Star Wars video games have been produced going as far back as 1983, with Star Wars Arcade being first in line. There are many, many Star Wars games. So many that I’m not even going to try to give a comprehensive overview… I’m just going to share a few that I’ve enjoyed.
3. Super Star Wars (SNES)
Super Star Wars was the first Star Wars game to make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. While that may not be literally true, it was the first game based on Star Wars to really capture the excitement of the original trilogy. In Super Star Wars you fight a sarlacc pit monster, cause a brawl in Mos Eisley’s Cantina Bar, slice through stormtroopers with your lightsaber, and blow up the Imperial Death Star with your X-Wing. Super Star Wars also lets you beat up on Jawas which is cathartic… I never did trust those little guys.
2. Star Wars: Jedi Knight (Computer)
While I’ve never played the first in this series, Dark Forces, I’m aware that it’s more or less a Doom clone and not really a Star Wars game per se. Jedi Knight, on the other hand, offered a true adventure. You not only got a lightsaber finally, but you were able to use the force. The plot would even allow you to branch off and be on the light side or the dark side. The thing I remember most about Jedi Knight is the fantastic level design. My favorite level was the one where the spaceship is falling into a canyon, and the whole craft is slowly turning upside down. It really played with gravity and my perception of spatial awareness in a fun, mind-bending manner. Also, the live action cutscenes in the game are hilariously bad… in a good way.
1. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (N64)
When I was seven years old on Christmas of 96, my brother and I got an N64 and two games: Mario 64 and Shadows of the Empire. Honestly, Mario received most of my attention… that being said, Shadows occupied a good chunk of my elementary school life as well. There may have been more recognizable Star Wars games later on in the N64’s lifecycle such as Rogue Squadron and Episode 1 Racer, but for my money, Shadows trumps all of them. For the first time on a console, you were fighting the Empire in glorious 3d. Gone were the days of pixels, replaced with textured polygons. It was an exciting time to be a Nintendo fan, and from the very first level, you knew the game was going to rock.
It opens with the battle of Hoth, with you piloting a snowspeeder. You feel like you’re in direct control of the Empire Strikes Back movie, as you get to take down an AT-AT by wrapping your tow cable around it (and maybe saying “one more pass” to yourself to make it even more epic). From there, the game transitions to a 3rd person shooter. Admittedly, the camera for this game is awful, it’s like you’re trying to reel in a ten foot marlin raging on steroids, crystal meth, and a gallon of Red Bull. Still, I give the game credit for being bold enough to be fully 3d in the first place.
Regardless of the camera issues, Shadows adeptly immerses you into the shoes of Dash Rendar, the playable smuggler. Through his eyes, you’ll even engage in firefights with the famed bounty hunters IG-88 and Boba Fett. I also really like how the game constantly changes pace; you’ll go from shooting tie fighters in an asteroid field in one level, to going swoop racing in another. Shadows may not do everything perfectly, but it’s one heck of a ride.