Star Wars Games
It's fun to visit a galaxy far far away.
Star Wars day is coming and I can not help but think about some of my favorite visits to the Star Wars universe. Here is a list of a few of my favorites, some great, some just okay and some nostalgic guilty pleasures. So strap in for hyperspace and make sure you have a good blaster at you side. Let's do a deep dive into the games of Star Wars. May the Force be with us.
Let's start with my first ever Star Wars game X-Wing for DOS. I have a lot of fond memories surrounding this mission based flight simulator, running on my old DOS computer from my tween years. It took 14 floppy disk to get the game onto my computer but it was worth the wait as you were thrown into the cockpit of not just the X-Wing, but the A-Wing, Y-Wing and B-Wing fighters. Equally fun is the sequel Tie-Fighter but I remember the original the most fondly. I remember scouring stores for a flight stick to use with the game so I could feel even more immersed. I borrowed one from a friend once and I can not describe to you my disappointment when I realized it was not compatible with my PC. Eventually I did get my own and the experience was unforgettable. It really was a showcase of what the difference between playing on PC and playing on a console meant back in the day. Eventually I lost the manual and the security key and after that i languished on my shelf for years before eventually becoming lost when we moved. But I admit that it sits in my Steam cart tempting me daily to plunge back in for nostalgia sake.
Super Star Wars was probably my next Star Wars game and while I certainly have the same level of nostalgia for it, in retrospect I find the game a chore to play. It is essentially a run and gun where you can not run and gun at the same time. I still play it from time to time to see if it clicks with me but I always come away wishing it was a little more Contra and had a lot less slowdown. Some may defend the game by calling attention to platforming being it's main focus. But the platforming is also a down grade from NES contra. Your jump is delayed and depending on the angle of the jump your hight can vary. The game is not terrible, but it's not "super" and the only reason people still love it and play it is because it's Star Wars.
Star Wars Dark Forces is a Doom clone, pure and simple. But that is possibly the most brilliant idea ever. It is such a perfect example of its age and genre it almost feels like a sprite hack or rom hack of Doom, replacing demons for storm troopers. The cutscenes and story beats have that same DOS feel from the X-Wing games and Kyle Katarn is as cool a character as Star Wars has ever had. It was released on PS1 but if you want to play it today Steam is the way to go. If you love Doom your will love this game and if you love Star Wars and don't mind some old fashioned FPS controls you will still love this game.
Going from one edgy cool 90's Star Wars character to another, the NG4 and PC game Shadows of the Empire is a direct tie in to the novel set between Empire Strikes back and Return of the Jedi. While Han Solo is on ice his role is filled by the incredibly cool Dash Rendar. Dash is a mercenary with his own incredible ship, that is also cooler than the Falcon, the Outrider. Starting out on Hoth and then moving from mission to mission the game starts out incredibly strong, though later missions fall a bit short, the finale does pick back up with a dogfight in space though. All in all this game has a lot to offer fans if again you can get used to the strange controls by modern standards. This game could really use a Nathan Drake style remake on modern hardware. But since that will likely never happen you can still get it for N64 or better still on Steam.
Star Wars Rogue Squadron both one and two are fun flight simulators for the masses. I phrase it that way because the mechanics of the game are definitely simplified from previous X-Wing games. But that is not a bad thing and Factor Five's arguably greatest contribution is building games that play and look great despite being on older hardware. The GameCube sequel in particular is one of the best looking games on the console which is incredible being a third party launch title. Factor Five overreached for the third game but it does include one incredibly cool feature. The entire second game on disk in co-op mode. These games were so popular and successful, despite being somewhat forgotten today, that they spawned a lot of imitators like the XBOX exclusive Crimson Skies. I guess the old saying is true imitation is the highest form of flattery.
One of the other imitators came from the same franchise but on competing hardware. The Star Wars Starfighter and Jedi Starfighter games. Want to play a Star Wars flight game with no X-Wing or Tie Fighters? No? Really? I guess they were banking on the Naboo Starfighter being as marketable as the X-Wing but the big Banana seems to have aged a lot poorer. Still the game is not terrible and its mission based structure is lifted from Rogue Squadron. The experience is more streamlined and with less menus and a more linear progression which speeds things up. Cutscenes are also added since the story is literally lifted from any of the films although it does correspond loosely with the first two prequels. Visually the game is not as much a treat as Rogue Squadron, but it's not bad for the PS2 considering how early the first one was produced. The in flight UI though is kind of a mess, pretty but not terribly functional. Overall they are fun little games to blast through.
I also want to take a moment to mention The Star Wars Arcade games and their ports. The original Star Wars arcade put you in the cockpit of an X-Wing via vector graphics. Ported to a lot of consoles I personally own the port for the 32X. Mind-blowing, I am sure for the arcades of the time it was soon overshadowed by the Star Wars Arcade of my own youth. This stand or sit cabinet, depending on your arcade, allowed you to duke it out with Darth Vader or blast Tie Fighters in an X-Wing on a trench run. Of course when most people think of Star Wars in the arcade I imagine they think of Episode One Pod racer. This giant unit put you in the driver seat as you blasted through the rocky canyons of episode one. We got two home conversion on the N64 that were also pretty fun to play and contained extra modes to keep you invested for longer. The giant machine looked as dangerous to be close to as a real pod-racer but it was fun and I never saw anyone crushed by one.
Lego Star Wars caught me by complete surprise when it came out. As a concept it seemed like a match made in heaven but I had low expectations that it would be anything more than a cheap cash grab. But much to my delight it was far from it. The game is not deep in its mechanics, in order to be accessible to everyone, but the humor is what drives you to keep playing. The game is full of self referential humor that serves as a great motivation to complete the game to see every joke and reference. This game is available on almost everything and you really can't go wrong with any version. If you are going to play one Lego licensed game, these are the ones you need to play.
Of course no discussion of Star Wars games would be complete without mentioning KOTOR and Battlefront (originals not the new ones). While I admit to seeing the appeal of these games I have to say that neither of them clicked for me personally. Again I am not saying they were bad, they were very good, I just struggle in the shooter genre and the western RPG genre. I got a lot more into KOTOR than Battlefront though and I really appreciated how they wrote essentially a better prequel than George Lucas. Both games are solid and if you like their respective play styles you really can not do better from that generation.
The last game I want to talk about is the relatively recent Fallen Order. This Souls like 3D Metroidvania is a good game and I was impressed that, considering the source material, the game stuck to its premise and at times could be quite difficult. The game could be pretty buggy every occasionally and once I was killed in one of the opening cutscenes. But once you get past the bugs an excellent and varied experience can be found underneath. I have already talked at length about this game in a separate article which I will link if you would like to know more.
There are hundreds of Star Wars games, way to many to mention here. But the volume of games, good and bad, stands with the number of films, books, comics and merchandise that proves that Star Wars, even after these years, is still a force to be reckoned with.