sim | 1993
If this wasn’t in chronological order, this game would be at the very top. X-Wing was the first game where you actually felt like you were truly part of the Star Wars universe, and not just controlling characters. The detailed story, complete with cut scenes and excellent iMUSE soundtrack really pulled you into the game. The control was perfect, the graphics were great, there just isn’t a better Star Wars game than this. Some folks will say TIE Fighter was better, and they might have a case. But for me, X-Wing is by far the best Star Wars game, and easily one of my favourite video games of all time. If there was one retro franchise that I would love to see revived on today’s platforms, this is it.
Star Wars: Dark Forces | PC | First Person Shooter | 1995
Ah, the mid-90’s First Person Shooter. Those were the good ol’ days… Well, maybe not. But for its time, Dark Forces was one of those games that was excellent regardless of the license. This could have been Doom or Wolfenstein or Duke Nukem, and it would have been almost as great. But the feeling of plowing through Imperial bases and starships with great-sounding weapons and equipment just put it over the top. And unlike other FPS games at the time, there is – get this – an actual plot. Yup, instead of “find the red key, find the red door, find the green key, find the green door,” everything you do in the game is based on an objective. And everything is explained in nice cut scenes, with a storyline that has lasted for a long time (as you’ll see later in this list).
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron | N64 | Action/Space Sim | 1998
I never owned an N64, so I didn’t get a lot of playtime with this one. But several of my friends had the console, and most of them owned this game. For good reason too; it was an incredibly fun flying action game, and one of the better looking games on the N64, thanks to its support of the Expansion Pak.
The game takes place between Episode IV and V, and of course, you play as Luke Skywalker. You do get to control various models of Rebel spacecraft, from the X-Wing, to the Y-Wing, B-Wing, and V-Wing. This was a highlight for the Nintendo 64, and several sequels followed for GameCube.
Check out the remaining 5 after the jump.
Star Wars Episode I: Racer | N64/Dreamcast/PC/Mac | Racing | 1999
Yes, if you can believe it, we have a game listed that is from the “new trilogy”. This wasn’t planned, but as I was compiling this list, I noticed that the best Star Wars games always seem to take place outside the movies, yet in the amazing Star Wars universe. There are some good games based on the original trilogy, as you can see. But as far as the new trilogy goes… Nothing, except for this one game that is based on a sequence in a movie that was so obviously intended to promote the video game in the first place.
Luckily, the game itself is pretty good, so we can’t hold it against LucasArts too hard. Racer was a pretty fun multiplayer game, and introduced a new style of racing video games. And best of all, you could really feel a sense of speed while playing it (well, not so much on the N64 version).
Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast | PC/XBOX/GameCube/Mac | Action FPS | 2002
Remember when I mentioned that Dark Forces had a great plot that lasted through several sequels? Well 7 years and expansion packs later, Kyle Katarn is back. In full 3D. I was addicted to the PC version of JKII for quite a while; the familiar Imperial environments of the first few levels felt so… right.
But what really makes this game special is the Light Saber battle system. Never before has a game gotten hand-to-hand combat in an action game so right. The controls are simple, yet robust enough that it takes some skill to defeat the harder enemies. And amazingly enough, this translated quite well in the multiplayer mode. Jedi Knight II bring back some fond memories for me, but also some bad ones. I jumped right into buying Jedi Academy, thinking it would follow up on the greatness of JKII. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic | XBOX/PC | RPG | 2003
Despite hearing how great it was for quite some time, I didn’t get into KOTOR until a bit late. XBOX 1 was one of the few consoles I never owned, so I didn’t pay much attention to it, or the PC port. Eventually, after looking for a good PC RPG, I came across it in 2004. Luckily, I didn’t miss the boat entirely. What a great game!
If you are like I was, and wasn’t turned on by the fact that this game is based on a Star Wars comic that takes place some 4000 years before the movies, do whatever you can now to obtain this game. The story will have you hooked, the battles will keep you playing, and the deep character development will have you tweaking your characters non-stop. Skip the sequel.
Star Wars: Galaxies | PC | MMORPG | 2003
I bought Galaxies right away, back when it was merely a crappy MMORPG, and not the debacle it eventually turned out to be. This is another one of those games that is on the verge of not making the Top 10 list. It does manage to squeak in though, because at its best, it is a cool way to be a part of the Star Wars universe full-time, without having to get too involved in the plot of the movies. If, like me, you have always had that urge to be a wookiee, well now is your chance. You can just be a Wookiee, and chill out in the canteena for a bit before doing some hunting. That is, before SOE listened to the whiners and complainers, and completely ruined the game once and for all.
Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy | Everything | Action/Adventure | 2006
Yes, LEGO Star Wars. That kids game. The game that was released for PC, XBOX, PS2, XBOX 360, PSP, DS, GameCube, Gameboy Advance, and even Mac.
There’s not much to say about the game itself; it is about as simple as an action game gets. But there is just something so… irresistibly appealing about seeing the original story take place in Lego form.
If you balked at playing a ‘Lego game’ do yourself a favour and check out the demo at least. I think you’ll agree that it has a certain charm. And if you can look past the light gameplay, you might just get hooked ;)