Movie tie-in video games get a bad rep, I say. Yes, they usually suck (Harry Potter, Iron Man, the little-known disaster called Star Trek Generations) but there is one franchise that is a very notable exception to this pattern: Star Wars. Say what you will about the state of the film franchise today, (you could say, for example: "the prequels were an epic waste of my time and money", or "George Lucas should burn in hell for The Clone Wars) but Star Wars has always had the upper hand over other space sagas when it comes to video games. Of the dozens of fun, addictive games Lucasarts has provided, here's my personal Top 5:
5. Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (PC) - The first Star Wars game I ever owned was Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, a then-revolutionary 1st-/3rd-person shooter which allowed you to use Force powers for the very first time, as well as ten different weapons, including a lightsaber. It featured full-motion video and a pretty kickass storyline, launching a cult following for the fledgling Jedi Kyle Katarn. Years later, with better graphics, more powers and the ability to run on walls, which apparently was a big deal because every gameplay video I ever saw of it involved someone running on walls, Jedi Outcast outshined its predecessor in every way. Except one: no full-motion video.
4. Shadows of the Empire (N64) - Released to coincide with the best-selling novel, Shadows of the Empire for the Nintendo 64 was the closest we would ever get to another Galactic Civil War-era movie. As the brash Dash Rendar, players got to take on famous Star Wars characters like IG-88, Dengar and Bossk... okay, so nobody's heard of these characters. Well, guess what? I don't care. It was challenging, fun and you got to play the Battle of Hoth. (Little did we know that every Star Wars game for the next ten years would let you play the Battle of Hoth.)
3. Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike (Gamecube) - The third and final game in the Rogue Squadron series, Rebel Strike is almost undoubtably the best starfighter dogfighting game ever made, its closest competition being its predecessors and Starlancer for the Sega Dreamcast. Rebel Strike kept all the features that made the Rogue Squadron series so popular in the first place: loads of starfighters, familiar locales and battles (such as the Battle of Hoth) and great multiplayer, but added some on-foot missions as well. True, if you played as either the Jedi Starfighter or Slave I from Episode II, both featuring those physics-defying Sonic Mines, it was pretty much impossible to lose a vs. battle, but it never stopped me from trying to take down my cheap-ass buddies with an A-Wing. (This never worked. Ever.)
2. The Force Unleashed (Playstation 3, XBox 360) - Not since Dark Forces II has there been this much of a leap in the coolness of Force powers in video games. I lost count at the number of Stormtroopers I threw off ledges with Force Grip at about 42. And that was in the second stage. Though short, the gameplay of The Force Unleashed never got tired, and the story did not disappoint. There are many on the internet who wished, in hindsight, that and The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones could have been one movie so that Revenge of the Sith could have been Episode II and The Force Unleashed could have been the last movie. But to be truthful, this chapter of the saga, the official "Episode 3.5", could only have been done as a video game. (Note: If this game had had multiplayer, I mean besides the lame duel-mode from the Wii version, this would have been #1.)
1. Battlefront II (XBox) - The ultimate Star Wars game. In what at first feels like a mod for Battlefield 1942, this infantry-combat-based shooter is a charm all its own. First, being able to play as the Empire, the Rebels, the Clones or the Droids is a joy. Add in this sequel's addition of Jedi and Sith classes, plus a space battle mode that's different enough from Rouge Squadron to evade comparison, and it has pretty much anything you'd ever want out of a Star Wars game. Add in XBox Live's multiplayer and downloadable add-on packs, and it absolutely trumps any SW game previous or to follow.
Wait a minute... where the hell is Knights of the Old Republic? How can someone make a list of the best Star Wars games without KOTOR? What is this shit?
I have a confession to make: I've never played it.
There. You can kill me now. Yes, somehow I have never gotten around to playing the legendary RPG or its sequel, nor have I even witnessed anyone playing it for more than a few minutes. And truth be told, the few minutes I saw did not look exciting to me. Maybe it's my distaste for RPGs. Maybe it's because I prefer games with multiplayer. Maybe it's because I have a Mac. I'm sorry - I'm just not in any kind of hurry to play it. Let the flame war begin. (As if I even have enough readers to spark one.)