It's a good time to be a "Star Wars" fan. Disney has acquired LucasFilm and the rights to the billion-dollar space franchise, promising a new film in 2015. And Rovio has released another "Angry Birds" series, this one featuring familiar characters and locations from the "Star Wars" universe.
"Star Wars" has a rich history in the world of video games, with plenty of highs (the "X-Wing" and "TIE Fighter" games for PC) and lows (the dumbed-down "Masters of Teras Kasi" on PS One). But overall, a lot of these titles captured the sense of imagination that George Lucas put into his films. Following are the five best, plus some notable honorable mentions.
Sadly, not all are still in production, but you can often buy used copies. We recommend trying eBay and Gooddealgames.com.
JVC's first "Star Wars" game for the Nintendo Entertainment System was a side-scrolling platforming adventure featuring various characters from the original film. Its superb graphics and music emulated the source material perfectly, with plenty of challenging shooting and jumping action for all kinds of players. It also included some great 3D sequences, including riding around in a landspeeder. The series continued through two additional sequels, "Super Empire Strikes Back" and "Super Return of the Jedi," creating a worthwhile trilogy that no fan should be without.
Though it's based only on one sequence from the original film — the assault on the Death Star — "Star Wars" is a magnificent arcade experience, with plenty of TIE Fighters, cannons and fireballs to shoot, and authentic sound effects taken straight from the film (including the helpful words of Obi-Wan Kenobi). You can find it in most bar-based arcades nowadays. Look for the bigger sit-down version. It's well worth the extra quarter.
Out of all the Lego-licensed games, "Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga" remains one of the best. Covering the first six films in their entirety, "Saga" features plenty of humorous moments for all ages to enjoy, as well as solving puzzles and destroying enemies with blasters and lightsabers. What's more, when you defeat them, they collapse to pieces, just as Lego figurines would. This one's still a lot of fun — and easy on the wallet at only $20.
In 2001, Nintendo released the GameCube to a feverishly awaiting public, and with it, offered a number of superb games. Among them was the long-awaited sequel to its Nintendo 64 hit, "Rogue Squadron," which puts players into an X-Wing fighter, amongst other vehicles, as they vaporize TIE Fighters (among other enemies) and complete flying challenges. The graphics pushed beyond the original in a number of ways (the attack on the Death Star was much more mesmerizing this time around), and the final missions of the game required players to really step up. At about $45, it's worth checking out if you still own a GameCube, and also plays just fine on original models of the Nintendo Wii, which are backward compatible.
Before the "Mass Effect" trilogy, the team at BioWare became widely known for creating the best experience in the "Star Wars" universe. "Knights of the Old Republic" puts you in the shoes of a Jedi warrior and then lets you create your own destiny, either choosing to be good or evil as you interact with other characters, engage in battles against enemies big and small, and work with fellow players through an online connection. The team has since gone on to create "The Old Republic," a highly popular free-to-play PC game, but nothing beats the sheer feeling of joy that came from "Knights." It's no longer in production, but you can often find used copies — though they can be pricey.
Out of all the classic PC titles, "X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter" (about $20 for PC) is a must if you're into space combat. If you prefer to be an all-powerful Jedi, "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II" (shown above) is a good guilty pleasure, and available for around $20 on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Last but definitely not least, "Star Wars: Battlefront II" for Xbox and PlayStation 2 was one of the best multiplayer romps out there — until the servers were shut down. Still, it's good for single-player sessions if you can find a used copy.