Great classic Star Wars video games have graced consoles and computer screens for decades, but it wasn’t until the series’ rebirth in the mid ’90s that Lucasarts came up swinging.
For the first time, a new generation of gamers and a new generation of viewers collided with Star Wars in an unprecedented way, with many games bleeding into the expanded universe of books and comics (until it was greatly cut off at the knees in The Force Awakens, but let’s leave that for another time).
Although the classic Star Wars game legacy attempts to live on in today’s era of DLC and lifelike graphics, these releases simply don’t carry the same appeal and charming simplicity of the late 20th and early 21st century. In fact, their tendency to fall flat makes many of us pre-Millenials feel thankful about dodging so many bullets in our early years, reverting instead to the days when two-button joysticks reigned supreme, and 3D graphics cards were – in some cases – equivalent to science fiction (no pun intended).
While not everyone may agree with the following particular order of awesomeness, these classic Star Wars video games are amazing creations of a bygone era, when creators cared about gameplay, source material and innovation over simple reboots.
#10 – Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter
Some might argue that this classic Star Wars game has no place on the list, but it does have some decent redeeming qualities. Although lacking variety in terms of missions and devoid of a storyline until its underwhelming expansion pack Balance of Power came into the mix, XvT brought something big to the table.
Aside from improved graphics, the game has only one another redeeming quality – but it’s huge. Specifically, multiplayer combat was introduced into the X-Wing library, which ushered in a whole new era of challenges and online comradery, often in the form of guilds or “squadrons.” In fact, the competition became so extreme in the 90s that some large groups actually tried to actively troll and sabotage rival squadrons’ websites – probably not something Lucasarts was going for, but hey, human nature strikes again.
Malice aside, X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter retains some of the old-school feel of previous X-Wing titles with fast-paced battles that are sure to please classic Star Wars video game fans everywhere.
#9 – Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance
Although (surprisingly) not as popular as other classic Star Wars video games, X-Wing: Alliance deserves a mention. The third and final installment in the iconic space sim series, we follow the exploits of “Ace” Azameen and his family, who ultimately become involved with the Rebel Alliance, while experiencing a sub-plot of the Azameen’s business and its struggles.
Sporting more advanced graphics, 3D acceleration, online multiplayer, new ships and advanced wing mate orders, X-Wing: Alliance is one Star Wars game that belongs in every fan’s library.
#8 – Star Wars: Dark Forces
An ambitious move by Lucasarts on behalf of classic Star Wars game fans everywhere, Dark Forces was Star Wars’ original first person shooter.
We follow the story of Kyle Katarn – an Imperial soldier turned mercenary – as he sneaks, runs and – most importantly – blasts his way, Chuck Norris style, through enemies to initially steal the plans for the first Death Star.
Soon, however, Kyle meets his match as he faces the Empire’s new super-soldier, the Dark Trooper. What ensues next is a long, difficult campaign where Katarn has to rely on his wits, skill and growing arsenal of powerful weapons to stop the production and distribution of these deadly war machines.
Packed with the same challenges and excitement of games like Wolfenstein and Doom, Star Wars: Dark Forces is a must for fans of classic Star Wars and FPS titles alike.
#7 – Star Wars: Rebellion
While some classic Star Wars video game fans might argue that this game is aesthetically bland, its depth makes up for the lack of graphics and active gameplay.
Unlike previous games, Rebellion shifts its focus from simple combat to a more large-scale approach. Instead of relying strictly on brute force (although these elements are still there in the form of space battles), players must also employ resource management, covert operations and diplomacy to capture planets and reach their end goal, which varies depending on which faction (Empire or Rebellion) the player chooses.
As the Rebels, the game ends when Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader and Coruscant are captured, while the Empire has to destroy the secret Rebel HQ while grabbing Mon Mothma and Luke Skywalker.
Although the ending cinematics leave something to be desired, it’s still worth a shot for fans who like a mix of RTS combat and slower-paced gameplay.
#6 – Star Wars: Empire At War
Arguably the best classic Star Wars RTS to date, Empire at War expands on Rebellion’s space elements and adds real-time ground combat while retaining the same resource gathering mechanic.
The player can choose between Imperial or Rebel campaigns, open sandbox galactic wars or small skirmish battles, using iconic units and special heroes to achieve victory. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to be familiar with the enemy’s arsenal just as much as your own.
An expansion pack, Forces of Corruption later introduced the Consortium faction, a new campaign, more units and improved hero characters; however, these were ultimately overshadowed by the overpowered Consortium and the endlessly annoying corruption mechanic that plagued anyone who chose to stick with the Rebel or Imperial side.
#5 – Star Wars: Jedi Knight (Dark Forces II)
Just when we thought great classic Star Wars video games couldn’t do a more masterful job at adapting the FPS genre, out came Jedi Knight. Like Dark Forces, we follow the exploits of Kyle Katarn, but with a much richer story line, live action scenes and a new (albeit shallow) moral decision-making process.
Although the game begins with the usual shooting mechanism, Kyle soon learns of his father and Jedi heritage, spending the rest of the game mastering the Force while racing against the Sith Lord, Jerec, to find the legendary Valley of the Jedi. Depending on the choices the player makes, Kyle will either fight to preserve the Valley’s power for the light, or take it for himself.
Featuring improved 3D graphics, 3rd person lightsaber action, Force powers and online multiplayer, Jedi Knight is easily one of the greatest classic Star Wars games in existence.
#4 – Star Wars: Battlefront II
Star Wars: Battlefront II is a huge achievement in the classic Star Wars game library, successfully merging the multiplayer features found in Battlefield with the Star Wars universe. Although the series was sadly butchered by EA’s disappointing remake, Battlefront II took everything that was great about the original Battlefront and added some new features, such as iconic characters and space battles.
It was also fun for PC gamers who enjoyed a good arcade flight sim, as tweaking the settings allowed fans to switch between mouse/keyboard and joystick controls when entering vehicles. Consequently, this made it much easier to strafe enemies, take down fighters and – perhaps best of all – trip AT-AT walkers until the cows came home.
#3 – Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
Initially released for the Nintendo 64 and later adapted for PC, Rogue Squadron was a huge hit among the library of classic Star Wars video games that fans shouldn’t miss. Masterfully combining arcade gameplay with a pinch of X-Wing, it offered graphics and challenges unlike any seen so far.
Rogue Squadron follows the exploits of Luke Skywalker and his band of ace pilots, picking up right after the Battle of Yavin left off and extending to bonus missions, like the Battle of Hoth and beyond.
What truly sets the game apart, however, is that it mostly features space fighters, yet we never set foot beyond a planet’s atmosphere. Instead, players contend with enemies in an air-to-air and air-to-ground style, dodging powerful vehicles, deadly turrets and other fighters. There’s something oddly satisfying about watching a TIE Fighter roar as it slowly falls to its doom in a fiery explosion.
Best of all, PC gamers had the option of using a joystick, which was arguably far superior to the clunky N64 controller’s thumb-controlled analog.
#2 – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
No classic Star Wars game list is complete without mentioning Knights of the Old Republic. Set 4,000 years before the Galactic Empire during a time of civil war between the Jedi and Sith, this represents perhaps the greatest instance of storytelling in Star Wars gaming history.
Released on both the X-Box and PC, this title gives us plenty of bang for our buck. Its story is long and complex, filled with deep characters and choices that shape the player’s destiny, followed by a jaw-dropping plot twist that even M. Night Shyamalan couldn’t top.
If you’re looking for a great Star Wars RPG experience, then a classic like KOTOR is right for you.
#1 – Star Wars: TIE Fighter
Released in 1994 to universal acclaim, Star Wars: TIE Fighter is arguably one of the best classic Star Wars games. Although it wasn’t the first of Lucasarts’ forays into the flight sim genre TIE Fighter took the category into an unprecedented new direction. Sporting an improved HUD, gripping story and intuitive gameplay, it’s no surprise that its re-release garnered enormous excitement among diehard fans.
Perhaps the most unique aspect, however, was the role-reversal. While most Star Wars games feature the player fighting for good, TIE Fighter frames the Imperial cause as noble. Rhetorically referring to the Rebels as “terrorists,” the player’s actions are those of a fighter pilot seeking to restore “peace and order,” in one case even offering asylum to fleeing refugees.
Politics aside, it’s no wonder that, upon release, PC Gamer ranked TIE Fighter as #1 in the TOP 50 Games of all time.
With so many great classic Star Wars video games having been released in the past couple of decades, it’s difficult to objectively rate them all. Instead, these 10 iconic achievements are meant to cover the different ways in which Star Wars touched every gaming category we hold dear.
Whether you agree which titles are better or not, one thing is clear – you simply can’t call yourself a Star Wars fan until you’ve tried these 10 games. Period.