This past week has been filled with Star Wars related celebration, from the long awaited release of Star Wars: Obi Wan Kenobi, to announcements that the anime Star Wars: Visions will be getting a second season, and even video game reveals like that of Star War Jedi: Survivor, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords coming to Nintendo Switch on June 8.
These recent revelations have made me think back on Star Wars and its history with video games. It all started with Star Wars, a 1983 arcade game made by Atari. Just like the film, Star Wars pushed technology to its limit, offering state-of-the-art 3D color vector graphics, synthesized voices to emulate the actors, a seat to simulate sitting in the cockpit of an X-Wing, and speakers in the head rest, all to make the assault on the Death Star feel as real as could be.
The Super Star Wars trilogy on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System chronicled the original three movies, casting players in the roles of their favorite characters like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, and Chewbacca. There were certainly liberties taken with the material to make for a compelling game, but by-and-large the three games stuck with the movies fairly closely, and has remained one of the more compelling ways to experience their stories to this day.
The concept of an “expanded universe” that explored stories outside of the realm of the films began shortly after the very first movie, but it didn’t catch on with gaming until arguably Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire on the Nintendo 64. Playing as smuggler Dash Rendar, the game largely bridged the gap between Episode’s V and VI, featuring iconic characters like Luke, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca, Boba Fett, and more, as well as set pieces like the Battle of Hoth, Tattooine, and Imperial Star Destroyers. Shadows of the Empire featured numerous gameplay variants, from blaster fire fights in third or first person, racing on land speeders, or taking to the skies in an airship. It really captured the best elements of Star Wars in one cohesive game.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader wowed me back in 2001 when it released on the GameCube. At the time, I couldn’t imagine graphics getting any better, and while they certainly have, this flight simulator still holds up extremely well. The opening sequence of assaulting the Death Star takes what was delivered in the 1983 Atari game and ramps it up to 11. To this day, playing it still makes me feel like Luke Skywalker racing down the trench to blow up the Empire’s secret weapon.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic brought the series to the realm of role-playing games. The standout here was diving into a rich story set thousands of years before the films, and the ability to craft a unique character that felt like they belong in the greater universe. For the first time, players could really experience the temptation of going to the dark side of the force, acquiring vicious abilities that made their character extremely powerful. Of course remaining a disciplined Jedi had its own benefits, too, and it was walking this tight rope of dual moralities that continues to make this game so remarkable.
There are even more wonderful Star Wars related games that could be considered the best: the Star Wars: Battlefront series envision the massive skirmishes that are such a highlight of the movies; Star Wars: The Old Republic allows players to inhabit a vast online world full of other real people; Star Wars: The Force Unleashed pushes force powers beyond the imagination, and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order gives us challenging lightsaber duals that leaves our heart racing.
What is your favorite Star Wars game? Which one has captured your imagination the most? What would be your ideal Star Wars video game, and what do you want to see from future gaming titles? We want to hear what you think in the comments below, and on our official Discord server!