There’s a lot of Star Wars going around these days. With a new saga trilogy, new standalone anthology movies, TV shows, comics, books, and video games all coming out in a rapidly expanding new canon, has there ever been a better time to be a Star Wars fan? For a certain generation, the answer may be yes.
Star Wars fans who grew up in the ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s are probably familiar with an Expanded Universe much different than the galaxy of Kylo Ren, Rey, Jyn Erso, and Ezra Bridger. Characters like Mara Jade, Jacen Solo, Cade Skywalker, and Prince Xizor are far more familiar, and attached to countless stories found in books, comics, and video games—stories that were cherished by fans just as the stories of the new canon are today. The old Expanded Universe (now designated as Legends) covers a lot of territory, a rich tapestry of places, characters, and conflicts. They may no longer be canon, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of stories in Legends worth revisiting. Here are the 15 best Star Wars stories that are no longer canon to get you started.
15. Legacy of the Force
Over the course of nine novels, the Legacy of the Force series offered fans a riveting tale of galactic conflict and family drama. Set 40 years after A New Hope, the series follows Luke, Han, Leia, and their children as they navigate the secession of several planetary systems from the Galactic Alliance. As tension spreads across the galaxy, bonds within the Solo/Skywalker clan begin to suffer, and family legacies hang in the balance.
Legacy of the Force is dense. It features a wide range of side-plots and character arcs, but the tragic transformation of Jacen Solo—son of Han and Leia—from powerful Jedi to power-hungry Sith is at its core. Fans will find remnants of Jacen in both Anakin Skywalker and Kylo Ren, making him a key figure in the Star Wars universe, whether he still exists in canon or not.
Fans desperately hoping for an Obi-Wan standalone film (potentially starring Ewan McGregor) will surely find solace in John Jackson Miller’s novel Kenobi. Set during the early days of the Jedi master’s Tatooine exile, Kenobi is the kind of small-scale story that’s rare and unique among the epic sagas and galactic battles of the Star Wars universe.
In Kenobi, we get the benevolent hero we have known and loved from the prequels, The Clone Wars series, and the original trilogy, as well as a closer look at Obi-Wan’s personal motivations. As Kenobi watches over the infant Luke Skywalker from a distance, we find him thrust in the middle of a bloody conflict between a community of Tatooine farmers (who only know him as the enigmatic offworlder “Ben”) and a ruthless tribe of Tusken Raiders. As the action unfolds, Kenobi paints a loving portrait of its protagonist as a man forever drawn to the fight against evil, devoted to the wisdom of the Jedi, and driven by his own extraordinary cunning.
From the moment he first stepped triumphantly through the smoke and onto the big screen in Star Wars: A New Hope, there was a definite Frankenstein monster-like quality to Darth Vader. The 2005 comic Purge takes full advantage of Vader’s monstrous side in a story that finds him hunting down the remaining Jedi in the aftermath of Revenge of the Sith.
In essence, Purge is a Jedi bloodbath. As we follow the stories of various Jedi on the run in the wake of Order 66, the comic delivers shocking scenes of Jedi takedowns at the hands of Vader (with a few awesome lightsaber battles along the way). These scenes, combined with the tragic arcs of the new Jedi characters, makes for some highly effective, if not heart-wrenching storytelling.
12. Choices of One
Of all the characters found only in the Legends continuity, Mara Jade is the definitive fan favorite. Veteran Star Wars author Timothy Zahn’s 2011 novel Choices of One is not the most popular Mara Jade story out there, but it’s certainly one that does the character justice.
Set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Choices of One follows Mara Jade on an exciting mission with a ruthless group of Stormtroopers to squash a rebel alliance with the Governor of an Outer Rim territory. The rebels in question? None other than Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa, and Chewbacca.
Mara Jade is most well-known for switching sides after the Emperor’s demise and eventually marrying Luke, so it’s a great bit of fun to see her at her baddest, on a ruthless imperial mission, right in the middle of the original trilogy era.
11. Razor’s Edge
Another novel set between Episodes IV and V, Razor’s Edge follows a rebel mission led by Han, Luke, and Leia, but it’s really Leia’s story. Not only is it written almost entirely from the former princess’ perspective, it finally allows her to grapple with the destruction of Alderaan. As supply shortages and Imperial entanglements impede construction on the new Hoth rebel base, Leia is forced to make a deal with Mid Rim merchants in dangerous galactic territory, only to discover a band of pirates from her destroyed home planet. As she navigates the situation, Leia finds her loyalty to the rebel cause tested and her connection to Alderaan complicated.
10. Blood Ties: A Tale of Jango and Boba Fett
If there were a Star Wars equivalent to The Godfather Part II, you’d find it in the first volume of this 2010 Dark Horse comic. Blood Ties: A Tale of Jango and Boba Fett explores the titular characters’ father/son dynamic with an exciting duel narrative.
Blood Ties begins with an Attack of the Clones-era Jango putting his young son Boba in serious danger on a mission, using him as bait and drawing his resentment. Jango frames the event as some sort of fear assessment, setting the stage for Boba’s development into the ruthless bounty hunter he would later become.
The comic then switches to an adult Boba Fett, two years after the events of A New Hope. Boba takes on a new bounty with an unexpected personal angle, and the plot thickens from there. Blood Ties: A Tale of Jango and Boba Fett is full of all the action that Fett fans could ask for, with a piercing view into the mind and heart of the galaxy’s most mysterious bounty hunter.
9. Legacy I
Legends is full of ambitious storytelling, and Dark Horse’s Star Wars Legacy comic is arguably the most ambitious Legends story ever. Set an entire century after Return of the Jedi, the first volume of the Legacy comic follows the adventures of Cade Skywalker—descendant of Luke—on a remarkable journey of personal reckoning as he faces off against a menacing new Sith empire.
Though he’s Luke’s descendant, Cade is much more like Han Solo, but even scruffier. Having abandoned the Jedi order as a child, Cade runs with the galaxy’s criminal underworld, which offers a colorful array of allies and enemies. We also get some quality time with Force-ghost Luke as he mentors Cade back to the ways of the Jedi.
Legacy is unique in its execution of Star Wars mythology. Moving the story far, far into the future affords it the opportunity to successfully execute an original look and feel while staying true to the fundamental building blocks that make Star Wars special. If you’re looking for something truly different in an age of correlated canon, Legacy is the story for you.
8. The Darth Bane Trilogy
Before Disney took over Star Wars and established the new canon, Darth Bane was a crucial figure in the saga’s history. Set a thousand years before The Phantom Menace, The Darth Bane Trilogy shows us a galaxy ravaged by war between the Jedi and the Sith. The first book, Path of Destruction, reveals Bane’s tragic backstory. Bane eventually kills his abusive father with the force and joins a group of Sith Lords called the Brotherhood of Darkness. From there, the trilogy follows Bane’s impressive rise to the top of the Sith food chain, as well as his inevitable fall. The Darth Bane Trilogy is both a harrowing look into the titular character’s twisted psyche and an intriguing bit of insight into Sith lore.
Because of his brief appearance in The Clone Wars, Darth Bane still technically exists in canon, but little is known about him. Only time will tell how much of his Legends backstory will be used, but the Star Wars Story Group would be wise to borrow heavily from these books.
7. Rogue Squadron
The X-Wing series was all the rage with Star Wars fans in the ’90s and 2000s. The first four novels in the series tell the story of Rogue Squadron, Wedge Antilles’ elite group of New Republic pilot/commandos. Along with veteran fan favorite Wedge, Rogue Squadron is made up of a well-conceived cast of new characters who engage in plenty of exciting rebel espionage.
Wedge Antilles is a beloved character in the Star Wars universe, largely due to his Rogue Squadron adventures. Space battles will always be a substantial part of Star Wars’ appeal, and Wedge Antilles is the living embodiment of high-flying action. Rogue Squadron takes an underdeveloped character from the films and carves out a whole uncharted corner of the Star Wars universe that will please seasoned fans and newcomers alike.
6. Darth Plagueis
“Did you ever hear the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise?” In this novel by James Luceno, we witness the fall of Plagueis at the hand of Palpatine, his legendary apprentice. Darth Plagueis is an epic, yet intimate story spanning 35 years, beginning with Plagueis’ origins as a life-force manipulator and ending with the events of The Phantom Menace as seen through his and Palpatine’s eyes. One of the most exciting things about the prequels was that they showed fans how Emperor Palpatine came to power. Reading about his early Sith days is an equally villainous treat.
Darth Plagueis also adds new dimensions to the dark side of the force. Plagueis’ abilities are truly singular among the Sith, and the relationship between Plagueis and his cunning apprentice is equally unique. But the best thing about Darth Plagueis is that it’s essentially the story of the Sith as a whole—the vicious cycle of betrayal that drives them, and the eternal lust for power that haunts them.
5. The New Jedi Order
The post-Return of the Jedi adventures of Luke, Han, and Leia had been thoroughly explored in Legends long before the new canon was ever conceived. The most extensive of these stories is The New Jedi Order, a nineteen-novel series covering the brutal invasion of the Yuuzhan Vong—an alien species from outside the known galaxy—and the effects of their brutal attack on both familiar and brand new characters. Set 21-26 years after the original trilogy, The New Jedi Order showcases Han and Leia as seasoned veterans of galactic conflict, Luke as an enlightened leader of the Jedi, and Jacen Solo as he discovers the unchecked potential of the force.
Upon its release, the series was subject to controversy for including the death of Chewbacca—the only character from the films to die in the Expanded Universe at the time. In the wake of Han Solo’s death in The Force Awakens, any controversy over Chewie’s fate almost seems banal. Nevertheless, Chewie’s death in The New Jedi Order is a harrowing event, and its emotional toll on Han is an integral part of the series.
4. The Bounty Hunter Wars
Part of the reason Boba Fett has become such a vibrant character in the imaginations of fans is because he was given further adventures beyond his brief stint in the films. A quasi-sequel to Return of the Jedi, The Bounty Hunter Wars retroactively saves Boba Fett from his doomed fate in the Sarlaac pit and serves as a sort of connective tissue between the films and the Expanded Universe. All three books in the trilogy feature familiar bounty hunters from the films, and serve to expand Star Wars’ criminal underworld.
The Bounty Hunter Wars also features a series of flashbacks, mostly set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. One of Boba Fett’s most enduring qualities is that he remains, at least partially, shrouded in mystery. The flashbacks in The Bounty Hunter Wars work because they add new dimensions to the character without revealing too much about his past.
3. Knights of the Old Republic
This classic video game is a fan favorite for a reason. A sprawling epic 4000 years before the days of the Galactic Empire, Knights of the Old Republic features action-packed role playing and some of the most intriguing characters outside of the films.
The central conflict of Knights of the Old Republic involves Darth Malak—a former Jedi who left the order during the Mandalorian wars—as he leads the Sith in a huge attack on the Republic. Players create their characters from the ground up, engage in lightsaber combat, and make plot decisions that determine whether they will ultimately join the dark side or the light. Knights of the Old Republic is an immersive game with a weighty bit of Star Wars mythology to hold it up. One can only hope that, should the Star Wars Story Group decide to explore this era for the new canon, they take their queue from this classic game.
2. Shadows of the Empire
Shadows of the Empire was a major multimedia project for Lucasarts, and one of the first of its kind upon its late-’90s release. Exploring the uncharted time between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Shadows includes a novel, comics, and a video game, and it’s an epic tale when experienced across all three mediums. The novel follows Luke and Leia in a confrontation with Prince Xizor, the most powerful criminal overlord in the galaxy. It also introduces fans to Dash Rendar, a mercenary whose exploits to find Han Solo and help rescue Leia from Xizor are also the focus of the video game. The comics, meanwhile, switch focus onto Boba Fett and his fellow bounty hunters from The Empire Strikes Back.
The original concept of Shadows of the Empire was to explore all possibilities of conceiving a major motion picture without actually making one. Perhaps that’s why the story really feels like a movie. With an intriguing new villain, interesting developments in the character arcs of Luke and Leia, and pitch-perfect exploration of the Star Wars criminal underworld, Shadows of the Empire is an absolute must for any die-hard fan of the original trilogy.
1. The Thrawn Trilogy
They weren’t the first supplementary Star Wars stories, but Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire novels—more commonly known as The Thrawn Trilogy—undoubtedly paved the way for the Star Wars Expanded Universe’s success in the decades to come. Many of the further adventures of Luke, Han, and Leia have been divisive, but The Thrawn Trilogy remains a beloved tale because it feels like a natural continuation of the original trilogy.
The novels begin five years after Return of the Jedi, with Han and Leia married and expecting twins, and Luke on the verge of rebuilding the Jedi order. Enter Grand Admiral Thrawn—the last of the Emperor’s warlords and a tactical military genius—who aims to take control of the remaining imperial fleet and restore the Empire’s grip on the galaxy.
The Thrawn Trilogy also marks the first appearance of Mara Jade, former Hand to the Emperor and Dark Jedi, who eventually falls in love with and marries Luke. While Thrawn has been re-purposed in the new canon with his appearance in Star Wars Rebels, it seems highly unlikely that we’ll ever see Mara Jade in any new Star Wars media. That doesn’t diminish her special place in the hearts of many fans, however, and should give newcomers all the more reason to check out The Thrawn Trilogy.
What are your favorite non-canon Star Wars tales? Which are you hoping to see on the big screen? Sound off in the comments!
We’ll see just how much more there is to learn of Luke and Leia’s Legends days when Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theaters December 15, 2017.