It’s Star Wars day. I’m going to give you my list of the top 10 Star Wars games that I’ve played. Note that I’ve played many more Star Wars games than that, but not all deserve a mention. I’m rolling expansion packs and DLC into the main game if applicable.
10. Masters of the Teras Kasi — This is easily my most controversial pick. It was a one on one 3D fighting game for the Playstation. The fighting engine itself wasn’t that good. The graphics didn’t really impress. The things they had to do to balance the game (including nerfing lightsabers), made it feel less Star Wars. However, I had a ton of fun playing this game. Sure, you could unlock the slave Leia outfit, but the real unlock was Darth Vader. Force lightning. Force choke. You felt real power playing as the dark lord of the sith. I have too many great memories and hours logged to leave this game off the list.
9. Star Wars Arcade — This only counts for the sit down cockpit version of the game. Yes, it was primitive. It only had three stages. The sound was amazing for the time. And you were flying a freakin’ Xwing. My regret was that there weren’t many near me, and I didn’t have enough quarters.
8. Star Wars Pinball — I love pinball games. I love Star Wars. This is a no brainer. Zen specializes in the fantastical possibilities of video pinball so they’re a great fit for Star Wars. Yes, some tables are great and other are not. They all nail the Star Wars feel. If Zen had only released the Boba Fett table (which I hated the first time I played), this game would still be on this list.
7. Battlefront II — There was a mod for Battlefield 1942 that turned it into Star Wars. This game is pretty much what those modders were probably dreaming of as they worked. There are many things wrong with the game, but they’re overwhelmed by the sheer amazement of walking into the middle of a Star Wars battle. That feeling probably won’t be equaled until we get a Battlefront III on a VR headset.
6. The Force Unleashed — The game is short. There are some annoying boss battles. It looks great. There are more epic moments than any one game should have. Mostly, it’s the first game where you feel like you’ve experienced the true power of the force. At a primal level, this game taps into the kid in us playing Jedi back when we equated power with good. It’s just fun playing with that much power.
5. Rebellion — I had a tough time ranking these two. I love strategy games. I’d probably give a slight edge to 4X over RTS. The games are clearly related despite the gap between their release. The fact is that Rebellion was probably a bit ahead of its time for the developers ambitions. I’m sure not sticking to canon probably annoyed a bunch of geeks as well. I got to conquer the Star Wars universe as either the Empire or the Rebellion. I built ridiculously huge fleets and armies and used them to crush my opponent. It included espionage and diplomacy. Everything felt a bit rough, but it brought the grand to grand strategy.
4. Empire at War — Petroglyph tried to use better technology to do everything that Rebellion couldn’t do at the time. They largely succeeded, but lost a bit of the grandness along the way. At it’s heart is a great Star Wars RTS game with a broader galactic strategy game floating over the top. Rebellion was the reverse (though limited as mentioned). Overall, Empire at War is the better game. It nails the atmosphere and the size and scope of battle. Often, there’s the great feeling that the universe is spinning out of control. Like any great strategy game, you’re spinning a lot of plates, but when you pull it off, it feels amazing.
3. Tie Fighter — There’s a sheer terror to being launched into a pitched space battle in a vanilla Tie Fighter. It’s kind of like being asked to charge a machine gun nest in a shooter, but, in this instance, you’re not the hero. You’re the cannon fodder. You soon get to pilot actually capable star fighters. You never escape the feeling that you’re not the hero. That’s probably because you’re the bad guy. The story is pretty amazing for its time. It really digs into the universe and draws you in. There are great missions and better flying. The graphics are improved. No, you’re not going to beat my first love. (Yes, I know it should be TIE, Twin Ion Engine, Fighter [geek]).
2. Knights of the Old Republic — It’s hard to forget the golden age of Bioware RPGs. KOTOR is certainly a jewel in that crown. You could almost hear an old crusty jedi instructor from the Academy taking a bunch of padawans out on a camping trip and telling them this tale around the campfire. They nailed the feel of the universe without being restrained by any of the stories already told. I don’t know if the combat engine was great, but the game was all about story and characters. Bioware nailed both. Mandalorians, meatbags, Revan, Malak, Bastila, Dantooine, holocrons, battle droids. It’s all there. It’s probably time to play it again on my iPad.
1. X-Wing — Yes, I know that the flight models and performance got better in the later games of the series. Even some of the mission designs were better, but this was the game I dreamed of when watching Star Wars. This was the game I poured over details from magazines before release. Yes, this was in the dark times before the real internet. Back when it still felt like a series of tubes. It was hard to get information back then, but I devoured everything I could get. Then, the game came out, and it was even better than I had hoped. I was a Rebel pilot flying missions against the Empire. It’s still one of my favorite gaming memories ever. You didn’t just fly the titular fighter. You raced along in the A-Wing. Then the B-Wing expansion felt like you’d moved up in weight class. So many games have disappointed me. Just thinking of X-Wing always brings a smile to my face.