For as long as I can remember, Star Wars and video games have been a dynamic pairing. Not everything has been amazing; for every Jedi Outcast, you get an Obi-Wan. For every Rogue Squadron, you get a Clone Wars. Very few hit the sweet spot of feeling like you’re part of the Star Wars universe and mythology while also enjoying engaging gameplay — including the recent Battlefront reboot. Hopefully, Jedi: Fallen Order will change that trend and leave gamers once again wanting more. In the meantime, here’s my list of the nine best Star Wars games. As a disclaimer, this list is made of games I have actually played, so it might be missing some fan favorites.
Honorable Mention: “Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast” (2002)
The prequel era was a time of renaissance. Star Wars was everywhere, from the box office to Cartoon Network. In the midst of all this, the Jedi Knight video game series released a classic in Jedi Outcast. The sequel to Dark Forces II, Outcast continued the story of Imperial deserter Kyle Katarn, this time in his quest to defeat the Dark Jedi Desann and his followers, the Reborn.
As with other games in the Jedi Knight series, Outcast is a first-person shooter (FPS) that gives you various ranged weapons from the Star Wars universe. It also gives you the chance to wield your own lightsaber and gives the most complete saber combat experience in the franchise — outmatched only by Jedi Academy in this regard.
9) “Star Wars Trilogy Arcade” (1998)
Before there was Battlefront, there was Star Wars Trilogy Arcade, which made up a significant part of my childhood. Stationed in areas like Chuck E. Cheese and Dave & Busters, Trilogy Arcade allowed players to relive the greatest battles from A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. You could even play bonus boss fights against Boba Fett on Tatooine and Darth Vader on the Second Death Star while yielding Luke Skywalker’s iconic green lightsaber. If you ever find this game, go through it. You will not be disappointed.
My favorite parts of this were the escape from Echo Base and the Vader boss fight. The former featured the Snowtroopers and Wampas as you blast your way through the base to the hangar. The latter was a test of aim, using the joystick to parry and strike at Vader’s vulnerable points. There was no room for error, however: if you missed any strikes by the end, you would lose even with full HP. Good thing they were bonus levels!
8) “Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” (1993)
It may seem weird that a Super Nintendo game makes this list, but Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was lit at the time it came out. I used to play this at my uncle’s apartment all the time, controlling Luke Skywalker on Hoth and more as I played through this side-scrolling platformer inspired by the second film in the original trilogy. For a SNES game, the graphics were pretty good, and the gameplay was fun. I dare you to play this game today. Believe me, it’s still fun.
One of the most entertaining things about this game for me was using the lightsaber to windmill through the levels. Most enemies could be defeated by this method, sure, but if it’s fun and looks cool, I’m not gonna complain.
7) “Star Wars: The Old Republic” (2011)
The end of Star Wars Galaxies left a void in the world of massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs). RuneScape managed to survive, but EverQuest was dead and World of Warcraft (WoW) reigned supreme. So, how do you take on the largest game in the genre? Simple: bring back BioWare, the studio that delivered you Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR). With full voice acting, gorgeous graphics, and several character classes from which to choose, Star Wars: The Old Republic (TOR) became a massive success and continues to fill the void left by Galaxies, providing a rich MMO experience in the Old Republic era of the Star Wars universe.
I did not get a chance to play Galaxies in its heyday. I wanted to for ages but was unable to convince my parents to pay for a video game subscription at the time (first world problems, right?). So, when TOR was available for free, I jumped at the opportunity, building my character up as much as I could until the reality of being a productive citizen set in and I lost time. Sigh.
6) “Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II” (1997)
The first game in the Jedi Knight series, this is the game that started it all. The second part of Kyle Katarn’s story, Dark Forces IIfeatured the Imperial deserter learning of his father’s Jedi past and unlocking his own Force potential while combating the Dark Jedi Jerec. A FPS like its predecessor, DFII was the first to introduce the series’ now-iconic lightsaber combat. Players could use the same FPS mechanics to control the elegant weapon, and use Force powers like Jump, Lightning, and Speed. This was also one of the first Star Wars games I beat in my life, holding a special place in my heart.
Katarn’s influence is also one that has been felt throughout the Star Wars universe. Star Wars Rebels’ Kanan Jarrus, for example, is essentially an “expy” of Kyle Katarn, being a gunslinging Jedi dating a star pilot. To make matters funnier, their love interests both share a voice actress in Vanessa Marshall!
5) “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed” (2008)
I don’t know what is more iconic in a Star Wars game than seeing a two-year-old Force pull Darth Vader’s lightsaber from his hands. Up until this game, there was nothing quite like it in the franchise. There has also never been anything like it since. Starring Sam Witwer as “Starkiller”, Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, The Force Unleashed (TFU) was an instant classic and showcased the upper limits of a single character with raw Force power. It was wild. You could pull a Star Destroyer out of the sky, make giant pulse waves, and turn stormtroopers into lightning grenades. How can I not love this game?
TFU might not be canon anymore, but its influence is still felt today. In the opening scene of The Force Awakens, for example, Kylo Ren stops a blaster bolt in midair. This is a power that was available in many Star Wars games, including TFU, albeit to a more advanced degree. The destructive capacity of the Force was also on full display in The Last Jedi when Luke Skywalker and Ben Solo both destroy huts with their raw power.
4) “Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy” (2003)
Jedi Academy follows Jaden Korr, a student in Luke Skywalker’s titular school. Under the tutelage of Jedi Master Kyle Katarn, Jaden and his friend Rosh Penin are trained in the ways of the Force to become Jedi Knights. As always, however, trouble is afoot, and you must battle enemies like the Imperial Remnant, the Dark Jedi Tavion, and Boba Fett, to name a few. Unlike the other games in the series, Jedi Academy is mostly mission-based, allowing players to complete the story in almost any order. You also get to choose your own lightsaber — twice — with loads of colors and options to dual wield or use the Darth Maul-inspired double-bladed saber.
Players can hotkey their favorite weapons and Force powers to make combat quick and seamless. Alongside core Force powers like Jump, Pull, and Speed, you can choose to build up either Light or Dark side powers and can whether to fall to the Dark side entirely or remain on the Light. You can also customize Jaden’s appearance before beginning the game, choosing a male or female character and whether to be human or alien.
3) “Star Wars: Republic Commando” (2005)
Have you ever wondered what Rainbow Six would be like in Star Wars? Enter Star Wars: Republic Commando, the game that gives you control over the Delta Squad of the Grand Army of the Republic. One of the few games to feature zero lightsabers or Force users, Republic Commando was a first-person shooter focused on squad-based combat. Your Clone troopers squared off against various battle droids, Trandoshans, and even General Grievous’ MagnaGuards at the height of the Clone Wars.
As Delta-38 (“Boss”, voiced by Temuera Morrison), you’re joined by your squadmates 62 (“Scorch”, voiced by Raphael Sbarge), 40 (“Fixer”, voiced by Jonathan David Cook), and 07 (“Sev”, voiced by Andrew Chaikin) on various missions across the galaxy. While 38 stands as the leader of Delta Squad, Scorch is its demolitions expert, Fixer the tech expert/hacker, and Sev the sniper.
2) “Star Wars Battlefront II” (2005)
I know, I know, the year is clearly nostalgic. But the 2005 version of Battlefront II was — is — extremely fun. Not only did it introduce control over hero characters to the series, but it introduced space combat, too. The Galactic Conquest mode, while repetitive, was a fun concept and allowed for more time devoted to playing out various battles. The story mode was also focused on the fall of the Republic, placing you in control of Clone troopers from the Battle of Geonosis through the destruction of the Second Death Star. You got to play out Order 66 as a Clone and control Anakin Skywalker as he rampages through the Jedi Temple the same year as we saw it on the big screen. It. Was. GLORIOUS. If you like the new Battlefront II, give this one a shot, too!
I personally enjoyed playing as the hero characters. Han Solo and Boba Fett were one thing, and playing as Darth Maul and Obi-Wan Kenobi was just as fun. But also Mace Windu? Yoda? This was the dream!
1) “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic” (2003)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic tells the tale of a player-created character who becomes a Jedi four millennia before The Phantom Menace. This game should not have worked as well as it did. It was basically a Dungeons & Dragons game with Star Wars skin, featuring detailed character creation, real-time D20 mechanics, and robust class & skill tree systems. And yet, providing a tabletop RPG experience in the Star Wars universe was exactly what people were looking for, all helmed by BioWare, the eventual creators of the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series. We’re all still begging for an update — whether or not it’s a reboot is irrelevant.
By today’s standards, the combat system is way too slow and a little clunky. But the engaging story of your character’s place in the mystery of Jedi Bastila Shan and her fight against Darths Revan and Malak make it more than worthwhile. Build your party, pilot a spaceship, customize your weapons and armor! Even the story had you fully engaged, as your dialogue choices throughout were critical to character arcs and the main plot. This award-winning game has it all and can immerse you in Star Wars just as well as the upcoming Galaxy’s Edge attraction at Disney (it’s also a hell of a lot cheaper).
How do you feel about this list? What does yours look like? Which is your favorite video game? Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order hits stores November 15, 2019. Hopefully, this will bring a new contender for future lists!
Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker arrives in theaters December 20, 2019.