Happy Star Wars day, everybody! To celebrate, Thumbsticks takes a look at the best Star Wars video games. May the 4th be with you…
10. Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance (1999)
X-Wing Alliance wasn’t the best of LucasArts’ lauded Star Wars-themed space-flight combat simulators, not by a long shot, but the size and scope of the battles in play here – culminating in the Battle of Endor – made it well worth a look. The story was hokum and it was damn difficult to control (due to more realistic zero-gravity inertia than its predecessors) but did we mention that you get to fly and operate the gun turret on the Millennium Falcon?
9. Star Wars: The Old Republic (2011)
Do you like Star Wars? Do you like massively multi-player online roleplaying games? If the answer is yes to both of those questions, then you’re going to love The Old Republic; not to be confused with 2003’s similarly named single-player RPG Knights of the Old Republic (which was also excellent). If however you don’t sit in the centre of that particular Venn diagram, then chances are The Old Republic isn’t going to change your mind.
8. Super Star Wars (1992)
Super Star Wars was the – almost immediate – Super Nintendo follow up to the original Star Wars series on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Where the NES original was a 2D platformer, the increased graphical capacity and the sheer speed of play from it’s bigger brother turned the series into a run and gun affair, much like Contra. As with the movies, the ‘super’ adaptions of A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back were both epic; Super Return of the Jedi was – like the movie – twee and just a bit naff by comparison.
7. Star Wars: Dark Forces (1995)
The first really great Star Wars-themed first-person shooter Dark Forces was ahead of its time, sharing more with smart, puzzle-platforming titles like Half-Life than the all-out shooting games that preceded it (Doom and Wolfenstein). Written in the custom Jedi engine, Dark Forces was originally to feature Luke Skywalker as the playable character, but LucasArts realised there would be too many constraints and the player would be walking over firmly trodden ground. Instead we inhabit the boots of Rebel-employed mercenary Kyle Katarn…
6. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (1998)
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron brought the space dogfight antics of X-Wing and TIE Fighter off the PC and onto consoles – the N64 first, then the GameCube for its sequels – but smashed them together with the pick-up playability and rough-and-tumble charm of the Starwing/Star Fox series. End result? A seriously fun Star Wars-themed arcade space shooter, that stood apart from it’s PC brethren thanks to its accessibility and pace.
5. Star Wars (1991)
It seems strange that a movie tie-in can find success so far past its original release, and while there were decent arcade and home releases from the series in the eighties, it wasn’t until the series saw its first outing on the massively popular Nintendo Entertainment System that the technology and audience befit the legend. Only New Hope and Empire saw an outing on the NES though, as the console’s life-cycle was coming to an end before Jedi could be released. Probably for the best, really.
4. Star Wars: Battlefront II (2005)
It was a toss-up between the original Star Wars: Battlefront and its sequel for inclusion in this list. Both are great Star Wars titles in either first or third-person, but Battlefront II gets the nod thanks to its wider variety of game modes – including twelve distinct character classes across four different factions – and it’s more narrative-focused main campaign, split across the Clone Wars and the Galactic Civil War. Oh, and one of those character classes was Wookie. Enough said.
3. Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (1997)
In Jedi Knight, Kyle Katarn discovers he’s actually a Jedi, not just a common mercenary, and we follow his path learning the ways of the Force just as we do with young Skywalker in the movies. Jedi Knight first introduced a development mechanism that is now key to the Star Wars video game universe, one it seems incongruous to think we were ever without: the choice between the Light and the Dark side. Katarn is a blank page, yours to mould as you wish, and based on your decisions – either virtuous and true, or filled with anger and hate – the game world changes to reflect the path you’ve chosen to tread.
2. Star Wars: X-Wing (1993)
The Daddy of Star Wars games. Tough to pick up and worse to master, some players couldn’t even get past the proving ground missions to be allowed into the missions proper – of which there were nearly forty spanning three tours of duty – culminating in the Rebel assault on the first Death Star at the end of A New Hope. While David Braben’s Elite had you wandering the galaxy doing whatever the hell you wanted, Star Wars: X-Wing wrote the book on story-driven flight simulators and introduced new mission types over and above the standard dogfight, such as convoy escorts, strike attacks and disabling enemy vessels for capture.
1. Star Wars: TIE Fighter (1994)
Why is TIE Fighter above X-Wing, you might be asking? Both were amazing games, sharing the same engine and many of the same aspects, so it should be impossible to separate them; first place should be a tie, right? Wrong. TIE Fighter is equal to X-Wing in every way, but is better for one reason, and one reason alone – it’s far darker. In a world obsessed with being the good guy, you get to kick Rebel ass as an elite Empire pilot. Simply put, TIE Fighter > X-Wing for the same reasons Empire > everything. Real fans know this to be true.