With Force Unleashed 2 and more excitingly The Old Republic on the horizon, I couldn’t help but look back at some of the gaming gold that Lucasarts have provided us with over the years. In fact, I can’t remember a time that I didn’t enjoy playing Star Wars games having been reeled in by Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi on the SNES and Star Wars: A New Hope on the Game Gear, and it’s hardly surprising considering to date over 100 Star Wars games have been produced. What I’ve compiled here is a list of titles that transport you back to a galaxy far far away in all of its lightsabre wielding glory.
10. Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II
This was one of the first games that I really wanted but was hampered by my parent’s PC because it was so awful that it couldn’t run it, which is a theme that’s continued throughout my life in terms of PCs, so I had to resort to going round to my friends’ houses to marvel in the glow of the lightsabre between my character’s hands. That character was Kyle Katarn, who would quickly become integrated into the Expanded Universe’s mythology and would star in a couple of games that are a bit higher up this list. At the time the gameplay was great fun and the live action cutscenes were interesting to say the least; the standard of acting was so poor that it became amusing, but is it something that’s stood the test of time? I don’t think so.
9. Shadows of the Empire
Shadows of the Empire attempted to fill the gap between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of The Jedi, and if you get the chance to read the book I strongly advise you to because it’s one of the few Star Wars novels that’s worth picking up. Anyway going back to the game before I get too carried away, you take control of Dash Rendar a loveable rogue who’s helping Luke Skywalker to free Princess Leia from the clutches of the villainous Prince Xizor. I think this was the first time where I felt like I was romping around the universe in a similar fashion to Han Solo prior to when he joined forces with The Rebellion, which was a definite bonus and made a nice change to cruising around in a space ship or trying to become a Jedi Knight. The story wasn’t bad either and let you interact with classic characters such as Boba Fett and IG-88. Unfortunately, the game did have a couple of quirks that were pretty hard to overlook and ultimately reduced the enjoyment you got from the experience.
8. X-wing vs TIE Fighter
Multiplayer games have come a long way since this was released but X-wing vs TIE Fighter was and still is just as addictive as the polished titles that are being churned out today. When I was a kid simulator games were all the rage whether it was jumping into the pilot’s seat of a jet fighter or getting into an attack helicopter, they were the games that you longed to get hold of and if you didn’t have a joystick you’d happily try and steal one away from your friends computer when they weren’t looking so that you could get the full experience. Once you’d finally managed to load up the start screen for the game, you very quickly had to decide whether you were going to fight on behalf of the noble Rebel Alliance or the evil Empire, and I think a large part of the choice came down to which ship you preferred. When you made it into whichever battle you were dropped into, you’d immediately begin to track your enemies and gun them down whilst trying to manoeuvre around their incoming fire. I think you can still jump into this today and have a great time playing it and another good thing about the game was that it paved the way for the next title on the list.
7. Rogue Squadron
When I think back to the N64 generation, this is one of the games that I have fond memories of. We all watched Rogue Squadron nipping around causing havoc to the Imperial forces during the original film trilogy and I certainly wondered what it’d be like to get behind the wheel of an X-wing, as well as pretty much every other ship in the Star Wars universe to be honest, especially the Millennium Falcon. Rogue Squadron gave gamers access to a huge range of ships from X-wings, Y-wings, and A-wings, to the TIE interceptors and even the T-16 Skyhopper. It also contains the N64s best hidden code that allowed you to unlock the Naboo Starfighter, which was set up because the game was released six months before the release of The Phantom Menace.
6. Star Wars: Empire At War
I used to be a big RTS fan, Warcraft, Age of Empires, and Star Trek Armada, were all games that I loved to throw away entire weekends waging war on and I always thought that the Star Wars universe would lend itself well to the genre. Because of this I wasn’t surprised when Empire At Warcame out, but I wasn’t sure how well it was going to do because it included both space and ground battles, which immediately raised my concerns that the developers had tried to take too much on and may have rushed some aspects of the game in favour of others. That’s definitely not the case though because both aerial and land based battles are thoroughly enjoyable. Sending fleets of Star Destroyers into battle against Rebel forces is good fun and when you get onto a planet’s surface watching Darth Vader slowly making his way forward on the battlefield amongst AT-STs and AT-ATs, it really gives you a sense of power over a lesser force. However, taking control of the Rebels is far more rewarding, especially when you overcome the seemingly endless waves of Imperial forces.
5. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Running around as Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, blasting everything in sight with your force powers before getting in close and personal with your lightsabre is great fun to behold. Unfortunately, whilst the force powers are incredibly impressive, the lightsabre combat feels a little bit overshadowed in comparison. My greatest fear with this game was that the story line would be limited having been set between episodes III and IV, which meant that the developers would have to be careful not to disrupt the continuity between the two trilogies. Luckily though it slots in pretty well, although I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with both endings as well as just how short the game was.
4. Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast
Kyle Katarn’s journey continues in Jedi Outcast and this time he has to reconnect with the force in order to bring down a fallen Jedi and his apprentice. Jumping back into the Jedi Knight series you’d expect to grab your lightsabre and have the force as your ally right from the start, but instead you spend the first few levels with a blaster in FPS mode as the story unfolds. The switch to 3rd person comes once you’ve proved yourself and reclaimed your lightsabre, and from there your link with the force grows stronger. The story behind the game is wonderful thanks largely to some brilliant characters, including Desann and Tavion who are fantastic enemies.
3. Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
Customisation is the greatest string to Jedi Academy‘s bow. Finally, we were able to build a character to throw into the Star Wars universe with a number of races and other options available to choose from. The chance to alter your force powers as you see fit wasn’t a new feature to the Jedi Knight series but it comes to a head in Jedi Academy. Also, the later choice you get to make in terms of the lightsabre that you eventually wield was a particularly nice tough, and whilst I’m a big supporter of the classic single bladed lightsabre, being able to use two at the same time, or getting your hand on the double bladed lighsabre made famous by Darth Maul, isn’t exactly a bad thing.
2. Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
Knights of the Old Republic 2 is a rare thing because it’s a sequel that comes very close to eclipsing the original. I found that the more I played it, the more the improvements to the gameplay seemed to jump out at me. Sadly, there’s a turning point in the game when it goes over to the dark side and everything that began to impress you rapidly crumbles away. This is largely down to the fact that the game had to be rushed along in order to meet its final release date, which is a real shame because with a little bit more time we could have ended up with something very special that certainly would have reached the top of this list.
1. Knights of the Old Republic
I love the Knights of the Old Republic games because they allow you to completely lose yourself in the spectacular Star Wars universe along with everything it has to offer. Exploring the familiar planets is fascinating as you get a glimpse into their history, which is an entire section of the Expanded Universe that hasn’t been probed all that deeply. Conversation options are vast and include some that are dependant on which side of the force you’re aligned with, as well as providing you with the chance to influence a weak minded individual with a quick Jedi Mind trick. This is another game where customisation is key and you get to play the way you want to, which includes what clothes you wear and even lets you outfit your lightsabre with parts that can be collected from the numerous environments. It’s hard to see why anybody would dislike this game because there are so many possibilities for you to explore and yes the turn based combat isn’t as good as some of the other Star Wars games, but it certainly doesn’t take anything away from the experience.
Well that brings us to the end of this list and it’s a shame because there are so many great games bearing the Star Wars title, like Episode I: Racer, Star Wars: Galaxies, and Star Wars: Battlefront, which narrowly missed the final cut, but then again I guess it’s a big universe out there and not everything shines brightly.
First published on Dealspwn (31 August 2010)