[Quick note before we begin, in case it’s not clear from the title. This list is going to be limited to the console game releases, so while many a great Star Wars game hit the PC, if they only came out there, you won’t find them on this list!]
The Super Star Wars Trilogy
I’m going to kick things off with some very early Star Wars games (yes, I’m technically cheating on this list by doing all three). While they obviously weren’t the first games to take advantage of the license, for me, they still rank among some of the most enjoyable. Story-wise the games don’t offer fans a whole lot to go on, especially since it takes drastic liberties with elements of the film (I don’t remember Luke ever having a battle with a worm-like Sarlacc Pit in the films). The gameplay was fairly simple, being nothing more than a side-scrolling beat ’em up, but it offered up some nice changes of pace here and there.
The first game in the SNES trilogy was more or less a port of the original Star Wars game for the NES, in which you cycle through a few different playable characters from the saga and kill just about anything that happens across the screen. Things got broken up here in there with some vehicle missions, but on the whole it was pretty straight forward. The subsequent games got better and added in swappable weapons and more exploration options for gamers.
Sure, they’re pretty repetitive games, but they still offer up nothing but fun times as only the old school side scrollers can do. There’s plenty of challenge to be had, almost to a maddening degree, but that’s part of it’s charm. It’s possible to beat it, but it for damn sure doesn’t make it easy, and you find yourself playing over and over again to get to the next level. Fortunately, Super Star Wars was just re-released for the PS4 with some added enhancements, but the others are all up on the Nintendo’s Virtual Console, so there’s still plenty of opportunity to play them.
To be entirely honestly, this is a game that is still played with regularity at my house. Seriously, it’s not only one of my favorite Star Wars games, it’s one of my favorite games period. I love a good dogfight video game and the ability to do so within the galaxy far, far away is just too awesome to pass up. One of the most exhilarating thing about the Star Wars franchise, are the daring space battles and Rogue Squadron gave fans the opportunity to battle through the most iconic battles in the films, while offering up new missions to expand on those as well.
Though the graphics obviously don’t stand up (though I feel it’s sequels hold up fairly well), the gameplay is still solid and offers up an experience worth playing through even today. If you’re looking for another reason to dust off your Nintendo 64, then look no further.
Episode 1 Racer
While we’re on the subject of the Nintendo 64 era (though this one also hit the DreamCast) it’s important to mention Episode 1 Racer. This was Star Wars‘ first foray into the video game racing genre and it was pretty damn impressive, with any of the other games that featured racing (there weren’t many) falling short of the bar this one established.
It’s more than just racing around and gave players the option to customize their podracers while exploring other worlds in the Star Wars galaxy. It was just plain fun and it’s fictional setting allowed for options you can’t get in other, more realistic, racers. While it spawned a sequel in the PS2’s Racer Revenge, sadly, this game never really kicked off a franchise, though many felt it was deserving of one (the Darth Vader PlayStation 4 comes with a re-mastered version of Revenge). Every time I play it (which I do) it makes me sad that there’s been no follow up to it in a few console generations.
Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
Back when The Force Unleashed released, one of it’s key selling points was that you could feel like a Jedi by cutting people up and flinging them around with Force powers…but gamers could already do that with Jedi Knight II, and I know some who would argue they did it better. It’s part of a larger franchise (originally starting on the PC) but remains a highlight even within all of those. It capitalized on the Quake 3 engine and gave players a fun and action packed experience with characters and a story you want to follow.
Sure, Battlefront gave us the option to run and gun throughout the galaxy, but it didn’t feature much of a story, nor offer anything new to the Star Wars lore in the same way Jedi Outcast did. It’s gameplay formula is fairly simple by today’s standards, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to play with friends.
Knights of the Old Republic
It’s still hard for me to think of this game as ‘retro’, but considering it was released over a decade ago, it’s hard to deny that it is an older game these days. Regardless of the time span, KOTOR remains one of the best Star Wars games out there and a must-play for fans of the franchise. To be honest, the gameplay systems and graphics haven’t aged as well as they could have (many RPGs have moved beyond, building on the template provided), but it’s still a solid game with a story that’s more than worth experiencing time and time again.
While the ability to choose your path (good or evil) and have your decisions affect your team and the overall story, now seems somewhat commonplace in a variety of games, back when this first released, it was something amazing…and still is. Despite there being an entire MMO set around this type of universe, there are still tons of fans out there (myself included) clamoring for a third Knights of the Old Republic game on the consoles. That shows how strongly this title resonated with fans, and every time I’ve gone back to play it, I get all tingly.
Believe me, I’m aware of all the other awesome Star Wars games that have come out for the older systems, but I wanted to keep this article a little more limited. Remember, it’s all about having fun, and while we may remember some of the other games fondly, not all of them are as fun to play anymore (Bounty Hunter is a great concept, but repetitive and doesn’t hold up to modern actioners). Regardless, I feel these titles above are still incredibly fun to play around with.
What are your favorite Star Wars games you’d add to this list? Sound off in the comments below!