With the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it’s as good a time as any to take a look at Star Wars video game history, and remember the best Star Wars single-player games of all time. It is, however, no small task. There are close to a hundred different Star Wars video games and expansions, dating all of the way back to 1982. Some of them are direct movie tie-ins, while others chart their own course, and keep in mind that the advances in gaming technology over the last 30 years are truly staggering.
Just about everyone has their favorites, and with so many titles over such a long period of time, finding consensus in identifying the five best single-player Star Wars games is unlikely. So, if you disagree, feel free to list yours in the comments. That being said, this is my list.
5. Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga – The success of Lego Star Wars, back in 2005 is pretty much the reason why there’s a new Lego game every six months. Though The Complete Saga wasn’t released until a couple of years later, it is the definitive version of the original game, plus it includes the second game, Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy.
Where the first game ran players through a kid-friendly and Lego-themed accounting of the Star Wars prequels, Lego Star Wars II was a treatment of George Lucas’ generally-preferred, original Star Wars trilogy. While the co-op option of the Lego games is certainly part of their appeal, unlocking the 50 or so characters in each game is more practically accomplished playing the game solo.
Essentially, the Star Wars Lego games are 3D platformers with a lot of Lego dressing. As such, the games, both individually and as a collection, are the spiritual successors of the three Super Star Wars games. Luckily, the difficulty level of the Lego games isn’t quite as high as that of the classic SNES games, making the new games more accessible for a younger audience.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention, that there is now a third Lego Star Wars game that tackles The Clone Wars.
Those looking for more of challenge, or to revisit their nostalgia, can now buy and download Super Star Wars for the PlayStation 4 on the PlayStation Store.
4. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed – While the Lego games are kid-friendly re-imaginings of the existing Star Wars movies, The Force Unleashed and its sequel are a slightly more adult-themed, action-adventure games, that somewhat chart their own course.
The Force Unleashed is set between the final prequel and the original Star Wars: A New Hope and puts players in the role of Darth Vader’s apprentice. As the apprentice, players develop their Force abilities, including their lightsaber skills, and travel across the Star Wars universe. This allows for a growing sense power as the game progresses.
It’s really that feeling of being a Jedi, made possible with more recent technology, that elevates the game to a top five status. Otherwise, with little variety of gameplay and an overall brevity, The Force Unleashed is an awfully thin slice of the Star Wars experience.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and its sequel were released for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Windows PC, in 2008 and 2010, respectively. Abbreviated and modified versions were also made available for less-capable gaming systems.
3. Star Wars: X-Wing – While The Force Unleashed was about allowing players to feel like a powerful Jedi, Star Wars: X-Wing focuses on the other prodigious abilities of Anakin Skywalker and his son: flying. The 1983 Star Wars arcade game did offer a similar experience, but it was on rails, and relied on vector graphics.
First released in 1993, Star Wars: X-Wing allowed players to pilot the eponymous X:Wing as well as other rebel starfighters, and was actually the first DOS-based Star Wars game. Throughout the decade, many technological advances were adopted, and three more titles, and numerous expansions, were released.
Unfortunately, the economics of PC gaming forced LucasArts to look at other mediums, and design a more console friendly experience. In 1998 the first of a series of new Rogue Squadron games was released for the Nintendo 64 and in 1999, the release of X-Wing Alliance for Windows PC marked the end of the X-Wing series.
At this point, Star Wars: X-Wing and all of the subsequent PC titles in the series are considered classic games and have been repackaged numerous times in physical and digital formats.
2. Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II – Set in the now-discarded expanded Star Wars universe, the first or third person Jedi Knight games were produced between 1995 and 2003. While most of the titles in this list are the initial offerings, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, released in 1997, was such an improvement over the first game that it truly is the defining title of the nearly decade-long series.
Dark Forces II is set a year after the conclusion of the original Star Wars trilogy and put players in role of an ex-mercenary, working with the rebel alliance. Primarily a first-person shooter, the game also allowed for lightsaber play. Though the quality of presentation varied greatly depending on the user’s PC, the setting, its scale, and the variety of gameplay were all impressive. Dark Forces II also had multiple endings based on how the game was played.
Three more games followed Dark Forces II in the Jedi Knight series, but none of them were really able to replicate the experience. Whether they focused too much on the lightsaber combat or multiplayer, something just seemed to be missing. This oft forgotten-about PC game deserves a reboot, but only if it’s done right.
1. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – Speaking of reboots, despite a sequel existing, fans have been clamoring for another entry in Bioware’s KOTOR series for a long time. Unfortunately, the developer has moved on to greener pastures, at least ones that allow them significantly more creative freedom (and opportunity for income).
With the Mass Effect trilogy as my favorite all time video game series, there’s no way anything but Star Wars: Knights of the Old Rebublic, released in 2003 could be at the top of this list. Much of the Mass Effect gameplay framework was cobbled together in KOTOR. From the dialogue trees to interactive companions and morality system, all of it was in KOTOR first. Apparently, Bioware knew they were on to something.
Despite its critical and financial success, Bioware was ready to move on, and the development of KOTOR 2 was handed over to Obsidian. In 2004, like its predecessor, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II- The Sith Lords was released for the Xbox, OS X, Linux, and Windows PC.