Ranking The Top 30 Star Wars Games
In honor of The Last Jedi's release, we are republishing our list of the 30 best games that take place in a galaxy far, far away. This feature was originally published in December 2015.
Game Informer's office is usually as quiet as a library; the sounds of keyboards rapidly being clicked is often all you hear. Today the office is filled with the chatter of anxious Star Wars fans. The conversations range from people huddling together to discuss their favorite Star Wars movies and moments within them, to Jeff Cork pointing a damning finger at every person on staff, warning them not to spoil the movie for him or else.
Image source: Platypus Comix
Image source: The Strong
Given this is a video game outlet first and foremost, the discussions also lead to video games and the prolific impact Star Wars has had on our favorite entertainment medium. Game developers saw the potential Star Wars had in the video games realm from the moment the film debuted on the silver screen in 1977. Some of these creators were so certain this science-fiction universe would transition to the interactive space that they didn't even get the rights for the Star Wars property, but still decided to release their games. In 1978, a year after Star Wars: A New Hope opened in theaters, the reputable Apple Computer released an unlicensed Star Wars game called Starwars on cassette tape for the Apple II. The game, which you can play in your web browser today, is an enjoyable little TIE Fighter shooting gallery.
The first officially licensed Star Wars "video game" arrived a year later in 1979. Dubbed Electric Battle Command, this Kenner developed game prominently displayed an X-Wing, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia on the game's standalone hardware, but the gameplay didn't have much to do with Star Wars at all, and pushed the player to avoid black holes and locate the "Force-giving star."
A true console Star Wars game didn't arrive until Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was released on Atari 2600 in 1982 (two years after the film graced theaters). Like most games of the era, Atari shunned the movie plot and focused specifically on one action element: the Battle of Hoth. The only gameplay offered allowed the player to pilot a snow speeder and take out an endless stream of AT-ATs by shooting their glowing exhaust ports.
As crude as it was, the success of this title made Star Wars a permanent fixture in video games, from popular RPGs like BioWare's Knights of the Old Republic to oddities like The Yoda Chronicles for mobile devices. In the decades that followed, there are dozens of Star Wars games every Star Wars fan should get around to playing, and dozens more that they should avoid like Jabba the Hutt's bathroom.
Most members of the Game Informer staff have played more Star Wars games than they can recall, and are avid fans of the films, expanded fiction, and collectibles. We spent a few days bickering over the best Star Wars games to date, and spent a few more arguing over the order they should be arranged in on our Top 30 list. Why 30? That's the cutoff between the playable and fun games and the prequel-like missteps.
We hope you enjoy this journey through video games' exploration of a galaxy far, far away. And for the sake of Star Wars fans everywhere, we hope The Force Awakens blows your socks off, and is so good and true to the original trilogy that it becomes the subject matter for another dozen Star Wars games for the years ahead.
As always, we welcome all discussions, arguments, and personal Star Wars video game lists in our comments section below. Enjoy the read, and may the Force be with you!
30. Star Wars: Jedi Power Battles
PlayStation, Dreamcast - 2000
Few Star Wars games are as demanding of skill as LucasArts’ Jedi Power Battles, a lightsaber-focused experience that demands twitch reflexes to deflect laser blasts and hack battle droids to bits. Set during the events of The Phantom Menace, Jedi Power Battles shows the Jedi in their prime, allowing the player to suit up as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Adi Gallia, Plo Koon, and Qui-Gon Jinn. The Conehead-like Ki-Adi-Mundi is also available, but only in the Dreamcast version, which released a year after the PlayStation incarnation. Completing the game unlocks additional characters like Darth Maul (one of the best characters in the game), Queen Amidala, and her bodyguard Captain Panaka.
Jedi Power Battles is best played cooperatively with two Jedi darting and flipping across Trade Federation encampments. Performing well in combat earns players currency that can be used to purchase additional attacks and Force abilities. Outside of the blistering difficulty, the game’s biggest drawback is its platforming sequences. Given the set camera perspective, it’s difficult to determine jumping angles and heights. This aspect of the game is made even worse through the preferred co-op experience, as movement by the other character can make the terrain scroll and up the difficulty of a jump. Regardless of this puzzling gameplay design, Jedi Power Battles is of the best Star Wars games based on the prequel movies.
29. Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, PC, Mac – 2007
Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga is not your typical collection. Along with all of the content included in Lego Star Wars: The Video Game and Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, Traveller’s Tales created a wealth of new material, redesigned levels that weren’t clicking, and went well out of its way to make this experience feel new again. The Complete Saga is a massive Lego game; consisting of 36 story-based missions, and 20 bounty hunter stages. Traveller’s Tales also went back and finished two levels that were cut from the original games.
With over 120 characters and an extra layer of visual polish for the new-gen machines of the time, The Complete Saga was a no-brainer for Star Wars fans, and an experience that raised the bar for all Lego games moving forward.
28. Star Wars: Battle Pod
Arcade – 2014
The days of the hole-in-the-wall arcade are long behind us, but larger establishments like Dave & Busters appear to be flourishing, and game developers are releasing a surprising number of new games in these venues. From a new Batman racing experience to a new Jurassic Park shooter, some of the biggest licenses in entertainment are making big splashes in arcades. One of the most surprising (and entertaining) new coin-op games is Star Wars: Battle Pod, a 2014 release from Bandai Namco.
Holding true to its name, Battle Pod is an egg-shaped unit that doubles as a cockpit for a variety of Star Wars vessels, including a X-Wing and speeder bike. Battle Pod recreates the famous battles from the classic trilogy of films, but in a way where the action never wavers from being absolutely insane. The vehicles are pulled along a predetermined path, but the gameplay still demands twitch reflexes to knock TIE Fighters out of the sky and trip up AT-ATs. The action is frantic, fun, but quick to the point that it feels like it ends just as quickly as it began. Battle Pod is as enjoyable of a rail-shooter as it is a Star Wars experience. If you’re near an arcade, poke your head in to see if they have Battle Pod. It’s well worth five minutes of your time.
27. Star Wars Battlefront (2015)
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC - 2015
Echoing Battle Pod’s flighty experience, DICE’s multiplayer-focused Battlefront reboot delivers Star Wars authenticity like no game before it, but its content well dries up quick, and subjects the player to the same routines on the same maps. But those moments when Battlefront shines, it can be fantastic, making the simple exchange of laser fire with a squadron of storm troopers exciting and look every bit as good as George Lucas’ films. Just standing beneath a lumbering AT-AT is awe-inspiring. Getting the chance to mow down rebel troopers as Darth Vader or the Emperor are equally as thrilling moments.
Although I only gave Battlefront a 7.5 out of 10, I admire DICE’s design and hope the year of content ahead adds the depth that is missing from the retail game. An excerpt from my review: “The Death Star hangs ominously over a war erupting on the forest moon of Endor. A cacophony of laser fire lights up the darkened tree canopy, drowned out by the clanking of an Imperial AT-ST on the march. The walker is clearing a path to a hidden Rebel base deep within the forest. If this stronghold falls, the war is over.
The Rebels are outgunned and seconds away from defeat when Luke Skywalker’s iconic green lightsaber ignites and he springs to action. Luke bats away Storm troopers like flies, chops down the AT-ST, and the Rebels suddenly have momentum again. The tide of war has shifted to their advantage.
Almost every conflict in Star Wars Battlefront unfolds with this level of intensity and drama – moments that often parallel the excitement from George Lucas’ original trilogy of Star Wars films. From the large scale of the battles to the spot-on animation of the AT-STs, DICE has created the most authentic Star Wars video game experience to date.
The thrill of piloting an X-Wing fighter or soaring through the air as Boba Fett doesn’t last forever, however. Once the magic of stepping into the movies wears off, Star Wars Battlefront doesn’t give the player much to fight for. For developer DICE, the seasoned studio behind the long-running Battlefield series, Star Wars Battlefront is surprisingly light on maps, weapons, and progression systems. The feeling of extreme repetition sinks in early, and outside of enjoying the minute-to-minute Star Wars warfare, hardly any of the unlockables deliver a compelling reason to invest more time. You’re just hopping from match to match, recycling the same tactics and seizing the same points.”
26. Star Wars: Rebel Assault
II – The Hidden Empire
Sega CD, 3DO, PC – 1995
Star Wars: Rebel Assault II is by all intents and purposes a terrible game, but it’s also a hilarious one that uses live-action Star Wars footage to tell a story that is as jaw-droppingly bad as the Star Wars Holiday Special. To put it another way, it’s so bad it’s good. If you haven’t played this game yet, track it down, Star Wars fans. You need to see the story of Rookie One, a Tatooine farmer who isn’t Luke Skywalker, unfold in horrible ways with some of the worst acting to ever grace a video game.
25. Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter
PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC – 2002
The sleek Delta-7 Aethersprite-class light interceptor (more commonly known as the Jedi starfighter) is the centerpiece of this excellent space shooter from LucasArts. Serving as a side story to Attack of the Clones, Jedi Starfighter follows the exploits of Jedi Master Adi Gallia and a mercenary named Nym. Gallia flies the Jedi Starfighter while Nym provides bombing support in a Havoc.
Although not developed by Factor 5 – the team behind the Rogue Squadron series – the influence of those games is strongly felt in the dogfighting mechanics and mission designs. Force powers are also sewn into the mix in a unique but befuddling way. At any point, Gallia can use the Force to deploy shields, lightning, shockwaves, or enhanced reflexes. These elements make the gameplay more dynamic, but don’t hold true to the Star Wars lore from the motion pictures.
Another interesting twist are hidden mission objectives in each mission. Once discovered and completed, the player is rewarded with new spacecraft (including Maul’s Interceptor), as well as additional stages and bonuses. Jedi Starfighter is never talked about in the same breath as Rogue Squadron or X-Wing, but is surprisingly one of the classic Star Wars games Sony recently added to PlayStation 4. The game still holds up well today and is worth a look.
24. Star Wars: Empire at War
PC – 2006
The Star Wars universe is a perfect fit for the real-time strategy genre, and Petroglyph Games’ Empire at War shows us just how fun huge clashes can be. Battles unfold on planet surfaces where ground troops and vehicles march for victory, and in orbit where capital clash starships like Star Destroyers share the same space as microscopic sea of X-Wings and TIE Fighters.
Although Petroglyph employed a number of key members from Westwood Studios’ Command & Conquer team, Empire at War was a unique strategy game, moving away from the model of building bases for resources to controlling the galaxy for currency to build armies.
The flow of battle is dictated mostly by vehicle-based strategies that have a surprising amount of depth, but the tide can quickly turn when a hero or villain like Darth Vader or Leia Organa Solo rallied the troops. The victory states are just as fun as the core game, pushing the player to kill the Emperor or Mon Mothma, and blow up or use the Death Star.
23. Star Wars
Arcade – 1983
One of the most popular arcade games of all time, Star Wars did its best to capture the intensity of the Rebel’s battle against the Death Star. The game’s stylish 3D vector graphics capture the detail of the Death Star, deliver the sensation of roaring through its trenches, and despite their age, still look stunning today.
Star Wars is a short game, allowing most players to see it through to the end from just a handful of quarters. The action unfolds across three missions, all seen from the first-person vantage point of Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing. The first stage is a confrontation against Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter. The next stage is on the Death Star’s surface, tasking the player to take down turrets and towers. The final (most memorable) stage is the trench run, complete with the “one-in-a-million-shot” moment. If you the player doesn’t hit the exhaust port, they are placed back in the trench for another run, only with less shielding. Atari even pumps Obi-Wan’s voice through the arcade’s speakers to get the player into the moment.
Star Wars was successfully adapted to numerous consoles of the day, including the Atari 5200 and Commodore 64.
22. Star Wars: TIE Fighter
PC – 1994
Basing a video game off of a spacecraft that has the reputation of being one of the easiest to shoot out of the sky may sound like a horrible idea, but TIE Fighter showed us a skilled pilot can turn the Imperial’s lightly armored warbird into a viable threat against the Rebel Alliance. Played from the third- or first-person perspectives, TIE Fighter focuses heavily on dogfighting against Rebel X-Wings, but also shows how a TIE fighter is used for escorting larger Imperial vessels. Throughout the game, the player gets the chance to check out other TIE craft like the sleek Interceptor and deadly bomber.
The gameplay is surprisingly sophisticated, balancing intense exchanges of fire with the need to balance the TIE systems, such as rerouting power between laser and ion cannons. TIE Fighter is a tough game from the outset, made even more challenging by procedural damage can knock out the TIE’s displays and leave the player blind.
While offering a number of innovations over X-Wing, the thrill of siding with the Empire doesn’t resonate as much as flying Republic craft, the experience offered in TIE Fighter’s precursor, X-Wing. TIE Fighter is a respectable space sim that ended up being a proof of concept of sorts for its exceptional sequel, X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter.
21. Star Wars: Battle for Naboo
Nintendo 64, PC – 2000
In 2000, as Star Wars fans waited patiently for George Lucas to release Attack of the Clones in theaters, LucasArts did its best to make that wait less painless with an overabundance of games based on The Phantom Menace. One of the better games to come out of this glut of releases is Factor 5’s Battle for Naboo.
Running on an enhanced version of the Rogue Squadron engine, Factor 5 kicks off Battle for Naboo with the death of Jar Jar Binks. Yes, you read that correctly. As a joke, the Nintendo 64 logo crushes him just as he opens his stupid mouth to say something dumb. This excellent introduction gives way to an excellent vehicle-based experience, focusing heavily on the Naboo Starfighter. Other vehicles come into play within the game’s 15 missions, including surprises like sea battles and a stage that places the player on a ground-mounted stap (the Trade Federation’s version of a speeder biker).
While lacking the larger-scale conflicts from Factor 5’s Rogue Squadron titles, Battle for Naboo offers a fun challenge that adds some context and scale to the Trade Federation’s invasion of Theed. It’s not canon anymore, but we all know Anakin Skywalker had plenty of help in knocking out the Droid Control Ship’s shield generator.
20. Star Wars: Jedi Knight – Dark Forces II
PC – 1997
We rarely see sequels deviate from the original game’s formula as much as Raven’s Dark Forces sequel does. While still offering a traditional first-person shooter experience that syncs up with Dark Forces’ minute-to-minute play, Jedi Knight also wants to be a third-person experience that pushes the player to use a lightsaber and Force powers.
The lightsaber is unlocked in the fourth level, and from that moment on, Jedi Knight is an entirely different game than its predecessor. Yes, players can still focus on gunplay if they want, but the lightsaber becomes an instrumental part of the gameplay, being used to deflect laser fire and even illuminate darkened corridors.
The lightsaber gameplay is the weakest (and roughest) part of the game, but the Force powers opened up new opportunities for the gunplay. Super speed and a mega-jump allow the player to attack from different vectors. Dark side powers can also be obtained to obliterate foes, without having to worry about protagonist Kyle Katarn turning to the Sith. Raven factors in the new powers into the level designs, but to a fault. All too often the player is pushed to thoroughly explore the vast areas for switches or openings.
Jedi Knight tells a decent story set a year after the events of Return of the Jedi. The expansion pack Mysteries of the Sith further dives into this lore, which is unfortunately no longer a part of the Star Wars universe.
19. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
Nintendo 64, PC – 1996
Long before Star Wars became a weekly fixture in comic books and novels, LucasFilm created a multimedia event out of a new story that bridged the gap between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, a period George Lucas wouldn’t let any storyteller explore. Shadows of the Empire released as a novel, comic book, video game, board game, and generated a wealth of merchandise, from action figures to a sound track. The only thing it didn’t get was a movie, something Lucas wishes he would have created.
The Shadows of the Empire game introduced gamers to Dash Rendar, a smuggler who joined the Rebel Alliance at the Battle of Hoth. Seeing this iconic war unfold from a new perspective was fascinating, and was a great primer for the adventure ahead. Although Shadows of the Empire’s graphics aged poorly, it was a visually impressive game at the time, showing off the scale of the vehicles, such as an AT-ST running amok in Echo Base.
Rendar’s personality echoed Han Solo’s a little too closely (including a ship that looked suspiciously like the Millennium Falcon), but the story remained strong, pitting him against the likes of IG-88 and Boba Fett. Rendar also had a hand in obtaining the plans for the second Death Star.
A lot of Shadows of the Empire’s thrills came from learning more about what happened between films, but the third-person running and gunning gameplay also proved to be quite fun in a somewhat chaotic way. The game launched as a Nintendo 64 exclusive, and released a year later on PC.
18. Star Wars Pinball
Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Vita, 3DS, PC, iOS, Android – 2013
Zen Studios did a masterful job of taking familiar elements from Star Wars and translating them to pinball. With tables based on Boba Fett, The Clone Wars, Rebels, the individual films, and more, the studio had a wealth of content to work with. Even though your interactions are limited to flippers, each entry provides a faithful adaptation of the beloved source material.
Pinball wizards can take out sandcrawlers, defeat the Emperor, and – perhaps most memorably – spend some quality time with Han Solo on the Millenium Falcon in his themed table. The sights and sounds of trying to fight the Empire while dealing with various mechanical snafus perfectly encapsulates what we love about Star Wars. When in doubt, bang on things with a space wrench.
17. Star Wars: The Old Republic
PC – 2011
Every intelligent Star Wars fan wants BioWare to create Knights of the Old Republic III, but if you’re really hungry for that story-based Star Wars experience, The Old Republic offers no less than eight story campaigns to explore. Additionally, BioWare continues to expand the game since its 2011 launch with space battles, a higher level cap, greater cosmetic customization, and a full single-player RPG called Knights of the Fallen Empire.
The storytelling is solid with excellent voice acting and meaningful choices as to how you develop your character. There are even romantic options with party members. While it can be played mostly solo, cooperative flashpoints, star battles, and other PvP content, bring players together in meaningful ways.
The Old Republic continues to carve out stories in a time of the Star Wars universe that remains to fleshed out, leaving plenty of freedom for encounters between Jedi, Sith, and the rest of the intriguing character archetypes of the time.
16. Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance
PC – 1999
In this final entry to the X-Wing series, developer Totally Games shines the spotlight on the Millennium Falcon and other similarly designed multi-person vessels. The player can freely switch between piloting these craft or manning their turrets and weapon systems. When the flight controls are unmanned, the AI takes over, and does a respectable job of keeping the player on track.
X-Wing Alliance also welcomes the addition of multi-part mission objectives that sometimes require hyperspace jumps between star systems. The one area where this title falls short is in storytelling. If you haven’t heard of a Star Wars character named Ace Azzameen before, there’s good reason, as he’s as forgetful as they come. Despite the disappointing narrative, X-Wing Alliance is the first title in the series to feature voice work – a nice touch that further channels the cinematic qualities of Star Wars.
15. Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Super Nintendo – 1994
Maybe we were just hungry for new Star Wars experiences in 1994, or there’s a chance our standards for acceptable difficulty in video games was different back then, but for whatever reason, Sculptured Software’s “Super” Star Wars series was (and is) highly regarded. Just not for the gameplay. All three entries in this series are brutally difficult and messy, but are loaded with fun Star Wars sights and sounds.
Empire Strikes Back was the most enjoyable installment in this series (and perhaps the least difficult). From Hoth to Cloud City, Sculpted twisted the iconic moments from the film in fun ways, including a battle against a 100-foot-tall wampa. Luke Skywalker, who was a laser sponge in the first game, comes into his own in this entry with Force powers like the ability to deflect laser fire. His usage of the Force makes the gameplay easier.
By no means should people revisit these games with the intent of finishing them, but to see how absurd Star Wars could be with endless waves of monsters and strange interpretations of the films’ key moments. Odds are you’ll make it through more of Empire than any other series entry.
14. Star Wars: Republic Commando
Xbox, PC – 2005
Jango Fett’s DNA runs through every clone trooper, but we rarely see how deadly they can be in any of the feature films. The Clone Wars cartoon best highlights the clone troopers’ talents, diving deep into their personalities, but our first real taste of them becoming individuals with unique skillsets came from Republic Commando, a first-person shooter from LucasArts.
The game focuses on a squadron of four troopers (Boss, Scorch, Fixer, and Sev), each wearing personalized armor and carrying different weapons to splatter Geonosis bugs. Picking up at the tail end of the events in Attack of the Clones, Republic Commando spans two years, and shows how instrumental they were in dismantling the Trade Federation. Their mission brings them to derelict a star destroyer, and they even spend a little time with Master Yoda.
As rounds are unloaded into the Separatist army, Republic Commando makes great use of squad controls, allowing the player to send a sharpshooter to a sniper point, a hacker to open a door, and the weapons expert to light up the droid forces with a well a placed Thermal Detonator. The on-the-fly squad control may sound fairly complex, but the system that LucasArts has developed couldn’t be easier to use.
“Although the controls fit as comfortably as Master Chief’s glove, the targeting system is too demanding of precision, especially when you are required to unload dozens of rounds into certain enemy types,” I wrote in my review. “If you don’t have armor-breaking rounds, a Super Battle Droid can be just as annoying as the new dance number in Return of the Jedi. Airborne foes are also quite difficult to tag at a successful rate.”
I also criticized the game for its lack of enemy variety, but praised the concept and mission variety. A sequel titled Imperial Commando was planned and entered development at LucasArts, but never made it past the conceptual stages before it was canceled.
13. Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, 3DS, PSP, DS, PC – 2011
The most ambitious and entertaining Lego Star Wars game is based off of the The Clone Wars animated series. Delivering the same great brick-busting action as the Lego games based on the prequel and classic movie trilogies, Lego Star Wars III experiments with the tried-and-true formula through new RTS-inspired stages, which successfully capture the essence of large-scale ground battles.
“Base building, resource management, and carefully plotted strategies are all a part of the mix, but in execution, the RTS elements are light, and so easy to comprehend that even non-gamers should figure them out in a few minutes,” I said in my review. “In addition to crushing the opposing forces (which could be the Republic or Separatists, depending on who you choose) the goal of the RTS levels is to secure territories. With each occupied territory, new building options become available. You can build a wide variety of vehicles (all of which can be controlled), as well as troops (which you can order to attack specific targets), shield generators, torpedo stations, and should the victory conditions call for it, an escape pod. All of the vehicles control exceptionally well and offer varying tactical strengths. The one problem that these levels run into is the AI almost comes across as pacifistic. They'll destroy approaching vehicles and will throw up a shield, but they never push back or rally to protect their bases. The true nemesis ends up being the clock. Early in the game, before the stud multiplier and invincibility red bricks can be purchased, completing a stage in a set amount of time can be difficult. The RTS levels are abundant, and a great addition to Traveller's Tales' well-worn LEGO gameplay. In co-op games, targeting can also be a bit problematic due to the lack of camera control offered to the players.”
The Clone Wars offers 114 playable characters, an exceptional design for cooperative play, and some of the best level designs in any Lego game to date. You even unlock characters from the classic and prequel trilogies.
12. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
Nintendo 64, PC – 1998
Totally Games’ X-Wing series sadly didn’t continue, but Star Wars fans itching to get back into the skies weren’t left hanging for long. In Rogue Squadron, Factor 5 moves away from X-Wing’s complex weapon and targeting systems and embraces a simplicity that better captures swift maneuvers of Star Wars’ vehicles. Dozens of TIE Fighters can be blown out of the sky with ease, and evasive maneuvers through narrow passages is as simple as performing a barrel roll. Simply put, Factor 5 made players feel like highly trained (and accomplished) Republic fighter pilots.
The X-Wing, Y-Wing, snowspeeder, A-Wing, and lesser-known V-Wing are all controllable in missions set outside of the feature films. Through play, the Battle of Hoth, Beggar’s Canyon, and The Death Star Trench run (perhaps the most polished levels in the game) become available.
Rogue Squadron opened our eyes to a new kind of Star Wars experience on both console and PC, and set the stage for something even better.
11. Star Wars Episode I: Racer
Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, PC – 1999
Odds are many of you don’t have fond memories of the pod racing sequence from The Phantom Menace. You will hear some people say that pod racing is an interesting idea with poor execution in the movie. You’ll hear other people say that that unique vision of racing is best captured in LucasArts Nintendo 64 game, Star Wars Episode I: Racer. The Nintendo 64’s graphics doesn’t offer the best draw distance for vehicles roaring at breakneck speeds, but the sense of speed is brilliantly captured, turning any narrow straightaway or hairpin turn into a nerve-racking and immensely satisfying experience.
Along with Anakin’s familiar pod, Racer gives us a better look at his rival Sebulba (who is equipped with a kick-ass flamethrower), and other lesser-known characters like Mars Guo, Boles Roor, and Bozzie Baranta. Racer also expands the size of the Star Wars universe with tracks scattered all across the cosmos. Players seeking an authentic experience can try playing the game with two controllers, one for each of the pod’s engines. This mode of play is ridiculous and difficult, but is good for a laugh.
With over three million copies sold, a sequel was released two years later, but the speed and challenge that mad the original title so enthralling was too greatly reduced, resulting in a fast experience that ended up feeling slow. The series never got another shot after this.
10. Star Wars Battlefront (2004)
PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC – 2004
The idea of a Trade Federation Battle Droid attaining a sizable kill streak against the Republic may sound ridiculous, but it happens all of the time in Pandemic’s Star Wars Battlefront. Players can suit up as destroyer droids, wookiees, and hop into any vehicle on battlefields inspired by all of Star Wars’ feature films.
Pandemic’s design was ambitious at the time, almost too much so as most hardware couldn't handle the initial vision, which allowed 64-players to clash on PC, 24 on Xbox, and just 16 on PlayStation 2. Bots are used to fill out the conflicts on console, which thankfully retain Battlefront's ability to deliver chaos at all times. Most matches unfold like this: Spawn in a base. Round a corner to find an AT-AT raining fire into a courtyard. Turn another corner to see an AT-ST lumbering toward a control point. Turn around again to find a group of storm troopers pouring into your base. Die. Repeat.
Although spacecraft are a part of the mix, you often don't see them in the skies for long, as the horrendous vehicle controls often led to players crashing X-Wings and TIE Fighters seconds after take off. Although three single player modes are offered (campaign, Galactic Conquest, and Instant Action) these avenues of play don't hold interest for long and feel tacked on – something Pandemic fixed in the sequel.
Regardless of its shortcomings, Battlefront sizzles with its large-scale conflicts and is one of the greatest multiplayer experiences offered on PlayStation 2 and Xbox.
9. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS, PSP, PC – 2008
The name Starkiller will likely carry different meaning after The Force Awakens hits theaters, but for people playing video games in 2008, Starkiller equated to a level of Star Wars craziness we never thought we would see. And if George Lucas truly cared about consistency in Star Wars canon, we probably shouldn't have.
The Force Unleashed’s first level shows Darth Vader in his prime on Kashyyyk, cutting down and force-choking Wookiees with the ruthlessness we always heard about but never saw on the big screen. This powerful beginning gives way to a new character named Starkiller, who serves as Vader’s secret apprentice and is tasked to kill the last of the Jedi. When the Emperor catches wind of Starkiller, Vader is forced to kill his acolyte, but he doesn’t have the heart to see it through.
Starkiller is now an outcast, searching for meaning in the universe. Although fully trained in the ways of the dark side, he eventually embraces the light and is proficient in both sides of the Force. His knowledge of light and dark arts make him one of the most powerful Jedi in Star Wars. His skills are harnessed by LucasArts in a satisfying gameplay package that walks a fine line between being badass (cutting an AT-ST in half) and absurd (Force yanking a Star Destroyer out of orbit). As exaggerated as the action can be, The Force Unleashed controls exceptionally well, and delivers a wild ride for Star Wars fans.
8. Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter
PC – 1997
After creating standalone games for X-Wing and TIE-Fighter, Totally Games did the next logical thing: it united the two into a multiplayer-centric experience. X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter allows eight players to duke it out across a number of maps and modes in a variety of ships including A-Wings, Headhunters, TIE Interceptors, and Y-Wings. The gameplay is fluid and fun, but is fairly shallow in content. Totally Games addressed this complaint through the release of Balance of Power, an expansion pack that adds 15 missions, all supported with eight-player cooperative play.
7. Star Wars: Dark Forces
PC – 1995
One of the greatest touches in any game was LucasArts' decision to lower the accuracy of the storm trooper’s blasters in Star Wars: Dark Forces, a first-person shooter set in the classic trilogy era. Stormtroopers can’t hit anything in the movies, and in Dark Forces, the player experiences that first hand. This shooter came on the heels of Doom ushering in a first-person revolution for gaming, and was heralded at the time for its expanded movement, which includes the ability to crouch and jump.
Dark Forces captures the spirit of Star Wars in its gameplay and story, pitting Kyle Katarn, a former Imperial soldier turned Rebel mercenary, against what seems like every stormtrooper in the Imperial army. The gunplay is fast and fun, and loaded with surprises like the Imperial’s development of Dark Trooper soldiers. If you love Dark Forces, read our feature on the development of the game.
6. Star Wars: Rogue Leader
GameCube – 2001
Available as a launch title for Nintendo’s GameCube, Star Wars: Rogue Leader was a system seller. With Star Destroyer’s housing over 300,000 polygons, and laser reflections mapping accurately across its hulking hull, Rogue Leader was a great example of the graphical leap between gaming generations.
Building off of the success of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, this sequel offers an incredible campaign that pays homage to the battles from the classic trilogy of films just as much as it gives fans great new Star Wars content to absorb. The Battle of Hoth and the Death Star run showcase a dizzying level of detail in the environments and vehicles. Rogue Leader also features significant gameplay enhancements over the original game, like improved A.I. for TIE fighters that break off from their patrol squadrons if their numbers dwindle, as well as a camera that pulls back to highlight the intimate battle of a dogfight. Factor 5 also finds a way to make the B-Wing (the oddest ship in Star Wars) fun to pilot.
Factor 5 establishes a fantastic formula for Star Wars space combat in Rogue Leader, but foolishly tried to integrate on-foot combat in the sequel, Rebel Strike, which, to this day, is referenced as one of the biggest sequel flops in gaming. Rogue Leader scored a 9.5 from Game informer. Two years later Rebel Strike netted just a 6.5.
5. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords
Xbox, PC – 2004
Although development switched studios from BioWare to Obsidian Entertainment, the choice-driven bliss of the original Knights of the Old Republic RPG is alive and well in Sith Lords. Picking up five years after the fall of Lord Malak, the Sith Lords is another finely penned tale that offers deeper dialogue options, another great cast of characters, and plenty of alignment-specific variables.
Joe Juba gave the game a glowing review back in the day, saying “The Sith Lords is impossible to resist. Embracing the dark side, I twisted an apprentice to my corrupt will, polluted the Force with senseless slaughter, and was told by my loyal HK unit that I was like ‘a delightful random cruelty generator.’ Even more than its predecessor, The Sith Lords provides countless opportunities for players to revel in the aftermath of their own choices. Essentially, anyone who said that Obsidian couldn’t live up to the standards set by BioWare’s first installment should be stuffing their mouths full of Bantha fodder right about now.”
The Sith Lords' ending is heavily criticized, as the final sequence is left incomplete. Modders restored various pieces of content to piece together an experience closer to Obsidian's intended but unexecuted vision.
4. Star Wars Battlefront II
PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC – 2005
In Star Wars Battlefront II, developer Pandemic Studios delivers a Star Wars experience akin to playing with a box full of Hasbro Star Wars toys. The wide selection of vehicles, troopers, heroes, and villains collide on the battlefield, and the player can interact and play with it all at any given time. This sequel stands tall like an AT-AT over its predecessor in terms of content and improving every aspect of play, most notably the vehicle controls – they can actually be flown skillfully this time around.
Additionally, a more fully featured single-player campaign shows Vader’s prized 501st Legion in action, and is a good deal of fun, even with little in terms of narrative context. Holding true to its predecessor, the most fun in Battlefront II comes from the multiplayer mayhem that unfolds across 12 maps on land and in space, allowing players to run and gun and then engage in amazing vehicle-based conflicts. Pandemic upps the number of players to 24 on PlayStation 2, 32 on Xbox, and PC remains the best avenue of play with 64 at once.
3. Star Wars: Jedi Knight II – Jedi Outcast
PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, PC – 2002
After stumbling a bit with the lightsaber gameplay in Star Wars: Jedi Knight – Dark Forces II, Raven came back swinging in Jedi Outcast, a sequel that hones in on the finesse and power of the Jedi craft. Playing as a Jedi is every bit as empowering as it should be. Seeing Kyle transform from a character who would duck behind corners to exchange fire with Stormtroopers in the precursor titles to a full-fledged Jedi who stands unflinchingly in front of any foe to deflect their laser fire and manipulate their minds into lowering their weapons is cool to see, and a rare evolution of a character for a video game.
The thrills of unleashing Force Lightning and leaping great distances extends beyond the campaign to a wild multiplayer experience that allows up to 32 Jedi to battle it out on PC. The console versions, while delivering excellent ports of the campaign, only support four-players in multiplayer, yet still manage to be a Force-powered riot.
2. Star Wars: X-Wing
PC – 1993
PC players were spoiled rotten in the 1990s. LucasArts was on fire with the Star Wars license, and no game stood out more than Star Wars: X-Wing, a dogfighting simulator that captured the speed, precision, and scale of this universe’s epic wars better than any game before it. Piloting an X-Wing from the first-person perspective is an enthralling experience that balances simplicity in combat with a complexity of ship management we rarely see in game's today. While the primary goal is to frame TIE Fighters in the cross hairs and fire, the player also has to manage the power allocation between the engines, shields, and lasers. And yes, R2-D2 chirps noisily to your demands.
While lacking the multiplayer excitement of later entries in the series, X-Wing stands out with its mission design and nicely balanced challenges. A true testament to its excellence, X-Wing still looks and plays remarkably well today, twenty-some years after its initial release.
1. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Xbox, PC – 2003
If the Force flows through you, do you align with the light side and fight for the Republic, or turn to the dark side to learn the ancient ways of the Sith? BioWare’s RPG Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic embraces this fantasy, letting the player become a feared Sith Lord or a virtuous Jedi. The path between these two factions often blurs, forcing the player to make difficult choices: Do you have it in you to sacrifice one person for the greater good of the galaxy, or do your personal connections cloud your judgment?
Although Knights of the Old Republic is no longer a canonical part of Disney’s new Star Wars universe, the game’s story gives us a good look at the Sith in their prime roughly 4,000 years before the formation of the Galactic Empire. BioWare does a fantastic job realizing this era and making it just as mysterious and wonderful as the feature films. The majority of the game delivered the sensation of journeying into the unknown, and giving us satisfying glimpses into lore that we’ve always wanted to know more about – such as the origins of the Sith and locations we’ve only heard mentioned before. The game also tickles the fancy of Star Wars fans with familiar sights, sounds, beasts, and a vibe that never wavered from trying to be canon. And it even delivers a droid that should be held in the same breath as R2-D2 and C-3PO. HK-47 is a wisecracking assassin droid that oozes personality and is an example of BioWare’s remarkable writing.
Turn-based combat isn’t the best way to show off a Jedi’s acrobatic lightsaber skills, but Knights of the Old Republic still manages make these mythic figures look powerful. Skirmishes deliver just much satisfying choice-driven options as the narrative, pushing the player to switch between teammates, and lower the sword to use heavy artillery.
Originally released as an Xbox exclusive on July 15, 2003, I scored Knights of the Old Republic a 9.5 out of 10 back in the day, calling it “a dream come true for Star Wars fans.”