Some pieces of media are just tailor made for video games; “Star Wars” is one of them. Between its interesting characters, vast lore, number of different spaceships, lasers and lightsabers there’s a litany of games that could be made featuring all those things. Well, there is a litany of Star Wars games out there. Some of them are shining examples of stellar game design and and incredibly well beloved. Others are bantha poodoo.
In honor of May the 4th, we’re going to be looking at five of the best and worst “Star Wars” games to hit the market. Please keep in mind that for the ‘worst’ games, we’re not going to be counting mobile games, edutainment titles, and other games that are limited in scope. Yeah, the Atari games are bad, but there wasn’t a hell of a lot of potential for them to be great anyway.
So that said- let’s go through them.
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1 Number 5 Worst Episode 1: The Phantom Menace – PlayStation – 1999
In terms of being a bad game, there are worse titles than this on a technical level. For example the Game Boy Advance title, “Flight of the Falcon” plays worse but this adaptation of “Episode 1: The Phantom Menace” tries so much harder only to drop the ball in painful fashion. “Episode 1” actually has some wonderfully unique adventure elements to it, allowing you to roam around Tatooine, talking to people and undergoing a quest to help Anakin. Too bad the rest of the game has painfully awkward platforming and combat, especially on the PlayStation. The blocky and clunky graphics can be excused for the time but the sloppy controls and combat can’t be.
After “Halo” was released in 2001, the console first person shooter genre became the next big thing in gaming. “Star Wars: Republic Commando” was an attempt to capitalize on that success while offering a tactical component by having squad mates you could command. Surprisingly, it worked out incredibly well. “Republic Commando” is not just another FPS that the Star Wars branding was slapped onto; this really feels like it’s own thing thanks to the team aspect, story, and strong voice acting. The pacing is also remarkably strong, never feeling too drawn out. Fortunately the game was rereleased in 2021 for the PS4 and Nintendo Switch so if you missed it the first time around, you can see what the fuss was about.
3 Number 4 Worst: Masters of Teräs Käsi – PlayStation – 1997
A Star Wars fighting game? What could possibly go wrong? Well, turns out a lot could. Some reviewers have criticized the game for how the lightsabers act more like Nerf bats; which is a ridiculous complaint. The swords in the “Soul Calibur” series don’t dismember your opponents and no one complains about that. So what, you expect a lightsaber to be a one-hit kill? No, the real problem just comes from unresponsive controls and an overall lack of polish. Some of the special moves of the characters are very unintuitive to perform and some of the combat mechanics are best described as janky and stiff. It’s especially sad considering this game actually has some cool features like unlockable characters from the EU and the ability to change from fighting with or without your weapon mid-fight. If this game had been given to Capcom’s “Street Fighter” team to work on, there could’ve been something truly memorable here. Oh, and one of the playable characters is a tusken raider named Hoar, pronounced like ‘whore.’ Which makes it hysterical when the pre-fight announcer says, “Luke Skywalker, versus Hoar!”
Often times the game industry will declare that single-player adventure games are dead, and use that statement to justify their investments in multiplayer, online, or live-service titles. Then a title will come along that is strictly off-line single player and prove them wrong. “God of War” did that in 2018, and “Jedi: Fallen Order” did very much the same in late 2019. Taking some cues from the Dark Souls series, “Jedi: Fallen Order” features a lot of exploration of rich environments combined with challenging lightsaber combat with a Force twist. You play as Cal Kestis, a padawan who has been in hiding due to the Empire’s quest to hunt down all Jedi. Naturally you don’t manage to stay hidden for long and much lightsaber action ensues. The game looks great, sounds great, and is a challenging but rewarding playthrough. When lightsabers are utilized properly in a video game, there is no greater joy.
You may very well remember the controversy that arose over Star Wars: Battlefront II in 2018 regarding “loot boxes” and how a full-priced game was pushing micro-transactions so heavily to allow people to play as their favorite Star Wars characters. The fiasco resulted in legislation in some countries and a talking to between publisher Electronic Arts, and Star Wars rights holders, Disney. But in defense of the game, at least it had some decent content available for single-player and multi-player. The same could not be said about its predecessor, Star Wars: Battlefront (2015.) There was no single-player campaign to be found outside of some terrible training missions basically, and the multi-player was bare bones in terms of maps and scenarios. A season pass could be purchased to add in more content but it’s all stuff that should have been in the game proper. Yes, there are worse games than this from a technical aspect (Kinect: Star Wars comes to mind) but this Battlefront was where EA started to wage war against consumers and fans alike while using the Star Wars name to do so.
Now this Battlefront is more like it. Unlike the content barren namesakes that would be produced by EA, this Star Wars: Battlefront was developed by Pandemic Studios and published by LucasArts themselves. With a wonderfully in-depth campaign, a number of different units and factions to pick from, and battles that could transition from space to inside a capital ship, Battlefront II was constant Star Wars action. This title laid the groundwork for what any future game of this type should be. You want large, open-ended battles with units flooding the field and taking control over certain locations? Well this is how you do it. Even though the graphics are understandably dated after 17 years, you can still hop into this game and have a blast without issue. It’s easy to lose countless hours into this game in the single-player alone, but being able to play competitively or co-operatively adds so much more to the package that it stands tall over the more modernized Battlefront games that would come after it.
7 Number 2 Worst: Star Wars: Demolition – PlayStation/Dreamcast – 2000
Remember the days where vehicular combat games were cool? Twisted Metal and Vigilante 8 are two series that immediately come to mind but there were others that wanted in on that madness too! Somewhere along the line someone thought Star Wars would fit right in with that style of game giving us, Star Wars: Demolition. The excuse, er um, story of why everyone’s fighting in vehicles is that podracing is outlawed, so Jabba the Hutt decides to host a demolition derby style even instead. Just like how Masters of Teräs Käsi managed to butcher the fighting game genre, Demolition does the same to vehicular combat. The baffling part about this is that the title was developed by Luxoflux, the same company that developed Vigilante 8. Despite this, the game lacks the control/handling, weapon accuracy, balanced roster, fluid combat, level design, and overall charm of the Vigilante 8 comes that preceded this one. Hell it even uses the same game engine but still underperforms on every level. Maybe they just didn’t have their hearts in this one, but this should’ve been a surefire hit, but instead it just impacted on the surface.
Okay, to be fair, this is kind of cheating but there’s a valid reason for it. Some of the most acclaimed Star Wars titles were the flight combat simulators, X-Wing and TIE Fighter released in 1993 and 1994. Both of them allowed you to apply realistic controls to your space fighters in a campaign for the Rebel Alliance in the former, and the Galactic Empire in the latter. Now, “realistic” is obviously used liberally when it comes to fictional spacecraft but you could do things like divert power from engines to shields to weapons, and maneuver your fighter with a large degree of control over pitch, yaw, and roll. Combine this with the well-written story campaigns and you had a winner on your hands. In 1998, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron would release for the N64 and PC and eventually produce two sequels for the Game Cube. These titles kept the campaign structure alive but with simplified, arcade style controls. In essence, this gave players two different types of experiences depending on the kind of difficulty and action they preferred. Then the flight sim genre died out for years. In 2020 though, Star Wars: Squadrons came from out of nowhere, bringing back the dogfighting action that had been missing from Star Wars games for some time. The controls were somewhere in-between complex and simple giving the title a bit of a skill curve to adapt to while still providing immediate action. If you want to take Star Wars from the ground and into the skies, this is your destination.
9 Number 1 Worst: Yoda Stories – Game Boy Color – 1999
Originally a PC game made for browsers in 1997, Star Wars: Yoda Stories is hilariously bad. And however hilariously bad it was on PC it’s even worse on the Game Boy Color. The concept of the game is unique in that there’s no real story so to say. It’s basically a game of randomized fetch quests. The game will randomly generate a quest given to you by Yoda. As Luke, you’ll have to go somewhere, talk to someone or find something, deliver an item or perform some other menial task, maybe fight a couple enemies and then, “boom.” You’re done. Then you have to find Yoda again, get another quest, etc. Because this was originally for more powerful PC’s and had to be condensed down, it’s only interesting just to see how bad it is. If there is a hell, and it takes the form of some monotonous activity, then this is it, Yoda Stories is Hell. Yoda will tell you that “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” He’s wrong. Yoda Stories just leads to all of those; simultaneously.
Yes, it’s a predictable entry but there’s no getting around it. Knights of the Old Republic is an absolutely amazing Star Wars game. All the credit has to be given to its developer, BioWare which at the time, was nearing its creative zenith. The groundwork they laid down here would also lead to the stellar Knights of the Old Republic II and the still ongoing MMORPG, The Old Republic. The fully realized characters that KOTOR introduced, Carth, Mission, Bastila, HK-47, and others brought this game to life thanks to their writing and the vocal performances. The quests and side-quests, the character level-up progression, and the unique combat all came together in an almost magical way. With a remake in the future, as of the time of this writing, it’s clear that this game still has a special place in people’s hearts. If you want to understand why you can pick up and play the game today on PC or Switch and realize that despite being almost 20 years old, it has aged tremendously well. Play it once and you’ll want to play it again anyway to see what happens when you choose to solve the game’s many situations in a different way than you did before, ultimately pushing you to the Dark or Light side of the Force. Maybe one day this game will be topped in terms of overall quality. And while there are prettier and more action-packed titles out there, KOTOR just has the right combination of everything to place it at the top of the Jedi Order.