Jun 4, 2012

5 Star Wars Games that Don’t Suck

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…


So begins the opening crawl for any Star Wars experience, be it movie, game or cartoon. This saga of eternal war between the Sith and the Jedi is one that has permeated every facet of pop culture. It is a phenomenon that spans 4 thousand years, over 400 books and comics, and many, many games. To the uninitiated, it is about the tale of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. Of Threepio and Artoo. Of Obi-Wan and Yoda. But other forms of media, especially the games, have allowed us to explore the Star Wars universe in amazing depth.

To be honest, there are plenty of us who would have wanted to be in a galaxy far far away when some Star Wars games were released. The list of bad Star Wars games is one that would make any gamer cringe. Rebel Assault (1 & 2), Masters of Teras Kasi, Force Commander, The Force Unleashed II… All were either bad cash-ins or just plain awful. Iffy gameplay mechanics, shoddy story development, graphics that were just plain irresponsible; all part of the pantheon of Star Wars awfulness, next to the Star Wars Christmas Special.


But let’s take a look at the opposite end of the spectrum. Let’s celebrate the greatest games in Star Wars history; some of which are actually the greatest games of all time. (For the sake of readability, some games series have been included as a single title, unless explicitly stated otherwise)

5. Star Wars Rogue Squadron


Rogue Squadron (and its’ sequels, Rogue Squadron II : Rogue Leader & Rogue Squadron III : Rebel Strike) filled a yawning chasm in the pantheon of Star Wars games at its release – the arcade flying shooter. With access to the Y-Wing, A-Wing, Hoth Speeder, V-Wing and of course, the venerable X-Wing, players would fly through 16 missions in the fight against the Empire. Gorgeous graphics, easy to pick up but difficult to master gameplay and the opportunity to be Luke Skywalker (and later on, Wedge Antilles). Need any more reason to join the fun?

4. Jedi Knight II : Jedi Outcast


You are Kyle Katarn, former smuggler and, it seems, former Jedi. You have forsaken the Force as you fear the twisted depths of the Dark Side. But like Al Pacino in the Godfather, no matter what you do to get out, they’ll always try to pull you back in. Played out in a 1st and 3rd person perspective, Kyle uses a variety of weapons, Force powers and a lightsaber to battle evil dark Jedi and stormtroopers. Fight your way through 24 levels as the evil Dark Jedi Desann holds your beloved Jan Ors hostage. And funnily enough, players in JK2 were already throwing stormtroopers off cliffs 7 years before The Force Unleashed rolled around.

3. LEGO Star Wars


From the deadly serious to the seriously cute, LEGO Star Wars is a triumph of the Light(er) side of the Force. Make your way through all 6 movies as the lovable yellow brick men of LEGO, with slapstick humour, intuitive controls and a trademark art style that nobody but LEGO could do. You know what’s the most important thing about LEGO Star Wars? It was fun. No game before it, and dare I say it, no game since then, has ever made lightsabers this hilarious.

2. Star Wars : X-Wing VS TIE Fighter


The beauty of a good flight simulator is in its controls. The beauty of the flight simulator that is X-Wing VS TIE Fighter is in its controls, in space. If you ever read the X-Wing series of novels by Michael A. Stackpole, and read phrases like ‘reduced power to the front shields to boost engine speed’ and wished you could actually fly a starfighter like that, XVT could play out your fantasy. It was amazing because playing the game actually felt like flying a real X-Wing or TIE fighter, if ever such a thing were possible.

Things like throttle openings, shield distribution and hull integrity came into play, as players who fancied themselves as pilots juggled dogfights with engine management, and firing missiles with technical diagnostics. The level of technical detail was unheard of at the time, and no space simulator has come close since (15 years and counting!). All with trademark Star Wars space battles and that unmatched feeling of immersion.

1. Knights of the Old Republic


Trying to figure out number 1 on this list was damn near impossible. To be frank, any number of the top 5 of games listed here would be deserving of the number 1 spot, with all of them having a huge impact on this writer’s gaming childhood and upbringing (some would argue that he’s still a child, regardless). But when it came to objectively trying to figure out what Star Wars game is the best of all time, then it was no contest.

Knights of the Old Republic isn’t just the best SW game on this list. It is one the greatest games of all time, period. Why? Great storytelling, brilliant mechanics, a consistent and beautifully mapped out RPG system matched to the D20 ruleset, and a chance to embark on an adventure you can call your own. From the depths of the characters’ backstories to the overall atmosphere and pacing, BioWare crafted a Star Wars setting that owed nothing in terms of story to the original trilogy or the prequels, yet still had the look and feel of classic Star Wars.


It was also the first SW game to allow you to determine your own ethical alignment (light or dark side), and not have to sit through a tale that Lucasarts has already decided how it’s going to end, no matter what you do. The prospect of creating your own piece of Star Wars history? A priceless proposition indeed.

Honourable mentionsThe Old Republic
Dark Forces II : Jedi Knight
Republic Commando
Star Wars Battlefront II
Star Wars Empire at War
Star Wars : Rebellion

About the Writer Hailing from Kuching, Sarawak, Syed Rafie is more than just a wordsmith with an unnatural love for electronics, gadgets and video games. Working as a writer and editor at Malaysia’s largest online shopping mall, Lazada Malaysia, he tends to favour pursuits that challenge his lack of physical refinement and his obvious intellectual deficiencies. Connect with him on Google+ (Syed Rafie), or follow him on Twitter (@origamiblade) for more product news, previews, reviews, comparisons and personal thoughts that could mangle your understanding of the space-time continuum.

may the force be with all of you!