Dozens upon dozens of Star Wars games have been released since the early ’80s, and the flood has never really subsided over the years. Pretty much every year has seen another game or two appear to reignite our love of lightsabers.
That’s not always a great thing. Licensed games have a reputation for being rubbish more often than not, and Star Wars is as guilty as any other franchise for putting out tosh here and there: Kinect Star Wars, anyone? How about Masters of Teras Kasi? It happens. In fact, it’s happened quite a bit.
Thankfully, there’s a flipside to that: the games that remind us why we love Star Wars so much. The games that let us feel as though we’re a part of that vast, wonderful universe. And the games that fill us with the same kind of childhood wonder as the classic films themselves. There’s a fair number of them, but we’ve argued about them all to come up with a list of the 10 very best.
So, in honour of Star Wars Day today – May the 4th be with you, etc. – here are our favourites.
10) STAR WARS TRILOGY ARCADE
We may never know why Sega opted not to bring Star Wars Trilogy to the Dreamcast, but it was one of the most stunning arcade games ever released when it debuted in 1999. Revisiting the classic films for a cinematic rail shooter, it put the Model 3 hardware to great use, immersing you in key moments from the series. Assault on the Death Star? Battle of Hoth? Speeders through the Endor forest? We’re excited just reminiscing about it.
Available on: Arcade
9) STAR WARS: REPUBLIC COMMANDO
Republic Commando strikes an odd tone for a Star Wars game: it doesn’t star Jedi warriors or have most of the familiar sights and sounds of the series. In fact, it looks like a cross between Halo and Metroid Prime more than anything. Yet this squad-based shooter did a great job of focusing on a relatively unexplored part of the universe, putting you in command of a chatty group of elite clone soldiers. It’s an unexpected highlight.
Available on: PC, Xbox
8) STAR WARS EPISODE I: RACER
The pod racing sequence is one of the rare scenes in Episode I that doesn’t make us want to gouge our eyes out, and sure enough, the racing game based on it arguably the best game based on all three prequels. It’s a Wipeout-esque affair, as you zip around in the rocket-propelled pod avoiding hazards and outrunning rivals. It looks like hell now (especially on N64), but the sense of speed then was incredible.
Available on: N64, PC, Dreamcast, Game Boy Color
7) LEGO STAR WARS: THE COMPLETE SAGA
It’s easy to forget now, what with seemingly hundreds of licensed Lego games, but Lego Star Wars was the first to render a pop culture juggernaut in virtual plastic bricks and douse the result with plenty of humour. Following a separate game for each film trilogy, The Complete Saga brought it all together in one extra-large game, complete with new and redone levels. It’s a gigantic smash-and-bash game that’ll have you grinning with mates.
Also, it will be free for Xbox One and Xbox 360 for Xbox Live Gold members later this month, from 16-31 May. Don’t miss it!
Available on: PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii, DS, iOS, Android
6) STAR WARS JEDI KNIGHT: DARK FORCES II
Whereas the original Dark Forces was more or less a Doom-alike, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II went well beyond to make you feel like a proper Jedi in a 3D world. Lightsaber duels, Force powers… it helped Jedi Knight seem distinct from the juggernaut shooters of the era (like Quake II). That was especially true in the new multiplayer mode, wherein lightsabers swung freely through the tight corridors. Good luck in there.
Available on: PC
5) Star Wars: TIE Fighter
If you only played console games in the early-to-mid ’90s, you missed out on truly captivating Star Wars space sims, starting with X-Wing. One year later, TIE Fighter applied much the same formula, but taking command of the titular ship and fighting as the Empire put a fresh spin on the franchise, and made things more thrilling. A couple more sequels followed, but TIE Fighter is considered the best of the bunch, and still one of the franchise’s top games.
Available on: PC
4) Super Star Wars
Remember when Luke fought that Sarlaac Monster in the first 10 minutes of A New Hope? How about when he then had to leap between moving platforms on a Jawa sandcrawler? No? It’s true: Super Star Wars takes liberties with the source material to amp up the action, but the end result is an awesome and challenging run-and-gun side-scroller. It’s one of the earliest licensed games that we remember truly loving, and it spawned stellar sequels too.
3) Star Wars: Battlefront
The latest, most hyped Star Wars game ever made was produced by the team behind the bombastic Battlefield series and is a multiplayer shooter with quite astonishing attention to detail. Battlefront may not be the very best Star Wars game ever, but it’s the most Star Wars game ever. Every environment looks and feels spot-on, every blaster shot sounds perfect and impacts enemies and scenery exactly how it would in the films. No game has ever transported you into a galaxy far, far away quite as effectively as Battlefront does.
And Battlefront II is coming later this year, delivering a proper story mode (with an original Empire heroine) alongside the epic online skirmishes.
2) Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
Arguably still the finest original trilogy-spanning game ever created, Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader took the strong core of the N64 original and elevated the flight combat experience with the added power of the GameCube. It was a stunning achievement for its time, and pretty easily the best launch title on the system, letting you zip through iconic moments as part of the X-Wing crew. Truth be told, it still looks fabulous.
Available on: GameCube
1) Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Knights of the Old Republic eschewed the films’ timeline, yet still delivered an engrossing tale—one that you could shape as you made decisions and nudged either way on the Force spectrum. BioWare’s seminal role-player is widely considered one of the strongest licensed games ever created, and it helped pave the way for the studio’s beloved Mass Effect series, too. Knights of the Old Republic II isn’t as consistently strong, but it’s still recommended.