It turns out that Star Wars is a popular franchise on which to base a video game. This might be something to do with the fact that you can stick the name Star Wars on pretty much any old rubbish and it will still sell like hotcakes. Hello Kinect Star Wars, I’m looking at you.
But among the dire shovelware that stinks up the Star Wars game library there are a handful that constitute some of the most pioneering games of their age. And so, for your entertainment, here is every Star Wars game ever*, starting with the dog’s dinners and ending with the dog’s bollocks.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1982, Atari 2600)
“But, but, this is a classic of the 8-bit era! How can this be bottom of the list?” Well, just try playing this game now and see whether you still think it should be in the top ten. Go on, try it. It’s the gaming equivalent of banging a plastic drum with a bread knife.
Star Wars: Jedi Arena (1983, Atari 2600)
Just rubbish, frankly. A game based on the bit in Star Wars when Luke swipes his lightsaber at a floaty beach ball – a part of the film that absolutely no one wanted to see turned into a video game. Think of all the amazing scenes in Star Wars – the cantina fight, the Death Star escape, the trench run - and then wonder why on earth they chose to make a game about electric beach balls.
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – Death Star Battle (1983, Atari 2600)
“Now witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL battle station! That’s made entirely out of destructible grey bricks a bit like Atari’s Breakout game from seven years earlier! But it’s not Breakout because it’s got the Millennium Falcon in it!” WARNING: DO NOT WATCH THE VIDEO UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, THE SOUND EFFECTS WILL DRIVE YOU TO MADNESS IN MINUTES.
Star Wars: Droids (1988, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum)
I’ll be honest with you - I’d never even heard of this game before starting this article. According to CPC Game Reviews, it involves a “Simon-like memory game where you must memorise two sequences and repeat them correctly”. Sounds like utter balls. The Droids cartoon, on the other hand, was ace (at the time).
Star Wars Millennium Falcon CD-Rom Playset (1998, Windows)
An on-rails shooter/interactive movie that is most notable for the toy version of the Millennium Falcon cockpit that comes with it, which you have to strap to the keyboard. Kind of naff and gimmicky... but the Star Wars nerd in me still wants it for the toy alone.
Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi (1997, PlayStation)
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha rubbish.
Kinect Star Wars (2012, Xbox 360)
Granted, there may well have been several other mini games in this package, and the podracing bit was mildly good fun, but all anyone ever remembers this game for is the horrifying ‘Galactic Dance-Off’, featuring Han Solo, Princess Leia and Lando Calrissian debasing themselves on the dance floor to the tune of Aguilera and her ilk.
Bedraggled Star Wars fans, already forced to suffer through the prequels [hoik, spit], often simply keeled over and died of shame after seeing this game for the first time, realising that their lifelong dedication to the high altar of Lucas fandom was naught but a hollow lie.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Lightsaber Duels (2008, Wii)
Ah, so now we’re properly getting onto the prequels [hoik, spit]. I’m looking with despair at the utterly enormous list of Star Wars prequel games ahead of me, most of which are instantly forgettable - but Lightsaber Duels stands out simply because of its awfulness. If you ever dreamed of using the Wii Remote as a lightsaber, this game will teach you never, ever to have foolish hopes or dreams, and really we are all simply dying from the day we were born, sputtering dimly before being absorbed back into the uncaring blackness of the universe.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Republic Heroes (2009, Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii)
A game from deep into the ‘lost decade’ of Star Wars games after the relative highs of the 1990s. Simon Parkin sums this one up pithily in his review: “Republic Heroes is the very worst sort of licensed video game: functionally inadequate, creatively redundant and artistically bankrupt. Marketed to parents as a safe Christmas option and aimed at children in the hope of drawing them into a 30-year-old IP in order to secure the next decade's worth of dead-eyed spin-offs”.
Star Wars: Yoda Stories (1997, Windows)
A game with no plot, goal or any real reason to play it. Unless you want to run around ugly, randomly generated levels collecting pointless things.
Star Wars: Rebel Assault (1993, DOS, Mac, Sega CD, 3DO)
The on-rails shooter that looked sort-of amazing at the time, but was was actually dull as hell. Well, it looked amazing if you could squint past the grainy visuals and muffled dialogue. Notable for being one of the first full-motion video (FMV) games and the first CD-ROM released by LucasArts.
Star Wars: Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire (1995, DOS, PlayStation, Mac)
Slightly better visuals than the first game. Still dull as hell though. And those controls...
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999, Windows, PlayStation)
Like The Phantom Menace, this game saw huge sales. Also like The Phantom Menace, it is painfully dull. It’s not necessarily bad, it’s just that it’s the kind of game you forget while you’re still playing it. Weirdly, despite it selling approximately a gajillion copies, I don’t know anyone who actually played it.
Star Wars: Demolition (2000, PlayStation)
Twisted Metal with Star Wars vehicles. So basically a slightly rubbish version of Twisted Metal.
Death Star Interceptor (1985, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64)
It had a ludicrously tricky opening level, where to launch your X-Wing you had to wobble it towards a sort of hole in the sky. But after that bum note the game gets a bit better, as the Death Star looms out of the distance until you finally get the chance to tuck into its belly cleft and drop a proton torpedo down its navel. Still insanely difficult and frustrating though.
Star Wars: Obi-Wan (2001, Xbox)
Yet another game based on The Phantom Menace, and the period when LucasArts was churning out Star Wars video games like they were going out of fashion. This one replicates that bit from the film where Obi-Wan runs around slashing his lightsaber for 8 hours at anything and everything that moves.
Clone Wars Adventures (2010, Windows)
A free-to-play MMO based on mini games and microtransactions. As awful as that sounds. Now safely dead after the servers were switched off in 2014.
Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power Battles (2000, PlayStation)
The game based on The Phantom Menace that was slightly better than the earlier Phantom Menace game. Still boring though - I mean, it’s based on The Phantom Menace, a film about a tax dispute.
Star Wars: Super Bombad Racing (2001, PlayStation 2)
Yes, this actually happened - bobble-headed versions of your favourite Star Wars characters got together and went karting. The creaking, groaning sound of a bandwagon being leapt upon until it broke was almost deafening. Bombad was roundly mocked, although it was actually a fairly decent karting game if you could look past the tweeness (many couldn’t).
Star Wars: Starfighter (2001, Windows, PlayStation 2)
How to make flying a Star Wars spaceship feel incredibly tedious. A massive disappointment when compared to Factor 5’s games, although it garnered mostly favourable reviews on release. I never quite made it through to the end owing to sheer boredom on my part - perhaps it’s the cloying glossy sheen of the prequel movies, but I found it impossible to care about any of the missions or characters.
Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter (2002, Xbox, PlayStation 2)
This confusingly named sequel to Star Wars: Starfighter was slightly better - only slightly, mind.
Star Wars: Bounty Hunter (2002, GameCube, PlayStation 2)
After the disappointments of the early games based on the prequels [hoik, spit], hopes were high for this game, based on the keeerazy adventures of Jango Fett. It turned out it was sort of OK. Talk about damned with faint praise.
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005, PlayStation 2, Xbox)
Marginally better than the other slashy-lightsaber prequel games, but still mostly forgettable.
Star Wars: Force Commander (2000, Windows)
The weakest Star Wars RTS. Dull, slow and looks horrible compared to the 2D beauty of Galactic Battlegrounds. But commanding columns of AT-ATs is still pretty cool.
Star Wars Arcade (1993, Arcade)
Not to be confused with the 1983 Star Wars arcade game, this 1993 version (later ported to the Sega 32X) initially excited with its fancy filled-in polygons, but the adrenaline quickly subsided with the realisation that it’s really, really repetitive. And to think, this was one of the best games on the 32X, that shapely little mushroom of buyer’s remorse.
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1984, Arcade)
Confusingly, this second Star Wars arcade game by Atari came out before their version of The Empire Strikes Back, and out of the three classic Atari arcade games, it’s by far the weakest. For a start, it uses crappy old raster graphics rather than super-smooth vectors, and the isometric perspective on the speeder bike level makes it almost impossible to play - like Paper Boy with Ewoks.
Star Wars: Supremacy (aka Star Wars: Rebellion) (1998, Windows)
The second-weakest Star Wars RTS. All you need to know are that there are two other ones that are much, much better than this.
Star Wars Episode I: Racer (1999, Windows, Mac, Dreamcast, Nintendo 64)
Remember that bit in the Phantom Menace when a nine-year-old with a bowl cut enters the Wacky Races? Well, they made a game of it, and it was actually quite good. Not Wipeout good, but not bad, nonetheless.
Star Wars: Racer Arcade (2000, Arcade)
The beefier, fancier-looking version of Episode I: Racer. Better than the home version, but still nowhere near as good as Daytona USA. Then again, what arcade racer is?
Star Wars Racer Revenge (2002, PlayStation 2)
An all-round improvement on Episode I: Racer, with fancier graphics and greater urgency - but still not a patch on Wipeout.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2002, GameCube)
An early effort from Pandemic Studios, who later went on to develop Star Wars: Battlefront I and II. Focusing on vehicular combat, it was notably better than the Phantom Menace games, but still hardly anything to set the world alight.
Star Wars Episode I: Battle for Naboo (2000, Nintendo 64)
A game by the now sadly defunct Factor 5. This N64 sequel to Rogue Squadron showed a few improvements, but in the end it lacked some of the fun of Rogue Squadron - mostly because it was based on, yes, the prequels.
Star Wars Trilogy Arcade (1998, Arcade)
The first time I saw this machine, I was gobsmacked by the fancy graphics and the brazen way it cherry-picked only the best bits from the three good Star Wars movies (now four). A first-person lightsaber duel with Darth Vader? Childhood fantasy fulfilled. But then you begin to realise that in actual fact it’s nothing more than a series of mini games with minimal input from whoever’s playing, and you think perhaps just having the best bits of the films means you miss out on some of the depth. Like opening a box of Cadbury’s Roses and finding out it’s just full of strawberry cremes: initial delight, followed by a nagging longing for almond noisettes.
Star Wars: Battle Pod (2015, Arcade)
Like Star Wars Trilogy Arcade, it’s an on-rails shooter without too much interaction… but it looks and sounds glorious. Shallow, but so, so beautiful.
Disney Infinity 3.0 (2015. Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U)
As a parent, I’m putting this a long way down the list on principle. Disney’s latest toy advert comes with an obscene amount of all-too-desirable, and expensive, Star Wars figures… my wallet is hurting already.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1992, NES)
This sequel to Star Wars on the NES plopped out long after the SNES appeared on the scene, and it was somewhat overshadowed by the release of the bombastic Super Star Wars a few months later. It’s a decent game, if not quite as fun as its predecessor - although the addition of Force powers is a nice touch, along with merrily prancing tauntauns. But I think we could all do without the slippy-slidey ice worlds, thank you very much.
Super Return of the Jedi (1994, SNES)
Widely regarded as the weakest of the Super Star Wars trilogy (much like the film it was based on), Super Return of the Jedi still stands out for its ending - a stomach-churning ride into the guts of Death Star II. I guarantee it will make your eyes go funny.
Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (1996, Nintendo 64)
This slightly ropey N64 third-person action game is notable for its opening snowspeeder level and for featuring a protagonist called Dash Rendar. It’s up there with Sio Bibble and Porkins in the shortlist of stupid Star Wars names.
Super Star Wars (1992, SNES)
If you’re wondering why Super Star Wars is so far down this list, I urge you to play it again and see whether your memories match up to the reality. Unavoidable enemies, ludicrously spaced restart points, terrible bosses, leaps of faith across insta-kill lava - it’s like a textbook example of how not to make a video game. And don’t get me started on that accursed sandcrawler level. But having said that, the scrappy gameplay, searing 16-bit graphics and speaker-trembling explosions make it a helluva lot more fun to play than some of the hellishly tedious games based on the prequels [hoik, spit].
Super Empire Strikes Back (1993, SNES)
It was criticised at the time for being too similar to Super Star Wars, but for my money, Super Empire Strikes Back is the better game - even though the name hardly trips off the tongue. For a start, you can use force powers and deflect laser bolts with a lightsaber, a highly welcome addition. And that snowspeeder level…
Star Wars (1991, NES, Master System)
Eeeeeeeeee, this is more like it. This 8-bit classic features a beguiling mix of gameplay styles to keep things interesting - the blasting segment aboard the Millennium Falcon stands out as a highlight. Granted, there are a few too many platforms teetering above spikes (that old chestnut), and the game is Geoff Capes hard, but it still looks and plays well today. Interestingly, it was published by headphone-makers JVC at the eye-watering price of £50 (the equivalent of more than £100 today).
Star Wars Galaxies (2003, Windows)
Galaxies bumbled along for about eight years in the 2000s - an MMO that began with ambitions of being a World of Warcraft killer and that ended up, after years of updates and controversial fixes, as simply being ‘kind of OK’. But to be fair, balancing a whole universe of Jedis and Siths, along with the ambitious 32 job classes the game started with, was always going to be a tall order.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (2010, Windows, Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
Widely criticised for having a much weaker storyline in comparison to its highly praised predecessor, The Force Unleashed II also galloped across the good-taste boundary with its DLC, which saw the player callously murder dozens of Ewoks, snap Chewbacca’s neck and then butcher Han Solo and Princess Leia. Not one for the kiddywinks, then.
Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds (2001, Windows, Mac)
Basically Age of Empires But With Star Wars. Kind of fun, if slightly ludicrous - and sure to raise the hackles of Star Wars devotees. TIE Fighters with shields? Wookiees in tanks? Tch.
Star Wars: Empire at War (2006, Windows, Mac)
Another Star Wars real-time strategy game, but this time with fancier graphics. Fun, but a bit repetitive, and not a patch on the Total War games.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1985, Arcade)
This game was offered as a conversion kit for Atari’s 1983 Star Wars arcade game, and it features the same trippy vector graphics as the original. Piloting a snowspeeder around neon green AT-ATs as they glide silkily across the screen is strangely hypnotising. Nice sampled speech, too. “Go for the legs, it might be our only chance to stop it!” as Luke so wisely pronounces - a lesson we can all take back into our everyday lives, I think.
Star Wars: The Old Republic (2011, Windows)
The game that attempted to forge the amazing single-player stories of the Knights of the Old Republic games with the trappings of an MMO world – and kind of succeeded. Sort of. Although too often the MMO bits got in the way of the story, and vice versa. Still, the recent Knights Of The Fallen Empire story expansion put things back on track. Sort of.
Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars (2011, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, Windows, Mac)
The weakest Lego Star Wars game is the one based on the naff animated Star Wars film. Makes sense, really.
Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike (2003, GameCube)
Rebel Strike expanded on the previous Rogue Squadron game by allowing you to leave your spacecraft and run around on foot but unfortunately these parts proved to be rubbish additions, making it overall much weaker. But still a hell of a lot better than most of the tat on this list.
Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter (1997, Windows)
The third instalment of the X-Wing games - and this time around the focus was on multiplayer. The lack of storyline (later fixed by an expansion) hurt it in comparison to TIE Fighter, but it’s still a great game.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (1998, Windows, Nintendo 64)
One of the best games on the N64, Factor 5’s Rogue Squadron looked fantastic and played brilliantly. It was bettered by its sequels, and it was a far more arcadey version of flying than the more realistic X-Wing games on the PC – but it FELT like Star Wars, and the Beggar’s Canyon secret mission was a nice touch.
Star Wars: Battlefront (2004, PlayStation 2, Windows, Xbox, Mac)
The original Battlefront game looked gorgeous and was a blast to play, but it was heavily criticised for its poor single-player campaign.
Star Wars Battlefront (2015, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One)
The recent Battlefront remake looked gorgeous and was a blast to play, but it was heavily criticised for its poor single-player campaign. Hold on, is there an echo in here?
Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (2002, Windows)
Generally not quite as well received as the previous game in the series (see later), but far prettier and still leagues ahead of pretty much all of the games based on the prequels [hoik, spit].
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy (2003, Windows)
Like Jedi Outcast, except now you can build your own lightsaber. And be a girl.
Star Wars: Republic Commando (2005, Xbox, Windows)
Also known as “the somehow quite good game based on the prequels [hoik, spit]”. Against all odds, especially considering their previous output in the 2000s, Lucasarts managed to deliver a game based on (nearly) identical clones that actually had decent and interesting characters, along with decent gameplay.
Lego Star Wars: The Video Game (2005, Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox)
The game that kick-started the Lego video game empire. It managed to rise above the meagre storyline of the source movies by injecting a healthy dose of humour, something the actual films notably lacked. (NB. Jar Jar Binks does not count as humour, and nor does the comical dismemberment of C-3PO).
Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (2006, Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360, GameCube)
Like Lego Star Wars, but better - not least because it features the original trilogy. The two-player mode remains as hilarious and frustrating as ever, and the amount of collectibles and secret characters is astonishing.
X-Wing (1993, DOS, Mac)
It looked incredible at the time, and the graphics still have a pixelly charm today – plus the jaunty 16-bit version of the Star Wars soundtrack is a personal favourite, sounding a bit like it’s being played on a Hammond organ. The sequels bettered the gameplay, but it’s still a cracking game.
Star Wars: Battlefront II (2005, PlayStation 2, Windows, Xbox)
It’s Star Wars: Battlefront – but this time with a decent single-player campaign! And space combat! Hoozah!
X-Wing Alliance (1999, Windows)
The fourth X-Wing game saw a return to form – including the reinstatement of a storyline along with fancier graphics and physics. Plus it gave you the chance to pilot the Millennium Falcon during the Battle of Endor, including its flight into the belly of the Death Star.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (2008, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Wii)
The story was possibly the best thing about The Force Unleashed - set between Episode III and IV, the game casts you as Starkiller, Darth Vader’s secret Sith apprentice, with hilarious results. OK, perhaps not hilarious, more awesome in a bringing-down-a-Star-Destroyer-with-just-the-power-of-your-mind kind of a way.
Star Wars (1983, Arcade)
I was tempted to put this at number one, but I figured that it’s probably the nostalgia getting the better of me. But even with the rose-tinted glasses off, the vector graphics of Atari’s 1983 game retain a hypnotic beauty, and the cabinet was gorgeous. Blowing up the Death Star again and again (and again) has never been so much fun.
Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader (2001, GameCube)
Rogue Leader looked astonishing at the time, and the graphics still look pretty special today. Battles were frantic and exciting, none more so than the climactic Battle of Endor with what felt like a million TIE fighters buzzing around you. A blast from start to finish.
Star Wars: Dark Forces (1995, Windows, Mac)
Kotaku’s Luke Plunkett recently singled this out as the best ever Star Wars game, and you can see why. It may look a bit ropey to modern eyes, but it was hugely innovative (you can actually look up and down, something that blew people’s minds back in 1995), and the ongoing story of Kyle Katarn is engrossing with lots of fascinating insight into bits of the Star Wars universe you don’t see in the films.
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (1997, Windows)
It was like Dark Forces, but with lightsabers. Do I have to say more?
TIE Fighter (1994, DOS, Mac)
Finally, the chance to give those Rebel scum what for as a TIE fighter pilot. This sequel looked even better than the already lovely X-Wing, and it made a whole host of improvements - not least providing the opportunity to kick ass as the bad guys, and get an insight into what life inside the Empire might be like.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (2005, Windows, Xbox)
It was criticised for being perhaps too similar to the previous game, but when the previous game is the best Star Wars game of all time (see below), that hardly ranks as criticism...
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003, Windows, Xbox)
The twist still stands out as utterly brilliant all these years later. But it’s the brilliant supporting cast that really stick in the memory, from poor, naive Mission Vao to the hilariously ruthless assassin droid HK-47: “It is my primary function to burn holes through meatbags that you wish removed from the galaxy.” KOTOR gave you the Star Wars universe to explore, and the story and characters were engaging and well written enough to make you feel part of it and believe that it was worth saving - something that precious few Star Wars games have achieved.
*OK, not quite EVERY Star Wars game ever. For the sake of my sanity (and your precious time), handheld and mobile games are out, along with pinball, browser games, TV games, expansion packs (remember those?), that Star Wars game that was only ever released in Japan, and anything branded as ‘edutainment’. I’ve also just given the first system (or systems) that a game appeared on, rather than list various conversions. If you think I’ve left out anything that’s particularly worth mentioning, let me know in the comments.