The release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is upon us and we can imagine that many of you out there are going to be hankering for some fun Star Wars gaming once you’ve left the theater. Unfortunately, there’s been a dearth of good Star Wars games for a while now, but there are some excellent classics we feel you should check out (or re-visit). Join us below as we pull out our picks for the best Star Wars games of all time.
#5 REPUBLIC COMMANDO
2005’s Republic Commando was a unique take on a Star Wars game and on Star Wars in general. Unlike most Star Wars media, Republic Commando didn’t focus on the flashy force powers and lightsabers, but on the man next to you experience you might find in a WW2 FPS such as Brothers in Arms. It was one of the first times anyone tried to humanize these characters and it really came through in the game via your squadmates’ unique personalities. Similar themes are found in later media, such as the Clone Wars TV show.
In the game, you lead a squad of elite Republic commandos, and when I say lead, I really mean lead. The squad-based gameplay in the game was superb and characters had their own specialties in addition to the unique personalities mentioned previously. Republic Commando was fairly short and linear, but the personality and gameplay made it one of the most memorable Star Wars games on our list.
#4 STAR WARS: EMPIRE AT WAR
The original trilogy may have been about Luke’s hero’s journey to become a Jedi Knight, but the Galactic Civil War that served as its backdrop was equally important. Petroglyph’s 2006 RTS allowed Star Wars fans to explore that war like no other game out there. The game had everything: fully developed space combat, ground warfare, and even playable iconic heroes. Players could go on an epic galaxy-spanning campaign as either The Empire or the Rebel Alliance in the original game. Petroglyph later released Forces of Corruption, an expansion that offered players the option to play things through as Tyber Zann, leader of the organized crime syndicate, the Zann Consortium.
While Empire at War wasn’t as deep an RTS when compared to its contemporaries, it made up for its shortcomings by being among the most complete Star Wars gaming experiences out there.
#3 X-WING ALLIANCE
You’ll invariably find the X-Wing and TIE Fighter games on every best Star Wars game list, but for whatever reason, the best entry in the series is often left out. 1999’s X-Wing Alliance took everything great about the other games in the space combat series and dialed things up to 11. The flight model was more realistic, though this was controversial at the time (oh no, turn speeds!). Graphics were greatly improved over previous entries in the series, with three dimensional cockpits, an improved HUD, better textures and models, and so on.
But what really stood apart to me with X-Wing Alliance was the overall story and presentation of the game. Everything that made the series great in terms of gameplay was improved and that was certainly key, but the fully voiced storyline and epic multi stage battles were like nothing else I’d experienced before.
Players take the role of Ace Azzameen, the youngest member of the Azzameen family of traders, who are dragged into the Galactic Civil War and end up fighting for the Rebel Alliance. You basically get to experience the huge space battles of the original trilogy along with all the smaller missions that enabled the Rebel Alliance to score its big wins against The Empire. You can feel the urgency of each battle as you sit in for each mission briefing, similar to the way things played out before the Battle of Yavin in A New Hope. Once you take off, the story unfolds not in just the combat objectives you’re performing, but in the ship to ship dialogue that accompanies it all. It’s all topped off with a fully realized Battle of Endor, where you get to make the run on the Death Star II in the most epic and adrenaline pumping space battle on offer in a Star Wars game.
If you’re convinced you need to pick this one up (and you most definitely should!), head on over to X-Wing Alliance Upgrade to install the XWA Upgrade pack, which significantly improves on the game’s visuals.
#2 KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC II
I can’t wait to be raked over the coals for this one, but BioWare’s “B Team” in Obsidian is just the better storyteller. There, I said it. This isn’t to take anything away from the genre shaking Knights of the Old Republic, but KOTOR 2 was simply a far deeper, more nuanced approach to Star Wars, even accounting for its rushed and incomplete ending.
KOTOR 2 explored the morality of The Force in ways not often seen in Star Wars games or other media. The character of Kreia forced players to think differently about the frequent black and white depiction of the Light Side and the Dark Side of The Force. The game’s companions were all nuanced and flawed in ways that made them more believable and players could even influence their companions one way or another depending on their actions. I don’t want to spoil things for you, but if you haven’t played KOTOR 2, pick it up immediately, and be sure to grab the Restored Content Mod while you’re at it!
#1 The Jedi Knight Series
I spent a lot of time agonizing over this, but I couldn’t just settle on one game in this series, so we’re giving this to LucasArts and Raven Software’s series as a whole.
While the story of this series technically begins with the original Dark Forces game, we’ll be focusing on Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, Jedi Outcast, and Jedi Academy, specifically.
Series protagonist Kyle Katarn is one of the most interesting characters in the entire Star Wars Expanded Universe. The guy starts off as an Imperial turned mercenary in the original Dark Forces, where he aids the Rebel Alliance in retrieving the plans for the original Death Star and later puts an end to the Imperial Dark Trooper project.
Things really get interesting Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, which is set after the events of Return of the Jedi. A Miraluka Dark Jedi named Jerec kills Kyle’s father in search of the Valley of the Jedi (Kyle’s father had a map to the place and wasn’t eager to give it up), a source of great power he intends to tap in an effort to rebuild The Empire. Kyle eventually learns of his own Force sensitivity and is set on a path to become a Jedi over the course of the game. The original Jedi Knight featured cheesy, but entertaining live action cutscenes, compelling characters (including Kyle’s partner in crime, Jan Ors), and more player agency than you’re probably used to seeing in an FPS at the time. Players can finish the game with a Dark Side or Light Side ending, and the actions required to take you down the dark path may give you some pause.
Kyle’s personality evolves over the course of the series. In fact, he’d fit right in with the complex characters of KOTOR 2. Ultimately, Kyle has his heart in the right place, but he’s often tempted by his darker side, easily quick to violence when it comes to matters involving The Empire. This internal struggle is amplified further when he learns of his Force sensitivity, as the pull of the Dark Side is all the more real for someone with the potential to wield the power of The Force. What eventually gives him peace is his realization that The Force is neither dark nor light, instead depending entirely on how one uses it and to what end. Unlike, say, Luke Skywalker, Kyle has no issue with frying a bunch of Stormtroopers using force lightning if it’s for a good cause.
The remaining two entries in the series, Jedi Outcast, and Jedi Academy, aren’t necessarily as strong on story, though Jedi Outcast comes pretty close, but they both feature significant upgrades in visuals and gameplay. Jedi Outcast, and particularly, Jedi Academy, offer the best lightsaber combat and use of Force powers out there. Players could fight in multiple lightsaber styles, dual wield, run up and along walls, dismember enemies, and so on. Despite Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy releasing in the early 2000’s, both games are still played online to this day, with one particular mod, MovieBattles II (for Jedi Academy), really taking gameplay to the next level by offering far more combat depth than what’s available in the already impressive original games.
What are your top (Non MMO) Star Wars games? Share your shortlist with us in the comments below!