Even for the most casual culture watcher, it's hard to remember a time before Star Wars, the Rebel Alliance, the Empire, Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo became household names. And while it was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away when the famed sci-fi series first debuted on the big screen, it's impossible to overstate the impact it's had on gaming and pop culture at large — with the franchise's total value last estimated at a staggering $30.7 billion. With a new film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, currently shattering box office records, and with action figures, toys, books, comics, and more still tearing up the charts, we couldn't help but reminisce over the many appearances the franchise has also made in interactive formats. Having starred in more video games over the last four decades than even a protocol droid could count, as any longtime player can tell you, the series has enjoyed a long and storied history in the field of digital diversions. Following, you'll find a list of ten of its best hands-on appearances — dig 'em out of the crates, and you won't just enjoy a quick trip down memory lane, but also a first-class ticket to the finest offerings that this galaxy (and others) have to offer in terms of space-age entertainment.
Hints and tips
Want to improve your PC gaming experience? Check out the following hardware options to enjoy the best Star Wars experience possible:
- No matter which team you're batting for — Empire or Republic — remember: you can build an ASUS ROG system suited to meet all your needs, and deck it out to represent the colors and emblems of either side.
- Don't forget to grab the right accessories either: the ROG Sica gaming mouse can be wielded like your very own light saber to cut down your foes.
- If you're looking to embrace your inner Sith lord, you can also unleash the power of the dark side with the Maximus VIII Formula, which offers support for the latest Intel Core i7 processors and the ability to light up in any color with breathing effects (it may be a matter of time until somebody implements Darth Vader's sounds to be in sync). It's just the secret weapon you need if you're looking for the added power to mow down unsuspecting foes.
- On the other hand, would-be Jedi knights and Rebel leaders might also opt for the Maximus VIII Hero, which is 6th Generation Core i7 processor ready.
- Whether pod racing or attempting to make the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs, you'll also need more than mere talent to survive your favorite Star Wars experience. Remember that the ROG Matrix GTX 980 Ti graphics card can provide a jump in performance that's like making the jump to light speed — its graphics capabilities are that out of this world.
Now, here are those games that every Star Wars computer gaming fan will want to play, no matter which PC gaming rig you choose to charge in with.
Star Wars: Battlefront
Like grand-scale multiplayer combat and frenzied head-to-head run-n-gun match-ups where you get to compete to peg Stormtroopers right in their glossy white helmets or shove a blaster rifle up opponents' behinds? Updating the popular military-themed on-foot and vehicular combat series with a Lucasfilm-themed visual makeover, this new installment in the timeless classic franchise allows you to play as some of Star Wars' most popular heroes and villains. In addition to obliterating adversaries with light sabers or close-quarters combat maneuvers, players can wield blasters and ranged weapons — but the fun really starts when you factor in the ability to pilot speeder bikes, drive AT-ATs, and otherwise take control of the greatest vehicles in the galaxy.
Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds
An epic real-time strategy game built on the same engine as popular outings Age of Empires I & II, this well-received game played a lot like its foundational titles, but featuring units, warriors, and battles inspired by the films. Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds included a number of factions from both the original film trilogy and its prequels, while The Clone Campaigns expansion pack introduced a number of newcomers (e.g., the Confederacy of Independent Systems and the Galactic Republic), bringing the total to eight, and added two more full campaigns. While the outing and its subsequent add-on were largely formulaic, and light to innovate on traditional RTS tropes, they nonetheless scored high marks (and remain worth revisiting) for taking everything that was great about the popular sci-fi series and pairing it with a play experience and in-game engines that were already proven winners.
Star Wars: Republic Commando
Because of Order 66 — that little old command that the Emperor used to turn the clone army against the Jedi — it's hard to remember that in Attack of the Clones and most of Revenge of the Sith the clone troopers were actually the good guys. (Hint: they were the "Grand Army of the Republic" before the Republic became the Empire.) Bearing this in mind, it's easy to see whyStar Wars: Republic Commando — featuring one of these popular and storied characters — remains among the best first-person shooter (FPS) titles to bear the Star Wars name. In the laser-packing outing, players lead a group of the fittingly named Republic Commandos during the Clone Wars as they battle the separatists and Sith Lords and remain largely unaware that they'll eventually be blasting away at Yoda and his pals.
Star Wars Episode I: Racer
Fun fact: while many games were produced to capitalize on the release of the second trilogy, this might be the only Star Wars title worth playing that bears the "Episode I" moniker. That's no surprise given that the pod-racing sequence featured in the film was among its most memorable and standout moments — a series of moments that you can relive in this high-speed turn-n-burn outing for your computer. Not only does Star Wars Episode I: Racersucceed against most odds, successfully capturing the magic of the race sequences, it also took the type of white-knuckle action first introduced in the film to several tracks spanning multiple planets, reminding us that the movie had more to offer than just Jar Jar Binks.
LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga
What you hear in the name is what you get from LEGO Star Wars, one of the most successful pairings of brand-name entertainment franchises ever to hit the gaming universe. At first glance, the concept — letting block-headed versions of your favorite characters engage in high-octane action and adventure sequences — might seem somewhat silly. But given just how well the title plays in hands-on tests, after just a few moments' consideration, you'll be forced to admit that the pairing goes together like Han and Leia (or should we say Han and Chewbacca)? What makes Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga even more special is that it's based on the popular toy line that's based on the films — and therefore incredibly accessible to both children and adults (countless numbers of whom enjoyed playing together). Better yet, the title features all six films from the original trilogy and prequels, offering all the fun of playing with the toys, minus the fear of losing any pieces.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
This massively multiplayer online role-playing game truly goes way, way back into the past to help you live out several of the Star Wars series' most memorable moments. Set some 3,500 years before the events in the films, the game — filled with gripping dialogue and stunning adventures — plays out before Darth Vader and Yoda ever made their mark on the fictional world. Instead, you'll experience a time when the battle against light and dark was being fought between largely unknown players, though history does repeat itself as two rival factions vie for control of the galaxy: the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire. Players who choose to jump in can elect to pick their character from a number of species, play as a number of different classes (including the ever popular bounty hunter) for variety's sake, and even own their own spaceship as they make the jump to light speed and take the battle to their enemies.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Another blast from the past, this gigantic-sized action RPG takes part 4,000 years before the films during a truly dangerous time for the Jedi, as their order has been reduced in numbers and many have turned to the dark side. A huge tale filled with memorable characters, unforgettable quests, and some of the most sprawling environments experienced at the time,Knights of the Old Republic sees players begin with no memory of their past, yet eventually come to be familiar with the furthest reaches of the known galaxy. Throughout the game play, aspiring heroes must slowly gather companions, acquire skills, and set out on a quest across the stars to defeat the fallen Jedi Darth Malak. Even the ending was suitably epic: depending on their in-game choices, players can turn to the light side and become an intergalactic savior, or give in to hate as the new Dark Lord of the Sith.
Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II
While it wasn't the very first Star Wars FPS, it's hard to downplay just how popular this title was at the time of its release in 1997 — and rightly so. A gorgeously rendered and immensely playable futuristic firefight, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II offered 21 levels to explore and battle through as players took on the role of Kyle Katarn — one of the expanded Star Warsuniverse's most popular non-film characters — as he attempts to fight the Galactic Empire and become a skilled Jedi. A pleasure to play in single-player mode thanks to its robust campaign, it also was among the first franchise-themed outings to deliver up intense multiplayer action where players could even wield a light saber against their adversaries.
Star Wars: TIE Fighter
Back in the mid-1990s, few flight simulations (even those not set in space) could touch this sucker when it came to sheer audiovisual impact and hands-on excitement. Playing as a hotshot TIE Fighter pilot, not only could you blast away at rebels and their too-cool-for-space-school X-wings in riveting dogfights, you could also fly missions against vicious pirates and even traitorous Imperial forces. Cooler still, ships were flyable in both first person and third person, and throughout each mission, your TIE fighter could be upgraded and improved. Needless to say, back in the grunge era, if you enjoyed the ship-to-ship shootouts the films were so well known for, you couldn't have found a better choice to scratch the itch — one that still remains eminently playable and enjoyable to this day.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D
Don't dig hardcore simulations, but like where Star Wars: TIE Fighter was headed? No sweat: game designers weren't unaware of this niche, which is why the arcade-style flight action ofStar Wars: Rogue Squadron also exists to help get your blood pumping. Designed to offer a more intense and immediately gratifying experience than previous franchise-based flight combat sims, this one — a must-play if you're into intense turn-n-burn trigger-mashers — even lets you fly an an A-Wing, a Y-Wing, or snowspeeder as well. Fancy yourself an aspiring ace? Be sure to check it out… Now let's blow this thing and go home!
By Scott Steinberg
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