I’m told Star Wars is quite popular. I know, I know, I hadn’t heard of it either. Jokes! Anyway, there is a wealth of Star Wars games out there and with each new entry, it’s becoming harder to know which games are worth checking and which are worth Death Starring from space.
With that in mind, here are the best retro Star Wars games you really need to play today. Or tomorrow. Either works.
- Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
- Star Wars (1983)
- Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
- Star Wars: Republic Commando
- Lego Star Wars: The Video Game
- Super Star Wars
- Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
- Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
- Star Wars Battlefront
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Release Date: May 4, 2005
Original Platforms: PlayStation 2, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS
I know there are a lot of people who don’t care for the home console release of Revenge of the Sith. Those people, however, are wrong.
Though the Lego games do a better job of handling Episode III, there’s still a tonne of enjoyment to be had here. 2005 was a time when linear games were riding high. Six-hour campaigns with lots of hacking, shooting, or both, was how gaming rolled. It was a simple time and Revenge of the Sith reflects this. It’s not perfect by any means, but if you want to play through Episode III in the year’s hottest 7/10, it’s a fun little game to keep you busy.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Release Date: July 1982
Original Platforms: Atari 2600, Intellivision
Right. Whether Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is a good game or not is up for debate. It was a simple game for simple systems. Remember, back in 1982 the original Famicom was still a year out, so games were mostly just a handful of colours and big old moving angles. Lots, and lots, and lots of big angles.
Still, Star Wars 1982 is an important game. It proved that you can take the bombastic big-screen nature of Star Wars battles and condense it down for a smaller screen. It also sold really well, bringing in a combined $20 million in sales – a feat that was unheard of for a movie-to-video game tie-in, according to Ellen Wojahn, author of The General Mills/Parker Brothers Merger: Playing by Different Rules.
Yeah, it may not be a game that can hold a candle to anything from the 8-and-16-bit era, but it paved the way for what’s to come, and we should always remember where games come from.
Star Wars (1983)
Release Date: May 5, 1983
Orginal Platforms: Arcade, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, Acorn Electron, BBC Micro, ZX Spectrum, DOS, Macintosh
Another questionable choice, I know. Believe me, I know. But bear with me.
Star Wars (1983) followed what was popular at the time. During the Golden Age of Video Games, if you can capitalise on the success of Galaxian or Tempest, chances are you were onto a winner.
That’s pretty much what Star Wars (1983) was. Original ideas weren’t many, but blasting spaceships is a pastime that never gets old. Plus, at the time, the game was ridiculously smooth. The flow of shooting felt weighty and it was as close to the real thing as you could get.
Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
Release Date: March 26, 2002
Original Platforms: Microsoft Windows, OS X, GameCube, Xbox
I do love me some stupidly long names. Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast came at a time when games were evolving rapidly. Side-scrolling 2D run-and-gun? Nah. It’s all about vivid 3D worlds and stylish force powers.
Jedi Outcast has a huge following online and it’s easy to see why. Stylish, deep combat, killer visuals, and a world that’s a joy to be part of are just some of the reasons people still rave about Jedi Outcast.
The name is far too long though. No more long game names, please.
Star Wars: Republic Commando
Release Date: February 28, 2005
Original Platforms: Windows, Xbox
When it released in 2005, Star Wars: Republic Commando was a major risk for LucasArts. Instead of a popular Jedi on the cover promising frantic lightsaber battles, a known money-maker, Republic Commando opts for a rag-tag band of Stormtroopers holding over-sized guns. You have to have a gun on the cover, see, it was the 2000s, and everything needed a gun on the cover.
Republic Commando aimed to sit alongside Halo, albeit a more tactical outing, rather than the usual Star Wars slash-’em-up. A ballsy move for sure. But why deviate from the formula when the formula is guaranteed to print money?
The result is a game that is surprisingly enjoyable. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but for those looking for something a little different, Republic Commando is one of the best retro Star Wars games there is. Even if you’re playing today via PS4 or Nintendo Switch, Republic Commando is worth checking out just because of how different it is from anything else that came before it.
Lego Star Wars: The Video Game
Release Date: March 29, 2005
Original Platforms: Game Boy Advance, Windows, GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Mac OS X
Right. I’m cheating. If I list every single Lego Star Wars game, this won’t be the best retro Star Wars games it’ll be the top Lego games. With this in mind, I’m treating the Lego Star Wars games as a series rather than individual games. It’ll be fine, I promise.
So, Lego Star Wars is really good, isn’t it? Traveller’s Tales really created something special when combining the allure of Star Wars with the joy of Lego building. I’ve always seen the Lego series as a kind of everything game. Puzzles, combat, exploration, space combat, jokes – actual jokes, funny jokes! – the Lego Star Wars games have it all and then some.
What’s even more surprising is despite mobile AAA games normally being – broadly speaking – awful and a quick cash-in, Traveller’s Tales made sure the Game Boy Advance and other mobile versions rocked. Although they weren’t on par with the console equivalents, they still managed to capture the spirit of the game in a smaller form factor, and are still worth checking out even today.
Super Star Wars
Release Date: November 1, 1992
Original Platforms: Super Nintendo
Super Star Wars is a weird one. On one hand, it’s not aged particularly well and the blemishes are clear. On the other, at the time this was the closest to wielding a lightsaber we could get. Being able to run through pixelated Star Wars locales was what all kids wanted to do, as was slashing through hordes of stupid enemies with a lightsaber.
Then, later, came flying an X-Wing in a 3D space, which was truly mind-blowing. Even more so when it switches from third-person to first-person. How was that even possible on a 16-bit system? That’s why Super Star Wars is one of the best Star Wars games. Its goals were lofty, and despite the limited hardware, it shot for the stars. It is truly one in a million.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
Release Date: December 3, 1998
Original Platforms: Windows, Nintendo 64
Rogue Squadron wasn’t the first game to take the space combat of Star Wars and convert it into a video game, but it is one of the most memorable.
Hot off the heels of Starfox on the Super Nintendo, the N64 and Windows shooter built on what came before while adding its own spin.
Visually it captured the imagination, while its slick starship battles is what truly set it apart from every other Star Wars game on the market.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Release Date: July 15, 2003
Original Platforms: Windows, Xbox, Mac OS X
If there’s one entry in the Star Wars video game series that changed the landscape, it’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
The movies, as great as they are, only show a slice of the further Star Wars universe. In Knights of the Old Republic, we see what’s happening off-screen, and for the first time can fully explore what feels like a full world.
While visually Knights of the Old Republic feels flat by today’s standard, the tactical gameplay and stellar script from BioWare makes this game one that all Star Wars fans need to play if they’re after a compelling RPG experience.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Release Date: September 16, 2008
Original Systems: N-Gage, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Wii, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
The first Force Unleashed for home consoles remains one of the best retro Star Wars games out there. Here was a game that modernises combat to feel more intricate and more reminiscent of what we see on the big screen.
It was a joy to slice and dice through endless grunts and existing adjacent to the movies meant it could weave its own story. In a world post-The Last of Us, of course the story here may not be as captivating. But back then, the idea of Darth Vader having his own apprentice felt exciting and new.
Given you can still play this game via backwards compatibility on Xbox One and Series X|S (or on Nintendo Switch) it’s absolutely a game that you need to play) Just maybe skip the second one, though. It’s not great.
Star Wars Battlefront
Release Date: September 20, 2004
Original Platforms: Windows, Xbox, PlayStation 2
Some games age like fine wine, others like cheese. Star Wars Battlefront remains to this day the Château Pétrus of the Star Wars franchise. Even as visuals move on, and storytelling improves, Battlefront is still a delight to play today.
What makes this game so special is the ability to distill Star Wars into its purest video game form – shooting and over-the-top lightsaber battles. We’re simple creatures, eh?
It’s such a simple premise but large-scale chaotic battles, as the player carefully manages how well their team is performing, are as exciting today as they were back in 2004. And yeah, I know we got a Battlefront reboot, but nothing beats the originals.
It may look a little blocky going back now, but hey, they’re still a blast to play, and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.