The original Star Wars trilogy was an epic tale of hope, friendship, and redemption and defined the space opera genre for decades after its release. Many video games and books in the extended Star Wars universe were also created to help fuel the colossal fandom that continues to this day.
In 1982, Star Wars creator George Lucas founded Lucasfilm Games, prior to the release of Return of the Jedi. The game development branch of Lucas' company was eventually renamed LucasArts, and went on to publish dozens of games for computers, home video game, consoles, and arcades.
With no parent company to limit Star Wars video game partnerships, LucasArts was free to publish games in a wide variety of genres. Early Star Wars games included Dark Forces, a first person shooter for PC; Rebel Assault, a space combat game; and trio of adventure games recreating the original Star Wars trilogy on Super Nintendo.
Disney acquired Lucasfilm for US$4 billion in 2012, but decided to close the company's internal video game studio. Disney then licensed the Star Wars brand to Electronic Arts, one of the largest video game makers in North America. Electronic Arts has delivered three Star Wars games so far using the exclusive license, Battlefront and Battlefront II, and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, a single-player adventure game that launched earlier this year.
Before Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrives, here is a fun look back at the best Star Wars games over the years, ranked from worst to best:
Shadows of the Empire was an exclusive title for the Nintendo 64. Set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, the game stars bounty hunter Dash Render and employs a few different styles of gameplay.
The game is primarily a third person shooter, with specific levels designed for piloting vehicles. Unfortunately the graphics and controls don't hold up too well compared to modern games, but there are a few moments that made Shadows of the Empire a memorable experience.
For example, players get to pilot a snowspeeder during a fun recreation of the Battle of Hoth from Empire Strikes Back. Later, Dash uses a jetpack to duel Boba Fett during an attempt to rescue Han Solo.
X-Wing Alliance is the third and final game in the X-Wing series of space flying simulators. The game is entirely focused on piloting the many starcrafts in the Star Wars universe, and takes place exclusively from the inside of the cockpit.
Players can choose from recognisable ships like the X-Wing and TIE Interceptor and play through more than 50 single player missions. Multiplayer dogfights are also available for up to eight players.
Star Wars: Republic Commando is a first person game with an emphasis on squad mechanics. Players control an elite squad of soldiers during the Clone Wars, the conflict between the Republic and the Trade Federation depicted in Star Wars Episodes II & III.
While the gun-play in Republic Commando is pretty run of the mill by modern standards, the amount of strategic control players can exert over their AI control squadmates is impressive. Players can give their teammates specific commands based on the situation, or give them general objectives, like guarding a particular location.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is an action-adventure game that lets players control Darth Vader's apprentice, Starkiller. Galen "Starkiller" Marek was an original character created for the game and is able to use a variety of powerful force abilities.
Using his powers as a Sith, Starkiller can wreak total havoc on his enemies and the environment. The game takes place prior to the original Star Wars film and explores Starkiller's attempts to embrace the light side of the force.
PS: The name Starkiller is actually a reference to the original Star Wars script, in which Luke Skywalker is named Starkiller.
Star Wars Battlefront II and its heavy implementation of micro-transactions made it the subject of controversy before it was released. Even after the game's creators removed the micro-transactions, the game was criticised for its lack of content compared to the original Star Wars Battlefront II released by LucasArts in 2005.
Regardless, EA's Battlefront II is the best-looking Star Wars game ever made. With matches allowing up to 64 players at a time for a mix of space and ground combat, the epic scale of Battlefront makes it worth a try if you're a fan of the franchise.
While X-Wing Alliance is the best bet for recreating the space combat of Star Wars, it simply can't match the personality or presentation of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron.
Rogue Squadron is an arcade-style flying game; players fly along a pre-determined route while trying to eliminate enemies and to avoid obstacles along the way. With players controlling Luke Skywalker, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron brings players through the original trilogy, with battle from A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
Built with the same engine as Unreal Tournament 2003, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy is a first-person shooter at its core, but offers some of the most robust customisation and gameplay available in any Star Wars game.
While most of the guns are borrowed from Unreal, when you activate your lightsaber the game switches to third-person mode and lets you use force powers during combat.
Jedi Academy takes place after Return of the Jedi, as Luke Skywalker works to restore the Jedi order. Players can create their own character to place at the centre of the story. That includes being able to choose their race, gender, lightsaber color, and whether they use the light or dark side.
Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II is a single-player role-playing game set thousands of years before the Star Wars movies. Players control an exiled Jedi knight who must choose between the light and dark sides of the force.
Choosing a side means engaging with non-playable characters, the player's choices during missions and conversations will impact whether they embrace the light or dark side of the force.
Combat happens in real time and Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II lets players use more than 30 different abilities; though some are exclusive to one side of the force.
As odd as it may seem, Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga is the only series of Star Wars game to tell the story of both the original trilogy and the three Star Wars prequels.
The Complete Saga offers simple but engaging gameplay with a silly, tongue-in-cheek sense of humour that reminds me why I fell in love with Star Wars as a kid. With the added bonus of a cooperative two-player campaign, Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga is a fun ride for those looking to relive the movies.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order goes back to the series' roots, with a story set just before the original Star Wars movie and a hero who echoes Luke Skywalker's coming-of-age story. It's not a retelling by any means but a parallel tale that tries to capture the spirit of adventure that makes players want to become Jedi in the first place.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order follows Cal Kestis, a young man whose Jedi training was cut short by the nebulous Empire's rise to power. During the journey, players work to restore Cal's connection to the force, gaining new powers to fight the Empire in the process.
Developed by Pandemic Studios for LucasArts, the original Star Wars: Battlefront II is a cult classic. Like the modern Battlefront II, the Pandemic Studios release included 64-player matches online, a mix of space and ground combat, and split-screen cooperative play for two players.
In addition to a 18-mission long campaign, Star Wars: Battlefront II is packed with multiplayer game modes, and players can select from a range of playable characters. Characters from the movies appear in Battlefront II's hero assault mode, where they can use special abilities to take on large groups of regular players.
The PC version of Star Wars: Battlefront II lost online support in May 2014 but the game's popularity led Steam and GOG.com, two game distribution platforms, to release a patch that restored online functionality in October 2017. The game remains so popular that Microsoft decided to give it away for free to Xbox Live Gold subscribers last month, even though the online features no longer work on Xbox Live.