It’s time to dust off your Jedi robes because Star Wars is headed back to theatres. If you’re anything like me, the wait has been absolute torture. While I’m all for letting the hate flow through you, why not spend that energy rediscovering some of the excellent video games set in the Star Wars universe?
A few of these might require pulling an old console out of storage, but if you’re hunting for some of the best Star Wars video games, look no further. Here are the seven best Star Wars games this side of The Force Awakens.
7. ‘STAR WARS: REPUBLIC COMMANDO’
Republic Commando isn’t just a fancy name for Star Wars clone troopers; they are the tough-as-nails Navy Seals of the Republic army and you get to command a whole squad of them. Set during the events of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Republic Commando tasks you with leading your squad through a series of exhilarating missions—often behind enemy lines—to defeat the enemies of the Republic.
Republic Commando is a strategic and intense shooter. Success requires effectively using your squad mates’ diverse abilities while doing your best to keep your team away from the enemy’s sights. Commanding your squad is elegant and simple. And the tactical perspective on the explosive battles is a fresh enough take on Star Wars that, even though Republic Commando is getting on in years, it still sets it apart from all of the Star Wars shooters over the decades.
6. 'LEGO STAR WARS II: THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY’
Being the kind of person who hated how childish the new trilogy of Star Wars movies were, Lego Star Wars has made a complete hypocrite out of me. Replaying the events of the original trilogy as Lego characters is the kind of innocent fun that isn’t hindered by how old or cynical you are. But where Lego Star Wars really gets it right is in playing fast and loose with its retelling of the movies.
Just like building your own Lego set, Lego Star Wars puts you in control of the whole experience. It isn’t weighed down by a desperate need to adhere to the source material of Star Wars, but rather works to smartly undermine the seriousness of the series with its silly slapstick comedy and the ability to play as any character at any time. Whether you’re playing alone, with a friend, or alongside your kids, Lego Star Wars 2 is one of the most charming additions to the Star Wars universe, and one of the most memorable.
5. 'STAR WARS ROGUE SQUADRON II: ROGUE LEADER’
The battles depicted in Rogue Leader might not be the first time they’ve received the video game treatment, but I’ll be damned if Rogue Leader doesn’t do each one the best. Arriving as one of the first games for Nintendo’s GameCube, Rogue Leader quickly became the best reason to own the console; it captures the thrilling air combat of the series like few other Star Wars games have managed.
Flying and fighting through some of the most iconic battles of the movie is awesome. And even though Rogue Leader is an old game on an underwhelming console, it holds up surprisingly well to today’s standards. Weaving around the legs of an AT-AT walker to trip it up on your tow cable in the Battle of Hoth is a pure joy that cannot be hindered by age.
4. 'TIE FIGHTER’
Rogue Leader might capture the thrill of the movies’ biggest fights, but Tie Fighter carved a reputation for delivering a more tactical flight simulator experience that was both complex and challenging. It also also deserves a ton of credit for telling a story rarely visited by Star Wars games of its era: the story of the empire.
Piloting a tie fighter requires more than just quick reflexes; Tie Fighter also demands you use your brain when managing your energy levels to either boost your shields or the damage of your lasers. Managing to make the Empire a sympathetic force was no easy feat, but Tie Fighter’s story so convincingly explores the other side of the rebellion that you just might question who the good guys in the universe actually are.
3. 'STAR WARS JEDI KNIGHT II: JEDI OUTCAST’
Ever since the first lightsaber whirred to life, people have been desperate for a chance to recreate the feeling of wielding the Jedi and Sith’s most powerful weapon. While much newer titles like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed certainly tried with some success, Jedi Knight II had accomplished that feat years earlier—and better.
If you’re wanting a true Jedi experience, you need to play Jedi Knight II. Not only are all the force powers of the movies at your fingertips, the sensation of wielding a lightsaber and cleaving the limbs from your foes never gets old. Oh, and the story isn’t anything to dismiss either. Jedi Knight II might be an older title, but the visuals hold up really well. And who cares, the shooting and slicing is so top notch you won’t even think twice about it.
2. 'STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT II’
Battlefront II is the ultimate multiplayer Star Wars experience. Taking the amazing set piece battles from the films and then recreating them in epic scope, Battlefront is the kind of game that staggered me with its scope. When it originally launched for the Playstation 2 and original Xbox, the 32 player (64 players on PC) multiplayer matches were almost unheard of—and certainly never before done nearly as well.
With so much action happening on screen, so many choices for what kind of soldier to play as or vehicles to pilot, Battlefront II is one of the most robust Star Wars games ever released. To date, no other Star Wars game has replicated the sheer scale of combat. And the feeling of unlocking one of the hero classes during a match, suddenly being able to play as Darth Vader, cutting down hordes of enemies with just a few broad strokes, was enough to make you cackle malevolently.
1. 'STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC’
When BioWare combined their passion for incredible storytelling with the Star Wars universe, one of the greatest role-playing experiences ever was born. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is, without a doubt, one of the best Star Wars games ever made. The story is fantastic, but even it pales in comparison to the cast of the characters who join you on your epic journey and the freedom you have to carve your own path in the Star Wars universe.
Knights of the Old Republic isn’t just memorable for combining role-playing games with Star Wars, but also in how it explores the galaxy and the Force with a tender care for what made Star Wars so magical to begin with. KOTOR adds a depth to the force beyond light and dark, and it’s mature and nuanced exploration of both sides set a bar that, over a decade later, is rarely glimpsed by other Star Wars games.
Star Wars is one of the most beloved fictional universes ever created, but you’d be wrong to assume that the enchantment stops at the movies. As The Force Awakens launches, take some time to dive into the expanded world surrounding Star Wars. If you need a good place to start, the games listed above will each provide you an excellent portal into what makes Star Wars the greatest series from a galaxy far, far away…
Steven Messner is a freelance writer with a zealous passion for good beer and good video games. He also enjoys taco night, games about space, and forgetting to take out the garbage. You can find his work at GamesRadar, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, and PC Gamer. Alternatively, you could just add him on Twitter @stevenmessner and say hello. He likes that.
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