Star Wars Day: What's the best Star Wars video game

By Jos
May 4, 2015
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  1. It’s May 4. You’ve no doubt already seen countless lists of the best video games set in the Star Wars universe. I’d like to try something a little different, and tell you what the best Star Wars video game is. And yes, there’s a difference.

    The former is telling you about excellent video games that just so happen to feature characters and locations from the Star Wars universe. X-Wing, Super Star Wars, Pod Racer, etc. You know the lists. They’re usually pretty similar.

    The latter, which I’m more interested in, is about which game is most faithful to the look and feel of the Star Wars movies (preferably, the original trilogy). Which game most feels like it actually belongs in the Star Wars universe.

    For me, that game is Dark Forces, a first-person shooter released in 1995.

    Sure, others come close. X-Wing does a very good job, especially with its soundtrack (TIE Fighter less so, it’s way too purple), while I always felt Republic Commando best captured the murkier side of the prequel trilogy.

    But Dark Forces just feels right. Like someone shook the end of Empire Strikes Back and this game fell out, as dark and as real as a Star Wars game was ever going to get.

    For starters, it looks the part. It re-uses locations and design cues from the original trilogy, like the interiors of Imperial installations (including the Executor), cobbled-together firearms and gritty desert huts, but where it needs to create new areas, it leans heavily on existing Star Wars themes.

    There’s no time in Dark Forces—and this is a rarity in Star Wars games—where you can point to where the actual Star Wars designs end and the work of Lucasarts’ own artists begin. Everything you see in Dark Forces, from the walls to the guns to the ships, looks like it was designed by Ralph McQuarrie and belongs in one of George Lucas’ original films.

    Does it help that it’s a first-person game? Maybe. We certainly get a lot closer to the light switches than we do in, say, Galactic Battlegrounds, allowing us to appreciate these finer details. But loads of other Star Wars games, from Force Unleashed to Jedi Knight to, well, Obi-Wan did the same thing, and all the closer perspective provided was evidence they weren’t as Star Warsy as Dark Forces managed.

    Yes, that’s Jabba. I never said this game was perfect.

    The game also gets its cast right. You don’t play a Jedi; it wouldn’t be until Dark Forces II that Lucasarts ruin everything and turn Katarn into one. In fact, the boring, holier-than-thou space wizards aren’t really in the game at all; this is a game populated by men and women and aliens and robots, much like the original trilogy, which let’s not forget, keeps its force powers mostly in check until the end of Return of the Jedi.

    And it’s a good cast! Before he became a soppy beardo in later games, Kyle Katarn was a badass, part secret-agent, part-commando. His main foe is a gruff, fat Imperial officer. Nothing fancy, no obscure and implausible Sith, just a bad dude. Your allies aren’t random expanded universe chumps, they’re folks like Mon Mothma. General Madine is in this game, as is his magnificent hair. And your sidekick, Jan Ors, is maybe the coolest Star Wars lady since, well, any of them.

    This video by PixieButt1 doens’t just show one of the early cutscenes, it also drops a ton of cool trivia!

    Few Star Wars games could resist the lure of tying themselves in with the films somehow. The X-Wing games dabbled in all three of the original flicks, from trench runs to Hoth evacuations to more Death Stars, while Shadows of the Empire did a pretty good job of sliding itself in between movies.

    But this often feels forced, and more than a little unnecessary. We saw how the movies went down, so it always feels a little silly when a video game twists things around to fit its own story. Dark Forces, on the other hand, plays it cool. It begins with Kyle being the guy who steals the plans to the first Death Star (below), something we can relate to and say “hey, that’s neat”, then it retreats into the shadows and never touches the over-arching story of the films ever again, leaving it free to do its own thing.

    Which is what made Dark Forces so good. It looked Star Wars, and it sounded Star Wars, and it felt Star Wars, but rather than try to mooch off any particular movie or scene (which ultimately undermines the entire process), it set out—and succeeded—in doing so on its own terms. You never flew alongside Luke Skywalker, or fought Darth Vader (though even this game couldn’t resist a Jabba cameo), but you still felt like you were living through the same world they inhabited.

    It’s testament to the strength of the characters and design in this game that, for a 90’s FPS that has all but faded into insignificance, Dark Forces still resonates with Star Wars fans outside of the video game scene. Kyle’s ship, the Moldy Crow, has been introduced into the hugely-popular X-Wing miniatures tabletop game, while the Dark Trooper design became Expanded Universe canon, even spawning an action figure.

    If you’ve never played Dark Forces, or have and want to play it again, it’s available on the major downloadable stores. You won’t get much mileage out of the gameplay, which is more Doom than Half-Life, but the cutscenes and overall vibe are as good today as they were in 1995.

    Permalink to story.

  2. yRaz

    yRaz TS Evangelist Posts: 1,830   +881

    Anything other than the original SW KOTOR is a lie. Rouge squadron was fun though
    spectrenad likes this.
  3. treeski

    treeski TS Evangelist Posts: 954   +193

  4. risc32

    risc32 TS Booster Posts: 186   +75

    I'll take that 80's vector graphics arcade game.
  5. m4a4

    m4a4 TS Guru Posts: 736   +259

    Jedi Academy was pretty darn fun. With a few mods, you could become whoever you wanted (like General Grievous. 4 lightsaber mayhem)
  6. Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy was the best star wars game ever. Playing online against people, having light sabers duals with them is the Epiphany of awesome.

    Kotor 1 and 2 were awesome for the story and a close 2nd and 3rd but nothing was funner then having light saber battles against a real opponent.
    Lionvibez and m4a4 like this.
  7. lripplinger

    lripplinger TS Addict Posts: 253   +85

    Star Wars: X Wing Alliance is my favorite. I just picked it up from GOG and applied the XWA Upgrade to it, so all the ship models look way better. The game has a fantastic story and you get to fly all the craft in Star Wars! Jedi Outcast was a good one to. So many memories!
    deemon likes this.
  8. veLa

    veLa TS Evangelist Posts: 699   +164

    I'd probably have to say Star Wars Republic Commando. That game truly made you feel like a key part of an elite military unit. I remember when I got separated from my boys, I actually felt a deep loneliness and an anxious longing to reestablish communication with the squad. It's something that no game I've played since had made me feel. Some how it made you truly care about your squad members, much unlike Halo or HL2 where you feel like you're constantly baby sitting the AI.
  9. Battlefront
  10. There is something off about people who don't say KOTOR. I'm not even a Star Wars fanboy but this is among the top games of all time.
    NightAngel79 and spectrenad like this.
  11. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,550   +594

    I've been an avid video gamer since the first black and white Pong unit came out that you connected to the back of your TV. I have over 300 games in my Steam account and many more in other accounts like Origin.

    And I've never played a Star Wars game. :D
  12. Misagt

    Misagt TS Booster Posts: 94   +40

    The force is strong in this one. He's also very right.
    NightAngel79, Peter Farkas and yRaz like this.
  13. Panda218

    Panda218 TS Addict Posts: 269   +99

    I stand 100% behind this comment. Well said sir!
  14. deemon

    deemon TS Booster Posts: 199   +46

    SW: X-Wing
  15. #1 Star Wars Rouge Leader on the GameCube. #2 Battlefront 2.
    KOTOR had too many game breaking bugs. I never did finish it.
  16. mef666

    mef666 TS Member

    Star wars racer!
    The best ever.
    BTW, is there any new game like SW Racer on the market?
  17. yukka

    yukka TechSpot Paladin Posts: 824   +52

    I played dark forced when it first came out and it was pretty good but still just Star Wars doom at the time. I didn't get so into the story.

    Played Jedi knight 1 which allowed a saber for the first time. That was good. Dark forces : Jedi outcast I played a lot though. It's one of the few games I would (after first play though of course) activate all the cheats to give full Jedi power from the beginning and play the whole game through again like a god. If you have never done that, give it a go. its a great sandbox, better than any of the force unleashed games with better controls too
  18. WangDangDoodle

    WangDangDoodle TS Addict Posts: 199   +70

    The first Kotor is the best game I've ever played. I really enjoyed playing The Force Unleashed as well, even the second one (despite all the issues). I remember playing a few FPS titles as well back in the day, but I can't remember the names. They were good, but nothing like Kotor.
  19. What game-breaking bugs? I played through it on the pC and never once had a bug. Your PC must just have been (and still is) a huge pile of piss.
  20. GhostRyder

    GhostRyder You know, that one guy with the PC Posts: 2,189   +589

    If I had to pick a favorite, that is a tough one honestly but I can safely say I loved Star Wars Jedi Knight II Jedi Outcast and Jedi Knight III Jedi Academy. Between those two, the stories were not what attracted me as it was just the game play that really spoke to me. The fact that it incorporated light sabers in probably one of the only games that actually felt like you were using light sabers (good for the time especially) while using the force and even weapons was awesome. I loved probably Jedi Knight II because it felt fun to face other people on the internet in fights with light sabers and force powers.
  21. LNCPapa

    LNCPapa TS Special Forces Posts: 4,202   +422

    Hard to pick just one but my favs have been mentioned here already. The old vector arcade game, Dark Forces, and X-Wing vs Tie Fighter are my favs.
  22. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 6,341   +1,939

    My favourite Star Wars game would've been the one they never developed and released.
    I saw the original Star Wars movie back in the 70's when it was released, I shouldn't have wasted my time or money on it.
  23. Peter Farkas

    Peter Farkas TS Addict Posts: 214   +67

    I really enjoyed all of them. I played a lot, like Jedi Academy, and both Force unleashed gmaes, battlefront, tie fighter, etc...
    I enjoyed Jedi Academy the most.
  24. amstech

    amstech TechSpot Enthusiast Posts: 1,438   +592

    Star Wars: Rogue Squadron.
    NightAngel79 likes this.
  25. loading

    loading TS Enthusiast Posts: 63   +13

    Man not a single mention of Star Wars: Battlefront?

    Mine would be a tie between Battlefront and Rogue Squadron (first and last game I ever used an actual joystick controller).

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