Yes, the current canon is only five years old. Yes, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is one of the finest Star Wars games of all time. But all that said, the Expanded Universe was (and might always be) better at video games. Today, I share my top 10 best Star Wars video games from the past 40 years.
10. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II – Rogue Leader (Gamecube)
This was a great Nintendo Gamecube game. This 2001 flight simulator game made you want to buy a Gamecube, if you didn’t already have one. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II – Rogue Leader kept the same formula as the original Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, but also added new level environments (such as the deservedly-praised Battle of Yavin level). The new console also gave (for its time) stunning graphics. Also, the game finally let you fly the greatest starship in the galaxy, the Millennium Falcon, which was awesome!
9. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Xbox 360/PS2/PS3/PSP/Wii/Nintendo DS)
The number one rule to this 2008 hack-and-slash action game is “anything goes”. Players take control of a powerful Force user and secret apprentice of Darth Vader code-named “Starkiller”, played by Sam Witwer (future voice actor for Darth Maul). Under Vader’s guidance, Starkiller hunts down and eliminates several surviving Jedi, ostensibly as practice for Starkiller’s ultimate target: Emperor Palpatine. However, Starkiller is ultimately betrayed by Vader. Given a second chance, this time to help a galaxy trapped under the Emperor’s thumb, Starkiller turns to Bail Organa and his teenage daughter Leia.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is not just a Jedi power fantasy, but also an engaging story of redemption. With well-staged boss battles and an epic climax to save the fledgling Rebellion, this game is one of the most timeless Star Wars stories.
8. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords (Xbox/PC)
One of the most significant, yet flawed, Star Wars stories. This sequel suffered from a rushed production timeline (Obsidian Entertainment only had a *fourteen months* to make this game) and a missing third act (the game does have an ending, but it was kind of haphazardly added on). Expanding on the D&D-style foundation of the award-winning original by Bioware, Obsidian traded the more cinematic spectacle of the films (and really, most video games) for novel depth and pacing in this 2004 role-playing game.
It is an incredibly dark story, and one of the first to really tackle the concepts of the Force, balance, and destiny in the Star Wars galaxy. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords features some of the best written dialogue and best acted voice-over performances in all of Star Wars. Considering this was the studio’s first-ever game, it makes those story achievements “most impressive”.
7. Star Wars: Episode I – Racer (Nintendo 64/Game Boy/Dreamcast/PC)
No matter what you thought of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, podracing was a fascinating and original concept. This game did podracing justice. Star Wars: Episode I – Racer took that single facet of the movie and adapted it in a way that was well suited for a video game. Want to race as Anakin as Tatooine? Or maybe you want to see just how “very fast and very dangerous” podracing on Malastare is?
Back in the day, I played it on PC, but the game also handled beautifully on console. There are only two Nintendo 64 titles that have held up to this day: GoldenEye and Racer. But only one of them made you swell with pride when you heard those five magical words: “It’s a New Lap Record!”
6. Star Wars: TIE Fighter (PC)
The first of many games where the sequel surpassed the original, Star Wars: TIE Fighter was the 1994 sequel to the acclaimed Star Wars: X-Wing by Totally Games. TIE Fighter was remarkable because it put players in the role of an *Imperial* starfighter pilot. Not many games (especially at that time) put the player in the point of view of the “bad guys”. On top of that, TIE Fighter is a full-fledged and complex spaceflight simulator. That’s right, not flight sim: but *spaceflight* sim.
Way more advanced than its arcade shooter peers (Yeah, I’m talking about you, original Rogue Squadron!), TIE Fighter also incorporated rich narrative design and lore. Even the fan-favorite Grand Admiral Thrawn by Timothy Zahn made an appearance! Look, there is a reason this game got adapted into a fan-made 1980s-style anime: it’s just that great a game!
5. Star Wars: Battlefront II (PS2/PSP/Xbox)
Look, I loved Iden Versio. I love Janina Gavankar. For crying out loud, she signed my Dungeon Master’s Guide! But when you tell me the name “Star Wars: Battlefront II“, there’s only one shooter that comes to mind. The third and final Star Wars game made by Pandemic Studios was a technical game changer for its time. In addition to offering up lightsaber-wielding hero characters (a feature notably absent from the original Star Wars: Battlefront), Battlefront II also introduced space battles that seamlessly blended starfighter combat and infantry engagements.
The campaign mode follows a clone trooper in the 501st Legion (named after the fan-based costuming organization) of the Grand Army of the Republic. The campaign follows this trooper’s career from the Battle of Geonosis to Order 66 in the Jedi Temple to the 501st becoming “Vader’s Fist” under the Empire to the Battle of Hoth. 15 years since it’s release, and Battlefront II remains one of the best multiplayer-driven Star Wars games.
4. Star Wars Arcade Game
BurgerTime. Dig Dug. Ms. Pac-Man. Star Wars. This 1983 entry by Atari ensured that Star Wars earned its place as one of the all-time greatest arcade games. Timed to coincide with the release of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, this arcade game was simply groundbreaking for its time. To a modern audience, it seems too similar to Disney’s Tron, but in the 1980s, its colorful visuals and 3D vector graphics made for a phenomenal rail shooter.
With a tasteful remix of John Williams‘s score and some of the earliest voice-over in video games, the Star Wars arcade game made you feel like you really were fighting at the Battle of Yavin.
3. Star Wars: Jedi Knight II – Jedi Outcast (Gamecube/Xbox/PC)
Star Wars: Jedi Knight II – Jedi Outcast is technically the third installment, as the Jedi Knight series is really a continuation of the Dark Forces games. Evolving the formula inherited from Dark Forces, this 2002 action game is what would happen if a classic first-person shooter was turned into a physics-based Jedi playground? The game’s hero (the titular Jedi Knight) is the roguish Kyle Katarn. For those unfamiliar with Star Wars Legends, Kyle Katarn was once a Jedi, but he cut his links to the Jedi Order after almost succumbing to the dark side. When gamers are introduced to him in Jedi Outcast, Katarn is working as a mercenary for the New Republic.
One of the essential characters in Star Wars, Jedi Outcast gives Katarn’s story a strong finish and paves the way for the next game (Star Wars: Jedi Knight – Jedi Academy) to follow the story of Katarn’s Padawan: Jaden Korr.
2. LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Game Boy Advance/Nintendo DS/Nintendo 3DS/Gamecube/PS2/PS3/PSP/Wii/Xbox/Xbox 360)
This is the game that set the bar for all LEGO video games you know and love. LEGO Star Wars created a style that is part-serious, part-parody, and all-fun. The original LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game (following the story of the prequel trilogy) was the bestselling game of 2005 and sold more than 3.3 million copies. Why? Because it’s style makes it fun for kids and adults.
LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga adds the adventures of the original trilogy too. With a whopping 160 characters to play as, this delightful puzzle-solving game is almost as fun as building and playing with the actual LEGO sets.
Honorable Mention: Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (Xbox/Game Boy Advance/Nintendo DS/PS2)
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith by The Collective certainly had its flaws. However, this video game adaptation stands out as one of the most memorable and innovative attempts to wholesale turn a Star Wars film into a game. The underappreciated 2005 action game featured a solid one-on-one dueling mode with some of the best lightsaber combat in any Star Wars game.
The game also boasted thrilling sequences that were based on scenes from the movie. When many of those scenes were cut from the final film, that meant this game was the only place you could see and experience these epic fights. The game’s final mission allowed you to choose whether you wanted to play as Darth Vader or Obi-Wan Kenobi. Fighting and winning as Vader led to a fun alternate ending where Vader didn’t burn in the lava on Mustafar, killed Darth Sidious, and declared himself the new Emperor.
1. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox/PC)
Of course Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is at the top of my list. It is one of the few video games that everyone at Geek Girl Authority (literally, *everyone*) has played. This 2003 role-playing game isn’t just the best Star Wars game ever made. This is one of the best RPGs ever made.
With the ability to choose between the light side and the dark side of the Force, this one storyline offers multiple playthroughs that can consume weeks (possibly months) of a player’s life! Bioware defined what most Star Wars fans envisioned when they thought of the Old Republic: a time when Jedi and Sith alike were legion. KOTOR was a watershed moment for not just Bioware, but for Western RPGs as a whole. A new precedent had been set for RPGs to have high production values and full voice-over.
Video game historians might notice a gap in high-quality RPGs between 2002 and 2007. That’s because none could compete with KOTOR. Everything went right with this game: the script, the gameplay, and more. I still play it to this day, and it still holds up well even by today’s impossible AAA standards! If you are looking for the best Star Wars storytelling outside of the films, stop looking. It’s here: you’ve found it! Now go play it!
Revenge of the Fifth
What do you think of my list? Are you content that I at least added TIE Fighter in the rankings? Or are you ready to rage-quit because Star Wars: Galaxies didn’t make the list? Regardless, share your favorite Star Wars games with Geek Girl Authority! This might be Revenge of the Fifth, but I hope that the Force may be with you, today and every day.
Originally published May 5, 2020.