We’ve set ourselves the mammoth task of sifting through Star Wars’ extensive gaming catalogue to highlight the very best. Well aware that we are treading into contentious territory here, this list is by no means definitive or exhaustive. As any Star Wars fan knows, the notion of quality is very much shaped by personal affinity, nostalgia, and level of exposure to the full slate of Star Wars games.
After all, few franchises can boast such a solid library of games, and divergence of opinion is as good an indicator of overall quality as any. As such, it’d be disingenuous to slam down the gavel and peddle an immovable list. If we missed out on one close to your heart, no slight intended, and do pop into the comments section to let us know.
Cautionary word aside, we’ve rounded up games spanning multiple eras and genres, from 90’s Doom-like Dark Forces, by way of the seminal Knights of the Old Republic, to Respawn’s saber-swinging Metroidvania romp, Fallen Order, which is where we’ll begin.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a condensed, polished single-player affair that makes us reassess whether entrusting EA with the Star Wars IP wasn’t such a bad move after all. As the most recent entry in our list, Fallen Order trumps all the other contenders for visual splendor but confidently holds its ground for dishing out a solid helping of highly digestible Star Wars-themed escapism.
While lead Cal Kestis may lack charisma, the game makes up for this with a tight core of characters, notably the all-too-adorable health-dispensing BD-1 droid and a cheery lore-rich narrative. Set after the events of Episode III, it does well to carve out some reasonably respectable, if unimpressive, storytelling, all while respecting the Star Wars Universe with even an appearance from Vader himself.
The gameplay is more Metroidvania than straight action-adventure and all the better for it with a pace-alternating blend of platforming, environmental puzzle-solving, and highly satisfying lightsaber and Force-based combat where timing and parrying are key. It’s no Sekiro, but it evokes some similar sensibilities to From Software’s shinobi stunner.
The sheer pleasure of drawing a distracted Stormtrooper to your lightsaber for a swift execution never gets old, nor does wall running and backflipping your way out of a sticky encounter. Fallen Order’s clever and interconnected level design, a highlight, is also ripe for exploration, not to say backtracking to try out newly acquired abilities in search of secrets and loot.
Star Wars Episode I: Racer
Whatever your assessment of the prequel trilogy, and we’d wager it doesn’t err too far from negative for most, it was worth the agonizing watch if only for spawning Star Wars Episode I: Racer.
The game expands on The Phantom Menace’s short but thrilling sequence depicting the blisteringly fast, often seedy, and violent world of Tatooine’s podracing scene where evading death was a victory in and of itself.
While Episode 1: Racer could have so easily trodden the path of movie adaptation tripe coasting on the reputation of the IP and best forgotten to the sands of time, it delivered one of the most memorable Star Wars interactive experiences.
Free of the overbearing narrative fluff and tiresome exposition that so burdened the film, it masterfully captured the essence of podracing, the dizzying speed and ever-present danger brought to life through testing circuits and responsive controls.
As a promising upstart, you take on a series of races in a whistle-stop tour of familiar Star Wars locales, testing your racing mettle against the same colorful cast of podracers from the movies. Victories unlock a bevy of customization options ranging from new pods, characters, improvements, and pit droids. It’s elegant in its simplicity both in concept and execution, heaped with the type of unbridled fun so lacking from the source material.
But don’t just take our word for it; 22 years on from release and despite looking well past its best, Star Wars Episode I: Racer boasts a Very Positive review on Steam.
Star Wars: Republic Commando
An unsung entry in the stacked archive of Star Wars video games due to lackluster sales, 2005’s squad-based tactical FPS Star Wars: Republic Commando confidently deserves a berth in our best-of list.
Rather than relying too heavily on the Star Wars universe to propel itself forward, Star Wars: Republic Commando uses it to add flavor to a strong, well-conceived gameplay foundation. The usual grand space-opera veneer is swapped out for the day-to-day grind of a crack team of gruff elite clone troopers.
As a clone captain with three squadmates in tow, all with their own strengths and preferred roles, you’ll bark orders on the fly to target specific enemies, breach doors, take cover, gain control over a specified position, and so on for a surprisingly complete tactical experience as compelling now as it was innovative at the time.
With no Jedi or highfalutin political intrigue, there’s an unfiltered crudeness to Republic Commando heightened by plenty of character, not least the now almost infamous wipe effect triggered when a visor gets a little too drenched in enemy remains.
Star Wars: Republic Commando is well worth a try for those whose interests straddle both Star Wars and tactical FPS mainstays like Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege.
Star Wars: TIE Fighter
Released in 1994, TIE Fighter bulldozes our natural inclination to side with the Rebellion underdogs, casting us instead on the side of the Galactic Empire – the villainous faction, as the films so often drill into our heads.
But, rather than portraying these fighter pilots as merciless, emotionless killing machines, it humanizes them, masterfully showcasing their belief that they are fighting the good fight, peacekeepers entrusted with ridding the galaxy of an insurgent force of recreant rebels and marauding pirates to restore stability.
Beyond this, Star Wars: TIE Fighter is a solid dogfighting sim with just the right balance between complexity and satisfying fun. Building upon the foundations laid down in Star Wars: X-Wing, the game has the player manage power allocation, choosing whether to favor weaponry, shields, or engines, weighing up whether speed or firepower, including different firing modes, befit the situation.
Manning one of Star Wars’ most iconic ships feels as good as it sounds, whether that’s escorting Imperial ships, leading an assault on a gargantuan capital ship, deftly gunning down X-Wings, or squadding up with Darth Vader. As outdated as TIE Fighter’s visuals may be, the gameplay still stands up nearly thirty years on.
Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
Sadly confined to the GameCube, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader is easily one of the best attempts at bringing to life the thrill of piloting a starfighter for the Rebellion.
Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader is very much a ‘best-of’ selection of battles and locations from the original trilogy. Tow hooking an AT-AT on Hoth, the infamous trench run on the Death Star, Endor, Bespin – they’re all here sided by freshly imagined missions and even appearances from the likes of Luke Skywalker.
The beauty of Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader lies in its stripped-back gameplay – a simple, effective, arcade-style aerial shooter experienced from the cockpit of the Rebels’ most memorable fighters, including an X-wing, A-wing, Y-wing, B-wing, Snowspeeder, the T-16 Skyhopper, and the iconic Millennium Falcon.
Despite its age, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader doesn’t look half-bad, but unless you have a dusty GameCube stored away, chances are YouTube videos are your best bet to get a sense of the unbridled fun proposed by this Star Wars video game gem. The original Star Wars: Rogue Squadron merits an honorable mention, too, for matching much of what makes Rogue Leader a great game and the fact it’s playable on PC.
Star Wars: Empire At War
Through and through a real-time strategy game, Star Wars: Empire At War is one for those that like their Star Wars escapism steeped in a good dose of large-scale strategy rather than hero-centric adventure or first-person blaster fun.
Empire At War takes the familiar elements of the genre and translates them well to the Star Wars Universe. Not too much of an ask, it has to be said, given the IP’s over-arching macro-scale land and space conflict between the Empire and Rebel Alliance is ripe for the RTS treatment, but Empire At War is by far the best attempt at that conversion.
It may lack the strategic depth of RTS giants like Starcraft and Age of Empires II, but there’s more than enough here to please Star Wars fans enthused by controlling a squadron of X-Wing fighters or maneuvering a gaggle of AT-ATs. Best of all, the story sits before Episode IV and recounts the construction of the Death Star, so it avoids the prequel drivel entirely.
Star Wars: Battlefront II
By not taking itself too seriously and dropping players into chaotic large-scale battles brimming with all the weapons and vehicles we longed to one day try watching the films, Battlefront II taps into something special.
Star Wars: Battlefront II is a genuine blast to play for those that like their gaming light and to the point. No save-the-world heroics here. Instead, messy multiplayer frontline confrontations on land and in space between the lowest common denominators among combatants from both the Rebellion and Empire. The occasional Jedi pops in to add a bit of spice to the equation, but the real pleasure is running in armed with no more than a blaster and hoping for the best.
EA’s 2017 reboot sequel of the same is also a worthy alternative for those wanting more palatable visuals. Despite a well-documented content-light, micro-transaction-sodden start, EA has done well to mold Battlefront II into a multiplayer shooter offering a similar brand of fun.
From an age of bland beige computer casing and numerous LucasArts hits such as Monkey Island and the oft-forgotten Outlaws, there’s first-person blaster-toting adventure Star Wars: Dark Forces.
While Dark Forces arguably hasn’t withstood the technical bounds of the intervening years, and the gameplay elements may seem dated to younger players, it captures something unique about PC gaming’s earlier years. A time where a boxed game was it; bugs and imperfections endearingly immortalized with no recourse to timely patches funneled through trans-Atlantic cabling.
There’s a weighty solitude to the whole experience, stressed by a level of difficulty aligned with its time. One that taps into the darker recesses of the Star Wars universe, reminiscent of the claustrophobic corridors and labyrinthine level design so deftly established by first-person shooter precursor Doom, but sufficiently retooled and built upon to brush off easy clone comparisons with id Software’s seminal effort.
Dark Forces’ focus, the Dark Trooper Project, and an endearing debut in resourceful mercenary lead Kyle Katarm, allied to the ability to crouch, jump, peer up or down, and free aim – innovations at the time – make it a must-play for those longing for a dose of 90s shooter nostalgia and a welcome deviation outside of the narrow canonical corridors of the Star Wars films. There’s no doubting the timeless appeal of gunning down souped-up Stormtroopers as a plucky mercenary.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic’s position in our list is by no means indicative of its quality or standing amongst other Star Wars games. On the contrary, the saying ‘save the best for last’ never rang truer.
Widely celebrated as the best Star Wars game, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic stands proudly alongside some of the best D&D-style RPG experiences brought to the video game medium, thanks largely to the meticulous work of developer BioWare to offer something completely detached from the characters and events of the films. It’s an ambitious, grandiose, thought-provoking work that brings something fresh to the Star Wars universe, all while making great use of what makes Lucas’ opus such a timeless favorite.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic’s storytelling transcends anything we’ve seen on the big screen – the original trilogy, prequels, and Disney’s efforts included – or even elsewhere, not least because of a now-famous plot twist best experienced in the context of the KOTOR’s meaty, backstory-dense, compelling story, rather than recounted over the internet.
Saying any more would spoil the experience. But, rest assured, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is a game any Star Wars, or even RPG fan, will find a delectable feast.