Some of the very best Star Wars stories have never been seen in a movie theater.
The movies are undoubtedly the heart of the franchise, but diehard fans weren’t satisfied with just watching the adventures of characters like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo: they wanted to have their own adventures in that galaxy far, far away. Enter the video game industry, which was in its infancy when Star Wars burst onto the scene in 1977. In 1982, the first Star Wars video game was released, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for the Atari 2600. Though it was a relatively simplistic affair due to the technology available at the time, for gamers, it was the proverbial “first step into a larger world”.
In the years that followed, the gaming industry grew by leaps and bounds, as did the technology available to game designers, resulting in more and more Star Wars titles hitting the market. Some were good, and some were bad. But the ones that really made a mark were the ones that expanded the Star Wars galaxy by telling their own stories.
Of the games you’ll find on this list, only one is considered ‘canon’ under the new Disney/Lucasfilm regime. The rest reside in the ‘Legends’ pantheon of stories. Some of these games received rave reviews, some of them didn’t. But they’re all Star Wars stories a real fan should know.
15. Dark Forces (1995)
Few Star Wars ‘Legends’ characters are as celebrated as Kyle Katarn.
Clearly inspired by games like Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, Dark Forces was released in 1995 and introduced Katarn, a former stormtrooper turned mercenary and occasional freelancer for the Rebel Alliance. The first mission of the game is a notable one, especially given the recent release of Rogue One. Long before that film told the ‘official’ story of how the Rebellion secured the Death Star plans, Dark Forces provided an alternate scenario, with Katarn infiltrating an Imperial base and stealing the plans himself.
That was only the start of Katarn’s first adventure. After the Rebellion destroys the Death Star, Mon Mothma tasks Katarn with investigating strange Imperial activity. Ultimately, he discovers the Dark Trooper Project, an initiative to create a lethal new brand of stormtrooper by augmenting Imperial troops with cybernetics. Of course, the idea of a more deadly class of stormtrooper was also explored in Rogue One via Krennic’s Death Troopers.
14. Shadows of the Empire (1996)
Shadows of the Empire was more than just a video game. It was a multimedia project, encompassing a novel, comic books, the game, toys, a soundtrack and more. With Lucasfilm preparing for the release of the Special Edition films and the prequel trilogy, the Shadows project served as something of a dry run, and it proved to be very successful.
Set between the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Shadows deals with the rise of the Black Sun Syndicate and its leader, Prince Xizor, all while the heroes of the Rebellion struggle to evade the Empire and save the imprisoned Han Solo.
Though he played a smaller role in the novel and the comics, Dash Rendar was the star of the video game portion of the tale. Something of a stand-in for Han (right down to his Corellian origins) Dash is a smuggler that works with the Rebellion from time to time, and finds himself embroiled in a number of key events. As Dash, the player flies in the Battle of Hoth, fights wampas and stormtroopers in Echo Base, battles famous bounty hunters IG-88 and Boba Fett, and infiltrates the Imperial capital to eliminate Prince Xizor.
13. Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2 (1997)
Two years after his first adventure, Kyle Katarn returned with Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2, considered by many to be one of the best Star Wars games ever released.
Like 1995’s Rebel Assault 2: The Hidden Empire, Jedi Knight boasts full motion video cutscenes featuring live actors. The quality of the acting and storytelling in these cutscenes can be debated, but at a time before the release of the prequels, it was truly exciting to see a new Star Wars story presented in such a way.
As the title suggests, the game finds Katarn learning the ways of the Force and embracing the ways of the Jedi as he battles the Dark Jedi Jerec and his followers. Jerec is determined to find the fabled Valley of the Jedi, the site of an ancient battle between Jedi and Sith, in the hopes of gaining the power that is interred there. With the help of his companion Jan Ors, and some ghostly guidance from the departed Jedi Qu Rahn, Kyle is able to triumph over Jerec.
12. Masters of Teras Kasi (1997)
A Star Wars… fighting game? It’s a strange idea, but then again, so was throwing Mario, Link and the rest of Nintendo’s iconic characters into battle, and that worked out pretty well. Done right, a Star Wars fighting game could be pretty cool. The use of Yoda and Darth Vader in Soulcalibur 4 proved that much.
Unfortunately, Masters of Teras Kasi is not that game. A Playstation exclusive, it didn’t win over many fans with its graphics or gameplay. But even though the game wasn’t executed all that well, there’s an interesting story at its core.
Set after the first film, the game introduces Arden Lyn, a Dark Jedi from the time of the Old Republic who had been resurrected and bound to the Empire’s will. A master of the martial art known as (you guessed it) Teras Kasi, she is tasked with hunting down and eliminating the heroes of the Rebellion: hence all the fighting!
The story is far from perfect. For one thing, the endings, a beloved element of any fighting game, have no dialogue and are literally seconds-long. But the concept is sound: an ancient warrior reawakened and forced to serve the Emperor. Arden Lyn, or a character much like her, could easily be introduced into the official canon one day.
11. Episode 1: Racer/Racer Revenge (1999/2002)
True, most racing games don’t have much in the way of story, and these two games aren’t necessarily an exception. Still, for diehard fans of the saga, there are some interesting insights to be gleaned from them.
The podracing sequence in The Phantom Menace is generally regarded as one of the best (some would say only) highlights from the film. The young Anakin’s proficiency in the sport establishes his bravery and remarkable piloting skills while showing fans that sports are a big deal in the Star Wars galaxy too. As these games prove, podracing is not relegated to the deserts of Tatooine. There are tracks scattered throughout the galaxy, from Malastare (referenced by Qui-Gon Jinn in the film) to the water world of Aquilaris and the moon of Oovo IV and beyond. Racers like Sebulba, Dud Bolt and Toy Dampner find fame and fortune traversing the galaxy to compete on the circuit.
The second game takes place before Attack of the Clones, and finds an older Anakin Skywalker returning to the circuit to meet the challenge of his old nemesis Sebulba, who is seeking revenge for his humiliating loss years before.
10. Bounty Hunter (2002)
When the first images and trailers for Attack of the Clones arrived, fans were mesmerized by the appearance of a warrior who looked almost exactly like the infamous Boba Fett. In the finished film he would be identified as Jango Fett, a deadly bounty hunter and the template for the Republic’s clone army: Boba, his son, being the first such clone.
Jango’s story came to a violent end in the film, but this game turned back the clock to show Jango in his bounty hunting prime. More importantly, it told the story of exactly how Count Dooku came to choose Fett as the template for the clone army.
Set not long after the events of The Phantom Menace, Bounty Hunter finds Jango Fett taking part in a special job for a man named Tyranus, aka Dooku. Fett and rival bounty hunters are contracted by Tyranus to find and capture Komari Vosa, a former Jedi Padawan of Dooku’s who abandoned the Jedi Order and became the leader of the Bando Gora cult. The reward for her capture or death is millions of credits, but when Fett emerges victorious, Tyranus reveals the true depth of the mission. By eliminating the deadly Vosa, Jango has proven himself to be a warrior without equal, and is offered the opportunity to be the template for the clone army. Seeing it as a form of immortality (and an opportunity to have a son of his own), Jango agrees.
9. Knights of the Old Republic (2003) – The Mandalorian Wars
Knights of the Old Republic is arguably the consensus choice for ‘best Star Wars video game of all time’, and it’s hard to argue. Aside from being a terrific game in its own right, it’s simply a great Star Wars story. Set thousands of years before the movies, in the Old Republic era that had been previously explored by a popular series of comic books, the game expanded the known history of the Star Wars galaxy and introduced characters that have become iconic in their own right.
The story of the game is so vast, with so many implications, that we’ll break it down into three different entries on this list.
The legacy of the Mandalorian Wars are keenly felt throughout Knights of the Old Republic, even though the game’s story takes place years after the war has ended. A 16-year conflict between the Mandalorian clans and the Republic, the wars raged across the galaxy and compelled two young Jedi, Revan and Malak, to defy their masters and join in the fight. A powerful warrior and master strategist, Revan turned the tide of the battle and helped the Republic win the war, though their victory came at a steep cost. The Mandalorian clans were scattered to the winds, countless innocent lives were lost, and Revan, Malak and their Jedi followers started down the path to the dark side of the Force.
The Mandalorian Wars were referenced in a recent episode of Star Wars Rebels, rendering them (or at least an undefined event of the same name) canon.
8. Knights of the Old Republic – The Rakata
Set as it is almost 4,000 years before the Star Wars films, Knights of the Old Republic obviously sheds a light on the saga’s history. But some stories told in the game are even older than that, spanning back to the earliest history of the Star Wars galaxy.
The Rakata are a species that mastered the Force and technology in order to conquer the galaxy over 30,000 years before the events of Knights of the Old Republic. A vicious and warring species, the Rakata subjugated whole star systems and enslaved worlds in crafting their Infinite Empire. Eventually, the empire became too big for its own good, and the Rakata turned on each other, endlessly battling and weakening themselves so much that when their slaves rose up against them, they could only flee back to their homeworld of Lehon.
There, the remnants of their species continued to fight amongst themselves, ultimately devolving into a primitive race once again. When Revan and his allies encounter them during the events of the game, they no longer resemble the powerful beings they once were, and only a select few remember anything of their old ways.
7. Knights of the Old Republic – Revan
One of the most iconic characters ever introduced in the ‘Legends’ canon, Revan was a powerful Jedi who fell to the dark side and became a Sith Lord, before ultimately finding his way back to the light.
As Knights of the Old Republic begins, Revan is believed dead, having been betrayed by his apprentice and the current Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Malak. The player and his avatar spend much of the game attempting to stop Malak’s attempt to find the Rakatan installation and shipyard known as the Star Forge, which he can use to create an infinite army and dominate the galaxy.
It’s a great story that is turned upside down by a stunning revelation delivered late in the game. The player character, an amnesiac ‘blank slate ‘for the gamer to inhabit, is revealed to actually be Revan himself: the Jedi captured him, wiped his memory and sent him after his old apprentice in the hope that he would recover his identity as a Jedi.
Though gamers can decide whether their version of Revan returns to the light or reclaims his title as Dark Lord of the Sith, Legends canon establishes that he defeats Malak, marries his ally Bastila and eventually disappears on a journey into the Unknown Regions of the galaxy. Revan’s ultimate fate is explored further in a novel by Drew Karpyshyn as well as in The Old Republic MMO.
6. Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords (2004)
Order 66 and Darth Vader’s subsequent elimination of surviving Jedi was not the first time that the light side of the Force almost flickered out for good.
Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords begins five years after the end of the original game, with its protagonist (eventually established within Legends canon to be a woman named Meetra Surik) believed to be the last living Jedi. In the preceding years, a triumvirate of Sith Lords had marshaled the remnants of Darth Malak’s Sith Empire and used them to destroy the Jedi Order.
Surik was banished from the Jedi Order for defying orders and following Revan and Malak into the Mandalorian Wars. Her presence at the cataclysmic final battle of the war on Malachor V severed her connection to the Force, forcing her (and the player) to learn to use it all over again.
Learning of Surik’s survival, the two remaining Sith Lords relentlessly hunt her across the galaxy. Darth Sion, a mutilated and decrepit figure keeping himself alive with the power of his hate, is one: Darth Nihilus, an inhuman being that feeds on Force energy is the other. The third member of the triumvirate, Darth Traya, was betrayed and cast down by her students: also once a Jedi, she dons the identity of Kreia and guides Surik in her journey, with the ulterior motive of destroying the Force itself.
5. Republic Commando (2005)
Years before The Clone Wars television series expanded on the saga of the clone troopers, this game and the series of novels that followed it were a hit with fans who wanted a more grounded story.
Rather than focus on ‘rank and file’ clones, the game introduces Delta Squad, an elite group of clone troopers specially bred and trained for the toughest missions. Following them throughout the Clone Wars as they battle Separatist forces, the player takes on the role of Boss, the leader of Delta Squad, as he and his squadmates push back the enemy and try to survive the seemingly endless conflict.
With no Jedi-like magic powers, the clones have only their training and weapons to protect them. As the game comes to a close, Delta Squad suffers the loss of one of its members, and are thrown right back into the fight with little chance to grieve, a reminder that a clone’s purpose is to fight until he dies, and that the war will rage on with or without them.
A tie-in novel to the game, Republic Commando: Hard Contact, launched a series of books based on a similar Commando squad. Written by Karen Traviss, the books became very popular as they followed a group of elite clones throughout the war and into the era of the Empire.
4. Galaxies: Trials of Obi-Wan (2005)
Trials of Obi-Wan was the third expansion of the popular MMO Star Wars: Galaxies, and it was timed to coincide with the release of Revenge of the Sith. As fans know, in that film, Obi-Wan clashes with his former friend and apprentice Anakin Skywalker in a brutal battle on the volcanic planet of Mustafar.
Years later, after Obi-Wan’s death at Darth Vader’s hands, he returns to Mustafar as a Force ghost. concerned about the growing power of an ancient crystal hidden away on the fiery planet. The crystal was once fought over by ancient Jedi and Sith, and was eventually hidden at great cost. Thousands of years later, the protections laid on the crystal to keep it out of the wrong hands have weakened, and it must be destroyed before it can be used by the Empire’s dark forces. However, as a ghost, Obi-Wan can’t do anything about it himself, which is where the player character comes in.
3. The Force Unleashed (2008)
Like Shadows of the Empire before it, The Force Unleashed was a multimedia project that included a novel, comic book, toys and more. It’s the story of Darth Vader’s Secret Apprentice, Starkiller/Galen Marek (played by Sam Witwer, who would later perform as both The Son and Darth Maul on The Clone Wars). A young man who possesses great power in the Force, he is essentially raised by Vader after the Dark Lord murders his Jedi father on the planet Kashyyyk. Vader tasks Starkiller with eliminating surviving Jedi who are scattered throughout the galaxy.
Interestingly, The Force Unleashed is also the story of the beginning of the Rebel Alliance. After seemingly betraying and killing Galen in front of the Emperor, Vader revives him and tasks him with gathering a group of Rebels to attack the Empire, in order to distract the Emperor so Vader and his apprentice can strike him down.
Though furious at Vader’s apparent betrayal, Galen follows orders and starts to gather those who oppose the Empire, ultimately bringing them all together in one place. That’s when Vader betrays him again, rounding up the Rebels for execution and again trying to kill his apprentice. Galen escapes, however, and decides to risk his life to save the rebels from their fates.
New canon projects like Rebels and Rogue One haven’t explicitly contradicted the game’s story yet, but it’s probably only a matter of time until they do, which is a shame.
2. The Old Republic (2011)
A spiritual sequel to the Knights of the Old Republic series, this massive MMO set a few hundred years after those games is a treasure trove of Star Wars stories. With eight different classes, each with its own story, you can spend months bouncing from one to another.
The Old Republic takes place at a time when the Galactic Republic is at war with the resurgent Sith Empire. Looming over all of it is the Sith Emperor, an immensely powerful figure who has lived for centuries, using his mastery of the dark side to prolong his life and inhabiting different bodies as vessels for his spirit. He’s arguably the most powerful Sith to have ever lived, or at least one of them, and his story is a fascinating one. Born the illegitimate son of a Sith Lord, Vitiate (then known as Tenebrae) killed his father when he was just ten and ruled over his home planet from that point on. Eventually he lured many of his rival Sith Lords to his planet, where he completed a dark side ritual that killed them all (and all other life on the planet) and gave him their power, making him immortal.
He would go on to rule the Sith Empire for centuries, and even establish a second Empire on the planet Zakuul at the same time. A force of unimaginable power and evil, his story is a highlight of the Legends canon.
1. Uprising (2015)
We finish off with the lone ‘canon’ entry on the list, the mobile game Star Wars: Uprising. Unfortunately, if you never played this game it’s too late to try it now, as it was shut down in November of last year.
Arguably, you wouldn’t be missing much. The game was shut down due to a declining player base that quickly lost interest in its functional if uninspiring blend of action and loot gathering. But it was the story, not the gameplay, that made Uprising notable.
Set in the days after the events of Return of the Jedi, the story focuses on the Anoat Sector of the galaxy. There, Imperial Governor Adelhard works to isolate himself and his holdings from the rest of the galaxy, blacking out all news reports and declaring that the Emperor is alive and well. Still, rumors and messages from the rest of the galaxy sneak in, and freedom fighters band together to overthrow Adelhard and liberate Anoat once and for all.
It’s a great premise that may have been wasted on a simplistic mobile game, and since the events are canon, it would be nice to see it revisited, whether in a novel or a big-budget console game.
These are just some of the Star Wars stories that have been told in video game form over the years. What are some of your favorites?
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