Thank You, Star Wars, For All These Awesome Games

Illustration for article titled Thank You, Star Wars, For All These Awesome Games
Total RecallTotal RecallTotal Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

May 4 is Star Wars Day, in honour of, well, the fact "May the 4th" sounds a bit like "May the force...". Silly, I know, but it also gives us a chance to look back on the amazing video games the sci-fi franchise has given us over the years. And by years, I should really say decades.


While movie tie-ins to this day remain something to generally be wary of, Star Wars - perhaps thanks to the fact it has a life well beyond the silver screen - is an exception, having provided not just some of the best film adaptations of all time, but some of the best games of all time.

There have been some good ones, to be sure. Galactic Battlegrounds, Republic Commando, Force Unleashed...Yoda Stories. But we've saved spots in this gallery for the greats (and even then, only one game from each of the great franchises).

In recent years, sadly, the quality of Star Wars titles has slipped, a decline in the quality of development at Lucasarts coinciding with a new trilogy of films that was never the greatest source material in the first place. But oh well. We've always got the past! And who knows, maybe even the future!

Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends

Star Wars (1983) - The original Star Wars arcade game, released by Atari. It doesn't look like much now, but back then, she had it where it counted. Namely, having cutting-edge vector graphics able of recreating a 3D space, something most other games could only dream of. It was followed by a slightly more absurd sequel, which had you shooting AT-AT space.

Tie Fighter (1994) - There were four games in the X-Wing series of space combat simulators, and it's tough choosing a highlight from the bunch. In the end, I have to go with Tie Fighter, because it took a little more imagination coming up with the storylines. That and it's fun to be the bad guy once in a while.

Dark Forces (1995) - Before the Jedi Knight series got all obsessed with, well, Jedi Knights, the first game in the franchise had you playing as a dishevelled Rebel commando, running around shooting everything in your path. No lightsabers. Dark Forces was a great shooter, but what made it amazing was the fact it's probably still the best realisation of the "feel" of the Star Wars universe in a video game.

Super Empire Strikes Back (1993) - History has strangely forgotten the three Super Nintendo adaptations of the classic trilogy, which is odd, considering they're not just great Star Wars games but also some of the best platformers available for the system. Which is saying something. Empire is probably the pick of the three games.

Star Wars Episode I: Racer (1999) - I don't think I like any game based on the new movies. With the exception of this one. And that's because, when you get past the Phantom Menace adaptation, it's a top-shelf WipeOut clone, and on PC was one of the slickest, fastest games around.

Knights Of The Old Republic (2003) - One of the only Star Wars games around that lets you actually live in the universe, instead of just whizzing through it in a ship blowing shit up. Marrying BioWare's obsession with story-telling with a more action-oriented combat mechanic, it remains one of the best role-playing games ever made.

LEGO Star Wars II (2006) - If you only ever play one family Star Wars game (or one LEGO game), make it this one. Cute, simple, accessible and most of all hilarious, it's as lovable a parody of Star Wars as you'll ever see, especially since it keeps so much of the original trilogy's spirit in tact at the same time.

Rogue Squadron III (2003) - Did you know this GameCube title was the first time anyone had seen Star Wars footage on a disc-based media format since the 1980's? Well it was. It was also a great game, some forgettable on-foot sections more than made up for by the series' best ship combat sequences. Though really, you can't go wrong with any of Factor 5's space (and air) combat games.

Battlefront II (2005) - It's Battlefield. Only with Star Wars units. And you can fly into space.


Darth Marsden

While this is a great list, make no mistake, it's also an incomplete one. Here's what you should have also included.

Republic Commando (2005) A much darker look at the Star Wars universe (more specifically, the Clone Wars), Republic Commando placed you as the leader of a 4-man squad battling through Genosians, Battle Droids and worse. Each of your team had a distinct personality, a specialist area of expertise and a surprisingly high level of AI, and the game was an absolute joy to play through.

It sadly ended on a cliffhanger with no resolution, which makes people, myself included, very sad. And no, the novels don't count.

Battlefront II (2005) More multiplayer focused then pretty much the rest of the series, the Battlefront series let you take a role during some of the most insane battles from the entire (film) saga. There's vehicles, huge maps and some manic action that isn't really found in many of the other games.

Unlike the first Battlefront, the sequel has a stronger narrative, focusing on the 501st Legion (aka Vader's Fist) as they make their way through the Clone Wars and ends as they arrive at the Battle of Hoth. There's been other games in the series, but none have lived up to this one.

Star Wars Trilogy Arcade (1998) This is an on-rails retread through the original trilogy. And it is glorious. You control the action with a joystick (and a single button) and blast enemies, wield a lightsaber and fly a speeder, and at no point is it ever not fun. (Unless the joystick doesn't respond to your movements properly, like the one I played in Vegas was, but that's a whole other story).

Sadly never got a home console release, but if they were to port it to the Wii or PS3 Move, I guarantee it would sell like hotcakes.

Jedi Knight series (1997, 1998, 2002, 2004) I'm lumping these all together because they're all part of the same series and they're all great in their own ways.

Jedi Knight, and its add-on, Mysteries of the Sith, was the first real game to let you fully control a Jedi (Luke Skywalker not included) and it was great fun. Slicing up enemies and using the force was a real game-changer, and it's hard to imagine that Star Wars games hadn't really done it before.

In hindsight the combat was very basic (the best strategy was to literally circle-strafe you enemies while slashing with your lightsaber) and the plot was... light-hearted, but it's still a fun game to play and the technology used is still capable of some huge maps that modern games are only recently catching up to.

Jedi Outcast was completely different. It was a sequel sure, and it had a similar tone in plot, but the controls were so different it was unbelievable. It was slower paced and the combat was much more epic, with more emphasis on actual duels. You could also, if you entered the right console command, slice the limbs of people with your saber, and who hasn't wanted to do that?

Some of the level design is a little iffy and the appearance of Lando Calrissian is completely out of left field, but I think this is still my favourite of the series.

Jedi Academy took the gameplay of Outcast and refined it. The single-player aspect is a very rigid, mission based affair, and is almost entirely forgettable as a result. But the enhanced force powers and the miltiplayer options that you could have really sold the game.

It's still played to this day, which I think says a lot, and it's almost always great fun. Plus, it lets you have a double-bladed lightsaber. And that's just awesome.