Ah Lucasarts. A brand name locked away in the warm nostalgic part of our geeky brains like Tamagouchi, Command and Conquer and Toys R Us. Not so long ago in a galaxy in which you currently reside Lucasarts used to pump out multiple Star Wars games like clockwork. We are more than aware of the stinkers they released but today we’re in a positive mood. We at VGN are going to countdown the best Star Wars games released before the dark times…before
EA and Disney the Empire.
Yes you read that right. ROTS was released on the PS2 and the original Xbox to coincide with the theatrical release. While video game adaptations of episode one and two were largely forgotten (except Podracer!) there was something special about this one. At face value it’s just another mediocre slice em up shamelessly promoting the last of the prequel trilogy. As if it needed promotion. Within ROTS is a special one on one fighting mode that was actually…decent?
Star Wars took a shot at every single video game genre out there. Once and only once has Lucasarts taken a shot at the fighting genre. If you’ve never heard of Star Wars: Masters of Tera Kasi don’t worry you are not missing much. It was a blocky and lousy fighting game released on the PS1 and it stunk. It didn’t make any sense. WTF is a Tera Kasi? “Oh I’ve heard of that” you start thinking. That was the martial art Daenerys Targaryen used in Solo: A Star Wars Story. It was also that one and only time it was mentioned in the Star Wars universe outside of that game and with good reason.
I’m not going to write review on a game released in 1997 I just want to convey my disappointment in the lack of Star Wars fighting games. Soul Caliber doesn’t count. ROTS was the last time they took a crack at it and it was awesome. You could pick between nine characters with two of them being made-up nobodies. I guess there’s only seven characters in the Star Wars movie franchise? You can also pick some cool fighting stages such as the Death Star, Palpatine’s office and aboard General Grievous’ ship.
The light saber fighting was solid. Add in some John Williams music and the goosebumps start rising. What I loved about it was the personality it had. Depending on who is fighting affects the dialogue spoken by the combatants. You’ll hear the same default lines such as Dooku’s “I’ll show you true swordsmanship” but then all of a sudden you’ll hear something relevant. For example if Vader and old Ben are fighting Obi Wan will quip “we should of left you on Tatooine”. If you play as Anakin vs Vader Anakin will say “I’ll never become you” or “which one of those buttons shuts you up”. Fantastic.
The fighting mode was not the main part of the game but it had the foundation to build something great. After it was all said and done there was still no one on one Star Wars fighting game. Could you imagine Luke vs Darth Maul or Yoda vs Mace Windu? Soul Caliber characters should be guest starring in these titles not the other way around. Also you can fight with four light sabers if you fight as General Grievous. Need I say more?
Back in the nineteen hundred and nineties a little game called Wolfenstein 3D spearheaded the first person shooter genre. Lucasarts was not going to ignore this money printing trend and gave the world (galaxy) Star Wars Dark Forces on PC in 1995. It was also the first FPS I played without gore and Nazi killin. For some reason I still loved it.
Of course I loved it was Star Wars and it was awesome. Dark Forces took place a little before A New Hope so it was technically the first prequel. As mercenary Kyle Katarn you were hired by the rebel alliance to steal the Death Star plans and deliver it so they can blow it to into tiny little pieces. Unfortunately all of that canon has been erased by our new entertainment overlords. Apparently goody two shoes Jyn Erso and her merry band of rebels did all of that but lets ignore that for now.
Stealing the plans is just the first level. Kyle uncovers a secret project of super solders called Dark Troopers and is tasked with taking them down. The Empire get wise to your rebel scum deeds and hires none other than Boba Fett to take you out. Lord Vader also makes an appearance but he’s not a boss you fight or anything like that. I guess he has better things to do.
For the first time the player could explore the Star Wars universe in first person. The level design was fantastic and not only featured great gun play for the time but some challenging puzzles to further the level. I still remember the sewer level that was pretty much a maze and if I played it today it would still stump me. Most of the maps were the classic maze design where you search for keys to unlock certain parts of the map until you find the exit. Typical Doom stuff but it was executed wonderfully. The game is super dated today but it’s one of those titles that gave me great gaming memories.
Dark Forces also features Lucasarts’ signature cut scenes in which the only part of a character that moves is their mouth when talking. Needless to say animating Vader must of been pretty easy.
Back in the day before prequels and sequels Star Wars stories were few and far between. Guest stars in this game featured Mon Mothma, Boba Fett, Darth Vader and Jabba the Hutt. I might be forgetting more characters but you get the idea. There was no way these characters would be on any screen without the medium of video games. As a young lad starving for more Star Wars content this scratched a very big itch. With only three films on VHS this was one of the few ways to get more Star Wars.
Super The Empire Strikes back was part of a super trilogy on the Super Nintendo. Here’s a fun drinking game: take a drink every time the word super is mentioned in this blog. We at VGN take no responsibility for your drunken actions.
So why pick this one and not the other two games in this super trilogy? Well first of all Super Star Wars is super difficult and it’s almost unfair. I remember being a kid and renting it as soon as it was available because the back of the box advertised the Death Star trench run. It looked awesome! Little did I know that you had to grind through impossible enemies and bosses just to get close to it. So Super Star Wars is out.
Super Return of the Jedi was pretty similar to Empire. It featured cool levels that included speeder bikes and the Millennium Falcon. It also had levels where you play as an Ewok so it comes in at a close second.
Super The Empire Strikes Back had the right balance of difficulty and light saber goodness. At the time it was the best light saber game play out there. The boss fight with Vader was great. It also featured the best battle of Hoth level before Shadows of the Empire came out. It’s hard not to appreciate John Williams midi music score for this one too. I loved it so much I purchased a similar ring tone on my Motorola Razor. I’ve just dated myself and now I feel sad.
The boss fights in this super (drink!) trilogy were full of imagination. In Super Return of the Jedi that little rude ball that pops out of Jabba’s front door turns into a giant mechanism of death. Take a look at the Wampa that kidnaps Luke on Hoth:
Just look at that box art. If that doesn’t scream STAR WARS I don’t know what does. Back in the days of old when gamers started to care less about bit count there was one system that still couldn’t let it go. The Nintendo 64. I grew up in a household that believed that video games were a tool of the devil and too damn expensive. So I had to save up my own money and purchase one console and I settled on the Playstation. Don’t get me wrong I don’t regret my decision but SW: Shadows of the Empire was a game that gave me 64 bit envy.
SW: SOTE was the best looking Star Wars game at the time. Today it looks like a bunch of clunky triangles but that doesn’t stop it from being a classic. You play as Dash Rendar who joins up with the rebel alliance who are hiding from the Empire on the frozen planet of Hoth. While that might seem like a great idea you just so happen to be there when the Empire finds you rebel scum hiding in a snow bank.
The battle of Hoth level stood up as the best video game representation of that sequence for quite some time. The N64 joystick controller was perfect for firing that tow cable and ever so slightly turning in circles around the ATAT’s legs. The sound of the game was great too with that classic John Williams soundtrack and the humming of the snow speeders with gun fire and explosions all around you. This game just oozed Star Wars every second you played it.
The ending for this game always made me laugh. Dash Rendar is a handsome hero of the rebellion with a bad ass ship and happens to be an old friend of Han Solo. Why is he never spoken of again? At the end the game’s main villain Xizor kidnaps Princess Leia on Coruscant because Nintendo. After you defeat Xizor’s droid on Coruscant it’s time to take the battle to space and end this once and for all. Even the Empire gets in on the action and tries to destroy Xizor’s main ship the Skyhook. Dash Rendar does the heroic thing and sacrifices himself, his helpless droid and his cool looking ship, the Outrunner to take it out. Roll credits! Or is there another ending?
Of course there is. If you play on a higher difficulty you get a little image which acted as a cut scene in those days of Dash talking to his droid after the fact. Apparently he went to light speed right before the explosion and saved his own butt. What’s the point of being a martyr is you’re not around for people to remember it? Except that no one does and not only is he never spoken of again I’m sure
the Empire Disney will make sure he never existed at all.
Pew pew pew. Sorry I can’t help myself after looking at that image. Rogue Squadron on the N64 was the first of many in this series that also landed on the Gamecube. We don’t want to make this a top 15 or 20 list because I’m sure your leg is starting to fall asleep by now. We’re adding the first one on this list because of the contribution it made to solid Star Wars video games.
As Luke Skywalker you lead a squadron entitled rogue into some crazy battles filled walkers, tie fighters, and even storm troopers. This game was one of those expansion pack games in which you would pay money for a higher resolution. It basically would turn your N64 into a N64 pro for you young-lings out there.
Rogue Squadron was an arcade shooter unlike X-Wing which we will get to in a second. It was a space arcade shooter but extremely fun. Each level you were awarded bronze, silver and gold medals to unlock bonus content. This content included other spaceships like the Millennium Falcon and bonus levels. One of those levels just so happen to be the Death Star trench run. Believe me it was way easier to unlock this version compared to Super Star Wars.
The N64 controller was made for a game like this. That middle joystick was perfect controlling your X-wing and it felt perfect. It’s been a long time since I’ve tried this game as I was a PSX boy but I have a feeling it would still hold up today. Fire up the rumble pack and the expansion pack and you have an almost perfect (albeit expensive) space combat game.
Not only was this game gorgeous at the time but it also featured some great sound for the N64. The music goes without saying the but the radio chatter added to the atmosphere and gave it the Star Wars ambiance.
Not only did I have Nintendo 64 envy but I also had PC envy. When I grew up we had a 386 monstrosity with a giant monitor that was black and white. That means no Doom no Wolfenstein and definitely no X-wing. It’s probably for the best because if I got my hands on this game as a child I’d never go outside and probably be an albino fat kid instead of just a fat kid.
X-Wing was a true space combat flight sim that had you learn to actually fly ships in the rebel fleet. You could also fly other craft such as the Y-Wing, B-Wing and A-Wings. At face value you’d think that a game based on a kids movie full of space wizards would be very arcadey but you’d be wrong. And ignorant.
To master the ways of space flight in the Star Wars universe you had to know the technical ins and outs of your space craft. For example you could re-route power from your engines into your shields and redistribute that power from aft to starboard depending on your situation. Your cockpit would also take a beating if you’re being shot-up and you’d have to figure out a way to fix those issues in order to survive. I also learned that an X-Wing can’t make the jump to hyperspace with it’s S-foils in attack position. Now that’s some Star Wars knowledge that’ll get you stuffed in a locker in a high school hallway.
This was a game that helped make Star Wars into a serious universe. The fans of the movies were growing up but their love for the franchise stayed strong. Releasing a flight sim seemed like a no brainer and one of the many reasons X-Wing stands as one of the best Star Wars games of all time.
While googling some images for this game I came across some news that a modern graphics mod for the original game is being released. It was announced a while ago and I hope they’re still working on it. I’ve seen some videos and screen shots and it looks fantastic. If it sees the light of day I’ll be playing the you know what out of it and will make a blog post about my impressions. So to quote the great Rian Johnson “please please please please make it happen please please please” so I can remember when Star Wars was great and forget about The Last Jedi.
Kyle Katarn is back! And this time he has some questions…and a lightsaber. The Jedi Knight series is some of the best action games the Star Wars video game universe has to offer. This game is pretty special to us and to Sony apparently because they just re-released it on the PSN. Thank you Sony.
Turns out our favorite mercenary for hire had a Jedi father which means Kyle must also be strong in the force. Following the events of Dark Forces and Dark Forces 2, Outcast drops the player into a new adventure which features the best light saber combat to date. That’s a real shame because this game came out so long ago and no one has been able to build upon it? I guess we’ll find out when Jedi Fallen order comes out and our fingers are crossed.
You might be thinking that the Force Unleashed series had some great light saber game play but those games focused more on force powers. Kyle had no issues slicing up some storm troopers and actually slicing them. The difference with this game is that other dark Jedi were waiting for him and they were regular enemies. You didn’t just kill random enemies who were armed with guns and wait for a boss fight for a duel like in Jedi Knight. You had multiple enemies with light sabers and it was satisfying to play even to this day.
Just like Rogue Squadron we’re picking this entry in the franchise for it’s contribution to the Star Wars video game universe. Jedi Academy was a great title as well. That sequel let you create your own Jedi and light saber. The customization options are very limited however. “You want to be Darth Maul or not?” is pretty much what that game is asking of you.
The REAL Battlefront 2. Yes yes we all know about EA’s infamous reddit AMA and we don’t have to bring that up. Lets talk about why the PS2/Xbox generation of Battlefront 2 was so important.
Many moons ago online gaming was only reserved for rich kids who had a 56k modem on their beefed up PC with a 3DFX Voodoo card. Ugh I’m really dating myself with this blog entry. Anyway, one day high speed internet became more mainstream. The Dreamcast came with a dial up modem adapter and later released a broadband adapter. Sony came out with a network adapter and the Xbox had one built in. This was going to be the start of something huge.
Before Call of Duty and Battlefield became annual “my friends bought it so I guess I should” juggernaut titles there was Battlefront 2. This was one of those multiplayer games that every gamer you knew either owned it or has played it. Borrowing the format from Battlefield 1943, Battlefront featured a large map with dozens of players fighting a war. Perfect for Star Wars. While the first one was solid this one took the battlefield to space where it belonged.
Now you can fly a fighter from the Droid Army, Imperials, Rebels or Old Republic and land inside a giant cruiser. If you were able to survive you would sabotage the engines and make an escape. Then ka-boom! That’s the most Star Warsy Star Wars that ever Star Wared.
The game also featured heroes from the prequels to the original trilogy and the strange thing was it was all included on the disk. There was no need for these little gambling mechanics and loot boxes. Vader, Palpatine, Han Solo and all your Star Wars pals were all there. Sorry Rose Tico fans you’ll have to wait. I know we weren’t supposed to bring up EA but come on Star Wars fans deserve better!
Before we get to our number one choice this was our number one for years. Tie Fighter is the sequel to X-Wing and one of the best Star Wars games of all time period.
Tie Fighter put’s you in the cockpit of the bad guy serving the Empire. Darth Vader is a hero and the Empire is now currently purging the galaxy from those terrorists who are corrupting Palpatine’s perfect society. Luckily they’ll be vanquished because Lord Vader and Grand Admiral Thrawn are leading the way.
It’s hard not to love this game. It also featured Lucasarts’ signature cut scenes and gave you Star Wars lore up the wazoo. If you are consistently successful in your duties you are invited to join the Empires secret order which directly serves the Emperor. Oh and you are still in a space combat simulation. So don’t forget all the technical space craft mumbo jumbo from X-wing.
The beauty of this game is not just the great game play but the point of view. For the first time we get to see what the Empire is like from someone who loyally serves them. As you do your missions you’re actually helping people like how the Air Force or Navy helps our allies. You deal with pirates and smuggler scum who are bad guys too. Some systems are in need of economical and military aid. Not every mission is about destroying the rebels or killing planets. It’s about sustaining order in a chaotic galaxy and the rebels are seen as thugs trying to disrupt progress.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget you are serving a brutal dictatorship led by two unstoppable force users who use fear and mass murder to keep control. Luckily for the galaxy one of them has twin offspring who get tired of their shit.
This is a game that’s intelligently written and really adds to the world building of one of the greatest IPs ever. Yes it’s dated but if you get a chance and you have a decent flight stick you should check it out.
Originally released on the Xbox KOTOR was not just a great Star Wars game but one of the best rpgs of all time. If you’re a big fan of the Mass Effect series it is full of KOTOR dna. That sentence is kind of gross but I’m keeping it in here.
Bioware knocked this one out of the park. They gave us a glimpse into the Old Republic thousands of years before the battle of Yavin. My only gripe with this game was the lousy racing mini-game that was supposed to be pod racing but it’s far from a deal breaker.
I’ve always argued that Star Wars had the best if not most important plot twist of all time. If Darth Vader did not reveal that he was Luke’s father I don’t think Star Wars is as big as it is today. That’s my opinion as a life long fan but my point is Bioware carries that tradition. Plot twists can get out of hand and if you rely on them too much you’ll write yourself into a corner. A prime example is Metal Gear Solid 2. A game I love but it gives me a headache when I try to make sense of the story.
The greatest plot twist in video game history (arguably) is when the KOTOR protagonist’s identity is revealed. You see you and your crazy gang of freedom fighters are on the run from the Sith who are in power. They are led by Darth Malak the former apprentice of the tyrannical Darth Revan. All Sith are tyrannical so that should go without saying. While talking with your crew you learn that Darth Revan was pretty horrible to all of them in some way. He was responsible for killing the family of one of your pals. Your character has amnesia but as you progress through the game it’s revealed that your true identity is:
Spoiler alert! But to be fair game has been out for 16 years
Here’s how crazy this game gets. It has a morality system so through the second play through I was 100% evil. Two characters in my party are best friends. A young Twi’lek and her best pal a wookie. The wookie owes me a life debt so he must do everything I ask. So as the evil bastard I am I order him to kill his Twi’lek friend. Why? Because shut up that’s why! He begs me to reconsider but I remind him of his life debt duties. So he complies. Muahahaha.
The world of the old republic is great. The old astromech droids have flat heads on top of a tripod instead of looking like trash cans. The ships look more blocky then their counterparts thousands of years in the future.
KOTOR is a big fan favorite and it’s a shame we didn’t get more in this series. It had one sequel that we thought was solid but it’s pretty divisive due to its abrupt ending. That one was developed by Obsidian who are responsible for Fallout: New Vegas and the excellent The Outer Worlds. You could argue that the Mass Effect series is the spiritual successor but there’s no light sabers in those ones.
Here’s hoping one day we return to a galaxy far far away in a solid single player experience. Whether it’s an rpg or an action game Star Wars is a perfect movie license for video games. Yes we get it. Multiplayer games sell and can be cash cows. God of War and Spider-man are cash cows too. What are you waiting for EA? You have the Star Wars license and Bioware under your corporate umbrella. Seems like a no brainer to us.
The Bish Ninja
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